We think it’s worthwhile to read essay examples ONLY if there is a critique of what worked or didn’t work in the essay.
Otherwise, reading other students’ essays can be confusing, not knowing if their style, topic or approach worked with admissions officers.
Here’s a collection of some of the best advice we found online for writing college admission essays.
In particular, we’re huge fans of Johns Hopkins articles on “Essays That Worked” since admission officers detail why they thought the college admission essay examples were effective.
Also included is some general advice on answering the “Why This College” essay, as it is an important essay for students to explain why a particular school can be a good fit for them.
For the past few years, The New York Times has invited students to share their college admissions essays on the topic of money, class, working and the economy, followed up with reaction and thoughts on the effectiveness of the essays by Ron Lieber.
2015 essays and reaction: Essays About Work and Class That Caught A College’s Eye
2016 essays: Memories and Hopes: The Top Essays
2017 essays: Standout College Application Essays
2018 essays: Standout College Application Essays
2019 essays: Standout College Application Essays
In summary, here are Lieber’s main points about why he liked these essays:
- “They took brave and counterintuitive positions” on their topics.
- They were all “talking openly” about issues that are “emotionally complex and often outright taboo.”
- They had “an appetite for risk.” (One student wrote about the application process itself, a topic that is usually discouraged.)
- They were bold (with their ideas, language and opinions).
- They kept their edges (meaning, they didn’t allow parents or counselors or editors to over-edit their pieces and retained their unique, though sometimes rough, teenage voices).
In addition to knowing what a good essay looks like, it’s also important to keep in mind that good content can be overshadowed by careless errors.
Proofreading is key.
And if professional help is needed, do your research.
And if your child asks you to read a completed essay, make sure you are positive and encouraging.
Give them the latitude they need to bring that essay home.
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