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Essays About Personal Growth: Top 5 Examples and 8 Prompts

If you’re writing essays about personal growth, our guide’s article examples and prompts will help stimulate your creative thinking.

Personal growth is looking at ways to improve yourself mentally, socially, spiritually, emotionally or physically. It is a process where we envision a better version of ourselves and strive to realize that ideal self. Personal growth demands the setting of personal goals and ensuring routine progress. The work toward personal development involves a great deal of hard work and discipline as we push our existing skills and strengths to a higher boundary while reducing our underlying weaknesses.  

Read our essay examples and prompts below to help you produce a rich and creative essay about personal growth.

5 Essay Examples About Personal Growth

1. is it really too late to learn new skills by margaret talbot, 2. i’ve completed hundreds of 30-day challenges. here’s what i’ve learned by tara nicholle-nelson, 3. i was a self-help guru. here’s why you shouldn’t listen to people like me by michelle goodman, 4. how to craft a personal development plan that inspires meaningful results by scott jeffrey, 5. personal development and the power of feedback by emily marsh, 10 prompts on essays about personal growth, 1. why is personal growth important, 2. take up a personal growth challenge, 3. your personal growth journey, 4. personal growth among successful people, 5. personal growth for leaders , 6. personal growth at work, 7. best personal growth books, 8. strong motivation for achieving personal growth.

“… [H]e decides to throw himself into acquiring five new skills. (That’s his term, though I started to think of these skills as “accomplishments” in the way that marriageable Jane Austen heroines have them, talents that make a long evening pass more agreeably, that can turn a person into more engaging company, for herself as much as for others.)

Learning new things may not be a cup of tea for those in their middle ages. To get out of established expertise, be looked down on as a novice, and push the brain to work double time may even be a dreary and intimidating process. , But Journalist Tom Vanderbilt, award-winning writers, and Nobel Prize recipients prove that satisfaction is worth it for personal growth and fulfillment. 

“I think of Challenges as self-directed projects to change my behavior or spark some personal growth or development I’m clear that I’d like to have. Sometimes I want a mindset shift or want to make (or break) a habit, or I just have a sort of big project I want to sprint to finish…”

Why are we so drawn to self-imposed challenges? For one, it’s a competition only between you and yourself, giving room for flexibility in the rules you set. It provides structure to your goals, chunks your bigger long-term self-growth goals into gradual and doable daily tasks, provokes a sense of self-accountability, and helps you focus your energy on what matters most. 

“Apparently, I learned, gurus are people too, even gurus lining the self-help shelves of friendly neighborhood bookstores. They aren’t infallible, all-knowing oracles above worrying about their generous muffin top or widening backside. They are businesspeople — businesspeople with books, keynotes, and openings in their consulting practice to peddle”

From abhorring gurus to becoming one and then hating the industry much more — this is the story of a self-help book author who realizes it was herself who needed the most advice for personal growth. But, as she creates a facade of a well-balanced life to establish her credibility, things turn dark, almost costing her life. 

“When entertainment, distraction, and workaholism consume our attention, something doesn’t feel right within us… To have a full and meaningful life requires us to open to more dimensions of ourselves. And a Personal Development Plan can help us do just that.”

Everyone strives for personal growth. But once we jump at it, some wrong ingredients may spoil the sense of fulfillment we expect. The right process involves navigating your potential, creating a larger vision, selecting areas to focus on, setting your schedule, and monitoring your progress. You might also be interested in these essays about motivation .

“Without feedback, we would learn very little about ourselves, in or out of work. The feedback process is like holding a mirror up to yourself; that’s why it can be uncomfortable at times. You have to be prepared to listen to and acknowledge whatever reveals itself.”

Hearing feedback is critical to personal growth. Negative feedback is constructive in losing our bad habits. However, purely positive feedback is non-progressive and dangerous if we only seek to affirm how we regard ourselves.

We can never be perfect. But we can always progress. In your essay, explain why nurturing a growth mindset in life is essential. What long-term benefits can you reap daily from wanting to be a better person? How does it affect the mind, body, and overall wellness? Answer these while citing studies that outline the essence of personal growth.

Essays About Personal Growth: Take up a personal growth challenge

Take up any challenge you find exciting and feel up to. Then, write about your experience. If successful, offer tips to your readers on how one can prepare their body, mind, and discipline to stick to the goals. If you did not complete the challenge, don’t worry! Your failure can still be a learning experience that contributes to personal growth and is worth writing about. In addition, you can add what areas of yourself you would like to improve on if you ever take up the challenge again. 

Talk about your goals and your daily efforts to reach this goal. It could relate to acing a test, your sports team winning or professional success. Of course, there will be a handful of challenges in any journey toward a goal. What were the obstacles and distractions that tried to keep you off track? Share these with your readers and how you strived or are striving to conquer them.

When you see people already at the height of their careers, you’ll find some continuing to walk out of their comfort zones and reach for the next higher mountain. For this essay, explain the connection between striving for personal growth and success. Then, provide a list of everyday habits among successful people that others could consider adopting.

Leaders must adapt and address problems efficiently and decisively as they move through a fast-changing landscape. Elaborate on how the pursuit of personal growth helps leaders deliver in their enormous role in organizations, companies, and communities.

If you firmly believe that growth at work translates to personal growth, it would be less hard for you to get by at work. But this gets a bit more complex if your feel that your work is no longer satisfying your self-actualization needs and even limiting you. For this prompt, help your readers determine if it’s time to quit their job and continue their journey for personal growth elsewhere. If you want to address companies, offer recommendations enabling their employees to grow and have a vision for themselves. You may also suggest how managers can keep an open line of communication so that personnel can relay their self-development needs.

Essays About Personal Growth: Best personal growth books

We all have that book that has given us a new kind of energy that made us feel and believe we can do anything if we put our heart into it. We keep these books close to our hearts, serving as a reminder of other bigger goals ahead of us when the going gets tough. Create a numbered list of the books that have captivated you and helped you realize your potential. Talk about the best quotes that struck the chord and the thought racing in your mind while reading them.

When you tap onto your inherent and external motivation for a much-needed push, it may be easier to turn bad moments into something that helps advance personal development plans. For your essay, explain how motivation can be a bridge to get you to your growth goals.

If you’re still stuck, check out our general resource of essay writing topics .

For help with this topic, read our guide explaining what is persuasive writing ?

personal growth essay ideas

Yna Lim is a communications specialist currently focused on policy advocacy. In her eight years of writing, she has been exposed to a variety of topics, including cryptocurrency, web hosting, agriculture, marketing, intellectual property, data privacy and international trade. A former journalist in one of the top business papers in the Philippines, Yna is currently pursuing her master's degree in economics and business.

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Personal Growth Essay | A Winning Essay Writing Strategy

EssayEdge > Blog > Personal Growth Essay | A Winning Essay Writing Strategy

Personal Growth. Perhaps this topic is the most popular one since it delves into the heart of what the admissions essay is all about: helping the college gain better insight into an applicant’s personality and character. Some schools ask targeted questions — “What was the most challenging event you have ever faced, and how have you grown from it?” — while others leave the topic open: “Describe an event that has had great meaning for you. Explain why and how it has affected you.”

One of the most successful strategies is to use a past event as a lens through which you can assess who you were and the person you became, how you have grown and changed, your transformation. Most children are curious, but were you the one who asked your teacher what caused the change of seasons of the year and then created a solar system model and explained the concept to your classmates? Though you may think that your topic needs to be more grandiose, that is not necessary for an essay to be effective. Instead, success lies in painting an accurate and vivid picture of yourself — one that will show admissions officers that you have much to offer their school.

Anastasia M.

The most important advice we can give is to be honest, refrain from using clichés, and show maturity. College represents a radical change from high school, so you want your reader to realize that you are more than ready to take the next major step in your life.

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  • Self-improvement
  • Personal Development
  • Mindfulness

Top Self Improvement Essay Topics for Personal Growth

  • October 7, 2023 October 8, 2023

Self-improvement is a lifelong journey that allows individuals to evolve, grow, and become the best version of themselves. It involves actively working on personal development and striving for continuous progress in various aspects of life. One way to explore and delve deeper into the realm of self-improvement is through self-improvement essay topics. These topics serve as a platform for introspection, reflection, and exploration of personal growth. Choosing the right self improvement essay topics is crucial as it sets the foundation for the entire writing process. It provides a direction and focus, allowing individuals to express their thoughts and insights on specific areas of self-improvement. Whether it is overcoming fears, developing effective communication skills, or embracing mindfulness, the chosen topic should resonate with the writer’s personal experiences and aspirations. By selecting a topic that sparks curiosity and passion, individuals are more likely to engage with the writing process and present their ideas in a compelling manner.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Self-Improvement

Top Self Improvement Essay Topics for Personal Growth

Self-improvement is a concept that holds immense value in our lives. It is an ongoing process of enhancing oneself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The importance of self-improvement lies in its ability to help us become the best version of ourselves, unlocking our true potential and achieving personal growth. Engaging in self-improvement activities allows us to identify our weaknesses and work towards overcoming them. By undertaking self-reflection and actively seeking ways to enhance our skills, knowledge, and mindset, we can strive for self-improvement. This journey enables us to become more resilient, adaptable, and capable individuals, equipped to face the challenges that life presents. With self-improvement, we can continuously learn, develop new skills, and evolve into better versions of ourselves, leading to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

How To Manifest Money Easily Just Like The Elite Do!

Choosing the Right Self Improvement Essay Topics

Choosing the right self-improvement essay topic is crucial in ensuring that you are able to effectively convey your thoughts and ideas. With a vast array of self-improvement topics to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming to narrow down your options. However, by considering your personal interests, areas of growth, and current challenges, you can select a topic that resonates with you and allows for meaningful reflection and exploration. When selecting a self-improvement essay topic, it is important to choose something that genuinely interests you. This will help you stay motivated and engaged throughout the writing process. Think about the aspects of your life that you are most passionate about and consider how you can incorporate them into your essay. Whether it’s personal relationships, health, and wellness, career advancement, or personal finance, choosing a self-improvement topic that aligns with your interests will make the writing process more enjoyable and authentic.

Personal Development and Growth in Essays

In the realm of personal development and growth, essays serve as powerful tools for self-reflection and exploration. These written pieces provide individuals with an opportunity to delve into their own experiences, beliefs, and values, fostering personal growth and transformation. By putting pen to paper and examining their thoughts and feelings, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Through the process of crafting an essay, individuals engage in a form of self-discovery. They are encouraged to examine their thoughts and emotions, explore their strengths and weaknesses, and reflect on their personal experiences. This introspective journey leads to personal development, as individuals gain a clearer sense of their values, goals, and aspirations. By articulating their thoughts and feelings through the written word, individuals are able to make sense of their experiences and make meaning out of their lives.

Self-Reflection and Self-Improvement Essays

Self-reflection and Self-Improvement Essays allow individuals to delve deep into their thoughts and experiences, providing an opportunity for personal growth and development. Through introspection and self-analysis, these essays encourage individuals to examine their beliefs, values, and behaviors, ultimately leading to self-awareness and improvement. In Self-Reflection and Self-Improvement Essays, individuals have the chance to explore their strengths and weaknesses and gain a better understanding of themselves. By reflecting on past experiences and analyzing their impact, individuals can identify areas where they have excelled and areas where they have room for growth. This self-reflection allows individuals to set realistic goals and develop strategies to enhance their personal development and overall well-being. Whether it’s examining their interpersonal skills, exploring their emotional intelligence, or evaluating their decision-making abilities, self-reflection serves as a catalyst for self-improvement. Writing a Self-Reflection and Self-Improvement Essay also enables individuals to assess their progress and track their growth over time. The process of documenting personal experiences and lessons learned enhances self-awareness and provides a roadmap for future development. By articulating their thoughts and feelings in written form, individuals can gain clarity and perspective, allowing them to make intentional choices and take deliberate actions toward their self-improvement journey.

How to Write an Effective Self-Improvement Essay

Writing an effective self-improvement essay can be a rewarding experience that allows you to reflect on your personal growth and inspire others to embark on their own journeys of self-improvement. However, it requires careful planning and execution to effectively convey your message and engage your readers. Firstly, it is important to choose a relevant and compelling topic for your self-improvement essay. Consider areas of your life where you have experienced significant growth or where you have overcome challenges. This will not only make your essay more relatable but also allow you to share valuable insights that can inspire and resonate with your readers. To make your self-improvement essay more impactful, incorporate personal anecdotes and real-life examples. By sharing your own experiences, you can create a connection with your audience and make your essay more relatable. Additionally, including specific details and examples will make your essay more interesting and persuasive, as it will demonstrate the practical application of your self-improvement journey.

Real-Life Examples of Self-Improvement Essays

When it comes to writing self-improvement essays, real-life examples can serve as powerful tools to inspire and guide readers on their own personal growth journeys. These examples can come from various areas of life, such as relationships, careers, health, and even spirituality. For instance, one could write an essay about their journey towards improving their communication skills, sharing specific experiences where they faced challenges in expressing themselves effectively and how they overcame those obstacles. 

By showcasing tangible examples, readers can relate to the writer’s struggles and successes, drawing valuable insights and motivation for their own self-improvement endeavors. Another example could be an essay on health and fitness, where the writer shares their personal transformation journey. They could reflect on their initial struggles with unhealthy habits, the turning point that prompted them to prioritize their well-being, and the steps they took to adopt a healthier lifestyle. By narrating their experiences in a relatable manner, the writer can inspire readers who may be facing similar struggles to take action and make positive changes in their own lives. 

Real-life examples not only make self-improvement essays more engaging and authentic but also highlight that personal growth is a continuous process that everyone can embark on.

Self-Improvement Essay Topics for Different Areas of Life

Self-Improvement Essay Topics for Different Areas of Life

Self-improvement is a lifelong journey that encompasses various aspects of our lives. Whether it’s in our personal relationships, career, physical health, or emotional well-being, there are numerous essay topics that can help us delve into the different areas of life and explore ways to enhance and grow.

Self-Improvement Through Personal Relationships

One of the most common areas for self-improvement is personal relationships. Topics revolving around communication skills, conflict resolution, and building trust can be great starting points. For instance, you could write an essay exploring effective communication techniques for couples, discussing strategies to improve listening skills or empathetic responses. Another topic could focus on enhancing empathy in friendships and the impact it can have on our overall well-being.

Self-Improvement Through Careers

Another key area for self-improvement is our careers. Here, essay topics can revolve around professional development, goal setting, and strategies for success. For example, you could write an essay on setting achievable career goals, outlining steps to create a clear roadmap for professional growth. Alternatively, you could explore strategies for work-life balance and the importance of avoiding burnout in the workplace.

Maintaining Physical Health

Physical health is also a crucial aspect of self-improvement. Topics related to exercise, nutrition, and mental well-being can provide valuable insights and guidance. You could write an essay discussing the benefits of regular physical activity on mental health or explore the relationship between nutrition and energy levels. Additionally, topics such as mindfulness and stress management techniques can help readers find effective ways to improve their overall well-being.

Tips for Crafting a Compelling Self-Improvement Essay

Crafting a compelling self-improvement essay can be a challenging task, but with the right tips and techniques, you can create a piece that captivates readers and inspires personal growth. Here are some valuable insights to consider when writing your essay. 1. Start with a captivating introduction: Begin your essay with a compelling hook that grabs the reader’s attention. This could be a personal anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a striking statistic related to self-improvement. By starting on an engaging note, you set the tone for the rest of your essay, making readers eager to explore your ideas further. 2. Reflect on personal experiences: A self-improvement essay is most effective when it discusses genuine personal experiences and the lessons learned from them. Share stories of challenges you faced and how you overcame them, providing insights into the growth and development you experienced. This adds authenticity to your essay and allows readers to connect with your journey. Remember to weave your experiences throughout the essay, relating them to the broader theme of self-improvement.

What is self-improvement?

Self-improvement refers to the process of making positive changes in oneself, both mentally and physically, to achieve personal growth and development.

How can I choose the right self-improvement essay topic?

To choose the right self-improvement essay topic, consider your personal interests, goals, and areas of improvement. Think about what aspects of your life you want to focus on and what message you want to convey through your essay.

How can personal development and growth be reflected in essays?

Personal development and growth can be reflected in essays by sharing personal experiences, discussing lessons learned, and showcasing the progress made toward self-improvement goals.

How can self-reflection be incorporated into self-improvement essays?

Self-reflection can be incorporated into self-improvement essays by analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Reflect on past experiences, evaluate your progress, and consider future goals.

Can you provide some real-life examples of self-improvement essays?

Real-life examples of self-improvement essays may include stories of overcoming personal challenges, learning new skills, improving relationships, achieving career success, or adopting healthier habits.

What are some self-improvement essay topics for different areas of life?

Self-improvement essay topics for different areas of life may include personal growth, career development, relationships, health and wellness, time management, mindfulness, financial management, and goal setting.

In the pursuit of self-improvement, individuals embark on a transformative journey filled with self-discovery, growth, and empowerment. This journey is not bound by age, circumstance, or limitations; it is a lifelong expedition where each step brings us closer to becoming the best version of ourselves.

Self-improvement essay topics serve as the compass guiding us through the vast landscape of personal development. They encourage introspection, self-reflection, and the sharing of invaluable insights gained along the way. As we navigate the realm of self-improvement, it becomes evident that the importance of this journey lies not only in the destination but in the continuous process of self-discovery and growth.

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Common App Essay Prompt 5 About a Period of Personal Growth

Mark montgomery.

  • June 30, 2023

common app essay prompts a comprehensive guide

Write a Great Common App Essay on Personal Growth

Common App Essay Prompt 5 asks you to “discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.” If you’re looking to highlight your transformative journey, consider crafting a Common App essay on personal growth.

The best Common Application essays show how you have grown as a person over time and how you reflect on that personal growth. Great news: Common App essay prompt 5 makes it easy for you to do just that!

On its surface, this prompt seems to be asking about a specific moment in your life, and telling a story about a specific time will definitely help your essay come together. But really, this prompt wants a before-and-after. Tell the reader about one way you’ve grown as a person, and demonstrate that you are aware of that period of personal growth and able to reflect on it in a mature way. If you can do all that, you’re well on your way to writing a strong Common App essay!

Defining “Event, Accomplishment, or Realization,” “Period of Personal Growth,” and Other Keywords from Prompt 5

Period of Personal Growth and Understanding 

As we grow older, we find that in some situations we feel—or are treated—as children, while in other situations we feel more like adults. Sometimes this transition is subtle, as in how other adults begin to treat you with greater seriousness in restaurants, at the post office, and in other public  places. Sometimes, however, this transition can seem more abrupt, as in the day you get your driver’s license or register to vote for the first time. Religion often marks this transition (first communions, bar mitzvahs), as do particular cultures (quinceañeras, debutante balls). This prompt asks you to examine more closely  your own transition from childhood to adulthood. Granted, for all of us, this transition is slow and gradual (and frankly, sometimes even we are not sure we have completely transitioned to adulthood!). But no matter our age, religion, or culture, this transition is  punctuated by some memorable stories—stories that you are being asked to share with your  readers.  

Accomplishment or Event 

The transition to adulthood is marked by both accomplishments and events. An accomplishment  is something that you achieved through hard work. An event, on the other hand, is a happening in which you may have been more passive, but nonetheless marks a very important milestone in your life. Some of these accomplishments and events are formal (e.g., learning Hebrew and reciting the Torah before your congregation in a ceremony before your friends and family). Some of these  accomplishments and events are informal (e.g., you finally looked old enough that when you entered a restaurant with your parents, the hostess no longer gave you the kiddie menu). College admissions folks do not care so much about the exact nature of these accomplishments or events;  rather they care about how you tell an interesting story about your transition to adulthood. 


Unlike an accomplishment or event, a realization can have no outward manifestation that others can see or experience. You may, instead, experience some sort of internal “Aha!” moment. Your  understanding changes. You see yourself—or others—in a completely new light. Perhaps you shared this realization with others, or perhaps it is one that is intensely private. But the change or transition is real, because it leads to a new and different understanding of yourself and the world  around you. 

At first glance, this prompt doesn’t seem to have a story at the heart of it. However, the focus is on a transition, which implies a description of “before” and “after” this event, accomplishment, or  realization. So you should retell the story briefly to help your reader understand the transition. As with the other prompts, you should then go on to put this event, accomplishment, or realization into a larger context. You need to interpret this story for your reader through analysis and synthesis. By focusing your “discussion” of what happened after this event, accomplishment, or realization, you can give your reader a sense of your increasing maturity and your priorities, values, and personality.  

Examples of Essays That Worked for Common App Essay on Personal Growth

We have worked with hundreds of students over the years, and many of them have written excellent essays about experiences that sparked a period of personal growth. Here are just a couple examples of students who successfully wrote about accomplishments, events, or realizations that sparked periods of growth.

Example One:

→The writer is a volunteer tutor in a Saturday program for refugee students. One day, one of the younger students asks the writer why he is helping them, and the writer explains that he is part of the Refugee Outreach Club at his school (a club the writer founded). The younger student bristles, saying that he is not a refugee since he was born in the US. The writer realizes that the younger student doesn’t want to be seen as a refugee, and that by using that term, the writer is alienating the younger student. The writer then thinks about how people in the US often view refugees as poor people in need of charity, rather than as respected peers and neighbors. The writer acts on these thoughts and begins making changes to his club and his approach, including using the phrase ‘new Americans’ rather than ‘refugees’ and coordinating social events like playing basketball between his classmates and the new Americans in order to foster genuine relationships.

→The event the writer highlights is quite simple: a three-line conversation between himself and another student. What makes this essay so successful is that the writer shows that he can think deeply about the connections between his personal life and the wider social and political landscape around him. He understands that the relationship he has with the younger student he tutors is a tiny example of the broader patterns experienced by refugees in the United States. Not only is the student able to articulate this realization,   but he pushes himself to grow and change his thoughts and his behavior accordingly.

Example Two:

→ As a freshman in high school, the writer tries to pursue both volleyball and modeling, two activities that speak to her values and interests in different ways. Her volleyball coach tells her to gain fifteen pounds of muscle to be a better player, while her modeling agency tells her to lose fifteen pounds in order to conform to the look they want. The student realizes that she can’t possibly meet both of those expectations at the same time. She chooses to quit modeling and pursue volleyball. Her team is quite successful throughout her high school career. More importantly, volleyball helps her solidify values like hard work, collaboration, and teamwork.

→In this essay, the writer successfully recounts a fairly narrow event (being given opposing demands by different activities and subsequently choosing one activity over the other). The writer then articulates a couple realizations she experiences as a result of this event. For one, you can’t please everyone and fit into all molds. Sometimes tradeoffs are required to find success. Secondly, while some change is necessary to grow, not all change is good or healthy. People should be intentional about the types of change they want to pursue. The writer is able to show how she parlays her new understanding into a period of growth in which she becomes more focused on her chosen activity and finds success, all while strengthening her values and her connection to those around her.

Avoiding Traps: Topics That Don’t Tend to Work for Common App Essay on Personal Growth

Like many of the Common App prompts, this one is quite broad, so many topics could work well for it. However, there are some pitfalls to be aware of. 

Avoid Writing About Other People

For this topic, you might be tempted to write about an interaction you had with a significant person in your life, such as a parent, grandparent, or teacher. There is nothing wrong with writing about such an interaction. However, writing about a relative or other mentor figure can quickly verge into an essay about someone else. If you find yourself filling your reader in on all the details of someone else’s life, that’s a strong sign that you are not actually writing about yourself. Of course it is okay to mention other people in your essay. However, make sure that you and your journey are at the heart of the essay. 

Avoid Topics That Are Very Commonly Done – Unless You Have a Unique Spin

Certain growing experiences are common to many American teenagers. For example, we have seen countless essays about students who get their driver’s license and then experience a period of increased independence. This topic fits the prompt and could be meaningful to you personally. However, because this is such a common experience, it will be very challenging to write about it in a way that allows you as an applicant to stand out…unless there was something unusual about your experience! Perhaps, for example, you are a student with a physical disability, and you were only able to get your license after a significant amount of work and help from others. Or maybe you are an undocumented student, and your driver’s license is the first piece of government ID that anyone in your family has had access to. In a unique case like that, writing about getting your driver’s license might actually allow you to showcase what makes you unique.

A similar case could be made for topics such as an impactful conversation with a grandparent, getting your first job, or winning (or losing) a big sporting event. Nothing is strictly off limits, but make sure that if you are relating a common experience, you have a very unique spin on it.

Stop Reading and Start Writing Your Common App Essay on Personal Growth

Essay prompt 5 will work best if you can focus on one moment in your life and use it as a jumping-off point to explore some sort of before-and-after. Tell a story about how you grew as a person, and reflect on how you think about that growth now and how that growth has helped you navigate your life or think about your future. Now get writing!

Need More Help Writing Your Common App Essay?

At Great College Advice, we offer a wide range of services designed to help students with every aspect of the college application process, including writing and revising their Common App essay. Our team of experienced counselors and writing coaches can provide personalized feedback, guidance, and support to help you craft an essay that is compelling, authentic, and effective.

Whether you need help generating ideas, organizing your thoughts, or polishing your final draft, we are here to help. We offer a variety of service packages to fit your specific needs and budget, including comprehensive application counseling, essay coaching, and hourly consultations.

Great College Advice has helped hundreds of students just like you write their Common Application Essays and submit college applications that they’re proud of. Learn more about how we can help you with your essays . We can help with the rest of your application , too! 

Additional Resources for Common App Essay Prompt 5

  • In this informative video, Dr. Mark Montgomery dives into Common Application essay prompt 5 which focuses on discussing an accomplishment, event, or realization. With his expertise in college admissions and essay writing, he provides expert guidance on how to effectively approach this prompt and craft a compelling essay.

For additional writing help, check out our Common App Essay Series for in-depth guidance on various topics. Our expert tips and insights will help you showcase your unique experiences and perspectives in a compelling way. Whether you’re just starting your essay or simply refining it, our series is designed to help you every step of the writing process. Make your Common App Essay stand out!

  • Common Application Essays: What are they?
  • Writing about Background Story
  • Writing About Failure
  • Writing about Questioning Beliefs and Ideas
  • Writing about a Period of Personal Growth
  • Supplemental Essays
  • Why Our College? – Supplemental Essay Question

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personal growth essay ideas

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personal growth essay ideas

Dr. Jennifer B. Bernstein

Dr. Jennifer B. Bernstein

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Here’s one of the most popular Common Application essay topics that’s going to be used again in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

According to the Common Application, in the 2018-2019 cycle, 23.7% of students opted to write about an experience of personal transformation that changed their perception of themselves and others.

What you’re about to read is a significantly updated version of my original article.

Since publishing this article back in 2017, more and more of my own students have written amazing Common App essays on this topic.

As such, I’ve decided to update this article to share more insights into what does and doesn’t work when crafting narratives about experiences of “personal growth.”

Read the whole article or click on one of the following links to jump ahead to any section that interests you:

What DON’T Admissions Officers Want to See in Your Common App Essay?

What DO Admissions Officers Want to Read About in Your “Sparked a Period of Personal Growth” Essay?

Why Are Colleges Interested in Essays on Personal Growth?

What Are Some Unique Ways of Approaching the “Sparked a Period of Personal Growth” Essay?

Stanford Student’s Common App Essay on an Experience that “Sparked a Period of Personal Growth”

What don’t  admissions officers want to see in your common app essay .

Let’s start by stating the obvious.

Your track record—your record of past accomplishments—plays a significant role in the college admissions process.

Many students fixate on this part of how they’re going to be evaluated. Even the most talented students fall prey to this tendency because they want to emphasize all the amazing things they’ve done.

This urge is understandable.

Rest assured that there are plenty of places in your application to showcase your accomplishments.

However, your Common Application essay ISN’T  the place to  just focus on  what you’ve done .

Admissions officers don’t  just want to read an essay that’s all about the end result or the “high impact” of your project, accomplishment, or whatever event it is that you’ve chosen to write about.

Every year, I have myth-busting conversations with students who are suffering under the mistaken idea that the Common App essay needs to be first and foremost a demonstration of some very significant high-impact thing they’ve done.

Pay close attention to my phrasing.

I’m NOT saying you shouldn’t include significant accomplishments in your Common App essay on a “period of personal growth.”

I AM saying that your essay shouldn’t  just be about the accomplishments.

Click here to a ccess all my tips, techniques, and case studies on writing great Common App essays.

What DO   Admissions Officers Want to Read About in Your “Sparked a Period of Personal Growth” Essay?

The reality is that admissions officers are extremely curious about how  YOU have been  transformed by projects, experiences, and accomplishments .

Want to write a great Common App essay on something that “sparked a period of personal growth”?

Then, you need to share your  process of transformation –your before, during , and after .

Just FYI, the best transformation narratives often feature both internal and external transformation.

Many students leap right over the “process” part of the essay. They want to jump from the “before” to the “after” because they feel the process–the “middle” or “during”–isn’t exciting or dramatic.

I know you want to dazzle the people reading your application essays.

However, mere “before and after” narratives aren’t as compelling to admissions officers as those that feature the “during.”

In addition to including the “during” part of your transformation, your “after” shouldn’t  just focus on the external result (especially in the “sparked a period of personal growth” essay). Your “after” should include some philosophical contemplation of your transformation.

I strongly recommend that you read two articles:

“Two Elements of the Best Common Application Essays”

“Techniques Used in the Best College Application Essays”

These articles feature strategies to help you master the art of structuring your Common App essay and include analysis of actual student application essays.

Why Are Colleges Interested in Essays on Personal Growth? 

The answer is simple and sometimes surprising.

Colleges aren’t  just looking at your track record.

They’re also looking forward, out beyond what you’ve already accomplished. Admissions officers need to make what a former Yale president describes as a “hunchy judgement” about your potential.

When Stanford is reviewing your application, they’re looking for signs of your “intellectual vitality”–your “commitment, dedication and genuine interest in  expanding your intellectual horizons” and “the initiative with which you seek out opportunities and  expand your perspective.”

Harvard is considering some key questions when they’re reviewing your application: “Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?” Or “do you have reserve  power to do more ?” “How  open are you to  new ideas and people ?” “Will you be able to stand up to the pressures and freedoms of College life?”

Yale is looking for a “desire and ability to  stretch one’s limits.”


College is a time of massive intellectual and overall personal growth.

Admissions officers at all colleges are looking for students who are open to this process of growth and have the underlying strategies for handling it .

The best, most memorable college experiences are often ones in which your mind is blow and your perspectives expanded in ways you never could have imagined in high school.

But how can you demonstrate your potential?

How can you demonstrate that you’re ready for the challenge?

Writing your Common App essay about an experience that “sparked a period of personal growth,” especially one that transformed your “understanding of yourself or others,” is an excellent way to show colleges you have the kind of qualities and capabilities described above.

Growth, expansion, openness, and transformation sound lovely. They sound positive. But anyone who has undergone a period of massive growth knows that it’s more complex than it sounds, and there are almost always setbacks and challenges along the way.

The “during” part of your essay is a great place to show that you’ve started cultivating the underlying skills that are essential for navigating your way through the growth process.

What Are Some Unique Ways of Approaching the “Sparked a Period of Personal Growth” Essay? 

There are so many juicy possibilities for writing about an experience that “sparked a period of personal growth.”

Here are some things my students have written about. . .

Getting lost in a foreign city

Losing their passport

Changing a deeply held conviction based on the results of a research project or conversation

Getting called out by an employer for insufficient attention to details

Hurting someone’s feelings by acting in an ungrateful manner

Standing up to someone

Doing something way out of their comfort zone (e.g., working on a farm, going on a solo wilderness hike, etc.)

Taking charge of organizing a family holiday gathering due to a parent’s illness

Student Background:  One of my students who is studying engineering at Stanford was originally planning to write her Common App essay on the time she felt like a failure because she couldn’t answer a judge’s question. ( Click here to read “How to Successfully Apply to Engineering Programs.” )

Problem:  We both agreed that the first draft she wrote felt too stiff and formulaic.

She glossed over the experience with the judge. The experience just seemed like a gimmicky hook that led into a essay that was mainly about the impact her organization had on the young people in her community. That is, she was falling into the trap of trying to write a “LOOK AT WHAT I’VE DONE!!” essay that I mentioned earlier. Plus, the draft featured all the cliches guaranteed to make an admissions officer’s eyes glaze over in “I’ve read this same basic narrative a thousand times” boredom.

There wasn’t sufficient introspection. The juiciest parts of her experience–the ones that would probably matter most to college admissions committees–didn’t even make their way into her essay. The most interesting aspects of her experience had to do with the way she contemplated the implications of her inability to answer the judge’s question about how her project “could change children’s lives” and how this contemplation propelled her into a  process of rethinking the nature of her engineering work and led to the development of her organization.

Solution:  In our conversations, she shared how, up until that moment with the judge, she’d only really focused on pursuing her own intellectual interests. This experience of feeling dumfounded by the judge’s question was painful, but it set her off on a new journey that involved finding applications for her work that could benefit others. She started thinking about the needs of others, not just her own. As it turns out, this was an experience that “sparked a period of personal growth.”

As she worked through the details of this transformation in her goals and approach, she also began transitioning from always being the young person getting mentored to becoming a mentor for the next generation of budding scientists and engineers. One element of her “personal growth” had to do with this shift from always “taking” to being someone who does more “giving.” A fruit of this experience that “sparked a period of personal growth” was her development of what eventually became a high-impact and award-winning program for children in her city. This program was originally the narrative star of her essay (in terms of how much attention she gave it), but now it had even more impact because the whole personal backstory was there.

Our conversations focused on mapping out vivid anecdotes that helped admissions officers see her process of inner and outer transformation. She developed super specific “before, during, and after” anecdotes that also shed light on her family background and culture. She took readers on a journey that started with the seemingly simple question from a science fair judge that plunged her into a process of “personal growth” which ultimately resulted in a “new understanding” of herself and others.

Dr. Bernstein’s Commentary: This student’s essay was now far more psychologically and intellectually nuanced.

Her essay wasn’t filled with exaggerated external drama and didn’t have the light, whippy tone that many websites featuring sample application essays love to emphasize.

Once she let go of many of the common misunderstandings about what matters in this kind of essay, she wrote an essays that was true to her experience and style.

Her vivid “before, during, and after” anecdotes made it possible for readers to really see and feel her “aha” moment in action. It’s very satisfying when readers can feel the “aha”–when they can see your mind and heart in action.

Admissions officers aren’t  just interested in the surface level of what your essay is about.

They’re also interested in your habits of mind–the way you make sense of your experiences, your level of self-awareness, and a whole host of other qualities.

Let’s end by connecting the student’s essay back to what I shared earlier about what Stanford, Harvard, and Yale are looking for in applicants.

Now her essay showed how she keeps “questing” and stretching herself. She’s demonstrating how she has “reserve power to do more” because each significant experience she has sparks more personal growth, contemplation, and action. She’s constantly deepening and expanding her perspectives to benefit not only herself but also others. So even though this essay started with what seemed like a moment of failure (not being able to answer the judge’s question), it was really about her own growth.


Click here to learn how to schedule a private consultation with Dr. Bernstein.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Bernstein’s ongoing private college preparation and college admissions support .

Click here to learn about the online Get Yourself Into College® program .

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48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best personal growth topic ideas & essay examples, 📝 most interesting personal growth topics to write about, 👍 simple & easy personal growth essay titles.

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IvyPanda. (2023, September 27). 48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples.

"48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." IvyPanda , 27 Sept. 2023,

IvyPanda . (2023) '48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples'. 27 September.

IvyPanda . 2023. "48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." September 27, 2023.

1. IvyPanda . "48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." September 27, 2023.


IvyPanda . "48 Personal Growth Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." September 27, 2023.

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personal growth essay ideas

21 Stellar Common App Essay Examples to Inspire Your College Essay

What’s covered:, what makes a good common app essay, is your common app essay strong enough.

When you begin writing your Common App essay, having an example to look at can help you understand how to effectively write your college essay so that it stands apart from others. 

These Common App essay examples demonstrate a strong writing ability and answer the prompt in a way that shows admissions officers something unique about the student. Once you’ve read some examples and are ready to get started, read our step-by-step guide for how to write a strong Common App essay.  

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our Common App essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.

It’s Personal

The point of the Common App essay is to humanize yourself to a college admissions committee. The ultimate goal is to get them to choose you over someone else! You will have a better chance of achieving this goal if the admissions committee feels personally connected to you or invested in your story. When writing your Common App essay, you should explore your feelings, worldview, values, desires, and anything else that makes you uniquely you.

It’s Not Cliché

It is pretty easy to resort to clichés in college essays. This should be actively avoided! CollegeVine has identified the immigrant’s journey, sports injuries, and overcoming a challenging course as cliché topics . If you write about one of these topics, you have to work harder to stand out, so working with a more nuanced topic is often safer and easier.

It’s Well-Done

Colleges want good writers. They want students who can articulate their thoughts clearly and concisely (and creatively!). You should be writing and rewriting your essays, perfecting them as you go. Of course, make sure that your grammar and spelling are impeccable, but also put in time crafting your tone and finding your voice. This will also make your essay more personal and will make your reader feel more connected to you!

It’s Cohesive

Compelling Common App essays tell a cohesive story. Cohesion is primarily achieved through effective introductions and conclusions , which often contribute to the establishment of a clear theme or topic. Make sure that it is clear what you are getting at, but also don’t explicitly state what you are getting at—a successful essay speaks for itself.

Common App Essay Examples

Here are the current Common App prompts. Click the links to jump to the examples for a specific prompt, or keep reading to review the examples for all the prompts.

Prompt #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.

Prompt #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?

Prompt #3 :  Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Prompt #4 : 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? (NOTE: We only have an example for the old prompt #4 about solving a problem, not this current one)

Prompt #5 :  Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Prompt #6 :  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?

Prompt #7 :  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.

Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects.

Prompt #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.

Prompt #1, example #1.

The room was silent except for the thoughts racing through my head. I led a spade from my hand and my opponent paused for a second, then played a heart. The numbers ran through my mind as I tried to consider every combination, calculating my next move. Finally, I played the ace of spades from the dummy and the rest of my clubs, securing the contract and 620 points when my partner ruffed at trick five. Next board.

It was the final of the 2015 United States Bridge Federation Under-26 Women’s Championship. The winning team would be selected to represent the United States in the world championship and my team was still in the running.

Contract bridge is a strategic and stochastic card game. Players from around the world gather at local clubs, regional events, and, in this case, national tournaments.

Going into the tournament, my team was excited; all the hours we had put into the game, from the lengthy midnight Skype sessions spent discussing boards to the coffee shop meetings spent memorizing conventions together, were about to pay off.

Halfway through, our spirits were still high, as we were only down by fourteen international match points which, out of the final total of about four hundred points, was virtually nothing and it was very feasible to catch up. Our excitement was short-lived, however, as sixty boards later, we found that we had lost the match and would not be chosen as the national team.

Initially, we were devastated. We had come so close and it seemed as if all the hours we had devoted to training had been utterly wasted. Yet as our team spent some time together reflecting upon the results, we gradually realized that the true value that we had gained wasn’t only the prospect of winning the national title, but also the time we had spent together exploring our shared passion. I chatted with the winning team and even befriended a few of them who offered us encouragement and advice.

Throughout my bridge career, although I’ve gained a respectable amount of masterpoints and awards, I’ve realized that the real reward comes from the extraordinary people I have met. I don’t need to travel cross-country to learn; every time I sit down at a table whether it be during a simple club game, a regional tournament or a national event, I find I’m always learning. 

I nod at the pair that’s always yelling at each other. They teach me the importance of sportsmanship and forgiveness.

I greet the legally blind man who can defeat most of the seeing players. He reminds me not to make excuses.

I chat with the friendly, elderly couple who, at ages ninety and ninety-two, have just gotten married two weeks ago. They teach me that it’s never too late to start anything.

I talk to the boy who’s attending Harvard and the girl who forewent college to start her own company. They show me that there is more than one path to success.

I congratulate the little kid running to his dad, excited to have won his very first masterpoints. He reminds me of the thrill of every first time and to never stop trying new things.

Just as much as I have benefitted from these life lessons, I aspire to give back to my bridge community as much as it has given me. I aspire to teach people how to play this complicated yet equally as exciting game. I aspire to never stop improving myself, both at and away from the bridge table.

Bridge has given me my roots and dared me to dream. What started as merely a hobby has become a community, a passion, a part of my identity. I aspire to live selflessly and help others reach their goals. I seek to take risks, embrace all results, even failure, and live unfettered from my own doubt.

This student draws readers in with a strong introduction. The essay starts ambiguous—“I led with a spade”—then intrigues readers by gradually revealing more information and details. This makes the reader want to keep reading (which is super important!) As the writer continues, there is a rather abrupt tone shift from suspenseful to explanatory with statements like “It was the final of the 2015 United States Bridge Federation Under-26 Women’s Championship” and “Contract bridge is a strategic and stochastic card game.” If you plan to start with an imagery-heavy, emotional, suspenseful, or dramatic introduction, you will need to transition to the content of your essay in a way that does not feel abrupt. 

You will often hear that essays need to “show, not tell.” This essay actually does both. First, the student tells readers the importance of bridge, saying “we gradually realized that the true value that we had gained wasn’t only the prospect of winning the national title, but also the time we had spent together exploring our shared passion” and “I’ve realized that the real reward comes from the extraordinary people I have met.” Then, the student shows the lessons they have learned from bridge through a series of parallel sentences: “I nod… sportsmanship and forgiveness” “I greet… not to make excuses” “I chat… it’s never too late to start anything” and so on. This latter strategy is much more effective than the former and is watered down because the student has already told us what we are supposed to get out of these sentences. Remember that your readers are intelligent and can draw their own conclusions. Avoid summarizing the moral of your story for them!

Overall, this essay is interesting and answers the prompt. We learn the importance of bridge to this student. The student has a solid grasp of language, a high-level vocabulary, and a valuable message, though they would be better off if they avoided summarizing their point and created more seamless transitions. 

Prompt #1, Example #2

Growing up, I always wanted to eat, play, visit, watch, and be it all: sloppy joes and spaetzle, Beanie Babies and Steiff, Cape Cod and the Baltic Sea, football and fussball, American and German.

My American parents relocated our young family to Berlin when I was three years old. My exposure to America was limited to holidays spent stateside and awfully dubbed Disney Channel broadcasts. As the few memories I had of living in the US faded, my affinity for Germany grew. I began to identify as “Germerican,” an ideal marriage of the two cultures. As a child, I viewed my biculturalism as a blessing. I possessed a native fluency in “Denglisch” and my family’s Halloween parties were legendary at a time when the holiday was just starting to gain popularity outside of the American Sector.

Insidiously, the magic I once felt in loving two homes was replaced by a deep-­rooted sense of rootlessness. I stopped feeling American when, while discussing World War II with my grandmother, I said “the US won.” She corrected me, insisting I use “we” when referring to the US’s actions. Before then, I hadn’t realized how directly people associated themselves with their countries. I stopped feeling German during the World Cup when my friends labeled me a “bandwagon fan” for rooting for Germany. Until that moment, my cheers had felt sincere. I wasn’t part of the “we” who won World Wars or World Cups. Caught in a twilight of foreign and familiar, I felt emotionally and psychologically disconnected from the two cultures most familiar to me.

After moving from Berlin to New York at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. Looking and sounding American furthered my feelings of dislocation. Border patrol agents, teachers, classmates, neighbors, and relatives all “welcomed me home” to a land they could not understand was foreign to me. Americans confused me as I relied on Urban Dictionary to understand my peers, the Pledge of Allegiance seemed nationalistic, and the only thing familiar about Fahrenheit was the German after whom it was named. Too German for America and too American for Germany, I felt alienated from both. I wanted desperately to be a member of one, if not both, cultures.

During my first weeks in Scarsdale, I spent my free time googling “Berlin Family Seeks Teen” and “New Americans in Scarsdale.” The latter search proved most fruitful: I discovered Horizons, a nonprofit that empowers resettled refugees, or “New Americans,” to thrive. I started volunteering with Horizon’s children’s programs, playing with and tutoring young refugees.

It was there that I met Emily, a twelve­-year-­old Iraqi girl who lived next to Horizons. In between games and snacks, Emily would ask me questions about American life, touching on everything from Halloween to President Obama. Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. American culture was no longer completely foreign to me. I found myself especially qualified to work with young refugees; my experience growing up in a country other than that of my parents’ was similar enough to that of the refugee children Horizons served that I could empathize with them and offer advice. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging.

Forging a special, personal bond with young refugees proved a cathartic outlet for my insecurities as it taught me to value my past. My transculturalism allowed me to help young refugees integrate into American life, and, in doing so, I was able to adjust myself. Now, I have an appreciation of myself that I never felt before. “Home” isn’t the digits in a passport or ZIP code but a sense of contentedness. By helping a young refugee find comfort, happiness, and home in America, I was finally able to find those same things for myself.

Due to their endearing (and creative) use of language—with early phrases like “sloppy joes and spaetzle” as well as  “Germerican” and “Denglisch”—readers are inclined to like this writer from the get-go. Though the essay shifts from this lighthearted introduction to more serious subject matter around the third paragraph, the shift is not abrupt or jarring. This is because the student invites readers to feel the transition with them through their inclusion of various anecdotes that inspired their “feelings of cultural homelessness.” And our journey does not end there—we go back to America with the student and see how their former struggles become strengths.

Ultimately, this essay is successful due to its satisfying ending. Because readers experience the student’s struggles with them, we also feel the resolution. The conclusion of this essay is a prime example of the “Same, but Different” technique described in our article on How to End Your College Essay . As the student describes how, in the end, their complicated cultural identity still exists but transitions to a source of strength, readers are left feeling happy for the student. This means that they have formed a connection with the student, which is the ultimate goal!

Prompt #1, Example #3

“1…2…3…4 pirouettes ! New record!” My friends cheered as I landed my turns. Pleased with my progress, I gazed down at my worn-out pointe shoes. The sweltering blisters, numbing ice-baths, and draining late-night practices did not seem so bad after all. Next goal: five turns.

For as long as I can remember, ballet, in all its finesse and glamor, had kept me driven day to day. As a child, the lithe ballerinas, donning ethereal costumes as they floated across the stage, were my motivation. While others admired Messi and Adele, I idolized Carlos Acosta, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet. 

As I devoted more time and energy towards my craft, I became obsessed with improving my technique. I would stretch for hours after class, forcing my leg one inch higher in an effort to mirror the Dance Magazine cover girls . I injured my feet and ruined pair after pair of pointe shoes, turning on wood, cement, and even grass to improve my balance as I spun. At competitions, the dancers with the 180-degree leg extensions, endless turns, and soaring leaps—the ones who received “Bravos!” from the roaring audience—further pushed me to refine my skills and perfect my form. I believed that, with enough determination, I would one day attain their level of perfection. Reaching the quadruple- pirouette milestone only intensified my desire to accomplish even more. 

My efforts seemed to have come to fruition two summers ago when I was accepted to dance with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet at their renowned New York City summer intensive. I walked into my first session eager to learn from distinguished ballet masters and worldly dancers, already anticipating my improvement. Yet, as I danced alongside the accomplished ballerinas, I felt out of place. Despite their clean technique and professional training, they did not aim for glorious leg extensions or prodigious leaps. When they performed their turn combinations, most of them only executed two turns as I attempted four. 

“Dancers, double- pirouettes only.” 

Taken aback and confused, I wondered why our teacher expected so little from us. The other ballerinas seemed content, gracing the studio with their simple movements. 

As I grew closer with my Moscow roommates, I gradually learned that their training emphasized the history of the art form instead of stylistic tricks. Rather than show off their physical ability, their performances aimed to convey a story, one that embodied the rich culture of ballet and captured both the legacy of the dancers before them and their own artistry. As I observed my friends more intently in repertoire class, I felt the pain of the grief-stricken white swan from Swan Lake , the sass of the flirtatious Kitri from Don Quijote, and I gradually saw what I had overlooked before. My definition of talent had been molded by crowd-pleasing elements—whirring pirouettes , gravity-defying leaps, and mind-blowing leg extensions. This mindset slowly stripped me from the roots of my passion and my personal connection with ballet. 

With the Bolshoi, I learned to step back and explore the meaning behind each step and the people behind the scenes. Ballet carries history in its movements, from the societal values of the era to each choreographer’s unique flair. As I uncovered the messages behind each pirouette, kick, and jump, my appreciation for ballet grew beyond my obsession with raw athleticism and developed into a love for the art form’s emotive abilities in bridging the dancers with the audience. My journey as an artist has allowed me to see how technical execution is only the means to a greater understanding between dancer and spectator, between storyteller and listener. The elegance and complexity of ballet does not revolve around astonishing stunts but rather the evocative strength and artistry manifested in the dancer, in me. It is the combination of sentiments, history, tradition, and passion that has allowed ballet and its lessons of human connection to become my lifestyle both on and off stage.

The primary strength of this essay is the honesty and authenticity of the student’s writing. It is purposefully reflective. Intentional language creates a clear character arc that begins with an eager young ballerina and ends with the student reflecting on their past. 

Readers are easily able to picture the passion and intensity of the young dancer through the writer’s engagement with words like “obsessed,” “forcing,” and “ruined” in the second paragraph. Then, we see how intensity becomes pride as they “wondered why our teacher expected so little from us.” And ultimately, we see the writer humbled as they are exposed to the deeper meaning behind what they have worked so hard for. This arc is outstanding, and the student’s musings about ballet in the concl usion position them as vulnerable and reflective (and thus, appealing to admissions officers!)

The main weakness of this essay (though this is a stellar essay) is its formulaic beginning. While dialogue can be an effective tool for starting your essay, this student’s introduction feels a bit stilted as the dialogue does not match the overall reflective tone of the essay. Perhaps, in place of “Next goal: five turns,” the student could have posed a question or foreshadowed the growth they ultimately describe.

Prompt #1, Example #4

My paintbrush dragged a flurry of acrylic, the rich colors attaching to each groove in my canvas’s texture. The feeling was euphoric.

From a young age, painting has been my solace. Between the stress of my packed high school days filled with classes and extracurriculars, the glide of my paintbrush was my emotional outlet.

I opened a fresh canvas and began. The amalgamation of assorted colors in my palette melded harmoniously: dark and light, cool and warm, brilliant and dull. They conjoined, forming shades and surfaces sharp, smooth, and ridged. The textures of my paint strokes — powdery, glossy, jagged — gave my painting a tone, as if it had a voice of its own, sometimes shrieking, sometimes whispering.

Rough indigo blue. The repetitive upward pulls of my brush formed layers on my canvas. Staring into the deep blue, I felt transported to the bottom of the pool I swim in daily. I looked upward to see a layer of dense water between myself and the person I aspire to be, an ideal blurred by filmy ripples. Rough blue encapsulates my amorphous, conflicting identity, catalyzed by words spewed by my peers about my “oily hair” and “smelly food”. They caused my ever present disdain toward cultural assemblies; the lehenga I wore felt burdensome. My identity quivers like the indigo storm I painted — a duel between my self-deprecating, validation-seeking self, and the proud self I desire to be. My haphazard paint strokes released my internal turbulence.

Smooth orange-hued green. I laid the color in melodious strokes, forming my figure. The warmer green transitions from the rough blue — while they share elements, they also diverge. My firm brushstrokes felt like the way I felt on my first day as a media intern at KBOO, my local volunteer-driven radio station, committed to the voices of the marginalized. As a naturally introverted speaker, I was forced out of my comfort zone when tasked with documenting a KBOO art exhibition for social media, speaking with hosts to share their diverse, underrepresented backgrounds and inspirations. A rhythmic green strength soon shoved me past internal blue turbulence. My communication skills which were built by two years of Speech and Debate unleashed — I recognized that making a social change through media required amplifying unique voices and perspectives, both my own and others. The powerful green strokes that fill my canvas entrench my growth.

Bright, voluminous coral, hinted with magenta and yellow. I dabbed the color over my figure, giving my painting dimension. The paint, speckled, added depth on every inch it coated. As I moved the color in random but purposeful movements, the vitality ushered into my painting brought a smile across my face. It reminded me of the encounters I had with my cubicle-mate in my sophomore year academic autism research internship, seemingly insignificant moments in my lifelong journey that, in retrospect, wove unique threads into my tapestry. The kindness she brought into work inspired my compassion, while her stories of struggling with ADHD in the workplace bolstered my empathy towards different experiences. Our conversations added blobs of a nonuniform bright color in my painting, binding a new perspective in me.

I added in my final strokes, each contributing an element to my piece. As I scanned my canvas, I observed these elements. Detail added nuance into smaller pictures; they embodied complexities within color, texture, and hue, each individually delivering a narrative. But together, they formed a piece of art— art that could be interpreted as a whole or broken apart but still delivering as a means of communication.

I find beauty in media because of this. I can adapt a complex narrative to be deliverable, each component telling a story. Appreciating these nuances — the light, dark, smooth, and rough — has cultivated my growth mindset. My life-long painting never finishes. It is ever-expanding, absorbing the novel textures and colors I encounter daily.

This essay is distinct from others due to its melodic, lyrical form. This is primarily achieved because the student’s form follows the movements of the paintbrush that they use to scaffold their essay. As readers, we simply flow through the essay, occasionally picking up bits of information about its creator. Without even realizing it, by the end of the essay, admissions officers will know that this student is a swimmer, was in Speech and Debate, is Indian, and has had multiple internships.

A major strength of this essay is the command of language that the student demonstrates. This essay was not simply written, it was crafted. Universities are, of course, interested in the talents, goals, and interests of applicants, but an essay being well-written can be equally important. Writing skills are important because your reader will not learn about your talents, goals, and interests if they aren’t engaged in your essay, but they are also important because admissions officers know that being able to articulate your thoughts is important for success in all future careers.

While this essay is well-written, there are a few moments where it falls out of the flow and feels more like a student advertising their successes. For example, the phrases “media intern at KBOO” and “autism research internship” work better on a resume than they do in this essay. Admissions officers have a copy of your resume and can check your internship experiences after reading your essay! If you are going to use a unique writing style or narrative form, lean into it; don’t try to hybridize it with the standard college essay form. Your boldness will be attractive to admissions officers.

personal growth essay ideas

Readers are easily able to picture the passion and intensity of the young dancer through the writer’s engagement with words like “obsessed,” “forcing,” and “ruined” in the second paragraph. Then, we see how intensity becomes pride as they “wondered why our teacher expected so little from us.” And ultimately, we see the writer humbled as they are exposed to the deeper meaning behind what they have worked so hard for. This arc is outstanding, and the student’s musings about ballet in the conclusion position them as vulnerable and reflective (and thus, appealing to admissions officers!)

Prompt #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?

Prompt #2, example #1.

“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain.

Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.

When my parents learned about The Green Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also – perhaps more importantly – a community. This meant transferring the family from Drumfield to Kingston. And while there was concern about Max, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me.

As it turned out, Green Academy was everything I’d hoped for. I was ecstatic to discover a group of students with whom I shared interests and could truly engage. Preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned. Max, lost in the fray and grappling with how to make connections in his enormous new high school, had become withdrawn and lonely. It took me until Christmas time – and a massive argument – to recognize how difficult the transition had been for my brother, let alone that he blamed me for it.

Through my own journey of searching for academic peers, in addition to coming out as gay when I was 12, I had developed deep empathy for those who had trouble fitting in. It was a pain I knew well and could easily relate to. Yet after Max’s outburst, my first response was to protest that our parents – not I – had chosen to move us here. In my heart, though, I knew that regardless of who had made the decision, we ended up in Kingston for my benefit. I was ashamed that, while I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me. I could no longer ignore it – and I didn’t want to.

We stayed up half the night talking, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. Max opened up and shared that it wasn’t just about the move. He told me how challenging school had always been for him, due to his dyslexia, and that the ever-present comparison to me had only deepened his pain.

We had been in parallel battles the whole time and, yet, I only saw that Max was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. I’d long thought Max had it so easy – all because he had friends. The truth was, he didn’t need to experience my personal brand of sorrow in order for me to relate – he had felt plenty of his own.

My failure to recognize Max’s suffering brought home for me the profound universality and diversity of personal struggle; everyone has insecurities, everyone has woes, and everyone – most certainly – has pain. I am acutely grateful for the conversations he and I shared around all of this, because I believe our relationship has been fundamentally strengthened by a deeper understanding of one another. Further, this experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me. I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story.

Here is a prime example that you don’t have to have fabulous imagery or flowery prose to write a successful Common App essay. You just have to be clear and say something that matters. This essay is simple and beautiful. It almost feels like having a conversation with a friend and learning that they are an even better person than you already thought they were.

Through this narrative, readers learn a lot about the writer—where they’re from, what their family life is like, what their challenges were as a kid, and even their sexuality. We also learn a lot about their values—notably, the value they place on awareness, improvement, and consideration of others. Though they never explicitly state it (which is great because it is still crystal clear!), this student’s ending of “I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story” shows that they are constantly striving for improvement and finding lessons anywhere they can get them in life.

The only part of this essay that could use a bit of work is the introduction. A short introduction can be effective, but this short first paragraph feels thrown in at the last minute and like it is missing its second half. If you are keeping your introduction short, make it matter.

Prompt #2, Example #2

Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire. 

Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family. 

Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt. 

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him. 

Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses. 

That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.

This Common App essay is well-written. The student is showing the admissions officers their ability to articulate their points beautifully and creatively. It starts with vivid images like that of the “rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free.” And because the prose is flowery, the writer can get away with metaphors like “I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms” that might sound cheesy without the clear command of the English language that the writer quickly establishes.

In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.

While dialogue often comes off as cliche or trite, this student effectively incorporates their family members saying “Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” This is achieved through the apt use of the verb “taunted” to characterize the questioning and through the question’s thematic connection to the earlier image of the student as a rustic princess. Similarly, rhetorical questions can feel randomly placed in essays, but this student’s inclusion of the questions “Was I so dainty?” and “Was I that incapable?” feels perfectly justified after they establish that they were pondering their failure.

Quite simply, this essay shows how quality writing can make a simple story outstandingly compelling.

Prompt #2, Example #3

The muffled voices behind thin walls heralded trouble.

They were fighting about money.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened and it wasn’t going to be the last. It was one of those countless nights I had to spend curled up under the blanket while pretending to be asleep. My father had been unemployed for five years now, and my mother, a local kindergarten teacher, was struggling to support the family alone. Our situation was bleak: Savings had run out and my parents could no longer hide our lack of money from me. To make matters worse, I was a few weeks away from starting high school, which would inevitably lead to college, yet another financial stressor for my family.

The argument didn’t sound like it would end soon.

“Why did you spend money on that?” my mother said, with an elongated sigh.

“I had to,” my father said, decidedly.

Every fight over the years had left me in despair and the idea of going through another fight daunted me. I had looked forward to my teen years all my life, an age that allows, for the first time, more responsibility. Indeed, after this fateful night, after my fourteenth birthday, I felt a mounting responsibility to help my family, and started brainstorming.

Always being fascinated by computers, I spent my childhood burying myself under computer cabinets, experimenting with computer parts. Naturally, I wondered if my skills in this area might be marketable.

The next morning, my friend, Naba, mentioned that her computer wasn’t working. A tuk-tuk ride later, and I was at her doorstep, and her mother was leading me to her room. I was off to work: I began examining her computer, like a surgeon carefully manages his scalpels and tools. A proper diagnosis was not far from reach, as I realized a broken pin in her computer’s SATA slot. After an hour of work, and a short trip to the hardware store, I successfully fixed the computer. To my pleasant surprise, Naba’s mother drew out two fresh 500 Rupee notes. One covered the cost of the parts I bought and the other was a token of appreciation. Bidding her goodbye, I went straight back home and put one of the 500 Rupee notes inside my family’s “savings-jar.”

Later that day, I devised a plan. I told my friends to spread the word that I was available to fix computers. At first, I got only one or two calls per week. I would pick up the computer from my client’s home, fix it quickly, and return it, thus earning myself a commission. While I couldn’t market my services at a competitive price, because I wasn’t able to buy the parts wholesale, I compensated by providing convenience. All my clients had to do was call me once and the rest was taken care of. Thus, my business had the best customer service in town.

At the beginning of my junior year, after two years of expanding my business through various avenues, I started buying computer parts from hardware suppliers in bulk at a cheaper rate. My business grew exponentially after that. 

Before long, I was my town’s go-to tech person. In this journey throughout high school, I started realizing that I had to create my own opportunities and not just curl up under a blanket, seeking only comfort, as I used to. Interacting with people from all walks of life became my forte and a sense of work ethic developed in me. My business required me to be an all-rounder– have the technical skills, be an easily approachable person, and manage cash flow. Slowly becoming better at this, I even managed to sway admins of a local institution to outsource their computer hardware purchases and repairs through me. As my business upsized throughout the years, I went from being helpless to autonomous – the teenager I always aspired to be.

This essay truly feels like a story—almost making you forget you are reading a college essay. The student’s voice is strong throughout the entire essay and they are able to give us insight into their thoughts, feelings, and motivations at every step of the story. Letting the reader into personal challenges like financial struggles can be daunting in a college essay, but the way this student used that setback to establish an emotional ethos to their narrative was well done.

Because the essay is essentially just telling a story, there’s a very natural flow that makes it enjoyable and easy to read. The student establishes the conflict at the beginning, then describes their solution and how they implemented it, and finally concludes with the lessons they took away from this experience. Transitions at the beginning of paragraphs effortlessly show the passage of time and how the student has progressed through the story.

Another reason this essay is so successful is because of the abundance of details. The reader truly feels like they are hiding in the room with the student as their parents yell because of the inclusion of quotes from the argument. We understand the precision and care they have for fixing computers because of the allusion to a surgeon with their scalpel. Not only does this imagery make the story more enticing, it also helps the reader gain a deeper appreciation for the type of person this student is and the adversity they have overcome.

If there were one thing this essay could do to improve, it would be to include a resolution to the conflict from the beginning. The student tells us how this business helped them grow as a person, but we don’t ever get to find out if they were able to lessen the financial burden on their parents or if they continued to struggle despite the student working hard. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but it would be nice to return to the conflict and acknowledge the effect they had on it, especially since this prompt is all about facing challenges.

Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Prompt #3, example #1.

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.

This essay is cohesive as it centers around the theme of identity and the ability for two identities to coexist simultaneously (an interesting theme!). It uses the Full Circle ending strategy as it starts with a metaphor about food touching and ends with “I have realized ice cream and gummy bears taste pretty good together.”

The main issue with this essay is that it could come off as cliché, which could be irritating for admissions officers. The story described is notably similar to High School Musical (“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”) and feels slightly overstated. 

At times, this essay is also confusing. In the first paragraph, it feels like the narrative is actually going to be about separating your food (and is somehow going to relate to the older brothers?). It is not entirely clear that this is a metaphor. Also, when the writer references the third submission day and then works backward to explain what a submission day is and that there are multiple throughout the semester, the timeline gets unnecessarily confusing. Reworking the way this paragraph unfolded would have been more compelling and less distracting.

Overall, this essay was interesting but could have been more polished to be more effective.

Prompt #3, Example #2

I walked into my middle school English class, and noticed a stranger behind my teacher’s desk. “Hello,” she said. “Today I will be your substitute teacher.” I groaned internally. “Let me start off by calling roll. Ally?” “Here!” exclaimed Ally. “Jack?” “Here.” “Rachel?” “Here.” “Freddie?” “Present.” And then– “…?” The awkward pause was my cue. “It’s Jasina,” I started. “You can just call me Jas. Here.” “Oh, Jasina. That’s unique.” The word “unique” made me cringe. I slumped back in my seat. The substitute continued calling roll, and class continued as if nothing had happened. Nothing had happened. Just a typical moment in a middle school, but I hated every second of it.

My name is not impossible to pronounce. It appears challenging initially, but once you hear it, “Jas-een-a”, then you can manage it. My nickname, Jas (pronounced “Jazz”), is what most people call me anyway, so I don’t have to deal with mispronunciation often. I am thankful that my parents named me Jasina (a Hebrew name), but whenever someone hears my name for the first time, they comment, and I assume they’re making assumptions about me. “Wow, Jas is a cool name.” She must be pretty cool.“I’ve never heard the name Jasina before.” She must be from somewhere exotic. “Jas, like Jazz?” She must be musical and artsy. None of these assumptions are bad, but they all add up to the same thing: She must be unique. 

When I was little, these sentiments felt more like commands than assumptions. I thought I had to be the most unique child of all time, which was a daunting task, but I tried. I was the only kid in the second grade to color the sun red. I knew it was really yellow, but you could always tell which drawings were mine. During snack time, we could choose between apple juice and grape juice. I liked apple juice more, but if everyone else was choosing apple, then I had to choose grape. This was how I lived my life, and it was exhausting. I tried to continue this habit into middle school, but it backfired. When everyone became obsessed with things like skinny jeans and Justin Bieber and blue mascara (that was a weird trend), my resistance of the norm made me socially awkward. I couldn’t talk to people about anything because we had nothing in common. I was too different. 

After 8th grade, I moved to Georgia, and I was dreading being the odd one out among kids who had grown up together. Then I discovered that my freshman year would be Cambridge High School’s inaugural year. Since there were students coming in from 5 different schools, there was no real sense of “normal”. I panicked. If there was no normal, then how could I be unique? That’s when I realized that I had spent so much energy going against the grain that I had no idea what my true interests were or what I really cared about. 

It was time to find out. I stopped concentrating on what everyone else was doing and started to focus on myself. I joined the basketball team, I performed in the school musical, and I enrolled in Chorus, all of which were firsts for me. I took art classes, joined clubs, and did whatever I thought would make me happy. And it paid off. I was no longer socially awkward. In fact, because I was involved in so many unrelated activities, I was socially flexible. My friends and I had things in common, but there was no one who could say that I was exactly like anyone else. I had finally become my own person.

My father named me Jasina because he wanted my nickname to be “Jazz.” According to Webster, “jazz” is “music characterized by syncopated rhythms, improvisation, and deliberate distortions of pitch.” Basically, jazz is music that is off-beat and unpredictable. It cannot be strictly defined. 

That sounds about right. 

Right off the bat, this essay starts extremely strong. The description of attendance in a class with ample quotes, awkward pauses, and the student’s internal dialogue immediately puts us in the middle of the action and establishes a lot of sympathy for this student before we’ve learned anything else. 

The strength of this essay continues into the second paragraph where the use of quotes, italics, and interjections from the student continues. All of these literary tools help the student express her voice and allow the reader to understand what this student goes through on a daily basis. Rather than just telling the reader people make assumptions about her name, she shows us what these assumptions look and sound like, and exactly how they make her feel.

The essay further shows us how the student approached her name by providing concrete examples of times she’s been intentionally unique throughout her life. Describing her drawing red suns and choosing grape juice bring her personality to life and allow her to express her deviance from the “norm” in a much more engaging and visual way than simply telling the reader she would go against the grain to be different on purpose.

One part of the essay that was a bit weaker than the others was the paragraph about her in high school. Although it was still well written and did a nice job of demonstrating how she got involved in multiple groups to find her new identity, it lacked the same level of showing employed in previous paragraphs. It would have been nice to see what “socially flexible” means either through a conversation she had with her friends or an example of a time she combined her interests from different groups in a way that was uniquely her.

The essay finishes off how it started: extremely strong. Taking a step back to fully explain the origin of her name neatly brings together everything mentioned in this essay. This ending is especially successful because she never explicitly states that her personality aligns with the definition of jazz. Instead, she relies on the points she has made throughout the essay to stick in the reader’s memory so they are able to draw the connection themselves, making for a much more satisfying ending for the reader.

Prompt #4 (OLD PROMPT; NOT THE CURRENT PROMPT): Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

Prompt #4, example #1.

“Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” 

Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation. 

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one. 

Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand. 

Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one. 

I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself. 

At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith. 

Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities. 

Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension. 

Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities. 

Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.

This essay is great because it has a strong introduction and a strong conclusion. The introduction is notably suspenseful and draws readers into the story. Because we know it is a college essay, we can assume that the student is one of the competitors, but at the same time, this introduction feels intentionally ambiguous as if the writer could be a competitor, a coach, a sibling of a competitor, or anyone else in the situation.

As we continue reading the essay, we learn that the writer is, in fact, the competitor. Readers also learn a lot about the student’s values as we hear their thoughts: “I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was.” Ultimately, the conflict and inner and outer turmoil is resolved through the “Same, but Different” ending technique as the student places themself in the same environment that we saw in the intro, but experiencing it differently due to their actions throughout the narrative. This is a very compelling strategy!

The main weakness of this essay is that it is slightly confusing at times—how the other students found coaches feels unintentionally under-explained (a simple phrase like “through pleading and attracting sympathy” in the fourth paragraph could have served the writer well) and a dojang is never defined. Additionally, the turn of the essay or “volta” could’ve packed a bigger punch. It is put quite simply with “I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.” A more suspenseful reveal could’ve served the author well because more drama did come later.

Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Prompt #5, example #1.

Tears streamed down my face and my mind was paralyzed with fear. Sirens blared, but the silent panic in my own head was deafening. I was muted by shock. A few hours earlier, I had anticipated a vacation in Washington, D.C., but unexpectedly, I was rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance carrying my mother. As a fourteen-year-old from a single mother household, without a driver’s license, and seven hours from home, I was distraught over the prospect of losing the only parent I had. My fear turned into action as I made some of the bravest decisions of my life. 

Three blood transfusions later, my mother’s condition was stable, but we were still states away from home, so I coordinated with my mother’s doctors in North Carolina to schedule the emergency operation that would save her life. Throughout her surgery, I anxiously awaited any word from her surgeon, but each time I asked, I was told that there had been another complication or delay. Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities.

My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work. I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I didn’t know I was capable of such maturity and resourcefulness until it was called upon. Each day was a stage in my gradual transformation from dependence to relative independence.

Throughout my mother’s health crisis, I matured by learning to put others’ needs before my own. As I worried about my mother’s health, I took nothing for granted, cherished what I had, and used my daily activities as motivation to move forward. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. Although I have become more independent, my mother and I are inseparably close, and the realization that I almost lost her affects me daily. Each morning, I wake up ten minutes early simply to eat breakfast with my mother and spend time with her before our busy days begin. I am aware of how quickly life can change. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence. Though I thought the summer before my freshman year would be a transition from middle school to high school, it was a transformation from childhood to adulthood.

This essay feels real and tells readers a lot about the writer. To start at the beginning, the intro is 10/10. It has drama, it has emotions, and it has the reader wanting more.

And, when you keep going, you get to learn a lot about a very resilient and mature student. Through sentences like “I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover” and “Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities,” the reader shows us that they are aware of their resilience and maturity, but are not arrogant about it. It is simply a fact that they have proven!

Sometimes writing about adversity can feel exploitative or oddly braggy. This student backs up everything they say with anecdotes that prove and show their strength and resilience, rather than just claiming their strengths. When I read this essay, I want to cheer for its writer! And I want to be able to continue cheering for them (perhaps, if I were an admissions officer, that would make me want them at my school!).

Prompt #5, Example #2

Armed with a red pen, I slowly walked across the room to a small, isolated table with pink stools. Swinging her legs, my young student beamed and giggled at me, slamming her pencil bag on the table and bending over to pick up one of her toys. Natalie always brought some new toy with her to lessons—toys which I would sternly take away from her and place under the table until she finished her work. At the tutoring center where I work, a strict emphasis on discipline leaves no room for paper crowns or rubber chickens. 

Today, she had with her a large stuffed eagle from a museum. As she pulled out her papers, I slid the eagle to the other side of the table. She looked eagerly around, attempting to chat with other students as I impatiently called her attention to her papers. “I should name my eagle,” she chimed, waving her pencil in the air. I cringed—there was no wondering why Natalie always had to sit by herself. She was the antithesis of my academic values, and undoubtedly the greatest adversary of my teaching style.  

As the lesson progressed, Natalie became more fitful; she refused to release her feathered friend, and kept addressing the bird for help with difficult problems. We both grew increasingly more frustrated. Determined to tame this wryly, wiggling student, I stood my ground, set on converting this disobedient child to my calm, measured ways of study.  

As time slowly crept by, I noticed that despite Natalie’s cheerful tone and bright smile, the stuffed eagle was troublesomely quiet and stern-faced. Much like myself. Both the eagle and I were getting nowhere in this lesson—so we hatched a quick plan. Lifting the eagle up in the air, I started reading in my best impersonation of an eagle, squawking my way through a spelling packet. The result provided a sense of instant gratification I never knew I needed. She sang out every letter, clapped her hands at every page, and followed along with the eagle, stopping at every few letters to declare that “E is for eagle” and pet her teacher fondly on the beak.  

Despite my ostensibly dissatisfied attitude toward my students, I did not join the tutoring center simply to earn money. I had always aspired to help others achieve their fullest potential. As a young adult, I felt that it was time for me to step out of the role of a pupil and into the influential role of a teacher, naively believing that I had the maturity and skill to adapt to any situation and help these students reach their highest achievements academically. For the most part, the role of a stern-faced, strict instructor helped me get by in the workplace, and while my students never truly looked happy, I felt that it was part of the process of conditioning a child to learn. 

Ironically, my transition to adulthood was the result of a stuffed animal. It was indisputable that I always had the skill to instruct others; the only thing needed to instruct someone is knowledge of the subject. However, it was only upon being introduced to a stuffed bird in which I realized that students receive the most help not from instructors, but teachers. While almost anyone can learn material and spit it back out for someone, it takes the maturity and passion of a teacher not only to help students improve in their students, but also to motivate them and develop them into better citizens. From my young pupil and her little bird, I have undergone a change in attitude which reflects a growth in maturity and ability to improve the lives of others that I hope to implement in my future role as a student, activist, and physician. My newfound maturity taught me that the letter “e” stands for many things: empathy, experience, enthusiasm, and eagle.

In this essay, the student effectively explores their values (and how they learned them!) then identifies these values through a reflective conclusion. While the writer humbly recognizes the initial faults in their teaching style, they do not position their initial discipline or rigidity as mean or poorly intentioned—simply ineffective. This is important because, when you are discussing a transition like this, you don’t want admissions officers to think of you as having been a bad person. 

My favorite part about this essay is its subtlety. The major shift in the essay comes through the simple sentence “The result provided a sense of instant gratification I never knew I needed.” The facts of this narrative are not too complicated. Simply put, the writer was strict then learned that it’s sometimes more effective not to be strict. The complexity of this narrative comes through reflection. Notably, through the ending, the student identifies their values (which they hadn’t given a name to before): “it takes the maturity and passion of a teacher not only to help students improve in their students, but also to motivate them and develop them into better citizens.” 

The final sentence of this essay ties things up very nicely. Readers are left satisfied with the essay and convinced that its writer is a kind human with a large capacity for reflection and consideration. That is a great image to paint of yourself!

Prompt #5, Example #3

When it’s quiet, I can still hear the Friday night gossip and giggles of my friends. It’s a stark contrast from the environment I’ve known all my life, my home. My family has always been one to keep to themselves; introverts with a hard-working mentality—my father especially. He spent most of his time at work and growing up without him around, I came to be at peace with the fact that I’d probably never really get to know him. The thought didn’t bother me at the time because I felt that we were very different. He was stoic and traditional; I was trying to figure out who I was and explore my interests. His disapproval of the American music I listened to and my penchant for wearing hand-me-downs made me see him as someone who wanted to restrain my individuality. That explains why I relied heavily on my friends throughout middle and high school; they liked me for who I was. I figured I would get lonely without my friends during quarantine, but these last few months stuck at home gave me the time to make a new friend: my father. 

It was June. I had the habit of sleeping with my windows open so I wouldn’t need to set an alarm; the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the neighborhood children playing outside would wake me. One morning, however, it was not the chirping of birds or the laughter of children I awoke to, but the shrill of a saw. Through the window screen, on the grass below, my father stood cutting planks of wood. I was confused but didn’t question him—what he did with his time was none of my business. It was not until the next day, when I was attempting to work on a sculpture for an art class, that the sounds of hammering and drills became too much to ignore. Seeking answers, I trudged across my backyard towards the corner he was in. On that day, all there was to see was the foundation of what he was building; a shed. My intrigue was replaced with awe; I was impressed by the precision of his craft. Sharp corners, leveled and sturdy, I could imagine what it would look like when the walls were up and the inside filled with the tools he had spread around the yard. 

Throughout the week, when I was trying to finish my sculpture for art class—thinking about its shape and composition—I could not help but think of my father. Art has always been a creative outlet for me, an opportunity to express myself at home. For my dad, his craftsmanship was his art. I realized we were not as different as I had thought; he was an artist like me. My glue and paper were his wood and nails.

That summer, I tried to spend more time with my dad than I have in all my 18 years of life. Waking up earlier than usual so we could have our morning coffees together and pretending to like his favorite band so he’d talk to me about it, I took advantage of every opportunity I had to speak with him. In getting to know him, I’ve recognized that I get my artistry from him. 

Reflecting on past relationships, I feel I am now more open to reconnecting with people I’ve perhaps misjudged. In reconciling, I’ve realized I held some bitterness towards him all these years, and in letting that go, my heart is lighter. Our reunion has changed my perspective; instead of vilifying him for spending so much time at work, I can appreciate how hard he works to provide for our family. When I hear him tinkering away at another home project, I can smile and look forward to asking him about it later.

This is an outstanding example of the great things that can be articulated through a reflective essay. As we read the essay, we are simply thinking alongside its author—thinking about their past relationship with their father, about their time in quarantine, about aspects of themselves they think could use attention and growth. 

While we reflect, we are also centered by the student’s anecdote about the sculpture and the shed during quarantine. By centering us in real-time, the student keeps us engaged in the reflection.

The main strength here is the maturity we see on the part of its writer. The student doesn’t say “and I realized my father was the best dad in the world;” they say “and I realized my father didn’t have to be the best dad in the world for me to give him a chance.” Lots of students show themselves as motivated, curious, or compassionate in their college essays, but a reflective essay that ends with a discussion of resentment and forgiveness shows true maturity.

Prompt #5, Example #4

As a wide-eyed, naive seven-year-old, I watched my grandmother’s rough, wrinkled hands pull and knead mercilessly at white dough until the countertop was dusted in flour. She steamed small buns in bamboo baskets, and a light sweetness lingered in the air. Although the mantou looked delicious, their papery, flat taste was always an unpleasant surprise. My grandmother scolded me for failing to finish even one, and when I complained about the lack of flavor she would simply say that I would find it as I grew older. How did my adult relatives seem to enjoy this Taiwanese culinary delight while I found it so plain?

During my journey to discover the essence of mantou, I began to see myself the same way I saw the steamed bun. I believed that my writing would never evolve beyond a hobby and that my quiet nature crippled my ambitions. Ultimately, I thought I had little to offer the world. In middle school, it was easy for me to hide behind the large personalities of my friends, blending into the background and keeping my thoughts company. Although writing had become my emotional outlet, no matter how well I wrote essays, poetry, or fiction, I could not stand out in a sea of talented students. When I finally gained the confidence to submit my poetry to literary journals but was promptly rejected, I stepped back from my work to begin reading from Whitman to Dickinson, Li-Young Lee to Ocean Vuong. It was then that I realized I had been holding back a crucial ingredient–my distinct voice. 

Over time, my taste buds began to mature, as did I. Mantou can be flavored with pork and eggplant, sweetened in condensed milk, and moistened or dried by the steam’s temperature. After I ate the mantou with each of these factors in mind, I noticed its environment enhanced a delicately woven strand of sweetness beneath the taste of side dishes: the sugar I had often watched my grandmother sift into the flour. The taste was nearly untraceable, but once I grasped it I could truly begin to cherish mantou. In the same way the taste had been lost to me for years, my writer’s voice had struggled to shine through because of my self-doubt and fear of vulnerability.

As I acquired a taste for mantou, I also began to strengthen my voice through my surrounding environment. With the support of my parents, peer poets, and the guidance of Amy Tan and the Brontё sisters, I worked tirelessly to uncover my voice: a subtle strand of sweetness. Once I stopped trying to fit into a publishing material mold and infused my uninhibited passion for my Taiwanese heritage into my writing, my poem was published in a literary journal. I wrote about the blatant racism Asians endured during coronavirus, and the editor of Skipping Stones Magazine was touched by both my poem and my heartfelt letter. I opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum, providing support to younger Asian-American students who reached out with the relief of finding someone they could relate to. I embraced writing as a way to convey my struggle with cultural identity. I joined the school’s creative writing club and read my pieces in front of an audience, honing my voice into one that flourishes out loud as well.

Now, I write and speak unapologetically, falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had. It inspires passion within my communities and imparts tenacity to Asian-American youth, rooting itself deeply into everything I write. Today, my grandmother would say that I have finally unearthed the taste of mantou as I savor every bite with a newfound appreciation. I can imagine her hands shaping the dough that has become my voice, and I am eager to share it with the world.

This essay is structurally-sound, with the student’s journey learning to savor mantou and their journey trying to find their voice serving as outstanding parallels. Additionally, as they describe the journey to find a voice in their writing, they definitely show off their voice! The clear introduction provides a great image and draws us in with an intriguing question. Additionally, their little inserts like “a strand of sweetness” and “falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had” work very well.

When the student describes their first published poem, however, their writing gets a little more stilted. This is a common error students make when writing about their achievements. If this student is writing about the craft that goes into writing, we should hear the details of the craft that went into the poem, instead of simply learning that they “opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum.” This is interesting information but would be stronger if it were supplemented by descriptions of the voice they created, comparisons to the styles of other poets, and analysis of their stylistic choices. This would make the essay feel more cohesive, centering entirely around concepts of voice and style.

Prompt #6: 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?

Note: We don’t have a stellar example for this prompt, so instead, we’re sharing a couple examples that need improvement, and what can be done to make the essays more engaging. 

Prompt #6, Example #1

What factors shape the depth and allure of a literary character? This is the exact question I asked myself as my eyes riveted on the white pages covered with little black letters.

I was reading my old novels. I’ve written three novels and many short stories. Each of them repetitively portrayed the hero as intelligent and funny, and the antagonists as cold and manipulative. I came to the appalling realization that my characters were flat, neither exciting nor original. They just didn’t stand out! 

As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Vice and virtue are to the artist material to an art.’ Their mixing makes a novel addictive because its plot is rich with turnarounds and its characters more engaging. In his famous work The Picture of Dorian Gray , Wilde deconstructs the psyche of his characters. He brilliantly plays with the protagonist’s youthful appearance and the decaying portrait to build a truly unique idiosyncratic identity. The persona of Dorian Gray is so complicated a psychologist could analyze it for hours on end!

Inspired by this character, It was my turn to explore good and evil into characters to make my stories more enthralling. I skillfully played with vice and virtue, separating, merging them… My latest novel is the fruit of this exercise. I chose to set it in 20th century London. Its opium dens and exclusive salons; middle-class workers, peasants and politicians breathed the same newly industrialized air; modernity in Blackfriars bridge and tradition in St Paul’s Cathedral; all of these contrasts set the perfect environment for my characters to grow. Following Laclos’ Valmont, Maupassant’s Georges Duroy and Duffy’s Myra Hindley, I played with those contrasts to present an intricate character, truly creative – unlike my previous ones. Insanity, religion, depravity and love are merged into each character, reflecting Edwardian London. As I reflected on my work, I realized vice and virtue altogether made them more human and credible. These characters stood out, they were interesting, I even wanted to know more about them! 

After rewriting, erasing, typing, and thinking countless times, I realized writing is a unique exercise. Nothing is definite when you are holding a fountain pen, hearing its screeching sound on the white paper and watching the ebony ink forming letters. When I wasn’t too happy about a change I made in my story, I simply erased and rewrote it. Everything I imagined could happen: white pages are the only place the mouse eats the cat or the world is taken by a zombie attack! 

This exact exercise of diversifying my characters satisfied my relentless curiosity. Asking myself ‘how could this character be if she had lost her parents in a maritime tragedy?’ allowed me to view the world from different perspectives (some very dissimilar to my own) and considering how each character would react to different situations brought them to life. As I was writing, I was aiming to change the usual narratives I had previously traversed. I loved experimenting with countless personality traits in my characters – minutes flowing, my hand dancing on the paper as my mind was singing words coming alive….

There were times where my hand just stopped writing and my mind stopped raging. I tried thinking differently, changing a character’s background, the story, the setting. I was inspired by Zola, A.Carter, Fitzgerald, the Brontë sisters… I could observe the different reactions of their characters, and reflect on mine theoretically. But it was only part one of the work: I then had to write, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes frantically, always leading to fresh ideas – I was exploring the practical, trying, erasing and rewriting. Both theory and practice are required to gain intellectual independence and experience, in writing and more globally: before I can change a character, I have to understand it. Before we can change the world, we have to understand it.

The main strength of this essay is the authenticity of the topic the student chose. They aren’t making anything up or stretching the truth. Writing is something that captivates them, and that captivation shines through—particularly through their fourth paragraph (where they geek out over specific plots and characters) and their fifth paragraph (where they joyfully describe how writing has no limitations). Admissions officers want to see this passion and intensity in applicants! The fact that this student has already written three novels also shows dedication and is impressive.

The main weakness of this essay is its structure. Ironically, it is not super captivating. The essay would have been more compelling if the student utilized a “anecdote – answer – reflection” structure. This student’s current introduction involves a reflective question, citations about their past writing experience, then their thoughts on Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Instead, this student could’ve provided one cohesive (and powerful!) image of them being frustrated with their own writing then being inspired by Dorian Gray. This would look something like:

“I stayed up three nights in a row studying my own writing—bored by my own writing. The only thing more painful than seeing failure in the fruits of your labor is not seeing a path for improvement. I had written three novels and numerous short stories, and all I could come up with was funny and intelligent heroes going up against cold and manipulative villains. What kind of writer was so consistently cliche? On the third night, I wandered over to my bookshelf. Mrs. Dalloway caught my eye (it has such a beautiful cover). I flipped through. Then, I grabbed Giovanni’s Room . I was so obsessed with my shortcomings that I couldn’t even focus long enough to see what these authors were doing right. I picked up The Picture of Dorian Gray and decided to just start reading. By the end of the night, I was captivated.”

An introduction like this would flow nicely into the student describing their experience with Dorian Gray then, because of that experience, describing how they have altered their approach to writing. The conclusion of this essay would then be this student’s time for reflection. Instead of repeating content about their passion—“I then had to write, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes frantically” and “I was exploring the practical, trying, erasing and rewriting”—, the student could dedicate their conclusion to reflecting on the reasons that writing is so captivating or the ways that (until the day they die) writers will always be perfecting their craft.

This essay is a great example of how important it is to pick a topic that truly excites you. It also illustrates how important it is to effectively structure that excitement.

Prompt #6, Example #2

Astonished by the crashing sound of waves in my ear, I was convinced this magical shell actually held the sound of the big blue sea — my six-year-old self was heartbroken when I couldn’t take the thirty-dollar artificial shell from SeaWorld’s gift shop . It distinctly reminded me of the awestruck feeling I had when I witnessed the churning waves of a windy night by the ocean the previous weekend; I lost track of time gazing at the distant moonlit border dividing our world from the ever-growing black void. Turning to my mom, I inquired curiously, “Can we go to the place where the water ends one day?”

She explained to me I could never reach the end of the ocean because the harsh line I had seen was actually an illusion called the horizon —  there was no material end to the ocean. For a mind as young as mine was, the idea of infinity was incomprehensible. As my infatuation with the ocean continued to grow, I finally understood that regardless of how far I travel, the horizon is unattainable because it’s not a physical limit. This idea is why the ocean captivates me — no matter how much you discover, there is always more to explore. 

Learning about and exploring the ocean provided an escape from one reality into another; though we are on the same planet, it’s an entirely separate world. Through elementary and middle school, I devoted vast amounts of my free time to learning about simpler concepts like a dolphin’s ability to echolocate and coral reef ecosystems. I rented countless documentaries and constantly checked out books from my local library — my all-time favorite was an episode of the television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey titled “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth.” This episode remained memorable because it was centered around the impacts of fossil fuels on marine animals; it was the first time I’d learned about the impending crisis we are faced with due to the human mistreatment of our planet.

Prior to viewing that episode, I relied on the ocean as an outlet — I fueled all of my emotions into studying marine organisms. Once I learned of its grave future, I delved into the world of environmental activism. This path was much more disheartening than studying echolocation — inevitable death due to climate change took a toll on my mental health. I attended two climate strikes in November of my sophomore year. Following the strikes, I joined Sunrise Movement Sacramento, a youth-led climate justice organization advocating for the Green New Deal. While analyzing legislation and organizing protests were significant takeaways from my experience with climate activism, they were not the most important. I became an organizer because of my love for the ocean and I remain an organizer because of my passion for dissolving the disproportionalities marginalized groups face due to the sacrificing of people’s livelihood for the sake of profit. The more I learned about our modern society, the more hopeless I grew that I could see any significant change within my lifetime.

However, this hopelessness comes in waves; every day, I remind myself of the moment I discovered the horizon. Or the moment I first dove into the beautiful waters of the Hawaiian coast and immediately was surrounded by breathtaking seas of magnificent creatures and coral gardens — life felt ethereal and beautiful. I remind myself that like the ocean, the vast majority of the universe has yet to be discovered; that distant border holds infinite opportunity to learn. In a universe as vast as ours, and life as rare as ours, individuals still choose to prioritize avarice over our planet. Despite this grave individualism, the ocean reminds me every day there is hope in the fight for a better world. Though I will never discover every inch of the ocean’s floor, I will forever envision and reach for new horizons.

Sometimes the path to a great essay is taking something normal and using it to show admissions officers who you are and what you value—that is precisely this student’s approach! Finding the ocean fascinating is not unique to this student. Tons of kids (and adults, too!) are obsessed with the ocean. What this student does is take things a step further as they explain their curiosity about the ocean in relation to their pain about the destruction of the environment. This capacity for reflection is great!

This student shows a good control of language through their thematic centering on ocean and horizons that carries through their essay—with ”this hopelessness comes in waves” and “I will forever envision and reach for new horizons.” The details provided throughout are also effective at keeping readers engaged—things like “ my six-year-old self was heartbroken when I couldn’t take the thirty-dollar artificial shell from SeaWorld’s gift shop” and “ my all-time favorite was an episode of the television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey titled “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth.”

The main weakness of this essay is the lack of reflection when the student discusses environmental activism. There’s reflection on the student’s connection to the ocean and horizons at the beginning and at the end, but when the student discusses activism, the tone shifts from focusing on their internal thoughts to their external actions. Remember, a lot of students write about environmental activism, but not a lot of students write about an emotional connection to the ocean as an impetus for environmental activism. This student would stand out more to admissions officers if they had dug into questions of what the ocean means to them (and says about them) in the paragraphs beginning “Learning about and exploring the ocean…” and “Prior to viewing that episode.”

Prompt #7: 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.

Prompt #7, example #1.

Scalding hot water cascades over me, crashing to the ground in a familiar, soothing rhythm. Steam rises to the ceiling as dried sweat and soap suds swirl down the drain. The water hisses as it hits my skin, far above the safe temperature for a shower. The pressure is perfect on my tired muscles, easing the aches and bruises from a rough bout of sparring and the tension from a long, stressful day. The noise from my overactive mind dies away, fading into music, lyrics floating through my head. Black streaks stripe the inside of my left arm, remnants of the penned reminders of homework, money owed and forms due. 

It lacks the same dynamism and controlled intensity of sparring on the mat at taekwondo or the warm tenderness of a tight hug from my father, but it’s still a cocoon of safety as the water washes away the day’s burdens. As long as the hot water is running, the rest of the world ceases to exist, shrinking to me, myself and I. The shower curtain closes me off from the hectic world spinning around me. 

Much like the baths of Blanche DuBois, my hot showers are a means of cleansing and purifying (though I’m mostly just ridding myself of the germs from children at work sneezing on me). In the midst of a hot shower, there is no impending exam to study for, no newspaper deadline to meet, no paycheck to deposit. It is simply complete and utter peace, a safe haven. The steam clears my mind even as it clouds my mirror. 

Creativity thrives in the tub, breathing life into tales of dragons and warrior princesses that evolve only in my head, never making their way to paper but appeasing the childlike dreamer and wannabe author in me all the same. That one calculus problem that has seemed unsolvable since second period clicks into place as I realize the obvious solution. The perfect concluding sentence to my literary analysis essay writes itself (causing me to abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely).  

Ever since I was old enough to start taking showers unaided, I began hogging all the hot water in the house, a source of great frustration to my parents. Many of my early showers were rudely cut short by an unholy banging on the bathroom door and an order to “stop wasting water and come eat dinner before it gets cold.” After a decade of trudging up the stairs every evening to put an end to my water-wasting, my parents finally gave in, leaving me to my (expensive) showers. I imagine someday, when paying the water bill is in my hands, my showers will be shorter, but today is not that day (nor, hopefully, will the next four years be that day). 

Showers are better than any ibuprofen, the perfect panacea for life’s daily ailments. Headaches magically disappear as long as the water runs, though they typically return in full force afterward. The runny nose and itchy eyes courtesy of summertime allergies recede. Showers alleviate even the stomachache from a guacamole-induced lack of self-control. 

Honestly though, the best part about a hot shower is neither its medicinal abilities nor its blissful temporary isolation or even the heavenly warmth seeped deep into my bones. The best part is that these little moments of pure, uninhibited contentedness are a daily occurrence. No matter how stressful the day, showers ensure I always have something to look forward to. They are small moments, true, but important nonetheless, because it is the little things in life that matter; the big moments are too rare, too fleeting to make anyone truly happy. Wherever I am in the world, whatever fate chooses to throw at me, I know I can always find my peace at the end of the day behind the shower curtain.

This essay is relatable yet personal! The writer makes themself supremely human through discussing the universal subject of showering. That being said, an essay about showering could easily turn boring while still being relatable. This writer keeps its relatable moments interesting and fun through vivid descriptions of common feelings including “causing me to abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely” and “the stomachache from a guacamole-induced lack of self-control.”

While describing a universal feeling, this student also cleverly and intentionally mentions small facts about their life through simple phrases like “I’m mostly just ridding myself of the germs from children at work sneezing on me” and “the childlike dreamer and wannabe author in me.” To put it simply, though we are talking about a shower, we learn about so much more!

And, at the end, the student lets us know that that is exactly why they love showers. Showers are more than meets the eye! With this insightful and reflective ending (“the big moments are too rare, too fleeting to make anyone truly happy”), readers learn about this student’s capacity for reflection, which is an important capacity as you enter college.

The one major error that this writer commits is that of using a trite transition. The inclusion of “Honestly though” at the beginning of this student’s ending detracts from what they are trying to say and sticks out in their writing.

Prompt #7, Example #2

Steam whooshed from the pot as I unveiled my newest creation: duck-peppercorn-chestnut dumplings. The spicy, hearty aroma swirled into the kitchen, mingling with the smell of fresh dough. Grinning, I grabbed a plump dumpling with chopsticks, blew carefully, and fed it into the waiting mouth of my little sister. Her eyes widening, she vigorously nodded and held up five stubby fingers. I did a little happy dance in celebration and pulled my notebook out of my apron pocket. Duck-peppercorn-chestnut: five stars.

In my household, dumplings are a far cry from the classic pork and cabbage. Our menu boasts everything from the savory lamb-bamboo shoot-watercress to the sweet and crispy apple-cinnamon-date. A few years ago, my sister claimed she was sick of eating the same flavors over and over. Refusing to let her disavow our family staple, I took her complaint as a challenge to make the tastiest and most unconventional dumplings to satisfy her. With her as my taste tester and Mum in charge of dough, I spent months experimenting with dozens of odd ingredient combinations. 

During those days spent covered in flour, my dumplings often reminded me of myself—a hybrid of ingredients that don’t usually go together. I am the product of three distinct worlds: the suburbs of Boston, the rural Chinese village of [location removed], and the coastal city of [location removed]. At school, I am both the STEM nerd with lightning-fast mental math and the artistic plant mom obsessed with funky earrings. I love all that is elegant, from Chinese calligraphy to the rolling notes of the Gourd flute, yet I can be very not elegant, like when my sister and I make homemade slime. When I’m on the streets, marching for women’s rights and climate action, I’m loud, bellowing from the bottom of my gut. In the painting studio, though, I don’t speak unless spoken to, and hours can slip by like minutes. I’m loud and quiet. Elegant and messy. Nerdy and artistic. Suburban, rustic, and metropolitan.

While I’m full of odd combinations, they are only seemingly contradictory. Just as barbeque pork and pineapple can combine beautifully in a dumpling wrapper, different facets of my identity also converge. After my tenth-grade summer, when I spent six weeks studying design at art school and another three researching the brain at Harvard Med, I began asking myself: What if I mixed art and neuroscience together? That fall, I collaborated with my school’s art museum for an independent research project, exploring two questions: How are aesthetic experiences processed in the brain? And how can neuroscience help museums design exhibits that maximize visitor engagement? I combed through studies with results from tightly controlled experiments, and I spent days gathering my own qualitative data by observing museum visitors and asking them questions. With the help of my artistic skills, I could identify the visual and spatial elements of the exhibits that best held visitors’ attention. 

By synergizing two of the ingredients that make me who I am—art and neuroscience—I realized I shouldn’t see the different sides of myself as separate. I learned to instead seek the intersections between aspects of my identity. Since then, I have mixed art with activism to voice my opinions nonverbally, created Spotify playlists with both Chinese and western pop, and written flute compositions using music theory and math. In the future, by continuing to combine my interests, I want to find my niche in the world. I can make a positive impact on society without having to choose just one passion. As of now, my dream is to be a neuroscientist who designs art therapy treatments for mental health patients. Who knows though? Maybe my calling is to be a dim sum chef who teaches pottery on the side. I don’t know where I’ll go, but one thing’s for sure—being a standard pork and cabbage dumpling is definitely not my style.

This essay is outstanding because the student seems likable and authentic. With the first image of the student’s little sister vigorously nodding and holding up “five stubby fingers,” we find ourselves intrigued by the student’s daily life. They additionally show the importance of family, culture, and creativity in their life—these are great things to highlight in your essay!

After the introduction, the student uses their weird dumpling anecdote to transition to a discussion of their unique intersections. This is achieved smoothly because weirdness/uniqueness is the focus of both of these topics. Additionally, the comparison is not awkward because dumplings are used as more than just a transition, but rather are the through-line of the essay—the student weaves in little phrases like “Just as barbeque pork and pineapple can combine beautifully in a dumpling wrapper,” “By synergizing two of the ingredients that make me who I am,” and “being a standard pork and cabbage dumpling is definitely not my style.” This gives the essay its cohesive feel.

Authenticity comes through in this essay as the student recognizes that they don’t know what the future holds. They just know what kind of a person they are—a passionate one! 

One change that would improve this student’s essay would be focusing on fewer intersections in their third and last paragraph. The student mentions STEM, music, family activities, activism, and painting, which makes it feel like a distraction in middle of the essay. Focus on the most important things you want to show admissions officers—you can sit at intersections, but you can’t be interested in everything.

Prompt #7, Example #3

“Everyone follow me!” I smiled at five wide-eyed skaters before pushing off into a spiral. I glanced behind me hopefully, only to see my students standing frozen like statues, the fear in their eyes as clear as the ice they swayed on. “Come on!” I said encouragingly, but the only response I elicited was the slow shake of their heads. My first day as a Learn-to-Skate coach was not going as planned. 

But amid my frustration, I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater. At seven, I had been fascinated by Olympic performers who executed thrilling high jumps and dizzying spins with apparent ease, and I dreamed to one day do the same. My first few months on skates, however, sent these hopes crashing down: my attempts at slaloms and toe-loops were shadowed by a stubborn fear of falling, which even the helmet, elbow pads, and two pairs of mittens I had armed myself with couldn’t mitigate. Nonetheless, my coach remained unfailingly optimistic, motivating me through my worst spills and teaching me to find opportunities in failures. With his encouragement, I learned to push aside my fears and attack each jump with calm and confidence; it’s the hope that I can help others do the same that now inspires me to coach. 

I remember the day a frustrated staff member directed Oliver, a particularly hesitant young skater, toward me, hoping that my patience and steady encouragement might help him improve. Having stood in Oliver’s skates not much earlier myself, I completely empathized with his worries but also saw within him the potential to overcome his fears and succeed. 

To alleviate his anxiety, I held Oliver’s hand as we inched around the rink, cheering him on at every turn. I soon found though, that this only increased his fear of gliding on his own, so I changed my approach, making lessons as exciting as possible in hopes that he would catch the skating bug and take off. In the weeks that followed, we held relay races, played “freeze-skate” and “ice-potato”, and raced through obstacle courses; gradually, with each slip and subsequent success, his fear began to abate. I watched Oliver’s eyes widen in excitement with every skill he learned, and not long after, he earned his first skating badge. Together we celebrated this milestone, his ecstasy fueling my excitement and his pride mirroring my own. At that moment, I was both teacher and student, his progress instilling in me the importance of patience and a positive attitude. 

It’s been more than ten years since I bundled up and stepped onto the ice for the first time. Since then, my tolerance for the cold has remained stubbornly low, but the rest of me has certainly changed. In sharing my passion for skating, I have found a wonderful community of eager athletes, loving parents, and dedicated coaches from whom I have learned invaluable lessons and wisdom. My fellow staffers have been with me, both as friends and colleagues, and the relationships I’ve formed have given me far more poise, confidence, and appreciation for others. Likewise, my relationships with parents have given me an even greater gratitude for the role they play: no one goes to the rink without a parent behind the wheel! 

Since that first lesson, I have mentored dozens of children, and over the years, witnessed tentative steps transform into powerful glides and tears give way to delighted grins. What I have shared with my students has been among the greatest joys of my life, something I will cherish forever. It’s funny: when I began skating, what pushed me through the early morning practices was the prospect of winning an Olympic medal. Now, what excites me is the chance to work with my students, to help them grow, and to give back to the sport that has brought me so much happiness. 

A major strength of this essay comes in its narrative organization. When reading this first paragraph, we feel for the young skaters and understand their fear—skating sounds scary! Then, because the writer sets us up to feel this empathy, the transition to the second paragraph where the student describes their empathy for the young skaters is particularly powerful. It’s like we are all in it together! The student’s empathy for the young skaters also serves as an outstanding, seamless transition to the applicant discussing their personal journey with skating: “I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater.”

This essay positions the applicant as a grounded and caring individual. They are caring towards the young skaters—changing their teaching style to try to help the young skaters and feeling the young skaters’ emotions with them—but they are also appreciative to those who helped them as they reference their fellow staffers and parents. This shows great maturity—a favorable quality in the eyes of an admissions officer.

At the end of the essay, we know a lot about this student and are convinced that they would be a good addition to a college campus!

Prompt #7, Example #4

Flipping past dozens of colorful entries in my journal, I arrive at the final blank sheet. I press my pen lightly to the page, barely scratching its surface to create a series of loops stringing together into sentences. Emotions spill out, and with their release, I feel lightness in my chest. The stream of thoughts slows as I reach the bottom of the page, and I gently close the cover of the worn book: another journal finished.

I add the journal to the stack of eleven books on my nightstand. Struck by the bittersweet sensation of closing a chapter of my life, I grab the notebook at the bottom of the pile to reminisce.

“I want to make a flying mushen to fly in space and your in it” – October 2008

Pulling back the cover of my first Tinkerbell-themed diary, the prompt “My Hopes and Dreams” captures my attention. Though “machine” is misspelled in my scribbled response, I see the beginnings of my past obsession with outer space. At the age of five, I tore through novels about the solar system, experimented with rockets built from plastic straws, and rented Space Shuttle films from Blockbuster to satisfy my curiosities. While I chased down answers to questions as limitless as the universe, I fell in love with learning. Eight journals later, the same relentless curiosity brought me to an airplane descending on San Francisco Bay.

“I wish I had infinite sunsets” – July 2019

I reach for the charcoal notepad near the top of the pile and open to the first page: my flight to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. While I was excited to explore bioengineering, anxiety twisted in my stomach as I imagined my destination, unsure of whether I could overcome my shyness and connect with others.

With each new conversation, the sweat on my palms became less noticeable, and I met students from 23 different countries. Many of the moments where I challenged myself socially revolved around the third story deck of the Jerry house. A strange medley of English, Arabic, and Mandarin filled the summer air as my friends and I gathered there every evening, and dialogues at sunset soon became moments of bliss. In our conversations about cultural differences, the possibility of an afterlife, and the plausibility of far-fetched conspiracy theories, I learned to voice my opinion. As I was introduced to different viewpoints, these moments challenged my understanding of the world around me. In my final entries from California, I find excitement to learn from others and increased confidence, a tool that would later allow me to impact my community.

“The beauty in a tower of cans” – June 2020

Returning my gaze to the stack of journals, I stretch to take the floral-patterned book sitting on top. I flip through, eventually finding the beginnings of the organization I created during the outbreak of COVID-19. Since then, Door-to-Door Deliveries has woven its way through my entries and into reality, allowing me to aid high-risk populations through free grocery delivery.

With the confidence I gained the summer before, I took action when seeing others in need rather than letting my shyness hold me back. I reached out to local churches and senior centers to spread word of our services and interacted with customers through our website and social media pages. To further expand our impact, we held two food drives, and I mustered the courage to ask for donations door-to-door. In a tower of canned donations, I saw the value of reaching out to help others and realized my own potential to impact the world around me.

I delicately close the journal in my hands, smiling softly as the memories reappear, one after another. Reaching under my bed, I pull out a fresh notebook and open to its first sheet. I lightly press my pen to the page, “And so begins the next chapter…”

The structuring of this essay makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The student effectively organizes their various life experiences around their tower of journals, which centers the reader and makes the different stories easy to follow. Additionally, the student engages quotes from their journals—and unique formatting of the quotes—to signal that they are moving in time and show us which memory we should follow them to.

Thematically, the student uses the idea of shyness to connect the different memories they draw out of their journals. As the student describes their experiences overcoming shyness at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes and Door-to-Door Deliveries, this essay can be read as an Overcoming Obstacles essay.

At the end of this essay, readers are fully convinced that this student is dedicated (they have committed to journaling every day), thoughtful (journaling is a thoughtful process and, in the essay, the student reflects thoughtfully on the past), and motivated (they flew across the country for a summer program and started a business). These are definitely qualities admissions officers are looking for in applicants!

Prompt #7, Example #5

“We’re ready for take-off!” 

The tires hit the tarmac and began to accelerate, and I just realized what I had signed up for. For 24 hours straight, I strapped myself into a broken-down SUV whereas others chose the luxury of soaring through the skies for a mere two hours. Especially with my motion sickness and driving anxiety, I would call myself crazy too.

To say I have always remained in my comfort zone is an understatement. Did I always order chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant? Yup! Sounds like me. Did I always create a color-coded itinerary just for a day trip? Guilty as charged. Did I always carry a first-aid kit at all times? Of course! I would make even an ambulance look unprepared. And yet here I was, choosing 1,000 miles of misery from Las Vegas to Seattle despite every bone in my body telling me not to.

The sunlight blinded my eyes and a wave of nausea swept over me. Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator? It was only ten minutes in, and I was certain that the trip was going to be a disaster. I simply hoped that our pre-drive prayer was not stuck in God’s voicemail box. 

All of a sudden, I noticed brightly colored rocks in the distance, ones I had been dying to see for years. Their fluorescence popped amongst the magnificent winding hills as the sunset became romantic in hue. The desert glistened with mirages of deep blue water unlike anything I had ever seen. Nevada was home, but home always seemed to be just desert and casinos. For once, I looked forward to endless desert outside my window rather than a sea of clouds.

I never realized how little I discovered of the world beyond home. For years I complained about how there was nothing to do or discover outside. Not once did I set out to prove myself wrong. Instead, I chose a daily routine of homework at the kitchen table and late-night TV. However, as summer vacation ended, I decided to set my stubbornness aside and finally give this drive back home a chance. Little did I know that it would turn out to be my favorite trip of all time. 

As we drove along, the world chose to prove me wrong when I discovered Heaven on Earth along Shasta Lake. I stood out of the sunroof, surrounded by lush green mountains and fog. I extended my arms out and felt a sense of flight that no plane could ever take me on. As the water vapor kissed my face, I floated into a dreamland I never wanted to leave. I didn’t have to go to great lengths to discover the beauty of the world; it was right in front of me.  From this moment on, comfort and convenience would no longer be my best friends. Rather than only looking for famous travel destinations or following carefully mapped-out routes, I would let curiosity lead the way. 

Since then, my daily life has been anything but routine. I’m proud to boast of my family’s homemade kombucha attempts, of flights purchased and taken in one day, and of a home flooded with knick-knacks from thrifting trips. Every day I set out to try something new, see a different perspective, and go beyond normal. Whether it is by trying a new recipe using taro, making a risky fashion choice with wide-legged pants, or listening to a new music genre in Spanish, I always act with curiosity first.

Over the years, I have devoted my time towards learning Swedish, building computers, and swimming. Although my accent is horrid, some computers almost broke, and even a starfish would outswim me, I continue to enjoy activities I once criticized. For me, there is no enjoyment without some risk. Nobody I know is a kazoo-playing, boogie-board loving, boba connoisseur like me.

This essay is an Overcoming Challenges story that centers around a single anecdote. The structure works nicely as the student describes what they were like before their road trip, what happened on the road trip, and what they were like after. 

The most major improvement that this essay needs is better-communicated authenticity. At the beginning, it feels a bit gimmicky. The student describes their preparedness, particularly the fact that they always carry a first aid kit, and it’s not super believable. Then, when they write “Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator?” it feels like we are in a sitcom and the student is that funny obsessive kid. Sitcom characters don’t feel real and you want to make yourself appear profoundly real.

On a similar note, the narrative arc of this essay isn’t entirely believable. The student describes a large personality and value shift but doesn’t describe any struggles that accompany the shift. A quick shift like that is far from easy. On the other hand, if the immediacy of the shift was easy, they could write about moments after their shift in mindset when they have felt troubled by residual desires to stay in their comfort zone, instead of writing “I always act with curiosity first.”

The greatest strength of this essay is the paragraphs beginning “I never realized how little…” and “As we drove along…” The fixation on comfort seems much more believable when it involves “homework at the kitchen table and late-night TV.” The descriptions of the drive provide beautiful, evocative imagery. And it’s topped off with some nice reflection! Digging into this great portion of the essay would make this an even stronger essay!

Want to see more examples? Check out this post with 16 strong essay examples from top schools , including common supplemental essay questions.

At selective schools, your essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision. That’s more than grades (20%) and test scores (15%), and almost as much as extracurriculars (30%). Why is this? Most students applying to top schools will have stellar academics and extracurriculars. Your essays are your chance to stand out and humanize your application.

That’s why it’s vital that your essays are engaging, and present you as someone who would enrich the campus community.

Before submitting your application, you should have someone else review your essays. It’s even better if that person doesn’t know you personally, as they can best tell whether your personality shines through your essay. 

That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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personal growth essay ideas

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101 Personal Growth Examples

personal growth examples and definition, explained below

Personal growth is the process in which an individual recognizes and maximizes their own potential.

For instance, a person may seek to improve their communication skills (a facet of personal growth) by participating in public speaking workshops over a period of time.

Personal growth is a continuous and lifelong process, often marked by periods of rapid personal development followed by periods of slower growth, much like the physical growth from infancy to adulthood (Johnson & Swanson, 2016).

The personal growth process entails the development and enhancement of various aspects of life, including but not limited to:

  • Career Growth: Career growth pertains to the progression and advancement in one’s professional life. It entails acquiring new skills, achieving high performance in current roles, and moving upward in professional responsibilities (Ng, Eby, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2010). An example of career growth could be a junior software developer who hones their coding expertise over time, eventually leading a team of developers. Career growth is not just about upward mobility; it’s about doing work that is fulfilling, challenging, and aligned with personal interests and values.
  • Intellectual Growth: Intellectual growth involves the expansion of knowledge, critical thinking abilities, and cognitive skills . It can occur formally through education or informally through self-directed learning and reasoned experience (Ramsden, 2015). For example, you might take online courses on philosophy, triggering deeper questioning and critical examination of life’s profound questions.
  • Emotional Growth: Emotional growth refers to the maturation of emotional responses and the strengthening of emotional intelligence (Brackett, Rivers, & Salovey, 2011). A person growing emotionally might learn how to manage anger more effectively or become better at expressing feelings in a healthy manner. Emotional growth fosters better interpersonal relationships, self-awareness, and psychological resilience.
  • Moral Growth : Moral growth signifies the development of your ethical understanding, values, and behavior (Nucci, 2014). It includes the cultivation of virtues such as honesty, integrity, and empathy. For instance, an individual might reflect on an unfair action they have taken and decide to apologize and rectify the mistake, demonstrating moral growth. By refining our moral compass, you may enhance your sense of justice, empathy, and social responsibility.

Personal Growth Examples

1. Cultivating a Growth Mindset : When you cultivate a growth mindset, you’re building the inner belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed over time (Dweck, 2010). Embracing such a mindset provides a pathway for maximum self-improvement . It also promotes lifelong learning , with the recognition that you can always improve and become a better you. This means embracing the thought, “I can’t do it…yet,” rather than “I can’t do it.”

2. Developing Leadership Skills : Leadership skills can include the ability to guide, inspire, and influence others toward achieving a common goal (Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008). They might be important indicators of personal growth if you’re going for a promotion. These skills include abilities like decision-making, communication, delegating tasks, and fostering team spirit.

3. Engaging in Volunteer Work: Volunteering allows you to contribute to your communities while fostering empathy and understanding (Wilson, 2012).  Doing volunteer work, such as serving food in a soup kitchen, can allow you to connect with diverse backgrounds, widens their perspective, and therefore nourish your empathy and social conscience.

4. Nurtiring Self-Compassion: Self-compassion involves acknowledging your own shortcomings and treating yourself with kindness despite failures (Neff, 2011). Instead of harsh self-criticism, self-compassion offers a balanced approach to dealing with personal flaws and failures. For instance, if you fail at a job interview, self-compassion would entail understanding that failure is part of human experience and does not reflect your overall worth. This, obviously, is good for your mental health.

5. Overcoming Fears: Fear often deters us from exploring our full capabilities (Öhman, 2008). Overcoming fears means confronting what scares us, be it fear of heights, public speaking, or failure. Overcoming fear is a telltale sign of personal growth To overcome fear, you might intentionally and gradually expose yourself to the fearful situation in a process called systematic desensitization . For example, someone afraid of heights might start by climbing a short ladder, then moving to a two-story building, and so forth. Such bravery encourages psychological resilience and enables exploration of unknown territories, hence fostering personal growth.

6. Improving Time Management: If you’re trying to demonstrate personal growth to an employer, this one’s perfect. When done successfully, time management enhances productivity, mitigates stress, and unveils avenues for growth – all things your employer loves to see. An example of improved time management could be an individual employing a systematized daily planner or a digital application. This system aids in organizing tasks, creates reminders for deadlines, and consequently opens up time for self-development, relaxation, and recreation.

7. Adopting Healthy Habits: Healthy habits can totally change your life, leading to huge personal growth (Lippke, Nigg, & Maddock, 2012). They may help you lose weight, sleep better, have more energy, wake earlier, and so on. For instance, an individual might opt to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. By doing this, the individual improves their physical health, enhances their immune system, and acquires necessary energy for undertaking other personal growth initiatives.

8. Cultivating Humility: Humility, a vital attribute of personal growth, involves acknowledging our limitations and displaying a lessened level of arrogance (Exline & Hill, 2012). The development of humility occurs through the getting of wisdom and growing as a person. In real-world terms, a humble person acknowledges errors or mistakes, an act that catalyzes learning and cultivates interpersonal relationships.

9. Pursuing Passions: Passionate engagement in activities increases joy, reduces stress, and augments motivation, thereby contributing to personal growth (Vallerand & Houlfort, 2019). Allocating time to pursue hobbies or other passions can lead to the acquisition of new abilities and experiences. For instance, a person with a zeal for painting can foster creativity, hone focus, and derive deep satisfaction—elements imperative for personal growth.

10. Developing a Sense of Purpose: The possession of a life-purpose instills a sense of direction, and fortifies motivation, resilience, and satisfaction (Steger, 2012). Identifying this purpose—be it nurturing a family, building a career, or serving the community— gives life meaning and direction. An illustration of this can be an individual who discerns their purpose in educating and empowering others. This realized purpose provides both fulfillment and the impetus for continued personal growth.

11. Understanding Personal Values : Personal values are profound beliefs that shape behavior and provide a guide for decision-making (Hitlin & Piliavin, 2019). Having a true understanding of personal values, whether they be honesty, integrity, or kindness, helps an individual align their actions with their beliefs. For example, a person who values honesty might prioritize transparent communication, improving their relationships with others. Thus, by understanding personal values, individuals can lead a more authentic and fulfilling life.

12. Understanding Personal Biases: Personal biases, conscious or unconscious, can significantly distort our perspectives (Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, & Banaji, 2009). Developing an understanding of these biases allows us to challenge their influence over our decisions and actions. If someone identifies a bias against a particular group, they might purposefully educate themselves about that group and interact more with its members. Therefore, recognizing and addressing personal biases fertilifies our dealings with others, advancing personal growth.

13. Learning About Mental Health: Mental health awareness is a cornerstone of personal development (Kutcher, Wei, & Coniglio, 2016). By learning about mental health, people can better understand their emotional experiences, recognize signs of mental distress and seek appropriate help, either for themselves or others. For instance, a person studying about the symptoms of depression might realize a friend’s struggles and suggest they seek professional help. In this way, learning about mental health promotes not only self-growth but also the welfare of others.

14. Learning to Deal with Rejection: Life presents instances of rejection in various forms, such as not getting a job or a breakup (Buckley, Winkel, & Leary, 2004). Knowing how to cope with rejection in a healthy way reduces its negative impact and promotes resilience. After a job rejection, one might evaluate their application process for possible improvements, providing a growth opportunity for future applications. This demonstrates how dealing with rejection rather than avoiding it leads to self-improvement.

15. Encouraging a Work-Life Balance : Achieving the right balance between work and personal life positively affects mental health and satisfaction (Michel, Kotrba, Mitchelson, Clark, & Baltes, 2011). Striking a fruitful equilibrium could involve setting boundaries to disconnect from work during personal time, such as turning off work notifications after office hours. Encouraging a work-life balance nurtures personal well-being and enhances productivity, ultimately leading to substantial personal growth.

16. Building Conflict Resolution Skills: Conflict is inherent in all spheres of life. Therefore, developing skills to resolve conflicts amicably is a significant element of personal growth (Deutsch, Coleman, & Marcus, 2011). Conflict resolution skills involve active listening , empathy, problem-solving, and negotiation. For instance, during a heated disagreement, someone might employ active listening, aiming to understand the other party’s perspective, before proposing a solution. This practice encourages a positive outcome, which not only preserves the relationship but also expands an individual’s emotional intelligence and communication skills . 

17. Cultivating the Habit of Reading: Reading is a powerful conduit of personal growth that can stimulate intellect, broaden horizons, and encourage empathy (Mol & Bus, 2011). By inculcating a routine reading habit, an individual can immerse themselves in varied thoughts, cultures, and experiences. An avid reader might dedicate a specific time each day for reading, working through different genres. Over time, this steady commitment to literature can bolster verbal abilities, critical thinking skills, and provide a more profound understanding of the world, thereby driving personal growth.

Full List of 101 Personal Growth and Development Examples

I’ve categorized the following examples into the four categories for you. Although, it’s worth noting that the categorizations overlap a lot, and can span multiple categories simultaneously (Mruk, 2013).

  • The courage to change your mind (Moral, Intellectual)
  • Embracing change (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Becoming self-aware (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Setting personal goals (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Developing emotional intelligence (Career, Emotional)
  • Pursuing lifelong learning (Career, Intellectual)
  • Improving communication skills (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Building resilience (Career, Emotional)
  • Learning new languages (Career, Intellectual)
  • Cultivating a growth mindset (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Taking up meditation (Emotional)
  • Practicing gratitude (Emotional, Moral)
  • Improving physical health (Career, Emotional)
  • Cultivating positive relationships (Career, Emotional)
  • Learning to listen actively (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Becoming financially literate (Career, Intellectual)
  • Developing leadership skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Fostering creativity (Career, Intellectual)
  • Engaging in volunteer work (Career, Moral)
  • Strengthening problem-solving skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Learning stress management (Career, Emotional)
  • Nurturing self-compassion (Emotional, Moral)
  • Pursuing spirituality (Emotional, Moral)
  • Developing a healthy self-image (Career, Emotional)
  • Cultivating mindfulness (Emotional)
  • Overcoming fears (Career, Emotional) (like speaking in public)
  • Honing negotiation skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Seeking therapy (Emotional)
  • Practicing patience (Emotional, Moral)
  • Cultivating optimism (Career, Emotional)
  • Improving time management (Career, Intellectual)
  • Adopting healthy habits (Career, Emotional)
  • Learning to forgive (Emotional, Moral)
  • Building confidence (Career, Emotional)
  • Developing a strong work ethic (Career, Moral)
  • Cultivating discipline (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Establishing boundaries (Career, Emotional)
  • Adopting sustainable living practices (Moral)
  • Cultivating curiosity (Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Strengthening decision-making skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Cultivating humility (Emotional, Moral)
  • Nurturing an appreciation for diversity (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Taking self-defense classes (Career, Emotional)
  • Encouraging self-expression (Career, Emotional)
  • Developing assertiveness (Career, Emotional)
  • Engaging in professional development (Career, Intellectual)
  • Pursuing passions (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Nurturing empathy (Career, Emotional, Moral)
  • Improving body language (Career, Emotional)
  • Learning to say no (Career, Emotional)
  • Gaining cultural competency (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Learning cooking skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Developing a sense of purpose (Career, Emotional, Moral)
  • Understanding personal values (Career, Emotional, Moral)
  • Developing public speaking skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Recognizing personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Maintaining a personal journal (Emotional)
  • Improving social skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Developing IT skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Cultivating adaptability (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Understanding personal biases (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Exploring personal identity (Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Encouraging personal reflection (Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Building a personal brand (Career, Emotional)
  • Developing listening skills (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Cultivating self-love (Emotional)
  • Learning about mental health (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Improving networking skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Developing critical thinking skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Learning to deal with rejection (Career, Emotional)
  • Cultivating courage (Career, Emotional)
  • Understanding and respecting differences (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Developing environmental consciousness (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Understanding personal rights and responsibilities (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Taking care of personal grooming (Career, Emotional)
  • Improving personal organization (Career, Intellectual)
  • Encouraging a work-life balance (Career, Emotional)
  • Encouraging diversity in thought (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Engaging in self-care activities (Career, Emotional)
  • Learning personal finance management (Career, Intellectual)
  • Building a supportive network (Career, Emotional)
  • Building conflict resolution skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Practicing active citizenship (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Seeking continuous feedback (Career, Emotional)
  • Enhancing customer service skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Building a personal library (Intellectual)
  • Developing an understanding of politics (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Practicing self-advocacy (Career, Emotional)
  • Improving personal presentation skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Encouraging the love of nature (Emotional, Moral)
  • Developing a hobby (Career, Intellectual, Emotional) (like model trains)
  • Enhancing writing skills (Career, Intellectual)
  • Gaining awareness of global issues (Career, Intellectual, Moral)
  • Cultivating the habit of reading (Intellectual)
  • Encouraging fitness activities (Career, Emotional)
  • Pursuing a healthy diet (Career, Emotional)
  • Taking up music or art (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)
  • Developing etiquette (Career, Emotional)
  • Pursuing self-directed learning (Career, Intellectual)
  • Strengthening emotional regulation skills (Career, Emotional)
  • Encouraging exploration (Career, Intellectual, Emotional)

These myriad examples of personal growth represent not only opportunities for self-improvement but also crucial assets that can enhance our professional lives. Whether preparing for a meeting with a boss, designing a personal development plan, or simply reflecting on one’s journey, each of these areas can significantly contribute to our abilities, resilience, and well-being. They enable us to be more effective leaders, collaborators, and innovators , fostering better relationships and a more fulfilling life. Therefore, it’s vital to continuously strive for growth, leveraging these examples as stepping stones on the path towards our personal and professional objectives.

Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., & Salovey, P. (2011). Emotional intelligence: Implications for personal, social, academic, and workplace success. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5 (1), 88-103. doi:

Deutsch, M., Coleman, P. T., & Marcus, E. C. (2011). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice . New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success . United States: Random House Incorporated.

Exline, J. J., & Hill, P. C. (2012). Humility: A consistent and robust predictor of generosity.  The Journal of Positive Psychology ,  7 (3), 208-218. doi:

Greenhaus, J. H., & Allen, T. D. (2011). Work–family balance: A review and extension of the literature. In Handbook of occupational health psychology . American Psychological Association.

Johnson, B., & Swanson, E. (2016). Personal Growth in Adults: A Literature Review. Journal of Adult Development, 33 (4), 274-285.

Leary, M. R. (2001). Interpersonal rejection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mol, S. E., & Bus, A. G. (2011). To read or not to read: a meta-analysis of print exposure from infancy to early adulthood. Psychological bulletin, 137 (2), 267. doi:

Mruk, C. (2013). Self-Esteem and Positive Psychology: Research, Theory, and Practice . Springer Publishing Company.

Neff, K. D. (2011). Self‐compassion, self‐esteem, and well‐being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.

Ng, T. W., Eby, L. T., Sorensen, K. L., & Feldman, D. C. (2010). Predictors of objective and subjective career success: A meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 58 (2), 367-408.

Nucci, L. (2014). Handbook of moral and character education . New York: Routledge.

Ramsden, P. (2015). Learning to teach in higher education . London: Routledge.


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Personal Essay Topics

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  • Writing Essays
  • Writing Research Papers
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

A personal essay is an essay about your life, thoughts, or experiences. This type of essay will give readers a glimpse into your most intimate life experiences and life lessons. There are many reasons you may need to write a personal essay , from a simple class assignment to a college application requirement . You can use the list below for inspiration. Consider each statement a starting point, and write about a memorable moment that the prompt brings to mind.

  • Your bravest moment
  • How you met your best friend
  • What makes your mom or dad special
  • How you overcame a fear
  • Why you will succeed
  • Why you made a difficult choice
  • A special place
  • A place you try to avoid
  • When a friend let you down
  • An event that changed your life
  • A special encounter with an animal
  • A time when you felt out of place
  • An odd experience that didn't make sense at the time
  • Words of wisdom that hit home and changed your way of thinking
  • A person that you do not like
  • A time when you disappointed someone
  • Your fondest memory
  • A time when you saw your parent cry
  • The moment when you knew you were grown up
  • Your earliest memory of holiday celebrations in your home
  • Times when you should have made a better choice
  • A time when you dodged a dangerous situation
  • A person you will think about at the end of your life
  • Your favorite time period
  • A failure you've experienced
  • A disappointment you've experienced
  • A surprising turn of events
  • What you would do with power
  • What superpower you would choose
  • If you could switch lives with someone
  • How money matters in your life
  • Your biggest loss
  • A time when you felt you did the wrong thing
  • A proud moment when you did the right thing
  • An experience that you've never shared with another person
  • A special place that you shared with a childhood friend
  • A first encounter with a stranger
  • Your first handshake
  • Where you go to hide
  • If you had a do-over
  • A book that changed your life
  • Words that stung
  • When you had the desire to run
  • When you had the urge to crawl into a hole
  • Words that prompted hope
  • When a child taught you a lesson
  • Your proudest moment
  • If your dog could talk
  • Your favorite time with family
  • If you could live in another country
  • If you could invent something
  • The world a hundred years from now
  • If you had lived a hundred years earlier
  • The animal you'd like to be
  • One thing you'd change at your school
  • The greatest movie moment
  • The type of teacher you would be
  • If you could be a building
  • A statue you'd like to see
  • If you could live anywhere
  • The greatest discovery
  • If you could change one thing about yourself
  • An animal that could be in charge
  • Something you can do that robots could never do
  • Your most unfortunate day
  • Your secret talent
  • Your secret love
  • The most beautiful thing you've ever seen
  • The ugliest thing you've seen
  • Something you've witnessed
  • An accident that changed everything
  • A wrong choice
  • A right choice
  • If you were a food
  • How you'd spend a million dollars
  • If you could start a charity
  • The meaning of color
  • A close call
  • Your favorite gift
  • A chore you'd do away with
  • A secret place
  • Something you can't resist
  • A hard lesson
  • A visitor you'll never forget
  • An unexplained event
  • Your longest minute
  • An awkward social moment
  • An experience with death
  • Why you'll never tell a lie
  • If your mom knew, she'd kill you
  • A kiss that meant a lot
  • When you needed a hug
  • The hardest news you've had to deliver
  • A special morning
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110 Personal Essay Topics

Though written from a lived experience, personal essay topics can be tricky to come up with because they have to be universal enough for other people to relate to.

Since the skill of writing a good essay is being able to paint an image with words, students must choose a topic that will get others interested in the story and what it has to say about life, society, or themselves.

In essence, personal essays are written from a personal point of view and express a writer’s own insights, opinions, and feelings on a particular topic. Additionally, these types of essays lead to an overall point, lesson, realization, or revelation.

Most commonly, personal essays are written by high school students as part of their college applications. However, there are many other reasons that a personal essay may be assigned or written, including:

  • Scholarship applications
  • Job interview
  • Writing contest
  • Grad school admission

Students and others struggling with a valuable personal essay topic can choose from any of the 110 personal essay topics on this list to help them get started.

How to Write a Personal Essay

Writing a personal essay will require you to follow a traditional essay’s guidelines, structure, and format. However, you will also need to ensure that your essay is personal or tells a story about yourself rather than being entirely academic.

For example, you might want to explain an experience that changed how you saw the world or share an opinion on something important to you – even if the rest of the world doesn’t agree with it.

It often helps to make a list of experiences that you may want to share before starting with the writing aspect of the personal essay.


The introduction to your personal essay will set the scene for the reader. Therefore, your personal essay needs to start with a compelling hook that will draw the reader in and make them want to read more.

This hook statement could be a humorous or poignant anecdote related to your topic or a line of questioning that the reader will be interested in following. For example, some possible opening lines for a personal essay could start with:

  • “I remember exactly where I was when I first realized …”
  • “What would you do if you knew the world was going to end tomorrow?
  • “So, I once had this problem …”

These beginning lines will often create questions in the reader’s mind, which is an excellent way to capture their interest and keep them reading. Following this initial opening sentence, you can introduce other details as you build up the main point of the story.

Your introduction should end with a thesis statement that verbalizes the general direction the story will go.

Body Paragraphs

Generally, a personal essay will have no less than three body paragraphs that detail your experience in chronological order. Each section should discuss one part of the story, including the events leading up to it, what happened during the experience, and what you learned from it.

Body paragraphs may also include examples of feelings, emotions, or arguments that support your experience. The goal of a personal essay is to share a compelling story and teach the reader something about life or themselves by using specific details and language.

Consider this formatting when creating the body paragraphs of your personal essay:

1st Paragraph

  • Beginning of the story that answers questions related to “Who?” and “Where?”
  • Initial attitudes, moods, feelings, and assumptions about the event or experience about to take place

2nd Paragraph

  • Middle of the story
  • Details that show how the situation evolved over time, including any changes in mood or assumption on your part

3rd Paragraph

  • Ending of the story/resolution
  • The final analysis on overall feelings, emotions, and mood

By sticking to this formatting for the body paragraphs, students can ensure that they are telling the story correctly and including every key detail as it happens.

Conclusion Paragraph

The conclusion of a personal essay is optional and depends on what you want to accomplish with the telling of your story. If you want to leave the reader feeling inspired or emotionally moved, then focus on summarizing the main points in a short paragraph that ends on a positive note.

However, if this was a darker story, you may want to use the concluding paragraph to sum up your feelings after the experience has ended or explore any unanswered questions that remain.

In any event, your conclusion does need to include an overall moral or lesson of how the writer:

  • overcame hardship
  • rose to the occasion
  • identified new traits or abilities that they never realized existed
  • turned defeat into success
  • followed their instincts and made the right choice
  • came to appreciate something about life after the experience took place

Any of these statements can stand alone as a powerful lesson learned. However, when combined in one concluding paragraph, you will leave your reader with a profound impression.

Using any of these 110 personal essay topics will ensure that you have a strong and interesting story to tell.

Personal Essay Topics About Relationships

  • What was a time when you made a friend?
  • What would your worst enemy say about you?
  • Talk about the death of a friend.
  • How did it feel to be bullied in school?
  • The time when you had to get along with a sibling despite being different ages
  • What you learned from your first relationship
  • Why marriage isn’t important to you
  • How you discovered polyamory, and how it changed your view of relationships
  • How your best friend made you a better person
  • The lesson you learned from being catfished
  • The first time you experienced heartbreak
  • A funny story about how technology ruined a relationship.
  • How did you learn to recognize love?
  • Who would you consider your soulmate? What makes them that person specifically for you?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment as a boyfriend or girlfriend, and what did you learn from it?

Personal Essay Topics About Hardships

  • The worst thing that ever happened to me
  • The roughest time in my family’s life
  • The hardest challenge I’ve ever had to overcome
  • How did you deal with the stress of moving?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment as a kid?
  • What are some reasons that I am grateful for my disability/illness/condition?
  • When have you had an “Aha!” moment in life?
  • What’s something terrible that happened to you that turned into something good?
  • What’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my failures?
  • The time when it almost felt like the world was against me
  • How did I handle/recover from a severe illness/injury/accident?
  • When was the first time I realized that life isn’t fair?
  • What was the biggest struggle I went through in my teens?
  • The most challenging situation I faced in high school
  • When was a time when I made a negative impact on someone else?
  • The first time I got caught stealing
  • The most embarrassing mistake I ever made with money
  • What was the most challenging thing about getting sober/clean/overcoming addiction?
  • When did I realize that life is short and that nobody is promised tomorrow?
  • How did you learn to persevere through tough times?

Personal Essay Topics About Success & Achievements

  • Best moment in my sports career
  • My greatest success story
  • The time I overcame my fear and found strength I didn’t know I had.
  • What’s the happiest day of my life?
  • How did I learn to overcome failure?
  • The time I knew that dreams really do come true
  • My greatest triumph over adversity – and what it taught me about myself.
  • What made you realize that you have to work hard in order to achieve something meaningful in life?
  • When did I know that I had made it in life?
  • When was the first time you were acknowledged for your achievements?
  • The night when my hard work truly paid off
  • My most powerful moment after overcoming a setback
  • How did I become successful?
  • What are some defining moments in my career?
  • How did I make it through a difficult time in college/university?
  • What motivated me to become the person I am today?

Personal Essay Topics About Personal Growth & Self-Reflection

  • Whose lifelong encouragement helped make me who I am today
  • The first time I took responsibility for my own actions
  • What gave me the courage to be myself?
  • The most valuable life lesson I’ve ever received. Who taught it to me, and what was the context?
  • How did I get through a difficult childhood/adolescence/teenage years?
  • What did I learn from becoming a yoga master?
  • How has meditation helped me overcome anger issues?
  • How did I recover from using drugs and alcohol?
  • What’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from quitting my job?
  • When did I realize that life is too short to hate someone?
  • The moment when I knew it was time for a change
  • I made a mistake – and this is how I bounced back
  • How did I overcome depression/anxiety/mental illness?

Personal Essay Topics About Passions & Hobbies

  • How did learning a skill change my life?
  • Why exercise makes me a better person
  • My passion for writing
  • What’s the best advice I’ve ever received? Who gave it to me, and in what situation?
  • The moment when I realized my true calling in life
  • The importance of keeping a journal and how it has helped me become a better person
  • My biggest bucket list dream and why it’s so important to me
  • What is my vision for the future?
  • How did I find peace, contentment, and happiness?
  • The time when I truly lived outside of my comfort zone
  • When was the moment when I felt like I “got” meditation?
  • My journey towards becoming vegan. What inspired me to make this change, and what were the challenges I faced?
  • What lessons have been easy for me to learn, and which ones have been harder?
  • The time when travel changed my life

Personal Essay Topics About Challenges & Failures

  • The low point of my life and how I got through it
  • How did an illness/injury/death in the family affect me?
  • Why did I decide to stop going on blind dates?
  • What were the consequences of losing my temper, and how did I make amends?
  • The time when I was broken. What happened, who got hurt, and how did it affect me? How did I overcome this experience?
  • When was the moment when I realized that my words carry weight?

Personal Essay Topics About Family & Childhood Memories

  • The time when my family showed me what unconditional love means
  • My most vivid childhood memory and how it has affected me as an adult
  • How did I learn to be patient and kind?
  • What was the moment that sparked a change in my life? What caused this change, and what happened after the changes took place?
  • The moment when I realized the true meaning of friendship
  • What lessons did growing up teach me about life?
  • My childhood dream and what it taught me about myself
  • How do I feel about my hometown after living in three different places?
  • Why is it important to visit your birthplace/hometown during holidays/vacations?
  • My family’s most influential life lesson and how it has affected me
  • What was the moment when I realized that my parents had their own struggles?
  • The time when I learned about my family history. What happened, why did this happen, and how did it affect me? How did things change after this event?
  • What do I know about family traditions now that I didn’t understand as a child?
  • Why are your family memories vital to you?

Personal Essay Topics About Cultural Heritage & Identity

  • What does being bilingual/multilingual mean to me? Why is it unique?
  • My first interaction with someone from another culture
  • What’s wrong with cultural appropriation, and how did I learn to stop?
  • The moment when I became aware of my race/ethnicity
  • My culture’s most influential life lesson and how it has affected me
  • How I learned to not be afraid of my cultural differences
  • Why is diversity important in my community? In what ways do I contribute?
  • The moment I realized that I am proud of my culture
  • How has the immigrant/refugee experience shaped who you are today?
  • How traditions have changed the way I view my family

Personal Essay Topics About Childhood Dreams & Aspirations

  • What were my childhood dreams, and how have they changed over the years?
  • How did I make peace with the fear of growing up?

Any of these 110 personal essay topics are perfect for students struggling to find a topic that will impress a college admission officer or any other person with whom you’re trying to connect with on a personal level through storytelling.

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personal growth essay ideas

Most Interesting Personal Growth Topics to Write about

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Simple & Easy Personal Growth Essay Topics

  • Teaching Practice Helps in the Achievement of Personal Goals
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  • Learning About Personal Growth, Failures, and Risk From Children
  • Self-Actualization as a Means to Achieve Complete Human Potential
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  • Organismic Valuing Process Theory of Personal Growth: An Analysis
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  • NMC Regulation and the Requirements of Professional and Personal Growth
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  • How Personal Growth Is Positively Impacted Due to Effective Time Management
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  • Romanticism and Personal Growth Relations

Good Research Topics about Personal Ethics

Nondiscriminatory education: everything you need to know.

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Personal Growth and Development Essay Examples and Topics

Love yourself: how to define yourself.

‘Looks don’t matter’ and ‘beauty fades’. These are some common words we tend to hear every day, yet we are living in a society that surely contradicts to this idea. If looks don’t matter then why does this beauty business still exists?, why does this…

Personal Growth and Development: Critical Thinking in Everyday Life

 This step is very much a simpler way to become better at critical thinking than the others, I think. This step is a multi-step one that includes five steps within the one. These steps include to become a self-critic, active listening, analyzing information, nonviolent communication,…

Some Ideas for Your Personal Growth and Development

Do you know learning is a key to success? You can be someone who you wants to become through learning. You can be brainy or super smart like Einstein and richest person in the world like Bill Gates, but they worked many years to become…

Why Personal Growth & Development is Important

The desire for personal growth usually arises, generally, from emotional pain, dissatisfaction or psychological distress, which push a person to look inside himself to try to find solutions, overcome problems and overcome himself. For this reason, emotional pain and dissatisfaction with oneself is not necessarily…

Who Am I'? the Question for My Personal Growth

Going into any new semester, whether it’s high school or college, it is inevitable that I am going to have to answer the question “who am I?”. Getting a loaded question like that really makes me ponder over what it is that really makes me…

The Importance of Focusing on Our Personal Growth Rather than Imperfections

In this world all human during life will come to have different experiences to different situations we will face in our lifetime. “Naomi I hate you! You’re so deliciously thin”. I can identify most with Naomi because we are both sixteen going through different experience…

Life in Human Growth and Development: Events that Changed Your Life

A life event is a change in situation or circumstance, for example, getting married, divorced or become a parent. All life events will effect interpersonal relationships and leisure and work related activities (Medical Dictionary, 2012). Many life events are experiences that can either be expected…

Importance of Respect Between People is a Big Deal for Us

Everyone deserves respect. If everyone were to respect each other, there wouldn’t be hatred in this world. People would not be hesitant to speak their minds without being called stupid or being told that their idea was not enough. Everybody demands an amount of respect…

Questioning Existence: Life Experiences and Influences for Further Development

I often reflect on what it is that makes me who I am, and how that makes me different from everyone else around me. Who am I? As far as anyone could tell, this question is seemingly easy and simple to answer. I would say…

Autobiography Essay: the Story About Myself

That’s my autobiography essay. Let me introduce myself. My full name is Dikhanbayeva Laura Meirkhanovna. I was born in Almaty city, Kazakhstan. I am 29 years. I came from a respectable family with educated sisters and brothers. My family consists of six people and I…

What Do I Need to Possess to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

The risk of running out of finances is called financial risk. To run a business, an entrepreneur should have basic knowledge of the finances needed. Financial decisions are based on how well the owner manages the cash flow and the accuracy on predictions of income,…

Beyond Shyness: Embracing Personal Growth

Introduction Shyness, a common human trait, often manifests as a reluctance to engage in social interactions due to feelings of self-consciousness and apprehension. While shyness is a natural response, it can also hinder personal growth and limit one’s experiences. This essay delves into the challenges…

Principle I Obtained after Becoming a Student

In my life, when I have trouble, I always lose my confidence, motivation and become desperate. Usually, I keep silent and try to escape from my situation. According to Maori proverb, ‘Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.’ I have…

My Principles in Life as a Student and How My Life Struggles Affected Me

My name is [REDACTED] and I am a small part of the children who live in this world, if there are children who have a closed personality or commonly referred to as an introvert, then I can practically be included in that category. But I…

Overcoming Weaknesses: Unveiling the Path to Personal Growth

Introduction Every individual possesses strengths and weaknesses, which are inherent aspects of our human nature. While strengths empower us, weaknesses challenge us and provide opportunities for growth. Overcoming weaknesses is a transformative journey that requires self-awareness, determination, and a commitment to personal development. In this…

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Essay on Personal Growth

Students are often asked to write an essay on Personal Growth in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Personal Growth

What is personal growth.

Personal growth means improving yourself, learning new things, and becoming a better person. It’s like when you play a video game and your character gets stronger and smarter. In real life, you grow by gaining new skills, being kind, and understanding others better.

Learning from Mistakes

Imagine you’re building a tower with blocks and it falls. You try again, but this time you use what you learned to make it stronger. That’s what happens when we make mistakes. We learn, and next time, we do better.

Setting Goals

Goals are like treasure maps for your life. They guide you to where you want to go. If you want to be good at math, you make a plan, study, and keep trying. Your goal helps you stay focused.

Being Brave

Growing often means trying things that scare you. It’s like the first time you ride a bike without training wheels. You might fall, but you get up and keep going. Being brave helps you grow a lot.

Helping Others

When you help friends, you grow too. You learn to be caring and to work with others. It’s like playing on a seesaw; it’s more fun when you’re both helping each other have a good time.

250 Words Essay on Personal Growth

Personal growth means getting better over time. It is like a plant that starts from a tiny seed and grows into a big tree. For people, it means learning new things, becoming stronger, and being a better person. It is not just about being smart in school, but also being kind, brave, and good at solving problems.

Why Personal Growth Matters

Growing as a person is important because it helps us face new challenges. Like when you learn to ride a bike, at first you fall, but you keep trying. Then one day, you can ride without help. This is personal growth. It helps you do things you couldn’t do before, like making friends or helping others.

How to Grow Personally

To grow, you need to try new things. It can be scary, but it’s like going on an adventure. When you read a new book, join a club, or play a new sport, you learn and become better. Also, when you make mistakes, don’t be sad. Mistakes are like clues that show you how to improve.

Personal Growth is a Journey

Remember, personal growth doesn’t happen in one day. It is a journey that takes time. Just like going on a long trip, you need to keep going even if it gets tough. Every day, try to be a little kinder, work a bit harder, and learn something new. This way, you will keep growing and one day, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

500 Words Essay on Personal Growth

Personal growth is like a journey where you learn more about who you are and what you can do. It’s about becoming a better person, not just in one way, but in many parts of your life, such as your emotions, your mind, your skills, and how you get along with other people.

Learning New Things

One part of personal growth is learning new things. This could mean going to school and doing well in your classes, but it’s not just about books and homework. It’s also about learning from the world around you. You might learn how to play a sport, cook a meal, or even how to be a good friend. When you learn something new, your brain grows stronger, just like your muscles do when you exercise.

Overcoming Challenges

Another important part of growing as a person is facing challenges. Think of a video game where each level gets a bit harder. In life, when you face a problem, it’s like you’re on a tough level in the game. But when you find a way to solve that problem, you move up to the next level in your own life. You become braver and smarter each time you overcome a challenge.

Setting goals is like drawing a map for your journey. You decide where you want to go, and then you figure out how to get there. Your goals could be small, like finishing a book, or big, like becoming a doctor. When you set a goal and reach it, you feel proud and happy, and you’re ready to set a new goal.

Building Good Habits

Good habits are actions you do regularly that are good for you. Brushing your teeth, going to bed on time, and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are all good habits. When you practice good habits, they help you grow without you even thinking about it. It’s like having a helper inside you that makes sure you’re always moving forward.

Being Kind to Yourself and Others

Personal growth isn’t just about what you can do; it’s also about how you treat yourself and others. Being kind means being friendly, caring, and helpful. When you’re kind to yourself, you feel good inside. When you’re kind to others, you make friends and spread happiness. Being kind helps everyone grow together.

Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone learns from them. When something goes wrong, it’s easy to feel sad or mad. But if you look at your mistakes and try to understand what went wrong, you can learn. This helps you do better next time. Learning from mistakes is a big part of growing up.

Personal growth is an adventure that never ends. As long as you keep learning, facing challenges, setting goals, building good habits, being kind, and learning from your mistakes, you’ll continue to grow. And the best part is, you can start right now, no matter how old you are or where you are in life. It’s never too late to grow!

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

If you’re looking for more, here are essays on other interesting topics:

  • Essay on Personal Goals
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5-Minute Presentation Topics for College Students: A List of Inspiration

5-Minute Presentation Topics for College Students

College students are often required to juggle numerous presentations, each presenting an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and ideas. However, condensing your thoughts into a brief 5-minute window can feel like a challenge. Fear not! This article is here to save you.

We'll dive into a handpicked collection of 5-minute presentation topics for students designed to spark interest, foster engagement, and make your presentations stand out. Whether you're sharing research findings, pitching a project, or presenting a creative endeavor, these topics are sure to inspire your audience and leave a lasting impression. So let's jump in and find out how to elevate PowerPoint presentation for students by picking the perfect topics.

How to Give a 5-Minute Presentation Effectively?

Giving a compelling 5-minute presentation on any topic is an art form that requires skill, strategy, and finesse. In this section, we will provide expert techniques and insightful strategies to assist college students in delivering a concise yet persuasive PowerPoint presentation that leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

How to Give a 5-Minute Presentation Effectively

  • Know your main message : Clarify your core idea and ensure every part of your presentation supports it.
  • Start strong : Capture attention with a surprising fact on your topic, an intriguing question, or an engaging story.
  • Use visuals wisely : Keep presentation slides simple and relevant, using visuals to enhance understanding, not overwhelm.
  • Practice your timing : Aim to finish a minute early to allow for unexpected interruptions or questions around your topic.
  • Connect emotionally : Share personal anecdotes or relatable examples on your topic to build rapport and make your presentation message resonate.
  • Engage your audience : Ask thought-provoking questions or encourage participation to keep listeners active and attentive.
  • End memorably : Summarize key points of your presentation and leave the audience with a clear call to action or inspiring takeaway.
  • Be confident : Stand tall, make eye contact, and speak with enthusiasm about your topic to convey authority and conviction.

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personal growth essay ideas

5-Minute Presentation Topics List for Inspirational Speech

Personal development and health.

  • Why it's important to exercise every day.
  • Ways to reduce stress using mindfulness techniques.
  • How setting SMART goals can benefit you.
  • Building resilience by overcoming challenges.
  • Tips for managing your time effectively.
  • Developing a growth mindset for success.
  • Eating healthy when you're busy.
  • The impact of positive thinking on your life.
  • Juggling work and personal life effectively.
  • Making self-care a priority in your daily routine.

New Ideas and Eco-friendliness

  • How to use transportation that's good for the environment.
  • Starting gardens in cities to help the community.
  • Ideas for making your home more eco-friendly.
  • Ways to live without creating waste.
  • New and creative ways to recycle.
  • Using energy sources that won't run out.
  • Cool gadgets and tools for living greener.
  • Finding alternatives to plastic to help the planet.
  • Making ethical clothing choices.
  • Exploring nature while protecting the environment.

Effective Communication and Self-growth

  • Listening well makes you understand others better.
  • How to give helpful feedback to others.
  • Fixing problems in relationships by communicating better.
  • Learning to speak up confidently for success.
  • Understanding body language to communicate without words.
  • Getting better at understanding and relating to others.
  • Becoming skilled at speaking in front of groups.
  • Solving problems in a positive way when there's disagreement.
  • Getting smarter about your feelings for personal growth.
  • Making connections with others in a good way.

Technological Advancements and Understanding

  • How AI is changing different industries.
  • The growing impact of 5G technology.
  • Uses for virtual and augmented reality.
  • Blockchain's uses beyond money.
  • How everything is getting connected.
  • New advances in healthcare technology.
  • A new kind of super-powerful computer.
  • How self-driving cars are changing transportation.
  • New tech to help the environment.
  • Keeping information safe online.

Useful Abilities and Methods

  • Ways to solve problems effectively.
  • Getting better at thinking things through.
  • Tricks for getting more done with your time.
  • How to bounce back when things get tough.
  • Getting better at coming up with new ideas.
  • How to roll with changes in the world.
  • Making smarter choices.
  • Working well with others.
  • Tricks for getting better at learning new things.
  • How to think in a way that makes you succeed.

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personal growth essay ideas

Imagination and Discovery

  • Big dreams lead to big discoveries.
  • Using imagination to explore the unknown.
  • How ideas and imagination make us creative.
  • Imagining what the future could be like.
  • Making things happen by imagining them first.
  • How imagination helps us understand nature.
  • Being creative through art and imagination.
  • Dreaming without limits and where it can lead.
  • Going on imaginary adventures through stories.
  • Turning dreams into reality through innovation.

Awareness of Nature and Preservation

  • Why it's important to save different types of life.
  • Knowing about the environments around us.
  • Balancing what people need with what nature needs.
  • Feeling more energized by spending time outside.
  • Saving animals and plants that are in danger.
  • Farming in a way that keeps the Earth healthy.
  • Bringing nature back to places where it's gone.
  • Using water wisely to help the planet.
  • Doing things to stop the Earth from getting too warm.
  • Teaching kids how to take care of the environment.

Understanding Different Cultures

  • Being open to and celebrating our differences.
  • Learning about different customs to understand each other better.
  • Celebrating the mix of cultures from around the world.
  • Being polite and understanding with people from different backgrounds.
  • How language helps us understand each other's cultures.
  • Exploring different types of food from different places.
  • Seeing how people express themselves through art worldwide.
  • Knowing how to behave respectfully in different cultures.
  • Stories that teach us about different cultures' beliefs.
  • Learning about other cultures by visiting them.

Well-being and Fitness

  • Taking care of your whole self: mind, body, and spirit.
  • Why exercise is good for your body and mind.
  • Ways to relax and reduce stress with mindfulness.
  • Getting enough good sleep to stay healthy.
  • Eating right to keep your body working well.
  • Juggling work, friends, and taking care of yourself.
  • How to stay strong when things get tough.
  • Feeling thankful and positive for a greater life.
  • Being around others who care about you.
  • Being kind to yourself for a happier life.

Insights into the Past

  • Learning why people act the way they do by looking at the past.
  • Learning from old societies to understand our own.
  • Finding old things to learn about where we come from.
  • Big things from the past that still affect us today.
  • Seeing how things like phones and computers got better over time.
  • Keeping old traditions alive to remember who we are.
  • Listening to smart people from a long time ago.
  • Why it's good to know about what went wrong before.
  • Learning about the people who came before us.
  • Looking at old problems to help with new ones.

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personal growth essay ideas

Home — Application Essay — National Universities — The Perfect Program for Academic and Personal Growth

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The Perfect Program for Academic and Personal Growth

  • University: Harvard University

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Words: 587 |

Published: Feb 15, 2024

Words: 587 | Pages: 1 | 3 min read

In a world brimming with possibilities, where diverse fields and opportunities are available, choosing the right path can be overwhelming. As a college student seeking a program that aligns with my interests, allows me to explore my passions, and fosters personal and professional growth, I have found this program to be the perfect match.

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One of the primary reasons I am drawn to this program is its interdisciplinary nature. The program offers a unique blend of courses, merging various disciplines that pique my curiosity. This multidimensional approach excites me as it provides an opportunity to explore different perspectives and gain a more holistic understanding of complex issues. With a curriculum that integrates different branches of knowledge, I believe this program will provide me with the intellectual tools necessary to tackle real-world challenges.

Moreover, the program's emphasis on experiential learning greatly appeals to me. As a strong believer in learning by doing, I thrive in environments that encourage hands-on engagement. The program's commitment to practical application through internships, research projects, and community involvement aligns perfectly with my desire to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios. By actively participating in these experiential opportunities, I hope to develop transferable skills, expand my network, and gain a deeper understanding of the field's practical implications.

Additionally, the program's faculty and their research expertise greatly influence my interest. Through thorough research, I discovered that many of the professors in this program are leading experts in their respective fields. Their commitment to pushing boundaries, exploring novel ideas, and their dedication to mentorship is truly inspiring. I aspire to learn from their vast knowledge and experience, and I believe their guidance will play a pivotal role in shaping my academic journey.

Beyond the academic realm, this program also provides ample opportunities for personal and professional growth. The program's commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse community is particularly appealing to me. I strongly value a multicultural environment that embraces different perspectives and experiences. By engaging with peers from various backgrounds, I believe I will develop a broader worldview and enhance my ability to adapt and thrive in an increasingly interconnected society.

Furthermore, the program's strong alumni network is a testament to its impact on the professional lives of its graduates. The success stories of alumni who have gone on to make significant contributions in their respective fields truly motivate and inspire me. I am eager to become part of this vibrant community, where I can connect with like-minded individuals, forge lifelong friendships, and tap into a network of professionals who can support my endeavors.

Lastly, as someone passionate about making a positive difference in the world, this program's focus on social responsibility deeply resonates with me. By equipping students with the knowledge and skills to tackle societal challenges, the program aligns with my long-term goals of effecting meaningful change. I believe that by engaging in community service initiatives, researching sustainable solutions, and promoting inclusivity, I can contribute towards building a better future.

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In conclusion, the interdisciplinary nature of this program, its focus on experiential learning, the expertise of its faculty, the commitment to diversity and inclusion, the strong alumni network, and its emphasis on social responsibility make it the ideal program for my academic and personal growth. I am excited by the prospect of learning from renowned scholars, engaging in hands-on experiences, and connecting with a diverse community of students and professionals. I am confident that this program will provide me with the necessary tools, knowledge, and network to make a meaningful impact in my desired field and the world at large.

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personal growth essay ideas


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