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College essay examples -

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How To Write The Best Essay Ever!
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How To Write The Best Essay Ever!

Successful college essay examples from students accepted to Harvard, Stanford, and other authoritative universities

If you want to master the art of essay writing, you need to learn from the best. We offer you a comprehensive overview of different essay types and how they are practiced in some of the world’s most prestigious universities. Along with the clear definitions, you will find particular examples of what students from those universities write about in each distinct essay type.

College admission essay examples

Top universities are very strict when it comes to admission exams. Those applicants, who take the admission essays seriously, have the highest chances for success. Regardless if an essay is an optional exercise or the last in the application task-list – the admission committee can use it to filter out those applicants whose interests are somewhere else or just too general to qualify for their university.

Let us define the distinctive features of some of the best admission essays and provide examples:

1. Do the homework well. Students who get accepted to some world's top universities all do solid preparatory work – they spend enough time studying their desired university and its campus life. In their essay assignments, this allows them to blend what they have to offer (talents, skills, aspirations, motivation, etc.) with their university’s expectations. Some universities value diversity, others active social position and volunteer experience, communicativeness and integrity, analytical skills, and critical thinking – an applicant must find these value points and connect them with his/her personality traits.

2. Honesty and openness – the world’s top colleges highly value these qualities and are looking to find them in applicants’ essays. Today academic communities function as a network of like-minded individuals who are willing to show empathy and collaborate with others. Examples of some of the highest-rated admission essays emphasize those qualities and show particular cases of how openness and ability to work in a team plays a critical role in one’s high-school or family/everyday life.

3. Ability to express oneself clearly and persuasively is another common feature of successful admission essays. Indeed, even the best universities like Harvard and Stanford do not require lengthy admission essays – an average length falls between 300-500 words. So, one should be very cautious not to generalize too much and to avoid using vague expressions, messy structure, or colloquial words and phrases in his/her admission essay.

College application essay examples

Writing a college application essay is no easy task. Many mistakenly underestimate the complexity of this task as most college application requirements do not exceed one standard page of text in volume. Intense competition from peer applicants, coupled with elevated expectations from highly experienced admissions committee members – that is what makes college application a true challenge.

Examples of some of the best college application essays demonstrate:

1. Deep knowledge of academic programs and courses. For example, if you are applying to a science major you should express your passion for a particular science field, or if you are going to pursue a law degree you should let your reader know how you can positively contribute to that subject and what it is in your personality that makes you an outstanding law school candidate.

2. A genuine interest in college community life and activities. Every college has its unique academic culture, social atmosphere, and values. Examples of some of the most successful applications reveal that their authors took enough time to study their colleges’ campus life and could show their true motivation to become part of it.

3. Description of outstanding achievement in academic disciplines and ability to overcome challenges. In most cases it is not enough to simply state what difficulties you managed to overcome; instead, you should show how exactly that experience made you better, stronger, etc.

4. The revelation of one's true personality beyond academic grades and achievements. For example, some of the best admission essays display exceptional eloquence and language mastery, as well as provide particular examples from real-life situations.

Remember, that an excellent essay alone, i.e. without great exam scores or other achievements, won't probably get you a place in your dreamed university. However, an excellent essay as an addition to outstanding achievements and high exam scores can be a huge competitive advantage.

Expository essay examples

An expository essay aims to inform. A good example of this type of essay is a news article that you read online or in a newspaper. Expository essays focus on the so-called 5Ws: who, why, what, when, and where. They are different from narrative or persuasive essays, which are less formal and whose purpose is to tell a story or convince the author's point of view.

For example, students at Cambridge University are tasked with writing different kinds of expository essays:

1. Problem and Solution Essay – the task is to identify a problem and to propose a solution. For example, global climate change and possible mitigation measures, democracy crisis, and how to overcome it, high unemployment rates, excessive exposure to mobile phones and computers (addiction), and the like. It is important to be specific and to use an argumentative tone though when justifying your solution.

2. Cause and Effect Essay – as the name suggests, this type of expository essay focuses on a description of the relationship between causes and effects. For example, what has led to WWII? Or the causes behind the technological/IT revolution or a particular scientific discovery. These essays are common in social sciences and humanities at Cambridge.

3. Compare and Contrast Essay – this type is a more analytical version of a simple descriptive essay and focuses on picking and describing similarities and differences between two objects, subjects, and events. For example, a Compare and Contrast Essay can focus on the following: two or several pieces of art or literature, an antagonist and a protagonist in a given book or a movie plot, two distinct methods of scientific discovery (observation and experiment), analyze a war for independence in Mexico and the US, etc.

4. Descriptive Essay – pursues the goal of describing something in the author’s life or any other event out there in the world. The art of this essay writing is to paint a picture with your words using as many important details as possible. Some of the best descriptive essays are focusing on their authors' personal experiences and are appealing to the reader's feelings and emotions. For example a description of how one grew up in harsh living conditions and how that helped to shape his/her personality, a description of the most significant moment in life that became a turning point, etc.

Compare and contrast essay examples

In a compare and contrast essay, the task is to analyze and describe the similarities and differences between the two subjects, persons, theories, ideas, etc. This type of essay teaches us how to think critically, analyze things, and how to make weighted decisions. If your goal is to study at the highest-ranked universities in the world, you should master compare and contrast essay writing.

We offer you to start with popular compare and contrast essay topics from the world's most prestigious universities:

1. Analyzing and comparing undergraduate and graduate studies. It is a good opportunity to show your knowledge of academic life and to express your study ambitions, plans, and aspirations.

2. Relationship between science and pseudo-science. The general public often gets fooled by the widespread pseudoscientific theories and research findings. Hence, if you are mature enough to pick up the differences and explain what makes true science a much more credible source of information – that would definitely get you noticed by your tutor and earn you a big credit.

3. Contrasting similar things. It’s more difficult to analyze two subjects that may appear to be the same, but could actually have many subtle differences. If you succeed, this could send a strong signal of your proficiency in a subject matter and be an indicator of your analytical talents in general. For example, analyze nationality and ethnicity, data and information, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, to learn and to study, venomous vs. poisonous, pills and tablets, weather and climate, etc.

4. Comparing different things. As with the example above, this one is a similarly difficult task, which allows students to be positively distinguished from their peers. Here are some examples: animal and human behavior, professional and amateur sport, visible light and radio waves, politics and economics, theory and hypothesis, life and death, etc.

Persuasive essay examples

A persuasive essay is a popular type of college essay, which is more common for graduate studies. In a world that has become highly interconnected due to an abundance of communication opportunities, the ability to express oneself clearly and persuasively has become a must-have skill. Whether you are pursuing an academic career or planning to explore employment opportunities in business, you need to learn how to persuade other people to share your point of view. Persuasive college essays are developing and testing just that type of communicative skill.

So what do the best colleges’ persuasive essays share in common? Actually, several things:

1. A good structure. A well-structured text would always have an advantage over a messy one. The same refers to the organization of arguments, evidence, and thoughts in bullet points or separated by logically defined paragraphs. One University of Oxford student scored the highest in the class on an essay by managing to define 10 distinctive comparative advantages of connected collaboration in academic research over an old-fashioned silo-based approach.

2. Solid proficiency in a subject matter. It will not do much good to try to talk persuasively about something that you do not master, or where you lack obvious knowledge/ do not understand how it works. Being able to see things through and explain them in your own words adds credibility to your text.

3. Use of examples. Most A+ grade college essays demonstrate a smart use of examples and quotations to support the author's point of view. Quotations work most convincingly when placed in the introduction paragraph, while examples are an unbeatable technique to support arguments in the made body of an essay.

4. A clear and concise language. If you ask a University of Berkeley student what single feature is the most important in persuasive essays – the answer would be “conciseness”. At Berkeley, students are taught that the best persuasive texts are the ones that can place more meaning into fewer words. That is important, for example, in business correspondence, public speeches, marketing communications, etc.

College scholarship essay examples

Scholarship essays are very similar to admission essays in the sense that their purpose is to get accepted to a degree program, receive financial aid, get enrolled in a specialized course, etc. Consider scholarship essays as next-level admission essays as they are most common for senior and graduate studies and are not necessarily as brief as the initial entry-level admissions essays.

The level of competition in scholarship essays is much higher than in any other essay type. Often students pursuing scholarships have to compete with thousands of other applicants for a very limited number of awards. Hence, successful scholarship essays possess the type of qualities, which allow their authors to win in the intense competition:

1. Are very personal and specific. The most successful scholarship application essays are less about what you do and more about who you are. A vast majority of the award-winning college essays have a compelling personal story at their core.

2. Demonstrate mastery of persuasive communication. This is something not frequently mentioned in college essay reviews, but the truth is that nobody is going to grant you a scholarship unless you can persuade that you really deserve it.

3. Display knowledge and understanding. Besides compelling stories and persuasion, a good scholarship essay has to demonstrate a mastery of the relevant subject field. It is not easy to achieve on a few pages, nevertheless, there are several techniques that we frequently see on some of the best scholarship essays, including the following: a down to point writing, quoting famous and authoritative scholars, prioritizing facts over the narrative, using clear and coherent essay structure, and others.

4. Are ambitious and visionary. A college admission committee would have fewer incentives to grant you a scholarship if your goals are trivial and what is worse – lacking uniqueness and ambition. In CalTech and MIT scholarship programs students' essays are famous for their ambitious goals and clear vision of how one can contribute to a given scientific field.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to start an essay?

An essay starts with an introduction – a paragraph or two where you should present your essay topic and a thesis statement/argument you are going to make. A good introduction should grab your reader's attention and make him/her want to read the entire paper. For this purpose, proper language and distinctive attention-grabbing techniques are used, such as catchy words and phrases, intriguing questions, surprising or shocking information, humorous language tone, etc. An introduction should not be longer than 10-20% of the overall essay volume.

How to end an essay?

An essay ends as soon as it has achieved its purpose: told a story, proved a statement or an argument, answered an essay prompt or a question, etc. Thereafter, it is necessary to draw a clear punch line/to conclude. In most cases, it is a paragraph or two where you should summarize your findings and explain to the reader why your essay should matter to him/her. The best essay endings leave readers wondering and thinking over the implications of what they have just read and learned about.

How to answer essay questions?

Essay questions provide direction on how to write an essay. Therefore, you should read the question carefully and try to understand what it is that your instructor seeks to see in your essay. In particular, you should pay attention to the so-called keywords in the essay prompt title and construct your answer accordingly. Examples of keywords are: "compare", "define", "describe", "explain", "analyze", "evaluate", "discuss", etc.

How to conclude an essay?

An essay ends with a conclusion – a summary of the key findings and the most important takeaways. In conclusion, one should reiterate the initial thesis statement and emphasize the arguments, which were used to support it. However, it is not necessary to list all the arguments or points in the conclusion; instead, the conclusion should be brief and crisp, avoiding the introduction of any new information, yet leaving a reader with some food for further thoughts. The latter can be achieved by relating to a broader perspective or suggesting further topics and research questions.

How to put a quote in an essay?

Aim to blend quotations seamlessly into your essay text to aid readability and to achieve good flow. To avoid plagiarism, you should always use the correct author and source information, such as a book, a newspaper, or the name of a web resource. Additionally, it is necessary to use quotation marks to indicate the exact words or phrases you want to quote. Consult with the most popular stylebooks (MLA, Chicago, AP, etc.) on how to format a particular quotation in the body of your essay text, as well as on the reference page.

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