Writing a college essay can be a daunting task. You have to tell your story in a way that captures the attention of the admissions officers, showcases your personality, and reveals your potential. But how do you do that?
One of the best ways to learn how to write a college essay is to read examples of successful essays. By reading other peoples’ stories, you can get a sense of what works and what doesn’t, what makes an essay memorable and what makes it boring, and what topics and styles are most effective.
To help you discover the power of personal narratives, we have curated a collection of inspiring essays that not only showcase unique experiences but also provide valuable insights into resilience, heritage, creativity, and personal growth.
Join us as we explore these remarkable stories that will inspire and guide you in writing an exceptional college essay that stands out from the competition.
In “There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Barbecue,” Jason Sheehan delves into his profound love for barbecue, portraying it as more than just a type of food, but a comforting and unifying cultural element.
He asserts that barbecue, with its various regional and ethnic interpretations, serves as a source of comfort and celebration. Sheehan contends that barbecue shapes culture, rather than being a product of it, and has even contributed to early progress towards equality and civil rights in the Deep South. He highlights the artistry and expertise involved in barbecue, which demands a deep understanding of fire, convection, and the science of meat, heat, and smoke.
The essay is insightful as it elevates barbecuing from a mere culinary activity to a significant cultural phenomenon with the power to unite people and drive societal change.
Ying Ying Yu’s essay, “A Duty to Family, Heritage, and Country,” is a profound reflection on the sacrifices made by her parents, ancestors, teachers, and homeland. As a 13-year-old immigrant from China, she expresses a deep sense of duty to honor these sacrifices.
The essay insightfully explores the high standards imposed on Chinese students and the singular dream of success in the eyes of their family and country. Through her personal narrative, Yu provides a compelling perspective on the intersection of individual aspirations and cultural expectations, making it a thought-provoking exploration of identity and heritage.
In “Creative Solutions To Life’s Challenges,” Frank X Walker explores the concept of creativity as a universal survival skill. He uses personal anecdotes to illustrate how creativity manifests in various forms, from his mother’s resourceful cooking and sewing to his own experiences with art and writing.
Walker argues that creativity can provide innovative solutions to life’s challenges and enrich our world. He calls for a broader understanding of art and artists, recognizing the creative expression inherent in everyday professions and activities.
The essay is insightful as it reframes our understanding of creativity and artistry, emphasizing their presence and importance in daily life.
In his essay, “Do What You Love,” Tony Hawk, a professional skateboarder, shares his journey of turning a childhood activity into a professional career.
Despite facing scorn and misunderstanding from the public, Hawk emphasizes the importance of taking pride in what one does. He recounts his perseverance through the challenges he faced, including injuries and mockery, and his continued progression as a skater.
Hawk’s essay is insightful as it illustrates the value of passion and dedication in pursuing one’s interests, regardless of societal perceptions. It serves as a testament to the fulfillment that comes from doing what one loves, even when it defies conventional norms.
Josh Rittenberg’s essay, “Tomorrow Will Be a Better Day,” is a thoughtful reflection on hope and resilience. As a teenager, Rittenberg contemplates the challenges his ancestors overcame and the future his generation faces.
Despite hearing his father’s fears about the world’s future, Rittenberg finds solace in the accomplishments of his grandparents and great-grandparents, who witnessed both devastating and uplifting events. He expresses optimism for his generation, believing they will see advancements such as the cure for AIDS and cancer, peace in the Middle East, and even the Cubs winning the World Series.
The essay is insightful as it explores themes of hope, resilience, and the importance of looking forward, reminding us that every generation has its trials and triumphs, and that progress is possible.
Zachary Broken Rope’s essay, ‘Fry Bread’, is a profound exploration of identity and heritage.
Broken Rope, of German and Native American descent, recounts his journey of self-discovery through the lens of his mixed heritage. He shares his experiences of feeling out of place in both cultures, and the guilt he felt for the privileges his lighter skin tone afforded him. The turning point comes when a family member teaches him the importance of his heritage and the concept of ‘Mitakuye Oyasin’, a Lakota phrase meaning ‘we are all one people’. This lesson helps him understand that his identity transcends skin color and societal labels.
The essay is insightful as it sheds light on the complexities of cultural identity, the impact of societal perceptions, and the power of self-acceptance.
“The Power of ‘Hello’” is an essay by Howard White that underscores the significant influence of a simple greeting.
White recounts his mother’s advice to always acknowledge others, a lesson that has shaped his life. He brings this to life with a story about his encounters with the founder of his company, showing how a mere ‘hello’ can foster meaningful connections.
The essay conveys that the act of greeting can not only brighten someone’s day but also pave the way for opportunities, positioning it as a potent tool in daily life.
Cherie Burbach’s essay, “My Father Told Me I Was Fat,” is a poignant exploration of her journey from a childhood marred by her father’s cruel words to her transformation into a confident adult who values her own words over her father’s.
The essay reveals how Burbach used writing as an escape and a form of self-expression, despite her father’s constant verbal assaults. She continued to write, even when she believed his words that she was “fat, lazy, and stupid.” It wasn’t until her father’s death that she realized his words didn’t have to define her. She began to value her writing, eventually publishing her poetry, and came to see herself as intelligent, spirited, and beautiful.
This essay is insightful as it illustrates the power of words, both destructive and healing, and the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity.
Brighton Earley’s essay, “Finding the Flexibility to Survive,” is a touching narrative about her family’s experience with financial hardship and how it has influenced her outlook on life.
The essay tells the story of how Earley and her mother, unable to afford groceries from regular stores, had to resort to shopping at a Chevron gas station. Initially embarrassed by this unconventional method of grocery shopping, Earley eventually learns to appreciate the flexibility it symbolizes. She realizes that this adaptation is not a sign of failure, but a testament to her family’s resilience and ability to survive in the face of adversity.
The essay is insightful as it challenges traditional ideas of normalcy and success, highlighting the importance of adaptability when dealing with hardship.
“Rice for Thanksgiving” by Jocelyn Fong is an insightful essay that delves into the author’s multicultural identity, being of Asian and Anglo-American descent.
The narrative revolves around her unique Thanksgiving tradition of having rice and gravy, a representation of her blended Chinese and American heritage. Fong discusses the complexities of conforming to predefined ethnic categories and the fading of her Chinese heritage due to historical discrimination against Chinese immigrants. However, she ultimately embraces her mixed identity, seeing it as a symbol of progress and the multicultural nature of America.
The essay emphasizes that culture is not just about exotic foods or clothing, but is a unique aspect that everyone possesses and shapes in their own way.
Be Cool to the Pizza Dude” by Sarah Adams is a thought-provoking essay that underscores the significance of kindness, humility, empathy, respect, and equality in our daily interactions, using the pizza delivery person as a metaphor.
The essay is insightful because it uses a simple, relatable scenario to impart deep life lessons. It reminds us that every interaction is an opportunity to exercise these virtues, contributing to a more empathetic and understanding society. Moreover, it underscores the interconnectedness of our actions and their potential to generate good karma.
“Find a Good Frog” by Delia Motavalli is an essay that challenges the traditional notion of “happily ever after” often portrayed in fairy tales.
Motavalli shares a piece of advice from her mother: “Don’t spend your life looking for Prince Charming. Instead, find yourself a really good frog.” This metaphor encourages acceptance of imperfections and the reality that life isn’t always perfect.
The essay is insightful because it presents a realistic perspective on relationships and life, contrasting with the idealized versions often depicted in media. It emphasizes the importance of accepting flaws and imperfections in others, rather than seeking an unattainable perfection. This perspective encourages a healthier and more realistic approach to relationships and personal growth.
“My Time and Place Among the Cows” by Dave Stewart is a reflective essay that explores the author’s deep connection with his cows and the natural world.
Stewart, a dairyman from New Hampshire, expresses his belief in his cows for their ability to convert sunshine into milk, and how they help him appreciate the slower rhythms of life. He discusses the symbiotic relationship he shares with his cows in maintaining the pastures and keeping the trees at bay.
The essay is insightful as it offers a unique perspective on the interplay between man, animal, and nature. It highlights the importance of appreciating the simple things in life and embracing responsibilities, whether it’s farm life or family life.
“A Stack of Rocks” by Ron Woolley is a poignant essay that explores the author’s unique way of memorializing his father, who had his ashes spread in the ocean.
Woolley honors his father by stacking stones at the seashore each time he goes for a swim. This act, though not permanent, symbolizes his enduring love for his father and keeps his memory alive.
The essay is insightful as it delves into themes of loss, remembrance, and the enduring bonds of love. It also prompts reflection on the impermanent nature of life and the lasting impact of our actions and relationships.
“We Are Each Other’s Business” by Eboo Patel is a compelling essay that emphasizes the importance of active interfaith support in addition to tolerance.
As an American Muslim, Patel advocates for pluralism, citing the Holy Quran’s message of diversity and mutual understanding. He argues that America provides the best opportunity to realize this vision of diverse nations and tribes coming to know one another.
The essay is insightful because it challenges readers to not only tolerate diversity but to actively engage with it, fostering a deeper understanding and respect among different faiths. This active engagement, Patel suggests, is the key to honoring diversity and making pluralism a reality.
Brian McDonald’s essay, “I Believe in Singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’”, explores the power of this ubiquitous song in fostering a sense of community and shared positivity.
McDonald argues that singing ‘Happy Birthday’, regardless of one’s vocal prowess, is a communal act that transcends judgment and fosters unity. He believes that this simple act, which releases positive endorphins, is a testament to our biological hard-wiring for group singalongs.
The essay is insightful as it highlights the profound impact of a seemingly trivial tradition on our sense of belonging and community.
“The Real Me” by Katherine Bowman is a thought-provoking essay about the author’s decision to not wear makeup, a choice that sets her apart from her peers.
Bowman, a high school student, believes that hiding one’s true self can do more harm than good. She shares her journey of self-discovery and the realization that she doesn’t need to conform to societal norms to gain acceptance.
The essay is insightful as it challenges the conventional notions of beauty and encourages authenticity. It underscores the importance of being true to oneself, a message that resonates in today’s society where people often feel pressured to present a certain image. Bowman’s perspective invites readers to question societal standards and to embrace their individuality.