Three: Short Essay Samples
select from the following short essay sets:
The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They
appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.
SHORT ESSAY SET 1:
Saudi International Relations
many years, I have been interested in studying international
relations. My interest in pursuing this field stems from
several factors which have affected me. First, I have been
exposed to international affairs throughout my life. With
my father and two of my brothers in the Saudi Foreign Service,
I have grown up under the shadow of inter-national affairs.
Second, I am fascinated by history, economics, and diplomacy.
I believe, through the study of international relations,
I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in these fields.
A third factor which has affected my interest in international
relations is patriotism. Through the Foreign Service, I
would not only have the opportunity to serve my country,
but also have the chance to help bridge gaps between my
country and others. Finally, as a Saudi living abroad, I
have been bridging cultures throughout my life. This experience
has taught me to look for differences to compromise and
similarities to synthesize in order to balance different
cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences in life,
combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable
me to pursue a successful career in the Saudi Foreign Service.
Albans, especially in our later years, we are given the
freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this
freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance
to me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript.
However, from these classes, one holds an extraordinary
amount of value to me. This course is A.P. Omnibus History,
a combination of American and European history. There are
several reasons for my great interest in this class. First,
I am fascinated by the cyclical nature of the past. I see
these recurring political, economic, and social trends as
a means of looking forward into the future, while allowing
us to avoid the mistakes of the past. Second, history teaches
many lessons about the nature of human behavior, both past
and present, providing insight into the actions, desires,
and aspirations of those around me. Finally, it lays a solid
foundation for several disciplines, including political
science, economics, and international relations, three fields
of great interest to me.
major interest of mine, which I have not had the opportunity
to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual arts.
Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to
express myself. I began with black and white photography,
focusing on the presence of lines and balance in nature.
For my work in this medium, I received an award at the St.
Albans School Art Show. From photography, I moved on to
glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch the glass, I
again concentrated on lines and balance in my works. Moreover,
by arranging several glass panes into a sculpture, I moved
my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show
award. Currently, I am working on canvas, using oil and
acrylic in a Mondrian style, which is based on lines and
balance. Eventually, I hope to explore the effects of combining
these and other media, creating my own style of artistic
past four years of my life, no activity has affected me
more than wrestling. Four years of varsity wrestling and
the honor of being a team captain has instilled many qualities
in me. First, through years of hard work and continuous
dieting, wrestling has given me discipline. This discipline
has spread to other parts of my personality, including my
moral character, work ethic, and perserverence. Another
quality wrestling has given me is leadership. As a team
captain, I have learned to lead by example, both on and
off the mat. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a
love of life. Through this sport, I have experienced pain,
sacrifice, adversity, and success. Exposure to these feelings-which
are, in my opinion, the essence of being-has allowed me
to truly appreciate life. I hope to continue wrestling at
immediately strikes the reader about this set-before even
reading it-is the balance between the essays. Each answer
contains only one paragraph, each of approximately equal
length. The solid structure of each essay and the focus
of each reflects this outward balance. Each one focuses
on a completely different area of its writer’s life, another
striking detail. The first focuses on his career goals,
the second on his interest in history, the third on his
interest in the visual arts, and the fourth on wrestling.
This is a perfect example of the jigsaw puzzle approach.
When put together, you have a well-rounded individual with
passion, depth, and involvement in many different areas.
SHORT ESSAY SET 2:
my life, I have tried to be a well-balanced person. Growing
up in the South, I had a hard time fighting the stereotypical
image of a Chinese person. I was expected to be a math and
science genius and nothing more. As it turned out, I defied
my detractors by excelling in English and history along
with math and science. And over the years, I have continued
to maintain my academic standards.
I have also made sure that I am more than an academic person.
I am an active one as well. In middle school, the most popular
game during lunch was a basketball game called Salt and
Pepper (white vs. black). The first day of school, I stepped
onto the basketball courts and was greeted by cries of consternation,
“Who is he? Is he salt or pepper?” But after the game, I
had made a name for myself. From then onward, I would be
known as Spice, and the game we played became Salt, Pepper,
I moved to California, things were no different. I continued
to play an active part both academically and socially. My
involvement with Cross-country, Speech and Debate, Ultimate
Frisbee and numerous clubs guaranteed that I would not be
only known as an Honors student.
myself, Duke is much more than an academic institution;
it is a living institution. I feel that I will be given
the opportunity to excel both academically and socially.
Duke is a university known for its rich history and strong
academic program. And, at the same time, it is also known
for its innovation and progressiveness. These are qualities
which draw me to the college.
Duke and I have a lot in common. The two most important
extracurricular activities I have are a major part of Duke
University. Duke’s Speech team is known for its strong Extemp
squad. I remember the time when my speech coach asked me
what schools I was applying to. When I had listed my top
five choices, he frowned at me and said, “Out of all those
schools, I will only respect you if you either join us at
Berkeley or go to Duke and extemp.” I hope I will be given
the opportunity to contribute my part in the Duke Speech
important, the Duke University has a well-known Ultimate
Frisbee team. I look forward expectantly to becoming a part
of the team. Strange as it seems, Ultimate Frisbee is one
of my top criteria for choosing my future college. It delights
me that Duke places such great emphasis on the two extracurricular
activities that mean most to me.
year at Duke should be a great one. Majoring in economics
at Duke should allow me to both pursue my major studies
and allow me time for personal interests in Chinese and
the Humanities. Moreover, in my spare time, I plan to join
the Speech team and the Ultimate Frisbee team. Hopefully,
with my previous experience, I will have an early start
in both Speech and Ultimate. Yet, I will never forget why
I’m in college in the first place. As long as I give organic
chemistry a wide berth, I should be able to continue my
level of academic excellence. Overall, my first year at
Duke promises to be exciting, if a bit hectic.
Hermann Hesse’s book, Narcissus and Goldmund, intellectually
exciting. After reading the book last year, I remember putting
it down and sighing contentedly. I had, after a sleepless
night, finally finished. What I reveled in was not the fact
that I could sleep, but that I had come away with an inexplicable
something. It was not an understanding which could be pinpointed
and explained. Rather, it was a sense I felt in the depths
of my soul. And yet, what delighted me more was that I knew
that I had only begun to understand the book; that there
remained countless messages which I could only sense but
not grasp. Here, finally, I had a book which could be re-read.
And every time I finished, I would come away with a new
understanding of something I could not put into words.
the normal academic, I do not want to find the final answer
for everything. Throughout my life, I have always felt a
sense of loss after succeeding in a long search. For me,
it is not the ends I seek, but the means themselves. I am
perfectly content to never find the final answer as long
as I will always be able to find a better one.
in Taiwan, I came to the United States when I was five.
Armed with only two words (“hello” and “popcorn”), I braved
the uncertainties of a complex, new environment. Twelve
years later, my vocabulary is considerably larger and I
have adapted well to my surroundings. At the same time,
I have neither forgotten my native culture nor its language.
with my native Chinese culture remain as strong as ever.
I visit my relatives in Taiwan regularly almost every summer
and have traveled throughout China. And to everyone’s continuing
surprise, I have yet to forget how to speak Mandarin. Nevertheless,
twelve years in America has made its impressions upon me
as well. I am as “American” as anyone my age. The songs
I listen to, the sports I play, and the way I speak are
all a reflection of that. In short, I am a combination of
both East and West.
I sometimes wonder whether speaking Chinese at home and
visits in the summer are enough to maintain my ties with
my native culture. Often, when I see my parents reading
old Chinese literature or poetry, I feel that I am only
in touch with half of what I am. This sense of loss has
led me to seek out my old roots. I turn to the East to rediscover
what I have lost.
I cannot resign myself to merely studying my own culture
and language. I want to be able to apply my knowledge as
well. To me, pursuing a career in business is a very pragmatic
solution to my future welfare. My father is a businessman
in Taiwan and I have had numerous opportunities to watch
him work. Through him, I have discovered my own interests
in the business field. I find the way business operates
in the East to be very exciting. At the same time, my father
has soothed my sense of morality by showing me that it is
possible to be an honest businessman in Asia.
I learned about Duke, I had made up my mind to study economics
and to ultimately pursue a career in international business.
I had come to see this path as the best combination for
fulfilling both my aspirations towards knowledge and my
pragmatic goals of a future livelihood. China, my planned
area of focus, is an expanding market with a dearth of skilled
business professionals. But I had misgivings because I wanted
a school with a strong focus on the humanities as well.
I find Duke University exciting and perfect for me. It gives
me a strong economics curriculum, but still allows me to
pursue my interests in the humanities. With economics at
Duke University, I will have access to a wide array of studies
both within and beyond my chosen major. I will have an edge
in the business world by virtue of Duke
attending Duke (if I am accepted, of course), I will have
a clear path before me. My studies at Duke should virtually
guarantee me for any graduate business school. And, after
my graduate studies, I will be able to realize my dreams.
Perhaps, I will be able to serve as a bridge between East
three well-written essays create a strong set. The first
and the last would have been impressive on their own. Reading
them all together magnifies their impact considerably. This
student does an especially good job of targeting the school.
This student focuses his first essay on his extracurriculars
and relates them to why Duke would be perfect for him. He
focuses the third on his Chinese background and how it relates
to his career goals and academic interests. Then he also
relates these interests to why Duke matches him perfectly.
His favorite book provided the focus of the second essay.
What makes this second essay better than others like it
is that the applicant manages to put himself into the question.
He does not just talk about the book, he uses it to talk
about himself and stress the inquisitive nature of his personality-always
SHORT ESSAY SET 3:
in my high school’s debate program has been my most meaningful
activity these past four years. I have learned how to speak
in front of a crowd without becoming nervous, how to think
on my feet, and how to argue the merits of any side of an
issue. Being on the debate team also allows me to educate
myself on current topics of global importance such as the
homeless problem, health care, and pollution.
the three years I have dedicated to the activity, (high
school) has always maintained a successful squad and I am
quite proud to know that I have earned many of the trophies
and awards that have helped make the program so successful
and (high school) well known on the debate circuit.
of the activity, I have learned that from education to communication,
from argument to enlightenment, debate is necessary for
two or more humans to transcend mere exchange of thought
and achieve synergy instead. I now view success in debate
as far more than a trophy; I now see it as evidence that
I can successfully communicate my beliefs to others and
have them logically accept them as their own, thus priming
me for any future challenges involving human interaction.
Honors and Awards
important honors since tenth grade have been winning the
Brown University Book Award for my skills in English, being
named as a National Merit Semifinalist (Finalist status
pending), winning the Journalism Education Association National
Write-off Award of Excellence in the Editorial division
at a national conference, being selected as a Semifinalist
in the NCTE Writing Contest for my work in prose, being
named as an Illinois State Scholar for my academic achievement
in high school and my high A.C.T. scores, being selected
to the Spanish Honor Society for my consistent success with
the language in the classroom, being selected as the Student
of the Month in the Foreign Language/Social Sciences division
two years in a row for my success in those classes, and
in a culminating event, being featured in Who’s Who Among
American High School Students for my overall scholastic
Summer at Dartmouth
of my past summer was spent away from home. In that brief
month in which I remained in (town name) I worked at (job)
in order to earn the money I was going to spend on my trips.
My first excursion was to the east coast where I visited
several schools and took in the atmosphere of an area to
which my midwestern self was somewhat unaccustomed. One
school I was considering that I did not visit was Dartmouth.
After all, I spent a month there later in the summer. As
a participant of the Dartmouth Debate Institute I spent
a lot of time in Feldberg, Dana, and Baker libraries; resided
in the well-known Choates; attended sessions in Silsby;
and dined in the Full-Fare section of Thayer. There was
also time for recreational activities such as rope swinging,
volleyball, frisbee, sleep (every little bit was cherished),
and beautiful hikes up to Dana. I did manage to sit down
and work in such a clean, open environment, however. The
instructors made sure of that. The four-week institute honed
my skills in speaking, researching, structuring arguments,
and thinking. As a result, my partner and I were able to
break into the elimination rounds at the institute-ending
tournament which included the top debaters in the nation.
Aside from the debate skills I learned, I found the institute
very favorable because of the exchange of ideas taking place
between the students and staff. What I learned from those
exchanges enlightened me not only as a debater but also
as a person.
I enjoy all of my subjects, I regard classes I have taken
in the social sciences to be the most meaningful. Whereas
some classes use formulas to describe natural occurrences,
the social sciences show that not everything is explicable
in such a clear-cut manner. The social sciences describe
people; they describe the people who make up the formulas
and how and why that was done. The social sciences also
explain the past so as a society, people can avoid past
catastrophes and build upon past successes. Not only do
they describe how we act as we do, but why we act as we
not a student who always likes to follow someone else’s
rules. While most subjects allow for free thought, the social
sciences encourage innovative thinking. Those classes expect
students to explain why something happened based on certain
conditions. I didn’t learn that the Iron Curtain was an
economic measure in any math class.
student my ultimate goal is to understand things. I feel
the best way to understand is not by reciting another’s
thought, but by formulating my own and debating it with
people who disagree with me. I believe that exchange of
thought is vital in every curriculum, but the social sciences
do the most to promote that exchange. I highly doubt that
anyone will be debating Einstein’s ideas in the near future-and
essayist dedicates the first essay to his involvement in
debating. He manages to communicate quite a lot in a short
amount of space (what he has learned, what he has achieved,
and what debating means to him) without ever losing his
focus. The second essay is an example of an answer to a
list question (“List your honors and awards”). The third
gets more personal by describing the summer he spent at
Dartmouth. The strength of this essay is that he sells himself
on his knowledge and familiarity of the school. The weakness
of this essay is that he tries to do too much and loses
his focus after the second paragraph. The conclusion does
not seem to fit with the points he has made in the essay-the
last line particularly seems to come from nowhere.
SHORT ESSAY SET 4:
novel Black Like Me was the most stimulating book I have
recently read. I was taken aback by the cruelty the narrator
experienced when he was black compared to the hospitality
he found as a white man. Possessing the same occupation,
clothing, wealth, speech, and identity did not matter when
his skin was another color. Given that this was a non-fictional
piece, my reaction was even stronger. The book made me favor
equality of opportunity for all in every endeavor so others’
opinions of them are based on performance, not preconceptions.
Mr. (name) because he taught me more than U.S. History;
he taught me how to think independently. This wasn’t done
only to prepare me for the free-response section of the
A.P. test, either. I know he did it to make his students
responsible citizens and responsible adults. From the outset,
he wanted to make sure that we knew how we stood in our
political philosophy: strict constructionists or loose constructionists.
He wanted to make sure that we didn’t gravitate towards
empty categories like liberal or conservative, but rather
focused on issues separately whenever we needed to take
a stand on them. Imagine my surprise when I, the son of
two very conservative parents who constantly bombarded me
with their rhetoric, discovered that I had strong liberal
tendencies on some issues. Aside from political affiliations,
Mr. (name) taught us how to make sense out of history by
trying to understand the personal motives that went in to
any chain of historical occurrences. In his class, I came
to the realization that history isn’t only a series of names
and dates printed in a textbook, but a more complex subject
that requires deep thought and analysis for full comprehension.
Because of Mr. (name), history is now my favorite subject.
He has also been a motivating force outside of the classroom.
He always had faith in my ability and constantly encouraged
me to do my best. I believe he respected my abilities and
wanted to see them developed further. In fact, had it not
been for his faith in me, I would have never applied to
Harvard, the school I plan to attend in the fall.
not that I’m a weak guy, just that I had been somewhat self-conscious
about my strength early on in my high school career. My
gym class didn’t help too much, either. Thanks to a demeaning
test of strength appropriately dubbed the “Grip Test,” once
each quarter I was provided the opportunity to squeeze a
gadget, get a score, and have my teacher announce it out
loud, no matter how high or (as in my case) how low it was.
No matter how hard I tried, the cruel and callous scale
never registered above 40. Almost every other male in the
class could boast of a high-40’s or mid-50’s score. I hated
that test with a passion. Until recently. When this semester
rolled around and I had the gripper placed in my palm, I
was prepared for the same old same old. I had been improving
slightly from quarter to quarter, but nothing impressive
ever happened. I drew in a deep breath, squeezed, looked
at the scale, and almost fainted. Sixty-six! In a way only
a teenager can appreciate, for an accomplishment only a
teenager would find meaningful, I thought I was in heaven.
My success was even sweeter as I watched jocks pale in comparison
when they took the test. Sure, to some people my academic
accomplishments seem fairly impressive, and I would agree.
Yet the grip test situation was much more personal and represented
success in an area I normally don’t pay attention to. Plus
I learned two things. One: I can pride myself on the smallest
triviality. Two: I’m glad we don’t measure strength in our
gym classes with the bench press.
Leadership through Dedication
leadership does not necessarily mean accumulating as many
titles as possible in school activities; I feel one leads
through his dedication, actions, and contributions. I have
always tried to lead in almost everything I set out to do.
I feel I have been successful at that. Superficially, I
have earned such titles as president of the National Honor
Society chapter at my school, Editor-in-Chief, columnist,
Investigative Editor, and Editorial Editor of the school
newspaper, senior varsity leader in debate, and a Class
Representative for Student Council. However, those titles
don’t begin to tell the story of my abilities as a leader.
They don’t reveal how I volunteered to help out at a handicapped
lock-in at an unfamiliar youth center when no one else wanted
to, they don’t reveal how I always sought to be on time
for work and to avoid boondoggling, they don’t reveal how
I aided younger debaters with their argumentation so they
can have the same success I was lucky enough to enjoy, they
don’t reveal how I became a role model for the JETS squad
by studying my material often, eventually becoming the most
medaled member on the team, and they don’t reveal all the
effort I put into learning my lines and acquiring a good
stage presence for Images, my first stage production ever,
so I wouldn’t single-handedly jeopardize the whole show
with my lack of experience. All those actions stress the
quality I feel is most important in a leader, dedication.
With dedication comes hard work and the ability to seek
out solutions when problems get in the way, whether they
are with a news page layout or in a student’s diction. Because
of this dedication, taking charge is second nature for me.
People are always willing to follow one with a clear sense
view my important characteristics as different from those
my family has imparted on me throughout the years. The pride,
care, dedication, effort, and hard-working attitude that
I view as critical to any success I may achieve have all
descended upon me courtesy of my close-knit, Italian family.
the child of two immigrants who came here with nothing,
only one possessing a college degree, the importance of
a good work ethic was stressed by my parents from day one.
Through their actions in their jobs and through the verbal
lessons on life I began to get from the moment I could communicate,
they set an example for me to follow, one of being proud
of what I do, no matter what it was, and above all, to care
about everything I do as if everything had a big impact.
This meant that everything had to be done right and be done
well. Undoubtedly, following their own advice carried my
parents from their status as blue-collar immigrants who
labored as a factory workers to white-collar citizens, one
of whom owns his own business while the other works as a
bank officer. Those ascensions from nothing only served
as other examples for me to follow, examples that delineated
the ability for a person to improve through effort.
quotation from my father propelled me from the time I started
school to today: “No matter what you do, you have to be
the best.” This set up the inner drive that motivates all
my actions. It was what forced me to try hard in school
although I didn’t know English well enough to always understand
the teacher. It’s the reason why I have developed my skills.
It accounts for my dedication to all activities, and to
the hard work I put into all of them as I strive to lead
both in class and out. Essentially, my parentage was the
first quality that distinguished me as a leader.
all the talk of being a leader, I have never lost sight
of the importance of my family. I know I owe my family everything,
and as a result, I’ll always be close with it.
a variety of activities for fun and relaxation. I enjoy
reading books and magazines (my tastes range from Time to
Gentlemen’s Quarterly) on a regular basis, imitating Beavis
and Butt-head, and most of all, spending time with my friends.
Although I am fan of playing pick-up games of basketball,
football, and roller hockey, the phrase “doing nothing with
my time” doesn’t bother me since I can have a good time
just hanging around. I think people, not places, make for
a good time.
social concerns all revolve around the future. In other
words, I’m concerned about what prevents people from rising
above their disadvantages. Specifically, I am most concerned
with the handicapped, education, and crime.
society’s response to handicaps is what really hampers the
potential of the disabled. It is important for the disabled
to get a better sense of worth and to be able to adapt to,
and survive in, today’s world. Through National Honor Society
(NHS), I have done just that. I have helped out at a lock-in
that was designed to foster interaction among the children
of the organization, as well as at Special Olympics, where
the children participate in sports on a competitive basis
so their talents and abilities can be recognized. Whenever
the disabled can be successful at an activity, the barrier
between them and the rest of society is drastically reduced.
is key to other problems such as gangs, drugs, and crime
because it can prevent and eliminate them. I try to get
students in our school to maximize their opportunities by
using the educational resources available. By setting up
a tutoring program through NHS, I have matched up needy
students with other students who can assist them with their
problems in classes. More directly, I help students out
with English and show them how to use the Writing Center
Lab, an indispensable resource for English students at any
level. The more educated a person is, I believe, the more
able he is to be successful in the future.
dealt with criminal problems in my school by discussing
solutions to gangs and other crime in the Student Advisory
Committee. We have drafted several proposals to help reduce
those problems in our school.
people about such social concerns is also very crucial because
they won’t fix what they don’t think is broken. That is
one objective of our newspaper, in which we have written
various editorials and news stories to educate the student
body on social topics. Through debate, I myself have become
knowledgeable on such topics as the homeless, poverty, health
care, and the environment. That way I can practice what
is notorious for its long list of essay questions, as you
can see from the seven essays this applicant had to write.
The first essay is a standard favorite book essay. His second,
about his favorite teacher, goes into more depth and reveals
more about the candidate, that he enjoys learning, admires
independent thought, and plans to study history.
third essay in this set stands out from the rest. Had the
panel who were grading the compositions understood the context
of this essay in light of the six others in the set, they
probably would have given it more credit. Its strength lies
in its funny, lighthearted approach-it shows a completely
different aspect of the candidate’s personality. Without
it, he would have appeared deadpan serious and probably
a bit dull. However, showing the wittier side of himself
strengthens the set considerably. It is a good example of
allowing yourself to take a risk in one essay, as long as
more serious approaches in the others balance it.
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