7 College Essay Examples From Ivy League Universities (2021/2022)


7 College Essay Examples From Ivy League Universities (2021/2022)

Here is a list of 7 essays that worked for Ivy League Universities in the U.S. Below the essays, this article identifies common themes that made these essays work. Believe it or not, college admission departments seek specific things in students, and while whatever is being sought could vary, it is easy to narrow down once you read enough of these essays.

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Right off the bat, your performance needs to be at par with admission requirements before they even look at your essay. So, here are the requirements by these universities in terms of GPA, SAT, and ACT. The table also includes the acceptance rates, the acceptance rates for transfer students, and graduation rates.

CollegeWhat is the admission rate?What is the acceptance rate for transfer of students?What is the GPA for admission?What is the minimum/ average SAT score?What is the minimum/ average ACT score?What is the graduation rate (full time)?
Harvard University4.6%0.97%4.18151510097.3%
Princeton University5.8%0.91%3.87149510197.6%
Yale University6.1%1.76%4.19151010293.7%
Columbia University5.4%6.08%4.12150010095%
Brown University7.1%7.7%4.0814709895.5%
Dartmouth College7.9%1.49%4.115803496%
University of Pennsylvania7.7%7.8%3.915703493.9%
Cornell University10.6%17.09%3.914308095.2%
Ivy League Universities GPA, SAT, ACT, acceptance rate, transfer acceptance rate, and graduation rates.

This essay worked for admission to Harvard University (Massachusetts)

This past summer, I had the privilege of participating in the University of Notre Dame’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program . Under the mentorship of Professor Wendy Bozeman and Professor Georgia Lebedev from the department of Biological Sciences, my goal this summer was to research the effects of cobalt iron oxide cored (CoFe2O3) titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles as a scaffold for drug delivery, specifically in the delivery of a compound known as curcumin, a flavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory effects. As a high school student trying to find a research opportunity, it was very difficult to find a place that was willing to take me in, but after many months of trying, I sought the help of my high school biology teacher, who used his resources to help me obtain a position in the program

Using equipment that a high school student could only dream of using, I was able to map apoptosis (programmed cell death) versus necrosis (cell death due to damage) in HeLa cells, a cervical cancer line, after treating them with curcumin-bound nanoparticles. Using flow cytometry to excite each individually suspended cell with a laser, the scattered light from the cells helped to determine which cells were living, had died from apoptosis or had died from necrosis. Using this collected data, it was possible to determine if the curcumin and/or the nanoparticles had played any significant role on the cervical cancer cells. Later, I was able to image cells in 4D through con-focal microscopy. From growing HeLa cells to trying to kill them with different compounds, I was able to gain the hands-on experience necessary for me to realize once again why I love science.

Living on the Notre Dame campus with other REU students, UND athletes, and other summer school students was a whole other experience that prepared me for the world beyond high school. For 9 weeks, I worked, played and bonded with the other students, and had the opportunity to live the life of an independent college student.

Along with the individually tailored research projects and the housing opportunity, there were seminars on public speaking, trips to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and one-on-one writing seminars for the end of the summer research papers we were each required to write. By the end of the summer, I wasn’t ready to leave the research that I was doing. While my research didn’t yield definitive results for the effects of curcumin on cervical cancer cells, my research on curcumin-functionalized CoFe2O4/TiO2 core-shell nanoconjugates indicated that there were many unknown factors affecting the HeLa cells, and spurred the lab to expand their research into determining whether or not the timing of the drug delivery mattered and whether or not the position of the binding site of the drugs would alter the results. Through this summer experience, I realized my ambition to pursue a career in research. I always knew that I would want to pursue a future in science, but the exciting world of research where the discoveries are limitless has captured my heart. This school year, the REU program has offered me a year-long job, and despite my obligations as a high school senior preparing for college, I couldn’t give up this offer, and so during this school year, I will be able to further both my research and interest in nanotechnology.

This student got into Princeton University (New Jersey)

“I am a mother and mothers don’t have the luxury of falling apart in front of their children, even when they are afraid, even when their children are adults.” Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale.

My father was deployed to Afghanistan in the winter of 2009, and I remember two things about that day: my mother’s tears coating her lashes and the snowflakes coating mine. My dad was a specialist overseas, identifying and dismantling IEDs and other bomb-like configurations, but they dare not tell me that he was at risk of being blown up or killed every day. To me he was, and still is, my hero. But the war was fought at home, too; every day weighed upon my mom’s face like a decade. I was seven at the time, and my brother was almost four, so I understand why she kept so many secrets. But I am her person, her confidante, her mini-me, and I still saw not everything, and many things I learned later, but I saw. I saw the pain in her face reading the mail, the bills. I saw her heartache, I saw it bleed the snow that winters red.

The winter of 2010 was one of the worst in West Virginia’s recent history. The snow just kept coming; in droves, it filled our yard and driveway and window, over three feet of it. We could hardly walk outside and frequently lost our dogs in the white sea of our backyard. That was the winter mom got sick.

My mother has only had the flu twice in her life, and this year, in spite of her shot, one of the worst strains braved the snow to reach her. Determined to hide her sickness from us, she spent hours shoveling the feet of snow, trying to escape for medicine and help. Her yellow ribbon on the gate swayed with each passing car, with no one stopping to help. By nightfall, she was exhausted; the snow had won. In her sickness, exhaustion, and emotional turmoil, she was dying.

So, she did what no mother would ever want to do: she broke down. In front of me. And asked if I could take care of my little brother for the evening. Make him food. Calm him down. Tuck him in.

She felt as if she had failed as a mother at that moment, asking so much of her seven-year-old daughter. But I stepped up to bat for her willingly.

The winter of 2010: the winter of a thousand snows and the winter of grilled cheese.

It was the only sustaining thing I could make, and my brother, Caden, and I ate them constantly. I can still hear mom cry from the kitchen as I prepared our meals. (I made her an extra. I do not know if she ever ate it.) I tucked Caden into his train bed, put an extra Pull-Up on his nightstand, kissed his forehead. Mom got sick in the bathroom, so I quietly left her a note on her bed that said “I love you!” before heading off to my room.

2010 was a defining year for me. I began dance classes, saw my dad leave to fight for our country, felt the jubilation of his return. But my mother’s struggle permeates that year like the smell of burned popcorn. For the first time, I saw my mother, my invincible mother, weakened by life, and it humbled me. Her struggles made me want to work harder, be better, be stronger,  for my family. That year, I vowed to serve my family in every way possible, and I try to even today. When I enter society as an adult, I want to be as strong and resilient as my parents, and to be empathetic toward everyone, even my enemies. Everyone has a story, a hardship, and no one, especially mothers, should feel ashamed to express it.

This admission essay worked for Yale University (Connecticut)

A chaotic sense of sickness and filth unfolds in an overcrowded border station in McAllen, Texas. Through soundproof windows, migrants motion that they have not showered in weeks, and children wear clothes caked in mucus and tears. The humanitarian crisis at the southern border exists not only in photographs published by mainstream media, but miles from my home in South Texas.

As a daughter of immigrants, I have heard countless stories of migrants being turned away by a country they desperately seek to love. After seeing the abhorrent conditions migrants face upon arriving in the U.S., I began volunteering with Loaves and Fishes, an organization that shelters and provides necessities to undocumented immigrants. This year, my experiences collecting donations and working at pop-up soup kitchens have made me realize that the communities in South Texas promote true American values of freedom and opportunity. The U.S. government, however, must do better.

As a daughter of immigrants, I have heard countless stories of migrants being turned away by a country they desperately seek to love. After seeing the abhorrent conditions migrants face upon arriving in the U.S., I began volunteering with Loaves and Fishes, an organization that shelters and provides necessities to undocumented immigrants. This year, my experiences collecting donations and working at pop-up soup kitchens have made me realize that the communities in South Texas promote true American values of freedom and opportunity. The U.S. government, however, must do better.

Additionally, I hope to join the Yale Refugee Project that volunteers at the southern border and prepares asylum cases for court. With the numerous opportunities offered by YRP, I will be part of a generation of activists and lawmakers that builds a more empathetic immigration system.

This essay got a student into Columbia University (New York)

My Middle Eastern heritage and international background have made me passionate about social justice, peace, and conflict resolution. I am especially interested in Middle Eastern international affairs and social problems. The unrest and violence in this region have repercussions all over the globe. I believe it is vital for our generation to find long-lasting solutions for peace in the Middle East and to protect the rights of women, children, and ethnic minorities that are being abused in the region. I hope to pursue an undergraduate program focused on Human Rights, taking classes such as “International Human Rights Law,” “Equality, Identity & Rights” and “Human Rights and Human Wrongs.”

For example, in summer 2013, I participated in a two-week course called “Identity, Diversity, and Leadership” at Brown University. This course challenged me to study my own social and individual identity. I learned the values of listening, sympathizing, and understanding those who are unlike me. Similarly, in October 2014, I took part in a seminar on Non-Violent Communication organized by Seeds of Peace, focusing on ways to bridge dialogue divides and maintain empathy during difficult conversations.

Like us, an American-Lebanese-Colombian family living in Madrid, my extended family all have very international backgrounds and have lived all around the world. I have American-Lebanese-Austrian cousins living in London and American-Lebanese- Belgian cousins living in Hong Kong. Even though we all have lived very different lives, we have something in common – the feeling of being citizens of the world, immersed in a plethora of distinct cultures, yet being part of one close-knit family.

I am lucky to have been raised in this environment. It has helped me become a more adaptable, flexible, and understanding person with intellectual curiosity and openness to the world.

Additionally, Columbia College would offer me the opportunity to take an array of classes taught by leading scholars in the Departments of Political Science; Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies; and Linguistics. These classes would give me a global view of the complex world we live in, help me better understand the international challenges we face today, and further expand my global outlook and knowledge of world cultures and customs. I look forward to taking classes such as “National Security Strategies of the Middle East: A Comparative Perspective”, “Rethinking Middle East Politics” and “Language and Society”. I am also keen on continuing to build on my Arabic language skills to complement my interest in Middle Eastern history and politics through the amazing resources provided by the Columbia Global Center in Amman, where I hope to spend at least two summers.

With my background and experiences, I believe I would contribute new perspectives to class discussions and learn from the ideas of the inspiring and diverse students that Columbia University attracts.

This student got admitted to Brown University (Rhode Island)

My life is the epitome of “and.” I have Chinese roots and am a proud North Carolinian. I am a team player and a leader. A bookworm and a backpacker. A creative thinker and logical problem-solver. I bridge divides. Like me, Brown exemplifies “and.”

Brown’s Open Curriculum embraces the diverse array of opportunities a university can offer. It empowers me to go after this, that, and all the choices in between. While I can picture myself in the Literary Arts Program exploring the intersection between creative writing and digital media, Brown gives me the freedom to also delve into psychology, media studies, international relations, and film. But, it watches out for its students, making sure they can experiment academically and be confident they have a strong community backing them up. Whether it’s my faculty advisor, Meiklejohn peer advisor, or concentration DUG, I’d have a supportive community acting as my safety net.

Additionally, Brown’s partnership with RISD, University Film Forum, Student and Community Radio, and Swearer Center provide creative outlets and service opportunities. I could merge my interest in promoting community engagement with local youth and my excitement about the potential for digital media outreach through the Storytellers Fellowship. I’d be able to use my experience as a radio station sound editor to partner with RISD students on a multimedia art installation. That’s what Brown is all about. A school with all the tools I need to succeed, but one that encourages me to enjoy all the “ands” along the way.

This is an essay that worked for Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)

I am a person of the woods, and every summer when I come back from my canoe tripping camp, I have transformed from the city dweller that defines ten months of my year to the wilderness man my friends jokingly call me. Canoe tripping is so much more than carrying a canoe or a pack, or paddling lakes bigger than my whole city; it’s about the people you’re with, the friendships you create, learning about yourself, and your relationship with your surroundings. I have spent every summer since I was seven at Camp Pathfinder, building friendships with people who were so different than me each year. Pathfinder has a way of bringing people together from different backgrounds, sides of the continent, even countries, and bonding them for life. I have friends all the way across my continent in Los Angeles, friends who I’d never seen before who actually live on my street, and even friends who live in Spain. Going across the trails with packs half our size and more than half our weight, or canoes sixteen feet, you get to know each other well and deeply. My friends range from seven years old to sixty-three. At Pathfinder, everyone is equal and everyone is in the same boat, or canoe for that matter. When I first went to camp, I loved being on the island, but hated canoe tripping. Being forced to carry a pack and traveling by canoe was awful. Where was the fun in sleeping in small tents with an absurd amount of mosquitoes and aching after portaging? I came home crying that first summer, but for some odd reason, I was drawn back. It took four years until, finally, I understood. I went on a twelve day canoe trip and it clicked; I had the time of my life, and I was hooked. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate not only learning about the people I am with, but the environment that surrounds me. The sunsets in Algonquin Park are the most beautiful on Earth, seeing water at the end of an arduous portage feels greater than spying land from the lake, the sound of a loon has an unmatched purity, and the fog on the water draws you to it. My friend Aidan has taught me to push myself harder than I thought possible; Tate taught me there is no rest until we have made the trip as good as it can be for the younger campers; Gabe showed me that laughter is the best way out of any situation. From Rohan I’ve learned there is always a solution, and from Grady I’ve learned that it IS possible to encompass all of the ideals that define each of us. From me, they say they have learned leadership, and I hope that is true. Anywhere I go, I can meet someone with some strange connection to Pathfinder and this common ground alone allows us to talk on a more intimate level, passing the “get-to-know-you” stage of acquaintances. We bond over past staff, mutual friends, canoe trips, lakes in the park, and our beautiful, red, cedar-strip, canvas canoes. Pathfinder has jokingly been referred to as a cult because of the way we religiously worship our “sacred” island. The scary part is, this is true. We worship the canoes that allow us to travel and we thank the great spirit, who constantly watches over us. In reality, it is more similar to one large family with thousands who share the one hundred five years of its history. Our days of canoe tripping and pushing each other connects us deeply. When we sit around the fires at the end of the day, we don’t need to talk; we just need to relax and enjoy one another’s company. And as we lay down our heads, on our soft balsam beds, we thank the great spirit that our blood runs Pathfinder red.

This essay worked for admission to the University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania) (UPenn)

Aspire, to reach for [an ambition], from Latin aspiro (ad + spiro), to breathe for [a purpose], a derivative of spiro, to breathe. Aspiration drove Bill Gates to found Microsoft, led Einstein to the theories of relativity, and brought me to the study of language.

Aspirate, to create a strong burst of air, used in a linguistic sense, also from Latin spiro, to breathe. In English, aspiration turns B’s into P’s, D’s into T’s and G’s into K’s. Most languages have aspirated consonants, including both Ancient Greek and Korean. Though you’d never think that Ancient Greek and Korean were in any way related, being on different sides of Asia, the two surprisingly have a lot in common.

When I was still in diapers, my working mom hired a nanny who, like my mother, was Korean in order to give me early exposure to her language. My English blossomed when I started preschool. In kindergarten my Chinese dad introduced me to his language through children’s television. Elementary school brought me French, and middle school ushered in my interest in Latin. Hotchkiss let me study Chinese and Ancient Greek while continuing my Latin. This past summer, I went back to my roots and worked on my childhood Korean. All told, I am learning three living languages – English, Chinese and Korean – and two dead ones, Latin and Ancient Greek.

I get some odd looks when people find out how many and what languages I study. I have a reason to study Korean and Chinese because they are the languages of my heritage, but how do I explain Latin and Ancient Greek? They’re dead languages, now only home to school crests and old philosophers. I fit as many as I could into my school schedule and studied them over break, but it seemed as if I couldn’t stop learning languages. In English, I traced etymologies as far back as anyone had researched. I learned the concept of nasal vowels from my Navajo friend. But through all this, I never figured out the why factor. What was it about language that drove me to it?

The answer struck me in the form of a Korean cell phone. When I studied Korean last summer, I couldn’t figure out why the Korean ㄷ, a soft T, was pronounced ㅌ, a hard T, when it was next to ㅎ (H). There was no English equivalent, and I couldn’t rationalize the sound change to myself. Frustrated, I took a break for the day and went out to the movies with a friend. When I borrowed her cell phone to make a call and looked at the arrangement of the Korean alphabet on the number keypad, everything clicked. In contrast to the English keypad, where letters are arranged alphabetically, Korean maps its letters onto the keypad according to how they are sounded. Specifically, consonants that are formed with the same mouth movements all map to one number.

For example, if English number keypads had this system, M, B and P would be together because they are bilabial consonants, formed by placing both lips together. In this consonant group, M is the sonorant, a consonant that can be continually sounded. Because Korean keypads place all similar sounds together, I realized that plosives and aspirates were closely linked. I quickly deduced that since ㅎ (H) was just the burst of air required for aspiration, it would easily combine with a plosive to create the equivalent aspirate consonant. If English had a similar sound change (or, in linguist-speak, “a corresponding morphophonemic phenomenon”), B would change to P, D to T, and G to K in the presence of an aspirate.

I had known from my first day of Ancient Greek that it, along with Korean, was an inflected language, where the endings of words determine their grammatical function. When I noted that Korean once had pitch accent (where one syllable of a word has emphasis and a pitch), just as Ancient Greek does, I couldn’t sit still. I turned to my friend and exclaimed that Korean was a lot like Ancient Greek. I think she was more interested in Johnny Depp than phonic aspiration, though: she told me to give her phone back, stop talking so loudly and just watch Pirates of the Caribbean. But even as I eased myself into the sword fights and special effects, I couldn’t help but think, “Why can’t I aspire further in a movie theater? Maybe I’ll learn Haitian creole.”

This is an admission essay that got a student into Cornell University (New York)

When my English teacher died last spring, I wrote in his tribute a song called “Confusion.” It is not the most technically impressive thing I have written, but it’s my favorite because it conveys emotions I still can’t put into words. Taking center stage to act out his lessons, Mr. McGovern seemed to have no problem finding words to make his feelings understandable to everyone.”Confusion” is a guitar piece, slow, sad and dark. It must be finger-picked by each finger, not just the thumb or plectrum, to create a tone of smoothness. Although it is sad, it is also somehow calming. It’s about a search which keeps returning to the same point. Each journey becomes more difficult, yet each one, despite increasing hardships, comes to the same sad destination. For instance, in the third verse, when the song shifts to the higher pitched chord of D minor, it seems for a moment that simple happiness is within reach, but returns immediately to the A minor chord before going to the even deeper and darker sounding E minor in root position. At that point the darkness deepens, and it lasts twice as long as the other verses of the song because, instead of reverting to the chorus, the song repeats its darkest verse. The hope of a happy ending is defeated. The song ends on the same chord it starts with.Mr. McGovern was inspired by the connections between opposites. He told us that all things are intertwined and interdependent, that harmony depends on relations that seem discordant, that human nature starts with the discordance of the three fs: feeding, fighting, fucking. Like any other animal, man can be horrible, hungry, or hopeful. We listened raptly as he paced across the semi-circle of our desks and gave us words for these oppositions: Apollonian-Dionysian, Yin-Yang. We knew that as he spoke Mr. McGovern was making sense of his own confusion and was encouraging us to try to do the same.”Confusion” may seem to fall short of Mr. McGovern’s ideal of resolving opposites. Its key is solely minor. In all my other pieces in a minor key, I raise the final chord by a third, the so-called picardy third, which transforms a minor into its relative major. But the picardy third did not belong here; mixing the happy major with the melancholy minor seemed inappropriate. If this unresolved tension seems to oppose Mr. McGovern’s spirit, that was not my intention. The song is melancholy since it is an elegy. The searcher, who is actually me, has lost the direction given to him by his mentor. The title refers to the time before I came under his tutelage and also to the time immediately after. The long search for enlightenment, never completed, lasts the duration of the song, like my futile efforts to understand myself. The chorus, or the place that I always find myself in, is the blunt answer to what I am seeking. I cannot accept this so I try to understand myself by some other means. The significance of the song is that the harder I try to find myself the harder the search becomes. The ending of Confusion is the only ending that fits. The song’s echoes the most valuable thing I learned from Mr. McGovern: we are inherently the way we are, and to understand ourselves we need to accept the truths about human beings. The picardy third would imply that I found the answer to my search, despite my self-centered method of searching, and would provide a happy ending. The more fitting ending is an understanding of human imperfection. By ending the piece on the same chord it begins with, the song says that humankind needs to relieve itself from the vanity apparent in the verses in order to recognize its equal role in nature. “Allow not nature more than nature needs, man’s life is cheap as beast’s.” (King Lear, II, iv, 307-8).

Do not get overwhelmed by this process. It is rigorous but doable. Here are a few themes (must includes) that are in all these essays.

Must include sections

Make it uniquely you. The essay needs to capture your essence.

Remember you are making the admission office familiar with your situation. You could really be narrating anything from why you are interested in their college to how you grew up in the Projects but without your voice it it, it’ll be unrelatable. Give it your perspective and tone.

A story with depth.

At the core of your story should be a lesson or a change of situation. That’s the kind of depth that matters. Let’s call it the ‘So what?’ You grew up poor? So what? You never had a childhood? So what? You abused drugs? So what? You volunteered in Africa? So what!

Tie the ‘So what?’ to the prompt of the essay. Make it make sense to the reader.

A captivating opener and a meaty narration.

Nobody want to read a boring essay when they have probably over 20 essays to read through in a couple of hours. Your first line should be enough to keep someone reading on. And once they get going, furnish them with a narration so interesting and bold that they keep reading.

Also, do not start with a cliche’ statement, idiom or saying. Nope. Do not do that. Again, do not make it sound like an official letter to the institution with sirs and madams all over the place (letter language).

Mystery, cliff-hanger, or punch.

The end of the essay should feel more like an end of a TV episode – just mysterious enough to make you anticipate the next one. Of course, there will not be the next essay but the reader will want to at least meet you in person. The ending just adds to them discovering you and wanting you to be part of their community.

Do not plagiarize.

This seems obvious but for strange reasons, some students still try to take a chance with old essays that were accepted. It will not work. Each word on the essay, and the story at large, needs to be from you.

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