sample essays

Sample Essays Can Inspire Topic Ideas!


In a previous post, I shared a sample essay from my college application essay writing guide, The Writing Survival Kit. Here’s another original sample essay from the same collection.

I believe reading sample essays is not only a great way to learn how to craft a personal, narrative style essay for your college application, but a wonderful source of topic ideas.

I love how the writer, Sophie Funck, started her slice-of-life essay with a simple real-life moment, and then went on to explain what she learned from that experience.

You, too, have real-life stories and experiences that you can spin into engaging and effective college application essays!


Sophie Funck

Chicago, Illinois

Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA

Fast Doesn’t Always Win

As I walked into class, I spotted the two dreadful words on the white board before I even slid into my desk. They could have been in flashing neon lights: “Pop Quiz.” Even though I had completed the reading homework, I knew I was sunk. My cheeks grew hot as I tried to ignore my classmates’ pencils furiously writing down answers.

“Think, just think,” I told myself over and over, trying to conjure the relevant facts and information. Even though I read the exact words in the same book as everyone else, nothing stuck.

Ever since I was old enough to try to memorize facts or read out of textbooks, the information seemed to float right out of my head. I could spend hours reading and re-reading every page of an assignment, but the next morning it was all a vague memory.

Looking back, I have always taken the longest to learn anything. I could not read until the second grade. While my friends advanced to chapter books, I was reviewing sight words, over and over again.

Even though my brain insisted on taking its sweet time, I always knew I was smart. I just learned differently. My parents figured that out early on and supported and taught me through my strengths. “Different isn’t a bad thing,” they would often say.

Finally, I was tested and discovered that I have an auditory processing and visual memory disability, which means I take longer to absorb information. Despite the diagnosis, I forced myself to think I was a stellar student because I knew if I worked twice as hard and twice as long as my classmates, I could compete at the highest level.

In grade school and junior high, teachers set homework time limits for me so I wouldn’t spend too much time on assignments, but I insisted on finishing the work to prove to myself that I was as capable as my classmates. I was given an assignment and I completed it, no matter what. Even though I was pleased with my grades, the feeling of being “less than” continued to linger in the back of my mind.

Over time, things started to come together. I began to use different tricks and strategies to help me learn more efficiently. In history, one of my most challenging subjects, I would picture facts as stories and print out maps and pictures to help me understand the content.

Creating acronyms and singsong rhymes with mnemonic devices and doing multiplication tables with my fingers were still favorite strategies. I also was a master at time management and organization.

When I stressed about school, I told myself, “I will get it done,” and that “Everything will be ok.” These creative learning tools not only helped my approach with school, but with other obstacles in my life.

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Listen Up
to Write Your

College Application Essay!


college application essay


Are you the type of student who would like to learn how to write your college application essay by listening to your headphones rather than reading a book?

If so, you might want to check out the first of a two-part podcast, “How to Stand Out in Your College Essays with Janine Robinson,” where I share all my best advice and tips on how to craft a powerful college application essay during an interview with Steve Schwartz, a professional college admissions counselor.

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Sample Essays:
The Best Way to Learn to Write Your Own



sample essays


In my writing guide, The Writing Survival Kit, I share some excellent sample essays for college applications. In this post and future ones, I’m sharing some of them with you.

Whether you are just starting to brainstorm a topic for your own essay, or already are working on a draft, reading what other students have written can spark ideas and provide inspiration for your own pieces.

Here’s one of my favorites:

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scholarship essay

Prove You Deserve to Win in Your Scholarship Essays


Scholarship essays are critical if you want to go to college, but can’t afford it. To win them, you usually need to write powerful and personal scholarship essays.

(Yes, QuestBridge applicants, this includes you!)

Scholarship essays are similar to the personal essays you write for college applications. They need to give schools (or sponsors) a sense of who you are, what makes you tick and what you value.

Scholarship essays, however, usually need to go one step further. Applicants need to also show and explain why they deserve to win the scholarship.

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Photo Via Texas Lutheran University

 How to Link Your Life Goals to Current and Future Activities

In the previous post, I wrote about ideas on how to answer Topics A and B in the ApplyTexas college application.

Students who want to apply to most public colleges and universities and some private colleges in Texas must use the ApplyTexas application.

Depending on the school(s) in Texas that you are applying to, there’s a good chance you will need to answer any combination of Topics A, B or C.

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ApplyTexasAll public universities, and some private and 2-year colleges, in Texas do not use the Common Application. Instead, they have their own consolidated system called ApplyTexas.

If you are applying to any of the schools that use ApplyTexas, you need to figure out what essays they require (if any), and then which specific prompts.

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It’s Not Too Late to Write Your College App Essays
Before the Nov. 30 Deadline


Yes, you have waited until the last minute. But don’t despair!

There’s still time to pound out two awesome essays!

If you’re working on your two college application essays for the University of California freshman application, I’ve put together a short list of my most helpful posts.

Read through them, watch the videos, and get crankin!!

Prompt 1: Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations. 

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Students looking for ideas and inspiration on their college application essays should check out the “This I Believe” web site.

It’s an international organization set up in 2004 to help students and adults identify and express through writing personal essays the core values that guide their lives.

Thousands have been collected and published on their site and in books.

Most of these essays could easily double as college application essays, such as for the Common Application or others that ask for personal statements.

In both, you use real-life stories to share your personal philosophy.

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 Advice for Students Who Are Underrepresented
for Whatever Reason:
Tell Your Personal Story

In my previous post, I shared my experience working with teachers and students from the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, where I’m giving a series of workshops on how to write college application essays.

It was my first time working with a large number of students who were mainly from underrepresented backgrounds. Most of the students were Hispanic and would be the first to attend college in their families.

I wanted to share some insights, tips and advice on what I learned, in case this helps other similar students struggling with their essays.

Here are 6 Essay Writing Tips for Students
from Underprivileged or Underrepresented Backgrounds

ONE: Students who come from underprivileged backgrounds can be more reluctant to open up and reveal their tribulations, pain and vulnerability. Many believe they need to show only their strengths and victories. They are rightfully proud and don’t want to appear weak, deficient or complaining.

However, colleges are eager to hear about the obstacles students have faced, and their real-life stories of hardship, and these essays are the perfect place to share them. The best college application essays are almost always highly personal.

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 First-Gen Students Learn to Write
College Application Essays


Last month, I had the privilege to work with a group of teachers and students on their writing and college application essays from the Rio Grande Valley in the southernmost tip of Texas.

Almost all of the 50-some English teachers and 165 students were Hispanic, and most of the kids will be the first in their families to attend college.

The College Essay Writing Workshop, which is a four-part series of workshops for the most promising students from 30 high schools in the Valley, was sponsored by the Texas Graduate Center, which is an initiative of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation (a non-profit community organization), and the Region One GEAR UP Program, whose mission is to help create a college-bound culture in this part of the U.S.

Earlier in the year, their students toured top colleges and universities around the country, including Harvard, Princeton and other ivies.

During these visits, the admissions officers from the various schools told the sponsors one thing over and over: The college application essay played a huge part in who they accepted, and urged them to help their students write better ones.

So they got in touch with me.

This is me working with a student.

I’d never spent time in that part of Texas, where the Rio Grande river winds up along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s been in the news lately, mainly as ground zero in the U.S. for the flood of illegal immigrants, many children, fleeing unrest in Central America, and violence in Mexico due to drug-related activity.

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