Writing college applications can be fun. Stop laughing.
Think about it: in the next few months, we are asking you to write about only things that you already love! That can be fun! Here’s the thing: “fun” doesn’t mean “easy.” It can be very tricky to write a combination of essays (for Tufts it’s four, including the supplement and the Common App’s Personal Statement) that you feel describe you perfectly and authentically. These essays need to be informative, concise, and written totally in your 17-year-old voice. That’s hard. So every year my colleagues and I collect a handful of essays written by last year’s applicants that worked really well (meaning they’re now Jumbos) and we publish them on our site for you to read! We then choose a few and talk about why they worked so well. Here are the resulting videos. Watch and learn, my friends:
Read this Essay Below Read this Essay Below
Read this Essay Below Read this Essay Below
Read this Essay Below
Shaan Merchant '19
Common App Essay
“Biogeochemical. It's a word, I promise!” There are shrieks and shouts in protest and support. Unacceptable insults are thrown, degrees and qualifications are questioned, I think even a piece of my grandmother's famously flakey parantha whizzes past my ear. Everyone is too lazy to take out a dictionary (or even their phones) to look it up, so we just hash it out. And then, I am crowned the victor, a true success in the Merchant household. But it is fleeting, as the small, glossy, plastic tiles, perfectly connected to form my winning word, are snatched out from under me and thrown in a pile with all the disgraced, “unwinning” tiles as we mix for our next game of Bananagrams. It's a similar donnybrook, this time ending with my father arguing that it is okay to use “Rambo” as a word (it totally is not).
Words and communicating have always been of tremendous importance in my life: from silly games like Bananagrams and our road-trip favorite “word game,” to stunted communication between opposing grandparents, each speaking a different Indian language; from trying to understand the cheesemonger behind the counter with a deep southern drawl (I just want some Camembert!), to shaping a script to make people laugh.
Words are moving and changing; they have influence and substance. Words, as I like them, create powerful flavor combinations in a recipe or (hopefully) powerful guffaws from a stand-up joke. They make people laugh with unexpected storylines at an improv show and make people cry with mouthwatering descriptions of crisp green beans lathered with potently salty and delightfully creamy fish sauce vinaigrette at Girl and the Goat. Words create everything I love (except maybe my dog and my mom, but you know, the ideas). The thought that something this small, a word, can combine to create a huge concept, just like each small reaction that makes up different biogeochemical cycles (it's a stretch, I know), is truly amazing.
After those aggressive games, my family is quickly able to, in the words of a fellow Nashvillian, “shake it off.” We gather around bowls of my grandmother's steaming rice and cumin-spiced chicken (food is always, always at the center of it), and enjoy. By the end of the meal, our words have changed, changed from the belligerent razzle dazzle of moments before to fart jokes and grandparental concern over the state of our bowels.
Back to Videos
Ray Parker '19
Let Your Life Speak
All my life I have been surrounded by science, filled with science, covered in science. I grew up with an electron microscope in the house, a holography lab and darkroom in the basement, and a cleanroom next door. While my friends were playing in sandboxes I was playing with dry ice in the sink. It is not impossible that I may have been influenced by this. I grew up with an interesting mix of science and art, which comes from my parents. My mother is a photographer and holographer, as well as an optical engineer; my father is an entrepreneur and the creator of the plasma ball light sculpture. They embrace both science and art and have taught me to embrace both as well. When I was young my mother taught me how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and at about the same time my father introduced me to BASIC programming. This laid the seeds for nearly everything that has come after. I kept much of my childlike creativity, and infused it with technology. Nearly all of my school projects have had an extra element that made them much more interesting; a book project on Cities in Flight was a magnetically levitating model of a city, a tectonic map project became a Blender animation, an English class final project was a trio of holograms.
My family has taught me to do interesting things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, and fun.
Back to Videos
Evana Wilson '19
Let Your Life Speak
After a long day of school, a strenuous practice, and a long ride home on SEPTA, I walk into a noisy house. Balls flying, TV loud, dogs barking, food cooking. A two-bedroom house with seven occupants. My mother in the kitchen cooking; the dining room table cluttered with paper. The living room is filled with animals and a few humans. I go upstairs and the bathroom is occupied while the children play in the bedroom I am designated to sleep in. My younger brother runs in and out of my mom's room sneakily playing the Playstation, although no one is patrolling. Where in this two story house can I do my homework? The basement? I like to have spider web-free hair. The bathroom? Occupied. My bedroom? Occupied. My mom's room? Inconsistently occupied. The closet? The closet!
On roughly a 6-foot by 4-foot shelf I sit with my books and papers spread out in front of me. Garments hanging from above and footwear resting below. Trying to ignore the clamor around me, I indulge in my homework. The most peaceful place in the house, although it is quite uncomfortable. No one notices I'm gone so they don't bother to look for me-except for the cat. I successfully avoid all humans, but when the cat prances in and finds me he stops at the doorway and stares. I stole his hiding place.
Back to Videos
Celeste Teng '19
Tufts' ILVS major drew me instantly. I wanted to explore both film and literature as vehicles of social and cultural significance, to discuss the parallels of transnationalism in cinema and literature, to compare the auteur theory across cultures and media; I'd already noticed common threads of cynicism and anti-establishment sentiments that influenced this generation of Singaporean writers and filmmakers, and I found this intersection a rich, fascinating one. The ILVS is uniquely Tufts; the fact that this major exists at all speaks volumes - this is a community that embraces diversity, and uses it to enrich the way students learn.
Back to Videos
Tessa Garces '19
Celebrate the Role of Sports in Your Life
My first vivid memory of swim practice is of being yanked by the ankles from underneath the kitchen table, my nails scratching against the wood floor and my screams loud enough to elicit the neighbors' concern.
Clearly, I hadn't “gotten” swimming yet. As a first grader, I simply couldn't understand how shoving my hair into a cap, wearing goggles that almost pressed my eyes out of their sockets, and flailing my limbs in freezing liquid for an hour could possibly be worth my while.
However, as I came to understand the mechanics and elegance of the sport, my attitude started to change. It really changed in 4th grade, when I began to win races. The little gold medals gave me a confidence that was addicting. More than that, they motivated me to cultivate good habits before I learned that discipline, daily practice, and just being part of a team are rewards in and of themselves.
Swimming has definitely influenced the way I move through the world. To avoid head-on collisions with lane mates, swimmers are taught from the beginning to always stay to the right of the lane, called circle swimming. Sometimes I feel as though I “circle-live”-walking on the right, driving on the right (naturally), even sleeping on the right. Yet, thinking of how focused and alive I feel after swimming, I think it's more accurate to say that my time in the pool keeps me centered.
Back to Videos
Sample College Application Essay - After
Like many other boys, I love to swim. Since the age of five, I have spent many summer days in the YMCA pool. When I was 13 years old, I desired something more challenging than casual swimming, so I joined the high school development team for the Badger Swim Club.
On the first day, all the team members dived into the water as soon as the coach gave the order. I was the only one who jumped in. After a few laps, I was far behind all the others. Although I was trying to catch up, I was out of breath. To make things worse, the coach was constantly correcting my technique. From my stroke to my flip turn to my dive, nothing I did seemed right to him.
The entire first week, I was stuck with the coach to work on my diving. He kept repeating that I should dive with my head instead of my whole body. While my body and my mind told me, "Quit! Quit!" in my heart, I felt that quitting was not the right response. I wanted to become as good a swimmer as my teammates.
So I continued to practice. Many times I felt as though I had pushed myself to my limit and could not continue. My goal of becoming a good swimmer was what kept me repeating, "Practice! Practice! Practice!" Finally, I conquered the physical and mental challenge of the sport. After just a couple of months, I swam as well as the other team members. When facing a challenge, it is easy to quit. But in order to achieve something, persistence and commitment are essential. By being consistent in my efforts, I know success will be likely.
Since this is my senior year, I have a heavy workload consisting of taking classes, leading clubs, working, and volunteering. When I feel overwhelmed, I remember my struggles in the swimming pool. For example, last week I had an AP chemistry and a humanities AC test on the same day. As I was deciding which subject to approach, my phone rang. My boss asked me to update some information immediately for a conference coming up in the following week. I wanted to say, "No, I have too many things to do!" Then I asked myself why I took the job in the first place. I believe it is important to be responsible as an employee, so I decided to postpone my homework for a bit and finish updating the website. One hour later, I had reviewed all of the chapters of chemistry for the exam and taken a practice quiz. Because I was too sleepy to study, I went to bed. However, I cannot stand the thought of a bad grade, so I set my alarm clock to 5:00 a.m. and woke up to finish reviewing humanities.
Weaknesses, setbacks and failures are a part of life. However, due to my experience swimming, I now know how to overcome these imperfections, not be dictated by them.
Click Here for the Final Essay.
Dear Valued Customer,
You have done a great job answering each part of this question in a balanced way. I like that you broadened the swimming subject to include how you responded to the demands of balancing work and school and extracurricular activities. I would suggest adding maybe one more sentence to your concluding paragraph about how you would respond in the future.
Below, please find some grammar/phrasing mistakes. The others I have corrected directly on your essay.
P1: "I felt that I need something more"
Here you have a conflict of verb tense. "Felt" is past tense, while "need" is present tense. Each sentence should use the same verb tense.
P2: "I joined high school development team"
Here and in several other spots in the essay (see edits) you are missing a "the" or "a" before your nouns. This was a similar problem you had in the previous essays and should be something that you are aware of in all of your writing. I find it to be very effective to read each sentence out loud — it will be obvious that you are missing a word.
Now I will discuss larger changes and additions you can make to improve your essay.
- In Paragraph 3, can you talk about how you felt when your coach was helping correct your diving? From what you wrote, it sounds like you didn't understand what he meant by diving with your body instead of your head. Did you feel frustrated? Annoyed? Helping the reader understand your emotional response will enable him or her to connect with you on a more personal level.
- Paragraph 4 would be improved by details about what the practice included. Try to give your reader a visual for what you were doing. How many times per week did you practice? For how long? Was each practice a mix of drills, distance, and strength training?
Also, I'm curious how you overcame the physical and mental challenges? Was it your persistence in practice? Growing muscles? Conquering a fear?
- In Paragraph 5, you use the word "you" ("But if you want to achieve something") when you are trying to make a general statement and are not actually trying to tell the reader what to do. I recommend cutting out all uses of the word "you" unless it is in dialogue because you aren't actually telling the admissions officer something about himself. See my edits.
- I'm not familiar with what humanities AC is. Perhaps an admissions officer will know, but when in doubt it is better not to use abbreviations that may not be understood.
- I would include a brief description of what kind of a job you have in Paragraph 5. You could just say something simple like, "taking classes, leading clubs, working at a software company, and volunteering." Obviously I don't know if you work at a software company — substitute in your actual job there. This will also make more sense of the following sentence "My boss asked me to update some information immediately for a conference coming up in the following week" which at the moment seems vague because I as the reader have no idea what kind of information needs updating. Last, you ask yourself in this paragraph why you decided to take the job, but you haven't provided an answer. The next sentence says you think that being responsible is important but you don't answer the question. I recommend either adding a sentence talking about your motivation for the job, or deleting the sentence "Then I asked myself why I took the job in the first place?" altogether.
- I think you can strengthen the conclusion in several ways. First, you need to tie it to the previous paragraph by using a transition sentence. You could say something like, "My ability to balance the numerous responsibilities I currently have is a result of the strong work ethic and persistence I gained from swimming." You can also talk about how you might respond differently in the future. Did you learn not to lose hope easily like you did on that first day? Do you have more confidence in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges? You should add at least two more sentences so you have a robust conclusion to your essay.
I think this is a great essay. Tom. I am impressed with how you discussed a lot in not very much space.
When editing your essay, I used the "Track Changes" option offered by Microsoft Word. If you would like to view all the changes I made, you can use the Track Changes feature. Once in Microsoft Word, Click "Tools," then "Track Changes," then "Highlight Changes," then check "Highlight Changes On Screen."
If you are using the Microsoft XP version of Word, click "Tools" then "Track Changes." A Track Changes drop down menu and icon will appear. Make sure the icon is selected (depressed), and then use the drop down menu to select one of the following versions to view:
Final Showing Markup
Original Showing Markup
Thank you for choosing EssayEdge. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this revision. My e-mail address is provided and I will respond to questions within one day.
Best of luck with your application!
See how EssayEdge experts from schools including Harvard, Yale and Princeton can help you get into college! Review our services.
See this essay before the edit.