Common App essay examples

Essay #1 : “A Different Kind Of Love”Oana Emilia Butnareanu, Stanford University

WHEN I WAS FOUR YEARS OLD, I fell in love. It was not a transient love-one that stayed by my side during the good times and vanished during the bad-but rather a love so deep that few would understand. It was not the love for a person, but the love for a language. It was the love for Spanish.

Having been born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, in a country where Western in uence was limited and the of cial and only language was romanian, I was on my own. Everyone around me, especially my family, had trouble understanding what could possibly draw me to such a foreign and, in their opinion, unattractive language. But as they say, love is blind, and the truth of the matter is that I wasn’t even sure what it was exactly that made Spanish so fascinating to me. The only thing I knew was that I absolutely adored hearing its perfectly articu- lated phrases, and trying to make sense of its sweet and tender words: serenades to my innocent ear.

Spanish entered through my door on June 16th, 1994, when a man from the local cable company came to connect our living room to the rest of the world. That day, I was introduced to “Acasa,” a romanian cable network dedicated to broadcasting Spanish language telenovelas (soap operas) to romanian audiences. As I learned to read, I started as- sociating the romanian subtitles with the Spanish dialogue, and little by little, I began understanding the language. For a little girl who had yet to discover new aspects of her own language, this was quite an ac- complishment, but no one around me felt the same way. My father, enraged at my apparent “obsession” with the language, scolded me in- cessantly, declaring that:

“We are immigrating to the United States, not to Mexico! You should spend your time learning English instead of watching that nonsense!”

Sadly, my family’s objection was only the rst of many hardships I was bound to encounter. When I was nine, my immigration to the US forced me to say goodbye to what had become a huge and indis- pensible part of me. I needed to hear Spanish, to listen to it daily, and although Los Angeles could be considered a Spanish speaker’s paradise, my largely romanian neighborhood allowed for little interaction with the language. For six years, destiny kept us apart and the feelings that Spanish had evoked in me soon faded away.

But high school brought about a new era in my life, an era in which my love for Spanish was revived and greatly ampli ed. For an hour a day, life was put on hold and I was able to speak and read Spanish more actively than ever. After two years of Advanced Placement Spanish, I not only understood the language to perfection, but spoke it awlessly as well. 

There are no words that can describe how proud and greatly ac- complished I feel today at my ability to speak Spanish. During a recent trip to Mexico, I was mistaken more than once for one of the natives. One man, after seeing my romanian last name, asked me if it was my husband’s, for undoubtedly, he believed, I was Mexican. given to a romanian girl, whose family members were oblivious to the language, and who had learned it on her own despite their objections, this was the greatest compliment of all. In the United States, Spanish is the sec- ond most spoken language and a great asset for anyone who speaks it. It is not “nonsense,” as my father had dubbed it, and being able to prove this to him has made me even prouder for loving Spanish.

My love of Spanish has in uenced much of who I am today. The ght that I led against family objections and immigration to a new land has allowed me to develop an ambitious and aggressive spirit in the face of adversity. It has made me stronger, and taught me that I must always ght with unstoppable perseverance for all that is important to me. I am determined to use my love and passion for Spanish to make an impact on the world. Currently, Spanish is the primary language of 21 nations around the globe, and one of the six of cial languages of the Un. I want to be the link that connects these nations to the United States, and to the 40 million Americans whose native language is Spanish. I want to use my ability to speak Spanish to learn more about the people of these nations, both on a professional and personal level. no matter where the path of life takes me, I wish for Spanish to always be a part of me.

Through the years, Spanish has evolved into one of my most re- markable accomplishments. Today, I am prouder than ever of loving Spanish-of having something that distinguishes me from the rest, some- thing that makes me unique. It is not often the case for a romanian- American girl living in Los Angeles to exhibit such passion and devo- tion towards a language that is foreign to both her native and adoptive countries. nevertheless, Spanish is a big part of whom I am today, and an even bigger part of who I will be in the future. 

Essay #2: “Addressing Injustices”- Mathew Griffin, Brown University

MY REASONS FOR WANTING TO BE a doctor are very similar to why most people choose their career path: I want to make things fairer. People such as social workers are out to help make the world a little less unjust. It’s not necessarily injustice from other people that I want to ght as these people do, but injustice from other factors. Many people who are close to me have been struck down from their future in ways that it’s impossible for them to recover. My aunt was a great artist and loving mother before she developed severe schizophrenia. She now locks herself in her house for weeks at a time and remains isolated from her family. My friend Eric, who was once in his school’s varsity basketball league, cannot play his senior season because a car acci- dent left him nearly paralyzed. Finally, my friend vince’s depression has stripped him of his will to live, and despite attempts of over a dozen psychiatrists and medications he still spends most of his days aimlessly lying in bed. While I try very hard to cheer him up by talking to and entertaining him I am deeply concerned about his future. This trend is something that I’m seeing almost everywhere. More and more people are becoming depressed and hopeless, and I want to be able to put life and happiness back into them. 

Not only do I see these injustices in my life, when I’m volunteer- ing at my local hospital my desire to help become even more embold- ened by the people I meet. A new grandmother I met recently had her spine shattered when she fell from a ladder back onto a table. As I talked to her, I remembered how many times I’ve seen pictures of my grandmother lifting me and my cousins and caring for us, and became overcome with emotion. While I don’t believe her ability to care for her grandchildren will be destroyed, I know that she won’t have the same opportunities as other grandparents and the inequality of the situation makes me extremely upset. I want nothing more than to give back her ability to walk and lift her grandkids. I believe being a doctor can allow me to bring this closer. 

Essay #3: “No Longer Invisible” – Angelica, UChicago

I WISH I WAS INVISIBLE. I wish I was invisible. I wish I was invisible. One of my biggest fears has always been going to an unfamiliar place, but each time I have had the satisfaction of knowing that at the end of the day I can go home. I am a shy person, and it has always been dif- cult for me to adjust to a new environment. Transitioning from eighth grade to high school was especially dif cult for me because my high school was, in fact, a boarding school, which meant that that feeling of satisfaction was no longer present at the end of the day but postponed to the end of the week. Living at LFA was a completely new world for me and nothing I had experienced could have prepared me for it.

With confused eyes and nothing less than a nauseous sensation in my stomach I entered my rst day of high school. growing up, I had al- ways gone to school with people who looked like me, sounded like me, and dressed liked me, but here I quickly learned that I was the minor- ity. I was not alone in this. Two of my friends came to LFA with me and, with this in mind, my shyness and I did not think it necessary to make new friends. Besides being one of the only schools with its own ice rink and providing only the latest technology for its students, it suddenly hit me that my new home had countless possibilities, but, before those possibilities could be realized, I had to take initiative. I learned a very important lesson at LFA: you will only get out of life as much as you put into it. Stepping out of my comfort zone allowed me to discover an interest and skill for volleyball and hidden leadership as the captain of the Jv team. I became a tutor and friend for young Hispanic students at the nuestro Center, and they reminded me how important it is to give back to the community. After numerous all nighters, I developed a system where I could get all of my homework done and still be able to get involved with sports and extracurriculars without having to sac- ri ce any sleep time.

Towards the end of my sophomore year a family member’s sickness unfortunately forced me to leave my school and return home. I left LFA and joined my new family, Mirta ramirez Computer Science Charter High School. Containing a student body that was 99 percent Hispanic, I was no longer the minority. I had unconsciously become accustomed to the LFA way of life because, in my mind, this tiny mustard yellow building with no more than four windows could not possibly compare to my old home. I was right. no, my new home was not as big nor as fancy, but I discovered that was not a setback. Although the resources were not directly visible nor as easily accessible, I learned that obstacles did not exist for students there. Most, if not all, of the students had the same hunger for knowledge as I had.

This summer my school announced that the building which we had been using had re code violations and we could not return to our building in the fall. Throughout the summer my school did not have a building and did not nd one until a few weeks after school started. By that time I had already taken a decision to, once again, leave my home and join yet another family. What I realized on my rst day at Josephinum Academy, was that my shyness had not tagged along and I was eager to go to school. The nauseous feeling had left my stomach and enthusiasm had entered. I had already gained and learned so much from the people I had met in my two previous schools that I could not wait to continue my journey and embark on yet another discovery.

The knowledge that I have gained from these three schools is some- thing I will take with me far beyond college. My roommate, across-the- hall mates, and classmates have in uenced my life as much as I hope to have impacted theirs. It is evident to me that they have helped me develop into the very much visible person I am today. I have learned to step outside of my comfort zone, and I have learned that diversity is so much more than the tint of our skin. My small mustard colored school taught me that opportunity and success only requires desire.

I would be an asset to your college because as I continue on my journey to success, I will take advantage of every opportunity that is available to me and make sure to contribute as much as I can too. now I am visible. now I am visible. now I am visible, and I want to be seen. 

Essay #4: “Power of People” Suzanne Arrington, Columbia University

I BELIEVE IN PEOPLE. THIS CONVICTION drives my action and am- bitions, and de nes me in a world of cynicism and doubt. I have seen the power of people and their ability to come together in times of need and joy and sorrow. I know that ultimately, humans strive for belong- ing and community; thus, while loneliness and anger may always be in existence, so will be togetherness and bliss. My strong faith

in hu- manity stems from my witnessing of the best in human qualities while doing the MS150 and during Hurricane Ike, and pushes me to pursue a career in helping others. Both of these events have allowed me to see humanity at its best, performing sel ess acts of benevolence.

For the past four years, I have participated in the BPMS150 bike tour from Houston to Austin. This 175 mile ride raises funds for the national MS Society, which sponsors medical research for multiple scle- rosis and aids the families of its victims. I can say from experience, the ride is grueling; enormous hills, headwinds, fatigue, and body aches are prevalent throughout. Yet every year, over thirteen thousand riders decide to put their minds and bodies through two days of torture so that they can help those who live with it every day. I have raised, over four years, more than eight thousand dollars to bene t the MS Society, and have never regretted any of the painful training or the ride itself. The view at the starting line is one of the most empowering I have ever witnessed: thousands of people, all of them with their hands on their handle bars, one foot poised on a pedal. All are ready to experience exhaustion for the bene t of others, like my father. He was diagnosed with MS when I was four, and is a constant motivator for me. I wit- nessed him become blind in one eye, and struggle with a body that re- fuses to function normally. I participate in this ride every year for him, as do thirteen thousand others. The power of people will ultimately help my father to receive better medical treatment, and maybe even one day, be cured.

While writing this essay, I was also able to observe and be a part of amazing human efforts. Hurricane Ike devastated Southeastern Texas, particularly the Houston and galveston areas. Much of my extended family lives in galveston, and so was forced to evacuate. Without hesi- tation, my parents opened up our home to aunts, uncles, grandpar- ents, cousins, and pets. This is the environment in which I have always lived; our home is anyone’s shelter, our food is anyone’s nourishment. Together, our entire family weathered the storm, and comforted one another. My aunt’s home received electrical power prior to my home, and so she eagerly welcomed us to stay with her. Large scale displays of altruism could be seen in the hundreds of University of Houston students handing out food and water to those affected by the hurri- cane. During times of need, people band together for safety and solace. Community is instinctual; dismiss the notions of survival of the ttest. People truly desire closeness with one another.

In the future, I hope to pursue a career in public health. I love studying science and math, and I would like to use this passion to bene t large numbers of people. Many go without basic medical treat- ment, and this causes a huge discrepancy in quality of life and health in the population. Even if this problem can never completely be solved, I want to help remedy this as much as possible. With small deeds and cooperative effort, humans can accomplish immense good. I know this because I believe in people, and I have seen them at their nest. 

Essay #5: “John nash” Jonathan Cross Duke University 

AFTER SPENDING A WEEK WITh JOHN NASH, I may have stumbled upon a central purpose of my life. Well, not nobel Laureate John nash himself, but whenever I describe Fred, their characteristics seem quite parallel. Fred is unique, possessing an indomitable spirit to ful ll his dreams without fear of failure. not only is he the most brilliant young man I have ever met, he exhibits a genuinely compassionate heart. Sadly, many people may never recognize Fred as the beautiful individual that he is, or what he has to offer. While our society may call him “chal- lenged,” I have come to recognize him as an unexpected role model. For Fred, you see, is autistic. He does not interact well with people, and is often unable to express his thoughts clearly or articulately. He doesn’t understand why people laugh at him. Yet even so, Fred is blessed with an acute sense of purpose and caring that is unmatched by most—in- cluding perhaps even the most altruistic among us. 


Several years ago I traveled with a small group of Fairfax County high school students to Portland, Oregon to compete as a Finalist in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. I was excited at what was certain to be an experience of a lifetime—having no clue that the most valuable lesson would come not from the Science Fair itself, but from Fred. Because of my prior experiences in working with spe- cial needs children, the school administrators asked me to room with Fred during the trip. I distinctly recall my initial anxiety and reluc- tance about the prospect of taking care of another individual during the stressful, high-pressure atmosphere of the competition. In retrospect, though, this was the beginning of an incredible journey for both of us—but especially for me.


Fred’s passion—actually more of an obsession—is theoretical math- ematics. He eats, breathes, talks, and probably sleeps mathematics, to the point where he annoys others by his constant chatter about it. His idea of fun is solving differential equations on a napkin in a fancy res- taurant, oblivious to others wanting to socialize or relax. That Fred is brilliant is unquestioned, a fact that was clearly evidenced in his sci- ence project where he solved a math problem previously believed by experts to be insolvable. Yet in his own mind Fred rmly believed his entire raison d’etre in life was the pursuit of math—and that he was destined to use his incredible mathematical ability to help make the world better.

However, Fred’s disabilities were only a fraction of the challenges that faced him. growing up in a dysfunctional home, he suffered from a lack of love and patient understanding. Still, Fred’s life revolved around his relationships and mathematics. Although he has few close friends, people are indescribably important to him, and he always treated them with sensitivity and compassion. Unfortunately, some people—includ- ing but not limited to his peers (who can sometimes be quite cruel)— are unable to set aside their prejudices long enough to see his unique- ness as the incredible gift that it is. His enthusiasm and his indomitable spirit in the face of adversity taught me valuable lessons—lessons I will carry with me for the rest of my life. He taught me to live for what you truly cherish, to be passionate about your dreams, and to always smile in both the service of others and adversity. He has shown me the truest meaning of love for others, and the ability to understand and always live for what is important. A trip that started with me “taking care of him” turned into a trip of substantial personal discovery.

Children with special needs have powerful talents, and if we could only open our hearts to hear their voices, we would learn what it means to live without conventional boundaries. I have lived a week with a genius, not only of the mind, but more importantly, of the heart—and my life has been permanently changed because of Fred. 

#Essay6: “Dear Santa” Anonymous Princeton University

EVERY YEAR, MY CHRISTMAS WISH LIST would read, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a baby brother.” At age nine, I knew Santa had to be real because, one day, my mom announced that she was pregnant. After ten years of being an only child, I could not have anticipated how much my life would change because of a little brother. I received the honor of naming him, and I chose Jason. In retrospect, I should have named my brother “Ivan the Terrible.”

Jason followed me everywhere like an irritating shadow. My griev- ances to my mom were countless, especially after Jason drew all over my bedroom walls and murdered my pet sh, goldie. My mom’s typi- cal response was, “Well, isn’t this what you’ve always wished for?”

Jason’s mischief reached a new height one morning when I became the victim of a ve year old with scissors. I stared into the bathroom mirror and dunked my head under cold water to make sure I was not dreaming. What I saw enraged me! In the middle of the night, Michael had cut off ve inches of my long, black hair from one side of my head. I stood in horror, and stormed to the kitchen where I found the rest of my family calmly eating breakfast. I ashed a menacing stare at my brother, who snickered across the table. “You’re going to pay for this!” I screamed. Furious beyond words, I could not even begin to describe my rage. Instead, I ran back to the bathroom and huddled on the oor.

“What am I going to do?” I was irate and panicked at the same time. As a freshman in high school, I was very sensitive about my appear- ance. I had been hesitant to cut my hair past the “tips to take away the split-ends” trim, because my hair had been the same length for seven years. I agonized over the situation and concocted my swift counter-at- tack. Instead of chopping off his hair, I found inspiration to appease my anger in the pages of Teen magazine and considered trendy hairstyles. My brother was stunned because I did not retaliate. victory was mine.

Because of experiences such as this, I have learned to adapt, to keep my focus, and to solve problems with little or no resources. I approach tough situations with objectivity and determination. Like many other experiences with my brother and at school, I have dealt with dif cult situations and turned them into positive opportunities for change. I am exible with the circumstances given to me, and I strive for the best outcome. Despite the craziness Santa’s gift brings, Jason’s continuous surprises provide laughter to my life. As for my hair, I did cut off the ve inches from the other side, and I actually cherished the new look better. Thanks, Santa. 

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