Sample College Essays

Sample College Essays


You write one main essay of 500-650 words to apply to college, and you send this essay to most of your colleges. You can send your resume to any colleges who allow it. Many colleges require that you write about 150-200 words on your most meaningful extra curricular activity, and many schools ask why you chose to apply to their school, so it is a good idea to have this "Why School X" piece ready as well. You can keep track of all essays you need to write here on CollegeMapper. Recycle wherever you can, but always proofread to change the names!


Start writing these essays during the second semester of Junior year, lightly. Hit it hard in the summer before Senior year and try to have as many of them as possible finalized before Senior year starts. Plan to edit each piece 5-10 times. Get outside editing help; no one can be their own editor!

Guidelines for Main Essay

  • 1 page single spaced; aim for 500-650 words. You will need a 500 word and probably a longer version of the same essay.
  • Any topic from your life: favorite memory, a conquest, risk you took, a passion, memorable learning experience
  • Tell a personal story from your life; this is not a 5 paragraph essay
  • Still, have one point to the story--a central thesis
  • Write about just one thing--not your life story
  • Opening sentence/paragraph needs to "hook" reader; high interest
  • Slightly formal; don't use profanity
  • Not pretentious or forced; natural--DO NOT restate your resume. This is not about bragging at all.
  • Avoid politics, travel, resume/greatness, community service, sports, Mexico missions trip, religion.
  • *Let your personality shine through*--they need to hear your voice and spirit. ENTERTAIN.
  • No complaining; no whining; no blaming
  • You can discuss a negative topic but you must do so in a positive, strong, uplifting way, focusing on what you learned
  • This is not a journal entry, not a confession, and NOT philosophical creative writing
  • Show commitment/passion to/for something: hobby, family, sport
  • This is a draft and you will revise it many times; don't worry about making it perfect.
  • It is also OK to say, "Let's just start over."
  • Tell a story about something to show your point; don't tell what your point is
  • You want the essay to be memorable--ENTERTAIN!
  • Don't try to be unique or radical: don't feel pressured to write something AMAZING.
  • All you're doing is telling a story from your life; have fun and don't worry.
  • It's ok to use humor and it is GOOD to poke fun at yourself a little bit. Show yourself in a silly light, not as the smartest person ever or the savior of humanity... In NO way can you sound conceited.

Ideas for Main College Essay

  • First part-time job mishaps
  • How I learned to relax and laugh at myself
  • Favorite hotdog in Chicago
  • A random tv show changed my life
  • Teaching myself to cook--secretly
  • How NPR made me who I am
  • Overcoming a disability
  • My brother's music and struggles shaped me
  • How my summer cabin made me who I am
  • Walking in Tokyo
  • My role model--a biography I read changed my life
  • Five airports on my own--a calamitous event
  • How I fought to be able to read
  • Jumping off that cliff
  • Starting my business
  • I got a tattoo in France

Each link displays a different essay. Read through for ideas on content, form, and style.