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Admission Granted: Examples of Successful College Application Essays, Volume I

Getting stuck writing your college essays? Try reading some examples of successful papers that got students admitted to get ideas for your own essays!

Generating essay ideas can be difficult, and sometimes it’s helpful to see an example of a college admission essay that got someone into their dream school. And we’ve got some perfect examples right here! Reading other people’s work is certainly no excuse for not generating your own ideas, but something in them may inspire you or spark a memory of a story you could tell about your own life. Good luck in your writing journey, and we hope you enjoy these stellar admission essays.

“Small Town” by Morgan Schondelmeier, University of Tampa

Living in a small town can limit the perspective of one’s mind, leaving one to believe that hardly anything exists beyond the borders of one’s town. Old Saybrook is a town that I love; filled with beaches and restaurants, a quaint Main Street and green parks, it is quintessential Smalltown, New England. But in addition to its charm, growing up in Saybrook has had its challenges. Now, I’m not talking inner-city slum challenges, but as challenging as growing up in upper middle-class suburbia can get. A lack of cultural experience and awareness seems to permeate my town of Old Saybrook, leaving the kids of this small town with little knowledge of what the world truly has to offer.

Being confined to a community with an area of 15 square miles has left me with a desire to see what lies beyond the borders of Old Saybrook. It began the summer before ninth grade when I took a trip to Europe through the program People to People. I, along with 44 other teens, traveled from the beaches of Greece, through the countryside of Italy, up to the center of France. This three-week-long complete immersion into travel and the European way of life left me thirsty for more. In the years that followed, my desire slowly morphed and developed, grew and transformed into a need, an obsession. I plastered my walls with pictures of the architecture of Rome and the beaches of Brazil. I spent hours on my computer searching for more opportunities to travel—counting my pennies, calculating how long until I could dive into another culture. I became committed to learning new languages, taking French in school, and scrounging the library for audiotapes that could teach me a new language. And after a failed attempt at mastering the difficult accents used in German and Russian, I realized that it would be years before I could truly escape this small town.

My calling came sophomore year when another international travel program entered my radar. Walking Tree Travel presented to my French III class one of its programs: a trip to Senegal. I, however, was entranced by the Costa Rican trip, Walking Tree’s fledgling trip. I immediately signed up and four months later, armed with a borrowed Spanish I textbook, I was in Costa Rica. While I spent two weeks cliff diving, hiking, and zip lining, my 14 companions and I spent two weeks living and working with the inhabitants of Las Brisas. Las Brisas has a whopping population of 500—that’s a small town! My life began to revolve around life and work in Las Brisas. I would wake up every morning and walk a mile to the school where we were building a new support wall and mixing cement by hand for hours before being refreshed by a hot cup of coffee. The physical requirements of building a seven-foot-high cement wall are extensive, but the rewards were even greater. I made new friends with the Las Brisas natives, began learning a new language, and really connected with the dozens of individual personalities and relationships that existed in this small farm town. Everyone had their own stories to tell and dreams to share, from the littlest chica to the oldest hombre. I gained so much more insight into culture in my two weeks in Las Brisas than I ever expected. They come from a different world than I do, but we share so many similarities! They like watching TV and playing sports. Others love traveling to see the wonders their small country has to offer. Some even love texting and, like me, some dream to escape their small town and see the world. And while living and working with the warm-hearted people of Las Brisas, I realized that it’s not the size of the town but the hopes and dreams of those in it that really determines the life they will lead.

While Saybrook gets quite boring in the dead of winter, growing up in what I thought was a “small” town has given me the perfect launch pad to make my life whatever I want it to be. My experiences in Europe and Costa Rica have given my life purpose and focus. I study hard in French and now take Spanish as well to build a foundation of knowledge that I hope will grow during and after college. I’ve made amazing international connections and friendships that I know I will keep for my whole life. These friendships have changed my perspective of humans and cultural differences as a whole. My interest in travel and foreign cultures has grown from a desire to an obsession to a virtual need for new experiences and relationships. I hope to fulfill this need in college and my career after, traveling and meeting new people and working to build a better world. But now, as I mature, I know that I will not forget the small shoreline town that I dreamed of leaving, knowing that one day, I will dream of returning.

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“Ball of Yarn” by Holly Still, Lincoln Christian University

If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard someone tell me I’ve got it all “figured out,” I’d be doing pretty well in the money department right now. Way back when (before Jesus was more than some dead guy religious people couldn’t stop talking about), I knew exactly what field I wanted to go into, where I wanted to work, and how I wanted to go about achieving it all. Way back when, I thought I had it all figured out. But now (after I’ve realized why those religious people can’t stop talking about Jesus) I have no idea. My life is completely un-figured out. I don’t know where I’ll be five years from now. I don’t know what I’ll be doing. But you know what? I know that’s okay. I know that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Life was good up until April of last year. That’s when I attended my first-ever Cornerstone Christian Church Youth Group. Imagine my life plan as a ball of yarn—for 17 years I’d meticulously wound my yarn-plan into a perfect little ball. When I stepped into that youth group, into that church, Jesus grabbed my ball of yarn and threw it out the window. It’s unraveling, still, as I type. So much for my plans, huh?

The un-figured out-ness of my life isn’t limited to my future plans, either. People tell me I have my faith all figured out as well—but, of course, I don’t. Well, it depends on how you define “figured out,” I guess. I know that God is up in Heaven watching me write this essay. I know Jesus is why I’m going to join God in Heaven one of these days, even though I deserve Hell. And I know that the Holy Spirit lives in me. But other than that, I have no clue. Do I love God? Really love God? What are my motives for living how I live, believing what I believe? Guilt, fear of punishment, want of reward? Am I living how Jesus wants me to live? How exactly does Jesus want me to live?

Question, after question, after question—but I love the feeling of being uncertain and suddenly “getting it,” you know? My youth minister, Doug, has spent countless hours “splashing in mud puddles” with me over these questions. Most of the time, my questions have clear-as-mud answers. I’ve learned, though, that having an answer isn’t always as important as having the curiosity to ask the question.

At Lincoln Christian University I hope I find answers, but more than that, I hope I find more questions to ask. Where should I go? What should I do? How should I do it? I’ve asked those questions before, but it was me who answered them. In all my uncertainty, I do know this: I won’t be re-winding my ball of yarn by myself. If Jesus cared enough to pitch it out the window, I’m sure he cares enough to help me roll it back up—his way.

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“The Surgeon” by Henry Weiss, Loyola University New Orleans

“Me enfila los cuchillos, porfavor,” I used to tell Don Rafael, the gardener. I asked him to sharpen the kitchen knives early in the morning before I left for Karate classes on Saturdays, so that upon my arrival the knives were ready. When he gave them back to me to give to Lucia, the cook, I would hide two of the sharp knives under the porch. I then waited impatiently for my dad to arrive from the farm with the fresh fruit that would later become my patients. As soon as I heard the gate, I would run down the stairs, say hello to my father, and pretend to help him unload the miniature papayas, melons, and lemons from the pick-up truck. I would store some of the fruit in the tool shed near the garden and leave it there, hoping the ants and other insects would find their way into the melons, and especially the papayas.

Every day, I checked their progress to see what symptoms the patients were presenting; I always hoped they would have a white mold infection, but that was not always the case. Eventually the fruit got to that point, but sometimes it took as much as two weeks to rot, especially in the dry season. Once my patients were in that state, I would then get a pair of gloves my grandmother used to spray and remove the dry leaves from the sensitive violets in the house and would then proceed to surgery. I started by making an incision in the overripe side of the papaya or melon and hoped a small worm or maggot would jump out. I would then carefully open the cut and spend hours examining the anatomy of my patient’s body, and would also remove all of the seeds, which I pretended were malignant tumors. My favorite part of surgery, however, was looking at the maggots enter on one side of the papaya and suddenly appear on another side as they traveled inside the “tissue.” Finally I would cut the maggots open and predict how large the fly would be and proceed to stitching.

Five years later, I really discovered that I loved looking at, exploring, and analyzing animate objects, hypothesizing different ideas for the causes of their state. In grade school, I remember all of my classmates getting excused from performing dissections in class, and instead they worked on other written assignments related to the subject. I was the only one who would stay after class with Ms. Paz dissecting frogs, owl pellets, piglets, bats, and even a cow’s heart. Now, in my last year of high school, the decomposition rate is not being tested on miniature papayas, but instead on a cow’s liver, where the differences of the growth rates of maggots in the cow liver when exposed to the sunlight and when not exposed to any light at all are being observed.

I hope to establish a strong foundation as an undergraduate science major so that I can continue on to more important, worthwhile investigations as a surgeon. I am eager to put my curiosity to a more important task than dissecting fruit!

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The CollegeXpress Team sends out a huge thank you to all the students who let us share their college admission essays to assist other students. If these essays sparked some ideas and you want to keep reading, this is only volume one of three. Check out the others below!

Read more essays in Volume II now, or check out Our Best Advice for Writing Your College Application Essays for more writing advice to get started on your own.

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