The college admissions essay is crucial to your application, showcasing your individuality and unique perspective to admissions officers. But what makes an essay stand out? Let’s examine three exemplary essays featured by university websites and a school newspaper’s brand studio, and discover how you can craft your own compelling narrative.

Embracing Differences: Finding Strength In Uniqueness

Essay Excerpt: ‘Bra Shopping’ (Harvard)

Highlighted by the Harvard Crimson Brand Studio, Orlee’s essay narrates a humorous and insightful experience of bra shopping with her grandmother, interweaving her unique family dynamics and the challenges she faced at her prestigious school.

What Works:

  • Humor and Honesty: The essay’s humor makes it enjoyable, while her honesty about her challenges adds depth.
  • Self-Awareness: She shows a strong sense of self-awareness, embracing her uniqueness rather than trying to conform.
  • Resilience: Her narrative underscores resilience and the ability to find strength in differences.

Tips for Your College Admissions Essay: To write an essay that embraces your uniqueness, start by identifying a quirky or challenging experience that offers key insights into your life. Consider how this experience has shaped your perspective and character. Use humor and honesty to bring your story to life, focusing on how you have embraced your differences to become stronger and more resilient.

Finding Connections: Humor And Self-Reflection

Essay: ‘Brood X Cicadas’ (Hamilton College)

On Hamilton’s admissions website, Nicholas writes about the cicadas swarming his hometown every 17 years and draws a parallel between their emergence and his own transition to college life. He uses humor and self-reflection to create a relatable and engaging narrative.

What Works:

  • Humor: Nicholas employs humor to make his essay entertaining and memorable. His witty comparisons between himself and cicadas add a unique twist.
  • Self-Reflection: By comparing his life to the cicadas, he reflects on his own growth and readiness for change.
  • Relatability: His narrative about facing new experiences and challenges resonates with readers who have undergone similar transitions.

Tips for Your College Admissions Essay: To infuse humor and self-reflection into your essay, start by identifying an ordinary experience or object and think about how it relates to your life. Note funny or insightful observations about this connection. Use humor to make your essay engaging, but ensure it still conveys meaningful self-reflection. This balance can make your essay both entertaining and profound.

Persistence and Multicultural Identity: Life Lessons From Tortilla Making

Essay: ‘Facing The Hot Griddle’ (Johns Hopkins University)

In this essay published by Hopkins Insider, Rocio uses the process of making tortillas to explore her multicultural identity and the challenges she has faced. Her story beautifully intertwines her Guatemalan heritage with her experiences growing up in the United States.

What Works:

  • Metaphor and Symbolism: The process of making tortillas becomes a powerful metaphor for Rocio’s journey and struggles. The symbolism of the masa harina and water mixing parallels her blending of cultural identities.
  • Personal Growth: The essay highlights her perseverance and adaptability, crucial qualities for college success.
  • Cultural Insight: She offers a rich, personal insight into her multicultural background, making her story unique and compelling.

Tips for Your College Admissions Essay: To write an essay that explores your identity through a metaphor, start by thinking about an activity or tradition that holds significant meaning for you. Consider how this activity relates to your life experiences and personal growth. Use detailed descriptions to bring the activity to life and draw connections between the process and your own journey. Reflect on the lessons you’ve learned and how they’ve shaped your identity.

Tips for Crafting Your Standout College Admissions Essay

A winning college admissions essay isn’t just about showcasing your best accomplishment or dramatizing your challenges. It’s not about who is the most original or entertaining. Instead, the essay is your opportunity to showcase your authenticity, passion, resilience, social awareness, and intellectual vitality. By sharing genuine stories and insights, you can create an essay that resonates with admissions committees and highlights your unique qualities.

Here’s how to get into the right mindset for your essay:

  1. Reflect Deeply: Spend time thinking about your experiences, challenges, and passions. Journaling can help you uncover deep insights.
  2. Discuss and Share: Talking about your stories with friends, family, or mentors can provide new perspectives and emotional clarity.
  3. Immerse Yourself: Engage in activities you are passionate about to reignite the feelings and memories associated with them.
  4. Draft Freely: Don’t aim for perfection on the first try. Write freely and honestly, then refine your narrative.

The secret to a standout college admissions essay lies in its authenticity, depth, and emotional resonance. By learning from these successful examples and getting into the right mindset, you can craft an essay that not only stands out but also provides meaningful insight into who you are. Remember, your essay is your story—make it a piece of writing that you will always be proud of.

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