Admissions Essay Format

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Admissions Essay Format:

Writing an admissions essay takes a different approach than the format we use for expository writing pieces. An admissions essay is a personal narrative and must focus on the writer’s experiences and feelings. It is necessary to use words like “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”.

The introduction paragraph will NOT follow the hook-background-thesis format that we use for literary response essays. Instead, your introduction should sound like a story. Describe a particular situation in detail and make the reader feel like he/she is right there with you. For example:

Example 1:

My day in the sun had arrived – my magnum opus would be revealed. I had just delivered a memorized speech that I had labored over for weeks, and I was about to learn how the panel judged my performance. The polite but sparse audience leaned forward in their folding chairs. A hush fell across the room. The drum rolled (in my mind, anyway).

Example 2:

“HAPPY SEVENTY-THIRD BIRTHDAY, POP,” I excitingly exclaimed over the dinner table on January 9, 2007. With his big belly, shiny bald head, and eyes as blue as the sea, Pop simply smiled and said, “I never thought I would live to see my fiftieth birthday!” The whole table chuckled as steaming French onion soup and glistening steak awaited to be eaten. Through the course of dinner, I glanced over to my adorable Pop and truly felt blessed to have him. Pop was not only my grandfather, but a true companion and the core of my entire family. Therefore, I often referred to him as my family’s glue.

In both of these examples, the writer successfully paints a picture of a specific experience and make the reader feel like he/she is right there too (sensory details). Moreover, these introductions effectively capture the reader’s interest and make him/her want to read more.

Want more samples? has lots of sample entrance essays written by real students

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College Admission Essay

By Corrine Flax

My friends and I decided to go to the beach yesterday. On our way we drove down Woodward Avenue, a street that happens to be lined with beautiful old tulip trees. “Those are tulip trees; they are the largest deciduous trees in North America.” I told my friends. Of course I received the inevitable question from the back seat, “How do you know that?” I had to think about that for a minute, and then I knew; when I was in first grade we started learning about plants, and we learned the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees. I can remember sitting in my father’s car telling him about what I had learned about plants, and he told me about the Tulip Trees that lined Woodward Ave.

My friends are always amazed that I can hold onto information for such a long time. Of course my ability doesn’t impress me. What I find astonishing is the way that learning grows from itself, like a plant whose trimmings you can put into water so that it will root. Knowing one thing, the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees, led to my learning about something close to home, which led me to learn about when the tulip trees were planted, by whom, and what zoning rules were causing some of them to be preserved while others were cut down. Knowledge is just like that - you get a little bit of it and it grows.

When I think about going to XXXXX college, about leaving the facts and sights that I’ve known and explored for years I am filled not with fear but with a rising tide of excitement. To live day in and day out in a place filled with my peers who are all in the pursuit of different branches of academia seems like a dream come true for me. The conversations and information that I will receive outside of class alone will be staggering, and the ability to choose and specialize my educational pursuits and goals is thrilling.

Someday I hope to be a teacher and to have the ability to pass on what I have learned into the future. What will be truly exciting about this job will not only be the opportunity for me to educate others, but that I will be learning constantly from my students.

Every time you get out of bed and start a new day you are giving yourself a new opportunity for experience and learning. Each day that you spend awake is a day unlike any other that has ever been lived or will be lived again. There is nothing which, once learned, serves no purpose; for, even if it’s only use is repeating it at an apropos time, there is always the chance that you are planting a seed in someone’s mind. When I leave my home and my Tulip Trees I will not walk forward without casting a backwards glance. A love of knowledge has been sown and now it can only flourish.
Failing Successfully

By Candace M., Berea, KY

My day in the sun had arrived – my magnum opus would be revealed. I had just delivered a memorized speech that I had labored over for weeks, and I was about to learn how the panel judged my performance. The polite but sparse audience leaned forward in their folding chairs. A hush fell across the room. The drum rolled (in my mind, anyway).

The contest organizer announced the third-place winner. Alas, the name was not mine. Then he read the second-place winner, and once again it was not me. At last, the moment of truth came. ­Either I was about to bask in the warmth of victory or rue the last several months spent preparing. While neither of these came to pass, my heart felt closer to the latter.

Losing is a part of life, and I have dealt with the emotional baggage that travels shotgun with it on more than one occasion. However, it was an indescribably underwhelming feeling to drive 200 miles round trip, get up obscenely early on a freezing Saturday morning, and yet still finish fourth out of four contestants. After Lincoln lost the 1858 Illinois Senate race, he reportedly said, “I felt like the 12-year-old boy who stubbed his toe. I was too big to cry and it hurt too bad to laugh.” Oh yeah, I could relate.

I had spent many hours in front of a computer and in libraries doing research for the Lincoln Bicentennial Speech Contest. As I pored over several biographies, one notion stood out: Lincoln was handed many sound defeats, but he never allowed them to (permanently) hinder his spirit or ambition. While I believe many history lessons can be applied to modern life, I hadn’t considered “the agony of defeat” as a historically valuable learning experience. I never dreamed I could relate to Lincoln! I thought “failing ­successfully” was a very appropriate topic, given the many letdowns Lincoln experienced, and so this became the title of my speech.

After not placing in the first year of the speech contest, I really wanted to compete again. Lincoln had been the epitome of persistence, so I was not going to give up on a contest about a historic individual who did not give up! I reworked my speech for the following year, and while I did not come in last, again I did not place. Some days you’re the dog, and some days you’re the hydrant, and this was ­definitely a hydrant day that brought me down for a while.

I couldn’t accept the fact that I had failed twice in something that I had worked so hard on, until I contemplated the individual whom I’d spent so much time learning about. Never mind the lost prize money and praise – I had learned, really learned, about a great man who had experienced failure and disappointment, and had many chances to give up. We remember Lincoln because he didn’t take this route; he didn’t throw lavish pity-parties, and he persevered to ­become, according to many, the greatest American president.

While I did not earn monetary awards as a result of this contest, I did gain a new perspective. Through learning about Lincoln, I discovered that I can fail successfully, and that it is possible to glean applicable wisdom from the lives of those who have come before us. Now, whenever I’m faced with a setback, I remember what Lincoln said after his unsuccessful 1854 Senate race: “The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself, ‘It’s a slip and not a fall.’”

Natalie M.

Hometown: Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Intended major: Biology

Don't Be Sorry

It was a raw, blustery March day and I was leading four classmates to my house to hash out the remaining details of our current English presentation. When I opened the door, however, I received a surprise. I had not anticipated my mother still being home and neither had my group members. Their faces turned slightly blank, as if they were trying to hide their confusion and surprise. The previously relaxed atmosphere had become very formal and quiet. I had seen this before.

My group members had only observed my mom for a few seconds, but it was long enough to ignite their curiosity. I casually explained that the woman in the wheelchair they had just seen was my mother and that she has M.S.—multiple sclerosis. This is a fact I have relayed dozens of times throughout my life, and I thought nothing of it as I took my group member's heavy winter jackets and hung them up.

But one of the girls immediately said, "Oh, I'm sorry."

I was actually speechless. Sorry? Sorry for what? No one has ever said those words to me before regarding my mother, and I did not know how to respond. You say "I'm sorry" when someone's uncle passes away or when their pet dies; only "bad" situations are deserving of the "I'm sorry" response and I have never viewed my mother's disease as needing to receive it.

I shrugged off the reply in a polite way, and we got working. But the moment my group members left I was alone with my thoughts, alone with the "I'm sorry" clause.

Our family's life is completely different than others due to my mom's disease, but I have known no other way of living. My mother has had M.S. since she was in college, so I was born into a world with motorized scooters and walkers and extra precautions. This is my norm. And while other people may pity my mother and our family, I see no reason to be down. I could spend all my time harping on the drawbacks and my "missed opportunities," but what fun would that be? I will always find the silver lining.

This seemingly insignificant March day actually made quite a difference for me. I finally realized that you need to appreciate not just what you have had, but what you have not. Because of my mother I had learned independence and responsibility while most kids were still watching Saturday morning cartoons. I could balance a checkbook by fifth grade, thought more consciously about keeping our house clean than most kids ever will, and was always willing to lend a hand. These lessons have stuck with me. I understand that you have to make the best out of what you are given; take what life gives you and run with it.

So why be sorry for me? I know I would not trade my life for the world.

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