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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