Sample College Essays

The essay is perhaps the most difficult part of any college application. How do you write a good college essay that makes you stand out from all the other applicants? What do you do if you just don’t know how to answer those college essay prompts?

If you are a college-bound high school student who is having trouble writing your college admissions essay, don’t worry…you are not alone.

In this post I’ll provide you with 4 sample college essays. These sample college essays will be helpful as you are drafting your own essay.

Sample College Essays (1 of 4)

Question: “Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.”

Essay Title: The Job I Should Have Quit

You can learn a lot about me from a quick glance in my closet. You’ll find no clothes, but shelves filled with motorized Lego kits, Erector sets, model rockets, remote control race cars, and boxes full of motors, wires, batteries, propellers, soldering irons and hand tools. I’ve always enjoyed building things. No one was surprised when I decided to apply to college for mechanical engineering.

When last May a friend of my father’s asked me if I wanted a summer job working for his machining company, I jumped at the opportunity. I would learn how to use computer-operated lathes and milling machines, I would gain valuable hands-on experience for my college studies, and I’d get a good line on my résumé.

Within hours of beginning my new job, I learned that my father’s friend was a subcontractor for the military. The components I’d be making would be used in military vehicles. After that first day of work, I had many conflicting thoughts. I’m firmly against the United States’ overuse of military might in the world theater. I’m a big critic of our mismanaged involvement in Iraq. I’m appalled by the number of lives that have been lost in the Middle East, many of them young Americans like myself. I want our troops to have the best equipment they can, but I also believe that our possession of the best military equipment makes us more likely to go to war. Military technology continues to grow more lethal, and technological developments create a never-ending cycle of military escalation.

Did I want to be part of this cycle? To this day I still weigh the ethical dilemma of my summer work. Were I to not do the job, the vehicle components would still be produced. Also, the parts I was making were for support vehicles, not assault weaponry. It’s even possible that my work would be saving lives, not endangering them. On the other hand, nuclear bombs and missile guidance systems were all created by scientists and engineers with good intentions. I’m convinced that even the most innocent involvement in the science of war makes one complicit in war itself.

I considered quitting the job. Were I true to my ideals, I really should have walked away and spent the summer mowing lawns or bagging groceries. My parents argued in favor of the machinist job. They made valid points about the value of the experience and the ways that it would lead to bigger opportunities in the future.

In the end I kept the job, partly from my parents’ advice and partly from my own desire to be doing real engineering work. Looking back, I think my decision was one of convenience and cowardice. I didn’t want to insult my father’s friend. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I didn’t want to let a professional opportunity slip away. I didn’t want to mow lawns.

But what does my decision say about the future? My summer job made me recognize that the military is a big employer of engineers, whether directly or indirectly. Undoubtedly I’ll be confronting similar yet more serious ethical decisions in the future. What if my first job offer has a stunning salary and interesting engineering challenges, but the employer is a defense contractor like Lockheed or Raytheon? Will I turn down the job, or will I once again compromise my ideals? I may even face such conflicts during college. Many engineering professors work under military grants, so my college research and internships could get entangled in messy ethical dilemmas.

I’m hoping I’ll make a better decision the next time my ideals are challenged. If nothing else, my summer job has made me more aware of the types of information I want to collect before I accept a job and arrive at my first day of work. What I learned about myself during my summer work wasn’t exactly flattering. Indeed, it makes me realize that I need college so that I can develop not just my engineering skills, but also my ethical reasoning and leadership skills. I like to think that in the future I’ll use my engineering skills to better the world and tackle noble causes like climate change and sustainability. My bad decision this past summer has inspired me to look ahead and find ways to make my ideals and my love of engineering work together.

*Courtesy of*

Sample College Essays (2 of 4)

Question: Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

Essay Title: Give Goth a Chance

When I sat down to write this essay, I tried, as my high school English teacher always instructed, to imagine the audience for my writing. The more I thought about it, the more I pitied the college admissions screeners who would be reading a thousand essays on diversity. Along with the expected takes on race and ethnicity, how many of those essays would present their authors as outcasts, loners, kids who didn’t fit in at his or her school? How could I present myself as someone unique and interesting—strange, even—without falling prey to the cliché of the self-pitying social misfit?

Let me be direct: in some ways, I am the antithesis of what one might picture as a student who contributes to campus diversity. I am white, middle-class, and heterosexual; I have no physical handicaps or mental challenges apart from a tendency towards sarcasm. But when I receive college brochures picturing smiling, clean-cut teens dressed in the latest from Abercrombie & Fitch and lounging on a blanket in the sun, I think, those people are not like me.

Simply put, I am a Goth. I wear black, lots of it. I have piercings and ear gauges and tattoos. My hair, naturally the same sandy blonde that the rest of my family shares, is dyed jet, sometimes highlighted in streaks of purple or scarlet. I rarely smile, and I don’t do sun. If I were inserted into those brochure photographs of typical college students, I would look like a vampire stalking her wholesome prey.

Again, I am imagining my reading audience, and I can almost see my readers’ eyes roll. So you’re a little weird, kid. How does that contribute to campus diversity? Well, I think I contribute plenty. Diversity goes beyond the physical; race or ethnicity might be the first things one thinks of, but really, it is a question of what makes someone the person that he or she is. Diversity might be considered in terms of economic or geographical background, life experiences, religion, sexual orientation, and even personal interests and general outlook. In this respect, my Goth identity contributes a perspective that is far different from the mainstream. Being Goth isn’t just about physical appearance; it’s a way of life that, like any other, includes not only individual tastes in music, literature, and popular culture, but also particular beliefs about philosophy, spirituality, and a range of other human issues.

To give just one specific example, I am planning to major in Environmental Studies, and while it might seem odd to picture a ghoulishly-dressed girl who adores the natural world, it was my Goth outlook that led me to this academic interest. I read voraciously, and am drawn to subject matter that is somewhat dark; the more I read about humanity’s impact on the planet and the near-apocalyptic dangers posed by global climate change, pollution, overpopulation, the manipulation of the food supply and other environmental threats, the more interested I became, and the more determined that I should become involved. I, along with other members of my school’s Environmental Club, started a campus recycling program, and lobbied our superintendent to install in all classrooms power strips that are used to easily shut down equipment such as printers and computers at the end of the day, thereby conserving energy and generating significant savings for our school. I was drawn to this dark subject matter of environmental crisis, not to wallow in it or savor the Schadenfreude, but to change it and make the world a better place.

I know Goths look a little funny, as we wear our ebony trenchcoats in seventy-degree weather. I know we seem a little odd as we gather in shady nooks to discuss the latest episode of True Blood. I know professors may sigh as we swell the enrollments of poetry and art classes. Yes, we’re different. And we—I—have a lot to contribute.

*Courtesy of*

Sample College Essays (3 of 4)

Question: What Person Has Had The Most Influence On Your Life?

When asked to identify the person who has had the most powerful influence in my life, the most obvious choice is my mom. She has been my teacher, counselor, role model, and friend for the past 17 years. For me, she has become a source of inspiration and a constant reminder of what true love really means.

In considering my mother’s position and influence as a role model, I am reminded of a quote from Charlotte Bronte’s Villette: “In addition she gave me the originality of her character to study: the steadiness of her virtues, the power of her passions to admire, the truth of her feelings to trust. All these things she had, and for these things I clung to her.” (Chap. 4) The virtues that stand out most poignantly in my mother’s character are her dedication and self sacrifice. On the strength of her principles, she gave up a successful career in order to give my brother and I the strongest educational foundation possible. No obstacle seems insurmountable when it comes to our education; even when my algebra classes seemed to have gotten the better of her, she searched high and low until she found a capable tutor. She is passionate about what she believes, yet has reached an amiable balance of enthusiasm and reserve. In her there lies the essence of good character with her honesty and generosity. If there is something to be done for the community or the church, there is rarely a flinch of hesitation before she adds it to a seemingly never-ending to-do list.

One of the most important roles that my mom plays in my life is that of teacher and counselor. Unlike most teenagers, I study, eat, and sleep in very close proximity to my teacher. Although this may seem downright unpleasant to some, my homeschooling experience has been a truly remarkable one. My mom has not only been my academic teacher, but also a teacher of “Life 101,” something that could never be learned in a group of thirty students. I have been given a lasting and confident knowledge of myself as a person, and a moral code that serves as a firm basis to judge implications of actions. She has instilled in me a love of people as a whole, and has presented advice to me in an unthinkable amount and variety of situations.

The kind of relationship that takes most people years to attain with their mothers is one that I already cherish. The depth of our understanding of each other could only have been developed through seventeen years of patient persistence and much time shared as teacher and student and mother and daughter. When academic lessons are over for the day, I often look forward to a cup of tea in the living room with mom to discuss the day’s events, future plans, or even just to share a moment of silence after a busy day. Though we have had our share of disagreements, her decisions have never been presented in a “because I said so” manner, rather, however unpopular the decision is, it is always presented with clear, understandable reasons. She has taught me to realize that she is far from perfect, yet together we may live life more fully in the knowledge that we are helping each other to become better people through the constructive criticism of friendship.

Thus, it is clear that the individual who has had the single highest degree of influence on me is my mother. In a world where teens consider their parents just another authority to rebel against, I realize that I could never be where I am today had it not been for the sacrifice and motivation of my mother. I will always respect the influence that she has had on my life, and will endeavor to take all that she has taught me as the inspiration to be all that I can be in the pursuit of my dreams.

*Courtesy of*

Sample College Essays (4 of 4)

Essay Title: Toddler Priorities

I didn’t choose to be taught at home; my parents decided for me. I was four, and my toddler priorities lay elsewhere. Little did I know that I was volunteering for an educational experiment. Every September my parents and I had our annual discussion about continuing homeschooling versus sending me to “regular” school. I don’t know if I thought school would be a bit boring or if I was afraid of change, but I always chose to stay home. I did go to school for a few classes and for violin lessons, but much of my time there was spent explaining my sporadic attendance to teachers and classmates. I grew accustomed to giving both rote and wry answers to questions like, “Do you watch TV all day?” The rote answer was “No, of course not. I do the same things you do in school.” The wry answer was “Yes, from nine to noon,” watching their faces form into expressions of disbelief. I didn’t tell them I was watching Massachusetts Educational Television on PBS.

When discussing homeschooling with strangers or skeptical parents, the first question usually concerns “socialization”, often posed bluntly as “Do you have any friends?” Sports and orchestra brought me into contact with kids my age, but even then it was a common interest rather than a common age that drew us together. Over the years, I found wonderful friends in Mendelssohn, O. Henry, a German woman on my paper route who was a World War II refugee, Newsweek, a paralyzed basketball coach who couldn’t walk but still coached me as if he could, history books, and a range of musical instruments from viola to tin whistle. People are always relieved to discover that I’m not a hermit.

Homeschooling gave me the freedom to explore and experiment. We Traded houses with an Irish family and lived in Galway for a month. I was never given actual lessons on “how to write a sentence”; I learned as I wrote history essays. Few schools would have allowed me to research the sinking of the Titanic, but my parents let me read about it, build models of it and learn about watertight bulkheads. (I even managed to finish my math book that year, too.)

As I got older, people started to ask if being taught at home was going to hinder me in college. After all, they said, you don’t know what it’s like to work for grades or take classroom tests. Maybe I did start to second-guess myself, so I took some college courses. My grades indicated what I learned from the professors, but not what I learned from the students. Many of them were older, juggling full-time jobs and their education, but they really wanted to be in class. One 47 year-old man who was in China during the Cultural Revolution said he was taking biology so “when my son asks why the grass is green, I can tell him.”

Homeschooling was the right choice for me. It taught me to learn outside the classroom, inside the classroom, from other people and from my own mistakes. Above all, homeschooling has given me the desire to continue learning for the rest of my life.

*Courtesy of*

PLEASE do not plagiarize. These sample college essays are exactly that – samples, so please only use them for that purpose.

I hope they are helpful. Good Luck!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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