MIT Common Application College Essay Example

MIT Common Application College Essay Example

Here’s a college application essay example by Cristen*, who was accepted to MIT! Our analysis of strengths and weaknesses are below.

*Cristen is not a student of Winning Ivy Prep

MIT Common App Essay Example

“My parents don’t have tax forms,” I said pointedly. “They don’t fill them out.”

“Of course they file tax forms,” she shot back. “Everyone does.” After a few more minutes of fruitless discussion, I left the College Office, unsuccessful. I would pay for SAT II exams, again.

Even with fee waivers, applying to college is pricey. Sending test scores to more than 4 colleges cost money, AP exams fees are reduced but not obliterated, and I’d love to meet the genius who thought of charging a fee for applying for financial aid. When approaching Ms. Cleary for help with the CCS Profile – I didn’t know where to indicate welfare and food stamp income – she asked me which school I chose to apply to.

“M.I.T.,” I replied.

“Oh, M.I.T.?” she mused. “How ironic, that you’re applying to M.I.T. and yet you can’t fill out a form…” I don’t consider my school’s administration supportive or welcoming.

My family felt strained enough paying $57 for senior dues when I attended middle school. Being a senior at Stuy is much, much worse. So far, this year’s classes have demanded about $270 total in textbooks, workbooks, art supplies, and other expenses. When my teachers ask whether anyone will have trouble paying for their supplies, no one speaks up and an awkward silence ensues.

While academic costs have mostly been waived, high school memories are not priceless. Yearbook photos just came in, and packages cost from $86 to about $230. I’ll probably wear an old dress and take the subway to my senior prom, which will probably set me back another $160. I will not get a class ring.

Many of my friends carry $10 and $20 daily, while I get $5 on a good day. Most of their parents are middle to upper class, working as teachers, lawyers, programmers, doctors, writers, social workers, or scientists, unlike my mother who is excused from work because of illness. Some of my classmates come from private schools, and many buy prep books for exams and have been in expensive SAT prep courses since middle school.

They seem unable to comprehend my situation; the blank, baffled looks on their faces upon learning I have no cable television, cell phone, or air conditioning shock me.

“We do it because we want you to be happy,” my grandmother had explained to me when giving me $60 to attend a discounted college trip. Even in a nation governed by socioeconomic class, I believe that happiness and perseverance are enough for success. Although I use second-hand paints and brushes in acrylic painting class, I know that my painting will look just as striking.

Source: MIT Admissions Blog

Analysis & Comments

In this essay, the author made me feel:

  • Inspired

In this essay, the author exhibits these personality traits:

  • Perseverance
  • Grit

College Essay Strengths:

This essay does an awesome job of showcasing Cristen’s personality – it has a ton of voice and sarcastic humor, but not in a negative way. As a reader, we can immediately picture the kind of person Cristen would be if we actually met her.

The introduction is hooky. It starts off with a little humor and immediately pulls us in. We learn about Cristen’s upbringing, and the rest of the essay contains unique anecdotes to show how much of an outcast she felt during her time at Stuy. She does a good job lacing these anecdotes to make the essay cohesive.

The conclusion is relatively strong, and the message is clear – she has overcome tons of obstacles, but she doesn’t let her background deter her from reaching her goals. It’s a very positive message.

Overall, Cristen’s essay is strong and very unique. She took a risk by poking fun of her school, but she pulls it off by spinning her situation in a more positive light.

College Essay Weaknesses:

Cristen’s unique voice and risk-taking spirit is pretty evident in her writing – it’s a very strong essay. However, I do believe that one reaaaaally good story instead of a few small anecdotes would’ve made this essay much more striking.

Cristen’s essay brings forth a question that students always have about their college application essay: Should you take “risks” in your writing? It IS a bit risky to poke fun of your high school and its faculty, as Cristen did.

But, Cristen’s way of making fun of Ms. Cleary is not whiney, which is why her essay works. Ms. Cleary simply represents another obstacle in Cristen’s life that made her high school years tough. She uses Ms. Cleary as an example to show that she doesn’t back down – she’ll make the best darn lemonade our of any sour lemons she gets dealt in life. In other words, the essay ends on a high note.

If you do want to take risks in your writing by poking fun of something or someone, that’s completely fine… as long as you get multiple second opinions! You don’t want to offend people. You also don’t want to sound overly negative and whiney. You need to strike a good balance, as Cristen has.

Stanford College Application Essay Example

Stanford College Application Essay Example

Here’s a college application essay example by a student* who was accepted to Stanford.

*Not a student of Winning Ivy Prep

Most children acquire the same eye color or a similar shaped nose from their parents, but I’ve inherited much more: a passion for learning and an insatiable curiosity which has served me well throughout my academic career. My father, an electrical engineer, taught me to explore the world with inquisitive eyes, constantly seeking to learn more, to understand more. I watched him for hours as he worked on elevator schematics at home, wondering what all the various symbols and lines meant. I was fascinated by technology and wanted to know how and why things worked the way they did.

“How does this toaster work?” “What’s inside this VCR?” I was never satisfied with the simplified answers that my parents sometimes gave to these questions. So I discovered many answers for myself by exploring and experimenting.

My playground was a jumble of old circuit boards, spare electric wire, and an assortment of broken appliances. I spent hours disassembling and tinkering with the amazing treasures I found lying around our garage. My mother, a first grade teacher, noticed my intellectual curiosity and encouraged my childhood explorations. She gave me piles of mind-opening children’s books, which I willingly read. Books like “What Makes Popcorn Pop, and Other Questions about the World around Us” allowed me to discover the irresistible appeal of imaginative questions and their fascinating answers.

I was given a remarkable amount of freedom at a young age. When I was 6, my parents bought an old computer for $25 from a local yard sale with the intention of letting me loose on it. I was thrilled. Motivated by curiosity, I delved into it at once and learned how to use each and every feature of the computer’s antiquated MS-DOS operating system. With my father’s help and an old programming book by my side, I even created simple videogames for my younger brother to play.

My parents taught me to be independent and self-motivated by providing me opportunities to learn by trial and error. I recall an episode where my parents bought a new microwave when I was just 8 years old. As they unpacked the microwave, I caught sight of the owner’s manual and asked to see it. After reading the 40-page text front-to-back, I learned one very important thing: how to use a feature called “child lock,” or as I saw it, “parent lock.” By pressing a special sequence of buttons on the microwave, disabled it, thus protecting my parents from the dangers of using the appliance without my supervision. Until this day, the first thing I do after buying a new gadget is read the entire manual, in search of nifty features.

My intellectual curiosity is the result of a unique combination of early influences and childhood experiences which have fueled my passion for learning inside and outside of the classroom — learning from everything I do. I hope to continue applying this curiosity to all aspects of my life, exploring the world through the eyes of my childhood persona. By refusing to accept the obvious explanation, refusing to settle for a superficial understanding, and refusing to endure the status quo, great American innovators like my role model Benjamin Franklin created new knowledge, new technologies, and new innovations. I strive to do the same. It’s part of who I am, and what drives me to become successful and happy.

Source: AP Study Notes

Analysis & Comments

In this essay, the author made me feel:

  • Fascinated, sort of (except not really)

In this essay, the author exhibits these personality traits:

  • Passion for engineering and electronics
  • Clarity of thought and organization
  • Natural curiosity

College Essay Strengths:

This essay is pretty simple and clear-cut, isn’t it? Of all the topics that the author could’ve written about, he wanted the admissions committee to know of his passion for engineering. This thirst-for-knowledge theme is intertwined in every example of the essay. From the get-go, his passions are very clearly communicated, which is great.

The writing is very straightforward and methodological, almost like the author we imagine him to be. Based on this essay we know exactly the type of person the author is. The essay, in other words, paints a very good picture of our author.

College Essay Weaknesses:

This essay is pretty strong. However, there’s still room to revamp the essay.

First things first: The introduction could be a little more hooky. Don’t get me wrong — currently, the introduction is perfectly fine. But, a hooky introduction would make the essay more dynamic and give it some voice. Because the essay is a bit too dry at the moment, some added voice would really give the essay a boost.

Moreover, this essay sprinkles in a few mini stories to get across the author’s message about his passion for engineering. This is perfectly fine. However, it would be best if there was one good, juicy story to convey his message instead of a few small stories.

Finally, let’s talk about the conclusion. The point of any good conclusion is to tie together any loose ends. This author’s conclusion doesn’t add much value to the overall essay because he basically reiterates the same message he already conveyed in the introduction that, since childhood, the author had a thirst for knowledge outside and inside the classroom. It leaves me wanting a bit more from him.

Additionally, the author’s last sentence is weak and trite. His innate curiosity drives him to be successful and happy? Really? That’s how he wants to end the entire essay? There are tons of better concluding statements than that one.

At the end of the day, yes, the author got into Stanford. Great. But, it’s unarguable that this essay has many points of improvement, albeit lots of strengths as well.

Because the college admission process is pretty obscure, it’s extremely important to make sure that every piece of the admissions puzzle for your application package is the absolute best it can be.

PS: Check out the link below for more college application essay examples

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College Application Essay Example UPenn

College Application Essay Example UPenn

Here’s a college admissions essay example from a friend of Winning Ivy Prep who was accepted to University of Pennsylvania!

UPenn Common App Essay Example

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

Aspire, to reach for [an ambition], from Latin aspiro (ad + spiro), to breathe for [a purpose], a derivative of spiro, to breathe. Aspiration drove Bill Gates to found Microsoft, led Einstein to the theories of relativity, and brought me to the study of language.

Aspirate, to create a strong burst of air, used in a linguistic sense, also from Latin spiro, to breathe. In English, aspiration turns B’s into P’s, D’s into T’s and G’s into K’s. Most languages have aspirated consonants, including both Ancient Greek and Korean. Though you’d never think that Ancient Greek and Korean were in any way related, being on different sides of Asia, the two surprisingly have a lot in common.

When I was still in diapers, my working mom hired a nanny who, like my mother, was Korean in order to give me early exposure to her language. My English blossomed when I started preschool. In kindergarten my Chinese dad introduced me to his language through children’s television. Elementary school brought me French, and middle school ushered in my interest in Latin. Hotchkiss let me study Chinese and Ancient Greek while continuing my Latin. This past summer, I went back to my roots and worked on my childhood Korean. All told, I am learning three living languages – English, Chinese and Korean – and two dead ones, Latin and Ancient Greek.

I get some odd looks when people find out how many and what languages I study. I have a reason to study Korean and Chinese because they are the languages of my heritage, but how do I explain Latin and Ancient Greek? They’re dead languages, now only home to school crests and old philosophers. I fit as many as I could into my school schedule and studied them over break, but it seemed as if I couldn’t stop learning languages. In English, I traced etymologies as far back as anyone had researched. I learned the concept of nasal vowels from my Navajo friend. But through all this, I never figured out the why factor. What was it about language that drove me to it? 

The answer struck me in the form of a Korean cell phone. When I studied Korean last summer, I couldn’t figure out why the Korean ㄷ, a soft T, was pronounced ㅌ, a hard T, when it was next to ㅎ (H). There was no English equivalent, and I couldn’t rationalize the sound change to myself. Frustrated, I took a break for the day and went out to the movies with a friend. When I borrowed her cell phone to make a call and looked at the arrangement of the Korean alphabet on the number keypad, everything clicked. In contrast to the English keypad, where letters are arranged alphabetically, Korean maps its letters onto the keypad according to how they are sounded. Specifically, consonants that are formed with the same mouth movements all map to one number.

For example, if English number keypads had this system, M, B and P would be together because they are bilabial consonants, formed by placing both lips together. In this consonant group, M is the sonorant, a consonant that can be continually sounded. Because Korean keypads place all similar sounds together, I realized that plosives and aspirates were closely linked. I quickly deduced that since ㅎ (H) was just the burst of air required for aspiration, it would easily combine with a plosive to create the equivalent aspirate consonant. If English had a similar sound change (or, in linguist-speak, “a corresponding morphophonemic phenomenon”), B would change to P, D to T, and G to K in the presence of an aspirate.

I had known from my first day of Ancient Greek that it, along with Korean, was an inflected language, where the endings of words determine their grammatical function. When I noted that Korean once had pitch accent (where one syllable of a word has emphasis and a pitch), just as Ancient Greek does, I couldn’t sit still. I turned to my friend and exclaimed that Korean was a lot like Ancient Greek. I think she was more interested in Johnny Depp than phonic aspiration, though: she told me to give her phone back, stop talking so loudly and just watch Pirates of the Caribbean. But even as I eased myself into the sword fights and special effects, I couldn’t help but think, “Why can’t I aspire further in a movie theater? Maybe I’ll learn Haitian creole.”


Analysis & Comments

In this essay, the author made me feel:

  • Intrigued. This author has a super unique interest in languages
  • Invested. The author’s passion is really evident in his writing, and I’m hooked. I want to learn more about how he ties it everything together in the end.

In this essay, the author exhibits these personality traits:

  • Passion for languages
  • Detail oriented mindset
  • Creativity of thought

College Essay Strengths:

This essay is pretty long – it’s about 1100 words. We can definitely cut out a large portion of the words and keep the essays’ spirit intact. I definitely don’t advocate writing more than the recommended word count. Let’s put that aside for now and talk about the message of the essay.

The author chose a very unique topic — his love of languages — and his passion is crystal clear in his writing. He goes into great detail about why he finds language so enticing and intellectually challenging. It’s fun to learn about what goes on in his mind when he learns a new language and connects the dots between the languages he’s learning.
The introduction and conclusion are other very strong points of this essay. In the introduction, the author uses definitions to hook us right from the get-go. At the end, he adds a little humor to an otherwise esoteric topic, and he does a nice job tying the conclusion back to the intro about being at the movies with his friend. We walk away a little more educated and with a newfound respect for the complexities of languages.

College Essay Weaknesses:

This essay is overall very strong — it showcases bite-sized bits of the author: his culture, his environment in which he grew up, his passions, his humorous side. However, we pointed this out before: The essay is supppper long. He could’ve cut out tons of words to keep the essay within reasonable limits and still preserve the message and show his personality.

PS. Check out this post if you want to know how to answer UPenn’s supplemental essay questions.


Check out the link below for more Common App essay examples

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College Application Essay Example – Columbia

College Application Essay Example – Columbia

Ahhh, so you’re interested in the Ivy Leagues, huh? Then check out this personal statement example by a student* admitted to Columbia University.

*Not a student of Winning Ivy Prep

Columbia Common App Essay Example

“You’re such a hipster.” It’s a phrase heard everyday in school hallways across America, and its usage often operates as a conundrum that obscures teenagers’ perceptions of themselves and who they want to be. I, in turn, have struggled immensely with the paradoxical use of this label.

Since the onset of my tween years and perhaps even before that, I have constantly carried with me an insistent urge for nonconformity; it has never sat well with me to be like everyone else. Throughout my middle school years, this natural instinct of mine manifested itself in many different ways: jeans tucked into knee-high socks, anything from punk to Harlem renaissance jazz bellowing from my headphones, Palahniuk novels peeking out of my backpack. As my identity shifted, my career as a social renegade flourished, and I found in myself a certain pride in being different and a passion for seeking out eccentric new ways to express myself.

With the realization of my newfound passion, my nonconformist qualities were locked in, and I began high school without the usual freshman trepidation about getting labeled or branded. Thereby, I continued my habitual antics, rebelling against the social norm and doing what I could to think freely. In doing so, however, I encountered a particular subculture defined by certain fashion trends and, to some extent, genres of music. This subculture was and still is often associated with the term “hipster” and regarded as having a correspondence with the “hipster lifestyle.” Moreover, so-called “hipsters” are known to have particularly poignant tendencies towards nonconformity. Thus, my rise to the hipster ideal began.

I was enamored with various aspects of this subculture, so I enthusiastically donned a beanie and cardigan and crammed every Bon Iver and The Smiths album I could find on to my iPod. Such new developments in my identity perfectly suited my singularity as a nonconformist; no one I knew had adopted this flair. Admittedly, my new garb was somewhat funky, and thus the new look evoked, in both positive and negative renditions, choruses of “You’re such a hipster!” The attention was extraordinarily gratifying, and I consequently plunged into obsession with my new label, consumed in an effort to sustain my “hipster” reputation. Much of my mental vitality was spent on keeping my appearance and status up to a sufficiently “hipster” standard. The questions I asked myself about who I wanted to be quickly evolved into “How can I fit the ideal?” and “How can I conform?”

Herein lies the continual paradox for people who identify themselves as “hipsters” and the contradiction that brought me much confusion and uncertainty for parts of my high school career: implicit in the definition of the term “hipster” is the prominence of nonconformity in all aspects of a “hipster’s” lifestyle. Individualist ideals permeate his clothes, his music, his social behavior, even his politics. Simultaneously, however, one who seeks to identify himself and be identified by others as a “hipster” undoubtably strives to conform to the “hipster” construct; he tries to fit himself inside an inflexible “hipster” box.

Nevertheless, as with most paradoxes, the problem at hand does not imply a real contradiction. I found the solution after many months of personal struggle with my own identity. It is not that there is something inherently wrong with the qualities of a “hipster.” I have come to understand that a label such as “hipster” must never precede my own actual characteristics, and I can never let such a notion inform my identity by itself. Before I ever begin to set words to my character, I have to figure out who I am free from outside influence.
The adjectives come much later.

Source: Gawker.com


Analysis & Comments

In this essay, the author made me feel:

  • Sort of interested; the topic is unique

In this essay, the author exhibits these personality traits:

  • Creative writer
  • Humor

College Essay Strengths:

This is one of the most unique pieces of college application writing I’ve encountered. The author’s sarcastic tone really shines through, and it’s clear he’s a creative writer.

The introduction captivates us from the get-go – we start to wonder how he’s going to pull off an application essay by writing about hipsters.

Quickly, we learn that he’s a non-conformist by nature. But, he comes to realize that being labeled as a non-conformist hipster is itself a label…. So… he’s actually conforming to the ideals of the elusive hipster. Ok, we get it. It’s deep, I guess, and it showcases the author’s ability to clearly showcase his thoughts.

College Essay Weaknesses:

If the main purpose of this essay was to showcase creative writing, then this author excelled.

But, the purpose of ANY application essay is to tell a story with a clear message that showcases who you are to admissions committee. And, on that front, this essay falls short.

Yes, this author got into Columbia. But, there are tons of different factors that contribute to the admissions decision. And, I sincerely believe that there were other superb factors about this author that contributed to the admissions decision. For now, let’s just focus on revamping this essay.

After reading this essay, all I know about the author is this: He is a non-conformist who gets labeled as a hipster by default and he realizes this paradox. Ok, so what?

You don’t have too many chances to “talk” to the admissions committee to persuade them that you’re an amazing asset to their university. Don’t waste that opportunity. Bring you’re A-game and tell a story. Give them a message and a theme to remember you.

For instance, if you truly want the admissions committee to know that you’re not a conformist and you live by the beat of your own drum, then that’s great! Don’t just say that. SHOW it with a story.

Finally, I felt little to no emotional response to this essay. Remember, these admissions officers go through thousands of essays during an application cycle. The essays that they are more likely to remember are the ones that elicit an emotional response. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Check out the link below for more Common App essay examples

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College Essay Example & Analysis – Johns Hopkins

Boom! Here’s an admissions essay example by Katie*, who was accepted to Johns Hopkins.

*Katie is not a student of Winning Ivy Prep

Johns Hopkins Common App Essay Example

Hardly a day went by in Japan when I wasn’t asked by a curious and wide-eyed Japanese person, “How many guns do you own?” This was almost never preceded by the question “Do you own a gun?” Being from Texas, it was simply assumed that I was an experienced gunslinger.

Of course, I was guilty of false assumptions as well. After 4 years of Japanese, I thought I knew something about Japan. My Japanese teacher praised me for my control of the Japanese language, I had memorized the words to songs by popular Japanese bands, and I could recite the crime rates of the 10 most populated cities in Japan. When I found out I would be spending 6 weeks going to Japanese school and living with a Japanese family in Japan on a full scholarship through Youth for Understanding, my head instantly filled with images of what I had assumed life in Japan to be like. I imagined myself walking the streets of a shiny, Tokyo-esque metropolis in my adorable sailor-style school uniform with my new Japanese friends who did nothing but sing karaoke and love Pokemon. But preconceptions often lead to misconceptions. It was not until my plane, occupied by all of nine people (including the flight attendants) landed at one of only two gates at Izumo Airport, a lone building surrounded by nothing but rice paddies, that I realized I could no longer base anything on assumption.

Izumo Airport is just a short drive from Matsue, Shimane, Japan. The capital city of Shimane prefecture, Matsue resides in the second most rural prefecture in Japan, something I discovered when the initial googling of Matsue yielded little more than a nondescript three-paragraph Wikipedia article. I knew I would have to adjust quite a bit to life in rural Matsue, but I welcomed that challenge with open arms. I wanted to experience the real Japan, I wanted to live it as much as I could in my two months there, so I made every effort to accept whatever cultural differences were thrown at me, I made every effort to blend.

This was no easy task. After a few weeks, I had eaten fermented soybeans, bathed in public bathhouses, and tried to comprehend my biology class through the language barrier. I had stopped converting prices into dollars from yen, it no longer felt unnatural to bow, and I had dreams in Japanese. But despite my efforts, it often seemed as if Matsue was acutely aware that a certain foreigner had quietly tried to sneak her way into the city. I was interviewed for television programs, stared at, photographed, and bombarded with questions by nearly every person I met, many of whom had never spoken with an American before, and most of whom were surprised to find out that I hadn’t burst through customs on a cow. Stereotypes were entertaining, even hilarious, until one day, when I asked my host mother, or “okaasan” as I called her, if she would ever let her children come to America.

“America is far too dangerous—I can’t let my kids go there.”

She replied so nonchalantly, as if it was a simple fact of the universe that America was a violent and dangerous place. It felt like a personal insult; as if she, a person I had grown to love, had just told me she hated me. I was making such an effort to learn in Japan, to adapt, to be accepting, yet after having had me in her home for so long, having had a piece of my culture by her side, she still did not understand it. Suddenly, stereotypes were not so laughable.

I was reminded again of this exchange with my okaasan recently when I asked my mother if I could study abroad in China during college.

“China? I don’t know, that’s kind of dangerous, how about South Korea?”

Although I was initially hurt by their comments, I’ve come to understand that it is not their fault that they have this view of the world. We all take comfort in the safety of our own culture . When my okaasan sees Hollywood action movies, she assumes Americans are gun-toting vigilantes with a violent disposition. The news tells my mother of corrupt Chinese government officials kidnapping people and automatically assumes this is a daily occurrence, but she has nothing else to base her knowledge of the country on, so it makes sense to believe it. The only way to combat cultural misunderstandings like this is through knowledge. Not knowledge of facts, like crime rates and boy band lyrics, but through knowledge that comes with experience. There is no way to let every person see the whole world first hand. The only way to facilitate understanding between cultures is to share experiences, to create alliances, and to show people across the globe what it means to be American, Japanese, or Tanzanian. To show people that their perceptions of other cultures may not be as based in reality as they think.

After my okaasan’s comment about the danger of American culture, I never mentioned it to her again. Instead, I tried to show her through my actions that my culture is not something to be feared. It was not until the last day of my stay, after I had boarded another empty plane at Izumo Airport and said goodbye to my tearful host family, that she revisited it. My okaasan sent me off to America with a small packed lunch for the plane ride. As I opened the lunch, I discovered a note tucked between two napkins. It was a letter from my okaasan. My okaasan spoke no English, but at the end of her letter she had made the effort to leave me one English sentence to part with:

“If all Americans are like Katie, I can send my children to America.”

My okaasan often told me it was “enmusubi” that I was placed with her family. Enmusubi is not a term typically found in Japanese to English dictionaries, and when it is, it is seldom defined correctly. Enmusubi is the fact that my Japanese host dad and I have the same birthday; that my Japanese teacher had also been an exchange student in my tiny, rural city in Japan; that the principal of the school I attended in Japan had lived in Austin, and even visited my school here. Enmusubi has inspired me to pursue a degree in International Relations. Enmusubi is why I was placed in Matsue, Shimane, Japan.


Source: JHU.edu


Analysis & Comments

In this essay, the author made me feel:

  • Positive and excited
  • Fascinated

In this essay, the author exhibits these personality traits:

  • Passion for adventure
  • Open-mindedness
  • Introspective nature

College Essay Strengths:

Katie’s essay starts off strong – she pulls us in with a pretty funny introduction of “wide-eyed Japanese” people. In the second paragraph, we get even more of a sense of this funny voice when she mentions karaoke and Pokemon. It’s off to a good start.

Throughout the essay, we see Katie’s passion for travel and thirst for gaining knowledge about different cultures. Clearly, we see Katie’s growth during her time in Japan.

Through her experiences, she highlights the importance of knowledge to combat cultural misunderstandings. This epiphany is truly shows a high level of maturity, and shows that she is adventurous and open-minded.

Doesn’t his essay make you want to meet Katie in person? What kind of 17 year old has the guts to live abroad in rural Japan for a few weeks and is keen to do it again? Lots of people may want to do that, but it’s definitely easier said than done!

Katie’s conclusion is the strongest part of her essay. It’s very powerful that she doesn’t give us a direct definition of enmusubi – her description of it hits home. The notion of enmusubi ties together her entire experience in Japan and her ability to appreciate the similarities and differences between the culture she knows and of her host family.

College Essay Weaknesses:

This essay is pretty exceptional. The only piece of feedback I’d offer is to cut down some of the sentences – her essay could’ve been shortened by a paragraph or so, which would’ve been easier to read for an admissions officer.

Also, take a step back and look at the paragraph blocks of her essay. Paragraph two is a little too long and excessive, isn’t it? The paragraph beginning with: “Although I was initially hurt by their comments…” is also on the long side.

It’s a good idea to sprinkle in paragraphs of varying lengths to break up the flow and keep the writing interesting. Katie’s essay is very well written, but cutting down some lengthy sentences and varying the paragraphs lengths would’ve helped to keep the captivate the reader more, and keep his interests longer.

Check out the link below for more Common App essay examples

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College Essay Example & Analysis – New York University

College Essay Example & Analysis – New York University

Who doesn’t love New York City? This is a personal statement example by Lyle*, who was accepted to NYU.

*Lyle is not a student of Winning Ivy Prep

NYU Common App Essay Example

While resting comfortably in my air-conditioned bedroom one hot summer night, I received a phone call from my mom. She asked me softly, “Lyle, can you come down and clean up the restaurant?”

Slightly annoyed, I put on my sandals and proceeded downstairs. Mixing the hot water with cleaning detergents, I was ready to clean up the restaurant floor. Usually the process was painstakingly slow: I had to first empty a bucket full of dirty water, only to fill it up again with boiling water. But that night I made quick work and finished in five minutes. My mom, unsatisfied, snatched the mop from me and began to demonstrate the “proper way” to clean the floor. She demanded a redo. I complied, but she showed no signs of approval. As much as I wanted to erupt that night, I had good reasons to stay calm.

Growing up in rural China, my mom concerned herself not with what she would wear to school every day, but rather how she could provide for her family. While many of her classmates immediately joined the work force upon completing high school, my mom had other aspirations. She wanted to be a doctor. But when her college rejections arrived, my mother, despite being one of the strongest individuals I know, broke down. My grandparents urged her to pursue another year of education. She refused. Instead, she took up a modestly paying job as a teacher in order to lessen the financial burden on the family. Today, more than twenty years have passed, yet the walls of my parents’ bedroom still do not bear a framed college degree with the name “Tang Xiao Geng” on it.

In contrast, when I visit my friends, I see the names of elite institutions adorning the living room walls. I am conscious that these framed diplomas are testaments to the hard work and accomplishments of my friends’ parents and siblings. Nevertheless, the sight of them was an irritating reminder of the disparity between our households. I was not the upper middle class kid on Park Avenue. Truth be told, I am just some kid from Brooklyn.

Instead of diplomas and accolades, my parents’ room emits a smell from the restaurant uniforms they wear seven days a week, all year round. It’s funny how I never see my mom in makeup, expensive jeans, lavish dresses, or even just casual, everyday clothing that I often see other moms wearing. Yet, one must possess something extraordinary to be able to stand in front of a cash register for 19 years and do so with pride and determination.

On certain nights, I would come home sweaty, dressed in a gold button blazer and colored pants, unmistakable evidence of socializing. In contrast, my mom appears physically and emotionally worn-out from work. But, she still asks me about my day. Consumed by guilt, I find it hard to answer her.

Moments such as those challenge my criteria of what constitutes true success. My mother, despite never going to college, still managed to make a difference in my life. Tomorrow, she will put on her uniform with just as much dignity as a businesswoman would her power suit. What is her secret? She wholeheartedly believes that her son’s future is worth the investment. The outcome of my education will be vindication of that belief.

In hindsight, I’m astounded at the ease with which I can compose all my views of this amazing woman on a piece of paper, but lack the nerve to express my gratitude in conversations. Perhaps, actions will indeed speak louder than words. When I graduate on June 1st, I know she will buy a dress to honor the special occasion. When I toil through my college thesis, I know she will still be mopping the restaurant floor at 11:00 PM. When I finally hang up my diploma in my bedroom, I know she will be smiling.

Source: NYTimes

Analysis & Comments

In this essay, the author made me feel:

  • Warm. It’s a beautifully written tribute to Lyle’s mother, it makes me almost want to call my mom and say some thank you’s.

In this essay, the author exhibits these personality traits:

  • Compassion
  • Clarity of thought and organization

College Essay Strengths:

Lyle picked a topic that is a universal heartstring-puller: moms. We get a glimpse into Lyle’s family and upbringing in this essay, and we see very clearly his gratitude towards his mom and the sacrifices she has given to propel Lyle’s life.

College Essay Weaknesses:

This essay is very well-written – there’s no doubt about that. However, for a college application personal statement, it falls a bit short. Here’s why: The essay focuses a little too much on Lyle’s mom than about Lyle himself. Sure, he gives us some background about his upbringing and culture, but we still don’t know much about Lyle.

What on earth is Lyle passionate about? He talks about how getting a college diploma would make his mother proud, but… is that his motivation for going to college? I doubt it is, but it’s unclear.

Lyle missed a crucial opportunity to showcase who HE is (not his mother) to the admissions committee. He really could’ve sprinkled in more tidbits about himself and his interests in the essay that still would’ve preserved the message of gratitude towards his mother.

We picked this essay example to highlight the importance of telling a story that is all about YOU in your college personal statement. We’ve read tons of beautifully written essays, but it’s a BIG problem if students don’t tie the story back to a message they want the admissions committee to know about them.  

This is your application. This is your chance to showcase your personality to the admissions committee. Don’t miss it!

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