Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

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Writing an essay for college admission gives you a chance to use your authentic voice and show your personality. It's an excellent opportunity to personalize your application beyond your academic credentials, and a well-written essay can have a positive influence come decision time.

Want to know how to draft an essay for your college application ? Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Tips for Essay Writing

A typical college application essay, also known as a personal statement, is 400-600 words. Although that may seem short, writing about yourself can be challenging. It's not something you want to rush or put off at the last moment. Think of it as a critical piece of the application process. Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor.

1. Start Early.

Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school. That way, you have ample time to think about the prompt and craft the best personal statement possible.

You don't have to work on your essay every day, but you'll want to give yourself time to revise and edit. You may discover that you want to change your topic or think of a better way to frame it. Either way, the sooner you start, the better.

2. Understand the Prompt and Instructions.

Before you begin the writing process, take time to understand what the college wants from you. The worst thing you can do is skim through the instructions and submit a piece that doesn't even fit the bare minimum requirements or address the essay topic. Look at the prompt, consider the required word count, and note any unique details each school wants.

3. Create a Strong Opener.

Students seeking help for their application essays often have trouble getting things started. It's a challenging writing process. Finding the right words to start can be the hardest part.

Spending more time working on your opener is always a good idea. The opening sentence sets the stage for the rest of your piece. The introductory paragraph is what piques the interest of the reader, and it can immediately set your essay apart from the others.

4. Stay on Topic.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep to the essay topic. If you're applying to 10 or more colleges, it's easy to veer off course with so many application essays.

A common mistake many students make is trying to fit previously written essays into the mold of another college's requirements. This seems like a time-saving way to avoid writing new pieces entirely, but it often backfires. The result is usually a final piece that's generic, unfocused, or confusing. Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes.

5. Think About Your Response.

Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your subject. Here’s an example: If all your friends are writing application essays about covid-19, it may be a good idea to avoid that topic, unless during the pandemic you had a vivid, life-changing experience you're burning to share. Whatever topic you choose, avoid canned responses. Be creative.

6. Focus on You.

Essay prompts typically give you plenty of latitude, but panel members expect you to focus on a subject that is personal (although not overly intimate) and particular to you. Admissions counselors say the best essays help them learn something about the candidate that they would never know from reading the rest of the application.

7. Stay True to Your Voice.

Use your usual vocabulary. Avoid fancy language you wouldn't use in real life. Imagine yourself reading this essay aloud to a classroom full of people who have never met you. Keep a confident tone. Be wary of words and phrases that undercut that tone.

8. Be Specific and Factual.

Capitalize on real-life experiences. Your essay may give you the time and space to explain why a particular achievement meant so much to you. But resist the urge to exaggerate and embellish. Admissions counselors read thousands of essays each year. They can easily spot a fake.

9. Edit and Proofread.

When you finish the final draft, run it through the spell checker on your computer. Then don’t read your essay for a few days. You'll be more apt to spot typos and awkward grammar when you reread it. After that, ask a teacher, parent, or college student (preferably an English or communications major) to give it a quick read. While you're at it, double-check your word count.

Writing essays for college admission can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. A well-crafted essay could be the deciding factor─in your favor. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll have no problem creating memorable pieces for every application.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

How do you start an essay?

The goal here is to use an attention grabber. Think of it as a way to reel the reader in and interest an admissions officer in what you have to say. There's no trick on how to start a college application essay. The best way you can approach this task is to flex your creative muscles and think outside the box.

You can start with openers such as relevant quotes, exciting anecdotes, or questions. Either way, the first sentence should be unique and intrigue the reader.

What should an essay include?

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What shouldn’t be included in an essay?

When writing a college application essay, it's usually best to avoid overly personal details and controversial topics. Although these topics might make for an intriguing essay, they can be tricky to express well. If you’re unsure if a topic is appropriate for your essay, check with your school counselor. An essay for college admission shouldn't include a list of achievements or academic accolades either. Your essay isn’t meant to be a rehashing of information the admissions panel can find elsewhere in your application.

How can you make your essay personal and interesting?

The best way to make your essay interesting is to write about something genuinely important to you. That could be an experience that changed your life or a valuable lesson that had an enormous impact on you. Whatever the case, speak from the heart, and be honest.

Is it OK to discuss mental health in an essay?

Mental health struggles can create challenges you must overcome during your education and could be an opportunity for you to show how you’ve handled challenges and overcome obstacles. If you’re considering writing your essay for college admission on this topic, consider talking to your school counselor or with an English teacher on how to frame the essay.

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  • College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines

College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines

Published on September 24, 2021 by Meredith Testa . Revised on May 31, 2023.

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but you should carefully plan and outline to make sure your essay flows smoothly and logically.

Typical structural choices include

  • a series of vignettes with a common theme
  • a single story that demonstrates your positive qualities

Table of contents

Formatting your essay, outlining the essay, structures that work: two example outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

You should keep the formatting as simple as possible. Admissions officers need to work very quickly, so fancy formatting, unnecessary flourishes, and unique fonts will come off as more distracting than individual. Keep in mind that, if you’re pasting your essay into a text box, formatting like italics may not transfer.

Your essay will be easier for admissions officers to read if it is 1.5- or double-spaced. If you choose to attach a file, ensure that it is a PDF.

You don’t need a title for your essay, but you can include one, especially if you think it will add something important.

Most importantly, ensure that you stick to the word count. Most successful essays are 500–600 words. Because you’re limited in length, make sure that you write concisely . Say everything that you need to express to get your point across, but don’t use more words than necessary, and don’t repeat yourself.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Once you’ve finished brainstorming topics but before you start writing, think about your writing’s trajectory: how you’ll start the essay , develop it, and end it .

Do you want to organize it chronologically? Would you prefer to make a “sandwich” structure by introducing a topic or idea, moving away from it, and then coming back to it at the end? There’s a variety of options (and a pair of strong examples below), but make sure you consider how you’d like to structure the essay before you start writing.

Although you should organize your thoughts in an outline, you don’t have to stick to it strictly. Once you begin writing, you may find that the structure you’d originally chosen doesn’t quite work. In that case, it’s fine to try something else. Multiple drafts of the same essay are key to a good final product.

Whatever structure you choose, it should be clear and easy to follow, and it should be feasible to keep it within the  word count . Never write in a way that could confuse the reader. Remember, your audience will not be reading your essay closely!

Vignettes with a common theme

The vignette structure discusses several experiences that may seem unrelated, but the author weaves them together and unites them with a common theme.

For example, a student could write an essay exploring various instances of their ability to make the best of bad situations. A rough outline for that essay might look like this:

  • In a rehearsal for a school play when a lighting fixture malfunctioned and the set caught fire, I helped extinguish it.
  • To help the situation, I improvised fixes for the set and talked with the director about adding lines referencing the “disaster.”
  • I didn’t get into my first-choice high school, but I became class president at the school where I ended up.
  • When I had ACL surgery, I used the downtime to work on my upper body strength and challenged my friends to pull-up contests.
  • How these qualities will serve me in college and in my career

Single story that demonstrates traits

The narrative structure focuses on a single overarching story that shows many aspects of a student’s character.

Some such essays focus on a relatively short event that the author details moment by moment, while others discuss the story of a longer journey, one that may cover months or years.

For example, a student might discuss trying out for a sports team as a middle schooler, high school freshman, and high school senior, using each of those instances to describe an aspect of their personality. A rough outline for that essay might look like this:

  • Confident, there to have fun
  • Very passionate and in love with the sport
  • Little sister was born that day, so I had to go alone with a friend’s parents
  • Learned to be independent and less self-centered
  • Realized that as much as I love gymnastics, there are more important things
  • Gave up first homecoming of high school, had to quit other activities, lost countless hours with friends
  • I had to repeat level 9 and didn’t progress quickly
  • I had a terrible beam routine at one competition the previous year and still had a mental block
  • I got stuck on some skills, and it took over a year to learn them
  • Passion from age 7, perspective from age 11, diligence from age 15

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:

  • Use a standard, readable font
  • Use 1.5 or double spacing
  • If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
  • Stick to the word count
  • Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches

You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay

College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.

Pamela Reynolds

When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.

Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.

So, what does this mean for you?

Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.

A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.

A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.

Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.

Be Authentic

More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.

Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.

Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.

Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.

Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.

Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.

Grab the Reader From the Start

You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.

Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.

Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.

Focus on Deeper Themes

Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.

College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.

They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.

Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?

Show Don’t Tell

As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.

The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.

Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.

Try Doing Something Different

If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?

If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.

You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.

However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.

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Write With the Reader in Mind

Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.

Use transitions between paragraphs.

Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?

Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?

Write Several Drafts

Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.

Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.

Read It Aloud

Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.

Don’t Repeat

If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.

Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.

Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.

Ask Others to Read Your Essay

Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.

Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.

Pay Attention to Form

Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.

“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.

In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.

End Your Essay With a “Kicker”

In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.

It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.

So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.

While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.

Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!

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How to Format and Structure Your College Essay

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College essays are an entirely new type of writing for high school seniors. For that reason, many students are confused about proper formatting and essay structure. Should you double-space or single-space? Do you need a title? What kind of narrative style is best-suited for your topic?

In this post, we’ll be going over proper college essay format, traditional and unconventional essay structures (plus sample essays!), and which structure might work best for you. 

General College Essay Formatting Guidelines

How you format your essay will depend on whether you’re submitting in a text box, or attaching a document. We’ll go over the different best practices for both, but regardless of how you’re submitting, here are some general formatting tips:

  • There’s no need for a title; it takes up unnecessary space and eats into your word count
  • Stay within the word count as much as possible (+/- 10% of the upper limit). For further discussion on college essay length, see our post How Long Should Your College Essay Be?
  • Indent or double space to separate paragraphs clearly

If you’re submitting in a text box:

  • Avoid italics and bold, since formatting often doesn’t transfer over in text boxes
  • Be careful with essays meant to be a certain shape (like a balloon); text boxes will likely not respect that formatting. Beyond that, this technique can also seem gimmicky, so proceed with caution
  • Make sure that paragraphs are clearly separated, as text boxes can also undo indents and double spacing

If you’re attaching a document:

  • Use a standard font and size like Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Make your lines 1.5-spaced or double-spaced
  • Use 1-inch margins
  • Save as a PDF since it can’t be edited. This also prevents any formatting issues that come with Microsoft Word, since older versions are sometimes incompatible with the newer formatting
  • Number each page with your last name in the header or footer (like “Smith 1”)
  • Pay extra attention to any word limits, as you won’t be cut off automatically, unlike with most text boxes

Conventional College Essay Structures

Now that we’ve gone over the logistical aspects of your essay, let’s talk about how you should structure your writing. There are three traditional college essay structures. They are:

  • In-the-moment narrative
  • Narrative told over an extended period of time
  • Series of anecdotes, or montage

Let’s go over what each one is exactly, and take a look at some real essays using these structures.

1. In-the-moment narrative

This is where you tell the story one moment at a time, sharing the events as they occur. In the moment narrative is a powerful essay format, as your reader experiences the events, your thoughts, and your emotions with you . This structure is ideal for a specific experience involving extensive internal dialogue, emotions, and reflections.

Here’s an example:

The morning of the Model United Nation conference, I walked into Committee feeling confident about my research. We were simulating the Nuremberg Trials – a series of post-World War II proceedings for war crimes – and my portfolio was of the Soviet Judge Major General Iona Nikitchenko. Until that day, the infamous Nazi regime had only been a chapter in my history textbook; however, the conference’s unveiling of each defendant’s crimes brought those horrors to life. The previous night, I had organized my research, proofread my position paper and gone over Judge Nikitchenko’s pertinent statements. I aimed to find the perfect balance between his stance and my own.

As I walked into committee anticipating a battle of wits, my director abruptly called out to me. “I’m afraid we’ve received a late confirmation from another delegate who will be representing Judge Nikitchenko. You, on the other hand, are now the defense attorney, Otto Stahmer.” Everyone around me buzzed around the room in excitement, coordinating with their allies and developing strategies against their enemies, oblivious to the bomb that had just dropped on me. I felt frozen in my tracks, and it seemed that only rage against the careless delegate who had confirmed her presence so late could pull me out of my trance. After having spent a month painstakingly crafting my verdicts and gathering evidence against the Nazis, I now needed to reverse my stance only three hours before the first session.

Gradually, anger gave way to utter panic. My research was fundamental to my performance, and without it, I knew I could add little to the Trials. But confident in my ability, my director optimistically recommended constructing an impromptu defense. Nervously, I began my research anew. Despite feeling hopeless, as I read through the prosecution’s arguments, I uncovered substantial loopholes. I noticed a lack of conclusive evidence against the defendants and certain inconsistencies in testimonies. My discovery energized me, inspiring me to revisit the historical overview in my conference “Background Guide” and to search the web for other relevant articles. Some Nazi prisoners had been treated as “guilty” before their court dates. While I had brushed this information under the carpet while developing my position as a judge, it now became the focus of my defense. I began scratching out a new argument, centered on the premise that the allied countries had violated the fundamental rule that, a defendant was “not guilty” until proven otherwise.

At the end of the three hours, I felt better prepared. The first session began, and with bravado, I raised my placard to speak. Microphone in hand, I turned to face my audience. “Greetings delegates. I, Otto Stahmer would like to…….” I suddenly blanked. Utter dread permeated my body as I tried to recall my thoughts in vain. “Defence Attorney, Stahmer we’ll come back to you,” my Committee Director broke the silence as I tottered back to my seat, flushed with embarrassment. Despite my shame, I was undeterred. I needed to vindicate my director’s faith in me. I pulled out my notes, refocused, and began outlining my arguments in a more clear and direct manner. Thereafter, I spoke articulately, confidently putting forth my points. I was overjoyed when Secretariat members congratulated me on my fine performance.

Going into the conference, I believed that preparation was the key to success. I wouldn’t say I disagree with that statement now, but I believe adaptability is equally important. My ability to problem-solve in the face of an unforeseen challenge proved advantageous in the art of diplomacy. Not only did this experience transform me into a confident and eloquent delegate at that conference, but it also helped me become a more flexible and creative thinker in a variety of other capacities. Now that I know I can adapt under pressure, I look forward to engaging in activities that will push me to be even quicker on my feet.

This essay is an excellent example of in-the-moment narration. The student openly shares their internal state with us — we feel their anger and panic upon the reversal of roles. We empathize with their emotions of “utter dread” and embarrassment when they’re unable to speak. 

For in-the-moment essays, overloading on descriptions is a common mistake students make. This writer provides just the right amount of background and details to help us understand the situation, however, and balances out the actual event with reflection on the significance of this experience. 

One main area of improvement is that the writer sometimes makes explicit statements that could be better illustrated through their thoughts, actions, and feelings. For instance, they say they “spoke articulately” after recovering from their initial inability to speak, and they also claim that adaptability has helped them in other situations. This is not as engaging as actual examples that convey the same meaning. Still, this essay overall is a strong example of in-the-moment narration, and gives us a relatable look into the writer’s life and personality.

2. Narrative told over an extended period of time

In this essay structure, you share a story that takes place across several different experiences. This narrative style is well-suited for any story arc with multiple parts. If you want to highlight your development over time, you might consider this structure. 

When I was younger, I was adamant that no two foods on my plate touch. As a result, I often used a second plate to prevent such an atrocity. In many ways, I learned to separate different things this way from my older brothers, Nate and Rob. Growing up, I idolized both of them. Nate was a performer, and I insisted on arriving early to his shows to secure front row seats, refusing to budge during intermission for fear of missing anything. Rob was a three-sport athlete, and I attended his games religiously, waving worn-out foam cougar paws and cheering until my voice was hoarse. My brothers were my role models. However, while each was talented, neither was interested in the other’s passion. To me, they represented two contrasting ideals of what I could become: artist or athlete. I believed I had to choose.

And for a long time, I chose athlete. I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and viewed myself exclusively as an athlete, believing the arts were not for me. I conveniently overlooked that since the age of five, I had been composing stories for my family for Christmas, gifts that were as much for me as them, as I loved writing. So when in tenth grade, I had the option of taking a creative writing class, I was faced with a question: could I be an athlete and a writer? After much debate, I enrolled in the class, feeling both apprehensive and excited. When I arrived on the first day of school, my teacher, Ms. Jenkins, asked us to write down our expectations for the class. After a few minutes, eraser shavings stubbornly sunbathing on my now-smudged paper, I finally wrote, “I do not expect to become a published writer from this class. I just want this to be a place where I can write freely.”

Although the purpose of the class never changed for me, on the third “submission day,” – our time to submit writing to upcoming contests and literary magazines – I faced a predicament. For the first two submission days, I had passed the time editing earlier pieces, eventually (pretty quickly) resorting to screen snake when hopelessness made the words look like hieroglyphics. I must not have been as subtle as I thought, as on the third of these days, Ms. Jenkins approached me. After shifting from excuse to excuse as to why I did not submit my writing, I finally recognized the real reason I had withheld my work: I was scared. I did not want to be different, and I did not want to challenge not only others’ perceptions of me, but also my own. I yielded to Ms. Jenkin’s pleas and sent one of my pieces to an upcoming contest.

By the time the letter came, I had already forgotten about the contest. When the flimsy white envelope arrived in the mail, I was shocked and ecstatic to learn that I had received 2nd place in a nationwide writing competition. The next morning, however, I discovered Ms. Jenkins would make an announcement to the whole school exposing me as a poet. I decided to own this identity and embrace my friends’ jokes and playful digs, and over time, they have learned to accept and respect this part of me. I have since seen more boys at my school identifying themselves as writers or artists.

I no longer see myself as an athlete and a poet independently, but rather I see these two aspects forming a single inseparable identity – me. Despite their apparent differences, these two disciplines are quite similar, as each requires creativity and devotion. I am still a poet when I am lacing up my cleats for soccer practice and still an athlete when I am building metaphors in the back of my mind – and I have realized ice cream and gummy bears taste pretty good together.

The timeline of this essay spans from the writer’s childhood all the way to sophomore year, but we only see key moments along this journey. First, we get context for why the writer thought he had to choose one identity: his older brothers had very distinct interests. Then, we learn about the student’s 10th grade creative writing class, writing contest, and results of the contest. Finally, the essay covers the writers’ embarrassment of his identity as a poet, to gradual acceptance and pride in that identity. 

This essay is a great example of a narrative told over an extended period of time. It’s highly personal and reflective, as the piece shares the writer’s conflicting feelings, and takes care to get to the root of those feelings. Furthermore, the overarching story is that of a personal transformation and development, so it’s well-suited to this essay structure.

3. Series of anecdotes, or montage

This essay structure allows you to focus on the most important experiences of a single storyline, or it lets you feature multiple (not necessarily related) stories that highlight your personality. Montage is a structure where you piece together separate scenes to form a whole story. This technique is most commonly associated with film. Just envision your favorite movie—it likely is a montage of various scenes that may not even be chronological. 

Night had robbed the academy of its daytime colors, yet there was comfort in the dim lights that cast shadows of our advances against the bare studio walls. Silhouettes of roundhouse kicks, spin crescent kicks, uppercuts and the occasional butterfly kick danced while we sparred. She approached me, eyes narrowed with the trace of a smirk challenging me. “Ready spar!” Her arm began an upward trajectory targeting my shoulder, a common first move. I sidestepped — only to almost collide with another flying fist. Pivoting my right foot, I snapped my left leg, aiming my heel at her midsection. The center judge raised one finger. 

There was no time to celebrate, not in the traditional sense at least. Master Pollard gave a brief command greeted with a unanimous “Yes, sir” and the thud of 20 hands dropping-down-and-giving-him-30, while the “winners” celebrated their victory with laps as usual. 

Three years ago, seven-thirty in the evening meant I was a warrior. It meant standing up straighter, pushing a little harder, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”, celebrating birthdays by breaking boards, never pointing your toes, and familiarity. Three years later, seven-thirty in the morning meant I was nervous. 

The room is uncomfortably large. The sprung floor soaks up the checkerboard of sunlight piercing through the colonial windows. The mirrored walls further illuminate the studio and I feel the light scrutinizing my sorry attempts at a pas de bourrée , while capturing the organic fluidity of the dancers around me. “ Chassé en croix, grand battement, pique, pirouette.” I follow the graceful limbs of the woman in front of me, her legs floating ribbons, as she executes what seems to be a perfect ronds de jambes. Each movement remains a negotiation. With admirable patience, Ms. Tan casts me a sympathetic glance.   

There is no time to wallow in the misery that is my right foot. Taekwondo calls for dorsiflexion; pointed toes are synonymous with broken toes. My thoughts drag me into a flashback of the usual response to this painful mistake: “You might as well grab a tutu and head to the ballet studio next door.” Well, here I am Master Pollard, unfortunately still following your orders to never point my toes, but no longer feeling the satisfaction that comes with being a third degree black belt with 5 years of experience quite literally under her belt. It’s like being a white belt again — just in a leotard and ballet slippers. 

But the appetite for new beginnings that brought me here doesn’t falter. It is only reinforced by the classical rendition of “Dancing Queen” that floods the room and the ghost of familiarity that reassures me that this new beginning does not and will not erase the past. After years spent at the top, it’s hard to start over. But surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become. In Taekwondo, we started each class reciting the tenets: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet. 

The thing about change is that it eventually stops making things so different. After nine different schools, four different countries, three different continents, fluency in Tamil, Norwegian, and English, there are more blurred lines than there are clear fragments. My life has not been a tactfully executed, gold medal-worthy Taekwondo form with each movement defined, nor has it been a series of frappés performed by a prima ballerina with each extension identical and precise, but thankfully it has been like the dynamics of a spinning back kick, fluid, and like my chances of landing a pirouette, unpredictable. 

This essay takes a few different anecdotes and weaves them into a coherent narrative about the writer’s penchant for novel experiences. We’re plunged into her universe, in the middle of her Taekwondo spar, three years before the present day. She then transitions into a scene in a ballet studio, present day. By switching from past tense to present tense, the writer clearly demarcates this shift in time. 

The parallel use of the spoken phrase “Point” in the essay ties these two experiences together. The writer also employs a flashback to Master Pollard’s remark about “grabbing a tutu” and her habit of dorsiflexing her toes, which further cements the connection between these anecdotes. 

While some of the descriptions are a little wordy, the piece is well-executed overall, and is a stellar example of the montage structure. The two anecdotes are seamlessly intertwined, and they both clearly illustrate the student’s determination, dedication, reflectiveness, and adaptability. The writer also concludes the essay with a larger reflection on her life, many moves, and multiple languages. 

Unconventional College Essay Structures

Unconventional essay structures are any that don’t fit into the categories above. These tend to be higher risk, as it’s easier to turn off the admissions officer, but they’re also higher reward if executed correctly. 

There are endless possibilities for unconventional structures, but most fall under one of two categories:

1. Playing with essay format

Instead of choosing a traditional narrative format, you might take a more creative route to showcase your interests, writing your essay:

  • As a movie script
  • With a creative visual format (such as creating a visual pattern with the spaces between your sentences forming a picture)
  • As a two-sided Lincoln-Douglas debate
  • As a legal brief
  • Using song lyrics

2. Linguistic techniques

You could also play with the actual language and sentence structure of your essay, writing it:

  • In iambic pentameter
  • Partially in your mother tongue
  • In code or a programming language

These linguistic techniques are often hybrid, where you write some of the essay with the linguistic variation, then write more of an explanation in English.

Under no circumstances should you feel pressured to use an unconventional structure. Trying to force something unconventional will only hurt your chances. That being said, if a creative structure comes naturally to you, suits your personality, and works with the content of your essay — go for that structure!

←What is a College Application Theme and How Do You Come Up With One?

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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What is the College Essay? Your Complete Guide for 2023

Bonus Material: 30 College Essays That Worked

The college essay is one of the most important parts of your college application. 

As important as it is, however, it’s very different from the essays you’re used to writing in high school. 

From word count to genre, the college essay is in a category entirely of its own–and one that can be unfamiliar for most students applying to college.

So, what is the college essay? What role does it play in college admissions?

And, most importantly, how do you get started writing an amazing essay?

We answer all of these questions in this complete college essay guide. 

Plus, we give readers access to 30 college essays that earned applicants acceptance into the nation’s top colleges. They’re free and you can grab them below right now!

Download 30 College Essays That Worked

Here’s what we cover in this guide:

What is the College Essay?

  • Our Expert Definition
  • A College Essay That Worked
  • The Essay’s Role in College Admissions

The 7 Common Challenges in Writing the College Essay

  • How To Get Started Writing an Amazing Essay — 6 Tips
  • Bonus: 30 College Essays That Worked

Most students will use the Common App to apply to U.S. colleges and universities. A smaller number of colleges require students to submit applications through Coalition .

Regardless, both platforms require students to submit a personal statement or essay response as part of their application. Students choose to respond to one of the following prompts in 650 words or fewer .

College Essay Prompts 2022-2023

 
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.Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?Submit an essay on the topic of your choice.
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

What do these questions all have in common? They all require answers that are introspective, reflective, and personal. 

Take a look at some of these buzzwords from these prompts to see what we mean:

  • Understanding
  • Belief / Idea
  • Contribution

These are big words attached to big, personal concepts. That’s the point!

But because that’s the case, that means the college essay is not an academic essay. It’s not something you write in five paragraphs for English class. Nor is it a formal statement, an outline of a resume, or a list of accomplishments.

It’s something else entirely.

Our Definition of the College Essay

How do we define the college essay? We’ll keep it short and sweet.

The college essay is a personal essay that tells an engaging story in 650 words or fewer. It is comparable to memoir or creative nonfiction writing, which relate the author’s personal experiences. 

The college essay is fundamentally personal and creative. It is rich with introspection, reflection, and statements of self-awareness. It can have elements of academic writing in it, such as logical organization, thesis statements, and transition words. But it is not an academic essay that fits comfortably into five paragraphs.

Your task with the college essay is to become a storyteller–and, in the process, provide admissions officers with a valuable glimpse into your world, perspective, and/or experiences.

what does college essay do

Example of a College Essay That Worked

Take a look at this essay that earned its writer acceptance into Princeton. We won’t take a super deep dive into the components that make it great. 

But we do want to point out a handful of things that align with our definition of the college essay. This essay:

  • Tells an engaging story
  • Clearly conveys the author’s voice
  • Is rich with introspection and reflection
  • Provides insight into the author’s character, values, and perspective
  • Is not an academic essay or list of accomplishments
  • Is deeply personal

It also exemplifies the 7 qualities of a successful college essay .

Here’s the full essay:

“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” – Franz Kafka

Kafka, I’m afraid, has drastically overestimated the power of food. And though it pains me to undermine a statement by arguably the greatest writer of the 20 th century, I recognize it as a solemn duty. Perhaps Kafka has never sat, tongue wild in an effort to scrape residual peanut butter off his molars, and contemplated the almost ridiculous but nevertheless significant role of peanut butter in crafting his identity. Oh, did I just describe myself by accident? Without further ado, the questions (and lack of answers, I point out) that I contemplate with peanut butter in my mouth.

When I was three and a half years old, my tongue was not yet versed in the complex palate of my peers, consisting mainly of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (It did not help my transition into pre-school that I did not speak English, but Russian and that my name, which had been hurriedly switched from Alya to Alex, was unpronounceable to me.) But it is most worth noting that I refused lunch for months, waited at the windowsill with tear-stained cheeks every day unless my mom left law school midday to bring my own comfort food: borscht, katlety, kampot.

I slowly assimilated into American culture, like most immigrant kids. I began to eat the peanut butter sandwiches at pre-school in the presence of my mom, and then did not need her altogether. She must have been elated that I was comfortable, that she could stay at school all day without worrying. She must have been destroyed when I waved her away the first time and told her I did not need her to come anymore.

I realized much later that the Russian food my mother brought me in pre-school made me comfortable enough to learn the language of the children there, to share their lunches, to make friends. Ironically, my Russian culture enabled the rise and dominance of American culture. When my parents wanted to visit their birthplace, my birthplace, Odessa, Ukraine, I rolled my eyes and proclaimed Disney Land, Florida. I rolled my eyes when I spoke too fast for my parents to understand. I rolled my eyes when I checked my mom’s grammar and when she argued with customer service in her thick Russian accent.

Peanut butter, and foods like it, represented not only my entrance into American culture, but the swift rejection of anything Russian that followed. Chicken noodle soup replaced borscht, meatballs replaced katlety, Sunny D triumphed over kampot. I became embarrassed by the snacks packed in my brown paper bag, begged for Cheetos, lime Jell-O cups, and that creamy spread between two damp pieces of Wonder Bread. My American identity tried to eclipse the Russian one altogether.

I realized later still that the identity battle I fought must have been more difficult to watch for my parents than it could have ever been for me to experience. They let me figure myself out, even though it meant I spent years rolling my eyes at them. Though I do not claim to have discovered a perfect balance of Russian and American, I would venture that a healthy start is eating peanut butter for lunch and katlety at dinner.

So, Kafka, I hope that next time a memorable quote comes to mind, you think before you speak. Because when peanut butter cleaves to the roof of my mouth, I think about what it means “to cleave:” both to adhere closely to and to divide, as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural weakness. And I think about my dual identity, how the Russian side and American side simultaneously force each other apart and bring each other together. I think about my past, feeling a little ashamed, and about my present and future, asking how I can create harmony between these two sides of me. That, Kafka, does not sound like solved questions to me.

Want to read more essays that worked? Download our 30 college essays that earned their writers Ivy League acceptance for free below.

The College Essay’s Role in Admissions

In our post about what college admissions officers are looking for , we outline the Golden Rule of Admissions.

The Golden Rule of Admissions

We also define “a student of exceptional potential.” In general, competitive applicants to top U.S. colleges and universities exemplify three pillars:

  • Character and personal values
  • Extracurricular distinction
  • Academic achievement

3 Pillars of Successful Applicants

Admissions officers have a lot at their disposal when it comes to assessing extracurricular distinction and academic achievement. They’ve got transcripts, test scores, resumes, and letters of recommendation. 

But how do they assess character and personal values?

A recent survey of admissions officers revealed some interesting answers to this question.

what does college essay do

Source : National Association for College Admissions Counseling

Notice how an overwhelming 87% of officers surveyed reported that they infer character and personal qualities of an applicant from the content of the college essay!

The Common Data Set for individual colleges further supports this notion that officers infer character and values through the college essay, teacher recommendations, and other application components. The CDS for Cornell , for example, reveals that the application essay and character/personal qualities are “very important” in admission decisions.

what does college essay do

What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly altered the college application landscape by introducing some serious inequity in the realm of extracurricular activities, academics, and general access. 

Many admissions officers have stressed their focus on character and personal values (more qualitative components) in recent admissions cycles as a result.

what does college essay do

Schools are hungry for as much material as possible that they can use to assess students’ character and values! This is one of the reasons why many top colleges require applicants to answer supplemental essay questions — ones in addition to the college essay. These essays can range from 50-650 words, and many colleges have more than one.

For example, Princeton requires applicants to respond to six supplemental essay questions . Here’s one of them from the 2022-2023 admissions cycle:

At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?

So how important is the college essay in the application process?

Princeton’s former Dean of Admissions summed it up nicely with this quote about the college essay in a conversation with the New York Times :

Your ability to write well is critical to our decision because your writing reflects your thinking. No matter what question is asked on a college application, admission officers are looking to see how well you convey your ideas and express yourself in writing. It is our window to your world.

Now that you know what the college essay is and how it influences college admissions, let’s discuss the challenges in writing it. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it does compile some of the most common challenges most students face when preparing to write their personal statement.

Challenge #1: The Pressure

The college essay is integral to the college admissions process. It’s only likely to carry more weight in coming admission cycles in the wake of COVID-19 .

There is immense pressure on students to write essays that will make them competitive in admissions! This essay can also very much feel like uncharted territory for students given their lack of experience in the world of personal writing. This pressure can become a veritable roadblock in writing the college essay.

Challenge #2: What’s Introspection?

Successful college essays are deeply personal and full of introspection. We define introspection as reflection on what’s important in your life — values, beliefs, opinions, experiences, etc. It also can have a lot to do with what makes you you .

To some students, introspection might come naturally. To others, it might not! This is understandable. The high school classroom doesn’t necessarily give space for students to reflect on what they’ve learned from certain experiences or what they believe are their core values. However, this is exactly what admissions officers are looking for in essays!

what does college essay do

Challenge #3: You Just Don’t Write Personal Essays in School

Most English classes spend a lot of time on the academic essay . But most don’t include many units on writing personal essays or creative nonfiction–if any!

Many students writing the college essay thus face an entirely unfamiliar genre that comes with its own word limit, structure, and style of writing.

Challenge #4: The Word Limit

Both the Common App and Coalition require students to limit their essays to 650 words. That’s a little over a page of writing, single-spaced.

This means that students have to be incredibly concise in crafting their responses. This can be a tall order given what the college essay often includes: big ideas, big themes, and big reflection!

Challenge #5: Choosing a Topic

Given the college essay’s requirements, it can be tough to choose the “right” topic . Should you discuss an extracurricular activity ? Personal experience? An important mentorship figure?

Some students have a wide variety of experiences and personal stories to choose from. Others might feel that they have a limited number.

Challenge #6: Choosing a Structure

Let’s say that you’ve chosen your college essay topic. Now how do you fit it into a concise structure that gives ample air space to what college admissions officers are looking for?

Choosing a structure can be critical for telling your specific story in a compelling fashion. But once again, this is unfamiliar terrain for most students who haven’t really written a personal essay before.

And when we say that structure really is critical for college essay writing, we mean it–we’ve written an entire post on college essay structure .

Challenge #7: Getting Started

Last but not least, it can be incredibly difficult simply to start the college essay writing process. From choosing a topic to writing that first draft, there’s a lot to navigate. Many students also have a lot going on in general when they get around to writing their essays, including AP exams, summer programs , and the chaos of senior fall schedules.

If this sounds like where you’re at in the college essay writing journey, keep reading. We’ve got 6 tips coming up to help you take those first steps.

How To Write an Amazing College Essay – 6 Tips

You’ve learned what a college essay is and the weight it carries in college admissions. You’ve also heard a bit about what makes this essay challenging. Now what?

It’s time to get started writing your very own. 

The following tips are designed to help you begin the journey towards an amazing college essay, regardless of your story, college aspirations, or timeline. Let’s dive in.

what does college essay do

Tip #1: Give Yourself Time & Get Organized

Good college essays take time, and we mean time . We recommend that students establish a generous timeline for writing their personal statements. Ideally, students should start thinking about their essays seriously in the spring of their junior year or summer immediately following.

It’s also important to get organized. Create separate documents for brainstorming and free-writes, for example, and clearly mark your drafts based on where you’re at in the writing process.

We also recommend researching supplemental essay prompts for the colleges on your list and keeping track of these–including deadlines and word limits–in a spreadsheet. This is especially important for students applying early.

Tip #2: Practice Introspection

You can start flexing your introspective muscles before writing your essay! Practice journaling, for example, or responding to daily reflective prompts like the following:

  • What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
  • What is one of your core beliefs? Why is it core?
  • What is your best quality?
  • What matters to you? Why?
  • What challenges you? Why?

The New York Times has even released 1,000 free writing prompts for students that range from identity and family to social life and technology.

With introspection, focus on using “I” as much as possible. This can feel awkward, especially as most English teachers encourage students to avoid using “I” in academic essays. But it’s the key to deep reflection.

You can also check out our post on College Essay Brainstorming or download 30 FREE college essay brainstorming questions right here.

Tip #3: Familiarize Yourself with Personal Writing & Storytelling

Immerse yourself in examples of powerful personal writing and storytelling. A great place to start is by downloading our 30 examples of college essays that earned students Ivy League acceptance or checking out our 11 College Essays That Worked post .

Otherwise, check out memoirs or creative essay collections.

The Moth , a storytelling radio project, is another great resource for students looking to learn more about how people tell personal stories in an engaging fashion. Plus, it’s just plain fun to listen to!

Tip #4: Know What Makes for An Amazing Essay

What qualities do most successful college essays have?

We’ve done the research. A successful college essay is often:

  • Introspective and reflective
  • Full of a student’s voice
  • Descriptive and engaging
  • Unconventional and distinct
  • Well-written

We take a deeper dive into these 7 qualities of a successful college essay in a separate post.

Tip #5: Review Supplemental Essay Questions

Don’t forget about supplemental essay questions! It’s easy to overlook these or assume that they are less important than the college essay.

But remember–many colleges require supplemental essays as a means of gaining more information about competitive applicants. The Common App and Coalition also now have optional COVID-19 essay questions (learn our tips for answering these COVID-related questions here ).

Don’t save your supplemental essays for the last minute! Review questions well in advance through the Common App or Coalition platform so that you are aware of the other responses you’ll have to write.

We’ve actually compiled the supplemental essay questions for the top 50 U.S. colleges and universities right here.

You can also check out our 8 tips for writing amazing supplemental essay responses .

Tip #6: Work with a Mentor

Yes, it is possible to write your college essay, personal as it is, under the right one-on-one guidance. Mentors can help you with all stages of the college essay writing process, from topic brainstorms to final draft polishing.

They can also help create an actionable timeline for tackling both the college essay and all of those supplements, and hold students accountable!

You can sign up to work with one of PrepMaven’s master essay consultants if you’d like. Or check out our summer College Essay Workshops .

what does college essay do

One of the best ways to start the college essay writing process is to look at examples of successful essays. But these examples can be hard to find, and few and far between.

That’s why we compiled 30 college essays that earned their writers acceptance into Ivy League schools. You can download these examples for FREE below.

what does college essay do

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay. 

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College Raptor

Getting In > College Application Essay Guide: A How-to With Samples!

College Application Essay Guide: A How-to With Samples!

As you near the end of your college application process, you will need to work on one of the most important parts: the college essay. This piece of writing lets you show admissions officers who you are beyond your grades and test scores. But how can you write an essay that truly reflects your personality, experiences, interests, and writing skills?

It’s natural to feel nervous about making your essay stand out—that just means you care about doing well. We’ve created a complete guide to help you write an application essay you can be proud of, whether you’re applying to one school or many.

What is the College Essay?

Many colleges and universities require a college essay as part of the application process. It is often referred to as your personal statement and gives the admission office an insight into your strengths and uniqueness.

Of course, colleges read your transcript, your test scores, and your list of accomplishments, but you might have the same list of accomplishments and the same GPA as someone else who is trying to get into the same school. This is where your college essay allows you to shine. You get to share who you are and what you will bring to the campus.

How Long Should a College Essay Be?

College essays should be concise. Long-winded narratives risk losing the attention of readers, and you typically only have a few hundred words to make your point quickly and effectively. For example, the Common App essay is used by over a thousand colleges in the United States and explains that essays are to be between 250-650 words. This is typically a page long.

Common Topics

The most impactful essays highlight moments of growth or change, revealing who you are rather than restating your accomplishments. When brainstorming topics for your college essay, consider your personal experiences, the challenges you’ve overcome, meaningful relationships, or significant achievements. Ask yourself: “Do I want to write about it?” If the answer is no, then don’t write about it. When it comes to your college essay, it should be something about yourself that you want to tell the college about.

Common App provides a set of essay prompts to choose from. To give you an idea, here are the of the 2024/2025 prompts to consider:

  • 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.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Essay Examples

Looking at essay examples can provide inspiration and guidance as you begin to write your own. With a limited word count, you want to make sure you grab the reader’s attention quickly and say what you need to say. Check out College Raptor’s collection of 300-word essay examples to see how other applicants have approached different prompts. Below are some samples in a few different essay lengths that are common to apps:

200 Word Essay Sample

This sample could answer the Common App prompt: 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.

Growing up in a multicultural household, I inherited a diverse mix of traditions and stories from my parents. A trip to my father’s homeland, Ghana, highlighted the importance of language in preserving cultural heritage. Inspired by this, I began learning and teaching languages to bridge generations and continents. Outside academia, I organized events celebrating cultural diversity and breaking down stereotypes. Excited about college, I plan to study literature, anthropology, and linguistics to understand how identities are shaped. I aim to use storytelling to bring people together on campus and create an inclusive community. I see myself as a blend of different stories, ever-changing and connecting. Stories help me understand others better, appreciate diversity, and work towards unity. Through my experiences, I aim to deepen my understanding of others, nurture an appreciation for diversity, and contribute to a more cohesive society.

Why It Works: This essay works because it shows how the applicant’s multicultural background and love for storytelling have inspired her academic and personal goals. She connects specific events to her desire to study literature, anthropology, and linguistics in college. By connecting personal experiences to academic ambitions, it proves the applicant is eager to learn and make a positive impact in society.

400 Word Essay Sample

This sample could answer the Common App prompt: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

The classroom buzzed with energy as the debate on the ethics of animal testing ignited strong discussions, but little did I know that this academic clash would unravel beliefs within me that I hadn’t thought about. “I believe we must question not just what is possible, but also what is right,” voiced one of my classmates. Even after the debate concluded, her words stayed with me long after. This classroom debate was a pivotal moment that led me to question my long-held beliefs about animal testing in scientific research. For years, I had firmly believed that the benefits of scientific progress justified the use of animals in experiments. But my conviction became confused after watching a thought-provoking documentary shedding light on the ethical dilemmas surrounding animal experimentation. The film juxtaposed the potential advancements in medicine with the stark reality of animal suffering, leaving me emotionally torn and intellectually curious. Was I coming to terms with what I had believed for years might be changing to match deeper ethical values? My classmate’s argument echoed in my mind and challenged me to dive deeper into the ethical implications beyond scientific benefits. Driven by this newfound curiosity, I embarked on a journey of introspection and research. This went beyond a simple Google search. I sought out bioethics experts, read about alternative research methods, and even volunteered at animal shelters to see how animal testing affects real lives. This led me to a transformative realization: questioning beliefs doesn’t weaken them but enriches them with empathy and critical thinking. I discovered the importance of balancing scientific progress with ethical responsibilities, advocating for stringent guidelines in research while championing cruelty-free alternatives. Beyond the issue at hand, this experience reshaped my approach to challenges and societal responsibilities. I became an advocate for ethical treatment not only of animals but also for marginalized communities whose voices are often sidelined in discussions of ethics and progress. Looking back, I owe my classmate a thank you. If it wasn’t for her words, I wouldn’t have learned the valuable lesson of staying open-minded and empathetic. I’m now passionate when it comes to tackling tough issues carefully and striving for fair solutions that respect compassion and progress for everyone involved.

Why It Works: This essay works because the writer shares a moment when their beliefs were challenged, leading to a shift in perspective. It highlights critical thinking and personal growth in a unique and specific way.

600 Word Essay Sample

This sample could answer the Common App prompt: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

From a young age, I caught the travel bug. It started when I was just 5, mesmerized by the vastness of the ocean on my first beach trip. The waves seemed endless, sparking a curiosity that I didn’t realize at the time would shape my love for life-long exploration. I’ve now experienced 20 different countries. At 9, I marveled at the Northern Lights in Alaska, their dancing colors igniting my imagination. Then at 13, camping trips with my family to national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone became cherished memories, teaching me about teamwork and perseverance as we navigated through different places. As I grew, my passion for travel evolved beyond sightseeing. It was no longer just about discovering new places, but it became about discovering myself in those places. I was immersing myself in different cultures, tasting new foods in bustling markets, and learning the stories behind historical landmarks. I was enjoying meals with strangers who turned into friends, and finding inspiration in the art, music, and stories of distant lands. Travel has taught me valuable life lessons too—patience in navigating busy airports, adaptability in unfamiliar environments, and empathy through conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. Whether it was getting lost in the streets of Tokyo or marveling at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, each journey has added new layers to my understanding of the world and myself. One of the most remarkable aspects of traveling is the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and embrace the unknown. Whether trekking through serene landscapes or engaging in meaningful conversations with locals, every adventure has reinforced my belief in the power of human connection and shared experiences that go beyond geographical boundaries. The people I met along the way, from Italy to Thailand, showed me the beauty of human connection and hospitality. From every moment that has taken my breath away and lessons that have shaped who I’ve become, I can confidently say that the “travel bug” I caught all those years ago is not going away. Traveling isn’t just a hobby—it’s a lifelong journey of discovery, growth, and connection that I eagerly embrace with each new adventure. Reflecting on my travel experiences, I realize that each trip has left a lasting impression on me, contributing to my personal growth in profound ways. Exploring the world has taught me resilience in facing challenges, such as navigating language barriers or adapting to unfamiliar customs. These experiences have not only broadened my horizons but also nurtured a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and global interconnectedness. Travel has fueled my curiosity and desire for continuous learning. From exploring historical sites like the Colosseum in Rome or the Great Wall of China, my understanding of past civilizations and their enduring legacies has deepened. Each destination has revealed layers of itself that have enriched my perspective and inspired a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Looking ahead to my next academic phase, I carry these invaluable lessons from my travels. The curiosity sparked by my love for exploration pushes me to embrace challenges, understand diverse viewpoints, and contribute meaningfully to a global community built on shared experiences and respect. What started as a childhood fascination with travel has become a lifelong passion. Each trip not only takes me to new places but also helps me discover more about myself while building connections with people and cultures worldwide. This journey continues to shape my goals, aspirations, and role in a world full of diversity and endless opportunities.

Why It Works: This essay works because it provides a well-rounded picture of how the applicant has grown as a person. It showcases how their love for travel has evolved, impacting their understanding of themselves and the world through diverse experiences. Even though many love to travel, the author has written about it in a way that is specific to them.

Topics to Avoid

While there are countless topics you could discuss in your essay, there are also some that are best avoided. Make sure not to be repetitive or write anything that might come across as insincere. Here are some topics to avoid in your personal statement:

  • Listing accomplishments without discussing their impact or personal development.
  • Presenting anything that portrays you in a negative light without reflecting on lessons learned or personal growth.
  • Reiterating your grades, test scores, and academic achievements—they already saw this in the application.
  • Relying on clichés, which can lack originality and effort.

Tips on How to Write a Good College Essay

Say what you need to say and avoid unnecessary filler in your essay. A strong college essay is transparent, honest, and meaningful. It should portray you in a positive light, so be cautious about discussing negative experiences or personal weaknesses. Focus on writing something you care about rather than what you believe will impress admissions officers.

Colleges are looking for an original viewpoint, an authentic voice, and excellent writing skills in your essay. To ensure you touch on these things, consider the following questions when writing your personal essay:

  • Does this topic hold personal meaning for me?
  • Is my essay focused on me and not others?
  • Was I concise?
  • Did I provide a direct answer to the prompt?
  • Is my beginning and end strong?
  • Does this reflect my true personality?
  • Does the essay reveal something unique about myself?
  • Has my essay been proofread and edited for correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling?

Your college essay is your chance to show who you are as a person and what you would bring to the campus community. Choosing a meaningful topic and writing an authentic essay allows you to make a lasting impression on admissions officers. Good luck!

Curious about your chances of getting accepted to a particular school? Find out with College Raptor’s FREE College Match tool ! We estimate your chances based on your academic information (grades and test scores) and the college’s overall acceptance rate.

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25 Inspiring College Essay Topic Ideas

June 24, 2024

If you’ve ever wondered what other people write about in their college application essays, you’re not alone. Just as reading a range of novels can expose you to unique takes on similar themes, seeing others’ college essay topic ideas can open you up to new possibilities, spark creativity, and enhance your brainstorming process. Since we read hundreds of essays per year, we wanted to round up a collection of past topics from actual students to inspire your essay-writing endeavors. Moreover, we’ve paired those topics with targeted brainstorming questions that will set you off on your own path to success. Ready? Let’s dive in.

How do I find the right college essay topic ideas?

Like a well-hidden geocache , the right college essay topic ideas can only be uncovered with some effort. In general, the right college essay topic:

  • is interesting and/or exciting to you
  • demonstrates a quality, value, or perspective that can’t be found elsewhere on your application

While deciding, focus on asking yourself the right types of questions. For example, let’s say you’re down to two topics: a moral/ethical dilemma you recently faced, or the nonprofit you started last year. In this scenario, most students may assume they *should* write about the nonprofit–after all, it’s the more “impressive” of the two, right?

However, let’s divorce ourselves from “should.” Instead, ask yourself: if I write this essay, what will admissions officers learn about me that they can’t learn about elsewhere? Through starting this nonprofit, what have I learned about myself? Can I show my reader what I value, or how I handle problems? Or will I basically be re-hashing what is already in my activities list or honors section ?

Alternatively, the ethical/moral dilemma you recently faced completely threw you for a loop. It made you rethink a closely held belief and forced you to confront how you handle challenging situations.

Ask yourself: what will admissions officers learn about me that they can’t learn about elsewhere? What have I learned about myself? Can I handle this subject tactfully—without complaining, blaming others, or coming to a conclusion that feels forced/too neat? Can I be vulnerable?

Be honest with yourself, and a clear winner will emerge.

How do I find “unique” college essay topic ideas?

Every year, our students wonder how to ensure that their essay stands out, often asking us questions along these lines:

How do I make sure that my essay topic is different from everyone else’s?

If I write about my sports injury, will it sound like every other sports essay?

If I write about my parent’s illness, will that be just another sob story?

We get it—it’s natural and normal to be curious about what admissions officers want to hear, or wonder whether particular college essay topic ideas will strengthen your application more than others. While there is some strategy involved with topic selection, the way you write about and reflect on any given topic is usually much more important than the topic itself.

To that end, college essay topics/themes we see on a regular basis include:

  • Coming-of-age, most often a realization that changed their perspective or inspired personal growth
  • A challenging situation or moral dilemma
  • A passion or intellectual curiosity
  • A meaningful aspect of their family/identity/cultural background
  • An important community

We see these topics frequently because they are universal to the teenage experience. This does not make them bad or mean you should avoid them. On the contrary, it makes them classic, timeless, and relatable (remember, you’re trying to create a personal connection with your reader!).

Accordingly, use the above college essay topics/themes as a way to start collecting ideas for your own personal statement, and know you are in very good company if you write an essay on one of them.

Bottom line: you make a college essay topic “unique” by writing about yourself, in your own style and voice, with plenty of detail and specifics. You share what you learned and how you grew. That’s it!

Where can I find examples of college essay topic ideas?

Sometimes, you just need a list of examples. Let’s go back to our geocaching reference above. What the heck is a geocache, anyway? What will you find inside one? Do people use certain types of containers? Perusing a few examples will help you build an idea of what to expect when you go exploring. Okay, I could be looking for anything from Tupperware containers to film canisters…or fake rocks…what?!

Accordingly, in providing you with this list of college essay topic ideas, we want to validate and inspire you. These are real college essay topics developed by real college applicants, so it’s very likely you can connect or identify with at least a few of them. If a topic resonates with or sounds interesting to you, try writing down some thoughts on the associated brainstorming question and see where it takes you.

Inspiring College Essay Topic Ideas

  • Central Story : A parent’s struggle with addiction, and the author’s struggle to cope with the changes happening at home
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author found themselves again—and learned to cope—by leaning into activities that they loved
  • Brainstorming Question : Has your parent or guardian ever faced a significant health problem, such as a chronic illness, terminal diagnosis, or addiction? How did it impact you?
  • Central Story : After volunteering at a homeless shelter for years, the author realized he had been avoiding personal connection with the men he served meals to
  • Reflection/Resolution : Prioritizing connection, even if uncomfortable, and finding new, tangible ways to understand and assist this population
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever had a perspective-changing volunteer opportunity? If so, what was your perspective before you started, and what is it now?

College Essay Topic Ideas — Continued

  • Central Story : Navigating interactions with customers at a part-time job
  • Reflection/Resolution : Finding ways to connect with and appreciate patrons, and understand how important her job was
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you work in a customer service role? What have been your most memorable interactions, positive or negative? How have they impacted you?
  • Central Story : After years of being a competitive ballet dancer and having aspirations to dance in college, the author is struck with the realization that she does not actually want to be a professional ballerina
  • Reflection/Resolution : Coming to terms with her decision, and embracing who she is without ballet
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever had a college-related or professional goal that changed? Why did it change, and how did you deal with it?
  • Central Story : How a difficult incident during a baseball game changed the author’s relationship with the sport, and pushed him toward new realizations about his future
  • Reflection/Resolution : Embracing his own power to make a difference by immersing himself in research, and discovering new fields that he is interested in pursuing in college
  • Brainstorming Question : Has a particular situation ever shocked or deeply upset you? What realizations did you have about yourself? About others?
  • Central Story : The author’s fiction writing journey and realization that women of color are underrepresented or presented as one-note in most literature
  • Reflection/Resolution : The author’s commitment to crafting characters that not only represented her but reflected her values and beliefs, and creating a writing community in the process
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you have a hobby or passion that you could spend hours a day/week engaging in? How did you get started, and what experiences have been most special/important to you?
  • Central Story : How a strategy-based board game gave the author the skills needed to take a volunteer opportunity to the next level
  • Reflection/Resolution : What the author learned about himself in the process, and the importance of being open to what all types of experiences can teach you
  • Brainstorming Question : What’s your go-to “fun” activity? What (perhaps surprising) skills have you learned from it? Have you been able to apply them in other areas of your life?
  • Central Story : The author’s intensive preparation for synchronized swim team tryouts
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author dealt with the disappointment of not making the team, and learned important lessons about failure and resilience
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever tried—and failed—at something that took weeks, months, or even years to prepare for? What was that like? How did you cope, and what did you learn about yourself in the process?
  • Central Story : The author’s longing for a stable community after experiencing a housing crisis
  • Reflection/Resolution : How volunteering at a local nonprofit committed to building homes helped him find the community he was searching for, and inspired his future career path
  • Brainstorming Question : What activity is most meaningful to you? How is it enabled you to make an impact on others? How has it impacted you personally?
  • Central Story : The author’s first encounter with coral bleaching, and ensuing environmental activism
  • Reflection/Resolution : How he found balance between activism and his personal life so that he could bring his best self to every project
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you participate in any activities that feel consuming on multiple levels? How do you find balance? Has that been a difficult journey?
  • Central Story : The author’s love of connecting with friends and family through baking, even when the time commitment involved became difficult to navigate
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author learned to juggle multiple types of commitments, leading to increased joy and intention
  • Brainstorming Question : What personal hobbies are most meaningful to you, and why? Have you ever struggled to find time for your favorite hobby amidst other obligations? How did you navigate that?
  • Central Story : How the author struggled with coming out
  • Reflection/Resolution : How joining a supportive LGBTQ community helped the author make peace with her identity, and also begin helping others who may be struggling with their identity
  • Brainstorming Question : Is there an aspect of your sexual or cultural identity that you’ve struggled to accept? What has that journey been like for you? What actions have you taken along the way, and what have you learned about yourself in the process?
  • Central Story : The author’s determination to help other students feel less isolated and more involved at school, which stemmed from his own early experiences as an immigrant
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author implemented actual changes that resulted in more connection, school spirit, and personal fulfillment
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever tried to solve a particular issue in your community? What issue did you try to solve, and why? What steps did you take to solve it, and what was the outcome?
  • Central Story : How the author’s early love of Spanish led to learning additional languages
  • Reflection/Resolution : How learning languages has allowed for deeper cultural exploration and appreciation, along with an exploration of the author’s own personal history and goal to pursue linguistics in college
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you already know what you want to pursue in college? How did you come to that conclusion, and what experiences have informed or influenced it along the way?
  • Central Story : How the author’s perfectionism often caused her to avoid trying new things, which she realized after a massive project went sideways
  • Reflection/Resolution : The author began trying new activities outside her comfort zone that introduced her to new interests and inspired further exploration
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you ever feel like you hold yourself back? In what ways? How have you tried to overcome those hurdles?
  • Central Story : The author’s lifelong interest in his favorite animal
  • Reflection/Resolution : What attributes of this animal the author is most fascinated by, how those attributes connect to his own life/experiences, and what he’s learned about himself in the process
  • Brainstorming Question : What are your “favorites”—favorite color, favorite animal, favorite song, favorite movie, favorite place, etc? Why are they your favorite? What can your “favorites” tell us about you?
  • Central Story : How the author’s boredom with piano stemmed from always following sheet music strictly as written
  • Reflection/Resolution : How learning a new musical term—and experimenting with it—enabled the author to find the joy in music again
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you participated in any activities that lost their appeal at some point? How did you react, and what was the outcome?
  • Central Story : The author’s love for a certain childhood craft
  • Reflection/Resolution : How rekindling her love for this craft led to a fascination with repetition and patterns that ultimately inspired her college major
  • Brainstorming Question : As a child, what activities did you love most? Do you still engage in any of them? If so, why are they so important to you?
  • Central Story : The toxic environment within the author’s first school play, which made her start to lose her passion for music
  • Reflection/Resolution : How quitting theater and investing her energy in different, more supportive activities allowed her to reclaim her love of singing
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever quit an important sport, club, or other activity? What led to that decision, and how did you move forward?
  • Central Story : How the author’s love of fashion—and its history—led to a particularly optimistic sewing project
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the process of trial and error during her project—as well as her continued work on it—represents her resilience, passion, and love of learning
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever undertaken a project that didn’t go according to plan? What ups and downs did you encounter, and how did you navigate them?
  • Central Story : How the author confronted her perception of entrepreneurship as well as her own role within her company
  • Reflection/Resolution : How asking difficult questions, conducting research, and being willing to pivot led the author to adjust her mindset and personal philosophy
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever realized that you might need to adjust a previously held belief or perspective? How did you come to that conclusion, and what did you do about it?
  • Central Story : The author’s reluctance and nervousness to return to India, where she spent her childhood
  • Reflection/Resolution : How reconnecting with her culture, especially its literature, led her to embrace herself more fully and even helped inform her future career path
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you ever feel torn between two different worlds or cultural identities? How have you navigated and/or tried to come to terms with that?
  • Central Story : How the author’s self-doubt and fear began to negatively impact her sports performance
  • Reflection/Resolution : How a teammate’s influence enabled the author to start trusting herself, leading to increased self-confidence and new levels of risk-taking
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever dealt with an ongoing struggle that started to take over your life? What enabled you to start adopting a healthier outlook?
  • Central Story : The author’s realization that her method of communication in leadership roles may be hindering, rather than helping, progress
  • Reflection/Resolution : How adjusting her communication methods, focusing on collaboration, and readjusting her perspective led to a new definition of personal and professional success
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever realized that your way of doing things may be negatively impacting a particular group or team? If so, what did you do about it?
  • Central Story : An ethical dilemma that the author experienced while serving on her school paper
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author arrived at her decision, and what she learned about her own decision-making process
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever been confronted with a moral or ethical dilemma? If so, how did you arrive at a decision? Do you regret or stand behind that decision—why or why not?

Final Thoughts — College Essay Topics

After identifying an interesting and personally significant essay topic, you’ll want to focus on further brainstorming as well as execution. Not sure what to do next? College Transitions’ highly skilled essay coaches can help— click here to see available packages or schedule a free consultation.

Additional resources you may find useful:

  • Common App Essay Prompts
  • How to Brainstorm a College Essay
  • 10 Instructive Common App Essay Examples
  • College Application Essay Topics to Avoid
  • How to Start a College Essay
  • How to End a College Essay
  • Best College Essay Help
  • College Essay

Kelsea Conlin

Kelsea holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Tufts University, a graduate certificate in College Counseling from UCLA, and an MA in Teaching Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her short fiction is forthcoming in Chautauqua .

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More From Forbes

How not to write your college essay.

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If you are looking for the “secret formula” for writing a “winning” college essay, you have come to the wrong place. The reality is there is no silver bullet or strategy to write your way to an acceptance. There is not one topic or approach that will guarantee a favorable outcome.

At the end of the day, every admission office just wants to know more about you, what you value, and what excites you. They want to hear about your experiences through your own words and in your own voice. As you set out to write your essay, you will no doubt get input (both sought-after and unsolicited) on what to write. But how about what NOT Notcoin to write? There are avoidable blunders that applicants frequently make in drafting their essays. I asked college admission leaders, who have read thousands of submissions, to share their thoughts.

Don’t Go In There

There is wide consensus on this first one, so before you call on your Jedi mind tricks or predictive analytics, listen to the voices of a diverse range of admission deans. Peter Hagan, executive director of admissions at Syracuse University, sums it up best, saying, “I would recommend that students try not to get inside of our heads. He adds, “Too often the focus is on what they think we want.”

Andy Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College agrees, warning, “Do NOT get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what is going to impress the admission committee. You have NO idea who is going to read your essay and what is going to connect with them. So, don't try to guess that.” Victoria Romero, vice president for enrollment, at Scripps College adds, “Do not write about something you don’t care about.” She says, “I think students try to figure out what an admission officer wants to read, and the reality is the reader begins every next essay with no expectations about the content THEY want to read.” Chrystal Russell, dean of admission at Hampden-Sydney College, agrees, saying, “If you're not interested in writing it, we will not be interested when reading it.” Jay Jacobs, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Vermont elaborates, advising. “Don’t try to make yourself sound any different than you are.” He says, “The number one goal for admission officers is to better understand the applicant, what they like to do, what they want to do, where they spend the majority of their time, and what makes them tick. If a student stays genuine to that, it will shine through and make an engaging and successful essay.”

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Don’t Be Artificial

The headlines about college admission are dominated by stories about artificial intelligence and the college essay. Let’s set some ground rules–to allow ChatGPT or some other tool to do your work is not only unethical, it is also unintelligent. The only worse mistake you could make is to let another human write your essay for you. Instead of preoccupying yourself with whether or not colleges are using AI detection software (most are not), spend your time focused on how best to express yourself authentically. Rick Clark is the executive director of strategic student success at Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the first institutions to clearly outline their AI policy for applicants. He says, “Much of a college application is devoted to lines, boxes, and numbers. Essays and supplements are the one place to establish connection, personality, and distinction. AI, in its current state, is terrible at all three.” He adds, “My hope is that students will use ChatGPT or other tools for brainstorming and to get started, but then move quickly into crafting an essay that will provide insight and value.”

Don’t Overdo It

Michael Stefanowicz, vice president for enrollment management at Landmark College says, “You can only cover so much detail about yourself in an admission essay, and a lot of students feel pressure to tell their life story or choose their most defining experience to date as an essay topic. Admission professionals know that you’re sharing just one part of your lived experience in the essay.” He adds, “Some of the favorite essays I’ve read have been episodic, reflecting on the way you’ve found meaning in a seemingly ordinary experience, advice you’ve lived out, a mistake you’ve learned from, or a special tradition in your life.” Gary Ross, vice president for admission and financial aid at Colgate University adds, “More than a few applicants each year craft essays that talk about the frustration and struggles they have experienced in identifying a topic for their college application essay. Presenting your college application essay as a smorgasbord of topics that ultimately landed on the cutting room floor does not give us much insight into an applicant.”

Don’t Believe In Magic

Jason Nevinger, senior director of admission at the University of Rochester warns, “Be skeptical of anyone or any company telling you, ‘This is the essay that got me into _____.’ There is no magic topic, approach, sentence structure, or prose that got any student into any institution ever.” Social media is littered with advertisements promising strategic essay help. Don’t waste your time, energy, or money trying to emulate a certain style, topic, or tone. Liz Cheron is chief executive officer for the Coalition for College and former assistant vice president of enrollment & dean of admissions at Northeastern University. She agrees with Nevinger, saying “Don't put pressure on yourself to find the perfect, slam dunk topic. The vast majority of college essays do exactly what they're supposed to do–they are well-written and tell the admission officer more about the student in that student's voice–and that can take many different forms.”

Don’t Over Recycle

Beatrice Atkinson-Myers, associate director of global recruitment at the University of California at Santa Cruz tells students, “Do not use the same response for each university; research and craft your essay to match the program at the university you are interested in studying. Don't waste time telling me things I can read elsewhere in your application. Use your essay to give the admissions officer insights into your motivations, interests, and thinking. Don't make your essay the kitchen sink, focus on one or two examples which demonstrate your depth and creativity.” Her UC colleague, Jim Rawlins, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management at the University of California at San Diego agrees, saying “Answer the question. Not doing so is the surest way we can tell you are simply giving us a snippet of something you actually wrote for a different purpose.”

Don’t Overedit

Emily Roper-Doten, vice president for undergraduate admissions and financial assistance at Clark University warns against “Too many editors!” She says, “Pick a couple of trusted folks to be your sounding board when considering topics and as readers once you have drafts. You don’t want too many voices in your essay to drown you out!” Scripps’ Romero agrees, suggesting, “Ask a good friend, someone you trust and knows you well, to read your essays.” She adds, “The goal is for the admission committee to get to know a little about you and who better to help you create that framework, than a good friend. This may not work for all students because of content but helps them understand it’s important to be themselves.” Whitney Soule, vice provost and dean of admissions at The University of Pennsylvania adds, “Avoid well-meaning editorial interference that might seem to polish your writing but actually takes your own personal ‘shine’ right out of the message.” She says, “As readers, we connect to applicants through their genuine tone and style. Considering editorial advice for flow and message is OK but hold on to the 'you' for what you want to say and how you want to say it.”

Don’t Get Showy

Palmer Muntz, senior regional admissions counselor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks cautions applicants, “Don’t be fancier than you are. You don’t need to put on airs.” He adds, “Yes, proofread your work for grammar and spelling, but be natural. Craft something you’d want to read yourself, which probably means keeping your paragraphs short, using familiar words, and writing in an active voice.” Connecticut College’s Strickler agrees, warning, “Don't try to be someone you are not. If you are not funny, don't try to write a funny essay. If you are not an intellectual, trying to write an intellectual essay is a bad idea.”

Anthony Jones, the vice president of enrollment management at Loyola University New Orleans offers a unique metaphor for thinking about the essay. He says, “In the new world of the hyper-fast college admission process, it's become easy to overlook the essential meaning of the college application. It's meant to reveal Y...O...U, the real you, not some phony digital avatar. Think of the essay as the essence of that voice but in analog. Like the completeness and authenticity captured in a vinyl record, the few lines you're given to explain your view should be a slow walk through unrestrained expression chock full of unapologetic nuances, crevices of emotion, and exactness about how you feel in the moment. Then, and only then, can you give the admissions officer an experience that makes them want to tune in and listen for more.”

Don’t Be A Downer

James Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at The University of Chicago says, “Don’t be negative about other people, be appreciative of those who have supported you, and be excited about who you are and what you will bring to our campus!” He adds, “While admissions offices want smart students for our classrooms, we also want kind-hearted, caring, and joyous students who will add to our campus communities too.”

Don’t Pattern Match

Alan Ramirez is the dean of admission and financial aid at Sewanee, The University of the South. He explains, “A big concern I have is when students find themselves comparing their writing to other students or past applicants and transform their writing to be more like those individuals as a way to better their chances of offering a more-compelling essay.” He emphasizes that the result is that the “essay is no longer authentic nor the best representation of themselves and the whole point of the essay is lost. Their distinctive voice and viewpoint contribute to the range of voices in the incoming class, enhancing the diversity of perspectives we aim to achieve.” Ramirez simple tells students, “Be yourself, that’s what we want to see, plus there's no one else who can do it better than you!”

Don’t Feel Tied To A Topic

Jessica Ricker is the vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Skidmore College. She says, “Sometimes students feel they must tell a story of grief or hardship, and then end up reliving that during the essay-writing process in ways that are emotionally detrimental. I encourage students to choose a topic they can reflect upon positively but recommend that if they choose a more challenging experience to write about, they avoid belaboring the details and instead focus on the outcome of that journey.” She adds, "They simply need to name it, frame its impact, and then help us as the reader understand how it has shaped their lens on life and their approach moving forward.”

Landmark College’s Stefanowicz adds, “A lot of students worry about how personal to get in sharing a part of their identity like your race or heritage (recalling last year’s Supreme Court case about race-conscious admissions), a learning difference or other disability, your religious values, LGBTQ identity…the list goes on.” He emphasizes, “This is always your choice, and your essay doesn’t have to be about a defining identity. But I encourage you to be fully yourself as you present yourself to colleges—because the college admission process is about finding a school where your whole self is welcome and you find a setting to flourish!”

Don’t Be Redundant

Hillen Grason Jr., dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College, advises, “Don't repeat academic or co-curricular information that is easily identifiable within other parts of your application unless the topic is a core tenant of you as an individual.” He adds, “Use your essay, and other parts of your application, wisely. Your essay is the best way to convey who your authentic self is to the schools you apply. If you navigated a situation that led to a dip in your grades or co-curricular involvement, leverage the ‘additional information’ section of the application.

Thomas Marr is a regional manager of admissions for the Americas at The University of St Andrews in Scotland and points out that “Not all international schools use the main college essay as part of their assessment when reviewing student applications.” He says, “At the University of St Andrews, we focus on the supplemental essay and students should avoid the mistake of making the supplemental a repeat of their other essay. The supplemental (called the Personal Statement if using the UCAS application process) is to show the extent of their passion and enthusiasm for the subject/s to which they are applying and we expect about 75% of the content to cover this. They can use the remaining space to mention their interests outside of the classroom. Some students confuse passion for the school with passion for their subject; do not fall into that trap.”

A Few Final Don’ts

Don’t delay. Every college applicant I have ever worked with has wished they had started earlier. You can best avoid the pitfalls above if you give yourself the time and space to write a thoughtful essay and welcome feedback openly but cautiously. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect . Do your best, share your voice, and stay true to who you are.

Brennan Barnard

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27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

Learn how to write any college essay with these amazing examples of college essays that worked in 2019.  How was your college application journey? Let us know over at collegeessayguy.com

One of the best ways to write a successful college essay for your college application is by learning from real college essay examples that worked . I've compiled a few of my favorite essay examples here that cover a variety of college essay topics.

Need help writing your college essay? Click here for my ultimate guide .

Or, check out my complete guide for answering the most popular college essay prompts on the Common App.

Some essay samples below are by students who chose to write about a challenge, while other examples may be helpful if you’re looking to write about yourself more generally. And yes, a few of these essays did help these students get accepted into the Ivy League, (I’m not telling you which!) though these are all great essays regardless of where (or if) students were admitted to their top choice school.

Looking for more college admissions essay examples about yourself? Check out more personal statements here .

Behold, some of the best college essays of 2024 (in my humble opinion).

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Personal Statement Examples         Burying Grandma         Laptop Stickers         Punk Rock Philosopher         Grandma's Kimchi         Travel and Language         Dead Bird         I Shot My Brother         Porcelain God

UC Essay Examples

  • Supplemental Essay Examples         UChicago Supplemental Essay Examples         Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road         Rock, Paper, Scissors         U of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example         East Meets West

Common App Essay Prompts

According to the 2024/2025 Common Application , the common app essays topics are as follows:

Background Essay: 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.

Challenge Essay: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Belief Essay: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Gratitude Essay: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Accomplishment Essay: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Topic Essay: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Create-Your-Own Essay: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

What Makes a Great College Essay?

These application essays show many sides of a person.

The key to many of these essays is that they describe a story or an aspect of the student’s life in a way that is dynamic: It reflects many of their values, strengths, interests, volunteer work, and life experiences. 

Many of these essays also demonstrate vulnerability. College admissions officers reading your college application will want to know how your values, qualities, and skills will flourish in college— and how good your writing skills are . 

Whether it’s a supplemental essay , personal statement , Common App essay , or diversity essay , the essays below can help you better understand what can result from following a college essay format or applying tips for how to write a college essay to help you get into your dream school. 

College Essay Tips

We asked dozens of experts on essay writing and test scores for their take on what makes a great college essay. Check out five of our favorite college essay tips below. 

1. Imagine how the person reading your essay will feel.

No one's idea of a good time is writing a college essay, I know. But if sitting down to write your essay feels like a chore, and you're bored by what you're saying, you can imagine how the person reading your essay will feel. On the other hand, if you're writing about something you love, something that excites you, something that you've thought deeply about, chances are I'm going to set down your application feeling excited, too—and feeling like I've gotten to know you.

This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts ‘17 graduate.

2. Write like a journalist.

"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.

This college essay tip is by Brad Schiller, MIT graduate and CEO of Prompt, which provides individualized feedback on thousands of students’ essays each year.

3. Don't read the Common Application prompts.

If you already have, erase them from memory and write the story you want colleges to hear. The truth is, admission reviewers rarely know—or care—which prompt you are responding to. They are curious to discover what you choose to show them about who you are, what you value , and why. Even the most fluid writers are often stifled by fitting their narrative neatly into a category and the essay quickly loses authentic voice. Write freely and choose a prompt later. Spoiler alert...one prompt is "Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. " So have at it.

This college essay tip is by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H. and contributor to the NYT, HuffPost, and Forbes on intentionally approaching college admissions.

4. Show your emotions.

Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements. It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness.

This college essay tip is by Charles Maynard, Oxford and Stanford University Graduate and founder of Going Merry, which is a one-stop shop for applying to college scholarships

5. Revise often and early. 

Your admissions essay should go through several stages of revision . And by revisions, we don’t mean quick proofreads. Ask your parents, teachers, high school counselors or friends for their eyes and edits. It should be people who know you best and want you to succeed. Take their constructive criticism in the spirit for which they intend—your benefit.

This college essay tip is by Dhivya Arumugham, Kaplan Test Prep's director of SAT and ACT programs.

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Personal Statement Examples

The "burying grandma" example college essay.

Written for the Common App college application essays "Tell us your story" prompt. This essay could work for prompts 1 and 7 for the Common App.

They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.

When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself. They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death. However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasn’t trying to comprehend what dying was; I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.

I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance. While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals. And as I began to consider my future, I realized that what I learned in school would allow me to silence that which had silenced my grandmother. However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. I started to believe that academic perfection would be the only way to redeem myself in her eyes--to make up for what I had not done as a granddaughter.  

However, a simple walk on a hiking trail behind my house made me open my own eyes to the truth. Over the years, everything--even honoring my grandmother--had become second to school and grades. As my shoes humbly tapped against the Earth, the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky reminded me of my small though nonetheless significant part in a larger whole that is humankind and this Earth. Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.   

Volunteering at a cancer treatment center has helped me discover my path. When I see patients trapped in not only the hospital but also a moment in time by their diseases, I talk to them. For six hours a day, three times a week, Ivana is surrounded by IV stands, empty walls, and busy nurses that quietly yet constantly remind her of her breast cancer. Her face is pale and tired, yet kind--not unlike my grandmother’s. I need only to smile and say hello to see her brighten up as life returns to her face. Upon our first meeting, she opened up about her two sons, her hometown, and her knitting group--no mention of her disease. Without even standing up, the three of us—Ivana, me, and my grandmother--had taken a walk together.

Cancer, as powerful and invincible as it may seem, is a mere fraction of a person’s life. It’s easy to forget when one’s mind and body are so weak and vulnerable. I want to be there as an oncologist to remind them to take a walk once in a while, to remember that there’s so much more to life than a disease. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without burying my grandmother’s memory.

Tips + Analysis:

Make (Narrative) structure work for you. This essay uses what we call Narrative Structure, which focuses (in roughly equal word count) on a challenge + effects you’ve faced, what you did about it, and what you learned. Quick tip: one common and easy mistake is to spend most of the essay focused on the challenges + effects, but try to keep that to about a third—what your reader is generally more interested in is what you did about that challenge and what you learned/how you’ve grown. For a more complete guide to using Narrative Structure to shape your personal statement, check out that link.

Show insight and growth. This essay does so in a few different ways. One is by recognizing that they were wrong about something / had “done it wrong” (e.g. ...understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV or However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. ). We’re pointing this out because, fairly frequently, students are worried that acknowledging they were wrong in some way will be looked down upon by readers. Put those worries to rest—showing that you’re capable of reflecting, acknowledging your failings or where you were wrong, and growing through your new understanding is a sign of maturity that colleges value. (For more on insight/reflection , check out that link, which is focused on the UC PIQs but its content also applies to personal statements.)

Bring us into your world. You can do so through things like imagery (e.g., the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky ) and through illustrating (or sometimes directly naming) your values and how your experiences have shaped them (e.g., I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans ). A personal statement isn’t simply a list of accomplishments (let your Activities List and Additional Info section do that lifting for you). Instead, it’s about helping a college understand who you are through the values, interests, insights, skills, and qualities you bring to their campus and community.

THE "Laptop Stickers" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

My laptop is like a passport. It is plastered with stickers all over the outside, inside, and bottom. Each sticker is a stamp, representing a place I've been, a passion I've pursued, or community I've belonged to. These stickers make for an untraditional first impression at a meeting or presentation, but it's one I'm proud of. Let me take you on a quick tour:

" We < 3 Design ," bottom left corner. Art has been a constant for me for as long as I can remember. Today my primary engagement with art is through design. I've spent entire weekends designing websites and social media graphics for my companies. Design means more to me than just branding and marketing; it gives me the opportunity to experiment with texture, perspective, and contrast, helping me refine my professional style.

" Common Threads ," bottom right corner. A rectangular black and red sticker displaying the theme of the 2017 TEDxYouth@Austin event. For years I've been interested in the street artists and musicians in downtown Austin who are so unapologetically themselves. As a result, I've become more open-minded and appreciative of unconventional lifestyles. TED gives me the opportunity to help other youth understand new perspectives, by exposing them to the diversity of Austin where culture is created, not just consumed.

Poop emoji , middle right. My 13-year-old brother often sends his messages with the poop emoji 'echo effect,' so whenever I open a new message from him, hundreds of poops elegantly cascade across my screen. He brings out my goofy side, but also helps me think rationally when I am overwhelmed. We don't have the typical "I hate you, don't talk to me" siblinghood (although occasionally it would be nice to get away from him); we're each other's best friends. Or at least he's mine.

" Lol ur not Harry Styles ," upper left corner. Bought in seventh grade and transferred from my old laptop, this sticker is torn but persevering with layers of tape. Despite conveying my fangirl-y infatuation with Harry Styles' boyband, One Direction, for me Styles embodies an artist-activist who uses his privilege for the betterment of society. As a $42K donor to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, a hair donor to the Little Princess Trust, and promoter of LGBTQ+ equality, he has motivated me to be a more public activist instead of internalizing my beliefs.

" Catapult ," middle right. This is the logo of a startup incubator where I launched my first company, Threading Twine. I learned that business can provide others access to fundamental human needs, such as economic empowerment of minorities and education. In my career, I hope to be a corporate advocate for the empowerment of women, creating large-scale impact and deconstructing institutional boundaries that obstruct women from working in high-level positions. Working as a women's rights activist will allow me to engage in creating lasting movements for equality, rather than contributing to a cycle that elevates the stances of wealthy individuals.

" Thank God it's Monday ," sneakily nestled in the upper right corner. Although I attempt to love all my stickers equally (haha), this is one of my favorites. I always want my association with work to be positive.

And there are many others, including the horizontal, yellow stripes of the  Human Rights Campaign ; " The Team ," a sticker from the Model G20 Economics Summit where I collaborated with youth from around the globe; and stickers from " Kode with Klossy ," a community of girls working to promote women's involvement in underrepresented fields.

When my computer dies (hopefully not for another few years), it will be like my passport expiring. It'll be difficult leaving these moments and memories behind, but I probably won't want these stickers in my 20s anyways (except Harry Styles, that's never leaving). My next set of stickers will reveal my next set of aspirations. They hold the key to future paths I will navigate, knowledge I will gain, and connections I will make.

Make (Montage) structure work for you. This essay uses what we call Montage Structure, which uses a “thematic thread” (in this case, laptop stickers ) to connect different, perhaps otherwise seemingly disconnected sides of who a student is. One strength (among many) of this structural approach is that it can allow a student to demonstrate a broad range of values and experiences that have shaped them, which in turn helps a college understand who you are through the values, interests, insights, skills, and qualities you bring to their campus and community. For a more complete guide to using Montage Structure to shape your personal statement, check out that link.

Show (and probably also tell a little). “Show don’t tell” is generally solid writing advice, but for college essays, we’d recommend leaning a bit more toward the “Mostly show but than maybe also tell a little, just to be sure your reader gets it” approach (Though that’s clearly not as catchy a phrase).  So show us your experiences and values through specific moments and details, but also include some language that more directly states those values and what they mean to you, like Working as a women's rights activist will allow me to engage in creating lasting movements for equality, rather than contributing to a cycle that elevates the stances of wealthy individuals .

Get a little vulnerable. Being vulnerable in writing is a great way to help a reader feel closer to you. And it’s useful to keep in mind that there’s actually a pretty great variety of ways to be vulnerable. One nice moment of vulnerability in this essay comes with …in we're each other's best friends. Or at least he's mine —it’s a nice, soft moment in which the author offers up something that could feel a little tender, or maybe scary to share (because hey, acknowledging that you might care about someone more than they care about you can feel that way). 

THE "PUNK ROCK PHILOSOPHER" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

This was written for the Common App college application essays, and works for prompts 1 and 7 (or none of them, because the author is that cool):

I am on Oxford Academy’s Speech and Debate Team, in both the Parliamentary Debate division and the Lincoln-Douglass debate division. I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick. I have accumulated over 300 community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile.

But I am not any of these things. I am not a test score, nor a debater, nor a writer. I am an anti-nihilist punk rockphilosopher. And I became so when I realized three things:

1) That the world is ruled by underwear. There is a variety of underwear for a variety of people. You have your ironed briefs for your businessmen, your soft cottons for the average, and hemp-based underwear for your environmental romantics. But underwear do not only tell us about who we are, they also influence our daily interactions in ways most of us don't even understand. For example, I have a specific pair of underwear that is holey, worn out but surprisingly comfortable. And despite how trivial underwear might be, when I am wearing my favorite pair, I feel as if I am on top of the world. In any case, these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort.

2) When I realized I cannot understand the world. I recently debated at the Orange County Speech League Tournament, within the Parliamentary Division. This specific branch of debate is an hour long, and consists of two parties debating either side of a current political issue. In one particular debate, I was assigned the topic: “Should Nation States eliminate nuclear arms?” It so happened that I was on the negative side and it was my job to convince the judges that countries should continue manufacturing nuclear weapons. During the debate, something strange happened: I realized that we are a special breed of species, that so much effort and resources are invested to ensure mutual destruction. And I felt that this debate in a small college classroom had elucidated something much more profound about the scale of human existence. In any case, I won 1st place at the tournament, but as the crowd cheered when my name was called to stand before an audience of hundreds of other debaters, and I flashed a victorious smile at the cameras, I couldn’t help but imagine that somewhere at that moment a nuclear bomb was being manufactured, adding to an ever-growing stockpile of doom. And that's when I realized that the world was something I will never understand.

3) When I realized I was a punk rocker philosopher. One summer night, my friend took me to an underground hardcore punk rock show. It was inside a small abandoned church. After the show, I met and became a part of this small community. Many were lost and on a constant soul-search, and to my surprise, many, like myself, did not have a blue Mohawk or a nose piercing. Many were just ordinary people discussing Nietzsche, string theory, and governmental ideologies. Many were also artists creating promotional posters and inventive slogans for stickers. They were all people my age who could not afford to be part of a record label and did something extraordinary by playing in these abandoned churches, making their own CDs and making thousands of promotional buttons by hand. I realized then that punk rock is not about music nor is it a guy with a blue Mohawk screaming protests. Punk rock is an attitude, a mindset, and very much a culture. It is an antagonist to the conventional. It means making the best with what you have to contribute to a community. This was when I realized that I was a punk rock philosopher.

The world I come from consists of underwear, nuclear bombs, and punk rockers. And I love this world. My world is inherently complex, mysterious, and anti-nihilist. I am David Phan, somebody who spends his weekends debating in a three piece suit, other days immersed within the punk rock culture, and some days writing opinionated blogs about underwear.

But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.

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The "Grandma's Kimchi" College Essay Example

This essay could work for prompts 1 and 7 for the Common App.

Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.

My grandma’s specialty always dominated the dinner table as kimchi filled every plate. And like my grandma who had always been living with us, it seemed as though the luscious smell of garlic would never leave our home. But even the prided recipe was defenseless against the ravages of Alzheimer’s that inflicted my grandma’s mind.

Dementia slowly fed on her memories until she became as blank as a brand-new notebook. The ritualistic rigor of Saturday mornings came to a pause, and during dinner, the artificial taste of vacuum-packaged factory kimchi only emphasized the absence of the family tradition. I would look at her and ask, “Grandma, what’s my name?” But she would stare back at me with a clueless expression. Within a year of diagnosis, she lived with us like a total stranger.

One day, my mom brought home fresh cabbages and red pepper sauce. She brought out the old silver bowl and poured out the cabbages, smothering them with garlic and salt and pepper. The familiar tangy smell tingled my nose. Gingerly, my grandma stood up from the couch in the living room, and as if lured by the smell, sat by the silver bowl and dug her hands into the spiced cabbages. As her bony hands shredded the green lips, a look of determination grew on her face. Though her withered hands no longer displayed the swiftness and precision they once did, her face showed the aged rigor of a professional. For the first time in years, the smell of garlic filled the air and the rattling of the silver bowl resonated throughout the house.

That night, we ate kimchi. It wasn’t perfect; the cabbages were clumsily cut and the garlic was a little too strong. But kimchi had never tasted better. I still remember my grandma putting a piece in my mouth and saying, “Here, Dong Jin. Try it, my boy.”

Seeing grandma again this summer, that moment of clarity seemed ephemeral. Her disheveled hair and expressionless face told of the aggressive development of her illness.

But holding her hands, looking into her eyes, I could still smell that garlic. The moments of Saturday mornings remain ingrained in my mind. Grandma was an artist who painted the cabbages with strokes of red pepper. Like the sweet taste of kimchi, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words.

A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away.

My grandma used to say: “Tigers leave furs when they die, humans leave their names.” Her legacy was the smell of garlic that lingered around my house. Mine will be these words.

The "Travel and Language" College Essay Example

When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience.

At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.

It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language.

It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. But when I pronounced it PYR–a–mides instead of pyr–A–mides, with more accent on the A, she looked at me bewildered.

In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. Baseball in Spanish, for example, is béisbol, which looks different but sounds nearly the same. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.

Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I loved how long words were formed by combining simpler characters, so Huǒ (火) meaning fire and Shān (山) meaning mountain can be joined to create Huǒshān (火山), which means volcano. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them.

Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon (learning big words), I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world.

But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I’ve connected with people in the most unlikely places, finding a Bulgarian painter to use my few Bulgarian words with in the streets of Paris, striking up a conversation in Spanish with an Indian woman who used to work at the Argentinian embassy in Mumbai, and surprising a library worker by asking her a question in her native Mandarin.

I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life. I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.

I think of my journey as best expressed through a Chinese proverb that my teacher taught me, “I am like a chicken eating at a mountain of rice.” Each grain is another word for me to learn as I strive to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Today, I still  have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.

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The "Dead Bird" Example College Essay Example

This was written for a Common App college application essay prompt that no longer exists, which read: Evaluate a significant experience, risk, achievement, ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

 Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive.

I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me.

The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth. But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood.

Death. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home?

Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. Band-aid? How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain.

But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed. Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet. 

Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible?

Oh. Yes. The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. Apologies. So many apologies. Finally, the body  lowered to rest. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible.

Hugging Mrs. Hsieh, I was a ghost, a statue. My brain and my body competed. Emotion wrestled with fact. Kari Hsieh, aged 17, my friend of four years, had died in the Chatsworth Metrolink Crash on Sep. 12, 2008. Kari was dead, I thought. Dead.

But I could still save the bird.

My frantic actions heightened my senses, mobilized my spirit. Cupping the bird, I ran outside, hoping the cool air outdoors would suture every wound, cause the bird to miraculously fly away. Yet there lay the bird in my hands, still gasping, still dying. Bird, human, human, bird. What was the difference? Both were the same. Mortal.

But couldn't I do something? Hold the bird longer, de-claw the cat? I wanted to go to my bedroom, confine myself to tears, replay my memories, never come out. 

The bird's warmth faded away. Its heartbeat slowed along with its breath. For a long time, I stared thoughtlessly at it, so still in my hands.

Slowly, I dug a small hole in the black earth. As it disappeared under handfuls of dirt, my own heart grew stronger, my own breath more steady.

The wind, the sky, the dampness of the soil on my hands whispered to me, “The bird is dead. Kari has passed. But you are alive.” My breath, my heartbeat, my sweat sighed back, “I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.”

The "I Shot My Brother" College Essay Example

This essay could work for prompts 1, 2 and 7 for the Common App.

From page 54 of the maroon notebook sitting on my mahogany desk:

“Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.” - Genesis 4:13

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.

The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.

“Why can’t you be more like Jon?” my grandmother used to nag, pointing at me with a carrot stick. To me, Jon was just cocky. He would scoff at me when he would beat me in basketball, and when he brought home his painting of Bambi with the teacher’s sticker “Awesome!” on top, he would make several copies of it and showcase them on the refrigerator door. But I retreated to my desk where a pile of “Please draw this again and bring it to me tomorrow” papers lay, desperate for immediate treatment. Later, I even refused to attend the same elementary school and wouldn’t even eat meals with him.

Deep down I knew I had to get the chip off my shoulder. But I didn’t know how.

That is, until March 11th, 2001.

That day around six o’clock, juvenile combatants appeared in Kyung Mountain for their weekly battle, with cheeks smeared in mud and empty BB guns in their hands. The Korean War game was simple: to kill your opponent you had to shout “pow!” before he did. Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began. My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders.

Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.

Hearing us, the alarmed captain turned around: It was my brother.

He saw Min-young’s right arm sticking out from the bush and hurled a “grenade,” (a rock), bruising his arm.

“That’s not fair!” I roared in the loudest and most unrecognizable voice I could manage.

Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. Streams of sweat ran down my face and I pursued him for several minutes until suddenly I was arrested by a small, yellow sign that read in Korean: DO NOT TRESPASS: Boar Traps Ahead. (Two summers ago, my five year old cousin, who insisted on joining the ranks, had wandered off-course during the battle; we found him at the bottom of a 20 ft deep pit with a deep gash in his forehead and shirt soaked in blood) “Hey, stop!” I shouted, heart pounding. “STOP!” My mind froze. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do?

I looked on as my shivering hand reached for the canister of BBs. The next second, I heard two shots followed by a cry. I opened my eyes just enough to see two village men carrying my brother away from the warning sign. I turned around, hurled my BB gun into the nearby Kyung Creek and ran home as fast as I could.

Days passed. My brother and I did not talk about the incident.

‘Maybe he knew it was me,’ I thought in fear as I tried to eavesdrop on his conversation with grandpa one day. When the door suddenly opened, I blurted, “Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said pushing past me, “Just a rough sleep.”

But in the next few weeks, something was happening inside me.

All the jealousy and anger I’d once felt had been replaced by a new feeling: guilt.

That night when my brother was gone I went to a local store and bought a piece of chocolate taffy, his favorite. I returned home and placed it on my brother’s bed with a note attached: “Love, Grandma.”

Several days later, I secretly went into his room and folded his unkempt pajamas.

Then, other things began to change. We began sharing clothes (something we had never done), started watching Pokémon episodes together, and then, on his ninth birthday, I did something with Jon that I hadn’t done in six years: I ate dinner with him. I even ate fishcakes, which he loved but I hated. And I didn’t complain.

Today, my brother is one of my closest friends. Every week I accompany him to Carlson Hospital where he receives treatment for his obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. While in the waiting room, we play a noisy game of Zenga, comment on the Lakers’ performance or listen to the radio on the registrar’s desk.

Then, the door to the doctor’s office opens.

“Jonathan Lee, please come in.”

I tap his shoulder and whisper, “Rock it, bro.”

After he leaves, I take out my notebook and begin writing where I left off.

Beside me, the receptionist’s fingers hover over the radio in search of a new station, eventually settling on one. I hear LeAnn Rimes singing “Amazing Grace.” Her voice slowly rises over the noise of the bustling room.

“’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved...”

Smiling, I open Jon’s Jansport backpack and neatly place this essay inside and a chocolate taffy with a note attached.

Twenty minutes have passed when the door abruptly opens.

“Guess what the doctor just said?” my brother cries, unable to hide his exhilaration.

I look up and I smile too.

For analysis of what makes this essay amazing , go here.

The "Porcelain God" College Essay Example

Essay written for the "topic of your choice" prompt for the 2012 Common Application college application essays.

Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning.

Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup. My mom had specifically asked the waitress if there were peanuts in it, because when I was two we found out that I am deathly allergic to them. When the waitress replied no, I went for it. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.

At five years old, I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. All I knew was that I felt sick, and I was waiting for my mom to give me something to make it better. I thought my parents were superheroes; surely they would be able to make well again. But I became scared when I heard the fear in their voices as they rushed me to the ER.

After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.

In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens. This past summer, I took a month-long course on human immunology at Stanford University. I learned about the different mechanisms and cells that our bodies use in order to fight off pathogens. My desire to major in biology in college has been stimulated by my fascination with the human body, its processes, and the desire to find a way to help people with allergies. I hope that one day I can find a way to stop allergic reactions or at least lessen the symptoms, so that children and adults don’t have to feel the same fear and bitterness that I felt.

To find out if your essay passes the Great College Essay Test like this one did, go here .

The "Five Families" College Essay Example

This essay could work for prompts 1, 2, 5 and 7 for the Common App.

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

ANALYSIS OF THE "FIVE FAMILIES" ESSAY

Remember that movie “The Sixth Sense”?

I won't ruin it for you, but I will tell you that there’s a moment toward the end when a crucial piece of information is revealed that triggers in the mind of the audience a series of realizations that have been leading up to this Big Revelation.

That’s kind of what this writer does: he buries a series of hints (one in each paragraph) that he “explodes” in the final paragraph. In short:

He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs (one per family).

He doesn’t tell us what they mean until the end of the essay, when he writes “I learned and was shaped by each of them.” Note that each essence image is actually a lesson--something he learned from each family.

When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. We realize this writer has been carefully constructing this piece all along; we see the underlying structure. And it’s a pretty neat one.

Each of the first five paragraphs works to SHOW . (He waits to TELL us what they mean ‘til that second to last paragraph.)

See how distinct each family is? He does this through specific images and objects.

The second to last paragraph answers the “So what?” question. (Q: Why did he just show us all these details? A: To demonstrate what each family has taught him.)

He also goes one step further. He answers the “So what?” question once more in the final paragraph. (Q: So what am I going to do with all these lessons? A: I’m going to use them to adapt to my next family--in college.)

The beauty of this is that he’s demonstrating (showing not telling) that he has an extremely valuable quality that will be useful for doing well at any college: adaptability.

TIP: And that’s one more way to write your essay . Identify your single greatest strength (in this case, it was his ability to adapt to whatever life gave him). Ask: how did I learn this? How can I SHOW that I’m good at this?

Here are all the “Show” and “Tell” moments clearly marked:

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words.  He was my first friend in the New World.

Show 1: "By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone."

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together.  On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

Show 2: "the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family" (implication: he doesn't have this with his own family)

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted.  The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor,  right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

Show 3: "the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children."

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son.  She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency.  The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest.  However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

Show 4: "Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline."

The Dirksen family had three kids.  They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games.  Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Show 5: "and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities."

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them.  By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

The "Tell" / "So What":

THE "FOOD" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “I Love/I Know” Type

I’ve spent most of my life as an anti-vegetable carboholic.  For years, processed snack foods ruled the kitchen kingdom of my household and animal products outnumbered plant-based offerings. 

My transformation began with my mom’s cancer diagnosis. My mom went on a 100% whole food plant-based diet. I fully embraced this new eating philosophy to show my support. Eager to figure out the whole “vegan” thing, the two of us started binge-watching health documentaries such as “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives”. We read all the books by the featured doctors like “The China Study” and “How Not To Die”. I became entranced by the world of nutritional science and how certain foods could help prevent cancer or boost metabolism. 

Each new food I discovered gave me an education on the role diet plays on health. I learned that, by eating sweet potatoes and brown rice, you could cure acne and heart disease. I discovered eating leafy greens with citrus fruits could boost iron absorption rates. I loved pairing my foods to create the perfect macronutrient balance. Did you know beans and rice make a complete protein? 

Food has also turned me into a sustainability nut. Living plant-based also saves the planet from the impact of animal agriculture. For the same amount of land space, a farmer can produce 200 kilograms of soybeans versus 16 kilograms of beef. I do my part to have as small of an ecological footprint as I can. I stopped using plastic snack bags and instead turned to reusable beeswax wraps. My favorite reusable appliance is my foldable straw. If I am going to nourish my body, shouldn’t I also want to nourish the earth? 

My journey toward healthy living led me to becoming co-leader of the Northern Nevada PlantPure Pod, “Biggest Little Plant Pod”, a group dedicated to spreading the message about the whole food plant-based lifestyle. We are currently working on a restaurant campaign to encourage local eateries to create a plant-based, oil-free menu option and become PlantPure certified. After discovering how many restaurants use oil in their cooking, I decided I needed to open a plant-based oil free cafe to make up for this gap. My dream is to open up my very own affordable oatmeal cafe based on my Instagram page, morning_mOATivations. And I know that oatmeal isn’t the sexiest superfood out there, so here’s my sales pitch: I’m going to make oatmeal the Beyonce of the breakfast world- sweet, sassy, and power packed. This allows me to educate people about nutritional science through the stomach. 

Finally, I am a strong proponent of hands-on experience for learning what good food looks and tastes like, so cooking is one of my favorite ways to teach the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. Using my taste buds as my textbook to learn which flavors work together and which ones don’t helps me educate, as I’ve found that information tends to stick in a person’s mind once they’ve experienced healthy, delicious foods with their own senses. Our society has taught us that delicious food has to make us feel guilty, when that is simply not the case. The best feeling in the world is falling in love with a dish and then learning all the health benefits that it provides the body.

While my classmates complain about being tired, I have more energy because my body is finally getting the right macros, vitamins, and minerals it needs. This has allowed me to push myself harder physically, excelling in running and earning my high school Cross Country team’s Most Improved award. I’m still a picky eater. But the foods I am particular about have changed. Rather than a carboholic, I choose to call myself a vegeholic.

THE "HAPPINESS SPREADSHEET" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Essence Object” Type

Meditation over a flaxen sunset with a friend and parmesan-topped spaghetti for dinner — “14.” Assignments piling up on my desk as a high fever keeps me sick at home — “3.” Taking a photo excursion through downtown Seattle for a Spanish project — “15.” For the past 700 days and counting, the Happiness Spreadsheet has been my digital collection for documenting numerical, descriptive, and graphical representations of my happiness. Its instructions are simple: Open the Google Sheet, enter a number between 1 and 20 that best represents my level of happiness, and write a short comment describing the day. But the practical aspect of the spreadsheet is only a piece of what it has represented in my life.

A “14” etched on November 15, 2018, marked the first Lakeside Cooking on the Stove Club meeting. What had started as a farcical proposition of mine transformed into a playground where high school classmates and I convene every two weeks to prepare a savory afternoon snack for ourselves. A few months later, a “16” scribbled on February 27, 2019, marked the completion of a fence my Spanish class and I constructed for the dusty soccer field at a small Colombian village. Hard-fought days of mixing cement and transporting supplies had paid off for the affectionate community we had immediately come to love. The Happiness Spreadsheet doesn’t only reflect my own thoughts and emotions; it is an illustration of the fulfillment I get from gifting happiness to others.

If happiness paves the roads of my life, my family is the city intertwined by those roads — each member a distinct neighborhood, a distinct story. In times of stress, whether it be studying for an upcoming derivatives test or presenting my research at an international conference, I dash to my father for help. Coming from the dusty, people-packed backstreets of Thiruvananthapuram, India, he guides me in looking past the chaos and noticing the hidden accomplishments that lie in the corners. When in need of confidence, I find my mother, who taps her experiences living in her tranquil and sturdy tatami-covered home in Hiroshima, Japan, helping me prepare for my first high school dance or my final match in a tennis tournament. Whenever my Happiness Spreadsheet numbers touch lows, my family is always there to level me out to “10.”

The Happiness Spreadsheet is also a battery monitor for enthusiasm. On occasion, it is on full charge, like when I touched the last chord on the piano for my composition's winner recital or when, one frosty Friday morning, I convinced a teacher to play over the school speakers a holiday medley I’d recorded with a friend. Other times, the battery is depleted, and I am frustrated by writer's block, when not a single melody, chord, or musical construct crosses my mind. The Happiness Spreadsheet can be a hall of fame, but it can likewise be a catalog of mistakes, burdens, and grueling challenges.

The spreadsheet began on a typical school day when I left my physics class following the most confusing test I’d taken. The idea was born spontaneously at lunch, and I asked two of my friends if they were interested in pursuing this exercise with me. We thought the practice would last only a couple of weeks or months at most, but after reaching 700 days, we now wonder if we’ll ever stop. To this day, I ponder its full importance in my life. With every new number I enter, I recognize that each entry is not what defines me; rather, it is the ever-growing line connecting all the data points that reflects who I am today. With every valley, I force myself onward and with every mountain's peak, I recognize the valleys I’ve crossed to reach the summit. Where will the Happiness Spreadsheet take me next?

THE "TRANSLATING" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Skill/Superpower” Type

".miK ijniM" This is how I wrote my name until I was seven . I was a left-handed kid who wrote from right to left, which made my writing comprehensible only to myself. Only after years of practice did I become an ambidextrous writer who could translate my incomprehensible writing. As I look back on my life, I realized that this was my first act of translation. 

Translation means reinterpreting my Calculus teacher’s description of L’hospital’s rule into a useful tool for solving the limits . As I deciphered complex codes into comprehensible languages like rate of change and speed of an object, I gained the ability to solve even more complicated and fascinating problems. My Calculus teacher often told me, “It’s not until you can teach math concepts to somebody that you understand them completely.” Before I discovered the joy of teaching, I often explained difficult math concepts to my friends as a tool for reviewing what I’d learned. Now, I volunteer to tutor others: as a Korean tutor for friends who love Korean culture and a golf tutor for new team members. Tutoring is how I integrate and strengthen new concepts for myself.  

My talent for translating also applies to my role as a “therapist” for my family and friends . I’m able to identify their real feelings beneath superficial words by translating hand-gestures, facial expressions, and tones. I often put myself into their situation and ask, "What emotional support would I want or need if I was in this situation?" Through these acts of translation, I’ve grown into a more reliable and perceptive friend, daughter, and sister. 

However, my translation can't accurately account for the experiences I have yet to go through . After realizing the limitations of my experience, I created a bucket list full of activities out of my comfort zone, which includes traveling abroad by myself, publishing my own book, and giving a lecture in front of a crowd. Although it is a mere list written on the front page of my diary, I found myself vividly planning and picturing myself accomplishing those moments. By widening my experiences, I’ll be a therapist who can empathize fully and give meaningful advice based on rich experiences.

My knack for translating has led me to become a real-life Korean language translator . As an English to Korean letter translator in a non-profit organization, Compassion , I serve as a communication bridge between benefactors and children in developing countries, who communicate through monthly letters. I’ve translated hundreds of letters by researching each country to provide context that considers both cultural aspects and nuances of the language. This experience has motivated me to learn languages like Spanish and Mandarin. I’ve realized that learning various languages has been a journey of self-discovery: the way I talk and interact with people changed depending on the language I used. As I get to know more about myself through different languages, I grew more confident to meet new people and build new friendships.

While translating has been a huge part of my life, a professional translator is not my dream job . I want to be an ambulatory care clinical pharmacist who manages the medication of patients with chronic diseases. In fact, translating is a huge part of the job of a clinical pharmacist. I should substitute myself into patients’ situations to respond to their needs effectively, which requires my translating skill as a “therapist.” Moreover, as a clinical pharmacist, I’ll be the patients’ private tutor who not only guides them through the right use of medication but also gives them emotional support. As my qualities as a “therapist” and a “tutor” shaped me into a great translator, I will continue to develop my future as a clinical pharmacist by enhancing and discovering my qualities. In one form or another, I've always been and will be a translator.

THE "WHY BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Career” Type

I sit, cradled by the two largest branches of the Newton Pippin Tree, watching the ether. The Green Mountains of Vermont stretch out indefinitely, and from my elevated vantage point, I feel as though we are peers, motionless in solidarity. I’ve lost my corporeal form and instead, while watching invisible currents drive white leviathans across the sky, have drifted up into the epistemological stream; completely alone with my questions, diving for answers. But a few months ago, I would have considered this an utter waste of time. 

Prior to attending Mountain School, my paradigm was substantially limited; opinions, prejudices, and ideas shaped by the testosterone-rich environment of Landon School. I was herded by result-oriented, fast-paced, technologically-reliant parameters towards psychology and neuroscience (the NIH, a mere 2.11 mile run from my school, is like a beacon on a hill). I was taught that one’s paramount accomplishment should be specialization. 

Subconsciously I knew this was not who I wanted to be and seized the chance to apply to the Mountain School. Upon my arrival, though, I immediately felt I did not belong. I found the general atmosphere of hunky-dory acceptance foreign and incredibly unnerving. 

So, rather than engage, I retreated to what was most comfortable: sports and work. In the second week, the perfect aggregate of the two, a Broomball tournament, was set to occur. Though I had never played before, I had a distinct vision for it, so decided to organize it.

That night, the glow-in-the-dark ball skittered across the ice. My opponent and I, brooms in hand, charged forward. We collided and I banana-peeled, my head taking the brunt of the impact. Stubborn as I was, even with a concussion, I wanted to remain in class and do everything my peers did, but my healing brain protested. My teachers didn’t quite know what to do with me, so, no longer confined to a classroom if I didn’t want to be, I was in limbo. I began wandering around campus with no company except my thoughts. Occasionally, Zora, my English teacher’s dog, would tag along and we’d walk for miles in each other's silent company. Other times, I found myself pruning the orchard, feeding the school’s wood furnaces, or my new favorite activity, splitting wood. Throughout those days, I created a new-found sense of home in my head.

However, thinking on my own wasn’t enough; I needed more perspectives. I organized raucous late-night discussions about everything from medieval war machines to political theory and  randomly challenged my friends to “say something outrageous and defend it.” And whether we achieve profundity or not, I find myself enjoying the act of discourse itself. As Thoreau writes, “Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves, the waves may cast up pearls.” I have always loved ideas, but now understand what it means to ride their waves, to let them breathe and become something other than just answers to immediate problems. 

I am most enamored by ideas that cultivate ingenious and practical enrichments for humanity. I enjoy picking some conundrum, large or small, and puzzling out a solution. Returning from a cross country meet recently, my friend and I, serendipitously, designed a socially responsible disposable water bottle completely on accident. Now we hope to create it.

I am still interested in psychology and neuroscience, but also desire to incorporate contemplative thought into this work, analyzing enigmas from many different perspectives. My internships at the NIH and the National Hospital for Neuroscience and Neurosurgery in London have offered me valuable exposure to research and medicine. But I have come to realize that neither of my previous intended professions allow me to expand consciousness in the way I would prefer. 

After much soul-searching, I have landed on behavioral economics as the perfect synergy of the fields I love. All it took was a knock on the head.

THE "5 FAMILY IDENTITIES" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage, “Identity” Type

“Chris, what would you like to have for Christmas Dinner? ”

Suddenly, a miniature gathering of the European Commission glares straight at me. I feel the pressure of picking one option over the other.

 What do I choose? The Roast Duck of Denmark, the Five Fish of Italy, the Turkey of Great Britain, or the Ham of the U.S.? Like the various nations of the European Union, the individual proponents of these culinary varieties are lobbying their interests to me, a miniature Jean-Claude Junker.

Now, you may be asking yourselves: why would I be so pensive over a meal choice?

See, I have been blessed to be a part of what my mother calls the “melting pot of Europe.”  While I was born in England, my brothers were born in Denmark and New York. I have a Swedish sister-in-law, Italian Aunts, an English Uncle, Romanian cousins and an Italo-Danish immigrant father. Every year, that same family gathers together in New York City to celebrate Christmas. While this wonderful kaleidoscope of cultures has caused me to be the ‘peacekeeper’ during meal arbitrations, it has fundamentally impacted my life.  

Our family’s ethnic diversity has meant that virtually each person adheres to a different position on the political spectrum. This has naturally triggered many discussions, ranging from the merits of European single-payer healthcare to those of America’s gun laws, that have often animated our meals. These exact conversations drove me to learn more about what my parents, grandparents, and other relatives were debating with a polite and considerate passion. This ongoing discourse on current events not only initiated my interests in politics and history, but also prepared me greatly for my time as a state-champion debater for Regis’s Public Forum team. In turn, participating in debate has expanded my knowledge regarding matters ranging from civil rights reparations to American redeployment in Iraq, while enriching my capacities to thoughtfully express my views on those and other issues, both during P.F. rounds and at the dinner table.

Just as I’ve learned to understand and bridge the divides between a rich tapestry of cultures in order to develop my familial relations, society’s leadership must also do the same on a grander scale. This awareness incited a passion for statecraft within me – the very art of balancing different perspectives - and therefore a desire to actively engage in government. With my experiences in mind, I felt there was no better place to start than my own neighborhood of Bay Ridge. Young hipsters, a high concentration of seniors, Italian & Irish middle class families, and a growing population of Middle-Eastern Americans help to comprise a district that I have begun serving as the first teenaged member of my local Community Board.  Within my public service capacity, I am committed to making policy judgments (for example, regarding hookah bars, zoning regulations, and park renovation expenses) that are both wise and respectful of my community’s diversity. 

Most importantly, my family has taught me an integral life lesson. As our Christmas Dinner squabbles suggest, seemingly insurmountable impasses can be resolved through respect and dialogue, even producing delicious results! On a grander scale, it has elucidated that truly inclusive discourse and toleration of diverse perspectives render tribalism, sectarianism, and the  divisive aspects of identity politics powerless over our cohesion. I fundamentally value cultural, political, and theological variety; my own microcosm reflecting our global society at large has inspired me to strive to solve the many conflicts of bitterness and sectionalism in our world today. This vocation may come in the form of political leadership that truly respects all perspectives and philosophies, or perhaps as diplomacy facilitating unity between the various nations of the world. The problems I would need to help remedy are numerous and daunting, but our annual Christmas feasts will forever remind me that they can be overcome, and that humanity’s diversity is not a weakness, but a definitive strength.

THE "Coffeeshops + Coffee" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Home” Type

Before I came to America, I drank Puer Tea with my father every morning in my bedroom, sitting cross-legged on Suzhou-silk mats beside a view of the Lakeside reservoir. Beside a dark end table, we picked up teacups as the mild aroma greeted our noses. As we faced the French window, my father would share the news he read in China Daily : the Syrian civil war, climate change, and gender equality in Hollywood. Most of the time, I only listened. With each piece of news, my curiosity piqued. Secretly, I made a decision that I wanted to be the one to discuss the news with him from my perspective. So, I decided to study in America to learn more about the world.   

After one year’s extensive research and hours of interviews, I came to America for 9th grade and moved in with a host family. But, my new room lacked stories and cups of tea. Fortunately, I found Blue House Cafe on my walk home from church, and started studying there. With white walls, comfortable sofas, and high stools, Blue House is spacious and bright. Hearing people’s stories and looking at their warm smiles when they taste various pastries as I sat by the window, I watched as a production designer scouted locations for his film, or a painter took notes while brainstorming for his freehand brushwork of Blue House. With a cup of coffee, I dig into differential and parametric equations for my upcoming AP Calculus test, learn the nuances of public speaking by watching Michael Sandel’s Justice lectures on my laptop, and plan fundraising events for my non-profit. 

I’ve also learned by watching leaders host meetings at the rectangle conference table at the back of the cafe and I learn from the leaders of meetings, watching as they hold the edge of the table and express their ideas. Similarly, as president of the International Students Club, I invited my teammates to have meetings with me at the cafe. Coordinating the schedule with other members in Blue House has become a frequent event. Consuming several cups of coffee, my team and I have planned Lunar New Year events, field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, and Chinese lunch in school to help international students feel more at home. Straightening my back and bracing my shoulders, I stood up behind the conference table and expressed my creative ideas passionately. After each meeting, we shared buttermilk coffee-cake.

In my spot next to the window, I also witnessed different kinds of people. I viewed visitors dragging their luggage, women carrying shopping bags, and people wandering in tattered clothes --the diversity of San Francisco. Two years ago I saw volunteers wearing City Impact shirts offering sandwiches and hot chocolate to homeless people outside of the cafe. I investigated more about City Impact and eventually signed up to volunteer. No longer was I a bystander. At holiday outreach events, I prepared and delivered food to homeless people. While sharing my coffee, I listened to a story from an older Chinese man who told me, in Mandarin, how he had been abandoned by his children and felt lonely.

Last summer, I returned to Xiamen, China, and taught my father how to drink coffee. Now, a Chemex and teapot are both on the end table. Instead of simply listening, I shared my experiences as a club president, a community leader, and a volunteer. I showed him my business plan and prototypes. My father raised his cup of coffee and made a toast to me, “Good girl! I am so proud of you.” Then, he patted my head as before. Together, we emptied our cups while the smell of coffee lingered.

THE "KOMBUCHA CLUB" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Uncommon Extracurricular Activity” Type

I add the critically measured sugary tea mixture to the gallon jar containing the slimy, white, disc-shaped layers of the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Now to wait.  

After exactly seven days, I pour the liquid into a fermentation-grade glass bottle with a ratio of 20% pomegranate juice and 80% fermented tea. I place it on my kitchen counter, periodically checking it to relieve the built-up CO2.

Finally, after an additional seventy-two hours, the time comes to try it. I crack the seal on the bottle, leaning over to smell what I assume will be a tangy, fruity, delicious pomegranate solution. and it smells like rotten eggs. The insufferable stench fills my nostrils and crushes my confidence. I'm momentarily taken aback, unable to understand how I went wrong when I followed the recipe perfectly. 

My issue wasn't misreading the recipe or failing to follow a rule, it was bypassing my creative instincts and forgetting the unpredictable nature of fermentation. I needed to trust the creative side of kombucha— the side that takes people's perfectionist energy and explodes it into a puddle of rotten egg smelling 'booch (my preferred name for the drink- not "fermented, effervescent liquid from a symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria and yeast"). I was too caught up in the side that requires extreme preciseness to notice when the balance between perfectionism and imperfectionism was being thrown off. The key, I have learned, is knowing when to prioritize following the recipe and when to let myself be creative. Sure, there are scientific variables such as proximity to heat sources and how many grams of sugar to add. But, there's also person-dependent variables like how long I decide to ferment it, what fruits I decide will be a fun combination, and which friend I got my first SCOBY from (taking "symbiotic" to a new level).

I often find myself feeling pressured to choose one side or the other, one extreme over the alternative. I've been told that I can either be a meticulous scientist or a messy artist, but to be both is an unacceptable contradiction. However, I choose a grey area; a place where I can channel my creativity into the sciences, as well as channel my precision into my photography.

I still have the first photo I ever took on the first camera I ever had. Or rather, the first camera I ever made. Making that pinhole camera was truly a painstaking process: take a cardboard box, tap it shut, and poke a hole in it. Okay, maybe it wasn't that hard. But learning the exact process of taking and developing a photo in its simplest form, the science of it, is what drove me to pursue photography. I remember being so unhappy with the photo I took; it was faded, underexposed, and imperfect. For years, I felt incredibly pressured to try and perfect my photography. It wasn't until I was defeated, staring at a puddle of kombucha, that I realized that there doesn't always have to be a standard of perfection in my art, and that excited me. 

So, am I a perfectionist? Or do I crave pure spontaneity and creativity? Can I be both?

Perfectionism leaves little to be missed. With a keen eye, I can quickly identify my mistakes and transform them into something with purpose and definitude. On the other hand, imperfection is the basis for change and for growth. My resistance against perfectionism is what has allowed me to learn to move forward by seeing the big picture; it has opened me to new experiences, like bacteria cross-culturing to create something new, something different, something better. I am not afraid of change or adversity, though perhaps I am afraid of conformity. To fit the mold of perfection would compromise my creativity, and I am not willing to make that sacrifice.

THE "MOMENTS WHERE THE SECONDS STAND STILL" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Other/Advanced” type

I hold onto my time as dearly as my Scottish granny holds onto her money. I’m careful about how I spend it and fearful of wasting it. Precious minutes can show someone I care and can mean the difference between accomplishing a goal or being too late to even start and my life depends on carefully budgeting my time for studying, practicing with my show choir, and hanging out with my friends. However, there are moments where the seconds stand still.

It is already dark when I park in my driveway after a long day at school and rehearsals. I can’t help but smile when I see my dog Kona bounce with excitement, then slide across the tile floor to welcome me as I open the door. I run with him into my parent’s bedroom, where my mom, dad, and sister are waiting for me. We pile onto my parents’ bed to talk about what’s going on in our lives, plan our next trip to the beach, tell jokes, and “spill tea.” They help me see challenges with a realistic perspective, grounding me in what matters. Not paying attention to the clock, I allow myself to relax for a brief moment in my busy life.

Laughter fills the show choir room as my teammates and I pass the time by telling bad jokes and breaking out in random bursts of movement. Overtired, we don’t even realize we’re entering the fourth hour of rehearsal. This same sense of camaraderie follows us onstage, where we become so invested in the story we are portraying we lose track of time. My show choir is my second family. I realize I choreograph not for recognition, but to help sixty of my best friends find their footing. At the same time, they help me find my voice.

The heavy scuba gear jerks me under the icy water, and exhilaration washes over me. Lost in the meditative rolling effect of the tide and the hum of the vast ocean, I feel present. I dive deeper to inspect a vibrant community of creatures, and we float together, carefree and synchronized. My fascination with marine life led me to volunteer as an exhibit interpreter for the Aquarium of the Pacific, where I share my love for the ocean. Most of my time is spent rescuing animals from small children and, in turn, keeping small children from drowning in the tanks. I’ll never forget the time when a visiting family and I were so involved in discussing ocean conservation that, before I knew it, an hour had passed. Finding this mutual connection over the love of marine life and the desire to conserve the ocean environment keeps me returning each summer. 

“Why don’t we have any medical supplies?” The thought screams through my mind as I carry a sobbing girl on my back across campus in search of an ice pack and ankle wrap. She had just fallen while performing, and I could relate to the pain and fear in her eyes. The chaos of the show becomes distant, and I devote my time to bringing her relief, no matter how long it may take. I find what I need to treat her injury in the sports medicine training room. I didn’t realize she would be the first of many patients I would tend to in this training room. Since then, I’ve launched a sports medicine program to provide care to the 500-person choir program.  

Saturday morning bagels with my family. Singing backup for Barry Manilow with my choir. Swimming with sea turtles in the Pacific. Making my teammate smile even though he’s in pain. These are the moments I hold onto, the ones that define who I am, and who I want to be. For me, time isn’t just seconds ticking by on a clock, it’s how I measure what matters.

THE "IDENTIFYING AS TRANS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay, “Challenges” Type

“Mommy I can’t see myself.”  

I was six when I first refused/rejected girl’s clothing, eight when I only wore boy’s clothing, and fifteen when I realized why. When gifted dresses I was told to “smile and say thank you” while Spiderman shirts took no prompting from me, I’d throw my arms around the giver and thank them. My whole life has been others invading my gender with their questions, tears signed by my body, and a war against my closet. Fifteen years and I finally realized why, this was a girl’s body, and I am a boy. 

Soon after this, I came out to my mom. I explained how lost I felt, how confused I was, how “I think I’m Transgender.” It was like all those years of being out of place had led to that moment, my truth, the realization of who I was. My mom cried and said she loved me. 

The most important factor in my transition was my mom’s support. She scheduled me an appointment with a gender therapist, let me donate my female clothes, and helped build a masculine wardrobe. With her help, I went on hormones five months after coming out and got surgery a year later. I finally found myself, and my mom fought for me, her love was endless. Even though I had friends, writing, and therapy, my strongest support was my mother.

On August 30th, 2018 my mom passed away unexpectedly. My favorite person, the one who helped me become the man I am today, ripped away from me, leaving a giant hole in my heart and in my life.

Life got dull. Learning how to wake up without my mom every morning became routine. Nothing felt right, a constant numbness to everything, and fog brain was my kryptonite. I paid attention in class, I did the work, but nothing stuck. I felt so stupid, I knew I was capable, I could solve a Rubik’s cube in 25 seconds and write poetry, but I felt broken. I was lost, I couldn’t see myself, so stuck on my mother that I fell into an ‘It will never get better’ mindset.

It took over a year to get out of my slump. 25 therapy sessions, over 40 poems, not a single one didn’t mention my mom. I shared my writing at open mics, with friends, and I cried every time. I embraced the pain, the hurt, and eventually, it became the norm. I grew used to not having my mom around.

My mom always wanted to change the world, to fix the broken parts of society. She didn’t get to. Now that I’m in a good place, mentally and physically, I’m going to make that impact. Not just for her, but for me, and all the people who need a support branch as strong as the one my mom gave me.

I’m starting with whats impacted me most of my life, what’s still in front of me, being Transgender in the school system. For my senior project, I am using my story and experience as a young Transgender man to inform local schools, specifically the staff, about the do’s and dont’s of dealing with a Transgender student. I am determined to make sure no one feels as alone as I did. I want to be able to reach people, and use motivational speaking as the platform. 

After experiencing many twists and turns in my life, I’m finally at a good spot. I know what I want to do with my life, and I know how I’m going to get there. 

Mom, I can see myself now. Thank you.

If you’d like to see more sample essays + a guide to “ Should I come out in my personal statement (and if so, how?) ” please check out that link.

THE "iTaylor" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay, Undefined Type

Are you tired of seeing an iPhone everywhere? Samsung glitchy? It’s time for a change. I present to you, the iTaylor. I am the iTaylor. On the outside, I look like any smart phone, but when you open my settings and explore my abilities, you will find I have many unique features.

The iTaylor’s best feature is its built-in optimism. Thanks to my positivity, I was chosen to give the morning announcements freshman year. Now, I am the alarm clock for the 1,428 students of Fox Lane High School. For the past three years, I have been starting everyone’s morning with a bubbly, “Good morning, foxes!” and ending with “Have a marvelous Monday,” “Terrific Tuesday” or “Phenomenal Friday!”  My adjective-a-day keeps people listening, gives me conversation starters with faculty, and solicits fun suggestions from my friends.

Next up, language settings. I’ve worked hard to be bilingual so the iTaylor can be set to either English or Spanish. Fun fact: In middle school, I set my phone to Spanish so that messages like “ Alexis te envió un mensaje en Instagram ,” would increase my fluency. I learned nuances of the language by watching Spanish sitcoms like Siete Vidas and Spanish movies like Como Agua Para Chocolate . I appreciate the emphasis Spanish culture places on relationships, the way siblings take care of each other, and how grandparents’ wisdom is valued. Inspired, I began creating family events and even making efforts to grow closer to my second cousins.

At eight years old, I was diagnosed with what some might call a glitch: epilepsy. Fortunately, a new IOS software update cured my condition by the age of 15, but through epilepsy, I gained a love of exploration. Whereas at 10, I couldn’t bathe without supervision, I now enjoy snorkeling in unknown waters. While at 11, I couldn’t be left alone with my friends, I now explore the subways, crowded streets, and Broadway shows of New York City. Overcoming epilepsy taught me to take risks and explore new places.

This brings us to the iTaylor location settings. Two summers ago, I travelled to Ecuador to live with a friend’s family and teach Spanish theater to third graders. The experience implanted a “cookie” in me, filling me with a desire to learn about different cultures. I brought this desire home to a volunteer position at a local program for immigrant children. I helped the kids make presentations about their places of origin, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Also, as resident tour guide and ambassador for exchange students at my school, I’ve discovered North African fusion music from Selima, learned German slang from Henrike, and helped Saidimar prepare his Mr.Sulu campaign, a regional pageant in the Philippines. It became clear that the English language, one I took for granted, is the central feature that brings groups together.

This past summer, I brought my talents to Scotland, playing the dual role of  Artistic Director and leading character for Geek the Musical . I worked to promote the show in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival against 53,232 shows, reinventing ways to motivate the cast and connect with strangers from all over the world. We learned the more we connected, the more our audience grew. I applied these skills to my leadership positions at home, including my High School Theater Group, Players. I’m now better at creating a marketing strategy that includes door-to-door sales, print advertising, and identifying broader target audiences to fill seats.

The rollout plan for the iTaylor is to introduce it to the theater market. My goal is to use performance and storytelling to expose audiences to different cultures, religions, and points of view. Perhaps if we all learned more about each other's lifestyles, the world would be more empathetic and integrated. 

So what do you think? Would you like an iTaylor of your own? The iTaylor College Edition is now available for pre-order. It delivers next fall.

THE "FIGURING OUT WHAT REALLY MATTERED CHALLENGE" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay

"Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air." --Ivan Pavlov 

Upon graduation, I will be able to analyze medieval Spanish poems using literary terms and cultural context, describe the electronegativity trends on the periodic table, and identify when to use logarithmic differentiation to simplify a derivative problem. Despite knowing how to execute these very particular tasks, I currently fail to understand how to change a tire, how to do my taxes efficiently, or how to obtain a good insurance policy. A factory-model school system that has been left essentially unchanged for nearly a century has been the driving force in my educational development.

I have been conditioned to complete tasks quickly, efficiently, and with an advanced understanding. I measured my self-worth as my ability to outdo my peers academically, thinking my scores were the only aspect that defined me; and they were. I was getting everything right. Then, I ran for Student Government and failed. Rejection. I didn’t even make it past the first round of cuts. How could that be? I was statistically a smart kid with a good head on my shoulders, right? Surely someone had to have made a mistake. Little did I know, this was my first exposure to meaning beyond numbers.

As I was rejected from StuGo for the second year in a row, I discovered I had been wrongfully measuring my life through numbers--my football statistics, my test scores, my age, my height (I’m short). I had the epiphany that oh wait, maybe it was my fault that I had never prioritized communication skills, or open-mindedness (qualities my fellow candidates possessed). Maybe it was me. That must be why I always had to be the one to approach people during my volunteer hours at the public library to offer help--no one ever asked me for it. I resolved to alter my mindset, taking a new approach to the way I lived. From now on I would emphasize qualitative experiences over quantitative skills. 

I had never been more uncomfortable. I forced myself to learn to be vulnerable by asking questions even if I was terrified of being wrong. My proficiency in using data evidence could not teach me how to communicate with young children at church, nor could my test scores show me how to be more open to criticism. The key to all of these skills, I was to discover, happened to be learning from those around me. Turns out, I couldn’t do everything by myself.

The process of achieving this new mindset came through the cultivation of relationships. I became fascinated by the new perspectives each person in my life could offer if I really took the time to connect. Not only did I improve my listening skills, but I began to consider the big-picture consequences my engagements could have. People interpret situations differently due to their own cultural contexts, so I had to learn to pay more attention to detail to understand every point of view. I took on the state of what I like to call collaborative independence, and to my delight, I was elected to StuGo after my third year of trying.

Not long ago, I would have fallen apart at the presence of any uncertainty. As I further accept and advance new life skills, the more I realize how much remains uncertain in the world. After all, it is quite possible my future job doesn’t exist yet, and that’s okay. I can’t conceivably plan out my entire life at the age of 17, but what I can do is prepare myself to take on the unknown, doing my best to accompany others. Hopefully, my wings continue enabling me to fly, but it is going to take more than just me and my wings; I have to continue putting my faith in the air around me.

THE "PARENTS' RELATIONSHIP" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay, “Challenge” Type

My mom opened Kanishka’s Gastropub in 2013. I was ecstatic. We would become the first Mother-Son Indian duo on Food Network peeling potatoes, skinning chicken, and grinding spices, sharing our Bengali recipes with the world. 

However, the restaurant tore apart my parent’s relationship. Two years after opening, my dad started coming home late most nights, plastered from “happy hour with work colleagues.” My mom, trying to balance her day job at Kaiser and owning a restaurant, poured her stress on me,“What the hell is wrong with you! Always watching YouTube and never talking!” 

The worst time came when my parents tried to fix their relationship. Repeated date nights induced more arguments. Enduring the stress of her restaurant, my father, and her mistakes, my mom attempted to end her life. Fortunately, I found her just in time.  

Over the next two years, things were at times still hard, but gradually improved. My parents decided to start anew, took some time apart, then got back together. My mom started to pick me up from activities on time and my dad and I bonded more, watching Warriors and 49ers games. 

But at times I still had to emotionally support my mom to avoid sudden India trips, or put my siblings to bed if my parents weren’t home at night. Over time, I found it difficult being my family’s glue. I wanted back the family I had before the restaurant--the one that ate Luchi Mongsho together every Sunday night.

So I looked for comfort in creation. I began spending more time in our garage , carefully constructing planes from sheets of foam. I found purpose balancing the fuselage or leveling the ailerons to precisely 90 degrees. I loved cutting new parts and assembling them perfectly. Here , I could fix all the mistakes. 

In high school, I slowly began to forge a community of creators with my peers. Sophomore year, I started an engineering club and found that I had a talent for  managing people and encouraging them to create an idea even if it failed. I also learned how to take feedback and become more resilient. Here, I could nerd-out about warp drives and the possibility of anti-matter without being ignored. I would give a weekly report on new technology and we would have hour-long conversations about the various uses a blacker material could have. 

While building a community at school rebuilt my confidence, I still found I enjoyed being alone at times. While driving in my car, I’d let my mind wander to movies like Big Hero Six and contemplate if a zero-friction bike really was possible. I’d create ideas like an AI highway system that tells drivers exactly when to switch lanes based on timing and calculus to prevent braking from nearby cars. Or I’d blueprint a new classroom with interactive desks, allowing students to dive deep into historical events like a VR game. I found outlining complex ideas like these sometimes provide insights into something I’m researching or could one day materialize into future projects. 

Looking back (and perhaps inadvertently), the conflicts from the restaurant days have taught me valuable lessons. Helping my mom through her relationship taught me to watch out for those in emotional distress. Spending nights alone made me more independent--after all, it was then that I signed up for advanced math and programming courses and decided to apply for software internships. Most of all, seeing my mom start her restaurant from no food-industry experience inspired me to found two clubs and a Hydrogen Car Team. 

Even though we eat Luchi Monsho on a monthly basis now, I know my family will never be the way it was. My mom and I won’t become a Food Network mother-son duo. I can’t fix all the mistakes. But I can use them to improve the present.

THE "THREATENED BY ISIS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

In 8th grade while doing a school project I Googled my dad's name and it came up in US military documents posted on the Snowden/NSA documents on WikiLeaks. I stayed up all night reading through documents related to Army support contracts in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003. I asked my dad about it the next day and he said, "It was a mistake I made that has been resolved." Turns out it hadn't been.

Saudi Arabia in the 2000s wasn’t the most ideal place to grow up. I was always scared of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. My school was part of the US Consulate in Dhahran, and when I was in the 8th grade it was threatened by ISIS. Violence has always surrounded me and haunted me. 

After 14 years of living in a region destroyed by violence, I was sent away to boarding school in a region known for peace, Switzerland. That year my father was found guilty and imprisoned for the charges related to his Army support contract. I felt as if I was Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear and this could not get worse, but yet it did.

My parents got divorced and my childhood home was bulldozed to the ground by the Saudi government after my father was sent to prison. My mom had always been a hub of stability, but she was too overwhelmed to support me. I started eating to cope with my anxiety and gained 100 pounds in a year and a half. As I gained weight, my health started to deteriorate, and my grades started to drop. 

Things began to change at the beginning of my sophomore year, however, when I met my new roommate, Nico. He had grown up with someone whose father was also in prison, and was able to help me better understand the issues I was facing. Through my friendship with Nico, I learned how to open up and get support from my friends. 

I started to make new friends with more people at my school and was surprised to find out that 90% of their parents were divorced. Because we faced similar issues, we were able to support one and other, share tactics, and give advice. One of my friends, John, gave me advice on how to help my mother emotionally by showing her love, something I hadn’t been able to do before. My friends gave me a family and a home, when my own family was overwhelmed and my home was gone.

Slowly, I put my life back on track. I started playing basketball, began working on a CubeSAT, learned to program, changed my diet, and lost all the weight I had gained. 

 Now my friends in Switzerland come to me asking me for advice and help, and I feel as if I am a vital member of our community. My close friend Akshay recently started stressing about whether his parents were going to get divorced. With John’s advice, I started checking in on Akshay, spending more time with him, and coaching him before and after he talked to his parents. 

Leaving home in the beginning of my adolescence, I was sent out on a path of my own. While for some, high school is the best time of their lives, for me, high school has represented some of the best and, hopefully, worst times. Even with the struggles I’ve faced with my family, I am grateful for this path. It has brought me to a place that I only thought was fictional. In this new place I feel like a real person, with real emotions. This place is somewhere where I can express myself freely and be who I want to be. I am a much stronger, healthier, and more resilient person than I was two years ago. While it hasn’t been easy, I am glad to be where I am today.

For a ton of UC Essay Examples, head to my blog post here.

Supplemental essay examples, uchicago: the "why did the chicken cross the road" essay.

This essay was written for the U of Chicago "Create your own prompt" essay. The author included the following explanatory note:

I plan to double major in biochemistry and English and my main essay explains my passion for the former; here is a writing sample that illustrates my enthusiasm for the latter.

In my AP Literature class, my teacher posed a question to which students had to write a creative response. My response is framed around the ideas of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: A manicured green field of grass blades cut to perfectly matched lengths; a blue expanse ornamented with puffy cotton clouds; an immaculately painted red barn centered exactly at the top of a hill--the chicken gazes contentedly at his picturesque world. Within an area surrounded by a shiny silver fence, he looks around at his friends: roosters pecking at a feast of grains and hens lounging on luxurious cushions of hay. As the nice man in a plaid shirt and blue jeans collects the hens’ eggs, the chicken feels an overwhelming sense of indebtedness to him for providing this idyllic lifestyle.

On a day as pristine as all the others, the chicken is happily eating his lunchtime meal as the nice man carefully gathers the smooth white eggs when it notices that the man has left one behind. Strangely located at the empty end of the metal enclosure, highlighted by the bright yellow sun, the white egg appears to the chicken different from the rest. The chicken moves towards the light to tacitly inform the man of his mistake. But then the chicken notices a jagged gray line on the otherwise flawless egg. Hypnotized and appalled, the chicken watches as the line turns into a crack and a small beak attached to a fuzzy yellow head pokes out. Suddenly a shadow descends over the chicken and the nice man snatches the egg--the baby chick--and stomps off.

The chicken--confused, betrayed, disturbed--slowly lifts its eyes from the now empty ground. For the first time, it looks past the silver fence of the cage and notices an unkempt sweep of colossal brown and green grasses opposite its impeccably crafted surroundings. Cautiously, it inches closer to the barrier, farther from the unbelievable perfection of the farm, and discovers a wide sea of black gravel.  Stained with gray stones and marked with yellow lines, it separates the chicken from the opposite field.

The curious chicken quickly shuffles to Mother Hen, who has just settled on to her throne of hay and is closing her eyes. He is sure that the always composed and compassionate chicken will help him make sense of what he’s just seen.

“Mother Hen, Mother Hen! I-I just saw one of those eggs, cracking, and there was a small yellow bird inside. It was a baby. Are those eggs that the nice man takes away babies? And that black ground! What is it?” the chicken blurts out.

Her eyes flick open. “BOK BOK! Don’t you ever dare speak of what you have seen again,” Mother Hen snaps in a low and violent whisper, “or all of this will be taken away.” Closing her eyes again, she dismisses the chicken.

Frozen in disbelief, the chicken tries to make sense of her harsh words. It replays the incident in its head. “All the food, the nice soft hay, the flawless red barn--maybe all of this isn’t worth giving up. Maybe Mother Hen is right. She just wants to protect me from losing it all.” The chicken replays the incident again. “But it was a baby. What if it was hers? She still wouldn’t care. She’s being selfish; all she cares about is this perfect life.” A final replay, and the chicken realizes and accepts that Mother Hen knows, has known, that the man is doing something wrong; yet she has yielded to the cruelty for her own comfort. A fissure in the chicken’s unawareness, a plan begins to hatch. The chicken knows it must escape; it has to get to the other side.

“That man in the plaid shirt is stealing the eggs from their mothers again,” the chicken thinks the next day as he unlocks the cage. Then the man reaches into the wooden coop, his back to the entrance. “Now!” At its own cue, the chicken scurries towards the opening and exits unseen. With a backwards glance at his friends, the chicken feels a profound sadness and pity for their ignorance. It wants to urge them to open their eyes, to see what they are sacrificing for materialistic pleasures, but he knows they will not surrender the false reality. Alone, the chicken dashes away.

The chicken stands at the line between green grass and black gravel. As it prepares to take its first step into the unknown, a monstrous vehicle with 18 wheels made of metal whizzes by, leaving behind a trail of gray exhaust. Once it regains its breath, it moves a few inches onto the asphalt. Three more speeding trucks stop its chicken heart.

“I can’t do this,” it says to itself. “These monsters are a sign. They’re telling me to go back. Besides, a few lost chicks aren’t so bad. The man’s not that evil. He gives us food, and a home.”

But the chicken dismisses the cowardly voice in its head, reminding itself of the injustice back in the deceptively charming prison. Over the next several hours, it learns to strategically position itself so that it is in line with the empty space between the tires of passing trucks. It reaches the yellow dashes. A black blanket gradually pushes away the glowing sun and replaces it with diamond stars and a glowing crescent. It reaches the untouched field.

With a deep breath, the chicken steps into the swathe, a world of tall beige grass made brown by the darkness. Unsure of what it may discover, it determines to simply walk straight through the brush, out on to the other side. For what seems like forever, it continues forward, as the black sky turns to purple, then blue, then pink. Just as the chicken begins to regret its journey, the grass gives way to a vast landscape of trees, bushes, flowers--heterogeneous and variable, but nonetheless perfect. In a nearby tree, the chicken spots two adult birds tending to a nest of babies--a natural dynamic of individuals unaltered by corrupt influence.

And then it dawns on him. It has escaped from a contrived and perverted domain as well as its own unawareness; it has arrived in a place where the pure order of the world reigns.

“I know the truth now,” it thinks to himself as the sun rises. “But here, in Nature, it is of no use. Back home, I need to try to foster awareness among my friends, share this understanding with them. Otherwise, I am as cruel as the man in the plaid shirt, taking away the opportunity to overcome ignorance.”

“I must return now; I have to get to the other side.”

For more, here’s a guide to the U Chicago supplemental essays , and an in-depth guide to U Chicago’s extended essay .

We also analyze why we think this essay works in The Complete Guide , Session 6.

The "Rock, Paper, Scissors" UChicago Supplemental Essay Example

Essay written for the University of Chicago prompt, which gives you the option to create your own prompt..

Prompt: Dear Christian, the admissions staff at the University of Chicago would like to inform you that your application has been “put on the line.” We have one spot left and can’t decide if we should admit you or another equally qualified applicant. To resolve the matter, please choose one of the following:

Rock, paper, or scissors.

You will be notified of our decision shortly.

Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock.  Wait... paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors?  What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?

Maybe it’s all a metaphor for larger ideals. Perhaps paper is rooted in the symbolism of diplomacy while rock suggests coercion. But does compromise necessarily trump brute force? And where do scissors lie in this chain of symbolism?

I guess the reasoning behind this game has a lot to do with context. If we are to rationalize the logic behind this game, we have to assume some kind of narrative, an instance in which paper might beat rock. Unfortunately, I can’t argue for a convincing one.

As with rock-paper-scissors, we often cut our narratives short to make the games we play easier, ignoring the intricate assumptions that keep the game running smoothly. Like rock-paper-scissors, we tend to accept something not because it’s true, but because it’s the convenient route to getting things accomplished. We accept incomplete narratives when they serve us well, overlooking their logical gaps. Other times, we exaggerate even the smallest defects and uncertainties in narratives we don’t want to deal with. In a world where we know very little about the nature of “Truth,” it’s very easy—and tempting—to construct stories around truth claims that unfairly legitimize or delegitimize the games we play.

Or maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing...

Fine. I’ll stop with the semantics and play your game.

But who actually wants to play a game of rock-paper-scissors?  After all, isn’t it just a game of random luck, requiring zero skill and talent? That’s no way to admit someone!

Studies have shown that there are winning strategies to rock-paper-scissors by making critical assumptions about those we play against before the round has even started. Douglas Walker, host of the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships (didn’t know that existed either), conducted research indicating that males will use rock as their opening move 50% of the time, a gesture Walker believes is due to rock’s symbolic association with strength and force. In this sense, the seemingly innocuous game of rock-paper-scissors has revealed something quite discomforting about gender-related dispositions in our society. Why did so many males think that brute strength was the best option? If social standards have subliminally influenced the way males and females play rock-paper-scissors, than what is to prevent such biases from skewing more important decisions? Should your decision to go to war or to feed the hungry depend on your gender, race, creed, etc?

Perhaps the narratives I spoke of earlier, the stories I mistakenly labeled as “semantics,” carry real weight in our everyday decisions. In the case of Walker’s study, men unconsciously created an irrational narrative around an abstract rock. We all tell slightly different narratives when we independently consider notions ranging from rocks to war to existence. It is ultimately the unconscious gaps in these narratives that are responsible for many of the man-made problems this world faces. In order for the “life of the mind” to be a worthwhile endeavor, we must challenge the unconscious narratives we attach to the larger games we play—the truths we tell (or don’t tell), the lessons we learn (or haven’t really learned), the people we meet (or haven’t truly met).

But even after all of this, we still don’t completely understand the narrative behind rock-paper-scissors.  

I guess it all comes down to who actually made this silly game in the first place... I’d like to think it was some snotty 3rd grader, but then again, that’s just another incomplete narrative.

U of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example

The "east meets west" example essay.

This was written for the U. of Michigan supplemental "community" essay prompt, then adapted for a (no longer existent) essay for Brown. The Michigan prompt reads:

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.

Here's the essay:

I look around my room, dimly lit by an orange light. On a desk in the left corner, a framed picture of an Asian family is beaming their smiles, buried among US history textbooks and The Great Gatsby. A Korean ballad streams from a pair of tiny computer speakers. Pamphlets of American colleges are scattered about on the floor. A cold December wind wafts a strange infusion of ramen and leftover pizza. On the wall in the far back, a Korean flag hangs besides a Led Zeppelin poster.

Do I consider myself Korean or American?

A few years back, I would have replied: “Neither.” The frustrating moments of miscommunication, the stifling homesickness, and the impossible dilemma of deciding between the Korean or American table in the dining hall, all fueled my identity crisis.

Standing in the “Foreign Passports” section at JFK, I have always felt out of place. Sure, I held a Korean passport in my hands, and I loved kimchi and Yuna Kim and knew the Korean Anthem by heart. But I also loved macaroni and cheese and LeBron and knew all the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs by heart. Deep inside, I feared that I would simply be labeled as what I am categorized at airport customs: a foreigner in all places.

This ambiguity of existence, however, has granted me the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds. Take a look at my dorm room. This mélange of cultures in my East-meets-West room embodies the diversity that characterizes my international student life.

I have learned to accept my “ambiguity” as “diversity,” as a third-culture student embracing both identities in this diverse community that I am blessed to be a part of.

Now, I can proudly answer: “Both.”

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Current Issue

Cover of July 2024 Issue

The President Can Now Assassinate You, Officially

Under this new standard, a president can go on a four-to-eight-year crime spree and then retire from public life, never to be held accountable.

United States Supreme Court justices

United States Supreme Court justices pose for their official portrait on October 7, 2022, in Washington, DC.

Welp, Donald Trump won. The Supreme Court today ruled that presidents are entitled to “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution for official acts, then contended that pressuring the vice president and the Department of Justice to overthrow the government was an “official act,” then said that talking to advisers or making public statements are “official acts” as well, and then determined that evidence of what presidents say and do cannot be used against them to establish that their acts are “unofficial.”

The ruling from the Supreme Court was 6-3, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, on a straight party-line vote, with all the Republican-appointed justices joining to give the president the power of a king. While some parts of the federal indictment against Trump will be remanded back down to the district-court trial judge to determine whether any of Trump’s actions were “unofficial” (“unofficial” acts, the court says, are not entitled to immunity), Trump’s victory in front of the Supreme Court is total. Essentially, all he has to do is claim that everything he did to plot a coup was part of his “official” duties, and the Supreme Court provided no clear method or evidentiary standard that can be used to challenge that presumption.

Legally, there are two critical things to understand about the totality of the court’s ruling here:

  • The immunity is absolute
  • There is no legislative way to get rid of what the court has given

On the first point, the immunity granted to Trump in this case far exceeds the immunity granted to, say, police officers or other government officials, when they act in their official capacities. Those officials are granted “qualified” immunity from civil penalties. Because the immunity is “qualified,” it can be taken away (“pierced” is the legal jargon for taking away an official’s qualified immunity). People can bring evidence against officials and argue that they shouldn’t be given immunity because of the gravity or depravity of their acts.

Not so with Trump. Presidents are now entitled to “absolute” immunity, which means that no matter what they do, the immunity cannot be lost. They are always and forever immune, no matter what evidence is brought to bear.

Moreover, unlike other officials, presidents are now entitled to absolute immunity from criminal charges. Even a cop can be charged with, say, murder , even if they argue that killing people is part of their jobs. But not presidents. Presidents can murder, rape, steal, and pretty much do whatever they want, so long as they argue that murdering, raping, or stealing is part of the official job of the president of the United States. There is no crime that pierces the veil of absolute immunity.

And there is essentially nothing we can do to change it. The courts created qualified immunity for public officials, but it can be undone by state or federal legislatures if they pass a law removing that protection. Not so with absolute presidential immunity. The court here says that absolute immunity is required by the separation of powers inherent in the Constitution, meaning that Congress cannot take it away. Congress, according to the Supreme Court, does not have the power to pass legislation saying “the president can be prosecuted for crimes.” Impeachment, and only impeachment, is the only way to punish presidents, and, somewhat obviously, impeachment does nothing to a president who is already no longer in office.

The Nation Weekly

Under this new standard, a president can go on a four-to-eight-year crime spree, steal all the money and murder all the people they can get their hands on, all under guise of presumptive “official” behavior, and then retire from public life, never to be held accountable for their crimes while in office. That, according to the court, is what the Constitution requires. 

There will be Republicans and legal academics and whatever the hell job Jonathan Turley has who will go into overdrive arguing that the decision isn’t as bad as all that. These bad-faith actors will be quoted or even published in The Washington Post and The New York Times . They will argue that presidents can still be prosecuted for “unofficial acts,” and so they will say that everything is fine.

But they will be wrong, because while the Supreme Court says “unofficial” acts are still prosecutable, the court has left nearly no sphere in which the president can be said to be acting “unofficially.” And more importantly, the court has left virtually no vector of evidence that can be deployed against a president to prove that their acts were “unofficial.” If trying to overthrow the government is “official,” then what isn’t? And if we can’t use the evidence of what the president says or does, because communications with their advisers, other government officials, and the public is “official,” then how can we ever show that an act was taken “unofficially”?

Take the now-classic example of a president ordering Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival. According to the logic of the Republicans on the Supreme Court, that would likely be an official act. According to their logic, there is also no way to prove it’s “unofficial,” because any conversation the president has with their military advisers (where, for instance, the president tells them why they want a particular person assassinated) is official and cannot be used against them.

There will doubtless be people still wondering if Trump can somehow be prosecuted: The answer is “no.” Special counsel Jack Smith will surely argue that presenting fake electors in connection with his cadre of campaign sycophants was not an “official act.” Lower-court judges may well agree. But when that appeal gets back to the Supreme Court next year, the same justices who just ruled that Trump is entitled to absolute immunity will surely rule that submitting fake electors was also part of Trump’s “official” responsibilities.

Can the Constitution Save Us? Can the Constitution Save Us?

Books & the Arts / Jedediah Britton-Purdy

A Senior DNC Member Says There’s a Way to Replace Biden and Beat Trump A Senior DNC Member Says There’s a Way to Replace Biden and Beat Trump

John Nichols

The President Can Now Assassinate You, Officially The President Can Now Assassinate You, Officially

Elie mystal, we rejected monarchy in 1776. the supreme court just brought it back. we rejected monarchy in 1776. the supreme court just brought it back..

There is no way to change that outcome in the short term. In the long term, the only way to undo the authoritarianism the court has just ushered in is to expand the Supreme Court . Democrats would have to win the upcoming presidential election and the House and the Senate. Then Congress would have to pass a law expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court; then the Senate would have to pass that law as well, which, at a minimum, would likely have to include getting rid of the filibuster. Then the president would have to sign such a bill, and appoint additional Supreme Court justices who do not think that presidents should be kings—and then those justices would have to be confirmed. And all of that would have to happen before the current Supreme Court hears whatever Trump appeal from his January 6 charges comes up next, because if court expansion happens after the current Supreme Court dismisses the charges against him, double jeopardy will attach and Trump can never be prosecuted again under a less-fascist court.

So, since that’s not going to happen, Trump won. He won completely. He tried to overthrow the government, and he got away with it. I cannot even imagine what he’ll try if he is actually given power again, knowing full well that he will never be held accountable for literal crimes.

If you ever wondered what you’d have done in ancient Rome, when the Roman Republic was shuttered and Augustus Caesar declared himself the “first” citizen of Rome, the answer is: whatever you’re doing right now. It’s what you would have done during the Restoration of King Charles II in England, and what you would have done when Napoleon declared himself emperor of France. This, right here, is how republics die.

And the answer that cries out from the abyss of history is that most people, in real time, don’t care. Republics fall because most citizens are willing to give it away. Most people think that it won’t be that bad to lose the rule of law, and the people who stand to benefit from the ending of republican self-government tell everybody that it will be OK. When the Imperium came to be, the Romans didn’t realize that they were seeing the last form of European self-government for 2,000 years, and the ones who did were largely happy about it.

For my part, I assume that like Mark Antony’s wife, Fulvia, defiling the decapitated head of Cicero, Martha-Ann Alito will be jabbing her golden hairpin into my tongue for criticizing the powerful soon enough. But I’m just a writer. I wonder what the rest of you will do as the last vestiges of democracy are taken away by the Imperial Supreme Court and the untouchable executive officer they’ve just created.

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Elie Mystal is  The Nation ’s justice correspondent and the host of its legal podcast, Contempt of Court . He is also an Alfred Knobler Fellow at the Type Media Center. His first book is the New York Times bestseller Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution, published by The New Press. Elie can be followed @ElieNYC .

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Welcome Back to the Campus Huddle, your home for news and information about EA SPORTS™ College Football 25! We know you have been awaiting more information about the fan favorite Dynasty Mode. Before we get started with the Campus Huddle, let's hear from Kirk Herbstreit for a video deep dive on Dynasty Mode. 

After, you’ll hear from Chad Walker, Producer, and Ben Haumiller, Principal Game Designer, for College Football 25. Let’s get started!

BUILDING DYNASTY

When we were in the early stages of designing Dynasty Mode, we talked with members of the community, college football experts and coaches, read hundreds of blog posts and tweets, and watched countless wishlist videos. We knew how important Dynasty was to our community and we heard loud and clear that our players wanted a deep experience that is representative of the current college football landscape where roster management and talent acquisition are at the forefront of successful programs.

With this in mind, we anchored our experience around three core pillars: “Build Your Coach”, “Build Your Program”, and “Deliver the World of College Football”.

  • Build Your Coach: This encompasses the decisions you make on your coaching journey to the top of the college football world. Whether that’s starting as a coordinator at a small school and making a name for yourself before getting that first head coaching job, or starting as a head coach at your dream school. Every decision you make on your journey matters.
  • Build Your Program: As the old saying goes, “to win in College Football it’s not the X’s and the O’s, it’s the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s”. Recruiting is the lifeblood of College Football and having a consistent winner means you need a roster that is built to reload rather than rebuild. That all starts on the high school recruiting trail, but in modern College Football roster retention and utilizing the Transfer Portal are instrumental in your ability to field a championship team.
  • Deliver the World of College Football: A lot has changed in college football over the last year, let alone the last 11 years. From the new 12 team College Football Playoff to conference realignment, we set out to recreate the ever-changing world of college football within Dynasty and provide you with the tools to customize your experience.

Underlying our three core pillars was one singular motto: “ Satisfy the Core Community ” because “ This is THEIR game ”.

BUILD YOUR COACH

Your journey to the top of the college football world starts with your coach. We wanted this to be meaningful and allow you to experience the coaching journey that no other sport can provide. We met with college football coaches and experts and started breaking down real life coaches on the whiteboard. What was their identity? What made them great? What was their journey to get to where they are today? 

What we found was that both current and former coaches broadly fit into three main categories. Some are incredible recruiters, while others are motivators who maximize the potential of their players, and lastly tacticians out-scheme their opponents with on-field X’s and O’s. 

There were also a number of coaches who were more of a hybrid between two categories. For example, there were coaches who were great at both recruiting and X’s and O’s. After breaking down hundreds of coaches, two things were loud and clear: no coach was great at everything and there is no single path to being a great coach.

What about the greatest coaches of all time? Even they weren’t great at everything and needed their coordinators. Let’s look back to 2013. Alabama’s offense had fallen behind. The world of college football offenses was changing and it was changing quickly. They had to pivot and change their entire philosophy, bringing in an offensive guru who transformed the Alabama offense and put the program on an entirely new trajectory playing in 6 of the next 8 national championships while creating multiple first round drafted quarterbacks. 

All of our research and discussions led us to build a coach experience centered around three goals:

  • Just like the real world, no coach could be great at everything.
  • A rock, paper, and scissors relationship between coach types with no dominant progression path.
  • Coordinators and how you build your staff matter.

COACH PROGRESSION

Progressing your coach starts with playing games. As you play, you will complete coach goals that award XP. Once you earn enough XP, you will level up your coach (to a maximum of level 50) and be awarded Coach Points. Coach Points can be used to upgrade your coach’s abilities (more on that later).

There are four Coach XP Goal categories that can be single game, weekly, season, or career goals.

  • Draft : Pro draft goals based on which round your player is drafted in, for example “Player Drafted in the 1st Round”.
  • Game: Individual game goals that range from a single play result like “Interception” and “Rushing Touchdown” to a full game result. For example, “Beat Your Rival”, “Beat a Top 25 Team”, and “Win a National Championship”.
  • Recruiting: Determined by your success on the recruiting trail. Recruiting goals can be specific to a single prospect, for example “Sign a 5 Star Prospect” or a full season like “Sign the Best Recruiting Class in the Country”.
  • Stats: Weekly goals like “Ranked in the Top 10”, season stat goals for example “4,000 Team Passing Yards” and “Rank Top 5 in Offensive Yards”, and career goals like “Win 5 National Championships”. 

The number of times you’ve completed a goal and your progress towards goal completion can be viewed in the Coach XP Goals screen, which can be accessed via the Coach tab in the Dynasty Hub. We have also added five progression speed settings, so you can modify how fast coaches progress in your Dynasty.

Each time you complete a goal in-game, you will receive a notification in the top left corner of the screen. The notification will describe the completed goal and XP reward.

After completing a game or advancing the week, you will receive an XP summary screen showing your progression to the next level.

COACH ARCHETYPES

In EA SPORTS College Football 25, we are introducing a new archetype based coach abilities system. You can think of this similar to your traditional RPG classes where all of your party members have a specific class (archetype) and role. Ultimately, in order for your team to be successful, all of the players in your party must do their job and work together. 

Our system is no different. All coaches will start with a base class or coach archetype, which can be thought of as your special ability in a traditional RPG. Just like our real life coaches, the base archetypes fall into three categories: Recruiting, Motivation (think player development and program culture), and Scheme (on field X’s and O’s). 

From your base archetype, you can progress in multiple ways. You can become an expert in a single category like recruiting where you become an Elite Recruiter and excel on the recruiting trail. Alternatively, you can become a hybrid coach who is strong in multiple areas. For example, a Talent Developer who is great at both talent acquisition (Recruiting) and player development (Motivation). The ultimate goal is to become a Program Builder or CEO atop the world of college football. 

Achieving an elite archetype like Program Builder or CEO is a combination of on-field success and ability progression. There is no single formula to reach these statuses. You will be able to mix and match different ability combinations and progression paths, leading to strong customization. 

In total, there are 11 different archetypes each with their own focuses and perks. Together, they form a rock, paper, and scissors relationship where there is no dominant archetype. While there is no doubt that talent acquisition is the most important thing in college football, focusing solely on recruiting could leave you vulnerable in other areas. Remember, no coach can be great at everything . Every decision you make on your coaching journey matters. Once you purchase an ability, there is no going back as you will not be able to re-spec your coach. 

How Do I Upgrade My Archetype and What Does it Do?

Each archetype has a set of prerequisites and objectives that must be completed in order to purchase them. For example, in order to become an Elite Recruiter, you must spend 50 Coach Points in the Recruiter archetype and sign two top five recruiting classes. Once these goals are complete, the archetype becomes available for purchase with coach points. When creating your coach, you will select which base archetype you want to start with. The other two base archetypes will then be available for purchase with coach points without the need to meet any additional requirements.

Purchasing an archetype with coach points unlocks new sets of abilities, as well as new opportunities in the coaching carousel (more on that later). Additionally, each archetype has a perk when it is active. For example, Tactician has the Winner perk, which awards additional coach XP every time you win a game. 

Your active archetype is automatically determined. If you own the Program Builder or CEO archetypes, they will always be your active archetype regardless of how many coach points you’ve spent in other archetypes. If you do not own these archetypes, your active archetype is the archetype you have spent the most coach points in. All owned coach abilities are always on, regardless of which archetype is currently active. 

Your progress can be viewed in the Coach Abilities screen, which is accessible from the Coach tab of the Dynasty Hub. Within the screen, you can see all of the available archetypes, their unlock requirements and perks, and your overall progression in each archetype. As you spend coach points in each archetype, the spider graph in the center of the screen will morph and change to show your coach’s DNA.

How Do the Abilities Work?

Once you own an archetype, you can purchase the abilities within it using coach points. In College Football 25, we are introducing more than 50 coach abilities. Each ability can have up to four tiers and every tier has a purchase cost associated with it. Every archetype, with the exception of Scheme Guru, Program Builder, and CEO, has their abilities broken down by position group. This increases the level of depth and specialization each coach has. 

No longer is a coach great at recruiting across the board. Now, coaches will specialize in specific position groups – making your staff composition that much more important. Are you a quarterback whisperer? Are you great in the trenches and committed to the no fly zone? How does your staff complement you?

In addition to position based boosts, there are also coach abilities with core gameplay effects so you can really cook. For example, the Scheme Guru archetype focuses on your gameplay style. If you are a coach who likes to play fast, you can upgrade Fast Tempo Offense providing you with the following boosts:

  • Battery Pack (Tier 1): Offensive players fatigue slower in hurry up
  • Caught Napping (Tier 2): Increase delay to defenders looking to the sideline at the snap
  • On Their Heels (Tier 3): Team composure boost for 1st downs gained while running hurry up
  • Tipped Your Hand (Tier 4): Chance to see the defense’s coverage shell in hurry up

You can also make your team a well oiled machine who doesn’t work against themselves and is unfazed by rowdy homefield crowds by upgrading the Discipline/Communication ability. On offense this provides:

  • Hater Blockers (Tier 1): Slight reduction in crowd noise impact on the road
  • Teflon (Tier 2): Significant reduction of crowd noise impact on the road
  • Polished (Tier 3): Offensive players will commit slightly fewer penalties
  • Clean Sheet Offense (Tier 4): Offensive players will commit significantly fewer penalties

Of course, balance is critically important here so there are defensive counters to ALL of the offensive play style abilities. Is your defense looking a little sus or are you tired of getting punched in the mouth by a physical ground and pound team? Upgrade your Ground and Pound defense to become a stout run defense and reduce the effects of a physical offense continuously running the football.

The Program Builder and CEO archetypes are different in that they are only available to head coaches. The abilities within them are diverse and range from roster management and program culture to home field advantage and recruiting pipeline boosts.

What About Coordinators?

Both coordinators and head coaches have the same set of abilities and archetypes available to them leading to a natural progression from coordinator to head coach and increased importance on staff management where your coordinators either compliment your strengths or shore up your deficiencies. Remember, no coach can be great at everything, so it is critical that your coordinators compliment you. 

All of the abilities your coaching staff own stack together, increasing the effect of an ability. Abilities owned by the head coach have the greatest impact. The impact of coordinator owned abilities depends on whether or not the ability is related to their side of the ball. For example, a defensive coordinator having the Quarterback Icy Veins ability, which boosts your quarterback’s composure at the beginning of the game, will have a much smaller effect than an offensive coordinator owning it.

Your coordinators will automatically progress their archetypes and abilities. You will not be able to control which abilities they purchase nor will you be able to re-spec your coordinator’s abilities. This adds even more importance to how you progress your coach and manage your staff in the coaching carousel.

You can view the abilities your coordinators own from within the Coach Abilities screen by tabbing left and right with LB/RB or L1/R1. Each coach will have a unique spider graph based on the abilities and archetypes they own. Pressing R3 will overlay all of three coach’s spider graphs, so you can quickly see where your staff is deficient.

CLIMBING THE COACHING LADDER

Your journey starts when you sign your first coach contract. When creating your Dynasty, you will have the option to select whether you want to be a head coach, offensive coordinator, or defensive coordinator. Coordinators have performance expectations just like a head coach. All roles will have full control of recruiting and be able to play both sides of the ball during gameplay.

Sign here, please

Every time you start a new coaching job, you’ll be asked to sign a contract with that school. The contract will have a set contract length and performance expectations. Just like in real life, failure to meet those expectations will result in bad things happening. 

School expectations are determined by the school’s current team prestige and program standing. The better the school, the higher the expectations. There are four types of contract expectations:

  • Win (X) Games
  • Win a Conference Championship
  • Make the College Football Playoff
  • Win a National Championship

Your job security will fluctuate throughout the season based on the results of your games and whether or not you are trending towards meeting your contract expectations. The further you are from meeting your expectations, the bigger your job security will be hit. If your job security gets too low, you will end up on the hot seat and if your seat gets too hot, you’ll be fired and have to look for a new job in the coaching carousel. Alternatively, meeting or exceeding your goal will result in increased job security. Of course, if you don’t like the possibility of being fired, you can always turn off user coach firing in your Dynasty settings. 

Job security is a function of your ability to meet your contract expectations. Every win and loss counts towards that expectation. With that being said, not all wins and losses are created equal. Beating a higher ranked team will have a larger impact than beating one of the generic FCS teams. Similarly, losing to a generic FCS team is not a good look. 

All coaches also have a coach prestige letter grade that ranges from A+ to F. Coach prestige is reflective of your ability to meet contract expectations, adjusted for the school and role that you have. For example, meeting expectations and winning five games at a small school will have a significantly smaller impact than winning the SEC championship at a traditional powerhouse school.

At the end of your contract, the school will evaluate whether or not they want to extend your contract based on your performance. If you are offered an extension, you will be notified that the school has decided to extend your contract and it will be automatically accepted. Don’t worry, automatic acceptance of contract extensions does not mean that you are unable to change jobs. You can leave for a new job via the coaching carousel at any point in your contract, regardless of your current contract status. We auto accept extensions to protect you from inadvertently changing jobs if you sim past a contract extension offer without interacting with it. 

Your current coach contract and job security status can be accessed from the Coach tab of the Dynasty Hub. When viewing your contract, you can see your current and past season job security, contract expectation, and your school’s season by season results for the last 20 years. The season by season results show the team’s record, if they were a conference champion, and any bowl games they won in that season. 

When signing your contract, you’ll have the opportunity to look at the last 20 years and see the kind of program you are taking over. Of course, your program’s history will continue to update over time as you play your dynasty.

COACH CAROUSEL

Following the 2021-2022 college football regular season, two high profile schools in LSU and USC were looking for new coaches. Both schools did what nobody saw coming and hired elite coaches from other high profile schools. Suddenly, other high profile jobs were unexpectedly available and the coaching carousel was in full effect.

In College Football 25, we set out to recreate the chaos that is the college football coaching carousel, along with the domino effect it brings. Now, instead of happening over a single week, the coaching carousel takes place over the course of five weeks from conference championship week to the end of bowl season, just like the real world. Additionally, the carousel is now an asynchronous experience where each user can evaluate their offers without the need to wait on someone else. That way in your multi-user Online Dynasty, the entire carousel experience won’t be held up because you are sitting around waiting for your friend to get on and evaluate their job offer only for them to tell you they want to stay at their current job.

How Does the Coach Carousel Work?

The carousel kicks off during Conference Championship week. During this week, all coach contracts are processed and schools determine if they want to fire, extend, or let a coach’s contract expire. If your school has decided to fire or extend you, you’ll receive an action item notifying you of the news. If you are the head coach, you’ll also be able to fire your coordinators during this week (more on that later).

Once you advance the week and arrive in bowl season, the first round of job offers go out. If you received any job offers, you will be notified via an action item titled “View Job Offers”. If you did not receive any offers, you will have a generic action item titled “Coach Carousel”. Pressing the action item will take you to the coach carousel screen where you can view any job offers you have, as well as all of the open jobs around the country.

Just because you didn’t receive any offers in the first week of bowl season or if you didn’t like the offers you received, doesn’t mean your carousel experience is over. Remember, the coach carousel takes place over the course of multiple weeks. The first week of bowl season is just the beginning. As schools hire and poach coaches from other schools, their previous jobs will become available as an unexpected job opening and the schools will look to hire a replacement the following week.

When viewing a job offer, you will see the school’s new coach preferences, what happened to their previous coach, and who the top candidates are for the job. You will also see the contract they are offering you and what the contract expectations are. Once you accept an offer, you will stay with your current school until after the National Championship game, which is when all job changes are processed. This allows you to take one last ride with your current team and coach any bowl games they play in. 

There will be a countdown in the top right corner of the Dynasty Hub informing you how many weeks are remaining until you change jobs. If you accept a head coach position, you will be able to manage your staff and hire coordinators at your new school during the rest of the carousel period. If you were fired or your contract expired and you do not accept a new job before the end of the carousel, you will be automatically placed on a new team after the National Championship game.

How do Schools Determine Who They Want to Hire?

Each school has a school persona, which determines what they are looking for in their next coach. Schools will evaluate candidates across the following criteria:

  • Level: The higher a coach’s level, the more powerful they are and the more abilities they have. Schools are always looking for the highest caliber coach they can find.
  • Scheme: Certain schools, like the military academies, want a coach who runs a specific style of offense or defense.
  • Archetype: Schools have a preference on the type of coach they are looking to hire. Just like the real world, blue bloods prefer elite coaches who are a Program Builder or CEO.
  • Pipeline: All coaches have a primary pipeline, which provides a boost in recruiting. This is meant to simulate an area of the country where they have strong ties and relationships in recruiting. Schools prefer coaches whose primary pipeline is the same as one of the school’s recruiting pipelines.
  • Coach Prestige: A coach’s prestige is compared against the school's team prestige. A five star program is not going to hire a coach who is mid and only a C- coach prestige.

Together, these form an overall “school fit” score, which is then used to generate a list of candidates for the job. The school will then extend an offer to one of the coaches.

Game Theory and The Domino Effect

It is important to keep in mind the domino effect when you are evaluating whether or not to accept an offer. Just because a job isn’t open today, doesn’t mean it won’t be available next week. You can view all of the current job openings by using the “All Openings” filter in the coach carousel screen. Every open job will list out the top candidates the school is targeting. Once the week is advanced, one of these three candidates will leave their current job and accept the open job. This allows you to predict which jobs may become available next week.

You can also view all of the coach movements across the college football world in the Staff Moves screen. The Staff Moves screen can be accessed via the “Staff Moves” action item in the Dynasty Hub. Staff Moves shows all of the coaches who changed jobs, their former/new team, and reason for leaving.

MANAGING YOUR STAFF

As a head coach, you will now have the opportunity to manage your staff and hire/fire your coordinators. Remember, our Coach Archetype system does not allow you to be great at everything, making who you surround yourself with that much more important. Staff management is your opportunity to build your staff the way you want in an effort to put yourself in the best position to succeed as a program.

You’re Fired!

Managing your staff starts during conference championship week. During this week, you will be able to fire your coordinators. Be careful because this is the only week you can do this. After this week, you are unable to replace a coordinator unless they are hired away by another school. 

Your coordinators will not leave unless you fire them or they are hired by another school. Every coordinator has a standard 2 year contract. Once their contract expires, it will be automatically renewed for another 2 years. Of course, if you don’t like them, you can always tell them they’re fired. If your coordinator has one year or less remaining on their current contract, there is a chance they will be poached and leave for another school. If this happens during the carousel, you will have the opportunity to hire a replacement.

Welcome to the Team!

Starting Bowl Week 1, you can hire new coordinators if you have an open position. When you go to hire a new coordinator, you will be presented with a curated list of candidates. These coaches are chosen for you based on the needs of your school. The logic that is used to determine the list is similar to the AI school logic to determine their top candidates.

When looking at a candidate, you will be able to see their current school, active archetype, coach level, and what schools are interested in them. These are the schools you would be competing with if you made them a job offer. You can also view the coach’s talent tree, so you can drill down more deeply and see whether or not they would be a fit with your staff.

When you make an offer to a coach, it is not a guarantee that they accept it. You can only offer one coach per position each week and once you have offered them, they will appear in your staff management screen with an “Offered” tag. When you advance the week and re-enter the screen, you will find out whether or not they accepted your offer. If they did, they will join your program after the National Championship game when we process all coach moves. If they rejected your offer, you will have the opportunity to offer another coach. You will always have at least one coach available to hire who does not require you to compete with another school. If at the end of the carousel you have not been able to fill an open position, you will be automatically given a new coordinator that is on par with the caliber of your program..

BUILD YOUR PROGRAM

There is no question that in today’s world, roster management and talent acquisition are at the forefront of college football and building your program. Players can now transfer whenever they want and they have expectations for you and your program. Some are looking to play early, others want to win championships and play in big time games, and stars want to grow their brand beyond the field. Aligning what you and your program can do for them has never been more important. 

We began our design process by talking with current and former coaches, players, and recruiting experts. What is recruiting and roster management like in the current era? How have player motivations changed? What causes a player to transfer? What differentiates a big time program from a smaller school when it comes to how they operate on the recruiting trail?

At the same time, we spent a ton of time doing quantitative research. We wanted to know anything and everything about recruiting and program management. This ranged from how many 5, 4, and 3 star prospects there are every year to what makes a California quarterback different from a Florida quarterback. We focused heavily on the different geographic regions and what they are known for, as well as researching the recruiting journeys of hundreds of prospects. Why did they ultimately sign with the schools they did? What did the schools in their top 5 and top 3 have in common with each other? Why did they visit some schools, but not others? What role did the head coach and coordinators play in their recruiting process?

Lastly, we spent time talking with our community on what they expected from recruiting and program management. Players liked the recruiting in older games because it had depth, but it was also tedious at times. On the contrary, the latest iteration was fast, but it was also shallow and cold. You never actually felt like you were establishing a relationship with the prospect. We wanted to find a way to blend the two so that recruiting felt meaningful and allowed you to build a connection with recruits through discovery, while also being conscious of your time each week.

Ultimately we landed on four core goals when building your program:

  • Humanize recruits by giving them unique needs and motivations that the player has to discover by interacting with the recruit
  • Differentiate regions of the country by player caliber, quality, and type to authentically capture high school talent based on historical real-world data
  • Represent the different resources available to schools ensuring the top schools can blanket the country, while smaller schools will need to be more targeted with their approach
  • Make the transfer portal feel authentically unpredictable

WELCOME TO STAGED RECRUITING

In College Football 25, we are introducing a new Staged Recruiting experience, built around three distinct phases: Discovery , Pitch , and Close . Just like the real world, every recruit will be in a different stage of their process. Where they are in their process will dictate how you interact with them and the level of engagement they require. 

Recruiting begins with Discovery. In this initial stage, you are finding which prospects to target, what their skills are, and what they care about most. This stage is all about uncovering information about the recruit as quickly as possible. The sooner you can discover how well they align with your program the better, as time is of the essence.

Once a recruit announces their Top 5 schools, it’s time to Pitch. During the Pitch phase, you are selling the recruit on your program and what you offer. How well your school aligns with their motivations will determine how successful you are.

The final stage is to Close. This is when you bring the recruit in for an official visit and attempt to leave a lasting impression about your program. If the visit goes well, you’ll make huge gains with the recruit and possibly secure a verbal commitment following the visit. Ultimately, the recruit will make their final decision on National Signing Day.

Before we dive deeper into each of these, let’s start by discussing how every program and recruit is unique.

When we talk about there being 134 ways to play, we are talking more than just on-field gameplay. Every school is graded from D- to A+ across 14 different categories, which comprise their “ My School Grades ”. These grades define who a program is and what their strengths and weaknesses are. No two programs are the same and the grades will dynamically change over the course of your Dynasty based on school performance and actions. The 14 grades are as follows:

  • Playing Time: This represents how long it will take for a player to become a starter at their position. Playing time is individualized to each recruit and player based on their position group and OVR.
  • Playing Style: This is a representation of how you play. Every player archetype has a stat that is tracked over the course of the season. How high that stat is relative to other teams determines your grade. For example, Field General quarterbacks playing style grade is driven by passing yards per game.
  • Championship Contender: This measures how close the team is to winning a championship. It takes into account the team’s current ranking and roster composition.
  • Program Tradition: This is a holistic view of a program’s history and success overtime based on the number of Conference and National Championships, total wins, and awards won.
  • Campus Lifestyle: This is a representation of the city and area surrounding the campus, as well as the campus itself. This grade cannot be changed or impacted.
  • Stadium Atmosphere: This is driven by the stadium’s Toughest Places to Play ranking, which is determined by a team’s historical performance in home games. 
  • Pro Potential: This is a projection of how likely it is that players on the current roster will play on Sundays.
  • Brand Exposure: This grades a team’s overall brand recognition, the potential NIL opportunities a player could get at the school, and how often the school plays in primetime games.
  • Academic Prestige: This ranks all universities based on real world academic rankings. This grade cannot be changed.
  • Conference Prestige: This represents the overall strength of a conference based on each conference member’s team prestige.
  • Coach Prestige: This is a reflection of the school’s coaching staff. The Head Coach carries the most weight here, but coordinators are also taken into account.
  • Coach Stability: This measures how long the coaching staff has been in place and how likely they are to remain there for the next 4 years.
  • Athletic Facilities: This grade measures the quality of athletic facilities for the program. Waterfalls and barbershops are a plus here.
  • Proximity to Home: This grade is unique to each recruit and is based on where the school is in relation to the recruit’s home pipeline.

Each grade has a unique set of grading criteria. For example, Playing Time is graded on a per player basis. The player’s OVR (or projected OVR if they are a recruit) is compared to the team’s roster to project how many years it will take for them to become a starter. Actions you take on the recruiting trail will impact the playing time grade of both recruits and players on your current roster. Even if a player is a starter today, signing new players in recruiting may negatively impact their playing time grade and cause them to enter the transfer portal.

On the other hand, Championship Contender uses a combination of your Top 25 poll ranking, team prestige, and an assessment of your current roster quality with Bud Elliott’s Blue Chip Ratio, which looks at the percentage of your roster that is made up of four and five star players.

Finally, there’s Brand Exposure, which is a reflection of your school’s brand and the potential NIL opportunities a player could earn at your school. While you won’t see players having a mustard named after them in College Football 25, recruits and transfers alike will assess their NIL earning potential and branding opportunities when considering where to go.

Most grades update dynamically throughout the season, while some only update at the end of every season. It’s important to keep tabs on your grades throughout the season and how you are trending because a slide in your grades could trigger decommitments from verbally committed recruits or a sudden transfer portal exodus at the end of a season. Your grades also play a pivotal role in recruiting and will determine how well your pitches land with a recruit.

You can see all of your grades and detailed information about them in the My School screen, which can be accessed from the Recruiting Hub. This screen allows you to assess your school’s current strengths and weaknesses, as well as how you can improve each grade to become a stronger program. Highlighting a grade will show you the steps you can take to improve it, where you are currently ranked amongst other teams, as well as the players are at risk of transferring because they have a Dealbreaker attached to that grade. More on Dealbreakers and why a player would decide to leave later.

Each week, the game will surface this information to you in a weekly summary allowing you to quickly see the health of your program and any changes. The My School report will show you grades that were positively or negatively impacted by your actions in the last week, as well as any grades that have players who are at risk of transferring if it gets too low.

Collectively, your My School grades form your Team Prestige, which can be thought of as your “My School GPA”. Team Prestige grades teams from 0 to 5 stars in half star increments based on their current My School grades. Very few programs will achieve elite five star status and even fewer will be able to maintain it for a prolonged period of time. Ultimately, Team Prestige plays a pivotal role in recruiting and the caliber of players who want to play for your program.

Recruits and Where They Come From

Each season more than 3,500 recruits are generated from across the country. Just like the real world, every class is different. Some years have a plethora of great quarterback talent, while others have fewer great prospects. Similarly, the quantity and quality of prospects from each region of the country will vary. Certain regions will be more consistent in the caliber, quality, and type of recruits they produce than others. 

For example, Southern California is known for producing great quarterback talent, while East Texas consistently produces some of the best wide receivers in the country. However, we didn’t stop there. We wanted to go deeper to ensure we were capturing the authenticity of high school talent. Yes, East Texas is known for producing great receivers, but more specifically, they are known for how big and physical their receivers are. As a result, you are going to see bigger and more physical receivers coming out of East Texas, whereas South Florida is going to produce incredibly fast deep threat receivers who have a smaller size.

What a Recruit Cares About

There are 14 different motivations a recruit can care about, all of which map one to one with the My School grades described above. Which motivations they care about are influenced by their star rating. A five star prospect is going to care more about getting to the next level, winning championships, and growing their brand with NIL opportunities than a two star will. By contrast, a two star is more likely to care about staying close to home, coach stability, and academics. 

Every recruit will have three motivations that they care about. These three motivations form what we call their “Ideal Pitch”. During the Discovery stage, your job as a recruiter is to find their ideal pitch as fast as possible to determine whether or not they align with your program. If a recruit doesn’t align with your program, you are going to have an uphill battle to sign them.

There is a chance that one of their three Ideal Pitch motivations is also a Dealbreaker. Dealbreakers represent a motivation that a recruit is extremely passionate about and will not budge on. If you do not satisfy their Dealbreaker, they will not talk with you. Additionally, a Dealbreaker stays with a player forever, so once they are on your roster, they will still have the same Dealbreaker they had when you recruited them to your school. You can think of this like your promise to them. If you fail to uphold your side of the deal, there is a chance they will decide to enter the transfer portal at the end of the season.

Recruiting Pipelines

When we analyzed historical recruiting data, it was clear that even in today’s day and age recruiting is still highly regionalized. We discussed various recruiting strategies and tactics with current and former coaches, in particular how they handled recruiting in different areas of the country. All of our research and discussion led us to a new way of thinking about pipelines in College Football 25.

First and foremost, it was clear that not every state is created equal when it comes to recruiting talent and pipelines. Having a pipeline in Florida is much more valuable than one in New York. This made clear that the traditional approach of having each state be its own pipeline wouldn’t accurately represent the recruiting landscape. One of our goals was to balance pipelines in terms of the quantity and quality of recruits that come from them, as well as how schools tend to look at them.

The result was reshaping pipelines to represent a geographic region rather than a state. For example, Florida is now broken into three different pipelines: North Florida, Central Florida, and South Florida. Similarly, Metro Atlanta is its own pipeline, Whereas, New York and New Jersey were combined to become a single pipeline. In total there are 50 pipelines in College Football 25.

With our newly shaped pipelines, the next step was to look at every school’s recruiting classes each of the last 10 years to identify which parts of the country they primarily recruit in. Using this data, we developed a tiered ranking system to represent how strong a school is in a given pipeline. Each pipeline has five levels and every school was given a pipeline level based on historical data. The higher your pipeline level, the stronger your influence is in the region. This will boost a recruit’s initial interest in your school and the impact of your pitches.

A school’s pipeline level will never change, which ensures that schools who are historically strong recruiters in a given region will always have an advantage. For example, Florida has historically dominated recruiting in Central Florida in areas like Lakeland, Tampa, and Orlando. Similarly, LSU regularly reaches into East Texas and all along the gulf coast. This also accurately reflects the challenges of recruiting to a small school that is not located in or adjacent to a strong pipeline. 

Generally speaking, your school’s pipelines will heavily influence the types of players you will be able to get and where they are from. The bonuses for being the highest tier in a pipeline are extremely strong and schools are incentivized to recruit their pipelines. As Oregon, expect to compete often with the likes of Washington and USC for players in Southern California and Arizona.

Together, pipelines and Dealbreakers create a much more realistic and less exploitable recruiting experience. While it’s still possible to land four stars as a small school, it will require the right fit and a heavy investment of resources and time. Our hope is that you will no longer have to make custom house rules in your Online Dynasty to prevent your friend from cheesing the system.

Initial Interest and Top Schools

Every recruit will start with a list of schools they are interested in. When a recruit generates their initial top schools list, they evaluate every school’s My School grades in relation to their ideal pitch and motivations. They also take into account their home pipeline and proximity to home. This means that recruits from Atlanta are more likely to have schools from the Southeast in their initial top schools. However, some prospects will look to leave home and play for a school further away if schools outside the region better fit their needs or if they don’t consider any schools in the area good enough for them.

Similarly, most of the top schools for a prospect who values academics are going to be very similar to one another. For example, as Rice, you will often see that the recruits who are interested in your school are also interested in Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and Stanford due to their high Academic Prestige.

Depending on the motivations and location of a recruit it is possible for them to be open to hearing from any school or already narrowed down to a Top 8 or even the Top 5.

Once recruiting starts, recruits will narrow down their top schools over time going from Open, to Top 8, Top 5, Top 3, and ultimately commitment. Your job is to stay above the cutline each week. Great recruiters will quickly recognize losing battles and pivot their resources to a different prospect with more promise of commitment. After advancing the week, you will be shown a recruiting summary of any changes in recruit statuses, so you can quickly identify where you need to spend your time that week.

STAGE ONE: DISCOVERY

The first stage of recruiting is Discovery where your goal is to learn information about the prospect as quickly as possible. The faster you can learn information about the prospect, the sooner you can decide whether or not to pursue them. Discovering intel and information about the recruit is also pivotal in how you craft your pitch and sell your school to the recruit. Uncovering that information before your competition gives you a huge advantage. 

Prospect Identification

Discovery starts with prospect identification. You can find prospects to recruit from the Prospect List. The Prospect List defaults to the Recommended filter, which identifies recruits who would be a good fit for you. The Recommended filter uses the same logic as the A.I. when they are identifying players to recruit. It takes into account your team position needs, what pipeline a recruit is from, a recruit’s interest in your school, and their star rating.

You can quickly filter the prospect list by using the L2/LT position filter or the R2/RT filters, which allow you to filter by top prospects, star rating, and state. If you’d like more control in your search, you can use the advanced search feature by pressing Triangle/(Y) from within the prospect list. Advanced search allows you to search for prospects that match a specific set of criteria. You can search for recruits using the following criteria:

  • Player Type (Archetype)
  • Minimum star rating
  • Handedness (Quarterback only)
  • Interest in your school

When viewing a recruit in the Prospect List, you will be able to see bio information about the recruit, as well as key recruiting information like whether or not they have a dealbreaker, if they satisfy a team need, how interested they are in your school, their recruiting stage, and how many scholarship offers they have. 

Once you find a recruit you are interested in, you can go ahead and add them to your board by pressing (X)/(A). Keep in mind that you can only have 35 prospects on your recruiting board at a given time.

When setting up your board, it is important to understand your current roster’s strengths and weaknesses. How many players are graduating next season? How many returning starters are you going to have? Within any of the recruiting screens, you can press R3/RS to quickly see your needs at every position. 

The Team Needs spreadsheet will show you an overall letter grade for each position, as well as a breakdown by school year for the players who are currently on your roster. It will also show you how many additional players you need at the position and the number of players you’ve signed and targeted at that position. 

How many players you need at a position will vary by scheme. For example, if you run a pass heavy offensive scheme like the Veer and Shoot you will need 10 wide receivers. Whereas a Pro Style offense only needs 6. Your scheme is tied to your playbook and the only way to change it is by changing your offensive and defensive playbooks, which can be done at any time. As you continue to target and sign players, your team needs will update accordingly.

Recruiting Hours

Recruiting hours are your core currency to spend on recruiting actions and scouting each week. The amount of recruiting hours you have depends on your team prestige and what part of the season you are in. 

Teams with a higher team prestige will have more recruiting hours each week. This is meant to model the recruiting resources a program has, with higher tier programs having significantly more resources available to them. For example, in the preseason a five star program will have 1,000 recruiting hours compared to only 350 hours for a one star program. 

The time of year also impacts your recruiting hours. During the preseason and in offseason recruiting, you do not have to prepare for a game each Saturday. As a result, you have significantly more time to spend on recruiting than you do in the heart of the regular season.

In addition to the maximum recruiting hours you can spend in a week, each prospect has a maximum number of hours that you can spend on them in a given week. The default maximum is 50 hours, but this can be increased to a maximum of 70 hours with the Always Be Crootin’ ability for that position. 

Recruiting Board

The Recruiting Board is where you will spend the bulk of your time in recruiting. The general layout of the board will be familiar to many. On the left, there is a list of all of the recruits who are currently on your board. Each recruit shows high level information about their status, including how many hours you’ve allocated to them, how much you’ve scouted them, if you’ve offered a scholarship, if you’ve scheduled a visit, their stage, and their interest level in your school.

You can filter the list using L2/LT. For example, you can filter by prospects who are ready for a visit, prospects you haven’t offered a scholarship to, recruiting stage, position, and more. You can also sort the board by national rank, interest status, and recruiting stage. Of course, the board can also be manually re-ordered using R2/RT.

Selecting a recruit allows you to dive in deeper and begin interaction with them. At the top of the screen, you will see bio information about the recruit, as well as a large bar with stages on it. This bar represents the recruits overall progression towards each stage and ultimately committing to a team. The dark area of the bar is how much the recruit progressed week over week.

Within the Overview tab, you can see a summary of where each school stands. Similar to the top bar, each school has their own bar, which represents their progression with the recruit. The top schools list is a zoomed in snapshot of the recruit’s progression to the next stage. Once a team fills their bar, the recruit will progress to the next stage and the top schools bars will reset. Any teams below the cutline will be locked out and no longer able to talk with the recruit. 

Before you start offering scholarships and dedicating your limited recruiting hours and resources to prospects, it is important to make sure you’re targeting the right ones for your program. During the preseason, you are only able to scout and offer scholarships, so it is a great time to scout players and ensure you are targeting the right prospects. In College Football 25, we are introducing a new scouting system designed to represent the ambiguity and progressive discovery of a High School player’s skills.

Prior to scouting a player, you will only be able to see their star rating, height, weight, hometown, position, and archetype. You will see question marks on their attributes, abilities, and development trait. The attributes represent the top 10 ratings for their archetype.

Each attribute has 4 states of scouting:

  • Unscouted: This is represented by question marks and is the default state for every recruit.
  • Partially Scouted: At this stage you will see a horizontal bar appear. The left side of the bar is 0 and the right side is 99. Within the bar is a gold zone that covers 25% of the bar’s space. The player’s true rating for that attribute  is somewhere in this range. 
  • Mostly Scouted: Once you have mostly scouted a player’s attribute, you have a much clearer picture of the prospect. At this point, the gold zone only covers 10% of the bar.
  • Fully Scouted: When a rating is fully scouted, you know exactly how good the prospect is and their exact attribute rating is revealed.

Each time you scout a prospect, you will reveal a limited amount of information about them. Sometimes scouting a player will fully scout an attribute, while other attributes may be only partially scouted. Additionally, each scouting action will also reveal Physical and Mental Abilities.

While attributes and abilities are able to be scouted, a player's development trait is not. When we talked with coaches about identifying a player’s development trait, they overwhelmingly said it is an intangible factor that is difficult to identify without a distinct intuition and direct in-person contact with a recruit. As a result of our discussions, the primary time you will unlock a prospect’s development trait is on National Signing Day. However, if you own the Mind Reader ability, there is a chance you will learn their development trait when you spend time with them during their official visit. 

The coaches we talked with also described how the level of ambiguity and uncertainty around a player’s skill set is higher for lower star rated players. This is because of how much visibility the top prospects get from social media, scouts, and high profile camps. Conversely, lower star rated recruits generally have less visibility, which leads to a greater level of uncertainty and unknown what their true skill is. This creates an opportunity to find a diamond in the rough.

We have modeled this uncertainty and unknown with our gem/bust system. When scouting a player, there is a chance you identify that their true skill is actually better or worse than their star rating indicates. For example, a 4 star bust is really a 3 star quality prospect, while a four star gem has the skill level of a five star. Of course, even if a player is a bust, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad player. A five star bust is still going to be pretty darn good. 

This system creates a lot of variance in lower star rated prospects and provides you with the opportunity to build your program with high quality players who slip through the cracks of the recruiting rankings. Landing top blue chip prospects is incredibly difficult, so this can be a highly effective recruiting strategy to build your program. Think back to the rise of Boise State and the consistency of Oregon State in the early to mid 2000’s. Both of these programs excelled at finding gems who were under-recruited and overlooked by big schools.

Finding the Ideal Pitch

Once you’ve determined a prospect meets your initial criteria, it is time to begin uncovering intel about their motivations and what they care about. Remember, every prospect has three motivations they care about, which comprise their “Ideal Pitch”. Your goal is to discover their Ideal Pitch as quickly as possible, so that you know if their motivations align with your program and so that you have the information you need when you begin pitching in Stage 2. 

In Stage 1, there are five recruiting actions you can use to uncover information about the prospect. In addition to uncovering information, you will also gain some influence with the prospect. Each action has a recruiting hour cost and corresponding benefit. The more hours you spend on a recruit, the faster you will uncover information and the more influence you will gain. You can increase how fast you uncover information and the amount of influence you earn with the Most Influential ability, which gives a bonus to recruiting actions.

The five recruiting actions are as follows:

  • Offer Scholarship: Scholarships show the prospect you are very interested in them. As a result, you will gain a small weekly influence bonus with the prospect after offering them a scholarship. Additionally, you will not be able to bring them on campus for an official visit or receive a commitment from a prospect until you’ve offered them a scholarship.
  • Search Social Media: Spend some time scrolling through the player’s social media to learn a little bit more about them. This will also give you a very small amount of influence when they see you liked their story. Just be careful not to like an image from three years ago.
  • DM the Player: Message the player directly on social media to start a conversation and learn more information about them. DMs will give you a small amount of influence as you start to build that relationship.
  • Contact Friends and Family: Make a few phone calls to the player’s family and close friends to learn a lot more about what the prospect values. This action will also gain a significant amount of influence with the prospect when word gets back to them that you called and when Grandma starts raving about you and your program at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Send the House: From the recruiting coordinator to every other coach on your staff, send every available resource you have after a prospect to gain as much influence with them as possible. 

As you uncover their motivations they will no longer display a question mark. If the motivation displays a red X, the recruit does not care about it. If it displays a green checkmark, this is one of the three motivations they care about.

With this added depth in recruiting, we wanted to make sure that recruiting did not become a monotonous chore that took a significant amount of your time each week. With this in mind, every recruiting action is “set it and forget it”, meaning they will stay week over week until the recruit either locks you out, commits, or you decide to change your recruiting actions. 

STAGE TWO: PITCH

After the recruit narrows their top schools to five, it is time to begin pitching the prospect on your school and what you have to offer. By this point, you should have a good amount of information about the prospect and what they care about. The more information you have, the more surgical you can be with your pitch. If you do not have much information about the prospect, you will effectively be flying blind and risk pitching them on something they do not care about. If your pitch does not align with their motivations, it can actually have an adverse effect on their perception of you and your program.

When pitching a prospect, there are two different pitch types you can use:

  • Soft Sell: Awards a moderate amount of influence when choosing the correct pitch. It also limits the downside risk and penalty of pitching the prospect on something they do not care about. This is best for when you have some idea of what the recruit is motivated by.
  • Hard Sell: This provides the most influence when choosing the correct pitch, but it also comes with the largest penalty if you pitch the wrong thing. It is best to hard sell the recruit when you know their ideal pitch or if you are desperate and just hoping for the best.

After selecting a pitch type, you will then select your pitch. Each pitch is a collection of three motivations and there are 20 pitches in total. For example, the Sunday Bound pitch sells a recruit on your school being a championship contender, its conference prestige, and your school’s track record of sending kids to the next level. How well the pitch aligns with the prospect’s motivations, as well as your associated My School grades will ultimately determine how well your pitch lands with the prospect. You can increase the impact of your My School grades with the Upsell ability.

If your school does not perfectly align with their ideal pitch or if you are looking for a way to get a competitive advantage, you can sway the prospect and change their motivations. Successfully swaying a prospect, will give them a second ideal pitch that is only available to you. It is possible that the second ideal pitch also creates a third ideal pitch combination as a result. Your chances of successfully swaying a prospect increase the more overlap there is between their ideal pitch motivations and the pitch you are trying to sway them on. It is possible to sway them on a pitch with zero motivation overlap, but it is a very low probability of success.

For example, let’s say the prospect’s current ideal pitch is Hometown Hero, which includes campus lifestyle, proximity to home, and program tradition. To increase your probability of success, you would want to sway them on a pitch that also has 1 or 2 of the Hometown Hero motivations. In this example, let’s sway the prospect on the College Experience pitch, which includes academic prestige, campus lifestyle, and stadium atmosphere. If our sway is successful, the prospect will now care about academic prestige and stadium atmosphere in addition to the three motivations they already cared about as a part of their Ideal Pitch. A successful sway gives you the ability to pitch two or more ideal pitches for maximum influence gain. It also provides you with the opportunity to more closely align the prospect with your school’s strengths. This is an incredibly powerful action and if used properly it can separate you from the competition.

STAGE 3: CLOSE

The final step in the recruiting journey is to Close . This is when you bring the prospect in for an official visit and attempt to leave a lasting impression with them. In order to schedule a visit with a prospect, they must be down to their top 5 schools and you need to have offered them a scholarship. No recruit wants to take the time to visit somewhere that won’t even give them a scholarship offer. 

A recruit can only take an official visit to a school when they are on a bye week or they have a home game. Additionally, schools can only host up to four recruits in a single week. When scheduling a visit with a prospect, you will be charged 40 recruiting hours. The cost to schedule a visit does not count towards the maximum number of hours you can allocate to the recruit in a week. This allows you to continue your normal recruiting of the prospect in the same week you schedule a visit.

A visit is broken down into two main parts: Scheduling and Activity .

Timing is everything when it comes to scheduling a visit. Waiting to bring the recruit in for a big time rivalry game late in the season could have a lot of upside, but it also carries risk since there’s a chance the prospect will commit somewhere else prior to your visit date. 

Who you play the day of the visit also matters. Every visit during the regular season comes with a set of Gameday Stakes, which determine the influence bonus you will receive with the recruit for winning the game and the potential downside for a loss. The stakes are set by the importance and visibility of the game the prospect will attend. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to go to a game in a weak environment. Playing a lower tier opponent will provide very little upside and major downside if you lose. Conversely, playing your rival who is also a top 5 team will have the potential to leave a lasting impression. Of course, you can avoid any risk entirely by scheduling during a bye week, but then you get no game-related bonuses at all.

Finally, the other prospects who are visiting that weekend can have a positive or negative impact based on whether or not their positions are complementary or competitive. For example, having a quarterback and left tackle visit at the same time will give a complimentary bonus, whereas scheduling two quarterbacks on the same day is considered a competitive visit and will negatively impact both of their visits.

After setting which date the prospect is going to visit, the next step is to select what they are going to do on their visit. There are 14 activities a recruit can do during a visit and each activity maps to a prospect motivation. Similar to pitches, the alignment of the recruits interest level in that activity and your My School grade will determine how much the recruit enjoys the activity.

Nailing the visit can often be the difference between bringing in a Top 5 class or being left at the altar on signing day. If things go well, there’s a chance the recruit will verbally commit to your school following the visit.

While you should feel good about securing a verbal commitment, it is critical you stay on top of things until they sign their letter of intent on signing day. If a prospect is verbally committed and they have a Dealbreaker, they will decommit from your school if you fall below the required grade threshold prior to signing day. Once a player has signed on signing day, you have nothing to worry about until they arrive on campus and your next challenge is keeping them happy and out of the transfer portal.

HEY COACH, I’M SORRY, BUT I’VE DECIDED TO LEAVE

Over the last three years the transfer portal has completely reshaped college football and how you build your roster. While it can be used to quickly upgrade your roster, it can also gut your program if a mass of players head to the exits.

Just like recruits, players on your roster can also have a Dealbreaker and any recruit that has a Dealbreaker will keep their Dealbreaker when they join your roster. Remember, Dealbreakers can be thought of as a promise between you and the player. If you fail to uphold your end of the deal there is a chance they leave in the offseason. The corresponding My School grade falling below the threshold does not guarantee that they will decide to leave. The probability of a player transferring after their Dealbreaker has been violated is driven by their OVR with higher OVR players being more likely to transfer.

Keep in mind that every action you take throughout the season has the potential to impact your My School grades and therefore increase a player’s chance of leaving. A perfect example is the coaching carousel, where coach firings or coaches leaving for new jobs could immediately impact a team’s Coach Prestige grade resulting in players entering the portal. 

In addition to players entering the portal, high OVR players may look to go pro and enter the draft if they’ve been in school for 3 or more years. Players who are entering the pro draft will display the round they are projected to be drafted in.

Once a player has decided to leave, you will have an opportunity to persuade them to stay. The chance to successfully persuade a player to stay is determined by their OVR and your coach prestige. Higher OVR players will be harder to convince than low OVR players. 

However, keep in mind that you only have a limited number of persuasion attempts. The number of persuasion attempts you have is determined by your coach prestige. The higher your coach prestige, the more attempts you will have. You can increase the number of persuasion attempts with the Gift of Gab ability and you can increase your chance of successfully persuading a player to stay with the Roster Retainer ability. Both of these abilities are available in the Program Builder archetype.

After advancing the week, you will be able to see the pro draft results which show where players were drafted. When creating the pro draft results, we use real world data and pro draft trends to inform when players are drafted based on their OVR and position.

I THINK IT IS BEST IF YOU PLAY ELSEWHERE

While players have the opportunity to leave via the transfer portal every season, you will also have the opportunity to make roster changes. Every offseason you are required to get back down to 85 players on your roster. Unfortunately that means if you are over the 85 man limit, you will be forced to encourage some players to transfer and find a new home. Even if you are at or below 85 players on your roster, you can still encourage players to transfer in order to make room for new players the next season. And no, you can’t encourage the brand new freshman you just signed to find a new home the moment he gets on campus.

THE TRANSFER PORTAL

As we said at the beginning, one of our goals was to make the transfer portal authentically unpredictable. This begins with players leaving. Some schools may face a mass exodus of players, while others may be left untouched. Once all players have decided whether to stay or go, the transfer portal will officially open at the start of offseason recruiting.

Offseason recruiting lasts four weeks in total and transfers will make their final decisions at the end of it on National Signing Day. Just like in real life, this is a chaotic four weeks where players are committing quickly and team rosters are rapidly changing. Teams will have to constantly make quick decisions, sometimes with limited information. Do you want to continue pursuing high school recruits? Are there transfers who can immediately improve your roster? How much time do you want to spend discovering a transfer’s motivations and scouting them versus selling them on your program? How soon do you want to bring a transfer in for a visit?

Every transfer is given a star rating based on their OVR and has a national, state, and position ranking just like high school prospects. Since people change over time, transfers are assigned a new Ideal Pitch and motivations. Every player in the transfer portal has the same dealbreaker that caused them to transfer originally. Their new Ideal Pitch will include their dealbreaker motivation and it will be relevant to transfers and their unique needs.

After their new Ideal Pitch and motivations have been set, transfers will evaluate every school and generate a top schools list just like high school prospects do. They will look at how their motivations align with each school and adjust for pipelines and proximity to home. 

Since four and five star prospects are in the highest demand and they know more concretely what they are looking for, they will only consider five schools. If you are not in their top five, you will not be able to talk with them. Lower star rated prospects will vary in terms of the number of schools they are considering. Some will be completely open, while others will have as few as three schools they are considering. 

Regardless of where they start, the process of recruiting a transfer is fast and you will need to make quick decisions. Your interactions with a transfer will be very similar to interacting with a high school recruit. Depending on their stage, you will add recruiting actions, pitch your school, and bring them to your campus on a visit to try and close the deal.

When evaluating whether to target transfers or high school prospects, schools will look at each position on their roster throughout the season and monitor their immediate needs. If a position group does not meet their requirements, they will hold a spot on their recruiting board for an offseason transfer who they believe can come in and be an immediate contributor. Don’t be surprised if you see teams finish Early Signing Day with a light recruiting class in preparation for a big recruiting push in the transfer portal. 

Of course, once they see the players who are actually in the portal, their priorities may change. Having a need at left tackle is nice and all during the season, but if there’s a five star transfer quarterback who wants to come to your school, why turn them down?

SIGNING DAY

Just like the real world, College Football 25 features both Early Signing Day and National Signing Day. Early Signing Day takes place at the start of Bowl Season after the regular season has been completed. National Signing Day takes place seven weeks after the National Championship.

On signing day, any players who have verbally committed to a school prior to signing day will sign, meaning they can no longer decommit. The majority of prospects will commit prior to Early Signing Day, but some recruitments may last late into the cycle. Those prospects, along with transfers, will ultimately sign their letter of intent on National Signing Day. 

Throughout recruiting, you can view the team recruiting rankings in the Top Classes tab of the recruiting hub. Top Classes allows you to view the team recruiting rankings for high school prospects, transfers, or combined. You can also filter the rankings by conference.

Any recruits who are unsigned after National Signing Day will stick around and become walk ons in the offseason. With that being said, the days of a player who was being actively recruited not committing anywhere and drifting off into the ether are over! No longer will you have to speculate and fantasize what happened to them. Did they fail to get into school because of grades? Did they have a change of heart and decide to try archery instead? Was it something you said? Now the team with the highest influence on Signing Day will get the player as long as they have offered them a scholarship. This was a huge quality of life improvement that we all felt was a must have and we are very happy we were able to deliver it.

POSITION CHANGES

Following signing day, you will have the opportunity to change player positions ahead of off-season progression. This is especially important for any athletes you signed in recruiting as they do not have an actual position. If you forget to set an athlete's position, they will be automatically assigned their primary archetype’s position when you advance the week. 

Players will be able to change to any other position regardless of their original position. The position change spreadsheet will show you their projected overall at the new position, which archetype they would become, where they would rank on the depth chart, and the number of players at the position. Once you confirm their new position, they will receive a new set of physical abilities that are specific to that archetype. The physical abilities and tiers they receive are determined by their new attributes. Mental abilities will not change unless the mental ability does not apply to their new position.

PLAYER PROGRESSION

In college football, the offseason is the most impactful time period when it comes to player development. While players can improve throughout the season, the bulk of their progression and development happens during the spring and summer. Every season we see players who put in the #work during the offseason and come back bigger, stronger, faster, and overall a significantly better player. Player progression in College Football 25 is no different. 

All About The Gainz

In Dynasty, players will automatically progress their attributes and physical abilities. Mental abilities cannot be upgraded allowing for greater differentiation between players. 

Players will progress during the season based on their on-field performance, but the bulk of their progression will happen in the offseason. Offseason progression happens after the position changes stage, so that players will progress in their new positions. The amount a player progresses in the offseason is influenced by their school year, your coach abilities, and their development trait. 

To simulate the real world difference in physical maturity between a freshman and a senior, younger players like rising sophomores will take larger leaps during the offseason than a rising senior. Similarly, a player’s coaching staff will have a significant impact on their development. For example, Motivators can have the Pay It Forward ability, which awards bonus XP to a position group every time a player at that position is drafted in the first three rounds. Motivators can also have the Put in Work ability, which increases offseason development for players in a particular position group. Progression will then be further modified by the player’s development trait. 

In College Football 25, there are four player development traits:

  • Normal: These players are most common, and progress at a standard rate. Expect them to steadily grow over their career.
  • Impact: The type of player that can really change a team. They’ll progress faster than normal, with higher upside.
  • Star: A potential Sunday player. There are very few of these to go around and they’ll establish themselves early as fast learners.
  • Elite: The best of the best. These players will make a statement the moment they get on campus and have the potential to be an all-time great.

Once a player is on your roster, their development trait is known and can be seen in the player card, which can be accessed by pressing Triangle/(Y) on a player on the roster screen. When a player is a recruit, their development trait is hidden until National Signing Day, unless you have the Strategist archetype’s Mind Reader ability, which gives you a chance to learn their development trait when they come in for an official visit. 

Skill Groups

As opposed to progressing each attribute individually, for example Trucking, players will instead progress an entire Skill Group. A Skill Group is a collection of related attributes, for example the running back Power skill group includes Trucking, Strength, Stiff Arm, Toughness, Jumping, and Injury. Every Skill Group has a max level of 10. Each time you upgrade a skill group, it will increase one level and progress all of the attributes in the skill group. With that being said, some players will have a Skill Group max level or cap that is less than 10. 

Skill Group caps can be thought of as a player’s max potential in that particular area. These will vary by player, Skill Group, position, and archetype. Once a Skill Group has hit the cap, it can no longer be upgraded unless the coach has the Architect archetype and the Limitless or Put a Ring on It abilities. Limitless provides a chance to increase a random skill cap every time the player levels up and Put a Ring on It provides a chance to increase their highest skill cap after winning a Conference or National Championship.

Mental and Physical Abilities

As Scott described in the Gameplay Deep Dive , players can have up to five physical abilities and three mental abilities. Both physical and mental abilities have four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Physical abilities are determined by the player’s archetype, while mental abilities are position specific.

While progressing, players will look to upgrade their physical abilities if they meet the rating requirement. Every tier of a physical ability has an associated attribute requirement. For example, in order to have the platinum Workhorse ability, a player must have 95 Toughness. As said above, Dynasty players cannot upgrade their mental abilities. So if a player does not come in as a freshman with a particular mental ability, there is no way for them to earn that ability through progression.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Impact players are back and are a quick way for you to easily identify the key players on the other team. Every team will have at least one offensive and one defensive player who is an “Impact Player”. However, unlike the past, there is no limit on the number of Impact Players a team can have. Explosive offenses with playmakers everywhere might have five or six Impact Players across the board letting you know straight up that they got dudes and they are about to cook.

MANAGING WEAR AND TEAR

With the introduction of the new Wear and Tear system, the week to week management of your players is more essential than ever before. As described in the Gameplay Deep Dive , players can incur damage to body parts during gameplay. The more damaged a body part is, the more it will impact their on-field performance. In addition to on-field gameplay, players will also incur Wear and Tear damage during SuperSim. 

Each week, players will recover some of their wear and tear damage. The amount of recovery is dependent on how damaged the body part is. For example, let’s say in the previous game your running back severely damaged his right ankle and his left shoulder was only slightly damaged. The next week you can expect his shoulder to be fully recovered and his ankle to be only slightly recovered. His ankle would then be something you want to monitor in the next game. 

You could decide to sit him in an effort to allow him to get back to full health the following week or you could play him at the risk of increasing how long it takes him to fully recover. In an effort to ensure that players are not disappearing in big time games late in the season, we have set minimums that players will always recover to when advancing the week.

You can monitor your player’s Wear and Tear damage by viewing the health tab in their player card. To access this, go to the roster spreadsheet and press triangle/(Y) on a player. This screen will show his damaged body parts and associated ratings impacts.

DELIVERING THE WORLD OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL

One of the biggest challenges we faced in the development of College Football 25 was the task of recreating everything that makes the sport of College Football so unique. Unlike most professional sports where so much of the league is templatized and where uniformity helps drive a quest for parity; College Football is a sport that marches to the beat of its own drum. It’s a sport that thrives on the chaos created by that very lack of conformity. And while that lack of conformity makes College Football so special, it also makes the task of building the world of College Football so much more challenging. 

So let’s talk about those elements that help immerse you in your coaching journey and the recruiting trail. 

A NEW DAY IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

A lot has happened since we last made a college football game, most notably the entirety of the 4-team College Football Playoff format has come and gone, But this year starts a new day for College Football with the 12 team format, and you get to experience it first in College Football 25!

There are a lot of intricacies with how the new College Football Playoff format that college football fans will need to get used to. During development, members of our team were able to participate in a mock selection committee session hosted by the CFP to help us better understand the process of how the committee determines their rankings. With the expansion to the new 12-team format we were able to apply those learnings to project how the committee will value wins and losses in a world where going undefeated in a power conference is going to be less and less common and the perception of schedule imbalance continues to widen. 

While the Media and Coaches Polls run throughout the entire season, you will need to wait for the calendar to turn to November before you start to get the first peek at how the 12-team bracket is shaping up. That will be your first look at both the CFP Top 25 as well as how the playoff would be seeded based on those rankings/seeding rules.

We created unique logic for our College Football Playoff Poll to model how we anticipate the rankings to look in the new format. Generating a believable opinion based poll is no easy feat, especially one where we are projecting what may happen versus being able to use the real world results as our reference point. “You are what your record says you are” is a misnomer in college football, so factors like school and conference prestige can impact where a school finds itself in the CFP poll. Each week of the season the Coaches, Media and CFP Polls along with the 12-team bracket update based on the most recent results and the final rankings and bracket are revealed following the completion of Conference Championship games.

Once the rankings are set, now it’s time to seed the bracket! As many people reading this already know, the 12-team format is a 5+7 model, meaning the five highest ranked conference champions will get automatic berths into the playoff, and the remaining seven spots will be filled based on order of the final CFP ranking. The only way to get a first round bye is to be one of the four highest ranked conference champions. So an undefeated Notre Dame or any other independent, as well as the winner of the PAC-12 can be seeded no higher than 5th and will never be eligible to skip the Playoff First Round. The 5th automatic qualifier that did not get a first round bye will be seeded based on where they rank in the final CFP poll.

One of the most exciting parts about the new 12-team format is that the first round games will be played on campus! Hosting one of those games means you will have all of your home field advantage on your side as you take on your opponent as you look to win and advance. The Playoff Quarterfinal and Semifinal games take place at the bowls formerly known as the New Year’s 6 (Orange, Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach) which rotate annually each year of a dynasty just like they will in real life. The CFP National Championship game has its own rotation of hosts. Starting with Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta the championship game will rotate through an additional ten locations before looping back around as you continue deeper into your dynasty. 

In addition to the College Football Playoff, we also feature 34 bowl games each using their real world bowl tie-ins, so the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will annually feature teams from the Sun Belt and Conference USA, the TransPerfect Music City Bowl will feature teams from the SEC and the Big Ten, etc. 

Just like the CFP bracket, you will get your first look at the bowl projections in the first week of November each season. Each week that you keep winning you can see yourself climb in the polls, playing in a more prestigious bowl, all while trying to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff.

The new era of College Football is here, and by the time the 12-team playoff happens in real life you will already be an expert on how the format works just by playing Dynasty Mode!

MEET YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR

Speaking of the dawn of a new era, the latest round of conference realignment has dramatically changed the landscape of college football and just like the 12 team CFP format, you will get to experience that new reality first in College Football 25!

Every conference is set with their 2024 alignment, the Sun Belt is the last conference to feature divisions, and the scheduling logic has been set for both the current season, as well as the future year rotation based on each conference’s rule set. The SEC will accurately follow the 8-game with one protected opponent rotation, while the Big Ten will utilize their 9-game flex protect model, and so on. 

If you need a refresher of who’s where, or if you are looking to follow along with the conference races, you can keep an eye on everything on the Conference Standings screen.

Be Your Own Conference Commissioner

If you prefer to reset conferences to a previous configuration, push forward to a potential future, or just blow everything up and make whatever conference membership you want and adjust the rules to your liking you have the power to be the Czar of College Football and set things how you’d like them with Custom Conferences.

You can reduce any conference to as few as 4 members, and grow any conference to as large as 20 schools. In addition to moving schools into different conferences you can have a school go Independent for the ultimate in schedule flexibility (but remember it comes at the expense of a potential 1st round bye in the CFP).

You will also have the ability to edit each conference’s rules. Determining if they will/will not have divisions, what those division names are, how many conference games will be played annually, if the conference will have a conference championship game, and the location of that championship game either at a neutral site location or at the home stadium of the highest ranked team.

You will be able to make adjustments to conference membership and rules when starting a dynasty as well as at the end of each off-season giving you total flexibility to change things however you want both at the start of a dynasty as well as change the landscape of the future based on your dynasty results to keep things fresh and interesting as you go deeper into your coaching career. 

Moving conferences does not mean you are stuck with the old conference’s jersey patch for the logo on the 25 yard lines. Those will dynamically update based on conference membership.

In an Online Dynasty, only the Commissioner can make conference changes.

LET’S TALK SCHEDULES

College Football is unlike any sport in that so many of the weeks of the season mean something special to so many different schools. It’s not enough to make sure that the schedules rotate, and that home and away status gets flipped for the new year. If it’s the 3rd Saturday in October, Tennessee better be playing Alabama. If it’s Thanksgiving weekend then the Iron Bowl, The Big Game, Florida State/Florida and a host of other rivalry games better be on the table next to the turkey and stuffing. Dynasty Mode’s scheduling system will make sure those special games get filled in the correct weeks before adding in the rest of the conference and non-conference slate to get each school to their 12 games.

For non-conference games, we have included as many real world games as were announced by the time we had to lock schedules, so when you get to 2027 and 2028 the Florida State/Georgia home and home series will already be scheduled, in 2029 and 2030 the Notre Dame/Alabama home and home will be scheduled, etc. Our schedule generator will be used to fill out everyone’s schedule to make sure that every school has 12 games for all 30 years of a Dynasty.

Kickoff games like the Duke’s Mayo Classic and the Vegas Classic are here as well, and will be scheduled in future years of Dynasty mode.

Another recent addition to the world of college football is the concept of Week 0. While the season still kicks off on Labor Day weekend for a majority of schools, some get things started the week prior in what has been affectionately termed “Week Zero”. The authentic week 0 games are scheduled for year one of dynasty, and in your future years Week 0 will get utilized, however the bulk of the schools will still put toe to leather for the first time in the traditional Labor Day week window.

You can see your team’s entire schedule on the Team Schedule screen, or look at the schedule around the country week by week from Scores/Schedules. Each week the broadcast type will be determined based on what is the biggest game on that week’s slate. If your game is either a national or streaming broadcast it will be called by our team of Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack. The Game of the Week will be called by Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit.

The Crowd Themes that our friends in Presentation talked about recently also appear in Dynasty. If your school does a White Out, Black out, checkerboard, striping, etc. you will see those crowd themes in the 1st home game of the season, for rivalry games, and if you are named as the Game of the Week.

Set your Schedule

In addition to Custom Conferences, you can also customize your non-conference schedule via Custom Schedules every preseason.

Conference games are designated with a lock icon and cannot be edited, but your non-conference games do not have a lock signifying they are fair game to edit.

Select any week that features a non-conference opponent or any bye week to be able to select a different team to play in that week. You can only have a max of 12 games, so you will need to remove a game before trying to add a new one. 

When you select a week, you will see all of the available opponents that you can choose from. Some schools will not be available if they are already locked into a conference game in that week so you will have more luck finding a larger set of available teams earlier in the season before most schools have started conference play.

You can also change if the non-conference game is a home or away game by simply toggling the home/away status on the schedule screen.

To avoid the mass confusion of multiple people trying to edit schedules at the same time, the Commissioner in an Online Dynasty is responsible for making all Custom Schedule changes. 

TEAMBUILDER IN ONLINE DYNASTY

TeamBuilder is back! You can import up to 16 TeamBuilder teams in a private Online Dynasty. The Commissioner will need to replace existing FBS schools with the TeamBuilder teams they want to add when setting up the dynasty. Including TeamBuilder schools is only available at the creation of the league and they can only be used in private Online Dynasties, so make sure your Commissioner knows which school you want to use when getting the Online Dynasty started.

TO BURN A SHIRT, OR NOT TO BURN A SHIRT

The changes in the world of college football have not been limited to off the field, handling redshirts have also seen a recent overhaul, and to keep in line with the real world we have implemented the ability to play in up to four games in a season and still be eligible to take a redshirt. 

Each pre-season you will have the option of selecting which players you for sure want to redshirt, and during the course of the season you can monitor how many games each player has played in in order to make the determination on if you want to keep playing that player, or have him sit the remainder of the year in order to preserve his redshirt status. 

Those four games can be played at any point in the season, so you can get a freshman some game reps early in the year and then hold them out until the end of the season and then bring them back in for a playoff run if wear and tear has run your roster down and you need a fresh body when the season matters most. 

Once a player has played in their 5th game in a season they are no longer eligible for a redshirt that year, but will be eligible for a redshirt the following year.

If micromanaging redshirts is not your thing, no worries at all, anyone who is eligible for a redshirt at the end of the season will have it automatically applied. 

EARNING SOME HARDWARE

College Football loves to celebrate accomplishments, whether it’s reclaiming a 100+ year old water jug from a rival like the annual Michigan/Minnesota game, a coach hoisting up the SEC championship trophy in Atlanta in early December, or The Most Outstanding Player in College Football striking the iconic pose just one week later, College Football and awards are synonymous. 

RIvalry trophies will be on the line and the winner of each contest takes home both the trophy and bragging rights for the year. 

Conference, Bowl, and National titles will contribute both to your coach’s pedigree but also the school’s Program Tradition grade. 

When it comes to individual awards, the conversation has to start with the most storied trophy in all of sports, the Heisman Memorial Trophy which is awarded annually to the Most Outstanding Player in College Football. Each week of the season, keep tabs on the Heisman Watch to see who is in the running for the prestigious award, as the Heisman Race heats up as we get to the award being announced heading into the first Bowl week.

In addition to the Heisman, we have other individual positional awards like the Lou Groza, Lombardi, and Unitas Golden Arm Award, among others. We also have the Broyles Award for the best Coordinator in the country to go along with our Head Coach of the Year award. 

Preseason and Postseason All-American teams are named annually as well. In the pre-season both 1st and 2nd team All-American teams are named at the National and the Conference level. The Post Season All-American teams feature the 1st, 2nd, and Freshman teams at the National and Conference level too.

You will be able to follow the nominees and finalists for the awards from the CFB tab of the Dynasty Hub. The All American Teams are announced in the pre-season as well as the 1st week of Bowl season when the other awards are handed out.

In addition to annual awards, Players of the Week on offense and defense are determined both at the National and Conference level.

RECORDS ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN

No career mode would be complete without the tracking of player stats and the Record Book. 

Season Stats track individual player stats for the current season. While Team Stats track a number of categories at the team level for the current season.

Career Stats track individual players stats for the entirety of their collegiate career.

Coach Stats track the lifetime accomplishments of coaches, and also serves as a way to get a look at each coach’s current job security status so that you can get an early look at what jobs may become available on the Coaching Carousel. 

The Record Book covers player records on the Career, Season, and Game level. 

Every stat category and every record is tracked at the national, conference, and team level. College Football 25 is the first time we have tracked records at a conference level, giving you one more set of milestones to try and break during a career!

PLAY FOR PRIDE…STICKERS

For certain schools like Ohio State and Florida State the pride stickers that are applied to an individual player’s helmet of the course of the season are as iconic as any other tradition in college football. Each season the helmet starts fresh and over the course of the season, based on each player’s performance, pride stickers are added to give a visual representation of that player’s accomplishments.

We worked with each school to understand their fill pattern to make sure that as the stickers are being applied over the course of a season they are being added in the correct pattern based on how the school applies them in real life.

SO WHAT ELSE?

No Dynasty deep dive is complete without going through some of the utility features of the mode.

  • Both Online and Offline Dynasty can go for up to 30 seasons.
  • Up to 32 users can participate in a Dynasty, offline or online.
  • Only one user per school.
  • The Commissioner is in charge of determining the settings for the dynasty, the roster file that’s used at league creation, handles all custom conference and custom schedule changes, and is responsible for advancing the dynasty to the next week/off-season stage. No pressure. 
  • You can keep track of everyone’s status in the Members screen.
  • Commissioner status can be transferred from the Members screen as well.
  • Commissioners will have the ability to force a win in the event that a game was not able to be completed, and for those of you that like to restart a game vs the CPU that isn’t going your way, the number of times a game was started is tracked on the Scores/Schedules screen for all to see. 

POST-GAME SPEECH

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far in the blog. Standing at nearly 17,000 words and 85 pages, this blog is a representation of how passionate this team is about this game. The level of dedication, commitment, and passion is what makes this team special and both of us proud to be a part of it. The entire team has had a “do whatever it takes” mentality because we know how important this game, and more specifically Dynasty mode is to you, the community.

Like we said at the top, at the end of the day, everything centered around one goal: “Satisfy the Core Community” because “This is THEIR Game” . Our entire team embraced this and tried our best to embody it each and every day. It’s been an incredible journey and we couldn’t be more excited for you to finally experience it. Thank you to the entire team and to the community for your passion, excitement, and support for this game.

With that being said, we will see you again soon for the next deep dive.

 - Chad Walker, Ben Haumiller (@BenHaumiller), and the entire College Football 25 Development team

College Football 25 launches worldwide on July 19th, 2024. Pre-order the Deluxe Edition* or the EA SPORTS™ MVP Bundle** and play 3 days early. Conditions and restrictions apply. See disclaimers for details. Stay in the conversation by following us on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , YouTube , and Answers HQ .

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What students can expect after Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action

Big changes are coming to how elite colleges choose future students – and how those applicants vie for coveted seats. 

A Supreme Court ruling Thursday concluded that Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated the 14th amendment to the Constitution by considering students’ race as one of many factors in admissions decisions. This form of affirmative action, which is common at the country’s several hundred highly selective institutions, is no longer allowed. 

Students of color say the decision is devastating and sharply changes their outlook on the admissions process. “It made me wonder immediately, how is this going to affect my senior year?” said Rikka Dimalanta, 17, who will be a senior this fall in Los Angeles. “If our identity as students isn’t going to be taken into account, what else am I supposed to put on my application?”

There are other ways for colleges to pursue diversity goals, however, and for students of color to access those institutions, including in some cases by bringing race into the conversation.

Here’s an early look at how college admissions could change. 

For most colleges, business as usual

Though Thursday's decision is historic, it’s important to note it won't mean much for many colleges. Of the more than 1,000 institutions that use the Common Application , just 70 admit fewer than 25% of their applicants, CEO Jenny Rickard has said . 

And plenty of schools are in one of the states that banned affirmative action in college admissions before this week's ruling, including Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan. Arizona State University quickly declared Thursday that it was one of those institutions that won’t be affected. It “will have no impact on the diversity of the Arizona State University student body or ASU’s commitment to having a student body which reflects the population of the State of Arizona,” the university said.

Will affirmative action ruling matter? Thousands of college and universities already accept almost everyone

How the decision affects college admissions tests, essays

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of highly selective colleges began making standardized test scores an optional part of applications . One of the hopes was that it would lead to a more diverse student population. Then when the pandemic hit, test-optional policies became the default for logistical reasons : As of this past spring, submitting SAT or ACT scores was still optional at most schools.

Although studies have shown the shift from these tests has meant only small changes in what the student body looks like at small, private institutions, experts predict the court's affirmative action decision will cement those policies. And that could mean more emphasis on personal statements and essays – an area where race often comes up. 

Observers have focused on one line in particular from the ruling : “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”  

But the justices also wrote – directly challenging the dissent – “universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today.”

“For any students my age – myself included – this decision doesn’t prevent us from talking about the way that race has impacted us," said Aina Marzia, 17, a rising senior in El Paso, Texas, who was infuriated by the court's decision. "It’s just that we don’t have a box to check for our application this fall.”

Anurima Bhargava, a civil rights lawyer who formerly served with the U.S. Department of Justice, urged future applicants not to shy away from highlighting their racial identity when applying to colleges.

“It’s not that diversity isn’t something that universities can pursue. It’s not that you can’t tell your own stories, stories of your racial experiences, about your identity or your background,” she said in a discussion Thursday hosted by Whiteboard Advisors, a research and consulting firm. “How universities are going to take account of that is still going to be a question for them, but it’s not that students can’t tell those kinds of stories.”

Jeff Selingo, a higher education journalist who spent a year behind the scenes with college admissions officers , said one next step for those gatekeepers is to deliberate what to make of students whose essays deal with race.  

What to know: A breakdown of the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision

What does this mean for legacy admissions?

Another item for college officials to deliberate: legacy admissions, the practice of giving preference to applicants whose family members attended the institution. 

Richard Kahlenberg, a progressive scholar who served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Harvard and UNC cases, said he believes at least some elite colleges will abandon the practice now that they can no longer consider race in admissions.

“If our identity as students isn’t going to be taken into account, what else am I supposed to put on my application?” Rikka Dimalanta, who will be a high school senior this fall in Los Angeles

Before, he said, affirmative action allowed them to achieve some racial diversity without necessarily ensuring their campuses were socioeconomically diverse as well. One study found more than half of Harvard’s students, however racially diverse, for example, came from the top 10% of the country’s income distribution. Another analysis found that 43% of Harvard’s white admits in 2019 were legacy students, recruited athletes, children of faculty and staff or on applicants affiliated with donors.

Before, he said, affirmative action allowed them to achieve racial diversity without necessarily ensuring their campuses were socioeconomically diverse as well. One study found more than half of Harvard’s students, for example, came from the top 10% of the country’s income distribution. Another analysis found that 43% of Harvard’s white admissions in 2019 were legacy students, recruited athletes, children of faculty and staff or on applicants affiliated with donors.

Some highly selective universities, including in states that banned affirmative action, already had stopped practicing legacy admissions. They include the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles. Elsewhere, Texas A&M University and the University of Georgia also have ended the practice.

In remarks denouncing the court's ruling, President Joe Biden also said he is asking the federal Education Department "to analyze what practices help build a more inclusive and diverse student bodies and what practices hold that back, practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity."

A shift to using affirmative action – in recruitment

The onus will be on colleges to recruit from a wide range of communities at the front end of the admissions process, said Forrest Stuart, the vice president of enrollment management at Lafayette College.

“This is really about building a diverse applicant pool,” Stuart said. “There’s nothing in the decision that I’ve seen that says you cannot ensure that the applicant pool is representative of all backgrounds.” Lafayette, a small private college in Pennsylvania where about a quarter of students are people of color, has under Stuart’s leadership partnered with community-based organizations to ensure students from underrepresented backgrounds put their names in the hat as well.

“It really helps because you’re then choosing from a broader base,” said Stuart, who expects this affirmative action-esque approach to recruitment to gain more popularity as colleges work to ensure diversity on campus without considering race in the actual admissions process. “If your net is cast wide enough and broad enough on the building of your applicant pool, I don’t think it’s going to be as difficult for us – at least at Lafayette.” 

Biden also encouraged colleges to build a diverse class by factoring in applicants' family’s income and where they grew up and to consider students’ experiences with hardship or discrimination, including racial discrimination.

Counselors: Colleges need to send a new message to students

Without proactive measures like diversifying applicant pools, educators worry, many students who would’ve applied in an affirmative action world will decide it’s not worth it. 

At the American School Counselors Association, Executive Director Jill Cook has been fielding lots of questions. Many counselors are worried students of color will decide against applying to their reach or dream schools because they don’t think they’ll get in. What if some students choose not to apply at all, perceiving higher education to no longer be a welcoming place? (Legislation seeking to ban diversity, equity and inclusion programs at colleges can make the campuses seem even less inviting.)

There are also high school counselors who worry about the reverse – students overexerting themselves and applying to too many schools because they fear their chances of getting in are reduced after the court’s ruling.

David Hawkins, chief education and policy officer for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said his group will continue to urge high school counselors to push students to meet with admissions officers at their schools of interest.

“Colleges are looking for a diverse group of students, and the decision should not discourage students at all from applying,” Hawkins said. “We will be swimming against the tide, and it can be discouraging. But we also want to ensure that students know it won’t change the fact that colleges are looking for them.”

Some students may take that message to the extreme. 

Allen Koh, founder/CEO of Cardinal Education, an educational consulting firm in California catering to the very affluent, said he has seen mostly white clients move to states like Montana and Wyoming to pursue a perceived geographic advantage based on what they see as a desire on the part of elite universities to boast student enrollment from all 50 states.

“Harvard calls these states ‘sparse country,’ and different universities call them different things,” he said. “But if you think about the sparse population that ‘sparse country’ implies, the pool of students you’re going after isn’t very large. So they actually get a significant advantage.”

Can anything really replace what the court struck down?

Probably not.

Education experts say universities will likely become less diverse as a result of the ruling, and while the court nonetheless acknowledged the importance of diversity in higher education and left the door open for schools to achieve it through other measures, such efforts could take years to see results – if at all.

“Those measures will be expensive and take years to bear fruit,” said Jennifer McAward, an associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. “In the meantime, we are likely to see a substantial drop in racial diversity at highly selective universities.”

Some point to California, where voters in 1996 passed a proposition prohibiting race-conscious college admissions. Despite numerous outreach efforts, University of California system officials have been unable to restore enrollment to levels of diversity representative of the state.

More: Ahead of Supreme Court affirmative action case ruling: Do Harvard, UNC discriminate?

“The shortfall is especially apparent at UC’s most selective campuses,” they wrote in an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court last summer, “where African American, Native American and Latinx students are underrepresented and widely report struggling with feelings of racial isolation.”

And even with race conscious admissions for years, Black enrollment in college has dropped nationwide over time . 

At elite colleges, admissions will always feel 'arbitrary'

According to Mitchell Chang, a UCLA chancellor and professor of higher education and organizational change and Asian American studies, the decision will do little to make college admissions seem more equitable. 

“There’s always going to be this sense that it’s unfair,” he said, pointing to the Ivy League and other elite schools that admit fewer than 10% of their students and enroll classes of just a few hundred people. “If we remove race-conscious admissions, it’s not like these institutions are going to accept more students. The numbers and percentages of winners will remain the same.

“Someone’s always going to be upset that they didn’t get admitted yet were highly qualified, because in many ways, when you’re trying to select between hyper-qualified people, the difference between getting in and rejected is almost arbitrary.”

Contact Alia Wong at (202) 507-2256 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at  @aliaemily .

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That Big Jan. 6 Supreme Court Decision Is Not the Win for Trump People Think It Is

This is part of  Opinionpalooza , Slate’s coverage of the major decisions from the Supreme Court this June. Alongside  Amicus , we kicked things off this year by explaining  How Originalism Ate the Law . The best way to support our work is by joining  Slate Plus . (If you are already a member, consider a  donation  or  merch !)

In Fischer v. United States , a divided Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, handed Donald Trump a political victory by saying the government overreached in prosecuting some of the Jan. 6 rioters. But it created a potentially big legal problem for him by confirming that the submission of “false evidence” in an official proceeding—as Trump allegedly help orchestrate with the fake electors scheme after he lost the 2020 election—indeed violates federal law. Should Donald Trump ever go to trial on 2020 election interference, and that’s a big if depending on what the Supreme Court does Monday in the pending Trump immunity case, he could well face some serious jail time.

Roberts barely acknowledged the factual circumstances surrounding the Fischer case. For months, Donald Trump had been telling his supporters that the 2020 presidential election was going to be (and eventually was) stolen from him. He encouraged his supporters to come to D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, for “wild” protests. That was a significant day because it was when Vice President Mike Pence presided over a joint session of Congress and the Electoral College votes were to be counted confirming Joe Biden as the winner. After (and during) Trump’s speech before a boisterous crowd, large segments of that group went to the U.S. Capitol and invaded. The result was a violent insurrection, leaving five dead and 140 law enforcement officers injured. Four officers later died by suicide. It was horrendous.

Roberts sadly doesn’t acknowledge this unfortunate history and ongoing threat to American democracy or take any position on it, other than to state, contrary to the antifa takes, that “a crowd of supporters of then-President Donald Trump gathered outside the Capitol” and eventually invaded. This stands in sharp contrast with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson who, in her concurring opinion, opened by calling out and condemning what happened:

On January 6, 2021, an angry mob stormed the United States Capitol seeking to prevent Congress from fulfilling its constitutional duty to certify the electoral votes in the 2020 Presidential election. The peaceful transfer of power is a fundamental democratic norm, and those who attempted to disrupt it in this way inflicted a deep wound on this Nation. But today’s case is not about the immorality of those acts.

Roberts instead approached the question as an antiseptic one of statutory interpretation, involving a statute concerning the “obstruction” of an official proceeding. There’s no question that the rioters could be charged with certain crimes that are straightforward, like criminal trespass or destruction of government property. Those charges will still stand against many of the Jan. 6 rioters, but the obstruction charges mattered because they raised the potential for much more jail time.

Follow me into the weeds for a moment. Here’s the obstruction statute at issue:

(c) Whoever corruptly— (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined … or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

The question was whether Joseph Fischer, one of the Jan. 6 invaders, “otherwise” “obstruct[ed]” or “imped[ed]” an official proceeding. More precisely, how should the legal system read the word otherwise ? Does it apply to any way in which a proceeding might be obstructed, or was it limited to doing so in ways like the ways done in (c)(1), which involves the interference or manipulation of evidence? The majority—including Jackson in her concurrence—read the statute in context to apply to doing something with evidence. Congress enacted the statute after the Enron accounting scandal, and the prime concern was about the evidence manipulation and tampering. The dissenters, led by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, read the statute more broadly to apply to all different ways one might obstruct or impede an official proceeding, including through criminal acts of trespass and violence.

Barrett is a committed textualist, and she makes a good case to read the statute broadly. But the chief justice and Jackson, a former federal public defender, had their own arguments for reading it more narrowly. As a matter of statutory interpretation, this was one of those cases that could have gone either way. My own view is that there’s no reason Congress in writing the statute would have wanted to stop obstruction or impeding of official proceedings only through the use of evidence, not violence, and that the statute was fairly applied to people like Fischer, who knew what they were doing was wrong.

So this is a political victory for the Trumpists, who can now claim judicial overreach as a number of Jan. 6 insurrectionists get part of their charges thrown out . Of course, no one is going to be getting into the weeds of statutory interpretation when they debate this in public. The point is that supporters of the rioters can say the Biden Department of Justice overreached in aggressively applying the statute. As I write this, the banner headline on the New York Times website says, “Supreme Court Says Prosecutors in Jan. 6 Case Overstepped.” That surely hands a victory to Trump and his supporters.

But Roberts did one thing that he did not have to do that surely would hurt Trump if he ever goes on trial for election interference. Trump too was charged with interfering with an official proceeding. He did not physically invade the Capitol or destroy property. He instead is alleged to have engaged in election subversion, including causing the submission of fake electors in an effort to swing the election that he lost from Biden to him.

Could that conduct count as a violation of the statute? The majority opinion states that “it is possible to violate (c)(2) by creating false evidence—rather than altering incriminating evidence.” That’s exactly what Trump is alleged to have engaged in a conspiracy to do. If Trump acted corruptly and if the fake slates of electors count as “false evidence,” well then he and others could be in a lot of criminal trouble.

Roberts’ opinion was joined by other conservative justices, including Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas. Getting them on the record on this is no small thing. And surely the Barrett dissenters would agree too that the statute covers the creation of false evidence.

That’s legally bad news for Donald Trump, should he ever go on trial. Tune in Monday to see if that’s even possible. Trump has argued that the charges against him need to be dismissed because he’s immune from prosecution. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its opinion, and I’m not expecting good news.

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College Admissions , College Essays

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In addition to standardized test scores and transcripts, a personal statement or essay is a required part of many college applications. The personal statement can be one of the most stressful parts of the application process because it's the most open ended.

In this guide, I'll answer the question, "What is a personal statement?" I'll talk through common college essay topics and what makes for an effective personal statement.

College Essay Glossary

Even the terminology can be confusing if you aren't familiar with it, so let's start by defining some terms:

Personal statement —an essay you write to show a college admissions committee who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. It's worth noting that, unlike "college essay," this term is used for application essays for graduate school as well.

College essay —basically the same as a personal statement (I'll be using the terms interchangeably).

Essay prompt —a question or statement that your college essay is meant to respond to.

Supplemental essay —an extra school or program-specific essay beyond the basic personal statement.

Many colleges ask for only one essay. However, some schools do ask you to respond to multiple prompts or to provide supplemental essays in addition to a primary personal statement.

Either way, don't let it stress you out! This guide will cover everything you need to know about the different types of college essays and get you started thinking about how to write a great one:

  • Why colleges ask for an essay
  • What kinds of essay questions you'll see
  • What sets great essays apart
  • Tips for writing your own essay

Why Do Colleges Ask For an Essay?

There are a couple of reasons that colleges ask applicants to submit an essay, but the basic idea is that it gives them more information about you, especially who you are beyond grades and test scores.

#1: Insight Into Your Personality

The most important role of the essay is to give admissions committees a sense of your personality and what kind of addition you'd be to their school's community . Are you inquisitive? Ambitious? Caring? These kinds of qualities will have a profound impact on your college experience, but they're hard to determine based on a high school transcript.

Basically, the essay contextualizes your application and shows what kind of person you are outside of your grades and test scores . Imagine two students, Jane and Tim: they both have 3.5 GPAs and 1200s on the SAT. Jane lives in Colorado and is the captain of her track team; Tim lives in Vermont and regularly contributes to the school paper. They both want to be doctors, and they both volunteer at the local hospital.

As similar as Jane and Tim seem on paper, in reality, they're actually quite different, and their unique perspectives come through in their essays. Jane writes about how looking into her family history for a school project made her realize how the discovery of modern medical treatments like antibiotics and vaccines had changed the world and drove her to pursue a career as a medical researcher. Tim, meanwhile, recounts a story about how a kind doctor helped him overcome his fear of needles, an interaction that reminded him of the value of empathy and inspired him to become a family practitioner. These two students may seem outwardly similar but their motivations and personalities are very different.

Without an essay, your application is essentially a series of numbers: a GPA, SAT scores, the number of hours spent preparing for quiz bowl competitions. The personal statement is your chance to stand out as an individual.

#2: Evidence of Writing Skills

A secondary purpose of the essay is to serve as a writing sample and help colleges see that you have the skills needed to succeed in college classes. The personal statement is your best chance to show off your writing , so take the time to craft a piece you're really proud of.

That said, don't panic if you aren't a strong writer. Admissions officers aren't expecting you to write like Joan Didion; they just want to see that you can express your ideas clearly.

No matter what, your essay should absolutely not include any errors or typos .

#3: Explanation of Extenuating Circumstances

For some students, the essay is also a chance to explain factors affecting their high school record. Did your grades drop sophomore year because you were dealing with a family emergency? Did you miss out on extracurriculars junior year because of an extended medical absence? Colleges want to know if you struggled with a serious issue that affected your high school record , so make sure to indicate any relevant circumstances on your application.

Keep in mind that in some cases there will be a separate section for you to address these types of issues, as well as any black marks on your record like expulsions or criminal charges.

#4: Your Reasons for Applying to the School

Many colleges ask you to write an essay or paragraph about why you're applying to their school specifically . In asking these questions, admissions officers are trying to determine if you're genuinely excited about the school and whether you're likely to attend if accepted .

I'll talk more about this type of essay below.

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What Kind of Questions Do Colleges Ask?

Thankfully, applications don't simply say, "Please include an essay about yourself"; they include a question or prompt that you're asked to respond to . These prompts are generally pretty open-ended and can be approached in a lot of different ways .

Nonetheless, most questions fall into a few main categories. Let's go through each common type of prompt, with examples from the Common Application, the University of California application, and a few individual schools.

Prompt Type 1: Your Personal History

This sort of question asks you to write about a formative experience, important event, or key relationship from your life . Admissions officers want to understand what is important to you and how your background has shaped you as a person.

These questions are both common and tricky. The most common pit students fall into is trying to tell their entire life stories. It's better to focus in on a very specific point in time and explain why it was meaningful to you.

Common App 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.

Common App 5

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

University of California 2

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

University of California 6

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Prompt Type 2: Facing a Problem

A lot of prompts deal with how you solve problems, how you cope with failure, and how you respond to conflict. College can be difficult, both personally and academically, and admissions committees want to see that you're equipped to face those challenges .

The key to these types of questions is to identify a real problem, failure, or conflict ( not a success in disguise) and show how you adapted and grew from addressing the issue.

Common App 2

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Harvard University 7

The Harvard College Honor Code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.

Prompt Type 3: Diversity

Most colleges are pretty diverse, with students from a wide range of backgrounds. Essay questions about diversity are designed to help admissions committees understand how you interact with people who are different from you .

In addressing these prompts, you want to show that you're capable of engaging with new ideas and relating to people who may have different beliefs than you.

Common App 3

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Johns Hopkins University

Tell us about an aspect of your identity (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, religion, community) or a life experience that has shaped you as an individual and how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins.  This can be a future goal or experience that is either [sic] academic, extracurricular, or social.

Duke University Optional 1

We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making Duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. Feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community. 

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Prompt Type 4: Your Future Goals

This type of prompt asks about what you want to do in the future: sometimes simply what you'd like to study, sometimes longer-term career goals. Colleges want to understand what you're interested in and how you plan to work towards your goals.

You'll mostly see these prompts if you're applying for a specialized program (like pre-med or engineering) or applying as a transfer student. Some schools also ask for supplementary essays along these lines. 

University of Southern California (Architecture)

Princeton Supplement 1

Prompt Type 5: Why This School

The most common style of supplemental essay is the "why us?" essay, although a few schools with their own application use this type of question as their main prompt. In these essays, you're meant to address the specific reasons you want to go to the school you're applying to .

Whatever you do, don't ever recycle these essays for more than one school.

Chapman University

There are thousands of universities and colleges. Why are you interested in attending Chapman?

Columbia University

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia.

Rice University

Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you?

Princeton University

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals?

Prompt Type 6: Creative Prompts

More selective schools often have supplemental essays with stranger or more unique questions. University of Chicago is notorious for its weird prompts, but it's not the only school that will ask you to think outside the box in addressing its questions.

University of Chicago

“Vlog,” “Labradoodle,” and “Fauxmage.” Language is filled with portmanteaus. Create a new portmanteau and explain why those two things are a “patch” (perfect match).

University of Vermont

Established in Burlington, VT, Ben & Jerry’s is synonymous with both ice cream and social change. The “Save Our Swirled” flavor raises awareness of climate change, and “I Dough, I Dough” celebrates marriage equality. If you worked alongside Ben & Jerry, what charitable flavor would you develop and why?

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What Makes a Strong Personal Statement?

OK , so you're clear on what a college essay is, but you're still not sure how to write a good one . To help you get started, I'm going to explain the main things admissions officers look for in students' essays: an engaging perspective, genuine moments, and lively writing .

I've touched on these ideas already, but here, I'll go into more depth about how the best essays stand out from the pack.

Showing Who You Are

A lot of students panic about finding a unique topic, and certainly writing about something unusual like a successful dating app you developed with your friends or your time working as a mall Santa can't hurt you. But what's really important isn't so much what you write about as how you write about it . You need to use your subject to show something deeper about yourself.

Look at the prompts above: you'll notice that they almost all ask you what you learned or how the experience affected you. Whatever topic you pick, you must be able to specifically address how or why it matters to you .

Say a student, Will, was writing about the mall Santa in response to Common App prompt number 2 (the one about failure): Will was a terrible mall Santa. He was way too skinny to be convincing and the kids would always step on his feet. He could easily write 600 very entertaining words describing this experience, but they wouldn't necessarily add up to an effective college essay.

To do that, he'll need to talk about his motivations and his feelings: why he took such a job in the first place and what he did (and didn't) get out of it. Maybe Will took the job because he needed to make some money to go on a school trip and it was the only one he could find. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for screaming children, he kept doing it because he knew if he persevered through the whole holiday season he would have enough money for his trip. Would you rather read "I failed at being a mall Santa" or "Failing as a mall Santa taught me how to persevere no matter what"? Admissions officers definitely prefer the latter.

Ultimately, the best topics are ones that allow you to explain something surprising about yourself .

Since the main point of the essay is to give schools a sense of who you are, you have to open up enough to let them see your personality . Writing a good college essay means being honest about your feelings and experiences even when they aren't entirely positive.

In this context, honesty doesn't mean going on at length about the time you broke into the local pool at night and nearly got arrested, but it does mean acknowledging when something was difficult or upsetting for you. Think about the mall Santa example above. The essay won't work unless the writer genuinely acknowledges that he was a bad Santa and explains why.

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Eloquent Writing

As I mentioned above, colleges want to know that you are a strong enough writer to survive in college classes . Can you express your ideas clearly and concisely? Can you employ specific details appropriately and avoid clichés and generalizations? These kinds of skills will serve you well in college (and in life!).

Nonetheless, admissions officers recognize that different students have different strengths. They aren't looking for a poetic magnum opus from someone who wants to be a math major. (Honestly, they aren't expecting a masterwork from anyone , but the basic point stands.) Focus on making sure that your thoughts and personality come through, and don't worry about using fancy vocabulary or complex rhetorical devices.

Above all, make sure that you have zero grammar or spelling errors . Typos indicate carelessness, which will hurt your cause with admissions officers.

Top Five Essay-Writing Tips

Now that you have a sense of what colleges are looking for, let's talk about how you can put this new knowledge into practice as you approach your own essay. Below, I've collected my five best tips from years as a college essay counselor.

#1: Start Early!

No matter how much you want to avoid writing your essay, don't leave it until the last minute . One of the most important parts of the essay writing process is editing, and editing takes a lot of time. You want to be able to put your draft in a drawer for a week and come back to it with fresh eyes. You don't want to be stuck with an essay you don't really like because you have to submit your application tomorrow.

You need plenty of time to experiment and rewrite, so I would recommend starting your essays at least two months before the application deadline . For most students, that means starting around Halloween, but if you're applying early, you'll need to get going closer to Labor Day.

Of course, it's even better to get a head start and begin your planning earlier. Many students like to work on their essays over the summer, when they have more free time, but you should keep in mind that each year's application isn't usually released until August or September. Essay questions often stay the same from year to year, however. If you are looking to get a jump on writing, you can try to confirm with the school (or the Common App) whether the essay questions will be the same as the previous year's.

#2: Pick a Topic You're Genuinely Excited About

One of the biggest mistakes students make is trying to write what they think the committee wants to hear. The truth is that there's no "right answer" when it comes to college essays . T he best topics aren't limited to specific categories like volunteer experiences or winning a tournament. Instead, they're topics that actually matter to the writer .

"OK," you're thinking, "but what does she mean by 'a topic that matters to you'? Because to be perfectly honest, right now, what really matters to me is that fall TV starts up this week, and I have a feeling I shouldn't write about that."

You're not wrong (although some great essays have been written about television ). A great topic isn't just something that you're excited about or that you talk to your friends about; it's something that has had a real, describable effect on your perspective .

This doesn't mean that you should overemphasize how something absolutely changed your life , especially if it really didn't. Instead, try to be as specific and honest as you can about how the experience affected you, what it taught you, or what you got out of it.

Let's go back to the TV idea. Sure, writing an essay about how excited you are for the new season of Stranger Things  probably isn't the quickest way to get yourself into college, but you could write a solid essay (in response to the first type of prompt) about how SpongeBob SquarePants was an integral part of your childhood. However, it's not enough to just explain how much you loved SpongeBob—you must also explain why and how watching the show every day after school affected your life. For example, maybe it was a ritual you shared with your brother, which showed you how even seemingly silly pieces of pop culture can bring people together. Dig beneath the surface to show who you are and how you see the world.

When you write about something you don't really care about, your writing will come out clichéd and uninteresting, and you'll likely struggle to motivate yourself. When you instead write about something that is genuinely important to you, you can make even the most ordinary experiences—learning to swim, eating a meal, or watching TV—engaging .

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#3: Focus on Specifics

But how do you write an interesting essay? Focus.

Don't try to tell your entire life story or even the story of an entire weekend; 500–650 words may seem like a lot, but you'll reach that limit quickly if you try to pack every single thing that has happened to you into your essay. If, however, you just touch on a wide range of topics, you'll end up with an essay that reads more like a résumé.

Instead, narrow in on one specific event or idea, and talk about it in more depth . The narrower your topic, the better. For example, writing about your role as Mercutio in your school's production of Romeo and Juliet is too general, but writing about opening night, when everything went wrong, could be a great topic.

Whatever your topic, use details to help draw the reader in and express your unique perspective. But keep in mind that you don't have to include every detail of what you did or thought; stick to the important and illustrative ones.

#4: Use Your Own Voice

College essays aren't academic assignments; you don't need to be super formal. Instead, try to be yourself. The best writing sounds like a more eloquent version of the way you talk .

Focus on using clear, simple language that effectively explains a point or evokes a feeling. To do so, avoid the urge to use fancy-sounding synonyms when you don't really know what they mean. Contractions are fine; slang, generally, is not. Don't hesitate to write in the first person.

A final note: you don't need to be relentlessly positive. It's OK to acknowledge that sometimes things don't go how you want—just show how you grew from that.

#5: Be Ruthless

Many students want to call it a day after writing a first draft, but editing is a key part of writing a truly great essay. To be clear, editing doesn't mean just making a few minor wording tweaks and cleaning up typos; it means reading your essay carefully and objectively and thinking about how you could improve it .

Ask yourself questions as you read: is the progression of the essay clear? Do you make a lot of vague, sweeping statements that could be replaced with more interesting specifics? Do your sentences flow together nicely? Do you show something about yourself beyond the surface level?

You will have to delete and rewrite (potentially large) parts of your essay, and no matter how attached you feel to something you wrote, you might have to let it go . If you've ever heard the phrase "kill your darlings," know that it is 100% applicable to college essay writing.

At some point, you might even need to rewrite the whole essay. Even though it's annoying, starting over is sometimes the best way to get an essay that you're really proud of.

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What's Next?

Make sure to check out our other posts on college essays , including our step-by-step guide to how to write your college essay , our analysis of the Common App Prompts , and our collection of example essays .

If you're in need of guidance on other parts of the application process , take a look at our guides to choosing the right college for you , writing about extracurriculars , deciding to double major , and requesting teacher recommendations .

Last but not least, if you're planning on taking the SAT one last time , check out our ultimate guide to studying for the SAT and make sure you're as prepared as possible.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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Here’s what you need to know about the verdict in the ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ trial and what’s next

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FILE - The NFL logo is seen during the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. Opening arguments are expected to begin Thursday, June 6, 2024, in federal court in a class-action lawsuit filed by “Sunday Ticket” subscribers claiming the NFL broke antitrust laws. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 and has withstood numerous challenges, including a dismissal that was overturned. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, arrives at federal court Monday, June 17, 2024, in Los Angeles. Goodell is expected to testify as a class-action lawsuit filed by “Sunday Ticket” subscribers claiming the NFL broke antitrust laws. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones leaves federal court Monday, June 17, 2024, in Los Angeles. Jones testified in a class-action lawsuit filed by “Sunday Ticket” subscribers claiming the NFL broke antitrust laws. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Case documents are wheeled into federal court Monday, June 17, 2024, in Los Angeles. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a longtime member of the league’s broadcast committee, are expected to testify in a trial that could last up to three weeks. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Documents to support Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ testimony are wheeled into federal court Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Los Angeles. Jones is testifying in a class-action lawsuit filed by “Sunday Ticket” subscribers claiming the NFL broke antitrust laws. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NFL has been found guilty of breaking antitrust laws in its distribution of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games on the “Sunday Ticket” premium subscription service.

Even though the jury of five men and three women in a U.S. District Court awarded nearly $4.8 billion in damages Thursday to residential and commercial subscribers of “Sunday Ticket,” don’t expect any settlement checks or the shuttering of the service anytime soon.

What did the jury determine?

The league broke antitrust laws by selling “Sunday Ticket” only on DirecTV and at an inflated price. By offering the service on only one distributor and with a high price, that limited the subscriber base and satisfied concerns by CBS and Fox about preserving local ratings while the NFL got a lot of money for its broadcast rights.

How long was the trial?

Three weeks. It began with opening statements on June 6 and featured 10 days of testimony before closing arguments on Wednesday. The jury deliberated for nearly five hours Wednesday and Thursday before coming to a decision.

The NFL brought in Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to testify, but it didn’t help. The plaintiffs’ mostly used economists and video from pre-trial depositions.

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Who were the plaintiffs?

The class action applied to more than 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses, mostly bars and restaurants, that purchased “NFL Sunday Ticket” from June 17, 2011, to Feb. 7, 2023.

What is the breakdown of the damages?

The jury awarded $4.7 billion to residential subscribers and $96 million to businesses. Because damages are trebled under federal antitrust laws, the NFL could end up being liable for $14.39 billion unless it reaches a settlement or it is reduced

The residential damages were slightly less than the $5.6 billion offered under the plaintiffs’ College Football Model but more than a model where “Sunday Ticket” would have multiple carriers and a 49.7% reduction in the subscription cost ($2.81 billion).

The business damages were much lower than the plaintiffs presented in any of their three models. The lowest was $332 million under what was called the “NFL Tax” model.

How would the NFL pay damages?

It would be spread equally among the 32 teams. That means each one could be paying as much as $449.6 million.

Will there be any immediate changes?

Changes to the “Sunday Ticket” package and/or the ways the NFL carries its Sunday afternoon games would be stayed until all appeals have been concluded. It could consider offering team-by-team or week-by-week packages along with reducing the price.

ESPN proposed offering “Sunday Ticket” for $70 per season with team-by-team packages in 2022, but it was turned down by the NFL before it went with YouTube TV.

If the NFL offered team-by-team packages all along, one of the key class members likely would not have been part of the lawsuit.

Rob Lippincott — a New Orleans native who moved to California — bought “Sunday Ticket” only for Saints games.

“He just wanted the Saints. If he had a choice to buy a single-team package and watch the Saints games, he absolutely would have,” plaintiffs attorney Amanda Bonn said during her opening remarks on June 6.

But college football had to change, why not the NFL?

The landmark college football TV case in 1984 was determined by the U.S. Supreme Court. This was at the U.S. District Court level.

The NFL said it would appeal the verdict. That appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then possibly the Supreme Court.

It wouldn’t be the first time the 9th Circuit has seen this case.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2015 by the Mucky Duck sports bar in San Francisco. On June 30, 2017, U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell dismissed the lawsuit and ruled for the NFL. Two years later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case.

What were the keys to the plaintiffs’ case?

During his closing remarks, lead attorney Bill Carmody showed an April 2017 NFL memo that showed the league was exploring a world without “Sunday Ticket” in 2017, where cable channels would air Sunday afternoon out-of-market games not shown on Fox or CBS.

Judge Philip S. Gutierrez voiced his frustration with the plaintiffs’ attorneys midway through the trial, but the closing argument by Carmody was clear and easy to understand.

Was the NFL an underdog in this trial?

The NFL might be the king of American sports and one of the most powerful leagues in the world but it often loses in court, especially in Los Angeles. It was in an LA federal court in 1982 that a jury ruled the league violated antitrust rules by not allowing Al Davis to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles.

What’s next?

All eyes turn to July 31 when Gutierrez is scheduled to hear post-trial motions. That will include the NFL’s request to have him rule in favor of the league because the judge determined the plaintiffs did not prove their case.

Could this impact other sports?

All the major U.S. leagues offer out-of-market packages. They are keeping an eye on this case because individual teams selling their out-of-market streaming rights, especially in baseball, would further separate the haves from the have nots.

A major difference though is that MLB, the NBA and the NHL sell their out-of-market packages on multiple distributors and share in the revenue per subscriber instead of receiving an outright rights fee.

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

Image

College Football 25: EA Sports Shares New Details on Dynasty Mode

Every choice matters..

Taylor Lyles Avatar

With roughly two weeks to go until College Football 25 is released, EA Sports has finally shared details on fan-favorite Dynasty Mode, detailing all the tools players can access on their quest to build a dynasty in college football.

In the new gameplay deep dive, EA Sports revealed that College Football 25’s Dynasty Mode will allow you to start as a head coach, or you can have a more humble beginning and start as a coordinator and work your way up to the stop. More interestingly, there are different skill trees broken up into three core pillars, which you can read a bit more about below:

  • Motivator: A coach who can motivate their players to play the best
  • Recruiter: Someone who is good at recruiting the top players from each recruiting class year
  • Tactician: Skilled at boosting players’ ratings on game day by crafting plays that can assist in winning big games

EA Sports notes that every choice and decision you make will impact Dynasty Mode beyond just recruiting the best players possible, as how you build your staff will impact your program’s performance. To add immersion into the game, EA Sports revealed that players who opt to become head coaches will be able to manage their staff during conference championship week, allowing them the option to fire their coordinators within that week-long timeframe with the ability to hire new coordinators during the first week of Bowl Games, assuming you have a spot open.

Which mode will you likely play the most in College Football 25?

what does college essay do

Plenty to Customize

Like Road to Glory, Dynasty Mode in College Football 25 will also have Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals, and the Transfer Portal will be critical tools for recruiting purposes as you snatch up talent from HS and current student-athletes looking to go to another school. Other interesting tidbits include Dynasty Mode, which offers players the option to convince kids to stay at your school if they decide to either enter the Transfer Portal or declare for the NFL Draft.

When recruiting players, each will have different desires and goals they want in the school they plan to commit to. Recruits could care about things such as playtime, the likelihood of winning championships, building their brand to obtain more NIL deals, staying close to home, stability in the coaching staff, and academic prowess, to name a few.

Yet, the most interesting thing coming to College Football 25’s Dynasty Mode is the ability to realign football conferences. Every conference is set with the 2024 realignment (e.g. Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC and Colorado heading to the Big 12). However, players are able to customize conferences. So you could, for example, add the University of Maryland back into the ACC or revive the PAC-12.

College Football 25 is headed to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on July 19 or July 16 for those that purchase the Deluxe Edition. For more, check out the top 25 rated teams , the best offensive and defensive teams, and the toughest stadiums to play in . If you want to hear IGN’s initial thoughts before the full release, check out our hands-on preview .

Taylor is a Reporter at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixster.

Game# 31 : Jul 4, 2024

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College Football 25

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