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Cultural Diversity Essay & Community Essay Examples

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If you’ve started to research college application requirements for the schools on your list, you might have come across the “cultural diversity essay.” In this guide, we’ll explore the cultural diversity essay in depth. We will compare the cultural diversity essay to the community essay and discuss how to approach these kinds of supplements. We’ll also provide examples of diversity essays and community essay examples. But first, let’s discuss exactly what a cultural diversity essay is. 

The purpose of the cultural diversity essay in college applications is to show the admissions committee what makes you unique. The cultural diversity essay also lets you describe what type of “ diversity ” you would bring to campus.

We’ll also highlight a diversity essay sample for three college applications. These include the Georgetown application essay , Rice application essay , and Williams application essay . We’ll provide examples of diversity essays for each college. Then, for each of these college essays that worked, we will analyze their strengths to help you craft your own essays. 

Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to write a cultural diversity essay that will make your applications shine. 

But first, let’s explore the types of college essays you might encounter on your college applications. 

Types of College Essays

cultural diversity essay

College application requirements will differ among schools. However, you’ll submit one piece of writing to nearly every school on your list—the personal statement . A strong personal statement can help you stand out in the admissions process. 

So, how do you know what to write about? That depends on the type of college essay included in your college application requirements. 

There are a few main types of college essays that you might encounter in the college admissions process. Theese include the “Why School ” essay, the “Why Major ” essay, and the extracurricular activity essay. This also includes the type of essay we will focus on in this guide—the cultural diversity essay. 

“Why School” essay

The “Why School ” essay is exactly what it sounds like. For this type of college essay, you’ll need to underscore why you want to go to this particular school. 

However, don’t make the mistake of just listing off what you like about the school. Additionally, don’t just reiterate information you can find on their admissions website. Instead, you’ll want to make connections between what the school offers and how you are a great fit for that college community. 

“Why Major” essay

The idea behind the “Why Major ” essay is similar to that of the “Why School ” essay above. However, instead of writing about the school at large, this essay should highlight why you plan to study your chosen major.

There are plenty of directions you could take with this type of essay. For instance, you might describe how you chose this major, what career you plan to pursue upon graduation, or other details.

Extracurricular Activity essay

The extracurricular activity essay asks you to elaborate on one of the activities that you participated in outside of the classroom. 

For this type of college essay, you’ll need to select an extracurricular activity that you pursued while you were in high school. Bonus points if you can tie your extracurricular activity into your future major, career goals, or other extracurricular activities for college. Overall, your extracurricular activity essay should go beyond your activities list. In doing so, it should highlight why your chosen activity matters to you.

Cultural Diversity essay

The cultural diversity essay is your chance to expound upon diversity in all its forms. Before you write your cultural diversity essay, you should ask yourself some key questions. These questions can include: How will you bring diversity to your future college campus? What unique perspective do you bring to the table? 

Another sub-category of the cultural diversity essay is the gender diversity essay. As its name suggests, this essay would center around the author’s gender. This essay would highlight how gender shapes the way the writer understands the world around them. 

Later, we’ll look at examples of diversity essays and other college essays that worked. But before we do, let’s figure out how to identify a cultural diversity essay in the first place. 

How to identify a ‘cultural diversity’ essay

cultural diversity essay

So, you’re wondering how you’ll be able to identify a cultural diversity essay as you review your college application requirements. 

Aside from the major giveaway of having the word “diversity” in the prompt, a cultural diversity essay will ask you to describe what makes you different from other applicants. In other words, what aspects of your unique culture(s) have influenced your perspective and shaped you into who you are today?

Diversity can refer to race, ethnicity, first-generation status, gender, or anything in between. You can write about a myriad of things in a cultural diversity essay. For instance, you might discuss your personal background, identity, values, experiences, or how you’ve overcome challenges in your life. 

However, don’t feel limited in what you can address in a cultural diversity essay. The words “culture” and “diversity” mean different things to different people. Above all, you’ll want your diversity essays for college to be personal and sincere. 

How is a ‘community’ essay different? 

cultural diversity essay

A community essay can also be considered a cultural diversity essay. In fact, you can think of the community essay as a subcategory of the cultural diversity essay. However, there is a key difference between a community essay and a cultural diversity essay, which we will illustrate below. 

You might have already seen some community essay examples while you were researching college application requirements. But how exactly is a community essay different from a cultural diversity essay?

One way to tell the difference between community essay examples and cultural diversity essay examples is by the prompt. A community essay will highlight, well, community . This means it will focus on how your identity will shape your interactions on campus—not just how it informs your own experiences.

Two common forms to look out for

Community essay examples can take two forms. First, you’ll find community essay examples about your past experiences. These let you show the admissions team how you have positively influenced your own community. 

Other community essay examples, however, will focus on the future. These community essay examples will ask you to detail how you will contribute to your future college community. We refer to these as college community essay examples.

In college community essay examples, you’ll see applicants detail how they might interact with their fellow students. These essays may also discuss how students plan to positively contribute to the campus community. 

As we mentioned above, the community essay, along with community essay examples and college community essay examples, fit into the larger category of the cultural diversity essay. Although we do not have specific community essay examples or college community essay examples in this guide, we will continue to highlight the subtle differences between the two. 

Before we continue the discussion of community essay examples and college community essay examples, let’s start with some examples of cultural diversity essay prompts. For each of the cultural diversity essay prompts, we’ll name the institutions that include these diversity essays for college as part of their college application requirements. 

What are some examples of ‘cultural diversity’ essays? 

Now, you have a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the cultural diversity essay and the community essay. So, next, let’s look at some examples of cultural diversity essay prompts.

The prompts below are from the Georgetown application, Rice application, and Williams application, respectively. As we discuss the similarities and differences between prompts, remember the framework we provided above for what constitutes a cultural diversity essay and a community essay. 

Later in this guide, we’ll provide real examples of diversity essays, including Georgetown essay examples, Rice University essay examples, and Williams supplemental essays examples. These are all considered college essays that worked—meaning that the author was accepted into that particular institution. 

Georgetown Supplementals Essays

cultural diversity essay

Later, we’ll look at Georgetown supplemental essay examples. Diversity essays for Georgetown are a product of this prompt: 

As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you. 

You might have noticed two keywords in this prompt right away: “diverse” and “community.” These buzzwords indicate that this prompt is a cultural diversity essay. You could even argue that responses to this prompt would result in college community essay examples. After all, the prompt refers to the Georgetown community. 

For this prompt, you’ll want to produce a diversity essay sample that highlights who you are. In order to do that successfully, you’ll need to self-reflect before putting pen to paper. What aspects of your background, personality, or values best describe who you are? How might your presence at Georgetown influence or contribute to their diverse community? 

Additionally, this cultural diversity essay can be personal or creative. So, you have more flexibility with the Georgetown supplemental essays than with other similar diversity essay prompts. Depending on the direction you go, your response to this prompt could be considered a cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or a college community essay. 

Rice University Essays

cultural diversity essay

The current Rice acceptance rate is just 9% , making it a highly selective school. Because the Rice acceptance rate is so low, your personal statement and supplemental essays can make a huge difference. 

The Rice University essay examples we’ll provide below are based on this prompt: 

The quality of Rice’s academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspective would you contribute to life at Rice? 

Breaking down the prompt.

Like the prompt above, this cultural diversity essay asks about your “life experiences,” “cultural traditions,” and personal “perspectives.” These phrases indicate a cultural diversity essay. Keep in mind this may not be the exact prompt you’ll have to answer in your own Rice application. However, future Rice prompts will likely follow a similar framework as this diversity essay sample.

Although this prompt is not as flexible as the Georgetown prompt, it does let you discuss aspects of Rice’s academic life and Residential College System that appeal to you. You can also highlight how your experiences have influenced your personal perspective. 

The prompt also asks about how you would contribute to life at Rice. So, your response could also fall in line with college community essay examples. Remember, college community essay examples are another sub-category of community essay examples. Successful college community essay examples will illustrate the ways in which students would contribute to their future campus community. 

Williams Supplemental Essays

cultural diversity essay

Like the Rice acceptance rate, the Williams acceptance rate is also 9% . Because the Williams acceptance rate is so low, you’ll want to pay close attention to the Williams supplemental essays examples as you begin the writing process. 

The Williams supplemental essays examples below are based on this prompt: 

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry – a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives, and interests they’ve ever encountered. What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an Entry? What perspective would you add to the conversation with your peer(s)?

Reflecting on the prompt.

Immediately, words like “diverse,” “backgrounds,” “perspectives,” “interests,” and “differentiate” should stand out to you. These keywords highlight the fact that this is a cultural diversity essay. Similar to the Rice essay, this may not be the exact prompt you’ll face on your Williams application. However, we can still learn from it.

Like the Georgetown essay, this prompt requires you to put in some self-reflection before you start writing. What aspects of your background differentiate you from other people? How would these differences impact your interactions with peers? 

This prompt also touches on the “student community” and how you would “add to the conversation with your peer(s).” By extension, any strong responses to this prompt could also be considered as college community essay examples. 

Community Essays

All of the prompts above mention campus community. So, you could argue that they are also examples of community essays. 

Like we mentioned above, you can think of community essays as a subcategory of the cultural diversity essay. If the prompt alludes to the campus community, or if your response is centered on how you would interact within that community, your essay likely falls into the world of college community essay examples. 

Regardless of what you would classify the essay as, all successful essays will be thoughtful, personal, and rich with details. We’ll show you examples of this in our “college essays that worked” section below. 

Which schools require a cultural diversity or community essay? 

Besides Georgetown, Rice, and Williams, many other college applications require a cultural diversity essay or community essay. In fact, from the Ivy League to HBCUs and state schools, the cultural diversity essay is a staple across college applications. 

Although we will not provide a diversity essay sample for each of the colleges below, it is helpful to read the prompts. This will build your familiarity with other college applications that require a cultural diversity essay or community essay. Some schools that require a cultural diversity essay or community essay include New York University , Duke University , Harvard University , Johns Hopkins University , and University of Michigan . 

New York University

cultural diversity essay

NYU listed a cultural diversity essay as part of its 2022-2023 college application requirements. Here is the prompt:

NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience. We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community.

Duke university.

cultural diversity essay

Duke is well-known for its community essay: 

What is your sense of Duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you? If there’s something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well.

cultural diversity essay

A top-ranked Ivy League institution, Harvard University also has a cultural diversity essay as part of its college application requirements: 

Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development, or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.

Johns hopkins university.

cultural diversity essay

The Johns Hopkins supplement is another example of a cultural diversity essay: 

Founded in the spirit of exploration and discovery, Johns Hopkins University encourages students to share their perspectives, develop their interests, and pursue new experiences. Use this space to share something you’d like the admissions committee to know about you (your interests, your background, your identity, or your community), and how it has shaped what you want to get out of your college experience at Hopkins. 

University of michigan.

cultural diversity essay

The University of Michigan requires a community essay for its application: 

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong and describe that community and your place within it. 

Community essay examples.

The Duke and Michigan prompts are perfect illustrations of community essay examples. However, they have some critical differences. So, if you apply to both of these schools, you’ll have to change the way you approach either of these community essays. 

The Duke prompt asks you to highlight why you are a good match for the Duke community. You’ll also see this prompt in other community essay examples. To write a successful response to this prompt, you’ll need to reference offerings specific to Duke (or whichever college requires this essay). In order to know what to reference, you’ll need to do your research before you start writing. 

Consider the following questions as you write your diversity essay sample if the prompt is similar to Duke University’s

  • What values does this college community have? 
  • How do these tie in with what you value? 
  • Is there something that this college offers that matches your interests, personality, or background?  

On the other hand, the Michigan essay prompt asks you to describe a community that you belong to as well as your place within that community. This is another variation of the prompt for community essay examples. 

To write a successful response to this prompt, you’ll need to identify a community that you belong to. Then, you’ll need to think critically about how you interact with that community. 

Below are some questions to consider as you write your diversity essay sample for colleges like Michigan: 

  • Out of all the communities you belong to, which can you highlight in your response? 
  • How have you impacted this community? 
  • How has this community impacted you?

Now, in the next few sections, we’ll dive into the Georgetown supplemental essay examples, the Rice university essay examples, and the Williams supplemental essays examples. After each diversity essay sample, we’ll include a breakdown of why these are considered college essays that worked. 

Georgetown Essay Examples

cultural diversity essay

As a reminder, the Georgetown essay examples respond to this prompt: 

As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.

Here is the excerpt of the diversity essay sample from our Georgetown essay examples: 

Georgetown University Essay Example

The best thing I ever did was skip eight days of school in a row. Despite the protests of teachers over missed class time, I told them that the world is my classroom. The lessons I remember most are those that took place during my annual family vacation to coastal Maine. That rural world is the most authentic and incredible classroom where learning simply happens and becomes exponential. 

Years ago, as I hunted through the rocks and seaweed for seaglass and mussels, I befriended a Maine local hauling her battered kayak on the shore. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had found a kindred spirit in Jeanne. Jeanne is a year-round resident who is more than the hard working, rugged Mainer that meets the eye; reserved and humble in nature, she is a wealth of knowledge and is self-taught through necessity. With thoughtful attention to detail, I engineered a primitive ramp made of driftwood and a pulley system to haul her kayak up the cliff. We diligently figured out complex problems and developed solutions through trial and error.

After running out of conventional materials, I recycled and reimagined items that had washed ashore. We expected to succeed, but were not afraid to fail. Working with Jeanne has been the best classroom in the world; without textbooks or technology, she has made a difference in my life. Whether building a basic irrigation system for her organic garden or installing solar panels to harness the sun’s energy, every project has shown me the value of taking action and making an impact. Each year brings a different project with new excitement and unique challenges. My resourcefulness, problem solving ability, and innovative thinking have advanced under her tutelage. 

While exploring the rocky coast of Maine, I embrace every experience as an unparalleled educational opportunity that transcends any classroom environment. I discovered that firsthand experience and real-world application of science are my best teachers. In school, applications of complex calculations and abstract theories are sometimes obscured by grades and structure. In Maine, I expand my love of science and renourish my curious spirit. I am a highly independent, frugal, resilient Mainer living as a southern girl in NC. 

Why this essay worked

This is one of the Georgetown supplemental essay examples that works, and here’s why. The author starts the essay with an interesting hook, which makes the reader want to learn more about this person and their perspective. 

Throughout the essay, the author illustrates their intellectual curiosity. From befriending Jeanne and creating a pulley system to engineering other projects on the rocky coast of Maine, the author demonstrates how they welcome challenges and work to solve problems. 

Further, the author mentions values that matter to them—taking action and making an impact. Both facets are also part of Georgetown’s core values . By making these connections in their essay, the author shows the admissions committee exactly how they would be a great fit for the Georgetown community. 

Finally, the author uses their experience in Maine to showcase their love of science, which is likely the field they will study at Georgetown. Like this writer, you should try to include most important parts of your identity into your essay. This includes things like life experiences, passions, majors, extracurricular activities for college, and more. 

Rice University Essay Examples

cultural diversity essay

The Rice University essay examples are from this prompt: 

The quality of Rice’s academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspective would you contribute to life at Rice? (500-word limit)

Rice university essay example.

Like every applicant, I also have a story to share. A story that makes me who I am and consists of chapters about my life experiences and adventures. Having been born in a different country, my journey to America was one of the most difficult things I had ever experienced. Everything felt different. The atmosphere, the places, the food, and especially the people. Everywhere I looked, I saw something new. Although it was a bit overwhelming, one thing had not changed.

The caring nature of the people was still prevalent in everyday interactions. I was overwhelmed by how supportive and understanding people were of one another. Whether it is race, religion, or culture, everyone was accepted and appreciated. I knew that I could be whoever I wanted to be and that the only limitation was my imagination. Through hard work and persistence I put my all in everything that I did. I get this work ethic from my father since he is living proof that anything can be accomplished with continued determination. Listening to the childhood stories he told me, my dad would reminisce about how he was born in an impoverished area in a third world country during a turbulent and unpredictable time.

Even with a passion for learning, he had to work a laborious job in an attempt to help his parents make ends meet. He talked about how he would study under the street lights when the power went out at home. His parents wanted something better for him, as did he. Not living in America changed nothing about their work ethic. His parents continued to work hard daily, in an attempt to provide for their son. My dad worked and studied countless hours, paying his way through school with jobs and scholarships. His efforts paid off when he finally moved to America and opened his own business. None of it would have been possible without tremendous effort and dedication needed for a better life, values that are instilled within me as well, and this is the perspective that I wish to bring to Rice. 

This diversity essay sample references the author’s unique life experiences and personal perspective, which makes it one example of college essays that worked. The author begins the essay by alluding to their unique story—they were born in a different country and then came to America. Instead of facing this change as a challenge, the author shows how this new experience helped them to feel comfortable with all kinds of people. They also highlight how their diversity was accepted and appreciated. 

Additionally, the author incorporates information about their father’s story, which helps to frame their own values and where those values came from. The values that they chose to highlight also fall in line with the values of the Rice community. 

Williams Supplemental Essay Examples

cultural diversity essay

Let’s read the prompt that inspired so many strong Williams supplemental essays examples again: 

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry—a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they’ve ever encountered. What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

Williams college essay example.

Through the flow in my head

See you clad in red

But not just the clothes

It’s your whole being

Covering in this sickening blanket

Of heat and pain

Are you in agony, I wonder?

Is this the hell they told me about?

Have we been condemned?

Reduced to nothing but pain

At least we have each other

In our envelopes of crimson

I try in vain

“Take my hands” I shriek

“Let’s protect each other, 

You and me, through this hell”

My body contorts

And deforms into nothingness

You remain the same

Clad in red

With faraway eyes

You, like a statue

Your eyes fixed somewhere else

You never see me

Just the red briefcase in your heart

We aren’t together

It’s always been me alone

While you stand there, aloof, with the briefcase in your heart.

I wrote this poem the day my prayer request for the Uighur Muslims got denied at school. At the time, I was stunned. I was taught to have empathy for those around me. Yet, that empathy disappears when told to extend it to someone different. I can’t comprehend this contradiction and I refuse to. 

At Williams, I hope to become a Community Engagement Fellow at the Davis Center. I hope to use Williams’ support for social justice and advocacy to educate my fellow classmates on social issues around the world. Williams students are not just scholars but also leaders and changemakers. Together, we can strive to better the world through advocacy.

Human’s capability for love is endless. We just need to open our hearts to everyone. 

It’s time to let the briefcase go and look at those around us with our real human eyes.

We see you now. Please forgive us.

As we mentioned above, the Williams acceptance rate is incredibly low. This makes the supplemental essay that much more important. 

This diversity essay sample works because it is personal and memorable. The author chooses to start the essay off with a poem. Which, if done right, will immediately grab the reader’s attention. 

Further, the author contextualizes the poem by explaining the circumstances surrounding it—they wrote it in response to a prayer request that was denied at school. In doing so, they also highlight their own values of empathy and embracing diversity. 

Finally, the author ends their cultural diversity essay by describing what excites them about Williams. They also discuss how they see themselves interacting within the Williams community. This is a key piece of the essay, as it helps the reader understand how the author would be a good fit for Williams. 

The examples provided within this essay also touch on issues that are important to the author, which provides a glimpse into the type of student the author would be on campus. Additionally, this response shows what potential extracurricular activities for college the author might be interested in pursuing while at Williams. 

How to Write a Cultural Diversity Essay

You want your diversity essay to stand out from any other diversity essay sample. But how do you write a successful cultural diversity essay? 

First, consider what pieces of your identity you want to highlight in your essay. Of course, race and ethnicity are important facets of diversity. However, there are plenty of other factors to consider. 

As you brainstorm, think outside the box to figure out what aspects of your identity help make up who you are. Because identity and diversity fall on a spectrum, there is no right or wrong answer here. 

Fit your ideas to the specific school

Once you’ve decided on what you want to represent in your cultural diversity essay, think about how that fits into the college of your choice. Use your cultural diversity essay to make connections to the school. If your college has specific values or programs that align with your identity, then include them in your cultural diversity essay! 

Above all, you should write about something that is important to you. Your cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or community essay will succeed if you are passionate about your topic and willing to get personal. 

Additional Tips for Community & Cultural Diversity Essays

cultural diversity essay

1. Start Early

In order to create the strongest diversity essay possible, you’ll want to start early. Filling out college applications is already a time-consuming process. So, you can cut back on additional stress and anxiety by writing your cultural diversity essay as early as possible. 

2. Brainstorm

Writing a cultural diversity essay or community essay is a personal process. To set yourself up for success, take time to brainstorm and reflect on your topic. Overall, you want your cultural diversity essay to be a good indication of who you are and what makes you a unique applicant. 

3. Proofread

We can’t stress this final tip enough. Be sure to proofread your cultural diversity essay before you hit the submit button. Additionally, you can read your essay aloud to hear how it flows. You can also can ask someone you trust, like your college advisor or a teacher, to help proofread your essay as well.

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore

Looking for additional resources on supplemental essays for the colleges we mentioned above? Do you need help with incorporating extracurricular activities for college into your essays or crafting a strong diversity essay sample? We’ve got you covered. 

Our how to get into Georgetown guide covers additional tips on how to approach the supplemental diversity essay. If you’re wondering how to write about community in your essay, check out our campus community article for an insider’s perspective on Williams College.

Want to learn strategies for writing compelling cultural diversity essays? Check out this Q&A webinar, featuring a former Georgetown admissions officer. And, if you’re still unsure of what to highlight in your community essay, try getting inspiration from a virtual college tour . 

Cultural Diversity Essay & Community Essay Examples – Final Thoughts

Your supplemental essays are an important piece of the college application puzzle. With colleges becoming more competitive than ever, you’ll want to do everything you can to create a strong candidate profile. This includes writing well-crafted responses for a cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or community essay. 

We hope our cultural diversity essay guide helped you learn more about this common type of supplemental essay. As you are writing your own cultural diversity essay or community essay, use the essay examples from Georgetown, Rice, and Williams above as your guide. 

Getting into top schools takes a lot more than a strong resume. Writing specific, thoughtful, and personal responses for a cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or community essay will put you one step closer to maximizing your chances of admission. Good luck!

CollegeAdvisor.com is here to help you with every aspect of the college admissions process. From taking a gap year to completing enrollment , we’re here to help. Register today to receive one-on-one support from an admissions expert as you begin your college application journey.

college essay examples on culture

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The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.

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Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

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Craft Your Perfect College Essay

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018

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Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.

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Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.

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Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.

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An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

college essay examples on culture

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Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.

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An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.

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Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.

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#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

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What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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How to Write a College Diversity Essay – Examples & Tips

college essay examples on culture

What is a diversity essay for college?

If you are preparing for your college application, you have probably heard that you sometimes need to submit a “diversity essay,” and you might be wondering how this is different from the usual admission essay. A diversity essay is a college admissions essay that focuses on the applicant’s background, identity, culture, beliefs, or relationship with a specific community, on what makes an applicant unique, and on how they might bring a fresh perspective or new insights to a school’s student body. Colleges let applicants write such essays to ensure diversity in their campus communities, to improve everyone’s learning experience, or to determine who might be eligible for scholarships that are offered to students from generally underrepresented backgrounds. 

Some colleges list the essay as one of their main requirements to apply, while others give you the option to add it to your application if you wish to do so. At other schools, it is simply your “personal statement”—but the prompts you are given can make it an essay on the topic of diversity in your life and how that has shaped who you are.

To write a diversity essay, you need to think about what makes you uniquely you: What significant experiences have you made, because of your background, that might separate you from other applicants? Sometimes that is obvious, but sometimes it is easy to assume our experiences are normal just because we are part of a community that shares the same circumstances, beliefs, or experiences. But if you look at your life from the perspective of someone who is not part of that community, such as an admissions officer, they can suddenly be not-so-common and help you stand out from the crowd.

Diversity Essay Examples and Topics

Diversity essays come in all shapes and formats, but what they need to do is highlight an important aspect of your identity, background, culture, viewpoints, beliefs, goals, etc. You could, for example, write about one of the following topics:

  • Your home country/hometown
  • Your cultural/immigration background
  • Your race/ethnicity
  • Your unique family circumstances
  • Your religion/belief system
  • Your socioeconomic background
  • Your disability
  • Your sex/gender
  • Your sexual orientation
  • Your gender identity
  • Your values/opinions
  • Your experiences
  • Your extracurricular activities related to diversity

In the following, we ask some general questions to make you start reflecting on what diversity might mean for you and your life, and we present you with excerpts from several successful diversity-related application essays that will give you an idea about the range of topics you can write about.

How does diversity make you who you are as a person or student?

We usually want to fit in, especially when we are young, and you might not even realize that you and your life experiences could add to the diversity of a student campus. You might think that you are just like everyone around you. Or you might think that your background is nothing to brag about and are not really comfortable showcasing it. But looking at you and your life from the point of view of someone who is not part of your community, your background, culture, or family situation might actually be unique and interesting. 

What makes admission committees see the unique and interesting in your life is an authentic story, maybe even a bit vulnerable, about your lived experiences and the lessons you learned from them that other people who lived other lifes did not have the chance to learn. Don’t try to explain how you are different from others or how you have been more privileged or less fortunate than others—let your story do that. Keep the focus on yourself, your actions, thoughts, and feelings, and allow the reader a glimpse into your culture, upbringing, or community that gives them some intriguing insights. 

Have a look at the excerpt below from a diversity essay that got an applicant into Cornell University . This is just the introduction, but there is probably no admissions officer who would not want to keep reading after such a fascinating entry. 

He’s in my arms, the newest addition to the family. I’m too overwhelmed. “That’s why I wanted you to go to Bishop Loughlin,” she says, preparing baby bottles. “But ma, I chose Tech because I wanted to be challenged.” “Well, you’re going to have to deal with it,” she replies, adding, “Your aunt watched you when she was in high school.” “But ma, there are three of them. It’s hard!” Returning home from a summer program that cemented intellectual and social independence to find a new baby was not exactly thrilling. Add him to the toddler and seven-year-old sister I have and there’s no wonder why I sing songs from Blue’s Clues and The Backyardigans instead of sane seventeen-year-old activities. It’s never been simple; as a female and the oldest, I’m to significantly rear the children and clean up the shabby apartment before an ounce of pseudo freedom reaches my hands. If I can manage to get my toddler brother onto the city bus and take him home from daycare without snot on my shoulder, and if I can manage to take off his coat and sneakers without demonic screaming for no apparent reason, then it’s a good day. Only, waking up at three in the morning to work, the only free time I have, is not my cup of Starbucks.  Excerpt from “All Worth It”, Anonymous, published in 50 Successful IVY LEAGUE Application Essays Fourth Edition, Gen & Kelly Tanabe, SuperCollege, 2017 .

How has your identity or background affected your life?

On top of sharing a relevant personal story, you also need to make sure that your essay illustrates how your lived experience has influenced your perspective, your life choices, or your goals. If you can explain how your background or experience led you to apply to the school you want to submit the essay to, and why you would be a great fit for that school, even better. 

You don’t need to fit all of that into one short essay, though. Just make sure to end your essay with some conclusions about the things your life has taught you that will give the admissions committee a better idea of who you now are—like the author of the following (winning) admissions essay submitted to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) .

[…] I always thought that I had it the worst out of all my family members because I was never allowed to get anything lower than what my brother or a cousin had gotten in a class. My parents figured if they could do it, so could I, and if not on my own then with a little of their help. It was not until recently that I realized the truth in this. In my short life I have seen my father go from speaking no English to excelling in it. I have heard countless stories about migrant farmers such as Cesar Chavez and my grandfather who had nearly nothing, yet persisted and succeeded. […] When I had trouble speaking Spanish and felt like abandoning my native tongue, I remembered my mother and how when she came to the United States she was forced to wash her mouth out with soap and endure beatings with a ruler by the nuns at her school for speaking it. When I couldn’t figure out tangents, sines, and cosines I thought about my father and how it took him nearly a year to learn long division because he was forced to teach it to himself after dropping out and starting to work in the 4th grade. […] All these people, just from my family, have been strong role models for me. I feel that being labeled “underprivileged” does not mean that I am limited in what I can do. There is no reason for me to fail or give up, and like my parents and grandparents have done, I’ve been able to pull through a great deal. My environment has made me determined, hard working, and high aiming. I would not like it any other way. From “Lessons From the Immigration Spectrum”, Anonymous, MIT, published in 50 Successful IVY LEAGUE Application Essays Fourth Edition, Gen & Kelly Tanabe, SuperCollege, 2017 .

How will your diversity contribute to the college campus and community?

The admissions committee would like to know how your identity or background will enrich the university’s existing student body. If you haven’t done so, researching the university’s organizations and groups and what specific courses the university offers might be a good idea. If you are applying to a large public school, you could mention that you are looking forward to broadening not just your horizon but also your community. Or maybe your college of choice has a specialized program or student organization that you feel you will fit right into and that you could contribute to with your unique background.

Tailoring your answer to the university you are applying to shows that you are serious and have done your research, and a university is obviously looking for such students. If you can’t find a way to make your essay “match” the university, then don’t despair—showing the admissions committee that you are someone who already made some important experiences, has reflected on them, and is eager to learn more and contribute to their community is often all that is needed. But you also don’t need to search for the most sophisticated outro or conclusion, as the following excerpt shows, from an admission essay written by an applicant named Angelica, who was accepted into the University of Chicago . Sometimes a simple conviction is convincing enough. 

[…] The knowledge that I have gained from these three schools is something I will take with me far beyond college. My roommate, across-the-hall mates, and classmates have influenced my life as much as I hope to have impacted theirs. It is evident to me that they have helped me develop into the very much visible person I am today. I have learned to step outside of my comfort zone, and I have learned that diversity is so much more than the tint of our skin. My small mustard-colored school taught me that opportunity and success only requires desire. I would be an asset to your college because as I continue on my journey to success, I will take advantage of every opportunity that is available to me and make sure to contribute as much as I can, too. Now I am visible. Now I am visible. Now I am visible, and I want to be seen. From “No Longer Invisible” by Angelica, University of Chicago, published in 50 Successful IVY LEAGUE Application Essays Fourth Edition, Gen & Kelly Tanabe, SuperCollege, 2017 .

how to write a diversity essay, small globe being held, kids in a hallway

Tell stories about your lived experience

You might wonder how exactly to go about writing stories about your “lived experience.” The first step, after getting drawing inspiration from other people’s stories, is to sit down and reflect on your own life and what might be interesting about it, from the point of view of someone outside of your direct environment or community.

Two straightforward approaches for a diversity-related essay are to either focus on your community or on your identity . The first one is more related to what you were born into (and what it taught you), and the second one focuses on how you see yourself, as an individual but also as part of society.

Take some time to sit down and reflect on which of these two approaches you relate to more and which one you think you have more to say about. And then we’d recommend you do what always helps when we sit in front of a blank page that needs to be filled: Make a list or draw a chart or create a map of keywords that can become the cornerstones of your story.

For example, if you choose the “community” approach, then start with a list of all the communities that you are a part of. These communities can be defined by different factors:

  • A shared place: people live or work together
  • Shared actions: People create something together or solve problems together
  • Shared interests: People come together based on interests, hobbies, or goals
  • Shared circumstances: people are brought together by chance or by events

Once you have that list, pick one of your communities and start asking yourself more specific questions. For example: 

  • What did you do as a member of that community? 
  • What kinds of problems did you solve , for your community or together?
  • Did you feel like you had an impact ? What was it?
  • What did you learn or realize ? 
  • How are you going to apply what you learned outside of that community?

If, instead, you choose the “identity” approach, then think about different ways in which you think about yourself and make a list of those. For example:

My identity is as a… 

  • boy scout leader
  • hobby writer
  • babysitter for my younger siblings
  • speaker of different languages
  • collector of insightful proverbs
  • Japanese-American
  • other roles in your family, community, or social sub-group

Feel free to list as many identities as you can. Then, think about what different sides of you these identities reveal and which ones you have not yet shown or addressed in your other application documents and essays. Think about whether one of these is more important to you than others if there is one that you’d rather like to hide (and why) and if there is any struggle, for example with reconciling all of these sides of yourself or with one of them not being accepted by your culture or environment.

Overall, the most important characteristic admissions committees are looking for in your diversity essay is authenticity . They want to know who you are, behind your SATs and grades, and how you got where you are now, and they want to see what makes you memorable (remember, they have to read thousands of essays to decide who to enroll). 

The admissions committee members likely also have a “sixth sense” about whose essay is authentic and whose is not. But if you go through a creative process like the one outlined here, you will automatically reflect on your background and experiences in a way that will bring out your authenticity and honesty and prevent you from just making up a “cool story.”

Diversity Essay Sample Prompts From Colleges

If you are still not sure how to write a diversity essay, let’s have a look at some of the actual diversity essay prompts that colleges include in their applications. 

Diversity Essay Sample #1: University of California

The University of California asks applicants to choose between eight prompts (they call them “ personal insight questions “) and submit four short essays of up to 350 words each that tell the admission committee what you would want them to know about you . These prompts ask about your creative side (#2), your greatest talent (#3), and other aspects of your personality, but two of them (#5 and #7) are what could be called “diversity essay prompts” that ask you to talk about the most significant challenge you have faced and what you have done to make your community a better place .

The University of California website also offers advice on how to use these prompts and how to write a compelling essay, so make sure you use all the guidance they give you if that is the school you are trying to get into!

UC Essay prompt #5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

Things to consider: A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?

UC Essay prompt #7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  

Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team, or place—like your high school, hometown, or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community? Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? 

Diversity Essay Sample #2: Duke University

Duke University asks for a one-page essay in response to either one of the Common Application prompts or one of the Coalition Application prompts, as well as a short essay that answers a question specific to Duke. 

In addition, you can (but do not have to) submit up to two short answers to four prompts that specifically ask about your unique experiences, your beliefs and values, and your background and identity. The maximum word count for each of these short essays on diversity topics is 250 words.

Essay prompt #1. We seek a diverse student body that embodies the wide range of human experience. In that context, we are interested in what you’d like to share about your lived experiences and how they’ve influenced how you think of yourself. Essay prompt #2. We believe there is benefit in sharing and sometimes questioning our beliefs or values; who do you agree with on the big important things, or who do you have your most interesting disagreements with? What are you agreeing or disagreeing about? Essay prompt #3. What has been your best academic experience in the last two years, and what made it so good? Essay prompt #4. Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you’d like to share with us more about your identity in this context, feel free to do so here.

Duke University is looking for students with a variety of different experiences, backgrounds, interests, and opinions to make its campus community diverse and a place where ambition and curiosity, talent and persistence can grow, and the admissions committee will “consider what you have accomplished within the context of your opportunities and challenges so far”—make sure you tell them!

Diversity Essay Sample #3: University of Washington

The University of Washington asks students for a long essay (650 words) on a general experience that shaped your character, a short essay (300 words) that describes the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of your future university and allows you to submit additional information on potential hardships or limitations you have experienced in attaining your education so far. The University of Washington freshman writing website also offers some tips on how to (and how not to) write and format your essays.

Essay prompt [required] Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

Short response prompt [required] Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. “Community” might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW.

Additional information about yourself or your circumstances [optional] You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:

– You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education

– Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations

– You have experienced limitations/opportunities unique to the schools you attended

The University of Washington’s mission is to enroll undergraduates with outstanding intellectual abilities who bring different perspectives, backgrounds, and talents to the campus to create a “stimulating educational environment”. The diversity essay is your chance to let them know how you will contribute to that.

Diversity Essay Sample #4: University of Michigan

At the University of Michigan, a diversity college essay that describes one of the communities (defined by geography, religion, ethnicity, income, or other factors) you belong to is one of two required essays that need to be submitted by all applicants, on top of the Common Application essay. 

Diversity essay prompt. Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.

The University of Michigan prides itself in “looking at each student as a whole package” and recruiting the most dynamic students, with different backgrounds, interests, and passions, into their college, not just the ones with the highest test scores. They also give consideration to applicants from currently underrepresented groups to create diversity on campus and enrich the learning environment for all students—if that sounds like you, then here is your opportunity to tell your story!

Frequently Asked Questions about Diversity Essays

What topics should i avoid in my college diversity essay.

Since the point of a diversity essay is to show the admissions committee who you are (behind your grades and resume and general educational background), there are not many topics you need to avoid. In fact, you can address the issues, from your own perspective, that you are usually told not to mention in order not to offend anyone or create controversy. 

The only exception is any kind of criminal activity, especially child abuse and neglect. The University of Washington, for example, has a statement on its essay prompt website that “ any written materials that give admissions staff reasonable cause to believe abuse or neglect of someone under the age of 18 may have occurred must be reported to Child Protective Services or the police. ”

What is most important to focus on in my diversity essay?

In brief, to stand out while not giving the admissions committee any reason to believe that you are exaggerating or even making things up. Your story needs to be authentic, and admissions officers—who read thousands of applications—will probably see right through you if you are trying to make yourself sound cooler, more mature, or more interesting than you are. 

In addition, make sure you let someone, preferably a professional editor, read over your essays and make sure they are well-written and error-free. Even though you are telling your personal story, it needs to be presented in standard, formal, correct English.

How long should a diversity essay be?

Every school has different requirements for their version of a diversity essay, and you will find all the necessary details on their admissions or essay prompts website. Make sure you check the word limit and other guidelines before you start typing away!

Prepare your college diversity essay for admission

Now that you know what a diversity essay is and how you find the specific requirements for the essays you need to submit to your school of choice, make sure you plan in advance and give yourself enough time to put all your effort into it! Our article How to Write the Common App Essay can give you an idea about timelines and creative preparation methods. And as always, we can help you with our professional editing services , including Application Essay Editing Services and Admission Editing Services , to ensure that your entire application is error-free and showcases your potential to the admissions committee of your school of choice.

For more academic resources on writing the statement of purpose for grad school or on the college admission process in general, head over to our Admissions Resources website where we have many more articles and videos to help you improve your essay writing skills.

612 Culture Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

If you are writing a culture essay, topics are easy to find. However, their abundance can quickly become overwhelming – so we prepared this handy list of culture title ideas, along with writing tips and examples.

🤫 Culture Essays: Topics and Writing Tips

🏆 best culture topic ideas & essay examples, 👍 good essay topics about culture, 🎓 simple & easy culture title ideas, 📌 cultural topics and writing prompts, 🥇 most interesting culture topics to write about, ❓ research questions about culture.

Describing culture is a challenging task. You have probably stumbled across the concept if you study sociology, media, or a variety of other subjects. There are many cultural differences across the Earth. Each nation, community, and subgroup of people have its own values, vocabulary, and customs. In the 21st century, we can document and share them thanks to cross-cultural communication.

Since there is an almost infinite number of things to consider about this broad topic, our team has collected 582 topics about culture. Check them out on this page!

Culture essays present excellent opportunities for conducting extensive research. They allow students to analyze acute global problems and investigate the topic of diversity, customs, and traditions, as well as the significance of individuals’ cultural backgrounds. You can choose one of the many topics for your culture essay. You can find culture essay ideas online or ask your professor.

We suggest the following culture essay topics and titles:

  • The significance of cultural identity in an individual
  • Culture as a political instrument in the modern world
  • The differences between the Eastern and the Western culture
  • The role of culture in people from mixed origins
  • The impact of religious views on culture
  • Cultural diversity in the workplace
  • Are there similarities among different cultures?
  • The link between culture and gender roles

After selecting culture essay questions for discussion, you can start working on your paper. Here are some secrets of the powerful paper on the topic:

  • Conduct preliminary research on the selected issue. Remember that you should find as much relevant information as possible while presenting a multifaceted perspective on the issue. Ask your professor about the sources you can use and stick to the instructions. Avoid using personal blogs or Wikipedia as the primary sources of information. Do not make a statement if you cannot support it with evidence.
  • If you are writing a paper about a particular culture, think about whether you can talk to someone coming from this background. Such an approach can help you to include all the relevant information in your paper and avoid possible crucial mistakes.
  • Remember that a well-organized culture essay outline is key for your paper. Think of the main points you want to discuss and decide how you structure your paper. Remember that each topic or subtopic should be stated in a separate paragraph, if possible.
  • If it is necessary, check out essay examples online to see how you can organize the information. In addition, this step can help you to evaluate the relevance of the issue you want to discuss. Remember to include an introductory and concluding paragraph in which you will state the main points and findings of your paper.
  • Avoid discriminating against some cultures in your essay. Remember that even if you do not understand the causes of some behaviors or norms, you should not criticize them in your paper. Instead, help the reader to understand them better and provide insight into important differences between cultures.
  • Be accepting and try to be as accurate as possible. Support your claims with evidence from your preliminary research.
  • If relevant, include graphs and charts to represent significant information. For example, you can visualize the presence of diversity in the workplace in different countries.
  • Remember that the reader should understand the goal and idea of your paper clearly. Define all terms and avoid using overly complex sentences. Be concise but provide enough relevant information on the topic.
  • Make sure that you use correct grammar and sentence structures in your essay. Even an excellent essay can look bad with grammatical mistakes. Grammar-free papers allow the reader to see that your opinion is credible. Check the essay several times before sending it to your instructor.

Do not forget to find a free sample in our collection that will help you get the best ideas for your writing!

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  • Cultural Competence and the Patient-Clinician Relationship Williams that influence the decisions and the health care outcomes of the families he works with are cultural incompetence, language, family beliefs, views, experiences and backgrounds of those families.Dr.
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  • Self Esteem and Culture in a Learning Environment Reflectively, the conceptual idea of this treatise is an in-depth analysis of the aspects of social environment and objective and their influence on quality of learning, self-evaluation, goal setting, decision making, and inclusive education as […]
  • Effect of Economy on Culture and Social Structure They face the challenge to decide on the amount and forms of the new development that the society can confront so that not to put lives of the members of the community at risk.
  • Culture Clash as a Great Conflict The way of life of people is a measure of their level of civilization. That is the reason as to why there is a big disparity on the issue of abortion.
  • Inter-Cultural Communication Skills in Career Goal at the Contemporary Workplace It will be necessary for me to use emotional intelligence, for example in a scenario where the customer was mean or rude to one of my graphic designers’ due to dissatisfaction, it will be imperative […]
  • Threats of Globalization on Culture of Individual Countries The world has become a “global village” this is due to the expansion of communication networks, the rapid information exchange and the lifting of barriers of visas and passports.
  • The Value of Cultural Diversity in Different Social Settings In particular, the brief summaries have given the clear picture of Multiculturalism in the United States in relation to the origin.
  • People and Culture in Morocco High levels of young people unemployment and corruption is a major problem in the country. In addition, the country has a rich cultural heritage and arts.
  • The Effect of the American Culture on My Use of Language The fact that the UK and the US use different languages from the one I was used to presented a big challenge since I had to learn the language again.
  • Understanding the Significance of Diwali as a Representation of Indian Culture The aim of this thesis is to understand the close relationship between the popular Hindu festival, Diwali and efforts being made by the global Indian diaspora to perpetuate their old country’s traditions and culture in […]
  • Shaking Hand & Kissing: Cultural Aspect I was nervous as I went on kissing and shaking hands with strangers in the town since I was aware that kissing and shaking hands to strangers is not a social norm in America and […]
  • Hinduism’s Cultural and Religious Opinions As a result, it is not easy to trace the history of Hinduism and the Hindus are not concerned about the specific dates when the religion might have started.
  • Comparison of the Australian and Indonesian Culture On the other hand, Indonesia is one of the countries with the largest population in the world and it has over two hundred ethnic groups who use different languages. Marriage is also important in the […]
  • Cultural Awareness and Diversity in the Workplace Employees can do research about the culture of their work mates during their free time in order to enhance their cultural knowledge and understanding.
  • The Culture of Heavy Metal Those who observe the metal culture in the Middle East, and who are mainly radicals, seeking to create a different system that forms up an open and democratic culture right from the ground to the […]
  • Fame and Notoriety in Contemporary Culture An example of such influence is common in young people, who seem to believe and follow the culture of the famous people.
  • Roman & Greek Mythology in Pop Culture: Examples, Referenses, & Allusions One of the most famous examples of the use of the characters taken from Greek mythology in pop culture must be the mentioning of the famous goddess, Venus, in advertising, which is, in fact, based […]
  • The Influence of Heavy Metal on Japanese Culture In Japan, the association involving the realm of heavy metal music and personal distinctions has been surveyed in a number of studies.
  • Hip-Hop and the Japanese Culture The prevalence of soul dancing in Japan in the earlier years also formed the basis for the wide acceptance of the hip-hop culture into the Japanese culture because soul dancing was common in the streets […]
  • Issues of Japanese Cultural Identity The other way the anime productions deal with the issues of the Japanese and their cultural identity is by presenting the aspects and ideas that define the people of Japan.
  • Political Economy and Culture in Japan A strong work ethic and management culture in the commerce and manufacturing industry has ensured the prosperity of the Japanese economy. A good example of the interaction of political economics and culture is the case […]
  • Stoning in the Twenty-First Century: The Dangers of Cultural Relativism This is another issue that should be considered by people who believe that ethical norms should be assessed within the context of a culture.
  • The Aspects of Hispanic History and Culture S history emphasize on how the British colonies of North America were found and their subsequent growth, their gaining of independence in 1776 and the east to west growth of the U.S.
  • Influence of the Consumption Phenomenon on Japan’s Social Culture The present society in Japan is founded on the concepts of bettering the welfare of people. Another vital aspect that is worth noting is that the Japanese society is exceptional in because of the presence […]
  • Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution With the fine details included in the memoir, it helps a reader to walk through the Chinese revolutionary era and witness the havoc that the revolution triggered by Mao Zedong had on the Chinese people. […]
  • Aboriginal Affairs: Social, Cultural, and Economic Factors and Equal Political Representation To date, the Aboriginal peoples of Canada continue to play a dominant role in the public arena of Canadian national celebrations in recognition of the substantial contributions they have made to Canada.
  • Impact of Culture on Communication Reflective Essay And also the differential consideration by the society to men and women, the approach of people in the lower strata of the society towards the social difference and the attitude of people to avoid uncertainty […]
  • Perspectives in African American History and Culture The point is that a person has both, mind and body, and if a person could not accept the idea of being enslaved, he/she was not a slave.
  • Devotion to Traditions and Culture in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart is a literary work that represents the development of several different ideas like the importance of religion, significance of culture, and power that leads to conflicts of different types; Chinua Achebe made […]
  • Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism: America and Other Countries In order not to become self-absorbed, it is necessary to train the sense of cultural relativism in the society and make certain differentiations between the idea of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.
  • American History: The Problem of Education in American Culture To solve the problem of education in America, it is necessary to analyze and improve education policies, extirpate the problem of racism, create programs to help students who cannot choose institutions according to their own […]
  • Cultural and Political Essence of the “American History X” Film It is a flashback where Derek transforms to a supremacist after the death of his father in the hands of black thugs.
  • Redneck Culture This is not true; redneck culture represents a way of life of the southern people and may include other people too.
  • Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of Language Fantini on Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of Language to determine the ways in which the language reflects the culture and its worldview.
  • Depression: A Cross-Cultural Perspective This research paper seeks to explore depression from a cross-cultural perspective with key focus on the conceptions of depression, its epidemiological aspects, different manifestations of depression, the evaluation of depression as a disorder, and the […]
  • Contemporary Issues in Cultural & Cross-Cultural Psychology The difference between cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology emanates from the fact that psychologists in cross-cultural psychology commonly use cultural frameworks as a means of assessing the universality of psychological practices and processes, while psychologists […]
  • Adolescents and Popular Culture: A Critical Analysis on Blogging Culture It is the purpose of this research paper to critically evaluate the popular culture of blogging among adolescents with the premise that it reinforces pro-social activities and self esteem among the teenagers.
  • Cultural Identity in “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith Exploring the thematic significance of the novels title “White Teeth” it would be instrumental to argue that the title touches on the aspects of cultural identity.
  • Cultural Representation of Social Class Viewing the society in a hierarchical manner, the Upper class can be considered as the group of people at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the Middle class and then the Lower class at […]
  • Helping Chung Overcome Cultural Differences His parents emphasized that he would have to master this language in order to enable him to communicate with the people he was going to meet in the new country.
  • Multicultural Education: Concepts and Strategies Multicultural education is different from other forms of education in the sense that apart from being based on theoretical concepts also entrenches the use of practical strategies to ensure that students are in a position […]
  • Multicultural Differences in Modern World Among other concepts, ethnic identity and acculturation have been pointed out as the most crucial in enhancing the understanding of cultural differences, particularly by social and psychological researchers.
  • Political and Cultural Impact of Alexander the Great’s Conquests Due to many territories that he conquered, the dominion that Alexander the Great had was regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the world.
  • Caribbean Rum: History and Culture The origin of the Caribbean rum goes back to the introduction of sugarcane in the Caribbean in the 15th century by Christopher Columbus.
  • Developing the Cultural Diversity at the Workplace The managers have to present clients with a diverse representation in the firm thus the need to ensure sharing of common grounds between the client and the server.
  • Popular American Culture: Development and Changes In nature, human beings are social animals; therefore, they would seize any opportunity to socialize and this explains why many people are members of one or more social networking sites.
  • The Cultural Patterns of the Mexican Americans The continued colonization of the Mexican Americans in the form of low-wage jobs for the better part of the 20th century was met with resistance and protest by the Mexican Americans as they endeavored to […]
  • Film History as Cultural Myth-Making The director of the film utilizes the visual stereotypes of the Australian desert landscapes for producing the effect of isolation of the country from the rest of the world.
  • Aspects of the Male Divine in Contemporary Culture Various tales therefore link the male god to the sky and portray him as the real comrade of the earthly goddess. Zeus in the Greek mythology represents stories of the gods and heroes.
  • Mexican Politics, Culture and Drug Wars The 10-year civil war of Mexico that lasted from 1910 to 1920 is believed to be the key that opened up the doors to the new constitution of 1917.
  • Overview of the Native American Culture Apart from the high standards of quality attained from products of Native American art, the contemporary artists working in literary fields is a source of pride Survival According to Belgrad, the American Indian is branded […]
  • Harlem Renaissance: The Cultural Movement In 1931, she collaborated with Langston Hughes in the production of the play “Mule Bone,” which was never published because of the tension between the two writers, and in 1934, she authored her first novel, […]
  • Nacirema Culture Characteristics of American culture share the same characteristics with the Nacirema culture because they are hardworking and rich, ritualistic in their daily routine, civilized in their living standards and are a healthy society.
  • Diversity and Inclusion of Culture in Teaching Process It is manifested in the themes such as education in terms of how they perceive it and their levels of learning, religious beliefs; concepts of art such as music, literature, politics aspirations and attitudes of […]
  • Concept of the Multicultural Education It is also possible to ask children to copy one of the pictures on the walls. Moreover, it is necessary to encourage people to start the discussion of such issues so that appropriate materials for […]
  • Film and Multiculturalism: Zack Snyder’s “300” Apparently, the cultural uniqueness, on the part of White people, does not solely refer to their talent in baby-making, as it is usually the case with people in Third World countries, but to their acute […]
  • Geological and Cultural Importance of Deer Creek Park (Colorado) The most powerful force that is recognized in the formation of this park is erosion by water and wind. In conclusion, the geological and the cultural aspects of the park have made it of value.
  • Maintaining a Diverse Heritage in America In order for a nation to remain one, the people have to accept the diversity of cultures in the nation and appreciate each other’s culture.
  • Cross Cultural Communications in the Globalized World Among the cultures that have always been in conflict are the Islamic culture and the American culture. Assimilation in the American and Islamic cultures is desirable if effective communication is to occur between adherents of […]
  • Cross Cultural Issues for a New Entrant in a New Market In the country, there is freedom to worship and thus this will not be a great problem to the company. This is likely to act to the disadvantage of the company since marketing in such […]
  • Spain’s Geography and Culture Spain, claiming over half a million acres on the Iberian Peninsula, fronts on the North Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Balearic Sea.
  • Race and the Body: How Culture Both Shapes and Mirrors Broader Societal Attitudes Towards Race and the Body The entry of the Latina and the Latino bodies into the mainstream culture in the United States has been racialized by the gendered process of Latinolization.
  • Analysis of Impact of Culture Shock on Individual Psychology Due to the extreme differences in culture that people often encounter, it becomes quite hard to adjust to new culture and they are mentally affected hence experiencing stress because of alien traditions.
  • Violence From Cultural Ideals, Politics, and Religion The people of Aztec celebrated a religious feast called “Tlacaxipeualiztli or the Feast of the Flaying of Men’ in the honor of Xipe Totec- Our Lord the Flayed One”.
  • Cultural Myth of Education as a Pathway to Success in America Moore, seeks to pass across the message that “education system in a way has failed due to lack of financing which has led to deteriorating of the educational system in the United States of America, […]
  • Singapore Geography and Culture The eminence of Singapore grew especially following its colonization by the British and the development of the steamships around 1869. The presence of tin and rubber made Singapore one of the leading sea ports in […]
  • Popular Culture of TV Watching in USA and China However, as compared to USA culture, watching television programs in China is controlled and regulated by the state, a situation that has forced some young people to resort to internet television where they watch downloaded […]
  • Cultures Are Eroded by Foreign Cultural Influences Including Media Globalization is the main offspring of culture change and this is usually seen in the adoption of new cultures that are taken up the world over, the life styles of people through out the world […]
  • Cultural Innovations: An Archaeological Examination of Prehistoric Economics, Agriculture and Family Life The type of structures made were and still are determined by the availability of building materials, the level of development of building tools, the climatic conditions, and the economic resources available to the builder.
  • Society and Culture in Provincial America Among the major issues highlighted include the maintenance of homogeneity in the population, the establishment of a proper system for the prosecution of criminals as well as the involvement of certain interest groups in commending […]
  • Swiss vs. US Cultural Diversity In the United States, although the official language is English, the regions that are dominated by Mexican American the use speak Spanish often compared to English.
  • Popular Culture and Teenage Pregnancy Among Americans This has been the case particularly in regards to the Western society of the early to the middle 20th century and the up-and-coming international normalcy of the late 20th and 21st century.
  • Cultural Diversity: Successful and Failure Experience Our chain stores were able to establishing the best way of presenting products and services to clients by consulting with the richness of the multi-cultural setting of the teams.
  • Globalization: An Agent for Cultural Conflicts To reinforce this claim, this paper shall review some of the significant effects that are as a result of globalization. This paper set out to demonstrate that globalization may result in the fueling of cultural […]
  • Cross-Cultural Interaction: Prejudices and Stereotypes In this regard, the concept of stereotype also influences social categorization and information sharing in the course of cross-cultural communication. One of the most effective ways to exterminate stereotypic and linear thinking is to change […]
  • Intercultural Business and Legal Communication Additionally, the scholarly critique shall attempt to identify the goals of the article and the key theories and concepts used and whether are not these theories and concepts achieved the goals of the article. The […]
  • Japanese Animations’ Effects on the Japanese Economy and Their Cultural Influence on Foreign Countries These artists incorporate the characteristic anime stylizations, gags and methodology in their piece of work to produce animations that are a bit similar to Japanese anime. The growing interest among foreign artists in anime is […]
  • Through the Prism of Culture: Human Rights as They Are Considering the system of Human Rights that the Chinese government suggests, and comparing it to the one introduced in the United States, one has all the rights to claim that there are certain differences between […]
  • Islamic Living: Effective Cross-Cultural Communication It is not possible to separate Islam as a religion and the way one who professes the faith lives because it has been said to be a way of life.
  • Culture and Global Business According to Mohammad Bakhtazmai in the article, “A study of Globalization in International Business” is of the observation that the world is undergoing massive globalization; international trade has facilitated exchange of goods and services across […]
  • Intercultural Research and Interview: Communication and the Approach There is a need for the respondent to be told the purpose of the interview and be assured that the information that is to be obtained shall be secured and not used for any other […]
  • Food Culture and Obesity The marketers pass a message to the consumers that they need to eat the fast foods to experience the goodness and the refreshing memory that cannot be found in any other food.
  • The History and Culture of Islam & the Arabs and Their Contributions to Global Civilization and the Advancement of Human Society However, one has to admit general ignorance of the fact that Islam is the predecessor of the Western science and has shaped the face of it throughout the centuries. In conclusion, one may confirm, that […]
  • Australian Identities: Indigenous and Multicultural Australia is one of the many regions in the world that has encountered racism fast hand and this has prompted the government to come up with legislations and policies to curb this menace.
  • Culture Review: Africa In some communities, parents are involved in the choice of the spouse of their children. The way people live is a result of their culture.
  • Culture Jamming This issue has been carefully examined in media that specifically focuses on the development and transformation of the counterculture which, in its turn, has provoked the expansion of capitalism, has introduced innovation to mainstream culture, […]
  • Diversity Training of a Multicultural Workforce Diversity training of a multicultural workforce in the military is one of invaluable ways used to build a strong military workforce.
  • Decentering of the Native American Culture During this era, they craved to have their culture intact and untainted by the white settlers way of life as depicted in the performance of Lakota Ghost Dance, which was a performative cultural and religious […]
  • Comparison of US and Germany Cultural Differences Power distance is the degree to which power is shared evenly in a community as well as the extent in which the community recognize and accepts this variation in power distribution among itself; this is […]
  • Architecture and Cultural Heritage: Pride and National Identity In it, one will find a lot of information about the history of Dubai and the manner in which its people lived in the past.
  • Influence of Western Culture on Business Wahaha then a “state owned company” entered the association with the determination of reassigning the label to the new venture. Danone participated in the JV as “board of directors”.
  • Aging, Culture, Ethnicity and Family Care The research by the author shows the limitations of the informal structures in dealing with the elderly. She is the organizer of the family reunions and the custodian of the family history.
  • Deaf in America: Voices From a Culture by Carol A. Padden, Tom L. Humphries Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, the authors of the book, “Deaf in America: voices from a culture”, state their intent in writing the book as that of presenting the culture of Deaf people in America.
  • The Culture of the Early Civilizations The religious belief of the people also had a great impact on the culture of the people in the ancient world.
  • Popular Culture and Daily Life. Electric Shadows by Xiao Jiang As a matter of fact, this is the strength of popular culture where an individual seems to have been changed by the turn of the events that are happening in his life.
  • How African Culture and Lifestyle Changed the Life of Karen Blixen The fact that she was able to incorporate the elements of both the African and the European cultures made Karen Blixen to become a brave woman she had become.
  • Grunge, Riot Grrrl and the Forgetting of Women in Popular Culture’: Article Summary The author uses the Grunge era of the 1990’s in her analysis as the point of reference. The survey makes a clear reference to the Australians that were living in the era at the time.
  • American Popular Culture: The Influence of Stereotypes In dance for instance, ballet is believed to be a preserve of affluent people in the society and predominantly white while ‘break dancing’ is believed to be a preserve of African-Americans in less affluent sections […]
  • Popular Culture: The Use of Phones and Texting While Driving Given that rituals and stereotypes are a part of beliefs, values, and norms that society holds at a given instance of history, the use of phones in texting while driving has rituals and stereotypes associated […]
  • The Breakdown of Indigenous Culture in Australia The settlement of the Europeans in Australia had superficial effects on the Aboriginal groups in the continent. The colonialists claimed that the main aim of the close supervision was to protect the Aborigines from the […]
  • Cultural Evaluation of Japan: Beliefs and Behavior Generally, the culture of Japan is characterized by collectiveness where individualism is not usually a key concept in various practices in different sectors of the economy such as the education system, health care, and politics.
  • Culture Artifact Film “Into the Great Pyramid” The film “into the Great Pyramids”, answers some of these views including the culture of the people who built the Pyramids and also how they accomplished this phenomenal engineering feat.
  • Ways to Improve Intercultural Communication There may be lack of understanding between the two parties because information may be misunderstood because of the preconceived beliefs about members of one’s cultural background which may not apply to the individual involved in […]
  • Cultural Discrimination Concept in Literature He tries to emphasize the fact that the slaves in the United States originated from the African regions, and they were transported to America through the rivers.
  • Performative Culture: Taiwan Pride The Gay Pride parade offers lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans persons the opportunity to be out and proud, visible in the community and achieving legitimacy in the political and public realm.
  • A Comparison Between Swedish and Australian Culture Impact of Culture on Life Experience and Belief System The interviewee explained that having been born in Sweden, where Lutheran is the main church, he followed the teachings of the Lutheran church.
  • Youth Culture Under Globalization The globalization of the way of living, the impact on customs of the greater than ever association of the globe and its inhabitants, is conceivably nowhere more able to be seen than in the shifting […]
  • American Cultural Imperialism in the Film Industry Is Beneficial to the Canadian Society Cultural imperialism on the other hand is considered as the situation where the western countries dominate the media worldwide and in the process exert a lot of influences on the cultures of the developing nations […]
  • American Football in American Culture America as a country came about as a melting pot of cultures because many immigrants from different parts of the world moved to the States in search of the American dream.
  • Juno and Political, Social, and Cultural Ideology As one watches the movie, one soon realizes that the pregnancy is like a problem that must be solved by the main character.
  • Coping With Cultural Shock and Adaptation to a New Culture Strategies of coping with culture shock include admitting that feelings arising from culture shock are normal, making friends with the locals, learning some elements of the local culture, maintaining close contact with family members and […]
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Cultural Identity Essay

27 August, 2020

12 minutes read

Author:  Elizabeth Brown

No matter where you study, composing essays of any type and complexity is a critical component in any studying program. Most likely, you have already been assigned the task to write a cultural identity essay, which is an essay that has to do a lot with your personality and cultural background. In essence, writing a cultural identity essay is fundamental for providing the reader with an understanding of who you are and which outlook you have. This may include the topics of religion, traditions, ethnicity, race, and so on. So, what shall you do to compose a winning cultural identity essay?

Cultural Identity

Cultural Identity Paper: Definitions, Goals & Topics 

cultural identity essay example

Before starting off with a cultural identity essay, it is fundamental to uncover what is particular about this type of paper. First and foremost, it will be rather logical to begin with giving a general and straightforward definition of a cultural identity essay. In essence, cultural identity essay implies outlining the role of the culture in defining your outlook, shaping your personality, points of view regarding a multitude of matters, and forming your qualities and beliefs. Given a simpler definition, a cultural identity essay requires you to write about how culture has influenced your personality and yourself in general. So in this kind of essay you as a narrator need to give an understanding of who you are, which strengths you have, and what your solid life position is.

Yet, the goal of a cultural identity essay is not strictly limited to describing who you are and merely outlining your biography. Instead, this type of essay pursues specific objectives, achieving which is a perfect indicator of how high-quality your essay is. Initially, the primary goal implies outlining your cultural focus and why it makes you peculiar. For instance, if you are a french adolescent living in Canada, you may describe what is so special about it: traditions of the community, beliefs, opinions, approaches. Basically, you may talk about the principles of the society as well as its beliefs that made you become the person you are today.

So far, cultural identity is a rather broad topic, so you will likely have a multitude of fascinating ideas for your paper. For instance, some of the most attention-grabbing topics for a personal cultural identity essay are:

  • Memorable traditions of your community
  • A cultural event that has influenced your personality 
  • Influential people in your community
  • Locations and places that tell a lot about your culture and identity

Cultural Identity Essay Structure

As you might have already guessed, composing an essay on cultural identity might turn out to be fascinating but somewhat challenging. Even though the spectrum of topics is rather broad, the question of how to create the most appropriate and appealing structure remains open.

Like any other kind of an academic essay, a cultural identity essay must compose of three parts: introduction, body, and concluding remarks. Let’s take a more detailed look at each of the components:

Introduction 

Starting to write an essay is most likely one of the most time-consuming and mind-challenging procedures. Therefore, you can postpone writing your introduction and approach it right after you finish body paragraphs. Nevertheless, you should think of a suitable topic as well as come up with an explicit thesis. At the beginning of the introduction section, give some hints regarding the matter you are going to discuss. You have to mention your thesis statement after you have briefly guided the reader through the topic. You can also think of indicating some vital information about yourself, which is, of course, relevant to the topic you selected.

Your main body should reveal your ideas and arguments. Most likely, it will consist of 3-5 paragraphs that are more or less equal in size. What you have to keep in mind to compose a sound ‘my cultural identity essay’ is the argumentation. In particular, always remember to reveal an argument and back it up with evidence in each body paragraph. And, of course, try to stick to the topic and make sure that you answer the overall question that you stated in your topic. Besides, always keep your thesis statement in mind: make sure that none of its components is left without your attention and argumentation.

Conclusion 

Finally, after you are all finished with body paragraphs and introduction, briefly summarize all the points in your final remarks section. Paraphrase what you have already revealed in the main body, and make sure you logically lead the reader to the overall argument. Indicate your cultural identity once again and draw a bottom line regarding how your culture has influenced your personality.

Best Tips For Writing Cultural Identity Essay

Writing a ‘cultural identity essay about myself’ might be somewhat challenging at first. However, you will no longer struggle if you take a couple of plain tips into consideration. Following the tips below will give you some sound and reasonable cultural identity essay ideas as well as make the writing process much more pleasant:

  • Start off by creating an outline. The reason why most students struggle with creating a cultural identity essay lies behind a weak structure. The best way to organize your ideas and let them flow logically is to come up with a helpful outline. Having a reference to build on is incredibly useful, and it allows your essay to look polished.
  • Remember to write about yourself. The task of a cultural identity essay implies not focusing on your culture per se, but to talk about how it shaped your personality. So, switch your focus to describing who you are and what your attitudes and positions are. 
  • Think of the most fundamental cultural aspects. Needless to say, you first need to come up with a couple of ideas to be based upon in your paper. So, brainstorm all the possible ideas and try to decide which of them deserve the most attention. In essence, try to determine which of the aspects affected your personality the most.
  • Edit and proofread before submitting your paper. Of course, the content and the coherence of your essay’s structure play a crucial role. But the grammatical correctness matters a lot too. Even if you are a native speaker, you may still make accidental errors in the text. To avoid the situation when unintentional mistakes spoil the impression from your essay, always double check your cultural identity essay. 

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  • College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn’t

College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't

Published on November 8, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on August 14, 2023.

One effective method for improving your college essay is to read example essays . Here are three sample essays, each with a bad and good version to help you improve your own essay.

Table of contents

Essay 1: sharing an identity or background through a montage, essay 2: overcoming a challenge, a sports injury narrative, essay 3: showing the influence of an important person or thing, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

This essay uses a montage structure to show snapshots of a student’s identity and background. The writer builds her essay around the theme of the five senses, sharing memories she associates with sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

In the weak rough draft, there is little connection between the individual anecdotes, and they do not robustly demonstrate the student’s qualities.

In the final version, the student uses an extended metaphor of a museum to create a strong connection among her stories, each showcasing a different part of her identity. She draws a specific personal insight from each memory and uses the stories to demonstrate her qualities and values.

How My Five Senses Record My Life

Throughout my life, I have kept a record of my life’s journey with my five senses. This collection of memories matters a great deal because I experience life every day through the lens of my identity.

“Chinese! Japanese!”

My classmate pulls one eye up and the other down.

“Look what my parents did to me!”

No matter how many times he repeats it, the other kids keep laughing. I focus my almond-shaped eyes on the ground, careful not to attract attention to my discomfort, anger, and shame. How could he say such a mean thing about me? What did I do to him? Joseph’s words would engrave themselves into my memory, making me question my appearance every time I saw my eyes in the mirror.

Soaking in overflowing bubble baths with Andrew Lloyd Webber belting from the boombox.

Listening to “Cell Block Tango” with my grandparents while eating filet mignon at a dine-in show in Ashland.

Singing “The Worst Pies in London” at a Korean karaoke club while laughing hysterically with my brother, who can do an eerily spot-on rendition of Sweeney Todd.

Taking car rides with Mom in the Toyota Sequoia as we compete to hit the high note in “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera . Neither of us stands a chance!

The sweet scent of vegetables, Chinese noodles, and sushi wafts through the room as we sit around the table. My grandma presents a good-smelling mixture of international cuisine for our Thanksgiving feast. My favorite is the Chinese food that she cooks. Only the family prayer stands between me and the chance to indulge in these delicious morsels, comforting me with their familiar savory scents.

I rinse a faded plastic plate decorated by my younger sister at the Waterworks Art Center. I wear yellow rubber gloves to protect my hands at Mom’s insistence, but I can still feel the warm water that offers a bit of comfort as I finish the task at hand. The crusted casserole dish with stubborn remnants from my dad’s five-layer lasagna requires extra effort, so I fill it with Dawn and scalding water, setting it aside to soak. I actually don’t mind this daily chore.

I taste sweat on my upper lip as I fight to continue pedaling on a stationary bike. Ava’s next to me and tells me to go up a level. We’re biking buddies, dieting buddies, and Saturday morning carbo-load buddies. After the bike display hits 30 minutes, we do a five-minute cool down, drink Gatorade, and put our legs up to rest.

My five senses are always gathering new memories of my identity. I’m excited to expand my collection.

Word count: 455

College essay checklist

Topic and structure

  • I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me.
  • My essay reveals something different from the rest of my application.
  • I have a clear and well-structured narrative.
  • I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

Writing style and tone

  • I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
  • I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of tells.
  • I’ve used appropriate style and tone for a college essay.
  • I’ve used specific, vivid personal stories that would be hard to replicate.
  • I’ve demonstrated my positive traits and values in my essay.
  • My essay is focused on me, not another person or thing.
  • I’ve included self-reflection and insight in my essay.
  • I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.

Making Sense of My Identity

Welcome to The Rose Arimoto Museum. You are about to enter the “Making Sense of My Identity” collection. Allow me to guide you through select exhibits, carefully curated memories from Rose’s sensory experiences.

First, the Sight Exhibit.

“Chinese! Japanese!”

“Look what my parents did to me!”

No matter how many times he repeats it, the other kids keep laughing. I focus my almond-shaped eyes on the ground, careful not to attract attention as my lip trembles and palms sweat. Joseph couldn’t have known how his words would engrave themselves into my memory, making me question my appearance every time I saw my eyes in the mirror.

Ten years later, these same eyes now fixate on an InDesign layout sheet, searching for grammar errors while my friend Selena proofreads our feature piece on racial discrimination in our hometown. As we’re the school newspaper editors, our journalism teacher Ms. Riley allows us to stay until midnight to meet tomorrow’s deadline. She commends our work ethic, which for me is fueled by writing一my new weapon of choice.

Next, you’ll encounter the Sound Exhibit.

Still, the world is my Broadway as I find my voice on stage.

Just below, enter the Smell Exhibit.

While I help my Pau Pau prepare dinner, she divulges her recipe for cha siu bau, with its soft, pillowy white exterior hiding the fragrant filling of braised barbecue pork inside. The sweet scent of candied yams, fun see , and Spam musubi wafts through the room as we gather around our Thankgsiving feast. After our family prayer, we indulge in these delicious morsels until our bellies say stop. These savory scents of my family’s cultural heritage linger long after I’ve finished the last bite.

Next up, the Touch Exhibit.

I rinse a handmade mug that I had painstakingly molded and painted in ceramics class. I wear yellow rubber gloves to protect my hands at Mom’s insistence, but I can still feel the warm water that offers a bit of comfort as I finish the task at hand. The crusted casserole dish with stubborn remnants from my dad’s five-layer lasagna requires extra effort, so I fill it with Dawn and scalding water, setting it aside to soak. For a few fleeting moments, as I continue my nightly chore, the pressure of my weekend job, tomorrow’s calculus exam, and next week’s track meet are washed away.

Finally, we end with the Taste Exhibit.

My legs fight to keep pace with the stationary bike as the salty taste of sweat seeps into corners of my mouth. Ava challenges me to take it up a level. We always train together一even keeping each other accountable on our strict protein diet of chicken breasts, broccoli, and Muscle Milk. We occasionally splurge on Saturday mornings after interval training, relishing the decadence of everything bagels smeared with raspberry walnut cream cheese. But this is Wednesday, so I push myself. I know that once the digital display hits 30:00, we’ll allow our legs to relax into a five-minute cool down, followed by the fiery tang of Fruit Punch Gatorade to rehydrate.

Thank you for your attention. This completes our tour. I invite you to rejoin us for next fall’s College Experience collection, which will exhibit Rose’s continual search for identity and learning.

Word count: 649

  • I’ve crafted an essay introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

This essay uses a narrative structure to recount how a student overcame a challenge, specifically a sports injury. Since this topic is often overused, the essay requires vivid description, a memorable introduction and conclusion , and interesting insight.

The weak rough draft contains an interesting narrative, insight, and vivid imagery, but it has an overly formal tone that distracts the reader from the story. The student’s use of elaborate vocabulary in every sentence makes the essay sound inauthentic and stilted.

The final essay uses a more natural, conversational tone and chooses words that are vivid and specific without being pretentious. This allows the reader to focus on the narrative and appreciate the student’s unique insight.

One fateful evening some months ago, a defensive linebacker mauled me, his 212 pounds indisputably alighting upon my ankle. Ergo, an abhorrent cracking of calcified tissue. At first light the next day, I awoke cognizant of a new paradigm—one sans football—promulgated by a stabbing sensation that would continue to haunt me every morning of this semester.

It’s been an exceedingly taxing semester not being able to engage in football, but I am nonetheless excelling in school. That twist of fate never would have come to pass if I hadn’t broken my ankle. I still limp down the halls at school, but I’m feeling less maudlin these days. My friends don’t steer clear anymore, and I have a lot more of them. My teachers, emboldened by my newfound interest in learning, continually invite me to learn more and do my best. Football is still on hold, but I feel like I’m finally playing a game that matters.

Five months ago, right after my ill-fated injury, my friends’ demeanor became icy and remote, although I couldn’t fathom why. My teachers, in contrast, beckoned me close and invited me on a new learning journey. But despite their indubitably kind advances, even they recoiled when I drew near.

A few weeks later, I started to change my attitude vis-à-vis my newfound situation and determined to put my energy toward productive ends (i.e., homework). I wasn’t enamored with school. I never had been. Nevertheless, I didn’t abhor it either. I just preferred football.

My true turn of fate came when I started studying more and participating in class. I started to enjoy history class, and I grew interested in reading more. I discovered a volume of poems written by a fellow adventurer on the road of life, and I loved it. I ravenously devoured everything in the writer’s oeuvre .

As the weeks flitted past, I found myself spending my time with a group of people who were quite different from me. They participated in theater and played instruments in marching band. They raised their hands in class when the teacher posed a question. Because of their auspicious influence, I started raising my hand too. I am no longer vapid, and I now have something to say.

I am certain that your school would benefit from my miraculous academic transformation, and I entreat you to consider my application to your fine institution. Accepting me to your university would be an unequivocally righteous decision.

Word count: 408

  • I’ve chosen a college essay topic that’s meaningful to me.
  • I’ve respected the essay word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.

As I step out of bed, the pain shoots through my foot and up my leg like it has every morning since “the game.” That night, a defensive linebacker tackled me, his 212 pounds landing decidedly on my ankle. I heard the sound before I felt it. The next morning, I awoke to a new reality—one without football—announced by a stabbing sensation that would continue to haunt me every morning of this semester.

My broken ankle broke my spirit.

My friends steered clear of me as I hobbled down the halls at school. My teachers tried to find the delicate balance between giving me space and offering me help. I was as unsure how to deal with myself as they were.

In time, I figured out how to redirect some of my frustration, anger, and pent-up energy toward my studies. I had never not liked school, but I had never really liked it either. In my mind, football practice was my real-life classroom, where I could learn all I ever needed to know.

Then there was that day in Mrs. Brady’s history class. We sang a ridiculous-sounding mnemonic song to memorize all the Chinese dynasties from Shang to Qing. I mumbled the words at first, but I got caught up in the middle of the laughter and began singing along. Starting that day, I began browsing YouTube videos about history, curious to learn more. I had started learning something new, and, to my surprise, I liked it.

With my afternoons free from burpees and scrimmages, I dared to crack open a few more of my books to see what was in them. That’s when my English poetry book, Paint Me Like I Am , caught my attention. It was full of poems written by students my age from WritersCorps. I couldn’t get enough.

I wasn’t the only one who was taken with the poems. Previously, I’d only been vaguely aware of Christina as one of the weird kids I avoided. Crammed in the margins of her high-top Chuck Taylors were scribbled lines of her own poetry and infinite doodles. Beyond her punk rock persona was a sensitive artist, puppy-lover, and environmental activist that a wide receiver like me would have never noticed before.

With Christina, I started making friends with people who once would have been invisible to me: drama geeks, teachers’ pets, band nerds. Most were college bound but not to play a sport. They were smart and talented, and they cared about people and politics and all sorts of issues that I hadn’t considered before. Strangely, they also seemed to care about me.

I still limp down the halls at school, but I don’t seem to mind as much these days. My friends don’t steer clear anymore, and I have a lot more of them. My teachers, excited by my newfound interest in learning, continually invite me to learn more and do my best. Football is still on hold, but I feel like I’m finally playing a game that matters.

My broken ankle broke my spirit. Then, it broke my ignorance.

Word count: 512

This essay uses a narrative structure to show how a pet positively influenced the student’s values and character.

In the weak draft, the student doesn’t focus on himself, instead delving into too much detail about his dog’s positive traits and his grandma’s illness. The essay’s structure is meandering, with tangents and details that don’t communicate any specific insight.

In the improved version, the student keeps the focus on himself, not his pet. He chooses the most relevant stories to demonstrate specific qualities, and the structure more clearly builds up to an insightful conclusion.

Man’s Best Friend

I desperately wanted a cat. I begged my parents for one, but once again, my sisters overruled me, so we drove up the Thompson Valley Canyon from Loveland to Estes Park to meet our newest family member. My sisters had already hatched their master plan, complete with a Finding Nemo blanket to entice the pups. The blanket was a hit with all of them, except for one—the one who walked over and sat in my lap. That was the day that Francisco became a Villanova.

Maybe I should say he was mine because I got stuck with all the chores. As expected, my dog-loving sisters were nowhere to be found! My mom was “extra” with all the doggy gear. Cisco even had to wear these silly little puppy shoes outside so that when he came back in, he wouldn’t get the carpets dirty. If it was raining, my mother insisted I dress Cisco in a ridiculous yellow raincoat, but, in my opinion, it was an unnecessary source of humiliation for poor Cisco. It didn’t take long for Cisco to decide that his outerwear could be used as toys in a game of Keep Away. As soon as I took off one of his shoes, he would run away with it, hiding under the bed where I couldn’t reach him. But, he seemed to appreciate his ensemble more when we had to walk through snowdrifts to get his job done.

When my abuela was dying from cancer, we went in the middle of the night to see her before she passed. I was sad and scared. But, my dad let me take Cisco in the car, so Cisco cuddled with me and made me feel much better. It’s like he could read my mind. Once we arrived at the hospital, the fluorescent lighting made the entire scene seem unreal, as if I was watching the scene unfold through someone else’s eyes. My grandma lay calmly on her bed, smiling at us even through her last moments of pain. I disliked seeing the tubes and machines hooked up to her. It was unnatural to see her like this一it was so unlike the way I usually saw her beautiful in her flowery dress, whistling a Billie Holiday tune and baking snickerdoodle cookies in the kitchen. The hospital didn’t usually allow dogs, but they made a special exception to respect my grandma’s last wishes that the whole family be together. Cisco remained at the foot of the bed, intently watching abuela with a silence that seemed more effective at communicating comfort and compassion than the rest of us who attempted to offer up words of comfort that just seemed hollow and insincere. It was then that I truly appreciated Cisco’s empathy for others.

As I accompanied my dad to pick up our dry cleaner’s from Ms. Chapman, a family friend asked, “How’s Cisco?” before even asking about my sisters or me. Cisco is the Villanova family mascot, a Goldendoodle better recognized by strangers throughout Loveland than the individual members of my family.

On our summer trip to Boyd Lake State Park, we stayed at the Cottonwood campground for a breathtaking view of the lake. Cisco was allowed to come, but we had to keep him on a leash at all times. After a satisfying meal of fish, our entire family walked along the beach. Cisco and I led the way while my mom and sisters shuffled behind. Cisco always stopped and refused to move, looking back to make sure the others were still following. Once satisfied that everyone was together, he would turn back around and continue prancing with his golden boy curly locks waving in the chilly wind.

On the beach, Cisco “accidentally” got let off his leash and went running maniacally around the sand, unfettered and free. His pure joy as he raced through the sand made me forget about my AP Chem exam or my student council responsibilities. He brings a smile not only to my family members but everyone around him.

Cisco won’t live forever, but without words, he has impressed upon me life lessons of responsibility, compassion, loyalty, and joy. I can’t imagine life without him.

Word count: 701

I quickly figured out that as “the chosen one,” I had been enlisted by Cisco to oversee all aspects of his “business.” I learned to put on Cisco’s doggie shoes to keep the carpet clean before taking him out一no matter the weather. Soon after, Cisco decided that his shoes could be used as toys in a game of Keep Away. As soon as I removed one of his shoes, he would run away with it, hiding under the bed where I couldn’t reach him. But, he seemed to appreciate his footwear more after I’d gear him up and we’d tread through the snow for his daily walks.

One morning, it was 7:15 a.m., and Alejandro was late again to pick me up. “Cisco, you don’t think he overslept again, do you?” Cisco barked, as if saying, “Of course he did!” A text message would never do, so I called his dad, even if it was going to get him in trouble. There was no use in both of us getting another tardy during our first-period class, especially since I was ready on time after taking Cisco for his morning outing. Alejandro was mad at me but not too much. He knew I had helped him out, even if he had to endure his dad’s lecture on punctuality.

Another early morning, I heard my sister yell, “Mom! Where are my good ballet flats? I can’t find them anywhere!” I hesitated and then confessed, “I moved them.” She shrieked at me in disbelief, but I continued, “I put them in your closet, so Cisco wouldn’t chew them up.” More disbelief. However, this time, there was silence instead of shrieking.

Last spring, Cisco and I were fast asleep when the phone rang at midnight. Abuela would not make it through the night after a long year of chemo, but she was in Pueblo, almost three hours away. Sitting next to me for that long car ride on I-25 in pitch-black darkness, Cisco knew exactly what I needed and snuggled right next to me as I petted his coat in a rhythm while tears streamed down my face. The hospital didn’t usually allow dogs, but they made a special exception to respect my grandma’s last wishes that the whole family be together. Cisco remained sitting at the foot of the hospital bed, intently watching abuela with a silence that communicated more comfort than our hollow words. Since then, whenever I sense someone is upset, I sit in silence with them or listen to their words, just like Cisco did.

The other day, one of my friends told me, “You’re a strange one, Josue. You’re not like everybody else but in a good way.” I didn’t know what he meant at first. “You know, you’re super responsible and grown-up. You look out for us instead of yourself. Nobody else does that.” I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t trying to do anything different. I was just being me. But then I realized who had taught me: a fluffy little puppy who I had wished was a cat! I didn’t choose Cisco, but he certainly chose me and, unexpectedly, became my teacher, mentor, and friend.

Word count: 617

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

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Nine brilliant student essays on honoring your roots.

Read winning essays from our fall 2019 student writing contest.

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For the fall 2019 student writing contest, we invited students to read the YES! article “ Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself? ” by Kayla DeVault. Like the author, students reflected on their heritage and how connected they felt to different parts of their identities. Students then wrote about their heritage, family stories, how they honor their identities, and more.

The Winners

From the hundreds of essays written, these nine were chosen as winners. Be sure to read the author’s response to the essay winners, literary gems and clever titles that caught our eye, and even more essays on identity in our Gallery of Voices.

Middle School Winner: Susanna Audi

High School Winner: Keon Tindle

High School Winner: Cherry Guo

University Winner: Madison Greene

Powerful Voice: Mariela Alschuler

Powerful Voice: Reese Martin

Powerful Voice: Mia De Haan

Powerful Voice: Laura Delgado

Powerful Voice: Rowan Burba

From the Author, Kayla DeVault: Response to All Student Writers and Essay Winners

Gallery of voices: more essays on identity, literary gems, titles we loved, middle school winner.

Susanna Audi

Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.

Susanna Audi

BRAZIL: MY HEART’S HOME

Saudades. No word in the English language sums up the meaning of this Portuguese term: a deep feeling of longing that makes your heart ache and pound like a drum inside your chest. I feel saudades for Brazil, its unique culture, and my Brazilian family. When I’m in my second home, Bahia, Brazil, I’m a butterfly emerging from its cocoon—colorful, radiant, and ready to explore the world. I see coconut trees waving at the turquoise waves that are clear as glass. I smell the familiar scent of burning incense. I hear the rhythm of samba on hand-beaten drums, and I feel my grandma’s delicate fingers rub my back as I savor the mouth-watering taste of freshly made doce de leite .  Although I’m here for only two precious weeks a year, I feel a magnetic connection to my father’s homeland, my heart’s home.

My grandfather or vovô , Evandro, was born in Brazil to a family who had immigrated from Lebanon and was struggling to make ends meet. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to college, so he remained at home and sold encyclopedias door-to-door. My vovô eventually started a small motorcycle parts company that grew so much that he was able to send my father to the U.S. at age sixteen. My father worked hard in school, overcoming language barriers and homesickness. Even though he has lived in America for most of his life, he has always cherished his Brazilian roots. 

I’ve been raised with my father’s native language, foods, and customs. At home, I bake Brazilian snacks, such as the traditional cheese bread, pão de queijo , which is crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. My family indulges in the same sweet treats that my father would sneak from the cupboard as a child. Two relaxing customs we share are listening to Brazilian music while we eat breakfast on weekends and having conversations in Portuguese during meals. These parts of my upbringing bring diversity and flavor to my identity. 

Living in the U.S. makes me feel isolated from my Brazilian family and even more distant from Brazilian culture. It’s hard to maintain both American and Brazilian lifestyles since they are so different. In Brazil, there are no strangers; we treat everybody like family, regardless if that person works at the local shoe store or the diner. We embrace each other with loving hugs and exchange kisses on the cheeks whenever we meet. In the U.S., people prefer to shake hands. Another difference is that I never come out of Starbucks in New York with a new friend. How could I when most people sit with their eyes glued to their laptop screens? Life seems so rushed. To me, Brazilians are all about friendships, family, and enjoying life. They are much more relaxed, compared to the stressed and materialistic average American. 

As Kayla DeVault says in her YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself,” “It doesn’t matter how many pieces make up my whole: rather, it’s my relationship with those pieces that matters—and that I must maintain.”  I often ask myself if I can be both American and Brazilian. Do I have to choose one culture over the other? I realize that I shouldn’t think of them as two different cultures; instead, I should think of them as two important, coexisting parts of my identity. Indeed, I feel very lucky for the full and flavorful life I have as a Brazilian American. 

Susanna Audi is an eighth-grader who lives in the suburbs of New York. Susanna loves painting with watercolors, cooking Brazilian snacks, and playing the cello. On weekends, she enjoys babysitting and plays several sports including lacrosse, soccer, and basketball. Susanna would love to start her own creative design business someday. 

High School Winner

Keon Tindle

Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Keon Tindle

Walking Through the Forest of Culture

What are my roots? To most people, my roots only go as far as the eye can see. In a world where categorization and prejudice run rampant, the constant reminder is that I am Black. My past is a living juxtaposition: my father’s father is a descendant of the enslaved and oppressed and his wife’s forefathers held the whips and tightened the chains. Luckily for me, racial hatred turned to love. A passion that burned brighter than any cross, a love purer than any poison. This is the past I know so well. From the slave ship to the heart of Saint Louis, my roots aren’t very long, but they are deeply entrenched in Amerikkkan history.

This country was made off of the backs of my brothers and sisters, many of whom have gone unrecognized in the grand scheme of things. From a young age, White children are told stories of heroes—explorers, politicians, freedom fighters, and settlers whose sweat and determination tamed the animalistic lands of America. They’re given hope and power through their past because when they look in the mirror they see these heroes. But what about me? My stories are conveniently left out of the textbooks; I have never been the son of a king or a powerful African leader, just expensive cargo to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. It seems we, as a people, never truly left the ship.

Even now, we’re chained to the whitewashed image of Black history. I can never truly experience the Black tradition because there are multiple perspectives. The truth is clouded and lost due to the lack of documentation and pervasive amount of fabrication. How am I supposed to connect to my heritage? America tells me to celebrate the strength of my ancestors, the strength of the slaves, to praise something they helped create. The Afrocentrics tell me to become one with the motherland, celebrate the culture I was pulled away from. However, native Africans make it clear I’ll never truly belong.

Even the honorable Elijah Muhammad tells me to keep my chin pointed to the clouds, to distrust the creation of Yakub, and to take my place among the rest of Allah’s children. Most people don’t have the luxury of “identifying with all of the pieces of [themselves],” as Kayla DeVault says in the YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” 

They’re forced to do research and to formulate their own ideas of who they are rather than follow the traditions of an elder. For some, their past works as a guide. A walk through life that has been refined over generations. Others, however, are forced to struggle through the dark maze of life. Hands dragging across the walls in an attempt to not lose their way. As a result, their minds create stories and artwork from every cut and scratch of the barriers’ surface. Gaining direction from the irrelevant, finding patterns in the illogical. 

So what are my roots? My roots are my branches, not where I come from but where this life will take me. The only constant is my outstretched arms pointed towards the light. A life based on the hope that my branches will sprout leaves that will fall and litter the path for the next generation.

Keon Tindle is unapologetically Black and embraces his African American background. Keon is an esports competitor, musician, and producer, and especially enjoys the craft of pairing history with hip-hop music. He is always ecstatic to dabble in new creative outlets and hopes to pursue a career in neuroscience research.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va.

Cherry Guo

Tying the Knot

The kitchen smells like onions and raw meat, neither unpleasant nor pleasant. Nainai’s house slippers slap against our kitchen floor as she bustles around, preparing fillings for zongzi: red bean paste, cooked peanuts, and marinated pork. I clap my pudgy hands together, delighted by the festivities. 

Nainai methodically folds the bamboo leaves into cones, fills them up with rice, and binds the zongzi together with string that she breaks between her teeth. I try to follow suit, but when I try to tie the zongzi together, half the rice spills out. Tired from my lack of progress, I abandon Nainai for my parents, who are setting up the mahjong table. 

After raising me to the age of ten, my grandparents returned to China. They dropped back into their lives like they had never left, like they hadn’t shaped my entire upbringing. Under their influence, my first language was not English, but Chinese. 

At school, my friends cajoled me into saying Chinese words for them and I did so reluctantly, the out-of-place syllables tasting strange on my palate. At home, I slowly stopped speaking Chinese, embarrassed by the way my tongue mangled English words when I spoke to classmates. One particular memory continually plagues me. “It’s Civil War, silly. Why do you pronounce “L” with an ‘R’?” Civil. Civil. Civil.

At dinner, my dad asked us to speak Chinese. I refused, defiantly asking my brother in English to pass the green beans. I began constructing false narratives around my silence. Why would I use my speech to celebrate a culture of foot binding and feudalism? In truth, I was afraid. I was afraid that when I opened my mouth to ask for the potatoes, I wouldn’t be able to conjure up the right words. I was afraid I would sound like a foreigner in my own home. If I refused to speak, I could pretend that my silence was a choice.

In Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European – How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” she insists that “Simply saying “I am this” isn’t enough. To truly honor my heritage, I found I must understand and participate in it.” And for the first time, I wonder if my silence has stolen my cultural identity. 

I decide to take it back.

Unlike DeVault, I have no means of travel. Instead, my reclamation starts with collecting phrases: a string of words from my dad when he speaks to Nainai over the phone, seven characters from two Chinese classmates walking down the hall, another couple of words from my younger sister’s Chinese cartoons. 

The summer before my senior year marks the eighth year of my grandparents’ return to China. Once again, I am in the kitchen, this time surrounded by my parents and siblings. The bamboo leaves and pot of rice sit in front of me. We all stand, looking at each other expectantly. No one knows how to make zongzi. We crowd around the iPad, consulting Google. Together, we learn how to shape the leaves and pack the rice down. 

The gap in knowledge bothers me. Does it still count as honoring a family tradition when I follow the directions given by a nameless pair of hands on YouTube rather than hearing Nainai’s voice in my mind? 

Instead of breaking the string with my teeth like Nainai had shown me, I use scissors to cut the string—like I had done with my ties to Chinese language and culture all those years ago. And now, I’m left with the severed string that I must hurriedly tie around the bamboo leaf before the rice falls out of my zongzi.

Cherry Guo is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. Cherry rows for her school’s crew team and plays the viola in her school orchestra. She spends what little free time she has eating pretzel crisps and listening to podcasts about philosophy.

University Winner

Madison Greene

Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Madison Greene

Carrying the Torch

I have been called a pizza bagel–the combination of a Catholic Italian and an Ashkenazi Jew. Over time, I have discovered the difficulty of discretely identifying the ratio of pizza to bagel. It is even more arduous when the pizza and the bagel have theologies that inherently contradict each other. Therefore, in a society that emphasizes fine lines and exact distinctions, my identity itself becomes a contradiction.  

In the winter, my family tops our Christmas tree with the Star of David. I’ve recited the Lord’s Prayer; I’ve prayed in Hebrew. I attended preschool at a church, and my brother was a preschooler in a synagogue. Every week at Sunday morning mass, my maternal family donates money to the collection basket during the offertory. My paternal family has donated authentic Holocaust photographs to a local Jewish heritage museum. Growing up, none of this was contradictory; in fact, it all seemed complementary. My Jewish and Catholic identities did not cancel each other out but rather merged together.

However, the compatibility of my Catholic-Jewish identities was in upheaval when I decided to become acquainted with the Jewish community on campus. While attending Hillel events, I felt insecure because I did not share many of the experiences and knowledge of other Jewish students. Despite this insecurity, I continued to participate — until a good friend of mine told me that I was not Jewish enough because of my Catholic mother. She also said that families like mine were responsible for the faltering of Jewish culture. I wanted my identity to be validated. Instead, it was rejected. I withdrew and avoided not only my Jewish identity but also my identity as a whole.

I soon realized that this friend and I look at my situation using different filters. My Catholic-Jewish identities have evolved into a codependent relationship, and I am entitled to unapologetically embrace and explore both aspects of my identity. I realized that even without my friend’s validation of my identity, I still exist just the same. Any discredit of my Catholic-Jewish identities does not eliminate my blended nature. So, after a few months of avoiding my Jewish identity, I chose to embrace my roots; I resumed participating in the Jewish community on campus, and I have not stopped since.

Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European – How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” describes the obligation to one’s ancestral chain. The best way to fulfill this duty is to fully dedicate oneself to understanding the traditions that accompany those cultural origins. In this generation, my mother’s Catholic-Italian maiden name has no men to carry it on to the next generation. It is difficult to trace my last name past the mid-1900s because my Jewish ancestors shortened our surname to make it sound less Semitic, to be less vulnerable to persecution. Given the progressive fading of my family’s surnames, how do I continue the legacies of both family lines?

On behalf of my ancestors and for the sake of the generations still to come, I feel obligated to blend and simultaneously honor my Jewish and Catholic heritage to ensure that both prevail. 

Now I know that whether I am sitting next to my Jewish father at my young cousin’s baptism, or whether I am sitting at the Passover Seder table with my mother’s Catholic parents, it is up to me to keep both flames of my ancestry burning bright. The least I can do is hold each family’s candle in my hands. Imagine the tremendous blaze I could create if I brought the flames of my two families together.

Madison Greene is a Communication Studies major at Kent State University. Madison is also pursuing a minor in Digital Media Production. She is currently the president of her sorority.

Powerful Voice Winner

Mariela Alschuler

college essay examples on culture

Behind My Skin

My roots go deeper than the ground I stand on. My family is from all over the world with extended branches that reach over whole countries and vast oceans.

Though I am from these branches, sometimes I never see them. My Dominican roots are obvious when I go to my abuela’s house for holidays. My family dances to Spanish music. I fill my plate with platanos fritos and my favorite rice and beans. I feel like a Dominican American girl. Maybe it’s the food. Maybe it’s the music. Or maybe it’s just the way that my whole family—aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins— laugh and talk and banter in my grandparents’ small, beautiful apartment.

Even though I am blood to this family, I stick out like a sore thumb. I stick out for my broken Spanish, my light skin, my soft, high-pitched voice and how I do my hair. I feel like I don’t belong to my beautiful, colorful family, a disordered array of painted jars on a shelf.

If my Dominican family is like a disorganized and vibrant shelf of colors, then my European family is a neat and sparse one with just a hint of color. For Christmas in New York, there are dozens of us crammed in the small apartment. For Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, there are rarely more than twelve people in the grandiose, pristine house that looks like something out of House Beautiful . I adore my grandparent’s house. It is expansive and neatly painted white. After growing up in a small house on a school campus and visiting my other grandparents’ small apartment in New York, I thought that their house was the greatest thing in the world. I would race up the stairs, then slide down the banister. I would sip Grandma’s “fancy” gingerbread tea, loving the feeling of sophistication. There, I could forget about the struggles of my Dominican family. I was the granddaughter of a wealthy, Jewish, Massachusetts couple rather than the granddaughter of a working-class second-generation Dominican abuela and abuelo from the Bronx.  

I don’t fit in with my European family either. My dark skin and my wild hair don’t belong in this tidy family. In Massachusetts, the branches of my Dominican family, no matter how strong and extensive, are invisible. The same way my European roots are lost when I am in New York.

So what am I? For years I have asked myself this question. Wondering why I couldn’t have a simple garden of a family rather than the jungle that I easily get lost in. As Kayla DeVault says in her YES! article “Native and European—How can I honor all parts of myself?,” “Simply saying ‘I am this’ isn’t enough.” And it isn’t. My race, color, and ethnicity do not make up who I am. I am still a daughter. A sister. A cousin. A friend. My mixed identity does not make me less whole, less human. I may have lightly tanned skin and my lips may not form Spanish words neatly, but behind my skin is bright color and music. There is warm gingerbread tea and golden platanos fritos. There is Spanish singing from my abuelo’s speaker and “young people” songs that play from my headphones. There is a little, cozy apartment and a large, exquisite house. Behind my skin is more than what you can see. Behind my skin is what makes me me. 

Mariela Alschuler is a seventh-grader at Ethical Culture Fieldston School and lives in the Bronx, New York. When she’s not in school, Mariela likes to read, write, do gymnastics, watch Netflix, and spend time with her friends and family. She hopes to be a doctor and writer when she grows up.

Reese Martin

University Liggett School, Grosse Point Woods, Mich.

Reese Martin

A True Irishman?

Similar to Kayla Devault in her YES! article “Native and European-How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself,” I hold holistic pride in my cultural identity. As a descendant of Irish immigrants, my childhood was filled with Irish folk music, laughter, and all things green. I remember being a toddler, sitting on my Popo’s lap wearing a shiny green, slightly obnoxious, beaded shamrock necklace. There, in the living room, I was surrounded by shamrocks hanging on the walls and decorations spread throughout, courtesy of my grandmother who always went overboard. My father and his siblings were Irish fanatics, as well. My aunt, whom I loved spending time with as a child, was notorious for wild face painting, ear-splitting music, and crazy outfits on St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday typically started in Detroit’s historic Corktown for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the promise of authentic Irish corned beef and soda bread at the Baile Corcaigh Irish Restaurant following the festivities. Charlie Taylor, a local Irish musician, belted folk songs from Baile Corcaigh’s makeshift stage. It was one of the few days a year my father and his large family came together. Although my aunt and grandparents have passed, our family’s Irish pride is eternal.

There was, however, one peculiar thing about our Irish heritage— none of my family looked classic Irish. My father and his five siblings have nearly black eyes and fairly dark skin, not the typical Irish traits of blue eyes and light skin. DeVault wrote, “When I was older, the questions came, which made me question myself.” I fell into a similar predicament, questioning my heritage. It truly came as a shock when a couple of my paternal aunts and several cousins took DNA tests through 23andMe and AncestryDNA. The results revealed the largest percentage of our ethnicity was Lebanese and Middle Eastern, not Irish.

It felt like a punch to the gut. I was clueless on how to move forward. According to the numbers, we possessed an insignificant amount of Irish blood. How was it possible to be wrong about such a huge part of my identity? Not only was I confused about my culture and history, but I also experienced a great deal of shame—not of my newfound Middle Eastern heritage, but the lack of Irish DNA, which I had previously held so close and felt so proud of. It felt as though I was betraying the memory of my late grandparents and aunt.

Even amidst my confusion, I found this new heritage intriguing; I was excited to explore all that my newly found Lebanese culture had to offer: unique foods, unfamiliar traditions, and new geography. In addition to the familiar boiled and mashed potatoes, my family now eats hummus and shawarma. I also know more about the basic facts, history, and government of Lebanon. One thing dampens my enthusiasm, however. I wonder how I can fully develop a love for my newly discovered culture without being too deliberate and appearing to be insensitive to cultural appropriation.

It is here, in the depths of uncertainty and intrigue, I relate most to DeVault’s question, “How do I honor all parts of myself?” Although my Irish ancestry may not be as authentic as I once believed, I still feel a strong connection to the Irish culture. I’ve found that to truly honor all pieces of my identity, I must be willing to accept every aspect of my ancestry. I don’t need to reject Lebanese ethnicity, nor disregard the Irish memories of my childhood. I am allowed to be everything all at once. At the end of the day, with both Irish culture and Lebanese heritage, I am still simply and perfectly me.

Reese Martin is a junior at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. Reese plays hockey and soccer, swims competitively and is a violinist in her school orchestra. She enjoys volunteering, especially peer tutoring and reading with young children.

Rowan Burba

college essay examples on culture

Saluting Shadows

On the floor, a murdered woman lays bloody and dead. Two young boys stare in horror at their dead mother. At only 10 years old, my great-grandfather experienced unfathomable suffering. A generation later, my grandfather and two great-uncles grew up under an abusive roof. My great-uncle Joe, the youngest of three boys, endured the worst of the abuse. Joe’s scarred brain altered during the sexual and emotional abuse his father subjected him to. From the time he was 18 months old, trusted adults of Joe’s community violated him throughout his childhood. These traumas spiraled into a century of silence, the silence I am determined to break. 

My father’s lineage is littered with trauma. Our family doesn’t openly share its past. We constantly masquerade as “normal” so we can fit in, but the alienation we experience is understandable. In Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” she explains her numerous identities, which include Shawnee, Anishinaabe, Eastern European, Scottish, and Irish. Although I don’t have her rich ethnic ancestry, I question my roots just as she does. I have limited photos of my deceased relatives. There are only two prominent ones: my paternal grandmother as a child with her siblings and my maternal grandmother’s obituary photo. These frosted images hide the truth of my family’s history. They’re not perfect 4″ x 6″ moments frozen in time. They’re shadowed memories of a deeply disturbed past.

For 17 years, my family was clueless about our past family trauma. Two months ago, my great-aunt explained Joe’s story to me. Joe developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) as a result of his abuse. By the age of 18, his brain contained 95 alters (fragments of his identity that broke off and developed into true individuals), causing Joe to appear as the “weird one,” the one who my family dismissed, the outcast of my dad’s childhood. My dad only learned one year ago, long after Joe died, about Joe’s DID. My family’s adamancy to hold secrets outweighed accepting and helping Joe. The shadows around these secrets quickly dispersed. 

The silence and shame from a mother’s death a century ago still have a chokehold on my family today. My family appears a disaster to outsiders.  My mom’s side is so religious they would never fathom a conversation about these harsh realities. In addition to Joe, my dad’s side has uncles who struggle with codependency and trauma from past abuses. Joe’s brother coped by latching onto another “normal” family, and my grandfather coped by never talking about issues. My parents married soon after my maternal grandmother and three of her four siblings died within a few weeks of each other. Despite years of therapy, my parents divorced when I was 11 years old. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction without recognizing it. 

How do I honor my roots? I work to break the silence and stigmas of abuse and mental health. I’ve participated in therapy for about five years and have been on medicine for about two. I must reprogram my brain’s attachment to codependent tendencies and eliminate the silence within me. I’m working through my intrusive thoughts and diving into my family’s past and disrupting harmful old patterns. I’m stepping away from the shadows of my ancestors and into the light, ensuring that future generations grow up with knowledge of our past history of abuse and mental illness. Knowledge that allows us to explore the shadows without living in them. Knowledge that there’s more in life outside of the frames.

Rowan Burba, a junior at Kirkwood High School in Missouri, loves to participate as a witness in Mock Trial competitions, build and paint sets for the KHS theatre department, play viola in her school orchestra, and do crafts with kids. She is involved in politics and wants to help change the world for the better.

Mia De Haan

Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, Ariz.

Mia de Haan

What Being a Part of the LGBTQ+ Community Means to Me

Being queer is that one thing about me I am most proud of, yet also most scared of. Knowing that I am putting my life at risk for the simplest thing, like being gay, is horrifying.

Let’s talk about my first crush. Her name was Laurel, and she was always in front of me when we lined up after recess in first grade. I remember wishing that girls could marry girls because she had the prettiest long, blonde hair. I left these thoughts in the back of my head until middle school. I couldn’t stop staring at a certain girl all day long. That one girl who I would have sleepovers with every weekend and slow dance with at school dances—but only as friends. She changed my life. She was the first person to tell me that I was accepted and had no reason to be afraid. 

Being part of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t all rainbows and Pride parades. It is watching your family turn away from you in disgust but never show it on their faces. It’s opening Twitter and learning that it’s still illegal to be gay in 71+ countries. It’s astonishing that we had to wait until 2015 for the U.S. Supreme Court to make it legal to marry in all 50 states.  

My identity is happiness yet pain, so much pain. I hated myself for years, shoved myself back into a closet and dated my best friend for two years because maybe if I brought a boy home my family would wish me “Happy Birthday” again or send me Christmas presents like they do for my brother and sister.

When I began to explore my identity again, I asked myself, “Am I safe?” “Will I still be loved?” I was horrified. I am horrified. Legally, I am safe, but I am not safe physically. I can still be beaten up on the streets for holding a girl’s hand. Protesters at Pride festivals are still allowed to shout profanities at us and tell us that we are going to burn in hell—and the cops protect them. I am not safe mentally because I still allow the words of people and homophobes in the media and on my street get inside of my head and convince me that I am a criminal. 

When I read Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” I could feel how proud DeVault is to be Shawnee and Irish. While we do not share the same identity, I could tell that we are the same because we both would do anything for our cultures and want to show our pride to the rest of the world.

I honor my LGBTQ+ identity by going to Pride festivals and events. I also participate in an LGBTQ+ church and club, where, for years, was the only place I could be myself without the fear of being outed or harmed. Whenever I hear people being ignorant towards my community, I try to stay calm and have a conversation about why our community is great and valid and that we are not doing anything wrong. 

I don’t know if the world will ever change, but I do know that I will never change my identity just because the world is uncomfortable with who I am. I have never been one to take risks; the idea of making a fool of myself scares me. But I took one because I thought someone might listen to my gay sob story. I never expected it to be heard. If you have your own gay sob story, I will listen, and so will many others, even if you don’t realize it yet.  

Amelia (Mia) De Haan was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Mia has devoted her entire life to art, specifically theatre and dance. While she has struggled to figure out what she wants to do for the rest of her life, she does know that she wants to inspire people and be a voice for the people of the LGBTQ+ community who still feel that no one is listening. Mia dreams of moving to New York with her cat Loki and continuing to find a way to inspire people.

Laura Delgado

Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

Lauren Delgado

I moved to the United States when I was eight years old because my father knew Venezuela was becoming more corrupt. He wanted to give his family a better life. My sense of self and belonging was wiped clean when I moved to the United States, a country that identified me and continues to label me as an “alien.” On U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) documents, I am Alien Number xxx-xxx-xxx.  I will not let that alien number define who I am: a proud Venezuelan and American woman.

In her YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” author Kayla DeVault says that “to truly honor [her] heritage, [she] found [she] must understand and participate in it.” This is why during Christmas I help my mom make hallacas (a traditional Venezuelan dish made out of cornmeal, stuffed with beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives, wrapped in a banana leaf that is boiled to perfection), pan de jamón (a Christmas bread filled with ham, cheese, raisins, and olives—the perfect sweet and salty combination, if you ask me), and ensalada de gallina (a chicken, potatoes, and green apple salad seasoned with mayonnaise, salt, and pepper). While the gaitas (traditional Venezuelan folk music) is playing, we set up the Christmas tree and, under it, the nativity scene. The smell of Venezuelan food engulfs our small apartment. Every time I leave the house, the smell of food sticks to me like glue, and I love it.

We go to our fellow Venezuelan friend’s house to dance, eat, and laugh like we were back in Venezuela. We play bingo and gamble quarters as we talk over each other.  My favorite thing is how we poke fun at each other, our way of showing our love. There is nothing better than being surrounded by my Venezuelan family and friends and feeling like I belong.

My ancestors are Spanish settlers, West African slaves, and Indigenous Venezuelans. To my peers, I am a Latina woman who can speak Spanish and comes from a country they have never heard of. To my family, I am a strong and smart Venezuelan woman who is succeeding in this country she calls home. 

I was immediately an outcast as a young newcomer to this country. I was the new, exotic girl in class who did not speak a word of English; all of that led to bullying. Growing up in a country that did not want me was—and still is—hard. People often ask me why I would ever want to identify as American. My answer to their question is simple: This is my home. I knew that the chances of us going back to Venezuela were slim to none so I decided to make this country my home. At first, I fought it. My whole life was back in Venezuela. Eventually, I made lifelong friends, had my first kiss and my first heartbreak. I went to all of the homecoming and prom dances and made memories with my best friends to last me a lifetime. Yes, I was born in Venezuela and the pride of being a Venezuelan woman will never be replaced, but my whole life is in the United States and I would never trade that for the world. 

I am Venezuelan and I am American. I am an immigrant and I am Latina. The United States government will always know me as Alien Number xxx-xxx-xxx, but they will not know that my heritage is rich and beautiful and that I am a proud Venezuelan and a proud American woman.

Laura Delgado is a Junior at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, majoring in Graphic Design and minoring in Hispanic Studies. Laura and her family migrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2007 to escape the Chavez regime. She is a DACA recipient and a first-generation college student who has a passion for graphic design and hopes to one day open her own interior design company.

college essay examples on culture

Dear every human who wrote in this contest or thought about writing,

I want to start by addressing all of you. 

I think stepping out of your comfort zone and writing your truth—even if you think you aren’t a writer— is a brave thing to do. 

I want you to understand that not being selected does not mean your story isn’t valid or that your identity wasn’t “enough.” Remember, you’re always enough. You’re enough to God, to Allah, to your Higher Power, to the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky, to your parents, and to your ancestors who endured long enough for you to come into existence. 

As I read through the various essays, I saw a common thread of food . Whether it’s the pierogi sales at churches in Pittsburgh, the neverias around Phoenix, or the soul food joints in Birmingham, the history of our ancestors’ movements have left their impressions in our cuisine. 

Another theme I found in several essays was a “uniformed diaspora.” Some of you talked about not being able to fully trace your lineage, having your history stolen by some method of political racism, and even grappling with finding that your genetics are not all you thought they were. As a Native person, I know all too well that we had much taken from us. I know that the conquerors wrote our history, so ours is recorded with bias, racism, and flippancy. 

And now to the essay winners:

To Susanna: Obrigada for your story. I encourage you to keep exploring your identity and how it informs your existence today on Lenape, Rockaway, and Canarsie traditional lands (New York City). Your imagery reflects saudades well. I think there is an intriguing and untapped story embedded in your father’s experience from Lebanon, and I encourage you to explore how that merges with your Brazilian identity.

When I read that passage about Starbucks, I thought about how the average young American seems to be private in public, but public in private—meaning this culture and its technology isolates us (private) when we are around other people (public), yet so many of us share most about ourselves on social media (public) where we can pick and choose if we want to engage with someone (private). By the way, I, too, played lacrosse… Did you know it has Indigenous roots?

To Cherry: 非常感谢你!  Don’t listen to the American stereotypes of who you are, as hard as that can be. You sadly may always hear them, but hearing is not the same as listening. People undermine the things they don’t understand because the things they don’t understand scare them. While it is not your job to feel you have to educate them, you do have the freedom to choose how you navigate those spaces.

I understand how it may feel inauthentic to learn how to make traditional foods like zongzi from a YouTube video. For me, I have had to learn beading and other crafts because I was too ashamed to learn them when I had the elders still in my life. I  tell young folk to know their elders now while they can. Furthermore, please speak every language no matter how imperfect because it’s a gift. Also, I’ll eat your zongzi any day, even if all the rice falls out!

To Keon: The imagery and symbols of slavery you use, powerfully describe a revisionist history that further blocks access to what would be a culturally-rich ancestry. 

I remember standing on the shores of Ouidah, Benin, from where the majority of slaves left, looking through La Porte du Non Retour (The Door of No Return) memorial, and hearing a local say, “Our relatives, they left these shores for the ships and then… we never heard from them again.” And so we come to realize our stories are known only so far as they have been carried. 

I see hope in the way you have embraced your roots as your branches to move forward. I believe that, in looking towards your branches, you have actually found your roots. You are a product of all the stories, told and untold, remembered and forgotten. I encourage you to keep writing and exploring how your seemingly contradicting and somewhat unknown roots shaped your ancestors and shape their product: you. Don’t hold back. 

To Madison: Grazie and תודה. First of all, pizza bagels are delicious… just saying… talk about the best of both worlds! You write about the challenge of fitting into your communities, and I can certainly see how religious differences can become contentious. 

I am sorry that you had a negative Hillel experience. In the end, we can’t let the persecutors steal our ancestral identities from us because that allows them to win. Cultures are fluid, not rigid and defined as peers might bully us into thinking. It’s rotten when people label us with things like “pizza bagel,” but if you boldly embrace it, you can turn it on its head. So I encourage you to be the smartest, wittiest, and most deliciously confident pizza bagel out there, writing your experience for all to read!

To Laura: Gracias , you write with a motif of sorts, one that conflates your identity to a number and the label of “alien.” For people in the United States to be dismissive of immigrants and judgmental of their cultures and languages is for the same people to forget their own origins, their own stories, and their own roles (as benefactors or as victims) in this age-old system of oppression for gain. It is also rather ironic that we call people “aliens;” unless they are from an Indigenous nation. Are not nearly all Americans “aliens” to some degree?

You write about being bullied as the new, exotic girl in school and I have also experienced that as my family moved around a bit growing up; however, I have also had the privilege to speak English.

It’s sad that these experiences are still so proliferate, and so I think it is vital that people like you share their experiences. Perhaps your background can inform how you think about spaces as an interior designer. 

To Mariela: Gracias and תודה for the story you shared. You write about a complex existence that is a mix of poor and wealthy, white and brown, warm and cool. Learning to navigate these contrasting sides of your family will help you work with different kinds of people in your future.

I can understand your point about feeling out of place by your skin color. Lighter skin is largely considered a privilege in society, yet for those of us with non-white heritages, it can make us feel like we don’t belong amongst our own family. We have to walk a fine line where we acknowledge we may be treated better than our relatives in some circumstances but we have to sit with the feeling of not being “brown enough” other times. I encourage you to keep exploring your branches and sharing your feelings with your relatives about these topics. Perhaps one day you can use your deep understanding of human relations to inform your bedside manner as a doctor!

To Mia: Thank you for your brave piece, despite your fears. Your emotional recollection about the first girl you loved is very touching and powerful. 

I am sorry that you don’t feel as though you are treated the same by your family on account of your identity and that you have to take extra steps to be accepted, but I believe your continuing to be your authentic self is the only way to prove you mean what you mean.

I hope the utmost safety and acceptance for you. I also thank you for seeing and relating to my pride that I have for myself, and I encourage you to consider creative outlets— maybe even podcast hosting—to uplift your story and the stories of others, spread awareness, and facilitate change.

To Reese: Go raibh maith agat . That’s how you thank a singular person in Irish, if you didn’t know already. I enjoyed your piece because, of course, we have an Irish connection that I understand.

I find it pretty interesting that you came back with a lot of Lebanese results in your family tests. Understand those tests only represent the inherited genes, so if both of your parents were a quarter Irish but three-quarters Lebanese, for example, you would get half of each of their genes. You might get half Lebanese from both and you would appear full Lebanese—or any other variation. My point is those tests aren’t exact reports.

I am excited you have found new aspects of your heritage and I hope you will continue to explore—as best you can—what your ancestral history is. And, by the way, I, too, play hockey and the violin—fine choices!

To Rowan: Many families put up a facade, and it’s only the brave ones, like you, addressing the trauma head-on who will be able to break the cycle that causes intergenerational trauma. 

When we explore the parts of our identity, many of us may find how much trauma —including historic policy, racism, and displacement—has impacted our ancestors, perhaps centuries upon centuries ago. Learning about my family history and about religious factors has revealed stories of abuse and secrets that have been hushed wildly, even within my immediate family. Photos can be sad when we know the stories behind them and even when we never knew the person; they’re still a part of us and we can honor them by remembering them. I think you choosing to write about your Uncle Joe and the effects of trauma in your family— especially as you process and heal yourself—will be a tremendous resource both internally and for others. Thank you for sharing and I hope you find happiness in those frames.

Again, thank you all for your essays. It is exciting to see the youth writing. I am grateful for my piece to have been chosen for this contest and, I hope I’ve encouraged readers to consider every part that makes up their whole and how it has informed their life experiences.

Kayla DeVault

“ In seventh grade, I went to an affinity group meeting. And all I remember was being called a bad Asian again and again. I was called a bad Asian because I couldn’t use chopsticks. I was called a bad Asian because I didn’t know what bubble tea or K-pop was. Time and again, I was called a bad Asian because I didn’t know the things I was expected to know, and I didn’t do the things that I was expected to do. That meeting made me truly question my identity. “ . —Sebastian Cynn, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y. Click here to read the entire essay.

“It’s difficult being Dominican but born and raised in New York. I’m supposed to speak fluent Spanish. I’m supposed to listen to their music 24/7, and I’m supposed to follow their traditions. I’m supposed to eat their main foods. I’m unique and it’s not only me. Yes, I may not speak Spanish. Yes, I may not listen to their kind of music, but I don’t think that defines who I am as a Dominican. I don’t think I should be discriminated for not being the same as most Dominicans. Nobody should be discriminated against for being different from the rest because sometimes different is good. “ —Mia Guerrero, KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, New York, N.Y. Click here to read the entire essay.

When I hang out with some of my older friend groups, which are mainly white, straight kids, I don’t mention that I’m Asian or Gay, but as soon as I’m with my friends, I talk about my identifiers a lot. A lot of them are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and 11 out of 14 of them are a person of color. With my grandparents, I am quieter, a good Asian grandchild who is smart, gets good grades, is respectful. And I don’t act “Gay.” … Why do I have to act differently with different people? Why do I only feel comfortable with all of my identities at school?

—Gillian Okimoto, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y. Click here to read the entire essay .

“ Torah, Shema, yarmulke, all important elements of Jewish identity—except for mine. All these symbols assume the existence of a single God, but that doesn’t resonate with me. Religion is a meaningful part of my family’s identity. After all, wanting to freely practice their religion was what brought my great-grandparents to America from Eastern Europe. Being very interested in science, I could never wrap my head around the concept of God. Can I be Jewish while not believing in God? “ —Joey Ravikoff, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y. Click here to read the entire essay.

“ Yes, I am transgender, but I am also a son, a friend, an aspiring writer, and a dog trainer. I love riding horses. I’ve had the same volunteer job since sixth grade. I love music and trips to the art museum. I know who I am and whether other people choose to see me for those things is out of my control.  Holidays with my family feels like I’m suffocating in a costume. I’ve come out twice in my life. First, as a lesbian in middle school. Second, as a transgender man freshman year. I’ve gotten good at the classic sit-down. With hands folded neatly in front of me, composure quiet and well-kept, although I’m always terrified. “ —Sebastian Davies-Sigmund, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo. Click here to read the entire essay.

“ No longer do I wish to be stared at when civil rights and slavery are discussed. In every Socratic seminar, I shudder as expectant white faces turn to mine. My brown skin does not make me the ambassador for Black people everywhere. Please do not expect me to be the racism police anymore. Do not base the African American experience upon my few words. Do not try to be relatable when mentioning Hannukah is in a few days. Telling me you tell your White friends not to say the N-word doesn’t do anything for me. “ —Genevieve Francois, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo. Click here to read the entire essay.

“ I often walk into the kitchen greeted by my mother sitting on her usual stool and the rich smells of culture—the spicy smell of India, the hearty smell of cooked beans, or the sizzling of burgers on the grill. Despite these great smells, I find myself often yearning for something like my friends have; one distinct culture with its food, people, music, and traditions. I don’t have a one-click culture. That can be freeing, but also intimidating . People who know me see me as a fraction: ¼ black, ¾ white, but I am not a fraction. I am human, just human. “ —Amaela Bruce, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, Fort Wayne, Ind. Click here to read the entire essay.

“‘We just don’t want you to go to hell. ‘ I am not an atheist. I am not agnostic. I have no religion nor do I stand strong in any one belief. My answer to the mystery of life is simple: I don’t know. But I live in a world full of people who think they do.  There will be a day when that capital G does not control my conversations. There will be a day when I can speak of my beliefs, or lack thereof, without judgment, without the odd stare, and without contempt. The day will come when a life without religion is just another life. That is the day I wait for. That day will be Good. “ —Amara Lueker, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, Fort Wayne, Ind. Click here to read the entire essay.

“¡Correle!” yell the people around him. He runs to the grass, ducks down and starts to wait. He’s nervous. You can smell the saltiness of sweat. He looks up and hears the chopping of helicopter blades. You can see the beam of light falling and weaving through the grass field … out of a group of thirteen, only four were left hidden. He and the others crossed and met up with people they knew to take them from their own land down south to the opportunity within grasp up north. That was my father many years ago. I’ve only asked for that story once, and now it’s committed to memory. “ —Luz Zamora, Woodburn Academy of Art Science & Technology, Woodburn, Ore. Click here to read the entire essay.

“ How do I identify myself? What do I connect to? What’s important to you? Here’s the answer: I don’t. Don’t have a strong connection. Don’t know the traditions. Don’t even know the languages. I eat some of the food and kinda sorta hafta** the major holidays but thinking about it I don’t know anything important. I think that the strongest connection to my family is my name, Mei Li (Chinese for “beautiful” Ana (a variation on my mother’s very American middle name: Anne) Babuca (my father’s Mexican last name). “ —Mei Li Ana Babuca, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash. Click here to read the entire essay.

“ My whole life I have felt like I don’t belong in the Mexican category. I mean yeah, I’m fully Mexican but, I’ve always felt like I wasn’t. Why is that you ask? Well, I feel that way because I don’t know Spanish. Yes, that’s the reason. It may not sound like a big deal, but, for me, I’ve always felt disconnected from my race. I felt shameful. I felt like it was an obligation to know what is supposed to be my mother tongue. My whole family doesn’t really know fluent Spanish and that has always bothered me growing up. “ —Yazmin Perez, Wichita North High School, Wichita, Kan Click here to read the entire essay.

“ I believe differently from DeVault, who believes it’s important to connect and participate with your heritage. I believe that our personal pasts have more to do with who we are as people than any national identity ever could. Sure, our heritage is important, but it doesn’t do nearly as much to shape our character and perspective as our struggles and burdens do. Out of all my past experiences, illness—and especially mental illness—has shaped me. “ —Chase Deleon, Central York High School, York, Penn. Click here to read the entire essay.

“ … I can now run that whole grape leaf assembly line, along with other traditional plates, by myself. I have begun speaking out on current topics, such as Middle-Eastern representation in acting. I have become so much closer with my relatives and I don’t mind busting a move with them on the dance floor. Although a trip to Syria is not in my near future, DeVault made me realize that a connection to your geographical cultural roots is important. According to my aunt, I have become a carefree, happy, and more passionate person. I no longer feel stuck in the middle of ethnicity and society. Becoming one with and embracing my identity truly is ‘A Whole New World.’” —Christina Jarad, University Ligget School, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. Click here to read the entire essay.

“While my bow is not made of wood and my arrows lack a traditional stone tip, the connections are always present, whether I am stalking bull elk in the foothills of the Rockies or fly fishing in the mystical White River. The methods and the technologies may be different, but the motivations are the same. It is a need to be connected to where my food originates. It is a desire to live in harmony with untouched lands. It is a longing to live wild, in a time where the wild is disappearing before our eyes. “ —Anderson Burdette, Northern Oklahoma University, Stillwater, Okla. Click here to read the entire essay.

“Black people always say that White people don’t use seasoning. This saying is one of those sayings that I always heard, but never understood. I am Black, but I was adopted into a White household … Even though I identify as a Black woman, all my life I have struggled with breaking into the Black culture because other people around me consciously or unconsciously prevent me from doing so. “ —Brittany Hartung, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala. Click here to read the entire essay.

We received many outstanding essays for the Fall 2019 Student Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we’d like to share some excerpts that caught our eye:

How can other people say that I only have one identity before I can even do that for myself? —Arya Gupta, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

‘Middle Child’ by J. Cole blasts through the party. Everyone spits the words like they’re on stage with him. J. Cole says the N-Word, and I watch my Caucasian peers proudly sing along. Mixed Girl is perplexed. Black Girl is crestfallen that people she calls friends would say such a word. Each letter a gory battlefield; White Girls insists they mean no harm; it’s how the song’s written. Black Girl cries. —Liz Terry, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

To me, valuing my ancestors is a way for me to repay them for their sacrifices. —Jefferson Adams Lopez, Garrison Middle School, Walla Walla, Wash.

A one-hour drive with light traffic. That’s the distance between me and my cousins. Short compared to a 17-hour flight to the Philippines, yet 33 miles proved to create a distance just as extreme. Thirty-three miles separated our completely different cultures. —Grace Timan, Mount Madonna High School, Gilroy, Calif.

What does it mean to feel Korean? Does it mean I have to live as if I live in Korea? Does it mean I have to follow all the traditions that my grandparents followed? Or does it mean that I can make a decision about what I love? —Max Frei, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

Not knowing feels like a safe that you can’t open (speaking about her ancestry) . —Madison Nieves-Ryan, Rachel Carson High School, New York, N.Y.

As I walked down the halls from classroom to classroom in high school, I would see smiling faces that looked just like mine. At every school dance, in every school picture, and on every sports team, I was surrounded by people who looked, thought, and acted similar to me. My identity was never a subject that crossed my mind. When you aren’t exposed to diversity on a daily basis, you aren’t mindful of the things that make you who you are. —Jenna Robinson, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

When my Great-Great-Grandfather Bill was 12, he ran away to work with his uncles. And then when he was older and married, he called up his wife and said, “Honey, I’m heading off to college for a few years. Buh-Bye!” Because of his adventurous spirit, Bill Shea was the first Shea to go to college. Ever since my mom told me this story, I’ve always thought that we could all use a little Bill attitude in our lives.  —Jordan Fox, Pioneer Middle School, Walla Walla, Wash.

I defy most of the stereotypes of the Indian community. I’m a gender-fluid, American, Belizean kid who isn’t very studious. I want to be a writer, not a doctor, and I would hang out with friends rather than prepare for the spelling bee. —Yadna Prasad, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

While my last name may be common, the history behind my family is not. A line of warriors, blacksmiths, intellectuals, and many more. I’m someone who is a story in progress. —Ha Tuan Nguyen, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash.

My family is all heterosexual. I did not learn about my identity from them. LGBTQ+ identity is not from any part of the world. I cannot travel to where LGBTQ+people originate. It does not exist. That is the struggle when connecting with our identities. It is not passed on to us. We have to find it for ourselves. —Jacob Dudley, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

My race is DeVault’s childhood kitchen, so warm and embracing. Familiar. My sexuality is DeVault’s kitchen through adulthood: disconnected. —Maddie Friar, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

At school, I was Dar-SHAW-na and at home DAR-sha-na. There were two distinct versions, both were me, but neither were complete. \ —Darshana Subramaniam, University Liggett School, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.

I do not think that heritage and ethnic roots are always about genetics. It is about the stories that come with it, and those stories are what shapes who you are. —Lily Cordon-Siskind, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

In my sixteen-year-old mind, the two ethnicities conflicted. I felt like I couldn’t be both. I couldn’t be in touch with Southern roots and Cuban ones at the same time. How could I, they contradict each other? The Cuban part of me ate all my food, was loud and blunt, an underdog and the Southerner was reserved, gentle, and polite. —Grace Crapps, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

I thought I was simply an American. However, I learned that I am not a jumbled mix of an untraceable past, but am an expertly woven brocade of stories, cultures, and hardships. My ancestors’ decisions crafted me…I am a story, and I am a mystery. —Hannah Goin, Pioneer Middle School, Walla Walla, Wash.

We received many outstanding essays for the Fall 2019 Student Writing Competition, and several students got clever and creative with their titles. Here are some titles that grabbed our attention:

“A Mixed Child in a Mixed-Up Family” Caitlin Neidow, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

“Diggin’ in the DNA” Honnor Lawton, Chestnut Hill Middle School, Liverpool, N.Y.

“Hey! I’m Mexican (But I’ve Never Been There)” Alexis Gutierrez-Cornelio, Wellness, Business & Sports School, Woodburn, Ore.

“What It Takes to Be a Sinner” Amelia Hurley, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

“Mirish” Alyssa Rubi, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash.

“Nunca Olvides de Donde Vienes ” ( Never forget where you came from ) Araceli Franco, Basis Goodyear High School, Goodyear, Ariz.

“American Tacos” Kenni Rayo-Catalan, Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, Ariz.

“Corn-Filled Mornings and Spicy Afternoons” Yasmin Medina, Tarrant County Community College, Fort Worth, Tex.

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  • College Application

College Diversity Essay Examples

College Diversity Essay Examples

Institutions of higher learning want to recognize diversity and support students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, making college diversity essay examples more relevant than ever. Your diversity secondary essay will make a big difference in your application, and looking at expertly written essays will help you immensely.

We at BeMo believe that everybody deserves a fair and equal shot at higher education, which is why it is important to us to make sure that persons from underrepresented backgrounds aren’t being left behind.

To that end, we are going to show several examples of diversity essays, with prompts selected from different educational institutions, in addition to giving you general expert college essay tips and a section on how to approach diversity essays specifically.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 11 min read

Essay examples.

These essay prompts are taken from various schools as well as the Common App*, and each one will deal with a different kind of diversity. Some of these prompts remark directly on diversity, while others are simply open, or hint at a connection.

*The Common Application is a centralized system used by many schools to streamline the application process.

NYU Supplemental Essay Example (Common App)

Prompt: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

Word limit: 250-650 words. Aim for about 500 words.

The labels that I bear are hung from me like branches on a tree: disruptive, energetic, creative, loud, fun, easily distracted, clever, a space cadet, a problem … and that tree has roots called ADHD. The diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made a lot of sense when it was handed down. I was diagnosed later than other children, probably owing to my sex, which is female; people with ADHD who are female often present in different ways from our male counterparts and are just as often missed by psychiatrists.

Over the years, these labels served as either a badge or a bludgeon, keeping me from certain activities, ruining friendships, or becoming elements of my character that I love about myself and have brought me closer to people I care about. Every trait is a double-edged sword.

The years that brought me to where I am now have been strange and uneven. I had a happy childhood, even if I was a “handful” for my parents. As I grew and grew in awareness of how I could be a problem, I developed anxiety over behavior I simply couldn’t control. With the diagnosis, I received relief, and yet, soon I was thinking of myself as broken, and I quickly attributed every setback to my neurological condition.

I owe much to my ADHD. I have found my paintbrushes to be superb catalysts for the cornucopia of ideas in my mind. I have always known how to have a great time, and my boundless energy has contributed to winning several medals while playing basketball.

My ADHD owes much to me, too. I have received several cards in basketball because I got “agitated.” My grades throughout elementary school – before I had good coping mechanisms and medications – look like yo-yos. Of course, I also have social troubles that I lay at the feet of my brain being wrong.

I have a wrong brain. I am wrong-brained. Imagine carrying that around as a child or as a teenager. I had to.

Only recently did I change my wrong-mind to a right-mind. The way I did it was simple: I stopped thinking of myself as having a brain that was wrong. I have a brain that is different. It supplies me with hurdles and the ability to leap over those hurdles. Sometimes I need extra help, but who doesn’t in one way or another? 

These days, I don’t even like to think of my ADHD as a “neurological condition,” because I just want to feel like it’s a part of me, and of course, it is.

I have recently been volunteering at a mental health resource center, trying to spread that worldview. I believe that it is important to help people with different minds. Part of how we need to do that is by normalizing being abnormal. We are all strange and different. My version of difference happens to be in my mind, and it has a label. So, let’s all be kind and generous to each other and our wonderful, divergent differences.

Prompt: “Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.”

Word limit: This particular prompt from Harvard is not given a word limit, but we recommend you aim for about 600 words.

Every morning I ride through the park on my bicycle, past a group of yoga practitioners who are connecting with nature in their trendy yoga pants. They're being taught by a tranquil-faced twenty-something with an asymmetrical haircut and a smart phone playing nature sounds. Saying “Namaste,” before rushing home to take the kids to school, they’ll probably buy flavored macchiatos on the way.

I’m not offended, although as a Hindu I have every right to be; I just think that they are probably missing the point of something very profound and important to me. I was taught yoga by my grandfather, who I always thought looked one hundred years old, no matter what he really was.

He would get me up at dawn, and I would complain, but doing the poses did awaken me, stretch my limbs, and move me into a more centered place. Most importantly, he taught me to hold on to that centered place for the rest of the day, to make sure that I carried my yoga with me.

I did carry it with me, too, past shops selling incense and yoga mats, past music stores with baby boomer rock stars who played sitar as a fad, and past a thousand other places that reminded me that my culture was a commodity, my religion a self-help rubber stamp. Lately, it has been my bicycle ride through the park taking me past this yoga group, who I don’t want to disparage too much, because maybe some of them are taking it seriously, but it doesn’t look that way, and it really doesn’t feel that way.

Looking for more tips? Check out the infographic below:

Prompt: “In 20XX, we faced a national reckoning on racial injustice in America - a reckoning that continues today. Discuss how this has affected you, what you have learned, or how you have been inspired to be a change agent around this important issue.”

Word limit: 400 words, max.

I’m angry and I’m tired of pretending otherwise. There have been too many riots, too many marches, too many people shouting into uncaring ears when Black people get treated the way we do. How many dead fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters have to move from the front page of the news to the bottom of the social media feed before we get recognized and listened to. I just want to be heard. I have given up on the idea of waking up in a world where I am not afraid, angry, and weary. Maybe that world is for my grandkids, or my great-grandkids, but not me.

My mother and my father, my aunts and uncles, they were all very active in the protests – often at the front of the line – and they did not come through unscathed. They had bruises and blood spilt, they had broken bones. I know they will return to that battlefield, to protest peacefully until they cannot maintain that rank any longer. From these noble people I received my sense of righteous anger. But I also got good advice on how to use it well.

They know that protests are one thing, but action is another, and my mind has been geared toward law school for some time now, because I wanted to bring about the major changes that are needed for our society to move on. So, in addition to protests, I have been taking pre-law courses, and I have acquired a part-time job in the law firm where my uncle works, and while it is a small, office job, I get to spend a lot of time with my uncle learning about how to bring positive change by fighting big and little battles. Of course, he is also showing me how to fight those battles.

Anger alone isn’t going to settle anything, which is why I believe in making a better world with my actions and rhetoric. But I am still frustrated and furious, and while I am trying to find a hopeful place to get to, I’ll repeat that I don’t think we’ll see the better world I want. Maybe our grandkids, but not us. Hold on to that, get angry, and join me in pushing forward for them.

Princeton Supplemental Essay Example

Prompt: “At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?”

Word limit: 250 words

Coming out was harder than I thought it would be. In the months previous, when I knew that I was gay, and when I knew that I wanted to tell my family, I was worried about their reactions. I hoped that they would be supportive, and I suspected that they would be, but it wasn’t just the event that was difficult, it was the next day and the day after that.

One conversation would have been painful but quick, like the proverbial bandage being ripped off. But this was interminable and killing me with kindness. My parents asked little questions or made showy gestures about caring in the days that followed, and the experience wound up lasting several months.

The insight I gained is that we think of life in terms of gateposts and events, but all things take time, and most have a build-up and cool-down surrounding them. Expecting to have something momentous take place in one afternoon was naïve.

Moving forward, I understand that the real problem was thinking of this as an event at all, and it’s not, it’s just who I am, which means I carry it around with me and I have no other recourse. I believe this will serve me well, because it will help me have ongoing conversations instead of quick talks that I wrap up and put away.

That’s better; my life is not a series of tough moments, it is ongoing.

The main thing to do with a diversity essay is to remain focused. First, focus on your subject, and keep in mind that the subject isn’t actually “diversity.” That sounds weird, but remember that this is always about you and the institution you’re applying to. They want to hear about your life, your experiences, and how you connect with their program.

To that end, make sure that you talk about your experiences beyond a general push for diversity. Of course, it’s easy to get behind ideas that are inclusive, but you have a central purpose here.

The second focus is to keep yourself on target with what kind of diversity you’re talking about. You can bring in multiple ways you fit the description of “diverse,” but your essay may be a fairly short one, so focus on one central theme or idea.

There are many different ways that you can be diverse or have a worldview that fits these prompts. Diversity is often thought of in terms of race, sexuality, and gender, but it could also mean neurodivergence, living with a disability, sex, religion, or nationality. With most prompts, diversity could be anything that sets you apart, such as growing up in unusual circumstances. Perhaps you moved a lot as a child, grew up on a military base, or were raised in the foster care system. Before assuming that diversity essays don’t apply to you, check the exact wording of the prompt and really contemplate your background.

Many essays ask about your experiences with diversity, so you might have a friend or relative who fits one or more of these categories; if you have a personal connection and experience with that person, you can speak to that in an essay.

Exploring your diversity, or your experiences with diversity, is the key to success in writing your own diversity essay. Dig deep and share your genuine experiences. The operative word here is “genuine”: do not, under any circumstances, fake this essay. Any falsehood in an application is unacceptable, and co-opting another underrepresented group’s diversity is disrespectful. There is enough room in most prompts to account for your particular branch of diversity without pretending to be someone else.

Want to review more advice for college essays? Take a look at this video:

Essay Writing Tips

When we speak more generally, not just of diversity essays in particular, but with respect to how to write a college essay , most of the rules are going to be more or less the same as with other prompts.

Of course, your approach to how to start a college essay , whether specific to the diversity prompts or not, remains the same: open with your “hook,” the line that snares any reader, ideally even ones who aren’t on the admissions committee. If you open well, you grab your reader’s attention and bring them along for the ride.

After that, follow basic essay structure, including a body to explore your ideas and a conclusion to wrap up.

One way to polish your essay is to make sure that your paragraphs transition nicely into one another – pay extra attention to the flow of your material. Another elite polish tip is to mirror your opening line with your closing, at least in terms of fulfilling the promise of whatever your opening line spoke of.

Inclusion is of maximal importance. Get yourself recognized at your top-choice school with our tips and sample college essays . By working with these prompts, and within the application streams for underrepresented students, you are giving yourself the agency to move forward into a more diverse future.

Everything depends on the individual school’s prompt. If the prompt is mandatory, you write the essay, even if you only have an outsider’s connection. Many schools have optional diversity essays, or reserve them for students from certain backgrounds. In those cases, only write the essay if you feel it is appropriate for you to do so. This might change based on the wording of the prompt. Some prompts invite students with “connections” to diverse communities to respond, which means that you might not be a member of an underrepresented community, but you could be a supporter, activist, or close friend or family member of those communities. Still other prompts cast a wide net for potential types of diversity, which means you might fit into one based on your experiences, even if you don’t immediately think of yourself as fitting in.

If the essay prompt applies to you, or if it is mandatory, write the essay.

Not necessarily. Obviously, if the essay is optional and does not apply to you, your chances remain the same. However, many institutions have programs for underrepresented students, and benefitting from them may depend on writing a diversity statement. In other words, it’s required. In general, we recommend that you take every opportunity offered to make your application stand out, and producing a thoughtful diversity statement or optional essay is an effective way to do that.

As listed above, there are many possibilities. Race, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, and sex are some of the categories you might fit into which apply to these essays. If you don’t fit into those categories, you might still be considered diverse based on any experience which sets you apart and gives you a unique background, life, or circumstance, which means that most diversity prompts have a very wide net.

Essays are typically only seen by admissions committees. If the institution wants to use your essay as an example essay, they would need to ask you first. Sharing your essay would require permission.

If you are particularly worried, contact your school and ask about their confidentiality policies, or specifically ask that they do not disclose your essay’s contents.

Try not to worry; these programs are set up for people like you, and the administrations are understanding and sympathetic to your situation. They certainly do not want to hurt you.

You just have to share your authentic connection with diversity. If you have negative emotions or experiences tied to that aspect of yourself, of course you are allowed to share them. Speaking to the frustration, anger, anxiety, and other debilitating emotions around racial violence, for example, is not off the table. You highlight yourself, your diversity, and your connection to the school – that’s it. Don’t feel like you need to hide your personal experiences to play nice or seem “positive.”

No, some do not. Most have essays geared toward your background generally, which can often provide an opportunity to talk about your diversity, but it would not be required. Keep in mind that more general background essays, like personal statements or the near-ubiquitous, “Why this school?” essays, will need more focus on academics or career goals. Diversity essays can be more focused on your own personal experiences.

All admissions essays are personal to some degree. Diversity essays will touch on the essence of yourself, so they will be more personal than a lot of others. Getting personal will also help to show the admissions committee who you really are and why you really need to attend their institution.

Most of the time, yes. Many prompts are open-ended and would allow you to bring that aspect of yourself forward - in your personal statement, for instance. Some application processes, such as the Common or Coalition Applications, have a prompt that allows you to select your own topic.

Definitely write a diversity essay if you believe that is the best way to show your unique individuality and how you will add to the fabric of the school to which you are applying.

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21 Stellar Common App Essay Examples to Inspire Your College Essay

What’s covered:, what makes a good common app essay, is your common app essay strong enough.

When you begin writing your Common App essay, having an example to look at can help you understand how to effectively write your college essay so that it stands apart from others. 

These Common App essay examples demonstrate a strong writing ability and answer the prompt in a way that shows admissions officers something unique about the student. Once you’ve read some examples and are ready to get started, read our step-by-step guide for how to write a strong Common App essay.  

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our Common App essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.

It’s Personal

The point of the Common App essay is to humanize yourself to a college admissions committee. The ultimate goal is to get them to choose you over someone else! You will have a better chance of achieving this goal if the admissions committee feels personally connected to you or invested in your story. When writing your Common App essay, you should explore your feelings, worldview, values, desires, and anything else that makes you uniquely you.

It’s Not Cliché

It is pretty easy to resort to clichés in college essays. This should be actively avoided! CollegeVine has identified the immigrant’s journey, sports injuries, and overcoming a challenging course as cliché topics . If you write about one of these topics, you have to work harder to stand out, so working with a more nuanced topic is often safer and easier.

It’s Well-Done

Colleges want good writers. They want students who can articulate their thoughts clearly and concisely (and creatively!). You should be writing and rewriting your essays, perfecting them as you go. Of course, make sure that your grammar and spelling are impeccable, but also put in time crafting your tone and finding your voice. This will also make your essay more personal and will make your reader feel more connected to you!

It’s Cohesive

Compelling Common App essays tell a cohesive story. Cohesion is primarily achieved through effective introductions and conclusions , which often contribute to the establishment of a clear theme or topic. Make sure that it is clear what you are getting at, but also don’t explicitly state what you are getting at—a successful essay speaks for itself.

Common App Essay Examples

Here are the current Common App prompts. Click the links to jump to the examples for a specific prompt, or keep reading to review the examples for all the prompts.

Prompt #1 :  Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Prompt #2 :  The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Prompt #3 :  Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Prompt #4 : Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? (NOTE: We only have an example for the old prompt #4 about solving a problem, not this current one)

Prompt #5 :  Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Prompt #6 :  Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Prompt #7 :  Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects.

Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Prompt #1, example #1.

The room was silent except for the thoughts racing through my head. I led a spade from my hand and my opponent paused for a second, then played a heart. The numbers ran through my mind as I tried to consider every combination, calculating my next move. Finally, I played the ace of spades from the dummy and the rest of my clubs, securing the contract and 620 points when my partner ruffed at trick five. Next board.

It was the final of the 2015 United States Bridge Federation Under-26 Women’s Championship. The winning team would be selected to represent the United States in the world championship and my team was still in the running.

Contract bridge is a strategic and stochastic card game. Players from around the world gather at local clubs, regional events, and, in this case, national tournaments.

Going into the tournament, my team was excited; all the hours we had put into the game, from the lengthy midnight Skype sessions spent discussing boards to the coffee shop meetings spent memorizing conventions together, were about to pay off.

Halfway through, our spirits were still high, as we were only down by fourteen international match points which, out of the final total of about four hundred points, was virtually nothing and it was very feasible to catch up. Our excitement was short-lived, however, as sixty boards later, we found that we had lost the match and would not be chosen as the national team.

Initially, we were devastated. We had come so close and it seemed as if all the hours we had devoted to training had been utterly wasted. Yet as our team spent some time together reflecting upon the results, we gradually realized that the true value that we had gained wasn’t only the prospect of winning the national title, but also the time we had spent together exploring our shared passion. I chatted with the winning team and even befriended a few of them who offered us encouragement and advice.

Throughout my bridge career, although I’ve gained a respectable amount of masterpoints and awards, I’ve realized that the real reward comes from the extraordinary people I have met. I don’t need to travel cross-country to learn; every time I sit down at a table whether it be during a simple club game, a regional tournament or a national event, I find I’m always learning. 

I nod at the pair that’s always yelling at each other. They teach me the importance of sportsmanship and forgiveness.

I greet the legally blind man who can defeat most of the seeing players. He reminds me not to make excuses.

I chat with the friendly, elderly couple who, at ages ninety and ninety-two, have just gotten married two weeks ago. They teach me that it’s never too late to start anything.

I talk to the boy who’s attending Harvard and the girl who forewent college to start her own company. They show me that there is more than one path to success.

I congratulate the little kid running to his dad, excited to have won his very first masterpoints. He reminds me of the thrill of every first time and to never stop trying new things.

Just as much as I have benefitted from these life lessons, I aspire to give back to my bridge community as much as it has given me. I aspire to teach people how to play this complicated yet equally as exciting game. I aspire to never stop improving myself, both at and away from the bridge table.

Bridge has given me my roots and dared me to dream. What started as merely a hobby has become a community, a passion, a part of my identity. I aspire to live selflessly and help others reach their goals. I seek to take risks, embrace all results, even failure, and live unfettered from my own doubt.

This student draws readers in with a strong introduction. The essay starts ambiguous—“I led with a spade”—then intrigues readers by gradually revealing more information and details. This makes the reader want to keep reading (which is super important!) As the writer continues, there is a rather abrupt tone shift from suspenseful to explanatory with statements like “It was the final of the 2015 United States Bridge Federation Under-26 Women’s Championship” and “Contract bridge is a strategic and stochastic card game.” If you plan to start with an imagery-heavy, emotional, suspenseful, or dramatic introduction, you will need to transition to the content of your essay in a way that does not feel abrupt. 

You will often hear that essays need to “show, not tell.” This essay actually does both. First, the student tells readers the importance of bridge, saying “we gradually realized that the true value that we had gained wasn’t only the prospect of winning the national title, but also the time we had spent together exploring our shared passion” and “I’ve realized that the real reward comes from the extraordinary people I have met.” Then, the student shows the lessons they have learned from bridge through a series of parallel sentences: “I nod… sportsmanship and forgiveness” “I greet… not to make excuses” “I chat… it’s never too late to start anything” and so on. This latter strategy is much more effective than the former and is watered down because the student has already told us what we are supposed to get out of these sentences. Remember that your readers are intelligent and can draw their own conclusions. Avoid summarizing the moral of your story for them!

Overall, this essay is interesting and answers the prompt. We learn the importance of bridge to this student. The student has a solid grasp of language, a high-level vocabulary, and a valuable message, though they would be better off if they avoided summarizing their point and created more seamless transitions. 

Prompt #1, Example #2

Growing up, I always wanted to eat, play, visit, watch, and be it all: sloppy joes and spaetzle, Beanie Babies and Steiff, Cape Cod and the Baltic Sea, football and fussball, American and German.

My American parents relocated our young family to Berlin when I was three years old. My exposure to America was limited to holidays spent stateside and awfully dubbed Disney Channel broadcasts. As the few memories I had of living in the US faded, my affinity for Germany grew. I began to identify as “Germerican,” an ideal marriage of the two cultures. As a child, I viewed my biculturalism as a blessing. I possessed a native fluency in “Denglisch” and my family’s Halloween parties were legendary at a time when the holiday was just starting to gain popularity outside of the American Sector.

Insidiously, the magic I once felt in loving two homes was replaced by a deep-­rooted sense of rootlessness. I stopped feeling American when, while discussing World War II with my grandmother, I said “the US won.” She corrected me, insisting I use “we” when referring to the US’s actions. Before then, I hadn’t realized how directly people associated themselves with their countries. I stopped feeling German during the World Cup when my friends labeled me a “bandwagon fan” for rooting for Germany. Until that moment, my cheers had felt sincere. I wasn’t part of the “we” who won World Wars or World Cups. Caught in a twilight of foreign and familiar, I felt emotionally and psychologically disconnected from the two cultures most familiar to me.

After moving from Berlin to New York at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. Looking and sounding American furthered my feelings of dislocation. Border patrol agents, teachers, classmates, neighbors, and relatives all “welcomed me home” to a land they could not understand was foreign to me. Americans confused me as I relied on Urban Dictionary to understand my peers, the Pledge of Allegiance seemed nationalistic, and the only thing familiar about Fahrenheit was the German after whom it was named. Too German for America and too American for Germany, I felt alienated from both. I wanted desperately to be a member of one, if not both, cultures.

During my first weeks in Scarsdale, I spent my free time googling “Berlin Family Seeks Teen” and “New Americans in Scarsdale.” The latter search proved most fruitful: I discovered Horizons, a nonprofit that empowers resettled refugees, or “New Americans,” to thrive. I started volunteering with Horizon’s children’s programs, playing with and tutoring young refugees.

It was there that I met Emily, a twelve­-year-­old Iraqi girl who lived next to Horizons. In between games and snacks, Emily would ask me questions about American life, touching on everything from Halloween to President Obama. Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. American culture was no longer completely foreign to me. I found myself especially qualified to work with young refugees; my experience growing up in a country other than that of my parents’ was similar enough to that of the refugee children Horizons served that I could empathize with them and offer advice. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging.

Forging a special, personal bond with young refugees proved a cathartic outlet for my insecurities as it taught me to value my past. My transculturalism allowed me to help young refugees integrate into American life, and, in doing so, I was able to adjust myself. Now, I have an appreciation of myself that I never felt before. “Home” isn’t the digits in a passport or ZIP code but a sense of contentedness. By helping a young refugee find comfort, happiness, and home in America, I was finally able to find those same things for myself.

Due to their endearing (and creative) use of language—with early phrases like “sloppy joes and spaetzle” as well as  “Germerican” and “Denglisch”—readers are inclined to like this writer from the get-go. Though the essay shifts from this lighthearted introduction to more serious subject matter around the third paragraph, the shift is not abrupt or jarring. This is because the student invites readers to feel the transition with them through their inclusion of various anecdotes that inspired their “feelings of cultural homelessness.” And our journey does not end there—we go back to America with the student and see how their former struggles become strengths.

Ultimately, this essay is successful due to its satisfying ending. Because readers experience the student’s struggles with them, we also feel the resolution. The conclusion of this essay is a prime example of the “Same, but Different” technique described in our article on How to End Your College Essay . As the student describes how, in the end, their complicated cultural identity still exists but transitions to a source of strength, readers are left feeling happy for the student. This means that they have formed a connection with the student, which is the ultimate goal!

Prompt #1, Example #3

“1…2…3…4 pirouettes ! New record!” My friends cheered as I landed my turns. Pleased with my progress, I gazed down at my worn-out pointe shoes. The sweltering blisters, numbing ice-baths, and draining late-night practices did not seem so bad after all. Next goal: five turns.

For as long as I can remember, ballet, in all its finesse and glamor, had kept me driven day to day. As a child, the lithe ballerinas, donning ethereal costumes as they floated across the stage, were my motivation. While others admired Messi and Adele, I idolized Carlos Acosta, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet. 

As I devoted more time and energy towards my craft, I became obsessed with improving my technique. I would stretch for hours after class, forcing my leg one inch higher in an effort to mirror the Dance Magazine cover girls . I injured my feet and ruined pair after pair of pointe shoes, turning on wood, cement, and even grass to improve my balance as I spun. At competitions, the dancers with the 180-degree leg extensions, endless turns, and soaring leaps—the ones who received “Bravos!” from the roaring audience—further pushed me to refine my skills and perfect my form. I believed that, with enough determination, I would one day attain their level of perfection. Reaching the quadruple- pirouette milestone only intensified my desire to accomplish even more. 

My efforts seemed to have come to fruition two summers ago when I was accepted to dance with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet at their renowned New York City summer intensive. I walked into my first session eager to learn from distinguished ballet masters and worldly dancers, already anticipating my improvement. Yet, as I danced alongside the accomplished ballerinas, I felt out of place. Despite their clean technique and professional training, they did not aim for glorious leg extensions or prodigious leaps. When they performed their turn combinations, most of them only executed two turns as I attempted four. 

“Dancers, double- pirouettes only.” 

Taken aback and confused, I wondered why our teacher expected so little from us. The other ballerinas seemed content, gracing the studio with their simple movements. 

As I grew closer with my Moscow roommates, I gradually learned that their training emphasized the history of the art form instead of stylistic tricks. Rather than show off their physical ability, their performances aimed to convey a story, one that embodied the rich culture of ballet and captured both the legacy of the dancers before them and their own artistry. As I observed my friends more intently in repertoire class, I felt the pain of the grief-stricken white swan from Swan Lake , the sass of the flirtatious Kitri from Don Quijote, and I gradually saw what I had overlooked before. My definition of talent had been molded by crowd-pleasing elements—whirring pirouettes , gravity-defying leaps, and mind-blowing leg extensions. This mindset slowly stripped me from the roots of my passion and my personal connection with ballet. 

With the Bolshoi, I learned to step back and explore the meaning behind each step and the people behind the scenes. Ballet carries history in its movements, from the societal values of the era to each choreographer’s unique flair. As I uncovered the messages behind each pirouette, kick, and jump, my appreciation for ballet grew beyond my obsession with raw athleticism and developed into a love for the art form’s emotive abilities in bridging the dancers with the audience. My journey as an artist has allowed me to see how technical execution is only the means to a greater understanding between dancer and spectator, between storyteller and listener. The elegance and complexity of ballet does not revolve around astonishing stunts but rather the evocative strength and artistry manifested in the dancer, in me. It is the combination of sentiments, history, tradition, and passion that has allowed ballet and its lessons of human connection to become my lifestyle both on and off stage.

The primary strength of this essay is the honesty and authenticity of the student’s writing. It is purposefully reflective. Intentional language creates a clear character arc that begins with an eager young ballerina and ends with the student reflecting on their past. 

Readers are easily able to picture the passion and intensity of the young dancer through the writer’s engagement with words like “obsessed,” “forcing,” and “ruined” in the second paragraph. Then, we see how intensity becomes pride as they “wondered why our teacher expected so little from us.” And ultimately, we see the writer humbled as they are exposed to the deeper meaning behind what they have worked so hard for. This arc is outstanding, and the student’s musings about ballet in the concl usion position them as vulnerable and reflective (and thus, appealing to admissions officers!)

The main weakness of this essay (though this is a stellar essay) is its formulaic beginning. While dialogue can be an effective tool for starting your essay, this student’s introduction feels a bit stilted as the dialogue does not match the overall reflective tone of the essay. Perhaps, in place of “Next goal: five turns,” the student could have posed a question or foreshadowed the growth they ultimately describe.

Prompt #1, Example #4

My paintbrush dragged a flurry of acrylic, the rich colors attaching to each groove in my canvas’s texture. The feeling was euphoric.

From a young age, painting has been my solace. Between the stress of my packed high school days filled with classes and extracurriculars, the glide of my paintbrush was my emotional outlet.

I opened a fresh canvas and began. The amalgamation of assorted colors in my palette melded harmoniously: dark and light, cool and warm, brilliant and dull. They conjoined, forming shades and surfaces sharp, smooth, and ridged. The textures of my paint strokes — powdery, glossy, jagged — gave my painting a tone, as if it had a voice of its own, sometimes shrieking, sometimes whispering.

Rough indigo blue. The repetitive upward pulls of my brush formed layers on my canvas. Staring into the deep blue, I felt transported to the bottom of the pool I swim in daily. I looked upward to see a layer of dense water between myself and the person I aspire to be, an ideal blurred by filmy ripples. Rough blue encapsulates my amorphous, conflicting identity, catalyzed by words spewed by my peers about my “oily hair” and “smelly food”. They caused my ever present disdain toward cultural assemblies; the lehenga I wore felt burdensome. My identity quivers like the indigo storm I painted — a duel between my self-deprecating, validation-seeking self, and the proud self I desire to be. My haphazard paint strokes released my internal turbulence.

Smooth orange-hued green. I laid the color in melodious strokes, forming my figure. The warmer green transitions from the rough blue — while they share elements, they also diverge. My firm brushstrokes felt like the way I felt on my first day as a media intern at KBOO, my local volunteer-driven radio station, committed to the voices of the marginalized. As a naturally introverted speaker, I was forced out of my comfort zone when tasked with documenting a KBOO art exhibition for social media, speaking with hosts to share their diverse, underrepresented backgrounds and inspirations. A rhythmic green strength soon shoved me past internal blue turbulence. My communication skills which were built by two years of Speech and Debate unleashed — I recognized that making a social change through media required amplifying unique voices and perspectives, both my own and others. The powerful green strokes that fill my canvas entrench my growth.

Bright, voluminous coral, hinted with magenta and yellow. I dabbed the color over my figure, giving my painting dimension. The paint, speckled, added depth on every inch it coated. As I moved the color in random but purposeful movements, the vitality ushered into my painting brought a smile across my face. It reminded me of the encounters I had with my cubicle-mate in my sophomore year academic autism research internship, seemingly insignificant moments in my lifelong journey that, in retrospect, wove unique threads into my tapestry. The kindness she brought into work inspired my compassion, while her stories of struggling with ADHD in the workplace bolstered my empathy towards different experiences. Our conversations added blobs of a nonuniform bright color in my painting, binding a new perspective in me.

I added in my final strokes, each contributing an element to my piece. As I scanned my canvas, I observed these elements. Detail added nuance into smaller pictures; they embodied complexities within color, texture, and hue, each individually delivering a narrative. But together, they formed a piece of art— art that could be interpreted as a whole or broken apart but still delivering as a means of communication.

I find beauty in media because of this. I can adapt a complex narrative to be deliverable, each component telling a story. Appreciating these nuances — the light, dark, smooth, and rough — has cultivated my growth mindset. My life-long painting never finishes. It is ever-expanding, absorbing the novel textures and colors I encounter daily.

This essay is distinct from others due to its melodic, lyrical form. This is primarily achieved because the student’s form follows the movements of the paintbrush that they use to scaffold their essay. As readers, we simply flow through the essay, occasionally picking up bits of information about its creator. Without even realizing it, by the end of the essay, admissions officers will know that this student is a swimmer, was in Speech and Debate, is Indian, and has had multiple internships.

A major strength of this essay is the command of language that the student demonstrates. This essay was not simply written, it was crafted. Universities are, of course, interested in the talents, goals, and interests of applicants, but an essay being well-written can be equally important. Writing skills are important because your reader will not learn about your talents, goals, and interests if they aren’t engaged in your essay, but they are also important because admissions officers know that being able to articulate your thoughts is important for success in all future careers.

While this essay is well-written, there are a few moments where it falls out of the flow and feels more like a student advertising their successes. For example, the phrases “media intern at KBOO” and “autism research internship” work better on a resume than they do in this essay. Admissions officers have a copy of your resume and can check your internship experiences after reading your essay! If you are going to use a unique writing style or narrative form, lean into it; don’t try to hybridize it with the standard college essay form. Your boldness will be attractive to admissions officers.

college essay examples on culture

Readers are easily able to picture the passion and intensity of the young dancer through the writer’s engagement with words like “obsessed,” “forcing,” and “ruined” in the second paragraph. Then, we see how intensity becomes pride as they “wondered why our teacher expected so little from us.” And ultimately, we see the writer humbled as they are exposed to the deeper meaning behind what they have worked so hard for. This arc is outstanding, and the student’s musings about ballet in the conclusion position them as vulnerable and reflective (and thus, appealing to admissions officers!)

Prompt #2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Prompt #2, example #1.

“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain.

Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.

When my parents learned about The Green Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also – perhaps more importantly – a community. This meant transferring the family from Drumfield to Kingston. And while there was concern about Max, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me.

As it turned out, Green Academy was everything I’d hoped for. I was ecstatic to discover a group of students with whom I shared interests and could truly engage. Preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned. Max, lost in the fray and grappling with how to make connections in his enormous new high school, had become withdrawn and lonely. It took me until Christmas time – and a massive argument – to recognize how difficult the transition had been for my brother, let alone that he blamed me for it.

Through my own journey of searching for academic peers, in addition to coming out as gay when I was 12, I had developed deep empathy for those who had trouble fitting in. It was a pain I knew well and could easily relate to. Yet after Max’s outburst, my first response was to protest that our parents – not I – had chosen to move us here. In my heart, though, I knew that regardless of who had made the decision, we ended up in Kingston for my benefit. I was ashamed that, while I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me. I could no longer ignore it – and I didn’t want to.

We stayed up half the night talking, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. Max opened up and shared that it wasn’t just about the move. He told me how challenging school had always been for him, due to his dyslexia, and that the ever-present comparison to me had only deepened his pain.

We had been in parallel battles the whole time and, yet, I only saw that Max was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. I’d long thought Max had it so easy – all because he had friends. The truth was, he didn’t need to experience my personal brand of sorrow in order for me to relate – he had felt plenty of his own.

My failure to recognize Max’s suffering brought home for me the profound universality and diversity of personal struggle; everyone has insecurities, everyone has woes, and everyone – most certainly – has pain. I am acutely grateful for the conversations he and I shared around all of this, because I believe our relationship has been fundamentally strengthened by a deeper understanding of one another. Further, this experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me. I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story.

Here is a prime example that you don’t have to have fabulous imagery or flowery prose to write a successful Common App essay. You just have to be clear and say something that matters. This essay is simple and beautiful. It almost feels like having a conversation with a friend and learning that they are an even better person than you already thought they were.

Through this narrative, readers learn a lot about the writer—where they’re from, what their family life is like, what their challenges were as a kid, and even their sexuality. We also learn a lot about their values—notably, the value they place on awareness, improvement, and consideration of others. Though they never explicitly state it (which is great because it is still crystal clear!), this student’s ending of “I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story” shows that they are constantly striving for improvement and finding lessons anywhere they can get them in life.

The only part of this essay that could use a bit of work is the introduction. A short introduction can be effective, but this short first paragraph feels thrown in at the last minute and like it is missing its second half. If you are keeping your introduction short, make it matter.

Prompt #2, Example #2

Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire. 

Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family. 

Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt. 

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him. 

Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses. 

That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.

This Common App essay is well-written. The student is showing the admissions officers their ability to articulate their points beautifully and creatively. It starts with vivid images like that of the “rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free.” And because the prose is flowery, the writer can get away with metaphors like “I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms” that might sound cheesy without the clear command of the English language that the writer quickly establishes.

In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.

While dialogue often comes off as cliche or trite, this student effectively incorporates their family members saying “Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” This is achieved through the apt use of the verb “taunted” to characterize the questioning and through the question’s thematic connection to the earlier image of the student as a rustic princess. Similarly, rhetorical questions can feel randomly placed in essays, but this student’s inclusion of the questions “Was I so dainty?” and “Was I that incapable?” feels perfectly justified after they establish that they were pondering their failure.

Quite simply, this essay shows how quality writing can make a simple story outstandingly compelling.

Prompt #2, Example #3

The muffled voices behind thin walls heralded trouble.

They were fighting about money.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened and it wasn’t going to be the last. It was one of those countless nights I had to spend curled up under the blanket while pretending to be asleep. My father had been unemployed for five years now, and my mother, a local kindergarten teacher, was struggling to support the family alone. Our situation was bleak: Savings had run out and my parents could no longer hide our lack of money from me. To make matters worse, I was a few weeks away from starting high school, which would inevitably lead to college, yet another financial stressor for my family.

The argument didn’t sound like it would end soon.

“Why did you spend money on that?” my mother said, with an elongated sigh.

“I had to,” my father said, decidedly.

Every fight over the years had left me in despair and the idea of going through another fight daunted me. I had looked forward to my teen years all my life, an age that allows, for the first time, more responsibility. Indeed, after this fateful night, after my fourteenth birthday, I felt a mounting responsibility to help my family, and started brainstorming.

Always being fascinated by computers, I spent my childhood burying myself under computer cabinets, experimenting with computer parts. Naturally, I wondered if my skills in this area might be marketable.

The next morning, my friend, Naba, mentioned that her computer wasn’t working. A tuk-tuk ride later, and I was at her doorstep, and her mother was leading me to her room. I was off to work: I began examining her computer, like a surgeon carefully manages his scalpels and tools. A proper diagnosis was not far from reach, as I realized a broken pin in her computer’s SATA slot. After an hour of work, and a short trip to the hardware store, I successfully fixed the computer. To my pleasant surprise, Naba’s mother drew out two fresh 500 Rupee notes. One covered the cost of the parts I bought and the other was a token of appreciation. Bidding her goodbye, I went straight back home and put one of the 500 Rupee notes inside my family’s “savings-jar.”

Later that day, I devised a plan. I told my friends to spread the word that I was available to fix computers. At first, I got only one or two calls per week. I would pick up the computer from my client’s home, fix it quickly, and return it, thus earning myself a commission. While I couldn’t market my services at a competitive price, because I wasn’t able to buy the parts wholesale, I compensated by providing convenience. All my clients had to do was call me once and the rest was taken care of. Thus, my business had the best customer service in town.

At the beginning of my junior year, after two years of expanding my business through various avenues, I started buying computer parts from hardware suppliers in bulk at a cheaper rate. My business grew exponentially after that. 

Before long, I was my town’s go-to tech person. In this journey throughout high school, I started realizing that I had to create my own opportunities and not just curl up under a blanket, seeking only comfort, as I used to. Interacting with people from all walks of life became my forte and a sense of work ethic developed in me. My business required me to be an all-rounder– have the technical skills, be an easily approachable person, and manage cash flow. Slowly becoming better at this, I even managed to sway admins of a local institution to outsource their computer hardware purchases and repairs through me. As my business upsized throughout the years, I went from being helpless to autonomous – the teenager I always aspired to be.

This essay truly feels like a story—almost making you forget you are reading a college essay. The student’s voice is strong throughout the entire essay and they are able to give us insight into their thoughts, feelings, and motivations at every step of the story. Letting the reader into personal challenges like financial struggles can be daunting in a college essay, but the way this student used that setback to establish an emotional ethos to their narrative was well done.

Because the essay is essentially just telling a story, there’s a very natural flow that makes it enjoyable and easy to read. The student establishes the conflict at the beginning, then describes their solution and how they implemented it, and finally concludes with the lessons they took away from this experience. Transitions at the beginning of paragraphs effortlessly show the passage of time and how the student has progressed through the story.

Another reason this essay is so successful is because of the abundance of details. The reader truly feels like they are hiding in the room with the student as their parents yell because of the inclusion of quotes from the argument. We understand the precision and care they have for fixing computers because of the allusion to a surgeon with their scalpel. Not only does this imagery make the story more enticing, it also helps the reader gain a deeper appreciation for the type of person this student is and the adversity they have overcome.

If there were one thing this essay could do to improve, it would be to include a resolution to the conflict from the beginning. The student tells us how this business helped them grow as a person, but we don’t ever get to find out if they were able to lessen the financial burden on their parents or if they continued to struggle despite the student working hard. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but it would be nice to return to the conflict and acknowledge the effect they had on it, especially since this prompt is all about facing challenges.

Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Prompt #3, example #1.

When I was younger, I was adamant that no two foods on my plate touch. As a result, I often used a second plate to prevent such an atrocity. In many ways, I learned to separate different things this way from my older brothers, Nate and Rob. Growing up, I idolized both of them. Nate was a performer, and I insisted on arriving early to his shows to secure front row seats, refusing to budge during intermission for fear of missing anything. Rob was a three-sport athlete, and I attended his games religiously, waving worn-out foam cougar paws and cheering until my voice was hoarse. My brothers were my role models. However, while each was talented, neither was interested in the other’s passion. To me, they represented two contrasting ideals of what I could become: artist or athlete. I believed I had to choose.

And for a long time, I chose athlete. I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and viewed myself exclusively as an athlete, believing the arts were not for me. I conveniently overlooked that since the age of five, I had been composing stories for my family for Christmas, gifts that were as much for me as them, as I loved writing. So when in tenth grade, I had the option of taking a creative writing class, I was faced with a question: could I be an athlete and a writer? After much debate, I enrolled in the class, feeling both apprehensive and excited. When I arrived on the first day of school, my teacher, Ms. Jenkins, asked us to write down our expectations for the class. After a few minutes, eraser shavings stubbornly sunbathing on my now-smudged paper, I finally wrote, “I do not expect to become a published writer from this class. I just want this to be a place where I can write freely.”

Although the purpose of the class never changed for me, on the third “submission day,” – our time to submit writing to upcoming contests and literary magazines – I faced a predicament. For the first two submission days, I had passed the time editing earlier pieces, eventually (pretty quickly) resorting to screen snake when hopelessness made the words look like hieroglyphics. I must not have been as subtle as I thought, as on the third of these days, Ms. Jenkins approached me. After shifting from excuse to excuse as to why I did not submit my writing, I finally recognized the real reason I had withheld my work: I was scared. I did not want to be different, and I did not want to challenge not only others’ perceptions of me, but also my own. I yielded to Ms. Jenkin’s pleas and sent one of my pieces to an upcoming contest.

By the time the letter came, I had already forgotten about the contest. When the flimsy white envelope arrived in the mail, I was shocked and ecstatic to learn that I had received 2nd place in a nationwide writing competition. The next morning, however, I discovered Ms. Jenkins would make an announcement to the whole school exposing me as a poet. I decided to own this identity and embrace my friends’ jokes and playful digs, and over time, they have learned to accept and respect this part of me. I have since seen more boys at my school identifying themselves as writers or artists.

I no longer see myself as an athlete and a poet independently, but rather I see these two aspects forming a single inseparable identity – me. Despite their apparent differences, these two disciplines are quite similar, as each requires creativity and devotion. I am still a poet when I am lacing up my cleats for soccer practice and still an athlete when I am building metaphors in the back of my mind – and I have realized ice cream and gummy bears taste pretty good together.

This essay is cohesive as it centers around the theme of identity and the ability for two identities to coexist simultaneously (an interesting theme!). It uses the Full Circle ending strategy as it starts with a metaphor about food touching and ends with “I have realized ice cream and gummy bears taste pretty good together.”

The main issue with this essay is that it could come off as cliché, which could be irritating for admissions officers. The story described is notably similar to High School Musical (“I decided to own this identity and embrace my friends’ jokes and playful digs, and over time, they have learned to accept and respect this part of me”) and feels slightly overstated. 

At times, this essay is also confusing. In the first paragraph, it feels like the narrative is actually going to be about separating your food (and is somehow going to relate to the older brothers?). It is not entirely clear that this is a metaphor. Also, when the writer references the third submission day and then works backward to explain what a submission day is and that there are multiple throughout the semester, the timeline gets unnecessarily confusing. Reworking the way this paragraph unfolded would have been more compelling and less distracting.

Overall, this essay was interesting but could have been more polished to be more effective.

Prompt #3, Example #2

I walked into my middle school English class, and noticed a stranger behind my teacher’s desk. “Hello,” she said. “Today I will be your substitute teacher.” I groaned internally. “Let me start off by calling roll. Ally?” “Here!” exclaimed Ally. “Jack?” “Here.” “Rachel?” “Here.” “Freddie?” “Present.” And then– “…?” The awkward pause was my cue. “It’s Jasina,” I started. “You can just call me Jas. Here.” “Oh, Jasina. That’s unique.” The word “unique” made me cringe. I slumped back in my seat. The substitute continued calling roll, and class continued as if nothing had happened. Nothing had happened. Just a typical moment in a middle school, but I hated every second of it.

My name is not impossible to pronounce. It appears challenging initially, but once you hear it, “Jas-een-a”, then you can manage it. My nickname, Jas (pronounced “Jazz”), is what most people call me anyway, so I don’t have to deal with mispronunciation often. I am thankful that my parents named me Jasina (a Hebrew name), but whenever someone hears my name for the first time, they comment, and I assume they’re making assumptions about me. “Wow, Jas is a cool name.” She must be pretty cool.“I’ve never heard the name Jasina before.” She must be from somewhere exotic. “Jas, like Jazz?” She must be musical and artsy. None of these assumptions are bad, but they all add up to the same thing: She must be unique. 

When I was little, these sentiments felt more like commands than assumptions. I thought I had to be the most unique child of all time, which was a daunting task, but I tried. I was the only kid in the second grade to color the sun red. I knew it was really yellow, but you could always tell which drawings were mine. During snack time, we could choose between apple juice and grape juice. I liked apple juice more, but if everyone else was choosing apple, then I had to choose grape. This was how I lived my life, and it was exhausting. I tried to continue this habit into middle school, but it backfired. When everyone became obsessed with things like skinny jeans and Justin Bieber and blue mascara (that was a weird trend), my resistance of the norm made me socially awkward. I couldn’t talk to people about anything because we had nothing in common. I was too different. 

After 8th grade, I moved to Georgia, and I was dreading being the odd one out among kids who had grown up together. Then I discovered that my freshman year would be Cambridge High School’s inaugural year. Since there were students coming in from 5 different schools, there was no real sense of “normal”. I panicked. If there was no normal, then how could I be unique? That’s when I realized that I had spent so much energy going against the grain that I had no idea what my true interests were or what I really cared about. 

It was time to find out. I stopped concentrating on what everyone else was doing and started to focus on myself. I joined the basketball team, I performed in the school musical, and I enrolled in Chorus, all of which were firsts for me. I took art classes, joined clubs, and did whatever I thought would make me happy. And it paid off. I was no longer socially awkward. In fact, because I was involved in so many unrelated activities, I was socially flexible. My friends and I had things in common, but there was no one who could say that I was exactly like anyone else. I had finally become my own person.

My father named me Jasina because he wanted my nickname to be “Jazz.” According to Webster, “jazz” is “music characterized by syncopated rhythms, improvisation, and deliberate distortions of pitch.” Basically, jazz is music that is off-beat and unpredictable. It cannot be strictly defined. 

That sounds about right. 

Right off the bat, this essay starts extremely strong. The description of attendance in a class with ample quotes, awkward pauses, and the student’s internal dialogue immediately puts us in the middle of the action and establishes a lot of sympathy for this student before we’ve learned anything else. 

The strength of this essay continues into the second paragraph where the use of quotes, italics, and interjections from the student continues. All of these literary tools help the student express her voice and allow the reader to understand what this student goes through on a daily basis. Rather than just telling the reader people make assumptions about her name, she shows us what these assumptions look and sound like, and exactly how they make her feel.

The essay further shows us how the student approached her name by providing concrete examples of times she’s been intentionally unique throughout her life. Describing her drawing red suns and choosing grape juice bring her personality to life and allow her to express her deviance from the “norm” in a much more engaging and visual way than simply telling the reader she would go against the grain to be different on purpose.

One part of the essay that was a bit weaker than the others was the paragraph about her in high school. Although it was still well written and did a nice job of demonstrating how she got involved in multiple groups to find her new identity, it lacked the same level of showing employed in previous paragraphs. It would have been nice to see what “socially flexible” means either through a conversation she had with her friends or an example of a time she combined her interests from different groups in a way that was uniquely her.

The essay finishes off how it started: extremely strong. Taking a step back to fully explain the origin of her name neatly brings together everything mentioned in this essay. This ending is especially successful because she never explicitly states that her personality aligns with the definition of jazz. Instead, she relies on the points she has made throughout the essay to stick in the reader’s memory so they are able to draw the connection themselves, making for a much more satisfying ending for the reader.

Prompt #4 (OLD PROMPT; NOT THE CURRENT PROMPT): Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

Prompt #4, example #1.

“Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” 

Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation. 

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one. 

Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand. 

Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one. 

I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself. 

At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith. 

Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities. 

Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension. 

Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities. 

Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.

This essay is great because it has a strong introduction and a strong conclusion. The introduction is notably suspenseful and draws readers into the story. Because we know it is a college essay, we can assume that the student is one of the competitors, but at the same time, this introduction feels intentionally ambiguous as if the writer could be a competitor, a coach, a sibling of a competitor, or anyone else in the situation.

As we continue reading the essay, we learn that the writer is, in fact, the competitor. Readers also learn a lot about the student’s values as we hear their thoughts: “I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was.” Ultimately, the conflict and inner and outer turmoil is resolved through the “Same, but Different” ending technique as the student places themself in the same environment that we saw in the intro, but experiencing it differently due to their actions throughout the narrative. This is a very compelling strategy!

The main weakness of this essay is that it is slightly confusing at times—how the other students found coaches feels unintentionally under-explained (a simple phrase like “through pleading and attracting sympathy” in the fourth paragraph could have served the writer well) and a dojang is never defined. Additionally, the turn of the essay or “volta” could’ve packed a bigger punch. It is put quite simply with “I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.” A more suspenseful reveal could’ve served the author well because more drama did come later.

Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Prompt #5, example #1.

Tears streamed down my face and my mind was paralyzed with fear. Sirens blared, but the silent panic in my own head was deafening. I was muted by shock. A few hours earlier, I had anticipated a vacation in Washington, D.C., but unexpectedly, I was rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance carrying my mother. As a fourteen-year-old from a single mother household, without a driver’s license, and seven hours from home, I was distraught over the prospect of losing the only parent I had. My fear turned into action as I made some of the bravest decisions of my life. 

Three blood transfusions later, my mother’s condition was stable, but we were still states away from home, so I coordinated with my mother’s doctors in North Carolina to schedule the emergency operation that would save her life. Throughout her surgery, I anxiously awaited any word from her surgeon, but each time I asked, I was told that there had been another complication or delay. Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities.

My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work. I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I didn’t know I was capable of such maturity and resourcefulness until it was called upon. Each day was a stage in my gradual transformation from dependence to relative independence.

Throughout my mother’s health crisis, I matured by learning to put others’ needs before my own. As I worried about my mother’s health, I took nothing for granted, cherished what I had, and used my daily activities as motivation to move forward. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. Although I have become more independent, my mother and I are inseparably close, and the realization that I almost lost her affects me daily. Each morning, I wake up ten minutes early simply to eat breakfast with my mother and spend time with her before our busy days begin. I am aware of how quickly life can change. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence. Though I thought the summer before my freshman year would be a transition from middle school to high school, it was a transformation from childhood to adulthood.

This essay feels real and tells readers a lot about the writer. To start at the beginning, the intro is 10/10. It has drama, it has emotions, and it has the reader wanting more.

And, when you keep going, you get to learn a lot about a very resilient and mature student. Through sentences like “I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover” and “Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities,” the reader shows us that they are aware of their resilience and maturity, but are not arrogant about it. It is simply a fact that they have proven!

Sometimes writing about adversity can feel exploitative or oddly braggy. This student backs up everything they say with anecdotes that prove and show their strength and resilience, rather than just claiming their strengths. When I read this essay, I want to cheer for its writer! And I want to be able to continue cheering for them (perhaps, if I were an admissions officer, that would make me want them at my school!).

Prompt #5, Example #2

Armed with a red pen, I slowly walked across the room to a small, isolated table with pink stools. Swinging her legs, my young student beamed and giggled at me, slamming her pencil bag on the table and bending over to pick up one of her toys. Natalie always brought some new toy with her to lessons—toys which I would sternly take away from her and place under the table until she finished her work. At the tutoring center where I work, a strict emphasis on discipline leaves no room for paper crowns or rubber chickens. 

Today, she had with her a large stuffed eagle from a museum. As she pulled out her papers, I slid the eagle to the other side of the table. She looked eagerly around, attempting to chat with other students as I impatiently called her attention to her papers. “I should name my eagle,” she chimed, waving her pencil in the air. I cringed—there was no wondering why Natalie always had to sit by herself. She was the antithesis of my academic values, and undoubtedly the greatest adversary of my teaching style.  

As the lesson progressed, Natalie became more fitful; she refused to release her feathered friend, and kept addressing the bird for help with difficult problems. We both grew increasingly more frustrated. Determined to tame this wryly, wiggling student, I stood my ground, set on converting this disobedient child to my calm, measured ways of study.  

As time slowly crept by, I noticed that despite Natalie’s cheerful tone and bright smile, the stuffed eagle was troublesomely quiet and stern-faced. Much like myself. Both the eagle and I were getting nowhere in this lesson—so we hatched a quick plan. Lifting the eagle up in the air, I started reading in my best impersonation of an eagle, squawking my way through a spelling packet. The result provided a sense of instant gratification I never knew I needed. She sang out every letter, clapped her hands at every page, and followed along with the eagle, stopping at every few letters to declare that “E is for eagle” and pet her teacher fondly on the beak.  

Despite my ostensibly dissatisfied attitude toward my students, I did not join the tutoring center simply to earn money. I had always aspired to help others achieve their fullest potential. As a young adult, I felt that it was time for me to step out of the role of a pupil and into the influential role of a teacher, naively believing that I had the maturity and skill to adapt to any situation and help these students reach their highest achievements academically. For the most part, the role of a stern-faced, strict instructor helped me get by in the workplace, and while my students never truly looked happy, I felt that it was part of the process of conditioning a child to learn. 

Ironically, my transition to adulthood was the result of a stuffed animal. It was indisputable that I always had the skill to instruct others; the only thing needed to instruct someone is knowledge of the subject. However, it was only upon being introduced to a stuffed bird in which I realized that students receive the most help not from instructors, but teachers. While almost anyone can learn material and spit it back out for someone, it takes the maturity and passion of a teacher not only to help students improve in their students, but also to motivate them and develop them into better citizens. From my young pupil and her little bird, I have undergone a change in attitude which reflects a growth in maturity and ability to improve the lives of others that I hope to implement in my future role as a student, activist, and physician. My newfound maturity taught me that the letter “e” stands for many things: empathy, experience, enthusiasm, and eagle.

In this essay, the student effectively explores their values (and how they learned them!) then identifies these values through a reflective conclusion. While the writer humbly recognizes the initial faults in their teaching style, they do not position their initial discipline or rigidity as mean or poorly intentioned—simply ineffective. This is important because, when you are discussing a transition like this, you don’t want admissions officers to think of you as having been a bad person. 

My favorite part about this essay is its subtlety. The major shift in the essay comes through the simple sentence “The result provided a sense of instant gratification I never knew I needed.” The facts of this narrative are not too complicated. Simply put, the writer was strict then learned that it’s sometimes more effective not to be strict. The complexity of this narrative comes through reflection. Notably, through the ending, the student identifies their values (which they hadn’t given a name to before): “it takes the maturity and passion of a teacher not only to help students improve in their students, but also to motivate them and develop them into better citizens.” 

The final sentence of this essay ties things up very nicely. Readers are left satisfied with the essay and convinced that its writer is a kind human with a large capacity for reflection and consideration. That is a great image to paint of yourself!

Prompt #5, Example #3

When it’s quiet, I can still hear the Friday night gossip and giggles of my friends. It’s a stark contrast from the environment I’ve known all my life, my home. My family has always been one to keep to themselves; introverts with a hard-working mentality—my father especially. He spent most of his time at work and growing up without him around, I came to be at peace with the fact that I’d probably never really get to know him. The thought didn’t bother me at the time because I felt that we were very different. He was stoic and traditional; I was trying to figure out who I was and explore my interests. His disapproval of the American music I listened to and my penchant for wearing hand-me-downs made me see him as someone who wanted to restrain my individuality. That explains why I relied heavily on my friends throughout middle and high school; they liked me for who I was. I figured I would get lonely without my friends during quarantine, but these last few months stuck at home gave me the time to make a new friend: my father. 

It was June. I had the habit of sleeping with my windows open so I wouldn’t need to set an alarm; the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the neighborhood children playing outside would wake me. One morning, however, it was not the chirping of birds or the laughter of children I awoke to, but the shrill of a saw. Through the window screen, on the grass below, my father stood cutting planks of wood. I was confused but didn’t question him—what he did with his time was none of my business. It was not until the next day, when I was attempting to work on a sculpture for an art class, that the sounds of hammering and drills became too much to ignore. Seeking answers, I trudged across my backyard towards the corner he was in. On that day, all there was to see was the foundation of what he was building; a shed. My intrigue was replaced with awe; I was impressed by the precision of his craft. Sharp corners, leveled and sturdy, I could imagine what it would look like when the walls were up and the inside filled with the tools he had spread around the yard. 

Throughout the week, when I was trying to finish my sculpture for art class—thinking about its shape and composition—I could not help but think of my father. Art has always been a creative outlet for me, an opportunity to express myself at home. For my dad, his craftsmanship was his art. I realized we were not as different as I had thought; he was an artist like me. My glue and paper were his wood and nails.

That summer, I tried to spend more time with my dad than I have in all my 18 years of life. Waking up earlier than usual so we could have our morning coffees together and pretending to like his favorite band so he’d talk to me about it, I took advantage of every opportunity I had to speak with him. In getting to know him, I’ve recognized that I get my artistry from him. 

Reflecting on past relationships, I feel I am now more open to reconnecting with people I’ve perhaps misjudged. In reconciling, I’ve realized I held some bitterness towards him all these years, and in letting that go, my heart is lighter. Our reunion has changed my perspective; instead of vilifying him for spending so much time at work, I can appreciate how hard he works to provide for our family. When I hear him tinkering away at another home project, I can smile and look forward to asking him about it later.

This is an outstanding example of the great things that can be articulated through a reflective essay. As we read the essay, we are simply thinking alongside its author—thinking about their past relationship with their father, about their time in quarantine, about aspects of themselves they think could use attention and growth. 

While we reflect, we are also centered by the student’s anecdote about the sculpture and the shed during quarantine. By centering us in real-time, the student keeps us engaged in the reflection.

The main strength here is the maturity we see on the part of its writer. The student doesn’t say “and I realized my father was the best dad in the world;” they say “and I realized my father didn’t have to be the best dad in the world for me to give him a chance.” Lots of students show themselves as motivated, curious, or compassionate in their college essays, but a reflective essay that ends with a discussion of resentment and forgiveness shows true maturity.

Prompt #5, Example #4

As a wide-eyed, naive seven-year-old, I watched my grandmother’s rough, wrinkled hands pull and knead mercilessly at white dough until the countertop was dusted in flour. She steamed small buns in bamboo baskets, and a light sweetness lingered in the air. Although the mantou looked delicious, their papery, flat taste was always an unpleasant surprise. My grandmother scolded me for failing to finish even one, and when I complained about the lack of flavor she would simply say that I would find it as I grew older. How did my adult relatives seem to enjoy this Taiwanese culinary delight while I found it so plain?

During my journey to discover the essence of mantou, I began to see myself the same way I saw the steamed bun. I believed that my writing would never evolve beyond a hobby and that my quiet nature crippled my ambitions. Ultimately, I thought I had little to offer the world. In middle school, it was easy for me to hide behind the large personalities of my friends, blending into the background and keeping my thoughts company. Although writing had become my emotional outlet, no matter how well I wrote essays, poetry, or fiction, I could not stand out in a sea of talented students. When I finally gained the confidence to submit my poetry to literary journals but was promptly rejected, I stepped back from my work to begin reading from Whitman to Dickinson, Li-Young Lee to Ocean Vuong. It was then that I realized I had been holding back a crucial ingredient–my distinct voice. 

Over time, my taste buds began to mature, as did I. Mantou can be flavored with pork and eggplant, sweetened in condensed milk, and moistened or dried by the steam’s temperature. After I ate the mantou with each of these factors in mind, I noticed its environment enhanced a delicately woven strand of sweetness beneath the taste of side dishes: the sugar I had often watched my grandmother sift into the flour. The taste was nearly untraceable, but once I grasped it I could truly begin to cherish mantou. In the same way the taste had been lost to me for years, my writer’s voice had struggled to shine through because of my self-doubt and fear of vulnerability.

As I acquired a taste for mantou, I also began to strengthen my voice through my surrounding environment. With the support of my parents, peer poets, and the guidance of Amy Tan and the Brontё sisters, I worked tirelessly to uncover my voice: a subtle strand of sweetness. Once I stopped trying to fit into a publishing material mold and infused my uninhibited passion for my Taiwanese heritage into my writing, my poem was published in a literary journal. I wrote about the blatant racism Asians endured during coronavirus, and the editor of Skipping Stones Magazine was touched by both my poem and my heartfelt letter. I opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum, providing support to younger Asian-American students who reached out with the relief of finding someone they could relate to. I embraced writing as a way to convey my struggle with cultural identity. I joined the school’s creative writing club and read my pieces in front of an audience, honing my voice into one that flourishes out loud as well.

Now, I write and speak unapologetically, falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had. It inspires passion within my communities and imparts tenacity to Asian-American youth, rooting itself deeply into everything I write. Today, my grandmother would say that I have finally unearthed the taste of mantou as I savor every bite with a newfound appreciation. I can imagine her hands shaping the dough that has become my voice, and I am eager to share it with the world.

This essay is structurally-sound, with the student’s journey learning to savor mantou and their journey trying to find their voice serving as outstanding parallels. Additionally, as they describe the journey to find a voice in their writing, they definitely show off their voice! The clear introduction provides a great image and draws us in with an intriguing question. Additionally, their little inserts like “a strand of sweetness” and “falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had” work very well.

When the student describes their first published poem, however, their writing gets a little more stilted. This is a common error students make when writing about their achievements. If this student is writing about the craft that goes into writing, we should hear the details of the craft that went into the poem, instead of simply learning that they “opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum.” This is interesting information but would be stronger if it were supplemented by descriptions of the voice they created, comparisons to the styles of other poets, and analysis of their stylistic choices. This would make the essay feel more cohesive, centering entirely around concepts of voice and style.

Prompt #6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Note: We don’t have a stellar example for this prompt, so instead, we’re sharing a couple examples that need improvement, and what can be done to make the essays more engaging. 

Prompt #6, Example #1

What factors shape the depth and allure of a literary character? This is the exact question I asked myself as my eyes riveted on the white pages covered with little black letters.

I was reading my old novels. I’ve written three novels and many short stories. Each of them repetitively portrayed the hero as intelligent and funny, and the antagonists as cold and manipulative. I came to the appalling realization that my characters were flat, neither exciting nor original. They just didn’t stand out! 

As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Vice and virtue are to the artist material to an art.’ Their mixing makes a novel addictive because its plot is rich with turnarounds and its characters more engaging. In his famous work The Picture of Dorian Gray , Wilde deconstructs the psyche of his characters. He brilliantly plays with the protagonist’s youthful appearance and the decaying portrait to build a truly unique idiosyncratic identity. The persona of Dorian Gray is so complicated a psychologist could analyze it for hours on end!

Inspired by this character, It was my turn to explore good and evil into characters to make my stories more enthralling. I skillfully played with vice and virtue, separating, merging them… My latest novel is the fruit of this exercise. I chose to set it in 20th century London. Its opium dens and exclusive salons; middle-class workers, peasants and politicians breathed the same newly industrialized air; modernity in Blackfriars bridge and tradition in St Paul’s Cathedral; all of these contrasts set the perfect environment for my characters to grow. Following Laclos’ Valmont, Maupassant’s Georges Duroy and Duffy’s Myra Hindley, I played with those contrasts to present an intricate character, truly creative – unlike my previous ones. Insanity, religion, depravity and love are merged into each character, reflecting Edwardian London. As I reflected on my work, I realized vice and virtue altogether made them more human and credible. These characters stood out, they were interesting, I even wanted to know more about them! 

After rewriting, erasing, typing, and thinking countless times, I realized writing is a unique exercise. Nothing is definite when you are holding a fountain pen, hearing its screeching sound on the white paper and watching the ebony ink forming letters. When I wasn’t too happy about a change I made in my story, I simply erased and rewrote it. Everything I imagined could happen: white pages are the only place the mouse eats the cat or the world is taken by a zombie attack! 

This exact exercise of diversifying my characters satisfied my relentless curiosity. Asking myself ‘how could this character be if she had lost her parents in a maritime tragedy?’ allowed me to view the world from different perspectives (some very dissimilar to my own) and considering how each character would react to different situations brought them to life. As I was writing, I was aiming to change the usual narratives I had previously traversed. I loved experimenting with countless personality traits in my characters – minutes flowing, my hand dancing on the paper as my mind was singing words coming alive….

There were times where my hand just stopped writing and my mind stopped raging. I tried thinking differently, changing a character’s background, the story, the setting. I was inspired by Zola, A.Carter, Fitzgerald, the Brontë sisters… I could observe the different reactions of their characters, and reflect on mine theoretically. But it was only part one of the work: I then had to write, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes frantically, always leading to fresh ideas – I was exploring the practical, trying, erasing and rewriting. Both theory and practice are required to gain intellectual independence and experience, in writing and more globally: before I can change a character, I have to understand it. Before we can change the world, we have to understand it.

The main strength of this essay is the authenticity of the topic the student chose. They aren’t making anything up or stretching the truth. Writing is something that captivates them, and that captivation shines through—particularly through their fourth paragraph (where they geek out over specific plots and characters) and their fifth paragraph (where they joyfully describe how writing has no limitations). Admissions officers want to see this passion and intensity in applicants! The fact that this student has already written three novels also shows dedication and is impressive.

The main weakness of this essay is its structure. Ironically, it is not super captivating. The essay would have been more compelling if the student utilized a “anecdote – answer – reflection” structure. This student’s current introduction involves a reflective question, citations about their past writing experience, then their thoughts on Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Instead, this student could’ve provided one cohesive (and powerful!) image of them being frustrated with their own writing then being inspired by Dorian Gray. This would look something like:

“I stayed up three nights in a row studying my own writing—bored by my own writing. The only thing more painful than seeing failure in the fruits of your labor is not seeing a path for improvement. I had written three novels and numerous short stories, and all I could come up with was funny and intelligent heroes going up against cold and manipulative villains. What kind of writer was so consistently cliche? On the third night, I wandered over to my bookshelf. Mrs. Dalloway caught my eye (it has such a beautiful cover). I flipped through. Then, I grabbed Giovanni’s Room . I was so obsessed with my shortcomings that I couldn’t even focus long enough to see what these authors were doing right. I picked up The Picture of Dorian Gray and decided to just start reading. By the end of the night, I was captivated.”

An introduction like this would flow nicely into the student describing their experience with Dorian Gray then, because of that experience, describing how they have altered their approach to writing. The conclusion of this essay would then be this student’s time for reflection. Instead of repeating content about their passion—“I then had to write, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes frantically” and “I was exploring the practical, trying, erasing and rewriting”—, the student could dedicate their conclusion to reflecting on the reasons that writing is so captivating or the ways that (until the day they die) writers will always be perfecting their craft.

This essay is a great example of how important it is to pick a topic that truly excites you. It also illustrates how important it is to effectively structure that excitement.

Prompt #6, Example #2

Astonished by the crashing sound of waves in my ear, I was convinced this magical shell actually held the sound of the big blue sea — my six-year-old self was heartbroken when I couldn’t take the thirty-dollar artificial shell from SeaWorld’s gift shop . It distinctly reminded me of the awestruck feeling I had when I witnessed the churning waves of a windy night by the ocean the previous weekend; I lost track of time gazing at the distant moonlit border dividing our world from the ever-growing black void. Turning to my mom, I inquired curiously, “Can we go to the place where the water ends one day?”

She explained to me I could never reach the end of the ocean because the harsh line I had seen was actually an illusion called the horizon —  there was no material end to the ocean. For a mind as young as mine was, the idea of infinity was incomprehensible. As my infatuation with the ocean continued to grow, I finally understood that regardless of how far I travel, the horizon is unattainable because it’s not a physical limit. This idea is why the ocean captivates me — no matter how much you discover, there is always more to explore. 

Learning about and exploring the ocean provided an escape from one reality into another; though we are on the same planet, it’s an entirely separate world. Through elementary and middle school, I devoted vast amounts of my free time to learning about simpler concepts like a dolphin’s ability to echolocate and coral reef ecosystems. I rented countless documentaries and constantly checked out books from my local library — my all-time favorite was an episode of the television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey titled “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth.” This episode remained memorable because it was centered around the impacts of fossil fuels on marine animals; it was the first time I’d learned about the impending crisis we are faced with due to the human mistreatment of our planet.

Prior to viewing that episode, I relied on the ocean as an outlet — I fueled all of my emotions into studying marine organisms. Once I learned of its grave future, I delved into the world of environmental activism. This path was much more disheartening than studying echolocation — inevitable death due to climate change took a toll on my mental health. I attended two climate strikes in November of my sophomore year. Following the strikes, I joined Sunrise Movement Sacramento, a youth-led climate justice organization advocating for the Green New Deal. While analyzing legislation and organizing protests were significant takeaways from my experience with climate activism, they were not the most important. I became an organizer because of my love for the ocean and I remain an organizer because of my passion for dissolving the disproportionalities marginalized groups face due to the sacrificing of people’s livelihood for the sake of profit. The more I learned about our modern society, the more hopeless I grew that I could see any significant change within my lifetime.

However, this hopelessness comes in waves; every day, I remind myself of the moment I discovered the horizon. Or the moment I first dove into the beautiful waters of the Hawaiian coast and immediately was surrounded by breathtaking seas of magnificent creatures and coral gardens — life felt ethereal and beautiful. I remind myself that like the ocean, the vast majority of the universe has yet to be discovered; that distant border holds infinite opportunity to learn. In a universe as vast as ours, and life as rare as ours, individuals still choose to prioritize avarice over our planet. Despite this grave individualism, the ocean reminds me every day there is hope in the fight for a better world. Though I will never discover every inch of the ocean’s floor, I will forever envision and reach for new horizons.

Sometimes the path to a great essay is taking something normal and using it to show admissions officers who you are and what you value—that is precisely this student’s approach! Finding the ocean fascinating is not unique to this student. Tons of kids (and adults, too!) are obsessed with the ocean. What this student does is take things a step further as they explain their curiosity about the ocean in relation to their pain about the destruction of the environment. This capacity for reflection is great!

This student shows a good control of language through their thematic centering on ocean and horizons that carries through their essay—with ”this hopelessness comes in waves” and “I will forever envision and reach for new horizons.” The details provided throughout are also effective at keeping readers engaged—things like “ my six-year-old self was heartbroken when I couldn’t take the thirty-dollar artificial shell from SeaWorld’s gift shop” and “ my all-time favorite was an episode of the television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey titled “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth.”

The main weakness of this essay is the lack of reflection when the student discusses environmental activism. There’s reflection on the student’s connection to the ocean and horizons at the beginning and at the end, but when the student discusses activism, the tone shifts from focusing on their internal thoughts to their external actions. Remember, a lot of students write about environmental activism, but not a lot of students write about an emotional connection to the ocean as an impetus for environmental activism. This student would stand out more to admissions officers if they had dug into questions of what the ocean means to them (and says about them) in the paragraphs beginning “Learning about and exploring the ocean…” and “Prior to viewing that episode.”

Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Prompt #7, example #1.

Scalding hot water cascades over me, crashing to the ground in a familiar, soothing rhythm. Steam rises to the ceiling as dried sweat and soap suds swirl down the drain. The water hisses as it hits my skin, far above the safe temperature for a shower. The pressure is perfect on my tired muscles, easing the aches and bruises from a rough bout of sparring and the tension from a long, stressful day. The noise from my overactive mind dies away, fading into music, lyrics floating through my head. Black streaks stripe the inside of my left arm, remnants of the penned reminders of homework, money owed and forms due. 

It lacks the same dynamism and controlled intensity of sparring on the mat at taekwondo or the warm tenderness of a tight hug from my father, but it’s still a cocoon of safety as the water washes away the day’s burdens. As long as the hot water is running, the rest of the world ceases to exist, shrinking to me, myself and I. The shower curtain closes me off from the hectic world spinning around me. 

Much like the baths of Blanche DuBois, my hot showers are a means of cleansing and purifying (though I’m mostly just ridding myself of the germs from children at work sneezing on me). In the midst of a hot shower, there is no impending exam to study for, no newspaper deadline to meet, no paycheck to deposit. It is simply complete and utter peace, a safe haven. The steam clears my mind even as it clouds my mirror. 

Creativity thrives in the tub, breathing life into tales of dragons and warrior princesses that evolve only in my head, never making their way to paper but appeasing the childlike dreamer and wannabe author in me all the same. That one calculus problem that has seemed unsolvable since second period clicks into place as I realize the obvious solution. The perfect concluding sentence to my literary analysis essay writes itself (causing me to abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely).  

Ever since I was old enough to start taking showers unaided, I began hogging all the hot water in the house, a source of great frustration to my parents. Many of my early showers were rudely cut short by an unholy banging on the bathroom door and an order to “stop wasting water and come eat dinner before it gets cold.” After a decade of trudging up the stairs every evening to put an end to my water-wasting, my parents finally gave in, leaving me to my (expensive) showers. I imagine someday, when paying the water bill is in my hands, my showers will be shorter, but today is not that day (nor, hopefully, will the next four years be that day). 

Showers are better than any ibuprofen, the perfect panacea for life’s daily ailments. Headaches magically disappear as long as the water runs, though they typically return in full force afterward. The runny nose and itchy eyes courtesy of summertime allergies recede. Showers alleviate even the stomachache from a guacamole-induced lack of self-control. 

Honestly though, the best part about a hot shower is neither its medicinal abilities nor its blissful temporary isolation or even the heavenly warmth seeped deep into my bones. The best part is that these little moments of pure, uninhibited contentedness are a daily occurrence. No matter how stressful the day, showers ensure I always have something to look forward to. They are small moments, true, but important nonetheless, because it is the little things in life that matter; the big moments are too rare, too fleeting to make anyone truly happy. Wherever I am in the world, whatever fate chooses to throw at me, I know I can always find my peace at the end of the day behind the shower curtain.

This essay is relatable yet personal! The writer makes themself supremely human through discussing the universal subject of showering. That being said, an essay about showering could easily turn boring while still being relatable. This writer keeps its relatable moments interesting and fun through vivid descriptions of common feelings including “causing me to abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely” and “the stomachache from a guacamole-induced lack of self-control.”

While describing a universal feeling, this student also cleverly and intentionally mentions small facts about their life through simple phrases like “I’m mostly just ridding myself of the germs from children at work sneezing on me” and “the childlike dreamer and wannabe author in me.” To put it simply, though we are talking about a shower, we learn about so much more!

And, at the end, the student lets us know that that is exactly why they love showers. Showers are more than meets the eye! With this insightful and reflective ending (“the big moments are too rare, too fleeting to make anyone truly happy”), readers learn about this student’s capacity for reflection, which is an important capacity as you enter college.

The one major error that this writer commits is that of using a trite transition. The inclusion of “Honestly though” at the beginning of this student’s ending detracts from what they are trying to say and sticks out in their writing.

Prompt #7, Example #2

Steam whooshed from the pot as I unveiled my newest creation: duck-peppercorn-chestnut dumplings. The spicy, hearty aroma swirled into the kitchen, mingling with the smell of fresh dough. Grinning, I grabbed a plump dumpling with chopsticks, blew carefully, and fed it into the waiting mouth of my little sister. Her eyes widening, she vigorously nodded and held up five stubby fingers. I did a little happy dance in celebration and pulled my notebook out of my apron pocket. Duck-peppercorn-chestnut: five stars.

In my household, dumplings are a far cry from the classic pork and cabbage. Our menu boasts everything from the savory lamb-bamboo shoot-watercress to the sweet and crispy apple-cinnamon-date. A few years ago, my sister claimed she was sick of eating the same flavors over and over. Refusing to let her disavow our family staple, I took her complaint as a challenge to make the tastiest and most unconventional dumplings to satisfy her. With her as my taste tester and Mum in charge of dough, I spent months experimenting with dozens of odd ingredient combinations. 

During those days spent covered in flour, my dumplings often reminded me of myself—a hybrid of ingredients that don’t usually go together. I am the product of three distinct worlds: the suburbs of Boston, the rural Chinese village of [location removed], and the coastal city of [location removed]. At school, I am both the STEM nerd with lightning-fast mental math and the artistic plant mom obsessed with funky earrings. I love all that is elegant, from Chinese calligraphy to the rolling notes of the Gourd flute, yet I can be very not elegant, like when my sister and I make homemade slime. When I’m on the streets, marching for women’s rights and climate action, I’m loud, bellowing from the bottom of my gut. In the painting studio, though, I don’t speak unless spoken to, and hours can slip by like minutes. I’m loud and quiet. Elegant and messy. Nerdy and artistic. Suburban, rustic, and metropolitan.

While I’m full of odd combinations, they are only seemingly contradictory. Just as barbeque pork and pineapple can combine beautifully in a dumpling wrapper, different facets of my identity also converge. After my tenth-grade summer, when I spent six weeks studying design at art school and another three researching the brain at Harvard Med, I began asking myself: What if I mixed art and neuroscience together? That fall, I collaborated with my school’s art museum for an independent research project, exploring two questions: How are aesthetic experiences processed in the brain? And how can neuroscience help museums design exhibits that maximize visitor engagement? I combed through studies with results from tightly controlled experiments, and I spent days gathering my own qualitative data by observing museum visitors and asking them questions. With the help of my artistic skills, I could identify the visual and spatial elements of the exhibits that best held visitors’ attention. 

By synergizing two of the ingredients that make me who I am—art and neuroscience—I realized I shouldn’t see the different sides of myself as separate. I learned to instead seek the intersections between aspects of my identity. Since then, I have mixed art with activism to voice my opinions nonverbally, created Spotify playlists with both Chinese and western pop, and written flute compositions using music theory and math. In the future, by continuing to combine my interests, I want to find my niche in the world. I can make a positive impact on society without having to choose just one passion. As of now, my dream is to be a neuroscientist who designs art therapy treatments for mental health patients. Who knows though? Maybe my calling is to be a dim sum chef who teaches pottery on the side. I don’t know where I’ll go, but one thing’s for sure—being a standard pork and cabbage dumpling is definitely not my style.

This essay is outstanding because the student seems likable and authentic. With the first image of the student’s little sister vigorously nodding and holding up “five stubby fingers,” we find ourselves intrigued by the student’s daily life. They additionally show the importance of family, culture, and creativity in their life—these are great things to highlight in your essay!

After the introduction, the student uses their weird dumpling anecdote to transition to a discussion of their unique intersections. This is achieved smoothly because weirdness/uniqueness is the focus of both of these topics. Additionally, the comparison is not awkward because dumplings are used as more than just a transition, but rather are the through-line of the essay—the student weaves in little phrases like “Just as barbeque pork and pineapple can combine beautifully in a dumpling wrapper,” “By synergizing two of the ingredients that make me who I am,” and “being a standard pork and cabbage dumpling is definitely not my style.” This gives the essay its cohesive feel.

Authenticity comes through in this essay as the student recognizes that they don’t know what the future holds. They just know what kind of a person they are—a passionate one! 

One change that would improve this student’s essay would be focusing on fewer intersections in their third and last paragraph. The student mentions STEM, music, family activities, activism, and painting, which makes it feel like a distraction in middle of the essay. Focus on the most important things you want to show admissions officers—you can sit at intersections, but you can’t be interested in everything.

Prompt #7, Example #3

“Everyone follow me!” I smiled at five wide-eyed skaters before pushing off into a spiral. I glanced behind me hopefully, only to see my students standing frozen like statues, the fear in their eyes as clear as the ice they swayed on. “Come on!” I said encouragingly, but the only response I elicited was the slow shake of their heads. My first day as a Learn-to-Skate coach was not going as planned. 

But amid my frustration, I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater. At seven, I had been fascinated by Olympic performers who executed thrilling high jumps and dizzying spins with apparent ease, and I dreamed to one day do the same. My first few months on skates, however, sent these hopes crashing down: my attempts at slaloms and toe-loops were shadowed by a stubborn fear of falling, which even the helmet, elbow pads, and two pairs of mittens I had armed myself with couldn’t mitigate. Nonetheless, my coach remained unfailingly optimistic, motivating me through my worst spills and teaching me to find opportunities in failures. With his encouragement, I learned to push aside my fears and attack each jump with calm and confidence; it’s the hope that I can help others do the same that now inspires me to coach. 

I remember the day a frustrated staff member directed Oliver, a particularly hesitant young skater, toward me, hoping that my patience and steady encouragement might help him improve. Having stood in Oliver’s skates not much earlier myself, I completely empathized with his worries but also saw within him the potential to overcome his fears and succeed. 

To alleviate his anxiety, I held Oliver’s hand as we inched around the rink, cheering him on at every turn. I soon found though, that this only increased his fear of gliding on his own, so I changed my approach, making lessons as exciting as possible in hopes that he would catch the skating bug and take off. In the weeks that followed, we held relay races, played “freeze-skate” and “ice-potato”, and raced through obstacle courses; gradually, with each slip and subsequent success, his fear began to abate. I watched Oliver’s eyes widen in excitement with every skill he learned, and not long after, he earned his first skating badge. Together we celebrated this milestone, his ecstasy fueling my excitement and his pride mirroring my own. At that moment, I was both teacher and student, his progress instilling in me the importance of patience and a positive attitude. 

It’s been more than ten years since I bundled up and stepped onto the ice for the first time. Since then, my tolerance for the cold has remained stubbornly low, but the rest of me has certainly changed. In sharing my passion for skating, I have found a wonderful community of eager athletes, loving parents, and dedicated coaches from whom I have learned invaluable lessons and wisdom. My fellow staffers have been with me, both as friends and colleagues, and the relationships I’ve formed have given me far more poise, confidence, and appreciation for others. Likewise, my relationships with parents have given me an even greater gratitude for the role they play: no one goes to the rink without a parent behind the wheel! 

Since that first lesson, I have mentored dozens of children, and over the years, witnessed tentative steps transform into powerful glides and tears give way to delighted grins. What I have shared with my students has been among the greatest joys of my life, something I will cherish forever. It’s funny: when I began skating, what pushed me through the early morning practices was the prospect of winning an Olympic medal. Now, what excites me is the chance to work with my students, to help them grow, and to give back to the sport that has brought me so much happiness. 

A major strength of this essay comes in its narrative organization. When reading this first paragraph, we feel for the young skaters and understand their fear—skating sounds scary! Then, because the writer sets us up to feel this empathy, the transition to the second paragraph where the student describes their empathy for the young skaters is particularly powerful. It’s like we are all in it together! The student’s empathy for the young skaters also serves as an outstanding, seamless transition to the applicant discussing their personal journey with skating: “I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater.”

This essay positions the applicant as a grounded and caring individual. They are caring towards the young skaters—changing their teaching style to try to help the young skaters and feeling the young skaters’ emotions with them—but they are also appreciative to those who helped them as they reference their fellow staffers and parents. This shows great maturity—a favorable quality in the eyes of an admissions officer.

At the end of the essay, we know a lot about this student and are convinced that they would be a good addition to a college campus!

Prompt #7, Example #4

Flipping past dozens of colorful entries in my journal, I arrive at the final blank sheet. I press my pen lightly to the page, barely scratching its surface to create a series of loops stringing together into sentences. Emotions spill out, and with their release, I feel lightness in my chest. The stream of thoughts slows as I reach the bottom of the page, and I gently close the cover of the worn book: another journal finished.

I add the journal to the stack of eleven books on my nightstand. Struck by the bittersweet sensation of closing a chapter of my life, I grab the notebook at the bottom of the pile to reminisce.

“I want to make a flying mushen to fly in space and your in it” – October 2008

Pulling back the cover of my first Tinkerbell-themed diary, the prompt “My Hopes and Dreams” captures my attention. Though “machine” is misspelled in my scribbled response, I see the beginnings of my past obsession with outer space. At the age of five, I tore through novels about the solar system, experimented with rockets built from plastic straws, and rented Space Shuttle films from Blockbuster to satisfy my curiosities. While I chased down answers to questions as limitless as the universe, I fell in love with learning. Eight journals later, the same relentless curiosity brought me to an airplane descending on San Francisco Bay.

“I wish I had infinite sunsets” – July 2019

I reach for the charcoal notepad near the top of the pile and open to the first page: my flight to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. While I was excited to explore bioengineering, anxiety twisted in my stomach as I imagined my destination, unsure of whether I could overcome my shyness and connect with others.

With each new conversation, the sweat on my palms became less noticeable, and I met students from 23 different countries. Many of the moments where I challenged myself socially revolved around the third story deck of the Jerry house. A strange medley of English, Arabic, and Mandarin filled the summer air as my friends and I gathered there every evening, and dialogues at sunset soon became moments of bliss. In our conversations about cultural differences, the possibility of an afterlife, and the plausibility of far-fetched conspiracy theories, I learned to voice my opinion. As I was introduced to different viewpoints, these moments challenged my understanding of the world around me. In my final entries from California, I find excitement to learn from others and increased confidence, a tool that would later allow me to impact my community.

“The beauty in a tower of cans” – June 2020

Returning my gaze to the stack of journals, I stretch to take the floral-patterned book sitting on top. I flip through, eventually finding the beginnings of the organization I created during the outbreak of COVID-19. Since then, Door-to-Door Deliveries has woven its way through my entries and into reality, allowing me to aid high-risk populations through free grocery delivery.

With the confidence I gained the summer before, I took action when seeing others in need rather than letting my shyness hold me back. I reached out to local churches and senior centers to spread word of our services and interacted with customers through our website and social media pages. To further expand our impact, we held two food drives, and I mustered the courage to ask for donations door-to-door. In a tower of canned donations, I saw the value of reaching out to help others and realized my own potential to impact the world around me.

I delicately close the journal in my hands, smiling softly as the memories reappear, one after another. Reaching under my bed, I pull out a fresh notebook and open to its first sheet. I lightly press my pen to the page, “And so begins the next chapter…”

The structuring of this essay makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The student effectively organizes their various life experiences around their tower of journals, which centers the reader and makes the different stories easy to follow. Additionally, the student engages quotes from their journals—and unique formatting of the quotes—to signal that they are moving in time and show us which memory we should follow them to.

Thematically, the student uses the idea of shyness to connect the different memories they draw out of their journals. As the student describes their experiences overcoming shyness at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes and Door-to-Door Deliveries, this essay can be read as an Overcoming Obstacles essay.

At the end of this essay, readers are fully convinced that this student is dedicated (they have committed to journaling every day), thoughtful (journaling is a thoughtful process and, in the essay, the student reflects thoughtfully on the past), and motivated (they flew across the country for a summer program and started a business). These are definitely qualities admissions officers are looking for in applicants!

Prompt #7, Example #5

“We’re ready for take-off!” 

The tires hit the tarmac and began to accelerate, and I just realized what I had signed up for. For 24 hours straight, I strapped myself into a broken-down SUV whereas others chose the luxury of soaring through the skies for a mere two hours. Especially with my motion sickness and driving anxiety, I would call myself crazy too.

To say I have always remained in my comfort zone is an understatement. Did I always order chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant? Yup! Sounds like me. Did I always create a color-coded itinerary just for a day trip? Guilty as charged. Did I always carry a first-aid kit at all times? Of course! I would make even an ambulance look unprepared. And yet here I was, choosing 1,000 miles of misery from Las Vegas to Seattle despite every bone in my body telling me not to.

The sunlight blinded my eyes and a wave of nausea swept over me. Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator? It was only ten minutes in, and I was certain that the trip was going to be a disaster. I simply hoped that our pre-drive prayer was not stuck in God’s voicemail box. 

All of a sudden, I noticed brightly colored rocks in the distance, ones I had been dying to see for years. Their fluorescence popped amongst the magnificent winding hills as the sunset became romantic in hue. The desert glistened with mirages of deep blue water unlike anything I had ever seen. Nevada was home, but home always seemed to be just desert and casinos. For once, I looked forward to endless desert outside my window rather than a sea of clouds.

I never realized how little I discovered of the world beyond home. For years I complained about how there was nothing to do or discover outside. Not once did I set out to prove myself wrong. Instead, I chose a daily routine of homework at the kitchen table and late-night TV. However, as summer vacation ended, I decided to set my stubbornness aside and finally give this drive back home a chance. Little did I know that it would turn out to be my favorite trip of all time. 

As we drove along, the world chose to prove me wrong when I discovered Heaven on Earth along Shasta Lake. I stood out of the sunroof, surrounded by lush green mountains and fog. I extended my arms out and felt a sense of flight that no plane could ever take me on. As the water vapor kissed my face, I floated into a dreamland I never wanted to leave. I didn’t have to go to great lengths to discover the beauty of the world; it was right in front of me.  From this moment on, comfort and convenience would no longer be my best friends. Rather than only looking for famous travel destinations or following carefully mapped-out routes, I would let curiosity lead the way. 

Since then, my daily life has been anything but routine. I’m proud to boast of my family’s homemade kombucha attempts, of flights purchased and taken in one day, and of a home flooded with knick-knacks from thrifting trips. Every day I set out to try something new, see a different perspective, and go beyond normal. Whether it is by trying a new recipe using taro, making a risky fashion choice with wide-legged pants, or listening to a new music genre in Spanish, I always act with curiosity first.

Over the years, I have devoted my time towards learning Swedish, building computers, and swimming. Although my accent is horrid, some computers almost broke, and even a starfish would outswim me, I continue to enjoy activities I once criticized. For me, there is no enjoyment without some risk. Nobody I know is a kazoo-playing, boogie-board loving, boba connoisseur like me.

This essay is an Overcoming Challenges story that centers around a single anecdote. The structure works nicely as the student describes what they were like before their road trip, what happened on the road trip, and what they were like after. 

The most major improvement that this essay needs is better-communicated authenticity. At the beginning, it feels a bit gimmicky. The student describes their preparedness, particularly the fact that they always carry a first aid kit, and it’s not super believable. Then, when they write “Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator?” it feels like we are in a sitcom and the student is that funny obsessive kid. Sitcom characters don’t feel real and you want to make yourself appear profoundly real.

On a similar note, the narrative arc of this essay isn’t entirely believable. The student describes a large personality and value shift but doesn’t describe any struggles that accompany the shift. A quick shift like that is far from easy. On the other hand, if the immediacy of the shift was easy, they could write about moments after their shift in mindset when they have felt troubled by residual desires to stay in their comfort zone, instead of writing “I always act with curiosity first.”

The greatest strength of this essay is the paragraphs beginning “I never realized how little…” and “As we drove along…” The fixation on comfort seems much more believable when it involves “homework at the kitchen table and late-night TV.” The descriptions of the drive provide beautiful, evocative imagery. And it’s topped off with some nice reflection! Digging into this great portion of the essay would make this an even stronger essay!

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Home — Application Essay — Liberal Arts Schools — A Narrative about Cultural Identity and My Irish-Nicaraguan Roots

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A Narrative about Cultural Identity and My Irish-Nicaraguan Roots

  • University: Yale University

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Words: 505 | Pages: 1 | 3 min read

At a strange intersection of customs exists my cultural essence; I am the product of an infinitely improbable arrangement of DNA. Seemingly, Fate threw darts at a board to select my parents from the world’s population, and just this once they landed on a Nicaraguan war refugee that I affectionately refer to as “mom” and an nth generation Irish naval corpsman from the suburbs known to me as “dad.” Such is life, and Austin came to be a child of divided culture: a child of two languages, two families, two coexisting and yet so vastly different identities. So in this essay I want to talk about cultural identity and its fromation in my life.

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Mom’s dancing in the living room to her favorite Zumba workout tape, and Dad’s sitting in the kitchen, screening some Discovery special as he diligently finishes his paperwork; I exist as the fusion thereof.

My Nicaraguan heritage is a subtle presence in the otherwise culturally homogenous sphere of vanilla blandness that is Fairview, Pennsylvania. However, upon visiting my family in Miami, I’m treated to the cultural variety that is the essence of what it means to be Hispanic. Two springs ago, my family and I found ourselves at the Calle Ocho festival, in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. It was an awakening to the heritage I had yet to fully acknowledge; my integration into the Hispanic community transcends nationality and embraces the commonality of its members. The Cuban espresso shots I enjoyed served as my impromptu induction into my mother’s cultural community. It’s fitting I would rediscover myself in city my mother spent her teenage years; I found my heritage hiding in the festival’s rhythmic bongo beats.

The Hispanic community is warmly welcoming, passionate and energetic, and I am proud to be a part of it. To be Hispanic in the United States is to denounce divisive nationalities and embrace newfound ethnic commonality. My mother has given me more than just a heritage language, she’s served as my liaison to a vibrant community full of el duende, a passionate energy whose variable and untranslatable meaning is yet another demonstration of the bonding nature of being Hispanic. When I speak to my Dominican friend, our connection extends beyond the superficial fact that we’re usually speaking Spanish. Our upbringings in a predominately Caucasian environment have been subtly interwoven with our mothers’ past heritage. There’s nothing better than having a dancing mother who chastises me in Spanglish to make my bed.

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I am an Irish-Nicaraguan who wishes to make the best of what his mother has given him. She’s connected me to a vibrant, welcoming community, and her dedication has allowed me to live without the poverty and disadvantage she had to withstand as an unfortunate byproduct of her community. I’m advantaged with a mother who has overcome obstacles far greater than those that I must face. My cultural experience has driven me to achieve through my duality: to succeed not just as Austin, but to succeed for the sake of validating my mother’s continuing efforts and for the diverse, energetic Hispanic connection she’s given me.

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college essay examples on culture

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College Culture is a Unique Phenomenon

College Culture is a Unique Phenomenon

In general, the term “culture” refers to the behavior, attitudes, practices and norms of a given group of people in a localized geographic area. In particular, the culture of students attending a college together is a unique phenomenon. (Person, 1990)  Student culture in a college setting is established and passed on through the classes. Members of this culture experience learning of values, behaviors and norms through a cultural system of punishment and reward, social interactions and expressed values. (Person, 1990)

  As the individual student craves acceptance into the new culture of their college, the culture influences student behavior from the moment they arrive in the new environment. This element of learning is prevalent from the beginning of the educational experience. (Person, 1990)   Educators tend to overlook this aspect of student learning. They tend to dismiss the importance of peer group influences on learning. (Person, 1990)

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 The peer group defines the problems, norms and behaviors of the students therein. They further serve as models for new students as they arrive in the environment. The culture of a college sets standards for behaviors and norms. (Person, 1990)  It can also influence specific conduct, such as organization membership. Cultural contact provides a context in which students learn the proper ways of communicating and interacting socially, which are valuable life and business skills. (Person, 1990)  The culture itself is in a constant state of transition as the demographic make-up of the college changes over time.

Essential to the understanding of culture in the college setting is the notion that it is not homogeneous. There exists in college culture, like any other culture, a series of subcultures. (Kuh, ) Within these subcultures are several recognized levels. (Kuh, ) The first of these levels is “artifacts”. This refers to the tangible elements of culture that can be further divided into physical, verbal and behavioral categories. (Kuh, )

Physical artifacts are those elements of environment that exist around a population n as they express and shape their cultural behavior. Examples include the architecture, geography and art of the setting, technology, and regional characteristics of the college’s location. (Kuh, ) Verbal artifacts include language, stories or myths associated with the college culture. Often, institutions have specific words or phrases, which Kuh refers to as “terms of endearment”, that  are unique to the college. Behavioral artifacts are rituals and rites associated with the college. There are hundreds of examples of behavioral artifacts in a college setting. (Kuh,)

The second level of culture is referred to as “perspectives”. (Kuh, ) These are socially shared rules of behavior for a given situation. (Kuh, ) Styles of cress are a common example of perspective in college culture. Others include public discussion taboos, procedures at faculty meetings and other behavioral standards. (Kuh, )

”Values”, the third level of subcultures is the group’s impression of the ideal in circumstances, the way things “aught to be”. (Kuh, ) many colleges express values in the form of mission statements and/or policy/conduct guidebooks. (Kuh,) Values may be espoused or enacted. If they are merely espoused, they make the claim of being a value without reflecting the reality of attempting to fulfil the value. If they are enacted, the culture is making a real effort to have cultural behavior conform to the stated values.

The final level of subculture is “Assumptions”. These are tacit beliefs used by members of the culture to define their roles and behaviors. (Kuh, ) These are implicit tenets upon which artifacts, perspectives and values are based. (Kuh, ) These assumptions can be further divided into five subsets. One of these is humanity’s relationship to nature. A second is ***These pages of the KUH article have been omitted from the copy you uploaded***(pg 8-9).

In the culture of a college setting, it is rare that a single culture dominates. The fabric of the culture of a college consists of numerous subcultures. These subcultures define themselves similarly to general cultures, using language, behavior and other cues to differentiate from the “rest of the group”. (Kuh, ) Subcultures can exist among both students and faculty. A typical division of the culture of faculty is by department of study. (Kuh, ) The interactions between students, their culture and their subculture define a key element of their learning and development at college.

The elements of culture described above can be understood through a method of inquiry known as the Cultural Audit. (Whitt, ) The Cultural Audit is a journey to understand the culture of a particular location, such as a college, and the process is guided by eight principles. (Whitt, ) The first of these is that the auditor must identify and acknowledge the underlying assumptions of the subject as to what culture is. The second principle is to respect the uniqueness of the institution being audited. (Whitt, )

The third principle is that the Auditor recognizes the need to explore the perspectives of both the insiders and the outsiders. The fourth principle is that a full engagement requires a lengthy interaction. (Whitt, ) Fifth is the principle that the Auditor should get as much information as possible before formulating conclusions.

The sixth principle is acknowledging the fact that the institution may resist the audit. (Whitt, ) The seventh principle that an Auditor should recognize is the necessity of multiple forms of data collection. The final principle of the Culture Audit is that the Auditor should obtain insider feedback on their observations and conclusions to ensure accuracy. (Whitt, )

The use of the Culture Audit should be an effective way to examine culture at Queens College in Flushing, Queens. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), Queens College boasts nearly 18,500 students. It maintains a good reputation for academic achievement, and is classified as a commuter college, since 40% of the undergraduates and 90% of the graduate students are part-time. The school sponsors 20 men’s and women’s Division II sports teams. The school boasts students from 120 different nations, who speak 66 different languages.

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African Culture College Essays Samples For Students

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Regardless of how high you rate your writing abilities, it's always a good idea to check out an expertly written College Essay example, especially when you're dealing with a sophisticated African Culture topic. This is exactly the case when WowEssays.com database of sample College Essays on African Culture will come in handy. Whether you need to brainstorm a fresh and meaningful African Culture College Essay topic or look into the paper's structure or formatting peculiarities, our samples will provide you with the necessary data.

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Africa is a huge continent, which consists of numerous countries. Its population is diverse with different languages, beliefs and traditions. That is why it is not a surprise that Africa is a home for numerous religions. On the territory of Africa there are a lot of Christian and Islam followers. In addition, there are numerous native African religions. They are of peculiar interest, because they represent true African culture. Indigenous religions of African population are based on their believes and life experience.

Example Of The African Diaspora Essay

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