50+ Examples of College Essays That Worked and Expert Analysis

50+ Examples of College Essays That Worked and Expert Analysis

Your personal statement is an important factor in your college application. This is necessary if you want to get accepted into the school of your choice. As important as it may sound;  writing your personal statement, or the college essay could be rather tedious and a daunting task.

Using the right approach and resources, you can conquer this obstacle. One of the most important resources recommended by experts is the college essays of the accepted students. In other words, essays that worked. This will give you a clear idea of what your personal statement should look like.

So, what exactly do you need, to pen down that perfect personal statement?

This post will take you through the key aspects of a successful college essay. Examples of 50+ college essays from 4 top schools that have worked their way to getting accepted. Detailed analysis of one of these college essays to help you understand the various aspects of a great college essay and how to write one.

What do all great college essays have in common?

Every personal statement is different in its own way. There are certain common features you will find in each of these essays, some of these include-

A Catchy Opening: The first sentence is what binds the reader to the rest of your essay. The reader (Admissions Officer) has already read many essays before reading your essay. He will be reading many more after this. So what makes your personal statement so different and exciting? This is where your opening phrase comes into play. An excitable and catchy opening phrase sets the tone for the reader to stay and read what you have to say.

Following a Structure: A clever essay always begins with a broader perspective and narrows it down to the sharpest details. You will find that every successful essay follows a basic structure that entails

Great Introduction- Binding Theme- Thoughtful Conclusion

Working around this structure and making it more engaging and compelling for the reader is what a great essay does.

Building Connections: This personal statement is your own story. The very purpose for colleges to ask for a personal statement is to know who you are- your perspective, your point of view towards the world outside and your own is also important. This is your chance to connect with them at a personal level than just being academic. Every essay that works its way to a college admission has connectivity in its content. This strikes the chord with the reader. It is very important that your story connects the dots for both yourself and the reader alike.
Some humor can always help!

Technical Correctness: With so much at stake, there is no room for error; especially a technical one. The last thing you need in your essay is a spelling, grammar or syntax error. Every successful college essay goes through rounds of proofreading, spell checking and editing.  Avoid falling trap to these errors!

Always ask for an opinion (of any sort) from your teachers, parents, friend, and mentors. Getting other readers' perspective on your work is helpful.

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Essay Examples 

Here are some examples of college essays that worked. Most of these essay is based on the prompts outlined by the Common Application board.

Some colleges also use additional prompts other than the common application, some examples are-

Yale Essay Prompts

Stanford University Essay Prompts


Below are some examples of the college essays that worked:

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from the Common Application and/or the Universal Application. Hopkins accepts both.

Connecticut College

Hamilton College

Tufts University

For Tufts Application, students also need to answer three short essay questions-  two mandatory, and one chosen from six prompts.

University of Chicago

Columbia University

Common Application Essay Analysis:

In this section, I will take you through one of the essays mentioned in the previous section, accepted by the Tufts University. 

Common Application Personal Statement By Bridget Collins ( Tufts Class of 2019)


Let’s have a look at what worked for this essay and where is the room for improvement.

Things that Worked:

Great Structure: 

The essay is written and arranged in chronological order. She tells her story through the passage of time. This makes it easy for the reader to clearly understand the theme of this personal statement. The content is not haywire and does not distract the reader.

Imagination and Humour: 

The author has used a child’s idea of using tiny helpers to fix the world of its little problems. This clearly underlines her sense of imagination. She has also used humor in various phrases to build a metaphorical connection between these helpers and people assisting students with disabilities, which in this case is herself. The usage of phrases like-


Bridget has made the tone of the essay more fun and relaxing. This makes the reader feel connected to Bridget in the first instance.

Use of Sentences and Terminology: 

Instead of using simpler words, Bridget has created her own terminology; e.g., using the word Fixer-Upper instead of simply using the word helpers. She has not only devised the word but used it often to highlight the metaphorical use of the phrase.

When writing your own story, things can be one-sided or monotonous. In this essay, however, the author plays with the tone of the theme. She keeps changing the sentences’ length and syntax by using various techniques, keeping the reader engaged all the time. 

Here are some examples:


Conveying a Message:

Not only does this essay take you through the imagination of a child, it also leaves a message. The author has conveyed how being a board-certified behavior analyst has helped her gain a perspective. Emphasising the place of special needs children in the world around us. The essay lays out various emotions and how the world can be changed even with small efforts, one child at a time. 

Room for Improvement 

Nothing in this world is perfect and even the best of essays have space for improvement. Just like any other essay, this too could use some polishing. Here are some key observations-

In this essay, the author is highlighting an important social cause that prevails around us. This is her chance to portray her social and emotional sensibility. The author, however, has not entirely highlighted her summer program working with kids with disabilities. Writing more details about your work experience can always get you cookie points.

Speaking about connection, as mentioned previously, Bridget has used her car rides as instances to build the imagination; but she has missed out on connecting it with other aspects of the story. When using locations and properties in your story, it is always important to make sure they go with the flow and the overall context.

With this, I hope you are inspired enough to start with your own story to tell.

Keep reading!!

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