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Common App Essay Examples You Can Learn From

Common App Essay Examples

Common App Essay Examples That Worked Out Well

If you have found your way to this website by searching online for Common App Essay examples – welcome!

My name is Alan Stransman, and through this website, I help students write compelling Common App Essays, specifically,  and College Admission essays, in general.


Almost 1000 Students Every Month Look for Common App Essay Examples

If you are one of the almost 1000 students every month who look for Common App Essay examples, you are certainly doing the right thing, as there is a lot that you can learn from essay examples – bad essays as well as good one.

In this article, I am going to be reviewing a Common App Essay example which was included in a very valuable collection entitled, “College Essays That Made a Difference” 3rd edition, published by The Princeton Review.

Now, to be clear, the essays that appear in the collection of essays cited above were not all submitted as part of the Common Application but they are College Admission essay examples – and, don’t forget, the Common App Essay is also a College Admission Essay – it just happens to be the essay component of the Common Application.

All of the essays in the collection are good – if they weren’t, they would not be included in the book – but some are better than others. The one which we will be reviewing in this article is representative of the quality of writing and thinking that you will find throughout the collection.


Learning from Students Whose College Admission Essay Got Them Accepted

As you might expect, there is a wide range of topics addressed in the collection of essays that made a difference, but the commonality is that in every case, the student who wrote the essay was admitted into the majority of schools to which he or she applied – not all of the schools, but the majority of them.

The essays which we are going to be considering was written in response to the following essay prompt: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Let’s dive into the essay. Here is how it begins:


I didn’t launch my first business, an origami store, when I was in second grade because I craved wealth: customers paid with worthless crayon money. I launched my origami store because I loved to play and discover.


This is an exceptionally well-written first paragraph. In the hands of a less-gifted writer, this paragraph would have read:


I launched my first business, an origami store, when I was in second grade. It wasn’t because I wanted to make money. It was because I loved to play and discover.


Had it been written as I have above, it would have still been “okay”, but the student’s version conveys so much more of his personality – especially his very dry sense of humor. He didn’t launch the business, he tells us, because he “craved wealth” – and it was a good thing he didn’t, because his customers paid with “worthless crayon money”. It is the contrast between craving wealth and worthless crayon money that makes the line so effective.

And while the opening paragraph seems to suggest that the essay is going to tell a story about an origami store, the author is clever enough to introduce his main theme – he likes to “play and discover”.

Isn’t that the kind of student that colleges and universities are looking for to enrich their academic community?

Continuing Our Review of Our Common App Essay Examples

The second paragraph reads as follows:

At summer camp before second grade, a Japanese woman taught me how to transform delicate red papers into cranes. Later, I learned to create origami stars, pinwheels, balloons, and boats by following instructions in manuals. When I showed my classmates these creations their eyes beamed with wonder. So I sold origami to my classmates with dazzling success. Operating my store influenced me more than any other learning experience in second grade. As I grew I was haunted by an aspiration to become an entrepreneur.


This paragraph provides additional information as to exactly how the author came to acquire the skills and expertise to launch an origami business in second grade. Without saying so explicitly, the author conveys the fact that he is a pretty clever fellow – much, or perhaps even most of what he learned he picked up in manuals – yet was so accomplished that his classmates’ eyes, “beamed with wonder”. Most of the information provided in the second paragraph is narrative – except this: “As I grew I was haunted by an aspiration to become an entrepreneur.”

Once again, this is a student who knows his audience. No Admissions Officer wants to be the one to deny the application of the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg.

Here is what the third paragraph of this essay sounds like:


This aspiration was intensified when I discovered the internet. The power of the internet is as obvious as the power of raw roaring waves in the Pacific Ocean. Like ocean waves that toss driftwood, fishes, and seaweed, information flows define reality; they incessantly re-sculpt parts of communities. Mainstream media reports, however, neglect to consider what I considered in ninth grade: that the internet might be useful in bays and coves. I thought the internet, like plazas, restaurants and city streets could be used as a gathering place in small communities like my home, Humboldt County.


There is a lot going on in this paragraph – a bit too much, if you want my opinion – but most of it is very good. Most salient is the author’s use of metaphor – comparing the power of the internet to the power of the ocean. Later, he compares restaurants and plazas to bays and coves, extending the ocean motif. There are a lot of thoughts jammed into this paragraph, and one of the phrases is a bit of what I would call “clotted” – “information flows define reality; they incessantly re-sculpt parts of communities”.

That last phrase requires a couple of reading to extract its full meaning, but, nonetheless, an impressive bit of writing.

Below is paragraph 4:


An imaginative second-grade shop-keeper played with possibilities: a directory of Humboldt County websites, a trading place – free classified advertisements , a community calendar, and a restaurant guide with dinner reviews. I dreamed Humscape.com (the name of my vision) would be polished and professional, dynamic and database-driven, like Yahoo. This dream seemed unattainable until I discovered and was astonished by the web-application software product ColdFusion. Before I understood ColdFusion code I signed away almost all the money in my bank account to buy ColdFusion-enabled webhost service.


 What Jumps Out at You In This Paragraph of Our Common App Essay Example?

In this paragraph, the author wants his reader to know how expert he is – remember, this is the same guy who as a second-grade student taught himself origami using instruction manuals. Now, as we find out in this paragraph, he has taught himself ColdFusion code.

This is a very bold essay, and the author is not taking any chances that his reader will miss the point that he is one very exceptional student. If I were working with the author of this essay, I would say that the above paragraph is on the borderline of displaying a bit too much bravado, but I would probably also recognize that that is part of the student’s personality – and a very important part, at that.

Let’s see how he continues:


My racing courage had won against reluctance to invest hard-earned money. I became an entrepreneur. For six months I plunged deeply into creating Humscape.com. I taught myself ColdFusion from online manuals.


As I noted earlier, this is no “shrinking violet” – note the reference to his “racing courage”. At the end of the paragraph, the suggestion that he had taught himself ColdFusion code contained in the phrase “before I understood ColdFusion code” in the previous paragraph is made explicit: “I taught myself ColdFusion from online manuals.”


Using the Essay Prompt to Reveal Something Unique About You

Let’s look at the next paragraph of this remarkable essay:


When I launched Humscape.com I felt like an author who had published a book. I invited a television news team into my home. Newspaper headlines and T.V. blurbs incited hundreds of email requests for website hyperlinks to be included in the Humscape.com directory.


Remember – this essay began, ostensibly, as a story about an origami business which the author launched in grade 2. Now, he is inviting television news teams to cover his entrepreneurial ventures. The essay has an almost “epic” quality, and yet, it is only several hundred words. Now we know why a few of the sentences seem to be trying to freighted with a bit too much information.

The essay continues:


During my telephone and email correspondence with the operators of the local website CouponsOnWeb, I never told them I was fifteen until immediately before we met at the Humboldt Bay Coffee Company. The CouponsOnWeb team listened carefully to every word I spoke. When I strode out of the coffee shop’s incandescent light and warm coffee aroma I felt like self-confident adult.


Once again, the author makes sure that the reader does not miss the point – this student is no longer an adolescent. The experience of risking his life savings and “going for broke” has transformed him into a “self-confident adult”.

Why would any college or university even think of denying this application.


Summing Up The Common App Essay Example

In his final paragraph, the author concludes:

Humscape.com was fabulously successful. This success cannot be documented on a ledger sheet – I did not earn the monetary profits I once aspired to earn. I earned experience and self-confidence, profits more difficult to earn, and more valuable than money.


This essay does everything that a Common App Essay can do. Not only does it completely satisfy the requirements of the topic – which were to evaluate a significant experience, achievement or risk and its impact – but it also conveys a very clear sense of the personality involved. This student leaps off the page. We feel like we know him, already – we might find him a wee bit full of himself, but that’s okay – we aren’t about to forget him.

This is exactly how you use the Common App Essay to your advantage.

If this student’s academic achievements were not enough to gain admission, an essay this strong could well push him over the top.


Can You Write A Common App Essay This Good or Could You Use Help?

If you found the essay that we have reviewed in this article a bit daunting – you are not alone.

This is a very strong essay and 99% of students are not able to write an essay of this quality.

What really helped this particular student’s cause was that he had a remarkable story to tell and he knew it.

He was so confident in the power of his story that he was able to take his time and not rush into it by leading off with tale of the origami store.

A truly accomplished storyteller is in full control of his or her material, and knows that when it is all laid out on the table, it will have impact, and that is what we see in this essay.

If you think you have the ability to write a Common App Essay that is on this level – go for it.

If you don’t, and you think you could use some help, I invite you to contact me any time via:

Telephone: 416-519-4427


Email: astransman@rogers.com


Skype: AlanStransman














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