We’ve got two more college application essay examples for you—both are a little unconventional but no less impactful. These essays are unique examples of finding a story in anything while still representing your values and personal characteristics. Hopefully they’ll help you think of some great stories to tell in your own college essays.
“The Beard” by William J. Altmn, Denison University
That summer was filled with fast car rides, the wind in my hair, and rock and roll in my ears. The excitement and adrenaline of the days were countered by cool, relaxing nights by a crackling campfire with friends. It was truly the best of times. Yet throughout that summer’s three months of an easy ride, I felt a sense of longing that permeated every look in the mirror.
It is 10:30 in the morning on the first Monday back to school from summer vacation. Like clockwork the bell sounds and signals me to journey from my seat in AP Calculus, down the longest hallway in my school, to my International Relations class. However, today is no ordinary day for me. Today, I rock. With a bounce in my stride and a swagger in my glide, I make my way down the corridor and past countless students with a sense of pride. My confidence is not the result of the clothes I am wearing or of my social status. Nonetheless, my attitude is worn. It is worn with the emblem of a true renegade, a take-no-flak-from-anybody badge.
Today, I have facial hair.
Not peach fuzz or stubble, but a beard. A beard is something that signifies the step from a boy to a man. A beard is something I have waited for, ever since I received my first razor without the slightest bit of need for it. The summer was my transformation period—my beard, my pride.
As I continue my journey, I walk with my chin held high and my lips pushed together. My eyes are wide open, and I am smirking. Nobody can touch me. I am a senior on my way to bigger and better things with a way to show it. Nobody can touch me.
BEEEEEP!!! Wait, where did everybody go? That couldn’t have been the bell. “Son, do you have a pass?” An administrator with a deep voice like James Earl Jones is towering over me. He has an exquisite beard. It hangs from his chin and begs for me to cling to it and ride around for the day. “Son, are you ok? I need a pass or you will have to go to the late room for this period.” The hallway is idle with silence. I feel like I should keep my voice down.
“No sir, you see I don’t have a pass, but I can explain...” Will he buy my story about today being a special day, a day for which I have waited months? I mean, honestly, as a fellow beardy you would think he could empathize.
“Son, go to the late room and don’t be late again.” I begin to panic. What will I miss in this period—critical notes, a pop-quiz? This is only the second time in my high school career that I have been late to class. My emblem of pride and months of waiting for the long walk have been sidelined and burned.
I reach the holding room and check in with the bald and seemingly hairless teacher at the desk. He makes a joke about a senior being late to class and says, “What happened? You get lost?” Funny. He lets me pick my seat and doesn’t proceed to lay down any laws of the land. I appreciate his relaxed and understanding attitude. After sitting down and taking a deep breath, I make amends with my shattered ego and remember that the class I am missing is watching a movie. As I place my arms behind my head and lean back to stretch, I notice a poster of Che Guevara on the wall. I sit and stare, taking in the vibrant orange and dull green contrast of the poster. He stares back. Someday, my friend. Someday.
That night I shaved my beard. For one, I learned that if shaved, the hair might grow back twice as thick, but more importantly I realized that my journey into manhood is just beginning. I realized that there is no one specific point in a person’s life when he simply becomes a man. Growing up involves experience and disappointment. But as long as I put forth the patience and determination that have gone into my beard, I’ll be ready for almost any hairy situation.
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“The Journey” by Kay Teekell, Southwestern University
Prompt: You've got a ticket in your hand—Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?
The parchment flaps dangerously in the wind as I clutch it tightly to my chest, and tendrils of my hair whip back and forth blindly as I bend low over Landroval’s back, huddling close to him to escape the grasping gusts. As my fingers twine through the Great Eagle’s feathers, I go over the paper in my mind, searching for anything I might have missed.
Landroval, in the name of your brother, Gwaihir, I bid you transport this scribe to the forest of Fangorn and ensure her safe passage. I regret the necessity of imposing on you in this abrupt manner, but I thank you for your patience and loyalty to our cause. Fly swiftly. — Gandalf the White
The old wizard had come upon me in my small village off the coast of Gondor, and we had talked deeply of the recent events concerning Mordor and the destruction of the Ring. As the day had passed, our talk turned to the present, of things yet to be done, and before I’d known it, I’d agreed to go to Fangorn to record the lore of the Ents as well as their attack on Isengard. Why Gandalf chose me I had no idea, but I immediately packed my parchments and inks and awaited him to inform me of how I was to arrive at the isolated forest. Little had I known that I was to be left with a letter, something of a ticket I suppose, which explained to a rather irritable Great Eagle that he was to carry me.
A flap of huge wings jars me back into the present. Landroval the Eagle has barely spoken a word to me for the entire trip of two and half days, and it is beginning to feel quite lonely. Luckily, my journey is soon to come to an end, as Gandalf had hurriedly informed me that the voyage would last no longer than three cycles of the sun.
I crane my neck carefully to the side and catch a glimpse of dark treetops in the distance. The wind squeezes tears from my eyes, so I duck down once more, trying to stifle the sudden homesickness that has set upon me. The scent of warm, downy feathers makes me feel a touch calmer, and soon we begin to lose altitude. Lazily, we spiral down on an incline until I feel Landroval’s talons touch earth.
“We’re here. Move along, then,” the eagle grunts, shaking himself slightly in annoyance.
“Yes, yes, and you have my thanks for carrying me all this way on such short notice. I’m sure it was quite inconvenient for you, and I appreciate your assistance.” I slither off Landroval gracelessly, my case gripped tightly in my fists.
The bird inclines his head slightly and takes off without another word, flapping his great wings until his bronze figure is naught but a speck in the darkening sky. I turn stiffly to the trees behind me and stare, wide eyed, at the dense undergrowth that seems to go on forever between the giant elms and oaks. Now that I’m here, I realize just how vague the old wizard was in the direction I am to take and the actions I am to implement.
“Are you the scribe we await?” A deep, creaking voice sounds out from my right, and I jump, my knuckles whitening on the handle of my case. A shape rises out of the trunks and starts forward toward me, and I step back in alarm. It is a huge creature with brown and green mottled skin and branch-like protrusions growing off its shoulders. As it approaches, my fear abates when I catch a glimpse of its eyes. They are a soulful brown twined through with shades of green, and they calm me somehow, seeming to both reassure and intrigue me.
“I am the scribe sent by Gandalf. My name is Kay. Are you Treebeard?” My voice loses its quaver by the last sentence.
“Treebeard. Fangorn. I have many names. You may call me Treebeard if you wish.” He looks at me strangely. “I see that it was not just my previous visitors who are carefree with their names. Come now. You are welcome here.” Slowly, the Ent turns back to the forest, extending a long, seven-fingered hand toward me.
I cautiously approach and place my hand in his, and before I have time to process, Treebeard has swung me up into a hollow between his arm and side. His hide is softer than I expected, and after I recover from my initial shock, I run my hand along one of his many branches.
As we traverse into the deepening gloom, the dimming sunlight dappling the leaf-strewn ground, I finally find my voice. “Thank you for welcoming me into your home. I am indeed honored to record the deeds of such a wise and ancient race.”
Treebeard chuckles softly. “Such flattery I have not received in hundreds of years. I think you would like those two—what were they called? Hobbits, yes. You remind me of them: very small, though less talkative.”
“Thank you,” I reply uncertainly.
“Now, daughter of men, I have a question of grave importance for you. Have you heard any news of the Entwives?”
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Writing college applications essays is one of the hardest parts of the admission process for most students, but you can do this. It’s not about being impressive or fancy with your words; it’s about being authentic and telling a story that shows the college the kind of incredible person you really are. Good luck with your writing and application process—we know you’ll do great!
Check out Our Best Advice for Writing Your College Application Essays for more writing advice to get started on your own.