More Sample Essays: College Admissions Essay Help
These sample student essays are included for one important reason: there is much to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of other personal essays. As you read each one, think about what you know about what makes a great essay. Imagine the kinds of comments you think the essays will receive from readers, and take notes in the space provided. As you look at the feedback provided, compare it to your observations. Were the weaknesses you detected the same as those described? Were you able to spot strong introductions, descriptions that weren't vivid enough, or examples of too much telling and not enough showing? The better you become at evaluating other application essays, the more you'll be able to bring to your own work.
Sunday. As the bus bumps along through the muggy heat of July, I find it hard to be proud. Although I have just played great soccer in the Eastern Regional Tournament and am on my way to Regional Camp, to compete with sixty other girls for positions on the East Coast Select Team, I feel tremendously nervous and inferior. The hot bus ride has been lengthened from five to nine miserable hours, and I already think that everyone at the camp will be much better than I am. Yet when I call my parents that night and learn that my grandmother has had a second stroke and is in the hospital, I realize that this week of competition is going to be much more challenging emotionally than physically.
Wednesday. I haven't been playing very well; I'm on the reserve team and my chances for advancement are slim. There is only one person who can alleviate my depression: my mother. Somehow she already knows just what to say. That night, I call her to say hello and let her cheer me up. Instead, she tells me that my grandmother is now in a coma. The news hits me like a physical blow. My mind starts reeling with thoughts of my grandmother: the way she would pour her coffee into water glasses if it wasn't scalding hot, her soft, all-encompassing bear hugs, her smiling voice over the phone. The thought of this plump, joyful woman I love so much lying prone on a cold, sterile hospital bed is too painful to think about, so I lose myself in a fantasy novel.
Thursday morning. Now I'm really playing poorly; my mind is with my grandmother, not my soccer ball. I look up across the field and see my whole family clustered together, walking slowly towards me. I know, Before I realize what I'm doing, tears are streaming down my face as I choke sobs into my mother's hair.
Thursday afternoon. The funeral service is over, and I'm struggling to come to terms with what has happened, trying to accept the fact that I will never see my grandmother again, except in faded pictures and fond memories, I go into a bedroom to talk to my aunt, and oh what strength it takes for me to hold her and try to comfort and sooth her as she breaks down and cries into my hair. I realize that even though she is 36 and I am 14, I have to be the adult. My aunt is single; she has no close family left except my mother and my uncle, while I still have both my parents, two brothers, and a sister. I cannot imagine how deep her grief must be, and know no words that will make it go away, so I remain silent, pondering how I will feel when my mother dies.
Friday, a little after 11:00 am. After much debate, I have decided to return to the Regional Camp for the last game. My grandmother would have wanted me to finish what I'd started, even though she never quite understood our family's obsession with soccer. I also feel I hove an obligation to myself to follow through: I have worked so hard and so long to get to this point that I would be letting myself down if I didn't grasp my last opportunity to be selected. The coaches put me on the advanced team, the only one they really watch, and I block out all thoughts of my grandmother and play my heart out—for fifteen minutes. The game ends. Regional Camp is over, and I haven't made the team. Another blow. This is the first time someone has told me I'm not good enough at soccer and it hurts. I resolve to work harder.
Friday afternoon. I am on my way home, staring out the car window, seeing yet not seeing the trees rush by. As I reflect back on the events of these past few days, I find that my focus isn't on my failure to make the team. I think about how I've been able to help my aunt with her sorrow, and to overcome my own grief and continue to stride for success.
Your Notes and Reactions
Although this is an example of another dramatic essay, this one doesn't fall victim to the problems of the previous one. While it is about the writer's grand mother's death, it also manages to do much more. By using the backdrop of soccer tryouts, she is able to show the reader a glimpse of herself. What do we learn? Most importantly, that she comes from a strong family, she sometimes doubts her abilities but doesn't give up, and she's empathetic.
Her family's loss is also not described in overly-dramatic language, which is often a temptation for this subject. While obviously not upbeat, the tone isn't completely somber, either. The writer also uses an interesting and effective organization that grabs the reader's attention. The essay is broken down into scenarios which are ordered chronologically. Finally, it centers on a situation in which the end result wasn't a success, without making the writer seem like a failure (in fact, she may not have mentioned this soccer tryout on her application because of the result, but it works in the essay).
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