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Example 1:

When I met this student, I was immediately charmed by her honesty. She was also chatty, using long sentences filled with details as she shared anecdotes of her life. You can see this come through in her personal statement, in which she turns a typical prompt on its head by showcasing the not-so-wonderful sides of her personality. Most importantly, her unique voice is strong. She does not try to dim it by using “valedictorian”-type words, instead just relies on the language she uses every day.

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

It was 5 a.m. on Wednesday and I was rushing around trying to throw last-minute items into my suitcase because, in a few hours, I would be on my way to Orlando for dance nationals. I hurried to the car and went to school for what I thought would be a normal day. Except it continued to get crazier after I threw my retainer in the trash at lunch and had to dig it out.

Finally, I headed to biology, my last class of the day. Everything was going fine until a PowerPoint slide came up showing the bacteria on a contact lens and what can happen if you sleep in your contact lenses too much. I immediately got terrified and thought, “I slept in my contacts last night. I am going to die.”

Then I hit the floor. I remember looking up to see my teacher standing over me and my friends laughing, thinking I was faking it. I stood and tried to walk to the office, but passed out again and hit my head on the door. I found out that if you pass out more than once the EMTs come. On the bright side, I did get to ride in an ambulance. Did I mention my mom was in Las Vegas and my dad was buying a car, so it was basically me and the cute EMTs?

I got to the hospital and began to freak out. I had embarrassed myself in front of my entire class and my life felt over. Until I got texts from people asking if I was ok. That’s when my day finally started to slow down. I realized that, even though I had embarrassed myself, people still liked me anyway.

After this moment of realization, I understood I can be true to who I am. I no longer had to try to hide parts of my personality I thought people would not like. Now I am no longer embarrassed by them. They are what make me, well, me.

First off, I am probably one of the nosiest people you will ever meet. If my friends are talking and I walk over, I always ask what they are talking about. I think some see my nosiness as annoying, but I think it comes from my genuine interest in people. I am very interested in how people act and why they do what they do. This makes me want to know random information about them to try to piece the puzzle together.

Another part of my personality that may not be so admirable is I am competitive and a perfectionist. This derives from my many years of dance. I always pushed myself to beat certain people at competitions and put in many hours to achieve that. This then translated into school; I study hard because I like to outperform. Now I know this is not a good trait, but I really cannot help it and, hey, at least I’m motivated.

Finally, if you talk to me, you will quickly notice I am blunt. While people don’t always want to hear exactly what I’m thinking, I have learned how to translate this bluntness to make my friends die laughing. Now I don’t think I’m a comedian or even funny, but my friends do, so I guess that counts for something.

This quick life-or-death moment — I may be exaggerating — really made me realize I can show the good, the bad, and the ugly of myself. Little things, like what everyone is wearing tomorrow, don’t matter. Being myself, 100 percent of the time, is freeing. I’ve made more friends and true friendships because people can always expect me to be authentic and honest. If I am being open with them, they feel they can be open with me.

Anyway, who knew a slide about the bacteria on contact lenses could be so eye opening?

Example 2:

I love this supplemental essay because you can so clearly hear the voice of the writer. I also like that he chose to write about something quirky instead of standard. But the biggest asset of this essay is that it has direction. It starts with the founding of ping pong club and ends with the club being so popular the school can hardly keep up with its growth. If you want a reader to be interested in your accomplishment, indicate scale and growth as you tell your stories.

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (Vanderbilt University, 150-400 words)

A stupefied look covered every inch of my face as I walked out of the principal’s office. Walking in, I was fully prepared to fight tooth and nail. I was instead met with the last thing I expected: a simple “yes” and approval of the Ping Pong Club. The idea sounded ridiculous both on paper and aloud. A ping pong club? What school in their right mind would allow that to happen?

Until then all of my high school’s clubs had been the kinds of activities that you would expect … clubs that looked great and fit neatly on a college application, including Coding Club and Student Government. What purpose did a ping pong club serve (no pun intended)? What college admissions office was going to see that on an application and say, “I want a member of that team.”

The answer is that the Ping Pong Club does not check any boxes for college, and it does not boost your resume. It is outside of all of that and that is the beauty of it. The Ping Pong Club provides a safe space, away from the stress of class rank, applications and future plans. While you are at the table, it is time to chat with friends and compete in a fun environment. It is for those reasons that on the Ping Pong Club’s inaugural day, it had almost three times as many applicants as our high school’s entire football team.

We started with only a single table and four paddles. While this made it difficult to play, people stuck with the club, and we kept growing. Pretty soon the unheard of was happening: people were enjoying themselves at school. The school was very supportive of our growth and the next year bought four new tables. All skill levels are welcome, from teachers who have spent years honing their craft to me, who started the club and can barely get the ball over. While this club may not land anyone a merit scholarship, in my eyes it is so much more as it creates lasting bonds between peers and offers a reprieve from the sometimes monotonous school day.