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177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

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. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts, this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

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Complete List: The Smallest Colleges in the United States

You might be interested in going to a small college, but just how small is "small," exactly? In general, schools that are considered "small" have fewer than 5,000 students in total. However, quite a few schools are actually less than 1/10 that size!

In this article I'll describe the characteristics of small colleges and then provide a list of the smallest colleges in the nation by category. That way you can decide if going to a small school really is the right decision for you.

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Is Early Action Binding?

Applying to college early can be a good idea for a lot of reasons. Acceptance data shows that students who apply through early action have a slightly higher chance of being accepted. And once accepted, you can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the rest of your senior year.

But is early action the same as early decision? And if you're accepted through early action, is it binding? Let’s take a look at what early action is, how it works, which schools offer early action, and just how soon you have to get your applications in.

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The Complete List of Colleges That Require Interviews

Many colleges ask you to interview with an alum or admissions officer as part of the application process. This article has the full list of schools that require, recommend, or offer interviews, and it will give you some pointers on how to figure out your college's interview policy.

To start off, let's review the point of the college interview. Is your interviewer evaluating you, or is the meeting simply a chance for you to learn more about the school?

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Early Action vs. Early Decision: What's the Difference?


Would you like to finalize your college plans as soon as possible? If getting an early acceptance letter sounds good to you, then you might want to apply early action (EA) or early decision (ED).

Before choosing one of these admissions plans, you should thoroughly understand what it entails and consider all the important factors. This guide will weigh the options of early action vs. early decision, along with offering advice for choosing the best plan for you. To begin, let's review what you need to know about applying early action.

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Complete Guide: Which Schools Use the Common Application?

Are you applying to college soon? If so, you've probably heard of the Common Application—an online application you can use for more than 900 colleges. Since you only have to fill out one application, it saves you time when applying to college.

But which colleges use the Common Application? And which Common Application schools are in your state? We have a complete list here, broken down by state and updated for the 2023-24 academic year.

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How to Get a College Application Fee Waiver: 3 Approaches

Most college application fees fall in the $40 to $50 range, with some costing as much as $90 (ahem, Stanford). For many students and their families, these fees present a serious obstacle along the already pricey path to college. If application fees are burdensome to you, you might qualify for college application fee waivers.

Just like SAT and ACT fee waivers, these college fee waivers allow you to send off your applications for free. This guide will go over how you can qualify for and use college application fee waivers; it'll also review how much college apps usually cost and how much you can save with fee waivers.

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The Best UC Schools, Ranked By Experts

Choosing a college in California can be tough, especially since there are so many great options available. One of the best school systems to choose from is the University of California.

In this article, we’ll provide a complete, ranked list of the best UC schools, give you information about each. We’ll list the campuses, give you important stats like how much each costs…and so much more!

That way, you can pick the UC school that’s best for you. Let’s get started!

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How To Find a College That Fits You Perfectly

With nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, the choices can be overwhelming, to say the least. There’s so much to think about when deciding where you will spend the next four years of your life, and it’s sometimes difficult to narrow down the choices.

In choosing your best fit college, it’s best to consider as many variables as possible. If you’ve thought through various possibilities and reflected on what you’re looking for in a school, you'll know you’ve chosen the best fit when it’s time to sign your letter of acceptance.

The best fit school is one that suits your personality, matches the goals you have for yourself, will help you reach those goals, and will meet your other needs and wants when it comes to social atmosphere, extracurricular opportunities, and academic opportunities. Fortunately, you have tools and resources at your disposal that will help you figure all of this out. So let’s dive in and discover how to find the right school for you!

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How Many Colleges Should You Apply To? Expert Guide

Many students stress over the same question: "How many colleges should I apply to?" How many is too many? How few is too few? There is so much disagreement on this topic, even among experts, that many students are left confused and unsure.

In this article, I’ll clear up this confusion. I’ll give you an idea of how many schools you should apply to and explain the factors to consider when deciding how many colleges to apply to. After reading this guide, you'll feel confident about crafting your own college list and how long it will be.

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2 Admissions Experts Weigh In on Affirmative Action

In the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark college affirmative action decision, our head of admissions, Eren Harris, sat down to chat with two of the members of our Admissions Advisory Panel: Dr. K.E. Carver, a metaphysics researcher and former admissions officer at Harvard, and Brandon Mack, an experienced college counselor and former admissions officer at Rice University. Their wide-ranging conversation covers how this decision changes admissions, what diversity really means to colleges, and what students need to do going forward. 

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What Is Affirmative Action in College Admissions?

Affirmative action is one of the most hotly debated topics in college admissions today. With the 2023 from the Supreme Court that colleges and universities can no longer use their full affirmative action policies in admissions decisions, things are about to change in higher education.

If you’re applying to college and wondering what the new Supreme Court affirmative action decision is all about, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is affirmative action in college admissions?” and go over real examples of affirmative action in education policies and how colleges have used them historically.  

We’ll also explain how the upcoming changes to affirmative action in public and private schools might affect incoming students, and how to put together stellar college applications no matter what.  

So let’s get started.

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Does Early Action or Decision Increase Your Chances of Admission?

You might have heard that getting into college is more competitive than ever. Students are applying to college in ever greater numbers, and many apply to multiple colleges, making the pool of applications even deeper.

As a result, you are likely looking for anything that will help you edge out the competition. Your counselors or friends might have suggested applying early action or early decision to increase your chances of being accepted. But does applying early raise the odds of being accepted to the college of your choice?

While not all schools offer these options, about 450 colleges across the U.S. offer one or both early admission option, according to College Board. Many popular and competitive colleges fall into this category, offering one or the other, or both. Read on for an explanation of how early decision and early action work, and whether or not they increase your chances for admission.

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Do Colleges Look at Freshman Grades?

Getting into college is increasingly competitive, and more and more students like you are looking at ways they can increase their chances of being accepted. While it’s not uncommon for kids to wait until later in high school to start worrying about their GPA, we don’t recommend this! Your grades begin calculating with your very first assignment, quiz, and test, so it’s important to think about this early on.

But do colleges look at freshman grades? Do these grades matter as much as grades you earn as a sophomore, junior, and senior? Let’s take a look.

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What Do Colleges Look For in Admissions? Why Are the SAT/ACT Important?


Applying to college soon? Curious about what colleges are looking for in applicants, especially when it comes to SAT or ACT scores? Not sure how you stack up against other applicants at your dream school? 

If you feel like you have more questions than answers about what colleges look for in admissions, you're note alone. The college admissions process can be very confusing, and it's easy to feel lost and frustrated. In this article, we'll tell you what colleges look for in admissions and how to make your application the best it can be. We'll cover: 

  • What colleges look for in applicants 
  • Why SAT and ACT test scores are important 
  • How understanding college admissions criteria can help your own college admissions process

Let's dive in! 

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