The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve.
Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale.
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! 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.
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.
So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people?
Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.
Here are six of these short essays answering the 2014 prompt: "Tell us about the best gift you've ever given or received." 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. We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site.