Mentor Essays for The Common App

And Other College Application Essays


If you are one of those students who understands how important these college admissions essays can be to landing in the school of your dreams, the New York Times just published a dream article just for you. The newspaper publishes a blog, called The Choice, that posts articles exclusively about the college admissions process. Last month, they published this massive article about how teachers can help students use the newspaper to find inspiration for their Common App essays. It’s like your own private, free, college essay tutor from the most respected publication in the world! It’s literally packed with great advice, instruction and sample essays.

Here are the “mentor essays” the newspaper shared to help with the new Common App prompts:

* Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

  • It’s O.K. to Put Yourself First: An essay in which a writer meditates on the impact of a serious illness on her life and family.
  • My Son and the City: A woman moves to New York City with her son, who has serious medical challenges and developmental disabilities–and, she writes, “in a place famous for its anonymous crowds, [he] has been learning about people.”

* Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

  • A Rat’s Tale: A writer discusses her failure to be the sister her brother wanted and what she learned.
  • Pancake Chronicles: An entertaining account of a disastrous first job.
  • A Heartbroken Temp at After a groom changes his mind, his would-be bride, with “no money, no apartment, no job” takes a position at a wedding Web site.

* Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

* Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

* Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Okay, me again. You can stop here, or if you can’t get enough of this inspiring article, there’s more! (Keep in mind that many of these pieces are written by professional writers, and that you probably are writing one of your first narrative essays. So don’t be intimidated by how good they are. Just use them for ideas. Study how they structured them, listen to their casual voice, and how they focus on a simple idea (mundane topic) and expand out of it.
If you want more help starting your college essay, check out my Jumpstart Guide!
I also have to mention my own collection of stand out college application essays, Heavenly Essays. This collections includes 50 narrative-style essays written by real students who all got into outstanding schools!