Learn from the Best:
The Most Impressive College Essays of the Year
Every year, the New York Times puts out a request for essays that touch on the subjects of “money, work and social class.” This year, the five essays they published were some of the best college essays we’ve read this year – or ever, really.
If you’re a rising senior getting ready to write a college essay of your own, we highly recommend reading these remarkable essays. If you’ve already applied, we still highly recommend reading these remarkable essays. These applicants did a lot of things right, and they’ll give you something to think about for your next writing assignment, whatever it is. So what should you take away from these vastly different essays?
They highlight something that can’t be summed up on the application.
It’s tempting to write about your biggest achievement or accomplishment, but you’ve already discussed those on your actual application (or at least, you certainly should have!). When it’s time to write your essay, think about a situation, a trait, a lesson, or an obstacle that you haven’t been able to mention in your application thus far. What do you really want the admissions counselors to know about you?
They embrace imperfection.
On that note, the essay doesn’t need to be one long humble-brag. Some of the best college essays are about a student’s past mistakes or imperfections. Not only can you highlight something that taught you a lesson or spurred an epiphany, but you can show how you’ve transformed through these events in your life. Writing about something messy or hard can show great self-awareness, and the essays featured in the NY Times this year certainly did that.
They tell incredibly unique stories.
And before you say, “But my life is boring and uneventful,” remember that no one else on the planet has lived the same life as you! Your story, and the way you tell your story, is unique – whether you realize it or not. You’ve learned, grown, and changed through all “mundane” life events, whether you realize it or not. Your essay doesn’t need to be about a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but rather the once-in-a-lifetime lesson it taught you. Consider Caroline Beit’s essay on tax preparation. While the act of doing taxes is one of the most dull activities in the world, the revelations Caroline had while preparing taxes were far from it.
When you’re sitting down to write your college essay – or you’re sitting down to write your first college essay assignment – keep these thoughts in mind. In the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “How can you live and have no story to tell?” Spoiler alert: you can’t. You have a story, and once you find it, you’ll tell it like no one else can.