from the following short essay sets:Georgetown Short Essay SetDuke
Short Essay SetDartmouth Short Essay SetHarvard Short Essay SetNote:
The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They appear as
they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.
ESSAY SET 1:Georgetown, Saudi International RelationsFor many years,
I have been interested in studying international relations. My
interest in pursuing this field stems from several factors which have
affected me. First, I have been exposed to international affairs
throughout my life. With my father and two of my brothers in the
Saudi Foreign Service, I have grown up under the shadow of
inter-national affairs. Second, I am fascinated by history,
economics, and diplomacy. I believe, through the study of
international relations, I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in
these fields. A third factor which has affected my interest in
international relations is patriotism. Through the Foreign Service, I
would not only have the opportunity to serve my country, but also
have the chance to help bridge gaps between my country and others.
Finally, as a Saudi living abroad, I have been bridging cultures
throughout my life. This experience has taught me to look for
differences to compromise and similarities to synthesize in order to
balance different cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences
in life, combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable me
to pursue a successful career in the Saudi Foreign Service.
Favorite ClassAt St. Albans, especially in our later years, we are
given the freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this
freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance to
me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript. However,
from these classes, one holds an extraordinary amount of value to me.
This course is A.P. Omnibus History, a combination of American and
European history. There are several reasons for my great interest in
this class. First, I am fascinated by the cyclical nature of the
past. I see these recurring political, economic, and social trends as
a means of looking forward into the future, while allowing us to
avoid the mistakes of the past. Second, history teaches many lessons
about the nature of human behavior, both past and present, providing
insight into the actions, desires, and aspirations of those around
me. Finally, it lays a solid foundation for several disciplines,
including political science, economics, and international relations,
three fields of great interest to me.
Visual ArtsAnother major interest of mine, which I have not had the
opportunity to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual
arts. Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to
express myself. I began with black and white photography, focusing on
the presence of lines and balance in nature. For my work in this
medium, I received an award at the St. Albans School Art Show. From
photography, I moved on to glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch
the glass, I again concentrated on lines and balance in my works.
Moreover, by arranging several glass panes into a sculpture, I moved
my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show award.
Currently, I am working on canvas, using oil and acrylic in a
Mondrian style, which is based on lines and balance. Eventually, I
hope to explore the effects of combining these and other media,
creating my own style of artistic expression.
WrestlingIn the past four years of my life, no activity has affected
me more than wrestling. Four years of varsity wrestling and the honor
of being a team captain has instilled many qualities in me. First,
through years of hard work and continuous dieting, wrestling has
given me discipline. This discipline has spread to other parts of my
personality, including my moral character, work ethic, and
perserverence. Another quality wrestling has given me is leadership.
As a team captain, I have learned to lead by example, both on and off
the mat. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a love of life.
Through this sport, I have experienced pain, sacrifice, adversity,
and success. Exposure to these feelings-which are, in my opinion, the
essence of being-has allowed me to truly appreciate life. I hope to
continue wrestling at Georgetown.
immediately strikes the reader about this set-before even reading
it-is the balance between the essays. Each answer contains only one
paragraph, each of approximately equal length. The solid structure of
each essay and the focus of each reflects this outward balance. Each
one focuses on a completely different area of its writer?s life,
another striking detail. The first focuses on his career goals, the
second on his interest in history, the third on his interest in the
visual arts, and the fourth on wrestling. This is a perfect example
of the jigsaw puzzle approach. When put together, you have a
well-rounded individual with passion, depth, and involvement in many
TopSAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 2:Duke, Sports/DebateThroughout my life, I
have tried to be a well-balanced person. Growing up in the South, I
had a hard time fighting the stereotypical image of a Chinese person.
I was expected to be a math and science genius and nothing more. As
it turned out, I defied my detractors by excelling in English and
history along with math and science. And over the years, I have
continued to maintain my academic standards.
have also made sure that I am more than an academic person. I am an
active one as well. In middle school, the most popular game during
lunch was a basketball game called Salt and Pepper (white vs. black).
The first day of school, I stepped onto the basketball courts and was
greeted by cries of consternation, ?Who is he? Is he salt or pepper??
But after the game, I had made a name for myself. From then onward, I
would be known as Spice, and the game we played became Salt, Pepper,
When I moved to
California, things were no different. I continued to play an active
part both academically and socially. My involvement with
Cross-country, Speech and Debate, Ultimate Frisbee and numerous clubs
guaranteed that I would not be only known as an Honors student.
Duke is much more than an academic institution; it is a living
institution. I feel that I will be given the opportunity to excel
both academically and socially. Duke is a university known for its
rich history and strong academic program. And, at the same time, it
is also known for its innovation and progressiveness. These are
qualities which draw me to the college.
Duke and I have a lot in common. The two most important
extracurricular activities I have are a major part of Duke
University. Duke?s Speech team is known for its strong Extemp squad.
I remember the time when my speech coach asked me what schools I was
applying to. When I had listed my top five choices, he frowned at me
and said, ?Out of all those schools, I will only respect you if you
either join us at Berkeley or go to Duke and extemp.? I hope I will
be given the opportunity to contribute my part in the Duke Speech
important, the Duke University has a well-known Ultimate Frisbee
team. I look forward expectantly to becoming a part of the team.
Strange as it seems, Ultimate Frisbee is one of my top criteria for
choosing my future college. It delights me that Duke places such
great emphasis on the two extracurricular activities that mean most
My first year at
Duke should be a great one. Majoring in economics at Duke should
allow me to both pursue my major studies and allow me time for
personal interests in Chinese and the Humanities. Moreover, in my
spare time, I plan to join the Speech team and the Ultimate Frisbee
team. Hopefully, with my previous experience, I will have an early
start in both Speech and Ultimate. Yet, I will never forget why I?m
in college in the first place. As long as I give organic chemistry a
wide berth, I should be able to continue my level of academic
excellence. Overall, my first year at Duke promises to be exciting,
if a bit hectic.
find Hermann Hesse?s book, Narcissus and Goldmund, intellectually
exciting. After reading the book last year, I remember putting it
down and sighing contentedly. I had, after a sleepless night, finally
finished. What I reveled in was not the fact that I could sleep, but
that I had come away with an inexplicable something. It was not an
understanding which could be pinpointed and explained. Rather, it was
a sense I felt in the depths of my soul. And yet, what delighted me
more was that I knew that I had only begun to understand the book;
that there remained countless messages which I could only sense but
not grasp. Here, finally, I had a book which could be re-read. And
every time I finished, I would come away with a new understanding of
something I could not put into words.
normal academic, I do not want to find the final answer for
everything. Throughout my life, I have always felt a sense of loss
after succeeding in a long search. For me, it is not the ends I seek,
but the means themselves. I am perfectly content to never find the
final answer as long as I will always be able to find a better one.
Culture/EconomicsBorn in Taiwan, I came to the United States when I
was five. Armed with only two words (?hello? and ?popcorn?), I braved
the uncertainties of a complex, new environment. Twelve years later,
my vocabulary is considerably larger and I have adapted well to my
surroundings. At the same time, I have neither forgotten my native
culture nor its language.
My ties with my
native Chinese culture remain as strong as ever. I visit my relatives
in Taiwan regularly almost every summer and have traveled throughout
China. And to everyone?s continuing surprise, I have yet to forget
how to speak Mandarin. Nevertheless, twelve years in America has made
its impressions upon me as well. I am as ?American? as anyone my age.
The songs I listen to, the sports I play, and the way I speak are all
a reflection of that. In short, I am a combination of both East and
sometimes wonder whether speaking Chinese at home and visits in the
summer are enough to maintain my ties with my native culture. Often,
when I see my parents reading old Chinese literature or poetry, I
feel that I am only in touch with half of what I am. This sense of
loss has led me to seek out my old roots. I turn to the East to
rediscover what I have lost.
Yet, I cannot
resign myself to merely studying my own culture and language. I want
to be able to apply my knowledge as well. To me, pursuing a career in
business is a very pragmatic solution to my future welfare. My father
is a businessman in Taiwan and I have had numerous opportunities to
watch him work. Through him, I have discovered my own interests in
the business field. I find the way business operates in the East to
be very exciting. At the same time, my father has soothed my sense of
morality by showing me that it is possible to be an honest
businessman in Asia.
Before I learned
about Duke, I had made up my mind to study economics and to
ultimately pursue a career in international business. I had come to
see this path as the best combination for fulfilling both my
aspirations towards knowledge and my pragmatic goals of a future
livelihood. China, my planned area of focus, is an expanding market
with a dearth of skilled business professionals. But I had misgivings
because I wanted a school with a strong focus on the humanities as
Thus, I find
Duke University exciting and perfect for me. It gives me a strong
economics curriculum, but still allows me to pursue my interests in
the humanities. With economics at Duke University, I will have access
to a wide array of studies both within and beyond my chosen major. I
will have an edge in the business world by virtue of Duke
Duke (if I am accepted, of course), I will have a clear path before
me. My studies at Duke should virtually guarantee me for any graduate
business school. And, after my graduate studies, I will be able to
realize my dreams. Perhaps, I will be able to serve as a bridge
between East and West.
three well-written essays create a strong set. The first and the last
would have been impressive on their own. Reading them all together
magnifies their impact considerably. This student does an especially
good job of targeting the school. This student focuses his first
essay on his extracurriculars and relates them to why Duke would be
perfect for him. He focuses the third on his Chinese background and
how it relates to his career goals and academic interests. Then he
also relates these interests to why Duke matches him perfectly. His
favorite book provided the focus of the second essay. What makes this
second essay better than others like it is that the applicant manages
to put himself into the question. He does not just talk about the
book, he uses it to talk about himself and stress the inquisitive
nature of his personality-always a plus.
TopSAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 3:Dartmouth, DebateParticipating in my high
school?s debate program has been my most meaningful activity these
past four years. I have learned how to speak in front of a crowd
without becoming nervous, how to think on my feet, and how to argue
the merits of any side of an issue. Being on the debate team also
allows me to educate myself on current topics of global importance
such as the homeless problem, health care, and pollution.
three years I have dedicated to the activity, (high school) has
always maintained a successful squad and I am quite proud to know
that I have earned many of the trophies and awards that have helped
make the program so successful and (high school) well known on the
Because of the
activity, I have learned that from education to communication, from
argument to enlightenment, debate is necessary for two or more humans
to transcend mere exchange of thought and achieve synergy instead. I
now view success in debate as far more than a trophy; I now see it as
evidence that I can successfully communicate my beliefs to others and
have them logically accept them as their own, thus priming me for any
future challenges involving human interaction.
Honors and AwardsMy most important honors since tenth grade have been
winning the Brown University Book Award for my skills in English,
being named as a National Merit Semifinalist (Finalist status
pending), winning the Journalism Education Association National
Write-off Award of Excellence in the Editorial division at a national
conference, being selected as a Semifinalist in the NCTE Writing
Contest for my work in prose, being named as an Illinois State
Scholar for my academic achievement in high school and my high A.C.T.
scores, being selected to the Spanish Honor Society for my consistent
success with the language in the classroom, being selected as the
Student of the Month in the Foreign Language/Social Sciences division
two years in a row for my success in those classes, and in a
culminating event, being featured in Who?s Who Among American High
School Students for my overall scholastic success.
Summer at DartmouthMost of my past summer was spent away from home.
In that brief month in which I remained in (town name) I worked at
(job) in order to earn the money I was going to spend on my trips. My
first excursion was to the east coast where I visited several schools
and took in the atmosphere of an area to which my midwestern self was
somewhat unaccustomed. One school I was considering that I did not
visit was Dartmouth. After all, I spent a month there later in the
summer. As a participant of the Dartmouth Debate Institute I spent a
lot of time in Feldberg, Dana, and Baker libraries; resided in the
well-known Choates; attended sessions in Silsby; and dined in the
Full-Fare section of Thayer. There was also time for recreational
activities such as rope swinging, volleyball, frisbee, sleep (every
little bit was cherished), and beautiful hikes up to Dana. I did
manage to sit down and work in such a clean, open environment,
however. The instructors made sure of that. The four-week institute
honed my skills in speaking, researching, structuring arguments, and
thinking. As a result, my partner and I were able to break into the
elimination rounds at the institute-ending tournament which included
the top debaters in the nation. Aside from the debate skills I
learned, I found the institute very favorable because of the exchange
of ideas taking place between the students and staff. What I learned
from those exchanges enlightened me not only as a debater but also as
Although I enjoy
all of my subjects, I regard classes I have taken in the social
sciences to be the most meaningful. Whereas some classes use formulas
to describe natural occurrences, the social sciences show that not
everything is explicable in such a clear-cut manner. The social
sciences describe people; they describe the people who make up the
formulas and how and why that was done. The social sciences also
explain the past so as a society, people can avoid past catastrophes
and build upon past successes. Not only do they describe how we act
as we do, but why we act as we do.
I am not a
student who always likes to follow someone else?s rules. While most
subjects allow for free thought, the social sciences encourage
innovative thinking. Those classes expect students to explain why
something happened based on certain conditions. I didn?t learn that
the Iron Curtain was an economic measure in any math class.
As a student my
ultimate goal is to understand things. I feel the best way to
understand is not by reciting another?s thought, but by formulating
my own and debating it with people who disagree with me. I believe
that exchange of thought is vital in every curriculum, but the social
sciences do the most to promote that exchange. I highly doubt that
anyone will be debating Einstein?s ideas in the near future-and be
essayist dedicates the first essay to his involvement in debating. He
manages to communicate quite a lot in a short amount of space (what
he has learned, what he has achieved, and what debating means to him)
without ever losing his focus. The second essay is an example of an
answer to a list question (?List your honors and awards?). The third
gets more personal by describing the summer he spent at Dartmouth.
The strength of this essay is that he sells himself on his knowledge
and familiarity of the school. The weakness of this essay is that he
tries to do too much and loses his focus after the second paragraph.
The conclusion does not seem to fit with the points he has made in
the essay-the last line particularly seems to come from nowhere.
TopSAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 4:Harvard, Favorite BooksThe novel Black
Like Me was the most stimulating book I have recently read. I was
taken aback by the cruelty the narrator experienced when he was black
compared to the hospitality he found as a white man. Possessing the
same occupation, clothing, wealth, speech, and identity did not
matter when his skin was another color. Given that this was a
non-fictional piece, my reaction was even stronger. The book made me
favor equality of opportunity for all in every endeavor so others?
opinions of them are based on performance, not preconceptions.
Favorite TeacherI selected Mr. (name) because he taught me more than
U.S. History; he taught me how to think independently. This wasn?t
done only to prepare me for the free-response section of the A.P.
test, either. I know he did it to make his students responsible
citizens and responsible adults. From the outset, he wanted to make
sure that we knew how we stood in our political philosophy: strict
constructionists or loose constructionists. He wanted to make sure
that we didn?t gravitate towards empty categories like liberal or
conservative, but rather focused on issues separately whenever we
needed to take a stand on them. Imagine my surprise when I, the son
of two very conservative parents who constantly bombarded me with
their rhetoric, discovered that I had strong liberal tendencies on
some issues. Aside from political affiliations, Mr. (name) taught us
how to make sense out of history by trying to understand the personal
motives that went in to any chain of historical occurrences. In his
class, I came to the realization that history isn?t only a series of
names and dates printed in a textbook, but a more complex subject
that requires deep thought and analysis for full comprehension.
Because of Mr. (name), history is now my favorite subject. He has
also been a motivating force outside of the classroom. He always had
faith in my ability and constantly encouraged me to do my best. I
believe he respected my abilities and wanted to see them developed
further. In fact, had it not been for his faith in me, I would have
never applied to Harvard, the school I plan to attend in the fall.
Unnoticed AccomplishmentIt?s not that I?m a weak guy, just that I had
been somewhat self-conscious about my strength early on in my high
school career. My gym class didn?t help too much, either. Thanks to a
demeaning test of strength appropriately dubbed the ?Grip Test,? once
each quarter I was provided the opportunity to squeeze a gadget, get
a score, and have my teacher announce it out loud, no matter how high
or (as in my case) how low it was. No matter how hard I tried, the
cruel and callous scale never registered above 40. Almost every other
male in the class could boast of a high-40?s or mid-50?s score. I
hated that test with a passion. Until recently. When this semester
rolled around and I had the gripper placed in my palm, I was prepared
for the same old same old. I had been improving slightly from quarter
to quarter, but nothing impressive ever happened. I drew in a deep
breath, squeezed, looked at the scale, and almost fainted. Sixty-six!
In a way only a teenager can appreciate, for an accomplishment only a
teenager would find meaningful, I thought I was in heaven. My success
was even sweeter as I watched jocks pale in comparison when they took
the test. Sure, to some people my academic accomplishments seem
fairly impressive, and I would agree. Yet the grip test situation was
much more personal and represented success in an area I normally
don?t pay attention to. Plus I learned two things. One: I can pride
myself on the smallest triviality. Two: I?m glad we don?t measure
strength in our gym classes with the bench press.
Leadership through Dedication
leadership does not necessarily mean accumulating as many titles as
possible in school activities; I feel one leads through his
dedication, actions, and contributions. I have always tried to lead
in almost everything I set out to do. I feel I have been successful
at that. Superficially, I have earned such titles as president of the
National Honor Society chapter at my school, Editor-in-Chief,
columnist, Investigative Editor, and Editorial Editor of the school
newspaper, senior varsity leader in debate, and a Class
Representative for Student Council. However, those titles don?t begin
to tell the story of my abilities as a leader. They don?t reveal how
I volunteered to help out at a handicapped lock-in at an unfamiliar
youth center when no one else wanted to, they don?t reveal how I
always sought to be on time for work and to avoid boondoggling, they
don?t reveal how I aided younger debaters with their argumentation so
they can have the same success I was lucky enough to enjoy, they
don?t reveal how I became a role model for the JETS squad by studying
my material often, eventually becoming the most medaled member on the
team, and they don?t reveal all the effort I put into learning my
lines and acquiring a good stage presence for Images, my first stage
production ever, so I wouldn?t single-handedly jeopardize the whole
show with my lack of experience. All those actions stress the quality
I feel is most important in a leader, dedication. With dedication
comes hard work and the ability to seek out solutions when problems
get in the way, whether they are with a news page layout or in a
student?s diction. Because of this dedication, taking charge is
second nature for me. People are always willing to follow one with a
clear sense of direction.
Close-knit familyI don?t view my important characteristics as
different from those my family has imparted on me throughout the
years. The pride, care, dedication, effort, and hard-working attitude
that I view as critical to any success I may achieve have all
descended upon me courtesy of my close-knit, Italian family.
Born the child
of two immigrants who came here with nothing, only one possessing a
college degree, the importance of a good work ethic was stressed by
my parents from day one. Through their actions in their jobs and
through the verbal lessons on life I began to get from the moment I
could communicate, they set an example for me to follow, one of being
proud of what I do, no matter what it was, and above all, to care
about everything I do as if everything had a big impact. This meant
that everything had to be done right and be done well. Undoubtedly,
following their own advice carried my parents from their status as
blue-collar immigrants who labored as a factory workers to
white-collar citizens, one of whom owns his own business while the
other works as a bank officer. Those ascensions from nothing only
served as other examples for me to follow, examples that delineated
the ability for a person to improve through effort.
quotation from my father propelled me from the time I started school
to today: ?No matter what you do, you have to be the best.? This set
up the inner drive that motivates all my actions. It was what forced
me to try hard in school although I didn?t know English well enough
to always understand the teacher. It?s the reason why I have
developed my skills. It accounts for my dedication to all activities,
and to the hard work I put into all of them as I strive to lead both
in class and out. Essentially, my parentage was the first quality
that distinguished me as a leader.
Despite all the
talk of being a leader, I have never lost sight of the importance of
my family. I know I owe my family everything, and as a result, I?ll
always be close with it.
pursue a variety of activities for fun and relaxation. I enjoy
reading books and magazines (my tastes range from Time to Gentlemen?s
Quarterly) on a regular basis, imitating Beavis and Butt-head, and
most of all, spending time with my friends. Although I am fan of
playing pick-up games of basketball, football, and roller hockey, the
phrase ?doing nothing with my time? doesn?t bother me since I can
have a good time just hanging around. I think people, not places,
make for a good time.
ConcernsMy major social concerns all revolve around the future. In
other words, I?m concerned about what prevents people from rising
above their disadvantages. Specifically, I am most concerned with the
handicapped, education, and crime.
I feel society?s
response to handicaps is what really hampers the potential of the
disabled. It is important for the disabled to get a better sense of
worth and to be able to adapt to, and survive in, today?s world.
Through National Honor Society (NHS), I have done just that. I have
helped out at a lock-in that was designed to foster interaction among
the children of the organization, as well as at Special Olympics,
where the children participate in sports on a competitive basis so
their talents and abilities can be recognized. Whenever the disabled
can be successful at an activity, the barrier between them and the
rest of society is drastically reduced.
Education is key
to other problems such as gangs, drugs, and crime because it can
prevent and eliminate them. I try to get students in our school to
maximize their opportunities by using the educational resources
available. By setting up a tutoring program through NHS, I have
matched up needy students with other students who can assist them
with their problems in classes. More directly, I help students out
with English and show them how to use the Writing Center Lab, an
indispensable resource for English students at any level. The more
educated a person is, I believe, the more able he is to be successful
in the future.
I have dealt
with criminal problems in my school by discussing solutions to gangs
and other crime in the Student Advisory Committee. We have drafted
several proposals to help reduce those problems in our school.
about such social concerns is also very crucial because they won?t
fix what they don?t think is broken. That is one objective of our
newspaper, in which we have written various editorials and news
stories to educate the student body on social topics. Through debate,
I myself have become knowledgeable on such topics as the homeless,
poverty, health care, and the environment. That way I can practice
what I preach.
is notorious for its long list of essay questions, as you can see
from the seven essays this applicant had to write. The first essay is
a standard favorite book essay. His second, about his favorite
teacher, goes into more depth and reveals more about the candidate,
that he enjoys learning, admires independent thought, and plans to
The third essay
in this set stands out from the rest. Had the panel who were grading
the compositions understood the context of this essay in light of the
six others in the set, they probably would have given it more credit.
Its strength lies in its funny, lighthearted approach-it shows a
completely different aspect of the candidate?s personality. Without
it, he would have appeared deadpan serious and probably a bit dull.
However, showing the wittier side of himself strengthens the set
considerably. It is a good example of allowing yourself to take a
risk in one essay, as long as more serious approaches in the others
Back to TopBack
to Example Essay StructuresFrom ESSAYS THAT WILL GET YOU INTO
COLLEGE, by Amy Burnham, Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan.
by Dan Kaufman. Reprinted by arrangement with Barron’s Educational
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