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College Admissions Essays: Samples, Critiques, and Writing Tips

Here you'll learn strategies for writing stellar college admissions essays, and you'll find critiques of sample essays.

The New Common Application Essay Questions
Tips and guidance for the five essay prompts on the new Common Application

Common Application Essay Option 1 - Share Your Story
Tips and strategies for the new Common Application essay option 1: "Share your story."

Common Application Essay Option 2 - Learning from Failure
Tips and strategies for the new Common Application essay option 2 on learning from failure.

Common Application Essay Option 3 - Challenging a Belief
Tips and strategies for the new Common Application essay option 3 on challenging an idea or belief

Common Application Essay Option 4 - Describe a Place
Tips and strategies for the new Common Application essay option 4 on describing a meaningful place

Common Application Essay Option 5 - An Event or Accomplishment
Tips and strategies for the new Common Application essay option 5 on discussing an important event or accomplishment.

College Essay Style Tips
This article presents 9 style problems found in many college essays, and it discusses ways for improving the style of an essay.

College Application Essay Length Limit
How long should your application essay be? Can you go over the limit indicated on the application form?

College Application Essay Titles
Tips and strategies for writing a winning college application essay title.

5 Essay Tips
These tips will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of the admissions essay.

Bad Admission Essay Topics
A bad essay topic can have disastrous results when applying to a selective college. Avoid these ten topics...

A Word on Spell-Checking
Tips and Warnings for Spell-Checking Your College Admissions Essay

Short Answer Mistakes
To make sure your short answer shines, steer clear of these five common problems.

Short Answer Length
The Common App instructions state that the essay should be no more than 150 words long, but is this the ideal short answer length?

Common Application Short Answer Tips
The prompt for the Short Answer on the Common Application states, "Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below or on an attached sheet (150 words or fewer)." Although short, this little essay is important. It's a place where you can explain why one of your activities is...

Sample Short Answer on Soccer
Gwen writes about soccer for the short answer section of the Common Application, but her essay has several problems.

Short Answer Essay on Running
This article presents a sample short answer essay (and critique) on running written for the Common Application.

Common App Short Answer on Horseback Riding
Laura uses the short answer to portray her love of horseback riding.

Common Application Short Answer on Entrepreneurship
Doug writes about a lawn-mowing business he founded for his response to the short answer question on the Common Application. Doug's response if followed by a critique.

Short Answer Response on Working at Burger King
That unimpressive job can actually be a great topic for the short answer.

5 Supplemental Essay Mistakes
College admissions officers see the five mistakes describe here all too frequently...

Single or Double Spacing?
This article addresses formatting questions for your college admissions essay.

Supplemental College Essay
Supplemental College Essay - This sample supplemental college essay for admissions was written for Oberlin College. The essay provides a strong example of a short and effective essay. Here you can read the supplemental college essay and a discussion of its strengths.

Supplemental Essay for College Admissions
Sample Supplemental Essay - This sample supplemental essay for college admissions shows a good example of a short and effective essay. Here you can read the supplemental essay and a discussion of its strengths.

College Application Essay - The Job I Should Have Quit
An essay about an ethical dilemma

Sample College Admission Essay - The Allegany County Youth Board
A sample college admission essay written for the Common Application by a student applying to several highly selective colleges. Here you'll find the essay, a critique of the essay, and the results of the student's college application process.

College Admissions Personal Essay - Give Goth a Chance
This sample college admissions personal essay - Give Goth a Chance - was written for the Common Application essay option 5. Here you'll find the essay and a critique of the essay.

Sample Weak Supplemental Essay for Duke University
This sample supplemental essay for Duke University's application makes many common mistakes. Read the essay and a discussion of its problems.

College Admission Essay - Eating Eyeballs
Read Lora's essay, a critique of the essay, and the results of her college search.

Sample College Admissions Essay - Student Teacher
This sample college admissions essay tackles personal essay option number three of the common application--writing about an influential person.

Sample Application Essay - Porkopolis
This sample application essay talks about Lisa Simpson and vegetarianism. Felicity wrote the essay for the Common Application.

Model Essay on an Influential Person
Model Essay on an Influential Person - this model college admission essay answers question #3 on the Common Application: "Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence." The essay is "Diamond in the Rough" by Catherine.

Model Essay on a Character in Fiction
Model Essay on a Character in Fiction - this model college admission essay answers question #4 on the Common Application: "Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence." The essay is "Wallflower" by Eileen.

A Sample Essay on an Influential Person
Read Jill's essay "Buck Up" as a sample response to option three on the Common Application

Common Application Personal Essay Option 1
Before responding to the first essay option on the common application, be sure to consider these 5 tips.

Common Application Personal Essay Option 2
5 tips for an essay on an issue and its importance to you

Common Application Personal Essay Option 3
6 tips for an essay on an influential person

Common Application Personal Essay Option 4
7 tips for an essay on a fictional character, historical figure or creative work

Common Application Personal Essay Option 5
5 tips for an essay on diversity

Common Application Personal Essay Option 6
4 tips for an essay on a topic of your choice

Striking Out - Sample Common Application Essay for Option #2
Read Richard's essay "Striking Out" that he wrote in response to option #2 on the new Common Application (learning from failure).

The 6 Personal Essay Options on the Common Application
This list helps you learn the ins and outs of each of the personal essay options the Common Application.

UC Personal Statement Prompt #1
UC Personal Statement - Tips for writing the UC personal statement. This article guides applicants to one of the University of California...

UC Personal Statement Prompt #2
UC Personal Statement - Tips for writing the UC personal statement. This article guides applicants to one of the University of California...

Got Milk? A Quirky Admissions Essay
High school senior Courtney Duffy chose an unusual focus for her admissions essay: milk. Note how her essay carefully navigates the thin line between being serious and ridiculous. The essay is certainly unusual, but we learn enough about Courtney's passions and interests to prevent the essay from seeming flippant or superficial. Courtney got into her first-choice college: Trinity in Connecticut.

Choosing an Admissions Essay Topic
Some advice on choosing a topic for your college admissions essay.

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