College Essay


*Prompt

Please write an essay (250-500 words) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below. This personal essay helps us to become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.

  • Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  • Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  • Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  • 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.
  • A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  • Topic of your choice.

*Choosing a Topic

  • Your college essay should tell a personal story, something that says something about who you are, what you value, and how you think about the world
  • There is no “correct” way to respond to these prompts, but sloppy, general, insincere, or tasteless responses can hurt your cause

*Tips

  • Keep your focus narrow and personal
    • Choose a single point to focus on and follow it from beginning to end; your writing should be as concise as possible; eliminate empty sentences and any irrelevant information
    • No matter what you decide to write about, your essay should have a main point or take away message that tells the reader something about you: who you are, what you value, and how you think about the world
  • Develop your main idea with vivid and specific facts, events, quotations, examples, and reasons
    • Avoid clichéd, generic, and predictable writing by using vivid and specific details
    • Don’t just state your point of view; rather, let your idea unfold in the details (show, don’t tell)
  • Be authentic
    • Write from the heart; don’t simply tell them what you think they want to hear
  • Don’t write a resume or summarize your transcript
    • Don’t include information that is found elsewhere in your application
  • Proofread!
    • Try reading your essay aloud with a pen in hand; this will allow you to catch and underline any faulty grammar or punctuation as well as awkward phrases and abrupt transitions
    • If possible, have someone else read your essay; a fresh pair of eyes will help you locate areas that may be clear to you, but not to others
*Revising Your College Essay

When you are revising your college essay, it is important to consider the following questions. It may be helpful to have someone else read your essay and answer these questions about it as well. If your answers don’t match up, then perhaps the subject or main point of your essay is unclear, or maybe you don’t have enough evidence to support your main idea.

1. In one sentence or less, what is the subject of your essay?

2. In one sentence or less, what is the main point or take-away message of your essay? (In other words, what is it that you intended your reader to learn about you from your essay?)

3. Using bullet points, what content did you use to support your point or take-away message (specific examples, details, reasons, facts, quotations, events, etc.)?

*Sample College Essay
My Grandmother’s Eyes (Sidney, Classical High School)

Her eyes are the ones that never lie and tell the story of her life. They show the hardship and sacrifice that was reflected through them. No one saw life the way they did. They saw much adversity; they would flood like the Nile River or get as dry as the Sahara Desert. It was the result of heartbreak and the unfortunate way life decided to treat their owner. Those two spheres have been the witnesses of seventy years of poverty, single motherhood, as well the birth of her children. Most importantly they envisioned her most intimate wish: that her children would not be like her.

Grandma Etelvina was illiterate. The only word she was able to learn how to read and write was her name. After that, it all looked like gibberish. She could easily be tricked into selling her life away and she wouldn’t even know it. Her eyes just saw lines and curves and her mind saw the same. This was a disadvantage, of course, and people in town considered her of a lower class. She had two children, one of whom was my mother, and was determined to give them a good education, even if it meant working all day. Since she had no education, the only jobs accessible to her were ironing, washing clothes, and cooking. It was a difficult task, but offering them a different life was worth it.

And so, these two children were able to go to school. Grandma Etelvina’s eyes watched them walk to school half an hour away. Her eyes were teary because of the happiness they saw in those two little children, who had the chance to be like everybody else. In the meantime, she saw that they kept going to school. She watched her children become educated professionals. They were not like her and her eyes witnessed this accomplishment. They also foresaw the accomplishments of future generations.

The villagers’ cloudy, foggy eyes were not able to see her vision, however. Their eyes were blinded with ridicule and apathy. They just judged her from her appearance and what they thought to be true. All they saw was that she was a single mother who had no education. Something obviously was not right with her because she had no husband, they thought. Even the hills whispered. These children were growing up with no father and a mother alone could not do the job of raising children. Look at her, they said, she cannot read and all she can do is iron police uniforms and cook. What a typical women, but then again, what more are they good for? The people were not able to see Etelvina’s passion. The villagers’ opinion did not matter; Etelvina had a lucid plan.

Grandma’s children saw she did the most she could. Waking up at four each morning was not easy. She made sure they were fed, dressed, at school, and made sure they did their homework. They saw that her life was not the best one she deserved. Life itself had not seen her virtues and had not known how to treat her. They appreciated their mother’s valiance in the struggle to survive and offer them a better life and would be forever grateful for her sacrifice.

Generations later, I admire my grandmother for her bravery and confidence that perseverance would result in progress. It was only recently that I noticed that my grandmother and I share both a common perspective and the same eyes; brown eyes too light be black, but too dark to be hazel. However, there are many other ways to transfer traits from one generation to the next. Grandma Etelvina has granted me the rich legacy of sacrifice and perseverance; I can see her traits embedded in me. Together we have tried to overcome social and cultural barriers. We tried to exceed what was expected of us. A female Guatemalan physical therapist? Who came up with that joke, some people would say. A poor woman raising two children alone? Has that ever worked out.

Her eyes now see me and see what I have become. They see how I have challenged myself to find even more opportunities than her children. I have recognized it is my responsibility to realize my aspirations and have learned that nobody can decide my future, except me. I have learned that stereotypes are temporary obstacles that can be removed in the journey of finding myself. What people say about me does not matter. Most importantly I have realized that the only true barriers that exist are the ones that I place on myself. I could not have learned this better from anyone other than my grandmother. Her wish came true and I will also make my wish to become a physical therapist come true.

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