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College Application Essays
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College Application Essays

Advanced Placement Literature and Composition



Here are several examples of college entrance essays from the College Board Internet site. ( http://www.collegeboard.com/ )  Select one and write a draft of an essay you would send to the college along with your application.  The thinking has changed recently within the state university system and now college essays are being stressed.  According to the College Board, there are usually three types of questions: the “you,” the “why us,” and the “creative.”  You may select from among these examples one choice and write an essay of no more than 500 words, but you are encouraged to use your actual college application essay that you will have to write eventually anyway.  If your college application calls for two essays of 250 words each, then do that.  Let’s make this as practical an assignment as possible.





Describe any interesting experience you have had during your college admission search.


Creative people state that taking risks often promotes important discoveries in their lives or their work.  Discuss a risk that has led to significant change (positive or negative) in your personal or intellectual life.


Describe the most challenging obstacle you have had to overcome; discuss its impact and tell what you have learned from the experience.





Tell us about yourself, your reasons for applying to _____________ (fill in the college) and your reasons for seeking a college education.


Describe your reasons for selecting __________ (fill in the college) and your personal and professional goals and plans for after college.


We would like to know what experiences have led you to select your professional field and objective.





Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.


In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge that your generation will face?  What ideas do you have for dealing with the issue?


What is the value and importance of community service in our society and tell us what it means to you.


Who do you feel has served as the strongest Afro-American role model in this century and why?  (It’s ok to use the 20th century when they made up this question)


John Keats said, “Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it.”  Please tell us about an experience in your own life which illustrated a proverb, maxim, or quote that has special meaning to you.


You have just completed your 300-page autobiography.  Please submit page 217.





1.      Type the essay, double-spaced and 12 point in a simple and easy to read font- no script fonts please! Margins should be 1 inch, no more or less on all sides.


2.      Proofread carefully.  Your essay must be perfect.  Granted there are few occasions in life where one must be perfect, but this is one of them.  If your essay is sloppy and rife with errors, the college will believe that any work you do will be of the same poor quality.  Your application may be denied if the essay is not perfect.  They want to see that you took the time to get it right.


3.      Do not be afraid to be personal.  If you have suffered from a hardship, there is no reason not to mention it (without melodrama or a maudlin display of sentimentality).  They want to get to know you.  If you write a generic essay that says virtually nothing about you as a human being, it will be tossed on the pile with the other “maybes.”  You can share, if the question calls for it, experiences from childhood, puberty, etc.  Don’t play it so safe that you are not playing at all.


4.      Do not flatter them excessively.  They want to know why you chose their college, but you do not have to lay it on so thick it can be cut with a knife. “Your school is the most beautiful, the most sublime institution of higher learning that I have ever come across in my seventeen years of existence.”  YUCK!


5.      Do not engage in clichés.  “What goes around comes around,” etc. This demonstrates a limited intellect that is incapable of original thought and must, by necessity, fall back on boring and trite statements.


6.      Do not use vocabulary and syntax that you think seems ultra- sophisticated, but is really not you.  You are a young person; you don’t wish to sound like a child, but you don’t want to sound too grand or pompous either. Your style should feel natural not forced.  Write as you speak (only better!!!).


7.      Do not use self-aggrandizement.  That means that you present yourself as God’s gift to their university. There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance.   Avoid anything that sounds like you are such a big shot that they should be grateful that you even bothered to apply to their piddling university.

You do not want to be too humble either.  You should not be so modest that you render yourself invisible!  The fine line between humility and over-confidence is indeed one of the most difficult to tread.  Tread carefully!




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