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February 19, 2024


Sample Essay: Unveiling the Essence of Writing a Winning College Essay

 Pen Resting on A Writing Pad Embarking on the journey of college applications is akin to painting a self-portrait where every brushstroke represents a fragment of your life's canvas. This series delves into the artistry behind crafting essays that resonate - the why. These essays have not only succeeded but have done so by telling a story that is deeply personal and profoundly human. Through the lens of winning essays, we aim to unravel the intricacies and strategies that transform ordinary narratives into gateways of opportunity. Each essay in our series is a testament to the power of authentic expression, serving as a beacon for aspiring applicants. Join us as we explore these exemplary narratives, dissecting the elements that elevate them from mere submissions to reflections of individuality and purpose.

Essay by Ana for a scholarship at New York University College of Arts and Science

Essay Prompt: Explain something that made a significant impact in your life.

Essay: “If you can’t live off it, it is useless.” My parents were talking about ice skating, my passion. I started skating as a ten-year-old in Spain, admiring how difficulty and grace intertwine to create beautiful programs, but no one imagined I would still be on the ice seven years and one country later. Even more unimaginable was the thought that ice skating might become one of the most valuable parts of my life.

I was born in Mexico to two Spanish speakers; thus, Spanish was my first language. We moved to Spain when I was six, before finally arriving in California around my thirteenth birthday. Each change introduced countless challenges, but the hardest part of moving to America for me was learning English. Laminated index cards, color-coded and full of vocabulary, became part of my daily life. As someone who loves engaging in a conversation, it was tough. Only at the ice rink could I be myself; the feeling of the cold rink breeze embracing me, the ripping sound of blades touching the ice, even the occasional ice burning my skin as I fell—these were my few constants. I did not need to avoid mispronouncing “axel” as “aksal.” Instead, I just needed to glide and deliver the jump.

From its good-natured bruise-counting competitions to its culture of hard work and perseverance, ice skating provided the nurturing environment that made my other challenges worthwhile. Knowing that each moment on the ice represented a financial sacrifice for my family, I cherished every second I got. Often, this meant waking up every morning at 4 a.m. to practice what I had learned in my few precious minutes of coaching. It meant assisting in group lessons to earn extra skating time and taking my conditioning off-ice by joining my high school varsity running teams. The rink was my sanctuary, even as I began to make friends and lose my fear of speaking. Eventually, however, the only way to keep improving was to pay for more coaching, which my family could not afford. And so I started tutoring Spanish.

My natural ability supported the biggest passion of my life. I have had over thirty Spanish students, ranging in age from three to forty and spanning many ethnic backgrounds. I currently work with fifteen students each week, each with different needs and ways of learning. Drawing on my experiences as both a second language learner and a figure skater, I assign personal, interactive exercises, make jokes to keep my students’ mindset positive, and never give away the correct answers. When I first started learning my axel jump, my coach told me I would have to fall at least 500 times (about a year of falls!) before I could land it. Likewise, I have my students embrace every detail of a mistake until they can recognize new errors when they see them. I encourage them to expand their horizons and take pride in preparing them for new interactions and opportunities.

Although I agree that I will never live off ice skating, the education and skills I have gained from it have opened countless doors. Ice skating has given me the resilience, work ethic, and inspiration to develop as a teacher and an English speaker. It has improved my academic performance by teaching me rhythm, health, and routine. It also reminds me that a passion does not have to produce money to hold immense value. Ceramics, for instance, challenges me to experiment with the messy and unexpected. While painting reminds me to be adventurous and patient with my forms of self-expression. I don’t know yet what I will live off of daily as I mature; however, the skills my passions have provided me are life-long and irreplaceable.

What makes this essay successful?

University Picture

This award-winning essay demonstrates several vital strengths that contribute to its success:

  • Personal and Engaging Narrative: The essay effectively uses a personal narrative to engage the reader, sharing a journey of passion, struggle, and growth. It doesn't just tell a story; it invites the reader into the author's life, making the experiences relatable and vivid. The details about moving countries, learning a new language, and embracing ice skating create a compelling and immersive narrative.
  • Clear Theme and Message: The essay centers around finding value in one's passions, regardless of financial profitability. This message is consistently reinforced throughout the essay, from the initial misunderstanding of the value of ice skating to the eventual realization of the skills and experiences gained through pursuing passions. This thematic clarity gives the essay a strong sense of purpose and direction.
  • Emotional Resonance: The essay creates an emotional connection with the reader by sharing personal challenges and triumphs. It speaks to universal experiences of overcoming obstacles, finding one's place in a new environment, and discovering self-worth beyond monetary success. This emotional depth adds a layer of richness to the essay, making it memorable.
  • Illustration of Growth and Learning: The essay effectively demonstrates how the author has grown and learned from their experiences. It shows a journey from struggling to fit in and communicate in a new country to finding confidence and a voice through ice skating and teaching Spanish. This narrative of personal development and the acquisition of valuable life skills is inspiring and highlights the transformative power of dedication and passion.
  • Integration of Specific Details: The use of specific details, such as the laminated index cards for learning English, the early morning ice skating practices, and the analogy of falling 500 times before landing an axel jump, enriches the story. These details provide authenticity and credibility to the narrative, and illustrate the hard work, perseverance, and creativity involved in the author's journey.

Together, these elements make the essay successful by weaving a compelling, personal story that is both inspiring and insightful. The essay goes beyond merely recounting events to convey deeper themes of passion, resilience, and the intrinsic value of pursuing what one loves, making it an impactful and memorable piece.

Empowering Your Journey with GoodGoblin

As we dissect the components that contribute to a successful essay, it's evident that the journey of crafting such a narrative is both personal and complex. However, there are others on this path. GoodGoblin is a pioneering ally, offering personalized guidance and innovative tools to illuminate your college application journey. Our platform harnesses the latest AI technology to provide real-time, tailored feedback on your essays, ensuring your unique voice resonates with clarity and impact.

GoodGoblin's AI-driven insights draw from a rich tapestry of successful applications, offering you a compass as you navigate the intricate college admissions process. From generating essay outlines to refining drafts with granular feedback, GoodGoblin is designed to elevate your narrative, ensuring that your application speaks to who you are and the potential you bring to your dream colleges.

In the spirit of the essays we've explored, your story deserves to be told with authenticity and elegance. Let GoodGoblin be your guide, empowering you to craft narratives that are not just successful but genuinely your own. Discover how our platform can transform your college application experience by visiting us at Let's turn the page to the next chapter of your academic journey, where your voice is heard, and your dreams are within reach.