Sample Ivy League Essays

College Admissions, College Application Essays
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Here is a collection of college application essays that students successfully used to earn admission to the eight Ivy League Universities.  Read them to see what students did to set themselves apart in their college applications.  

Brown University

  1. BU Admissions Essay
  2. “Significant Influence” Essay for Brown University
  3. Brown University “Person of Influence” Essay
  4. Sample Essay for Brown University
  5. Brown University Common App Essay
  6. Application Essay for Brown University
Columbia University
  1. Sample Essay from Columbia University
  2. Admissions Essay from Columbia University
  3. Columbia University Common App Essay
  4. Application Essay for Columbia University
  5. Columbia University Common Application Essay

Cornell University

  1. “World You Come From” Essay for Cornell University
  2. Cornell University Common Applicaiton Essay
  3. Admissions Essay for Cornell University
  4. Cornell Application Essay
  5. “Engineering” Essay for Cornell University
  6. Common App Essay for Cornell University
  7. Cornell University “Selected Major” Essay
  8. Sample Essay for Cornell University
  9. Cornell University Essay
  10. “Topic of Choice” Essay for Cornell University
  11. Cornell University Common Applicaiton Essay
  12. Admissions Essay for Cornell University
Dartmouth College
  1. DC Admissions Essay
  2. Common App Essay for Dartmouth College
  3. Darthmouth College “Favorite Quotation” Essay
  4. Application Essay for Dartmouth
  5. Dartmouth College Common App Essay
Harvard University
  1. Harvard College “Significant Experience” Essay
  2. “Background” Essay for Harvard University

Princeton University

  1. Princeton University Common App Essay
  2. Princeton University Application Essay
  3. Admissions Essay for Princeton University
  4. Common App Essay for Princeton University
  5. “Quote” Essay for Princeton University
  6. Princeton University Common Application Essay

University of Pennsylvania

  1. University of Pennsylvania Common App Essay
  2. “Topic of Choice” Essay for University of Pennsylvania
  3. UPenn Essay
  4. University of Pennsylvania “Significant Experience” Essay
  5. Personal Essay for UPenn
  6. “Academic Interests” Essay for University of Pennsylvania

Yale University

  1. Sample Essay Yale University
  2. Example Essay Yale University
  3. Yale University Application Essay
  4. “Personal and Educational Goals” Essay for Yale University
  5. Yale University Engineering Essay
  6. Admissions Essay for Yale University
  7. “Background” Essay for Yale University
  8. Yale University “Personal and Financial Obstacles” Essay

College Application Checklist

College Admissions, College Application Essays, College Applications
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Everyone knows that you should have transcripts, letters or recommendation and ACT and/or SAT test scores for college applications.  What are some things you may not have considered that could be really helpful in applying to college?

1.       What is your Ethnicity?  There is an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case that will give further guidance to colleges about affirmative action.  In the meantime, colleges will continue to value ethnic diversity among class members.  While it may seem that you should know your ethnicity without giving it a second thought, things are not so simple.  Many students have mixed-race heritages.  If you are from a traditionally underrepresented ethnic group – Native American, African American, Hispanic or Pacific Islander – be sure you make this clear on your application.  Based on my research, it seems that if you are at least ¼ of a particular ethnicity (i.e. one grandparent of that ethnicity), few would question that you could identify with it.  You can check off multiple ethnicities if needed.  The one exception to the ¼ status appears to be that of Native American – for whatever reason, a smaller fraction is necessary to claim identity.  The Common Application has started requiring students who claim Native American status to answer whether they are “enrolled” in a tribe, probably because many students claim Native American background without any basis.  If you know that you have some Native American ancestry, find out about tribal enrollment here:

2.       Any Legacies in your Family?  Many colleges value having students who have had family members previously attend.  They believe, and probably rightly so, that such students will bring a great deal of school spirit and dedication to the university community.  Ask around in your family and be sure that you know if you have any relatives who have attended the college to which you are applying.  It certainly can’t hurt anything to make note of it in the application.

3.       Have you been thorough in listing your extracurricular activities?  The college application is no time for humility – remember that it’s the application that gets in, not the student.  Admissions officers will only know that you have done something if you tell them.  It never fails to amaze me how many students fail to realize this and leave off significant work experience or extracurricular involvement off their application.  Some common things that people omit:  babysitting experience, church activities, involvement in the family business, devoting significant time taking care of sick or elderly relatives, and travel experience.

4.       Do you have application supplements, like a portfolio or recording, that you can submit?  If you are a talented artist, musician or writer, a line on an application cannot convey the extent of your abilities.  A recording, a link to your blog, or an artistic portfolio will.  Colleges will often have faculty members evaluate the materials so that the admissions staff can determine just how significant a contribution you can make to the culture of the college.

5.       Is there anyone who might write an extra letter of recommendation on your behalf?  Sure, there are three mandatory recommendations in almost every case.  But is there anything that says you can’t have someone else who knows and respects you write a letter that they directly send to the admissions office?  No, there’s not.  By having them send the letter directly, you will avoid looking desperate.  Don’t go too crazy with this – keep it to 1-2 extra letters or it will begin to look like an orchestrated effort.  I’ve known students who have had everyone from a local orchestra conductor to a former U.S. President write letters on their behalf.  What do you have to lose?

6.       Have you had an in-person meeting with someone at the admissions office to explain your unique situation?   Maybe your ACT and SAT test scores don’t reflect your true academic talents.  Maybe your parents were going through a divorce during your junior year and your grades suffered.  Perhaps you had an ACL tear that caused you to lose your starting spot on the team.  If you have unique circumstances, it won’t hurt anything to have a direct meeting with someone on the college admissions staff to make your case.

7.       Have you built any relationships with anyone at the college?   If you are already filling out your applications, it is probably too late for this.  If you are an underclassman, why not attempt to cultivate a genuine intellectual relationship with a professor with whom you would love to study?  You could be a research assistant, go to a public lecture that a professor is conducting and introducing yourself afterwards, or converse with a professor through their blog or social media.  Make sure you are not being weird or annoying – instead, demonstrate genuine intellectual curiosity in the professor’s field of study, and you will have a powerful advocate on the inside when it comes time to apply for admission.

8.       Are you going to fill a needed niche at the school?   Colleges want well-rounded classes, not necessarily well-rounded students.  Match your talents and interests to niches that certain colleges will have difficulty filling.  Consider sports, activities and potential majors – do research to determine what the college in which you are interested needs and help them make it happen.

9.       Is your application professional and free of any errors?   Don’t give the admissions staff any reason to easily dismiss your application.  Be certain that you have had multiple people proofread your application.  The more you procrastinate, the more likely it is that you will have undiscovered errors in your application.  If you are sending in a hard copy of your application, make sure it is on nice paper.

10.   Have you completed the Common Application Supplements?   Many colleges, especially elite ones, require essays and information beyond the normal common application.  Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your work on these. 

I hope you found these suggestions helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

5 Tips for Your College Essay

College Admissions, College Application Essays, College Applications
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With deadlines for college applications right around the corner, here are 5 key things to focus on when you write your college application essay:

1.       Make it Unique.  Remember that colleges are looking for a well-rounded class, not just well-rounded students.  Demonstrate that you have a unique background that will enable you to make significant contributions to the diversity of a university community.  If you don’t have superficial uniqueness, show the uniqueness of your intellect, attitude or experience.  (Remember that unique doesn’t necessarily mean weird or offensive!)

2.       Make it Well-Written.  One of the things that has stood out to me as I have read the elite college essays on this site is how it doesn’t appear to matter quite as much what you say as how you say it.  Your college application essay gives admissions officers the opportunity to evaluate the quality of your communication and your thought process.  Just because you have a killer topic doesn’t mean that you can slouch when it comes to the actual writing.

3.       Stay Focused.  In high school classes, the occasional digression in writing can pass by unnoticed.  Why?  Because while you are accustomed to word minimums for high school term papers, how often do you have word limits in your high school essays?  With only 500 words for the common application essay, you must make every word count.

4.       Be Genuine.  Remember that the admissions officers reading your essay will likely have read thousands and thousands of similar essays over the years.  In the same way that an experienced English teacher can detect plagiarism based on have an outstanding feel for what high school students are capable of, a college admissions officer can detect a lack of sincerity a mile away.  Don’t try to be what you think they are looking for because they will see right through it.  Be yourself and let it shine.

5.       Entertain your reader.  Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer who is reading countless essays during college application season.  They are much more likely to respond favorably to an entertaining essay that breaks up the monotony of boring essay after boring essay after boring essay. . .  Entertaining doesn’t necessarily mean funny – it simply means that it is written in such a way that the reader actually enjoys  reading it.  Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and you can’t go wrong. 

For over 1,500 actual successful essays to help get your ideas flowing, please check out our College Application Essay Collection.    

Why We Should Avoid Wordiness in our Writing

ACT and SAT Test Prep, ACT English, ACT Writing, College Application Essays, High School, SAT Essay, SAT Prep, SAT Writing, Study Tips, Teaching, Tutoring
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One of the worst habits that students develop in their high school classes is that of writing in a wordy fashion.   Students find that if they write longer and longer papers, their grades often get better and better.  They also discover that in classroom discussions and Socratic Seminars, the more they monopolize the discussion, the higher their “participation” grade.  Our grading system has a built-in tendency to inflate grades for those who inflate the length of what they create.    

As a former teacher, I understand how difficult it is to ignore the length of a student’s response when evaluating it.  It is much easier to justify a higher grade for a student who has put in more time to write an extended response than someone who has created a relatively brief analysis.  Why?  You can say that “Johnny put in so much more work into writing his essay than you did because his essay is twice the length.”  When grading a massive stack of papers, the tendency to start “scanning” the papers rather than reading them super-carefully is a temptation to which quite a few teachers will succumb.  Not to scare any teachers, but I have known of a case where a student put swear words in the middle of his essay to see if his teacher would actually catch them.  The teacher did not, and the student shared this episode with all his friends, significantly damaging the teacher’s reputation. 

Both students and teachers can change the expectations of the school grading process if they are aware of 5 ways that wordy writing will cause problems on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, during the college admissions process, and in the workforce:

1.       You Won’t Develop Your Ideas on the SAT or ACT Essays.  The SAT only gives you two pages and 25 minutes for its essay, and the ACT only provides you 4 pages and 30 minutes.  If you are accustomed to writing in a wordy way, you will spend forever introducing your topic and not enough time developing your ideas and examples. 

2.       On the SAT and ACT Grammar Questions, You Will Consistently Pick the Wordy Answers.  Don’t get me wrong  – often, being more descriptive is exactly what is called for.  However, if you have it ingrained into your mind that the more you write, the better your writing is, you will pick the longest, most complex answers, even when they are not appropriate. 

3.       Your College Essays Will Be Pure Fluff.  When you write your Common Application Essay, you will be limited to 500 words.  If you are not used to packing a big punch in a short essay, you will not stand out among the thousands of applicants. 

4.       Job Applications.  For the foreseeable future, the job market will be extraordinarily competitive.  You will only have one chance to impress a potential employer with a fantastic cover letter.  It is critical that you are able to succinctly convey what makes you an incredible applicant. 

5.       Business Communications.  Whether in business meetings, conference calls or company-wide emails, no one wants to listen to someone blab on and on.  Your bosses and coworkers will respect you if they know that when you speak, you will immediately convey something of substance and value. 

So what can teachers and students do to avoid wordy writing?  First of all, if you are aware of a tendency to write wordily, that is half the battle.  You’ll recognize when you’re doing it and that will empower you to stop it.  Second, I would like to see more school assignments that require word maximums instead of word minimums.  Word minimums are the norm, and they encourage students to be verbose.  By requiring word maximums, students will learn to be more concise and precise in their writing, and teachers will be able to evaluate much more thoroughly since they won’t be overwhelmed with endless piles of grading.  This paradigm shift will help students do better on standardized tests, their college applications, and in the real world. 

I hope you found this piece helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart


Why You Should Start Your College Essay Today!

College Admissions, College Application Essays, College Applications
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It’s college application time for seniors.  One of the most intimidating aspects of the application is writing the dreaded essay.  How on earth are you supposed to capture the essence of your personality in 500 words or less? 

Many seniors respond to this by procrastinating.  They justify this to themselves by saying “I always write better under pressure!  If I wait until the last minute, everything will come together just fine.  I will save lots of time doing it this way instead of doing a bunch of prewriting, editing, blah, blah, blah.” 

Most everyone agrees that taking time to prewrite, write, revise and edit usually results in a much better product than a last minute stream-of-consciousness screed.  How can you convince yourself, especially if you have a serious case of senioritis, that it is in your interest to begin the essay process early? 

Because it will ultimately save you time!  The college essay is 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration.  If you don’t have a good idea, you will find the writing to be terribly difficult.  With a great idea, on the other hand, 500 words is an easy task. But how can you get a good idea?  By giving yourself time to brainstorm as you go through your normal activities!  Inspiration will come when you least expect it, but only if you have prompted your mind to think about what topics might work.  When I have helped my clients work on college essays, brainstorming the topic has always been the most challenging task.  Once that was done, their writing flowed with ease.    

So, begin the brainstorming process today!  Take a look at the common application prompts and let your subconscious get to work:

  1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. 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.
  6. Topic of your choice.

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