Advanced Comp: Examining College Essays

The Documents below are designed to help you understand the processes and practices that guide a strong college admission essay. Typical prompts used in these essays are…

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 failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. 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.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

For the prompts above, please answer the following questions:

  • What is the overall purpose of a college essay?
  • Pick the one prompt that would be the best for your team. What criteria gives it strength? Are there potential weaknesses to this task?
  • What are some important issues that you might want to tackle within this essay? What should you avoid as a writer to keep the issues relevant and complete?
  • Who is your audience? What do they want to see from this essay?

Next, select an essay from the list below. Read it, annotate it, and answer the following questions in complete sentences:

  1. Summarize the essay in at least three sentences. What happens in the essay?
  2. What is the greatest strength of this essay? How does the author use this strength?
  3. What is the greatest weakness of the essay? How can you see it effecting its purpose?
  4. What is the best quote from the piece? Why do you like it?

Johns Hopkins University – Essays that Worked