10 College Essay Examples That Worked


10 College Essay Examples That Worked

Writing a college application or admission essay can be very overwhelming and stressful. This is why many students search for college essay examples online to find some inspiration.

However, going through the examples only works when you know exactly why particular essays were effective – and why others weren’t. Here you’ll find excerpts from the best examples of college essays, together with thorough explanations of why they worked.

If your inspirational muse still doesn’t show up after you’ve finished reading, we’ve got you covered. EssayDragon can provide you with a premium-quality essay writing service at a very affordable price.

Do you still want to try and summon your muse? Then let’s dive into some amazing application essays.

1. Wanderlust and Language

This college essay for the “Tell us your story” prompt shows how the writer grew to love languages. His exciting journey explains why he wants to study foreign languages and linguistics.

He starts the essay with: “When I was very little, I caught the travel bug.” He has been to 29 different countries and each has given him a “unique learning experience.”

He started traveling at the age of five when he first went to see his grandparents’ home in France. When he was eight, he traveled to Italy. At thirteen, he was exploring England and China. And that was when his glossophilia was born. Exploring every culture around the world made him genuinely interested in language.

The greatest benefit that studying languages has brought him is interpersonal connection.

“When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level.”

Gaining fluency in foreign languages will also help him in his future career and business endeavors.

“In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

The writer expresses his journey in an interesting way that shows he truly has an “unquenchable thirst for knowledge.”

He then brings the essay full circle with: “Today, I still have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.”

This very engaging and inspiring story showing one’s passion for education is one of the best application essay prompt ideas you can use.

2. Five Families

The writer of this personal statement essay showcases how he developed his greatest strength – the ability to adapt. He doesn’t reveal it right away but does leave hints in each paragraph.

He tells the story of his five families, and how each shaped him and taught him something of value.

He met the first two families during his foreign exchange student program. Nine-year-old Cody from the Watkins family used to read to him to help him overcome the language barrier.

The Martinez family was like his other mom and dad. Michael was a high school English teacher and Jen taught elementary school.

When the program ended and he was no longer an exchange student, he made a decision not to return to Korea. He would stay and continue his education in America.

He then met the Struiksma family. The single mom Shellie had two sons and two adopted daughters and ran a home-based business – a hair salon.

With the Ortiz family, he had to do chores and follow strict rules. The Dirksen family had three kids who were all different.

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

After painting each family’s colorful image, the writer shares the lessons he learned from them in the penultimate paragraph. He connects the stories that seem random at first.

“By teaching me English, nine-year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.”

He ends the essay with: “I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.”

Every college highly values all these qualities, especially adaptability and discipline.

3. Burying Grandma

This is one of the most powerful college essay examples. It tells of a significant challenge the writer had faced that helped her discover her calling. If you’ve experienced a similar challenge in your life, this example essay can help you overcome your writer’s block.

She was only six when her grandmother died. She didn’t know it then, but her grandmother had been battling cancer. When her parents let her in on the truth at the age of twelve, she became angry with herself for not realizing it sooner.

She made a decision never to let such blindness reappear. She put all her time into education because she “saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance.” Learning about cancer and achieving high grades and test scores was her way to the redemption she thought she desperately needed.

But after a while, she realized that helping the “humankind and this Earth” was the best way to stop feeling guilty.

Volunteering at a cancer treatment center helped her hear her calling. She decided to become an oncologist.

“I want to be there as an oncologist to remind them to take a walk once in a while, to remember that there’s so much more to life than a disease. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without burying my grandmother’s memory.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This emotional essay shows how the writer overcame a difficult challenge and used it to grow and learn. It shows her strength, persistence, and determination to keep educating herself even in the most trying of times.

It shows she uses college to keep improving her skills so that she can always help those in need.

4. Rock, Paper, Scissors

A student named Christian wrote this admission essay example for the UChicago prompt.

He starts with interesting, funny musings about the silly game’s rules regarding paper beating rock. But then he realizes: “Maybe it’s all a metaphor for larger ideals.”

He then tries to find the logic behind the game, like it’s a narrative that leads to the reason why paper might defeat rock. He compares it to people using incomplete narratives to rationalize their actions. For instance, accepting something just because it’s convenient. Or ignoring something because it’s easier to move on. Or even overemphasizing flaws when you don’t want to deal with something.

But are there winning strategies in this game? It appears there are. The key is to make critical assumptions about the opponent before you even start playing.

The writer mentions a case in the research study regarding the subliminal way men and women play rock-paper-scissors. Allegedly, men open with the rock move half of the time, namely because they subconsciously associate it with force and strength.

Did this silly little game actually reveal “something quite discomforting about gender-related dispositions in our society?” It seems that assuming a narrative does “carry real weight in our everyday decisions.”

“It is ultimately the unconscious gaps in these narratives that are responsible for many of the man-made problems this world faces.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This UChicago supplemental essay example starts on an amusing note that instantly hooks the reader. But then it moves on to tackle one of the most significant topics in the world today – gender equality.

However, it wasn’t the mere mention of this topic that made the University of Chicago accept Christian into college. It was the unique way he used the game as a metaphor for something of great importance in our society. It was his storytelling and, most importantly, his interesting and engaging way of thinking.

5. Punk Rock Philosopher

This personal statement college essay is a fun story of how the writer, David Phan, became a punk rock philosopher.

It happened when he realized three things:

  • The world is ruled by underwear;
  • He will never understand the world;
  • He was a punk rock philosopher.

Underwear? According to him, “these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort.” They impact our confidence and daily interactions.

Why is the world something he’ll never understand? During one debate on the topic of nuclear arms, he realized that people of this Earth invest too much effort and resources into mutual destruction.

The third realization? It was after he ended up at a punk rock show. He discovered punk rockers were nothing like the stereotypes. They were “just ordinary people discussing Nietzsche, string theory, and governmental ideologies.”

“Punk rock is an attitude, a mindset, and very much a culture. It is an antagonist to the conventional. It means making the best with what you have to contribute to a community.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This is a very cool essay that doesn’t need much philosophizing (pun intended). The last paragraph gives a perfect answer to the question “Why college?”

“I want a higher education. I want more than just textbook-fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.”

6. East Meets West

East Meets West is an example of the University of Michigan essay. It describes a student’s journey from experiencing an identity crisis to feeling proud of belonging to two different communities.

The writer starts the essay by describing his room. From textbooks and college pamphlets to posters, music, and food, his room is full of all the things he loves. It’s a mixture of two different cultures – Korean and American.

“Do I consider myself Korean or American?
A few years back, I would have replied: ‘Neither.’”

Plenty of things were fueling his identity crisis, but he especially felt like “a foreigner in all places” at the airport customs. “Standing in the “Foreign Passports” section at JFK, I have always felt out of place.”

But over the course of time, he realized that he had “the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds.” To be part of a diverse community, rather than stick with only one identity. He stopped feeling like a foreigner. Just like he had embraced both cultures, he embraced both of his diverse identities.

He finishes the essay in quite a compelling way:

“Do I consider myself Korean or American?
Now, I can proudly answer: ‘Both.’”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This supplemental essay example portraits more than just an image of an international student with the will to learn and grow in a place far away from home. It shows the student’s excitement about change.

Most of all, it demonstrates that diversity, not ambiguity, is a good thing. We’re all equal, but we’re also different. Once we embrace our and other people’s differences, we can achieve anything we set our minds to.

7. Wishing Upon a Star

This personal statement college application essay tells about the experience of a young girl who desperately wanted to become a writer.

When she was eleven, Destiny heard about an amateur novel writing contest in London. Anyone who wrote an original, quality 80000-word manuscript could have an opportunity to win $20000 and a publishing deal.

She immediately got to work, dreaming about writing a fantasy novel that would become The New York Times bestseller. Months passed and the contest closed, but it didn’t matter. Destiny was determined to create something extraordinary.

And there it was. More than a year had passed and she was finally holding her printed 300-page novel. She was thinking about every character she brought to life and how publishers would start knocking on her door. Little did she know that her fantasy world was about to collapse.

Her father had a lot of notes, forcing her to rewrite everything. She was devastated.

But her father gave advice that would motivate her to keep working and improving:

“’A serious author doesn’t get offended by constructive criticism,’ he said, ‘whether you take my advice or not will prove whether or not you are one.’”

Six years have passed and Destiny is finishing her new novel. The most important thing is she learned a huge life lesson:

“This experience taught me that ‘following your dreams’ requires more than just wishing upon a star. It takes sacrifice, persistence, and grueling work to turn fantasy into reality.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This example essay shows character, persistence, determination, motivation, decisiveness, commitment, passion, and drive to achieve her goals. It proves she will thrive both at college and in her literary career.

8. Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

This is one of the most interesting application essays for the University of Chicago. It illustrates the writer’s enthusiasm for English through a descriptive piece, an emotional, and educational story.

In great detail, the writer describes a chicken’s idyllic surroundings and lifestyle on a farm. But one day, the chicken realizes the eggs are actually baby chicks. The man in the plaid shirt who brings them food and has given them a roof over their heads is taking little chicks away!

The confused chicken jumps to inform its mother about the disturbing betrayal, but she forbids it from ever mentioning it again. Otherwise, they could lose everything.

The writer then takes us through the chicken’s whirlwind of thoughts. It finally realizes its mother has known about the cruelty and injustice all along but chose to stay silent because of comfort.

The chicken decides it must escape. It heads to the shiny silver fence, crosses the black gravel road, steps on the green grass and ventures into the unknown. On its journey, it encounters two birds in a nest full of babies – “a natural dynamic of individuals unaltered by corrupt influence.”

As the sun rises, the chicken suddenly realizes it must share what it has learned. It must return home and tell the truth to its friends to help them escape their unawareness. Otherwise, it’s “as cruel as the man in the plaid shirt, taking away the opportunity to overcome ignorance.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This supplemental essay is incredibly creative. It taps into emotions and serves as a metaphor for people’s unawareness and ignorance.

People often turn a blind eye to cruelty and injustice because it’s easier to pretend it’s not there. But to truly live happily, we must be aware of and deal with the problems. And we must share the truth to help others do the same.

9. Grandma’s Kimchi

Grandma’s Kimchi is a college essay about family, tradition, and the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The writer describes the smell of garlic and pepper that filled their home every Saturday morning. Grandma loved making kimchi, her specialty Korean dish.

But the disease that was slowly stealing her mind also took away their Saturday tradition. Being stripped of her memories, grandma lived like a stranger in her own home.

One day, the writer’s mom brought the ingredients for kimchi and started working the magic. The familiar smell lured grandma from her bed and, once again, she was making her specialty dish. The tradition-filled the house with joy for the first time in years. And grandma remembered Don Jin’s name.

His grandma couldn’t beat the aggressive disease, but her legacy remains in the smell of kimchi.

“Her legacy was the smell of garlic that lingered around my house. Mine will be these words.”

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This is yet another great example to learn from when writing college application essays. The writer is determined to leave a legacy through words that will capture the memories.

 “A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away.”

He did exactly that, and that’s what will make him a great writer.

10. Trip Down Memory Lane

This is one of the most powerful college essay examples that got the writer into 14 colleges.

The writer reminisces a painful childhood incident that taught her an important life lesson. A lesson that changed her world view completely.

Soa Andrian was visiting her relatives in Antananarivo, Madagascar. She was playing outside when four boys started bullying her, calling her “chubby” and “fatty”.

Hurt and frustrated, she talked back, but immediately realized it was wrong. Disappointed in herself, she realized the difference between her and those boys:

“Politics, ignorance, the apathy of millions.”

The incident etched into her memory helped her discover and apply a few personal rules:

  • Education is an opportunity, not a burden;
  • You always have enough to share.

Why Did This Essay Stand Out?

This college application essay stood out because it was personal. Most importantly, Andrian ended the essay by demonstrating determination, desire, and passion to serve and help others without prejudice. To use innovation to solve problems. To work for those boys and “the children who cherish ‘what is’ instead of mourning ‘what could be.’”

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