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February 19, 2024


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

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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 Isabella Mendez-Figueroa for the National Association of University Women Scholarship

Essay Prompt: Please explain how your experience volunteering and participating in community service has shaped your perspective on humanity. Elaborate on how these experiences have influenced your future ambitions and career choices.

Essay: I didn’t understand my community until I saw it from the outside, like when you visit a picture of yourself that someone else took that, you weren’t aware of. It took a 3,000-mile flight for me to gain a different perspective of the world, of my world. When I landed in Maine, it was nothing like the place I called home. There was no traffic. There were lots of trees and absolutely no Spanish speakers anywhere. I missed my people, home, and community the most as I saw how other communities fostered creativity, advocacy, and community involvement.

I talked about my community every chance I got, writing a public backlash to Donald Trump and reading out to the group of parents to show them my unique struggle. The election of Donald Trump has forced me to come to terms with the harsh realities of this world. The lack of respect he has for women, minority groups, and factual evidence is alarming. This presidency makes me want to prove wrong all of his perceptions of people like me, people experiencing poverty, immigrants, and women. I left people in awe, leaving me empowered. I had people come up to me and explain that they can relate to my poem about not fitting in, being Mexican American, and not feeling like you can consider yourself American or Mexican because you’re both. I emphasized that I, like many others, am in between, and we have the same platform that anyone else uses to succeed. I explained that many of us hold this pressure of first-generation children of immigrants to prove that we are the proof that our parents' sacrifices of restarting in a new country were worth it. I was the visible representation of a first-generation child of immigrants, branching out into a new environment despite where I had come from and shocking everyone with my prosperity.

Suppose I was the only visible representation available. In that case, I would use my voice to speak for my entire community. I will express all our struggles, hard work, and passions.

Maine helped me branch out in my community as a student ambassador. From this experience, I’ve learned that I can represent my high school and be responsible for assisting staff at events for prospective students and organizing presentations for parents. I spend a lot of time interpreting for parents at meetings and explaining the current events that are ongoing and new educational opportunities that students should take advantage of. I have had the privilege of working alongside office staff and the principal, where I can positively dedicate my time to parents with general questions regarding the school's upcoming events. By saving my time as a Student Ambassador, I have allowed myself to excel at communicating with others and improving my customer service skills. I want my education to change the negative stigmas surrounding my community by showing that it's possible to expand your access to the world and allow you to leave, by choice, through post-secondary education. I am someone who has grown up in an area with limited resources fostering limited mindsets. My neighborhood has four elementary schools, two high schools, and a strip club feet away from a library. What message does that send to children? It's normal in my community to have pregnant classmates in high school. People aren't aware of the world outside. They aren't encouraged ever to leave.

Through my experience as a volunteer who communicates a lot with parents, I have learned that the American Dream belongs not simply to first-generation students like myself but to the generations that came before me. I used to think that growing up was like the passing of a baton where you’re the next runner and it’s your turn to run your best race, but I now see that this is a team effort, as you expand your horizons your family also gets to experience the benefits. I want to demonstrate to my community that there can be a female, bilingual Latina doctor. I want to showcase that one's zip code doesn't determine success. One of the most common questions at these parent meetings is, “What’s better college or university”? This question didn’t make sense initially, but I realized parents wanted to know the difference between community college and a four-year year. Concepts like financial aid, grants, and loans are all foreign concepts, as most of our parents never went to college. They want to be able to help but do not know where to begin. As a student ambassador, I helped bridge that gap. We often held meetings where we explained to parents within our community what resources were available and the differences among the different options for each student. As the student face for Animo, I’ve learned that I, as a student and daughter, can assist my community through the knowledge I have gained. I am the communication needed in my community for further success by using my knowledge and experience to help uplift and educate others in similar situations.

What makes this essay successful?

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This essay presents a deeply personal and reflective account of how volunteer work and community service have shaped the author's perspective on humanity and influenced their future ambitions. The strengths of this narrative lie in its heartfelt storytelling, commitment to community advocacy, and vision for change. Here are the key aspects that contribute to the essay's effectiveness:

  • Personal Journey and Transformation: The essay begins with a powerful analogy that sets the stage for a story of personal growth and increased awareness. The author's experience in Maine catalyzes a broader understanding of their community and the disparities that exist within it. This shift in perspective is a strong foundation for the essay, illustrating how new experiences can broaden one's view of the world and highlight the importance of community involvement.
  • Advocacy and Voice: The author's commitment to using their voice to advocate for their community is a significant strength of the essay. By speaking out against discrimination and representing the struggles and aspirations of their community, the author demonstrates a profound sense of responsibility and leadership. This determination to be a visible representation and voice for others underlines the transformative power of volunteerism and community service.
  • Impact of Volunteer Experiences: The essay effectively showcases how volunteering as a student ambassador has allowed the author to develop valuable skills and serve as a crucial link between the school and the community. These experiences have enabled the author to directly impact their community by providing essential information and support to parents and students, further highlighting the practical benefits of community service.
  • Future Ambitions Inspired by Service: The author's volunteer experiences deeply influence their future ambitions and desire to address their community's challenges. The aspiration to become a bilingual Latina doctor and to challenge the stigmas associated with their community's socioeconomic status reflects a commitment to leveraging their education for social change. This vision for the future is a compelling example of how service experiences can shape one's career goals and sense of purpose.
  • Educational Advocacy: The author's role in educating their community about post-secondary education options, financial aid, and the importance of higher education is a testament to the transformative potential of knowledge sharing. By bridging the information gap for families in their community, the author contributes to a broader effort to expand access to education and opportunity. This aspect of the essay underscores the importance of volunteerism to empower individuals and communities.

The essay is a powerful narrative of growth, advocacy, and commitment to making a difference. The author's volunteering and community service experiences have shaped their understanding of humanity and inspired a clear vision for their future societal role. Through their story, the essay illustrates the profound impact that serving and engaging with one's community can have on personal development and career aspirations.

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.