There are many pieces that make up a college application and the essay is one of those. A college essay is a chance to tell your story in ways that your application or test scores can’t. This is an opportunity to really go deep. What’s your story? What are you passionate about? How have your experiences shaped you into who you are today? Who do you want to become? An effective college essay will answer these questions and help the person reading it get to know you on a more personal level.
Every student’s essay will be original - that’s the point! Your essay should be unique to YOU.
Apply Texas Essay Prompts
Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?
Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.
You've got a ticket in your hand. Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?
Common App Essay Prompts
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.
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?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
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?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
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?
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.
Coalition Essay Prompts
Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?
Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?
Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?
What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?
Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
Essay advice from Princeton U
Senior Assistant Dean
Office of Admissions
July 28, 2022
What makes a good writer?
Avid readers - read a variety (newspapers, Buzz Feed, Great American Essays, etc.) of materials – emphasis on developing your writing voice
English teachers will have resources and suggestions
Truly reflect- Focus on values of institution when considering your essay and how they relate to you - incorporate that into your essay
Dissect - what is the question really asking
Avoid anything in your writing you wouldn’t read aloud to your class – be comfortable with your topic and be genuine
Suggests to begin with pen and paper rough draft – this tends to bring out authentic voice rather than typing the initial draft
Type it and edit as you type
Have someone read your draft that knows you and can tell you if it sounds like “you” – If your paper was found on the floor without your name on it, would they know it was you?
Avoid professional editing – admissions know the difference between a professionally polished essay and an essay written by authentic voice
Edit, edit, edit – writers become better writers by editing their writing
They can tell when a professional has proofed/written your paper- you NEED to write it, not a professional
Stay away from topics you would not feel comfortable reading in front of people you know
Plagiarism happens - DON’T DO IT! You can use ‘Turn it in’ to make sure you avoid plagiarism
Length: application will tell you the word limit – choose words carefully to meet the shorter length of 250 to 500 words (edit, edit, edit)
Test optional is definitely considered with applicants – if it says test optional, admissions offices mean test optional The emphasis is greater on the transcript, essay, and letter of recommendations.
Classes: they look to see what the high school offers (AP, DC, and IB) and then how many the student has taken. If they offer 30 and you take 3, that’s a red flag. Additionally, if you are unable to take an AP due to scheduling conflicts, explain that in an additional document to the office of admissions – also ask your counselor to include this information in their counselor report. (Context is crucial!)
Rank: It’s not a key factor. So many schools are no longer ranking. LHS already includes in our school report that we are a non-ranking school
They truly do look at the whole application: essays, letters of rec., transcripts = Holistic Reviews
**The transcript is the heaviest part of your application**
Thank you to those who were able to join us today!
Student Essay Samples
Use these samples to gain inspiration from; they're NOT yours to use.
Student A Essay 1: Accepted into UT, OU, UH, A&M and Baylor
Class of 2022
What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?
At the beginning of junior year, my AP Physics 1 teacher asked us to make a video that described ourselves and the type of students that we were. One of the questions he had us answer was whether or not we thought we were smart. When I initially read the question, a prideful yes rang through my head. Then seconds later I was contemplating the accuracy of my initial answer. Was I smart because I signed up for such a challenging course? Or was I smart because I thought I would be able to get through it without a hitch? What exactly defines whether or not a person can categorize themselves as “smart”? Growing up Indian, the stereotype that my nationality was naturally intelligent was pushed upon me to think that I had acquired an innate ability to be “above average”. Little did I know, but AP Physics 1 was about to challenge my own ideas of my academic potential. From the introductory lab to the AP exam I was… perplexed, to say the least. How were the concepts so difficult to grasp? Why didn’t they click for me as most other science courses did? Again and again, I was humbled and quite mystified by this peculiar science that is responsible for keeping me glued to the earth and walking without sliding around. Consequently, I had to redefine my own methods of approaching science, studying, and consuming information. I spent hours on labs and homework to condition my brain to think outside the box. Over time the challenge of the class began to intrigue me enough to make me thoroughly enjoy the class and look forward to the future units. This was particularly noticeable when I realized that for the first time I was actually excited to do homework! The bliss I felt when I got a question correct on our homework assignment was unparalleled. The little check mark on the corner of the screen honestly shouldn't have brought me the amount of joy that it did. But with the complexities of what I was expected to comprehend, I was elated to see the results of my minimal understanding.
When the culmination of my efforts (the AP exam) was (literally) put to the test, I was ready!! I was prepared to pass! Until I didn’t. But my score did not and never will extinguish the respect that I had built up for the science. The past joy that I had experienced when I saw my hard work pay off with a high score on a lab. The adrenaline I experienced when I got a challenging question correct on a quiz. While at the present time, Physics just looked like a bunch of work and impossible to grasp ideas. It wasn’t until the class was over when I saw what really transpired over the year. I wasn’t smart because I decided to take the course. I was smart for never giving up on it when it threw me for a loop and tried to stump me. My intelligence was not made up of a score on an exam, but the beauty in challenging something that pushes you right back. I believe that while I may have shortened my lifespan to some degree by enrolling in AP Physics, the academic and personal shaping that it dealt me was well worth it in the end. I ended junior year with a strange love for a subject that often made me feel the opposite of ¨smart¨; but with my renewed understanding of what the word truly meant, I felt pretty genius.
Student A Essay 2: Used Specifically for Religious Affiliated Schools
Accepted into UT, OU, UH, A&M and Baylor
Class of 2022
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
I am averse to public speaking. Well… maybe it's less of the actual speaking and more of the undivided attention and numerous pairs of ears that are fixed to my every word. Growing up in the Church, I was well aware of the elders pushing the youth to get on stage to ¨say a few words¨ and ¨put ourselves out there¨. So without fail, the opportunity arose for me to open our church service by sharing the weekly Devotional. When our headmaster approached me to ask if I would be willing to do so, I remember the split reaction between my heart saying yes and my mind saying no, nonetheless I shook the contrasting emotions aside by answering her with a (surprisingly) self assured ¨sure!¨. The next week I diligently went through multiple topics until I decided to speak about ¨Ẅho God considers qualified¨. Little did I know at the present time, but the topic that I had prepared for the benefit of the church, was more so benefiting me. As I searched for Biblical quotes that would further the truth that God was well aware of our insecurities and yet called us regardless, I realized that the mere privilege I had to stand on a pulpit to share this profound truth was an example of it in and of itself. Though I was exceedingly shy and felt unfit to share the Word with my fellow believers, God was speaking to me that He has qualified me to do so. Tears streamed from my eyes as I contemplated the complexities of how God was growing and maturing me from the very beginning of the opportunity. My split feelings over being asked to speak was a testament of the true desires of my heart to be open with my faith, courageous in my beliefs, and honest with who my God is.
But it wasn´t until I stood on stage when a peace I had never experienced, washed over me and I began to empower both myself and the church of the gospel truth that anyone can be used by God for tasks as small as sharing a brief message, and more profound: igniting a new period of personal growth. In just a week's time, I developed a fruitful understanding of myself as Christian, and an even deeper understanding of my Lord that could not have been fulfilled had I not taken the opportunity to share from his Scripture.
Baylor short answer:
What are you looking for in a university, why do you want to attend Baylor, and how do
you see yourself contributing to the Baylor community?
No University is perfect but each one is distinctual and efficient in what they stand for. Life after high school is the first step into adulthood and it is imperative that the years spent making a foundation for adulthood are ones that are grown in an environment that will fuel your potential, and allow you to mature as a responsible, goal oriented individual.
In a university, I am looking for a community that shows remarkable character, a strong adherence to their ethics, and a value to their future goals. When I was making the significant decision to apply to Baylor, I had comfort knowing that the community checked everything off of my mental list. In addition, Baylor’s core values of faith, and a dedication to not sacrifice their beliefs in the midst of a materialistic world, remind me of the home that I grew up in. I want to attend Baylor because I know that Baylor will not just be an institution that I attend purely to further my higher education. I know that it will foster my spiritual growth, introduce me to like minded individuals, and become a second home to me.
I see myself contributing to the diverse community of Baylor by incorporating myself into the academic drive of the campus. I hope to one day serve in a position of leadership whether that be in a Biblical or educational setting on campus. I take great pride in being of service to others and I wish to support the community by volunteering myself to the activities and opportunists presented to me as a student.
Student B Essay 1: Student is Attending UT
Class of 2022
There was a stillness in the house. Usually it was pretty quiet, but by the time it was 12:00 PM, I would’ve expected chatter coming from our television playing tacky Vietnamese dramas, or my father lost in thought about the next slick line he’d pull on women that he oh so dearly adored through long-distance phone calls. Instead, all that could be heard was the emptiness of my stomach that growled from the night before.
I tiptoed through the hallways, hardwood creaked from cups of water damage and dust accumulated in gaps between each plank, cautious to not wake up my angsty teenage sister. Slowly approaching my father’s room, I watched him lie drained of energy, although awake, staring into the abyss of our ceiling. His unhinged eyes met mine and, sluggishly, he sat up pointing me towards the closet characterized by a chaotic series of broken electrical devices and wires, crumpled up ads, and grime swept underneath our door frame. Simply, an unfathomable amount of clutter of things my father liked to hoard. On a shelf supported by the narrow width of our shabby, knockdown walls, a Dollar Tree plastic organizer held a vast collection of translucent amber pill bottles.
He had stuttered requesting me to acquire a particular prescription of which I could barely pronounce. Scrambling through a headache of medical terms until my body had fallen into exhaust, my arms turned to jello, and my legs became heavy. In a desperate attempt, my father slid down the edge of our dingy cotton sheets and shuffled his way toward the closet to secure whatever tablets that would take the pain he felt away. Peculiarly, as he took his first step onto our stubby footstool, my father shakily gripped my arm with such firmity that the circulation of my blood created a sense of numbness, and within a second, his body collapsed on the floor.
My father had a stroke.
My father had an endless history of trouble maintaining the wellbeing of his health. Chinese takeout and fried eggs over rice were the go-to for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although food on the table was never guaranteed, my father tried, in his own way, to preserve a relationship with my sister and I by allowing us to bathe in the pit of our own self-reliance. Meaning, summer nights defined by bristly drawstring bags stuffed with fuzzy lint-layered pajama pants, a complimentary toothbrush from the kind pediatric dentist, and an iPhone charger to ensure my mother’s calls from an hour away were never missed. At the time, sleepovers were the highlight of my nights, opportunities to feel nurtured by another set of parents gave me the spirit of bliss and warmth.
One extensive recovery later, financial burdens and depression consumed our household. I watched as my father coped by running our credit dry with trips to different states, meeting new women every other month, while my sister worked tirelessly to provide what she could for herself. Delayed flights, motorcycle accidents, or extended family visits were some of the continuous excuses he made when deciding to spontaneously leave and wander our home country of Vietnam with another woman as my sister and I dealt with the abandonment of the only parent we grew up with.
My anxious demand for stability encourages me to embody the idea of a true independent Asian-American woman. Through the adversity I faced, I am determined to take care of myself, whether it be financially, emotionally, or physically, gain trust in myself and others, and appreciate the opportunities I’m presented with. Setting myself on a high pedestal, I have become acquainted with leadership positions in school such as Historian of Student Council, while being involved for four years, Vice President of the first opening year of Asian American Association club, as well as taking on rigorous AP, honors, and dual credit courses.
Like a flower, the roots of my childhood has allowed me the maturity to grow the stem of a healthy ego, allowing me to treasure my imperfections and empower my vulnerability, and as my petals continue to sprout of milestones and accomplishments, I too, will cultivate the generational wealth of my mind and spirit.
Student B Short Questions: Student is Attending UT
Class of 2022
UT Short Questions
My interest in majoring in Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin stems from my inspiration to help others in difficult situations. Given the opportunity to grow up in both a lower, then middle-class environment, I have distinguished the differences in the environment between the two. Broken families, damaged children, domestic and substance abuse, poverty, discrimination against race, gender, sexuality, and class were all subjects and situations I grew up around. I strive to break generational barriers in order to create a positively united world between communities of all identities and backgrounds. I believe completely absorbing the knowledge of social work would allow me to pursue my passion in a career that suits my authentic and nurturing nature. Using my mind and spirit, I would put all my effort into saving those that I can from hardship in the parts of their lives that they hate to address. There is nothing I´d love more than watching a child's face beam at the sight of a new toy, or being given the opportunity to go to school, or even seeing as their justice is served at the stake of their parents and/or guardians. Elderly men and women whose skin glows after dropping a toxic addiction, a grown adult going through therapy and finally beginning to accept themselves for their identity, or soul thanking the universe for allowing them another chance at a healthy, fulfilling life. Our world will never go out of the need for social workers, to inspire, help, and motivate individuals to become and live the best version of themselves.
My impact at the University of Texas at Austin would be defined by lively spirit, initiative, and continuous growth. Throughout my highschool career, I have persevered through rigorous AP, honors, and dual credit courses, always ensuring my performance was up to par, as well as involving myself in extracurriculars such as Key Club, Student Council, and Asian American Association. Within my first two years of high school, I was involved in Key Club, which set the foundation for my love of volunteering and guiding others. Due to COVID, many opportunities to participate in certain events and activities were abandoned for the safety of our community, so I decided to quit and focus my attention on Student Council instead. My eagerness to hold a leadership position that would directly affect my school prompted me to run and become elected Student Council historian, where I became comfortable with spending four years volunteering for key events, such as homecoming, charity walks and fundraisers, athletic games, etc. In the effort to bring appreciation and awareness to my experience as an Asian American, I've been fortunate enough to hold a Vice President position for our school´s first year having an identity club for Asian American students. All the while maintaining high standards within my academic career, I have balanced the responsibilities of having a part time job to finance my own needs and wants, as well as learning to manage my time to raise my two younger brothers from dropping them off at school, to picking them up, and accompanying them at doctors and counseling appointments. Forging the path for future generations, I aim to share my diligence to excel in my academics while attending the University of Texas at Austin.
Without a doubt, the Social Work degree that I plan to obtain attending the University of Texas at Austin will visibly affect how I approach and resolve challenges, communicate with individuals, and grant me the ability to guide others in their process of life. Dedicating my time and effort into my academics to maintain an intellectually growing mindset will force me to project the same ideas onto others, driving them to strive for a higher consciousness and desire greater knowledge. Following my graduation at the University of Texas at Austin, I ambitiously plan to jump directly into my career as a Social Worker where I will stimulate the field of social work with my authenticity by treating people with empathy and compassion, understanding the different types of branches of struggles I must be able to address, and efficiently providing the absolute best way to put people in my community in a position of self-empowerment and confidence to live easier lives. I will change the world one person at a time as I'll continue to battle the obstacles presented to me and my future clients, ensuring that their spirit is never in a state of jeopardy. I plan to open a private social work agency where I can collaborate with certain groups, such as homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, foster care agencies, and more to support those in need on a regular basis. Allowing for intimate interactions and conversations with some of my future clients will grant me the opportunity to ease their struggles and offer comfort.
During my highschool journey, I was faced with many difficult circumstances ranging from taking care of my younger brothers, balancing schoolwork and a job, taking care of my mental health, and dealing with the toll that COVID-19 had taken over my family. I lived with my neglectful father all throughout my childhood up until I moved into my mom's house in 8th grade, when she unexpectedly birthed my baby brother and suddenly her responsibilities became mine as well. My mother worked tirelessly to provide for my brothers and I, leaving from 9 o'clock in the morning to 7 o'clock at night. It was up to me to prepare meals for my brothers, drop off and pick them up from school, play games with them, all the while managing my younger autistic brother´s violent outbursts towards the baby. My grandfather who lived with us helped watch the kids while my mother worked, but with age, his energy was easily drained from picking up lego pieces and wiping down milk-stained counters. The obligation my mother held against me for academic excellence pushed me to persevere through meticulous courses, which ultimately led to a series of anxiety attacks and bipolar depression. Fear of disappointing my family urged me to keep a constantly filled schedule, even when I didn't have schoolwork, I distracted myself with 12 hour shifts in fast food restaurants, serving, and retail stores. Inevitably, my responsibilities often crashed but I always figured out a way to get things done efficiently. When COVID-19 came to its peak state, quarantine allowed my family to see the flaws within themselves and the relationships between each other, and while it gave us an eye-opening opportunity, it also forced us to grieve death and stress over the safety of our health.
My decision to major in Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin as my first choice stems from my inspiration to help others in difficult situations. Given the opportunity to grow up in both a lower, then middle-class environment, I have distinguished the differences in the environment between the two. Broken families, damaged children, domestic and substance abuse, poverty, discrimination against race, gender, sexuality, and class were all subjects and situations I grew up around. I strive to break generational barriers in order to create a positively united world between communities of all identities and backgrounds. I believe completely absorbing the knowledge of social work would allow me to pursue my passion in a career that suits my authentic and nurturing nature. Using my mind and spirit, I would put all my effort into saving those that I can from hardship in the parts of their lives that they hate to address. There is nothing I´d love more than watching a child's face beam at the sight of a new toy, or being given the opportunity to go to school, or even seeing as their justice is served at the stake of their parents and/or guardians. Elderly men and women whose skin glows after dropping a toxic addiction, a grown adult going through therapy and finally beginning to accept themselves for their identity, or soul thanking the universe for allowing them another chance at a healthy, fulfilling life. Our world will never go out of the need for social workers, to inspire, help, and motivate individuals to become and live the best version of themselves and I would love to be a part of that. My Social Work degree from UT Austin will prepare me to approach and resolve challenges in an efficient manner, easily communicate with individuals, and grant me the ability to guide others in their process of life. I will learn to understand the different processes of engaging, assessing, planning, treating, and evaluating my clients to improve their wellbeing through my advanced UT Austin education. Strictly following my graduation, I plan to work at a Social Work agency to get first-hand experience and based on what I have examined, I will strive to improve that sector in my own private Social Work agency where I can collaborate with homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, foster care agencies, and more to support those in need on a regular basis. My agency will specialize in the act of authenticity and compassion towards my future clients in order to effectively cater to their needs. My UT Austin Social Work degree will not only prepare me to improve the lives of others, but my own as well.
Student C Personal Statement: Student is attending Georgia Tech
Accepted into SMU, UT, & Tulane U
Class of 2022
I have a 24oz metal water bottle that gets thoroughly washed about once a month. I know I should be better about cleaning it weekly or even daily, but even with my mom nagging me, I still almost never wash it. My “emotional support water bottle”, as my friends dub it, goes everywhere with me. It joins me at marching band competitions in blazing Texas heat in September. It’s attached to me on family road trips meeting up with my aunts and uncles. It even travels with me to debate conferences (where I’m in a full suit and tie) to make sure my mouth doesn’t get dry from refuting all of the fellow delegates’ arguments. My Mayan Blue Costco Thermoflask has been in the line of duty circa 2019 when my family picked it up on sale during one of our monthly bulk shopping excursions, an important lesson in frugality.
Besides all of the dents that show where my bottle needs some tender loving care, the stickers plastered around the bottle remind me of where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. The collage of stickers is just like my life: a perfect mess that ends up being art.
There’s a yellow sticker with a small beaver wearing a bright red hat with the biggest smile of just two teeth. On a road trip with my mom to Houston for a piano competition, we made the quintessential stop at the Madisonville Buc-ee’s for Beaver Nuggets and the iconic merchandise. And on that same day, June 21, 2019, the beaver sticker found its home on my bottle. Beyond the reminder of the sweet caramel-y taste of Beaver Nuggets, Bucky the Beaver reminds me of the value of stepping off the road. Sometimes, you have to leave the path most traveled and avoid the hustle and bustle of the big city to appreciate what’s around you.
About 180 degrees around the top of the bottle, there’s a large black sticker that has a golden cheetah with the Dallas Zoo logo. I acquired this sticker on March 5, 2020. Every year, the AP Science classes at my school famously take a field trip to see all of the animals at the Dallas Zoo (and work on a less exciting 12-page packet during the day). The sticker reminds me of the last day I ever saw my friends graduating in the class of 2020, but it has more meaning than that last unfinished goodbye. Something unforgettable I learned that day is that a cheetah is capable of going from 0 to 60mph in under 3 seconds, but they can only maintain that great speed for a short amount of time. The confident gold cheetah reminds me not to burn myself out trying to work too fast because I won’t be able to sustain myself with too much to handle or a speed too great. Every year, I’m reminded that it takes almost 20 hours per week for 20 weeks to put together just an 8-minute marching band show. When we try to rush and put too many sets or musical phrases on the field at once, it ends up worse than if we took more time to perfect what we already have been working on.
The most recent addition to my bottle, on August 2, 2021, was a 2x3 sticky picture of my best friends and me in our first day of school senior shirts. The picture reminds me to cherish the memories I’ve made through the stickers on my bottle, through the other 8683 photos on my camera roll, through the inside jokes I’ve written down, and any other way that I can. Just the way that I hold onto my bottle every single day, I hold onto the memories I’ve made in high school to relish them and learn from them.