15 Awesome Common App Essay Examples to Inspire You

An image of a student on their laptop writing a college application essay.

Crafting a great Common App essay is a must if you’re looking to get into any of the 900+ universities that use that application system. It’s a great way to show off your writing skills, express your unique identity, and demonstrate what you’d contribute to your future university. So many essays have been written over the years, meaning there are tons of common app essay examples out there you can look to for inspiration.

The Common App personal statement is your chance to stand out and make a lasting impression on admissions officers who read thousands of essays every year. So, it’s essential to write a meaningful, captivating essay if you want your application to be well-rounded. Doing so is a key step in your college journey! Before we go any further, also know that you don’t have to do this all by yourself. If you want more help, you can get support and feedback from one of Lessonpal’s great College Essay Writing tutors.

Ready for more? Let’s check out some great Common App essay examples!

First, what makes a great Common App essay?

The Common App essay for US colleges should be a reflection of your personality, highlighting the qualities, accomplishments, and dreams that define you. Statistics show that the ideal essay should be written in a casual tone and should provide a glimpse into the student’s goals and ambitions.

Whether you want to nail your essay for Ivy League schools or any other college, these tips will help you make the right impression:

  • Strive to max out the suggested word count of 650 words for their Common App essay in order to use all the space you have to express yourself.
  • Pick a topic that reveals your authentic personality, experiences, and struggles. Show the admissions officers who you are and how you overcame adversity, if applicable.
  • Being genuine in your words and using a style you are comfortable with will create an essay that resonates with readers.
  • Write a compelling hook in the beginning. It will pique the interest of the reader to find out more about you.
  • While making a point, it’s always helpful to use real-life examples and stories to illustrate it. Anecdotes can be especially effective for making a complex concept easier to grasp.
  • Try to avoid using clichés and generic statements. These expressions have been used so often that they can make you blend in with everyone else.
  • Ensure your essay is well-structured, with clear transitions and a logical flow. The ideas must be supported and connected, making a coherent read.
  • Demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and passion in your essay. Your enthusiasm to explore new ideas and your desire to learn must be showcased.

When crafting your essay, always remember the admissions officers who will be reading it. Implement these tips to ensure that your essay stands out and is memorable for them. Now, we’ll lay out Common App essay examples (full essays and introductions) for you to get some inspiration!

5 great Common App essay examples

These examples will inspire you to get started:

Example 1: “How failure became my friend”


“Failure used to fill me with fear and worry, but now I see it as an opportunity for personal growth. Through various failures, I began a journey of self-discovery, learning to embrace failure as a challenging teacher and an important stepping stone on the path to success. This essay looks back on the powerful moments and meaningful realizations that shaped my perspective.

I’ve played baseball ever since I could remember, but somehow, at fourteen, I still wasn’t very good at it. You’d think that ten years of summer leagues and two older brothers who’d been the stars of their teams would have rubbed off on me. But you’d be wrong. I mean, I wasn’t completely hopeless. I was pretty fast, and I could hit my oldest brother’s fastball maybe three or four times out of ten, but I wasn’t about to be scouted for college teams.

My team that summer, the Bengals, wasn’t anything special, either. We had one or two pretty talented guys, but most, like me, were just barely what you could call decent. But somehow we’d almost scraped through the first round of playoffs, with only one game standing between us and the semifinals.

Predictably, the game had come down to the last inning, the Bengals had two outs and players on second and third base, and it was my turn to bat. It was like one of those moments you see in movies. The scrawny kid who no one really believed in hits a miraculous home run, winning the big game for his underdog team and becoming a local legend. Except my life wasn’t The Sandlot, and any hopes my teammates or coach might’ve had for a last-minute rally to victory were crushed. My third was a swing-and-miss and the umpire sent me back to the dugout with a “strike three – you’re out!”

I was inconsolably angry with myself. I spent the entire car ride home tuning out my parents’ words of consolation, replaying my strike-out over and over in my head. For the next few days I was miserable thinking about how, if it hadn’t been for me, the Bengals might have been on their way to a league victory. Nothing anyone said could convince me that the loss wasn’t on my shoulders.

About a week later, some of my friends from the team got together at the park to hang out. When I arrived, I was a little surprised that no one seemed to be mad at me. After all, I’d lost us the game, and they had to be disappointed about not making it to the semifinals.

It wasn’t until we split into teams for an impromptu pickup game that I started to realize why no one was upset. Maybe it was the excitement of reaching the playoffs or the pressure of living up to my brothers’ examples. Sometime during that game, I’d lost sight of why most of us played summer league baseball. It wasn’t to win the championship, as cool as that would have been. It was because we all loved to play. I didn’t need a trophy or a Hollywood come-from-behind win to have fun playing baseball with my friends, but maybe I needed to strike out to remember that.”

Example 2: “Why I want to practice law”


“I have always had a strong desire to pursue justice and create meaningful change. As I’ve navigated through life, I have realized that law provides an effective platform to express my passion and fight for social justice.

I am writing this to explain why I am so eager to pursue a career in law, emphasizing my dedication to champion for the voiceless. Another reason I want to become a lawyer is that I am passionate about justice. I believe that everyone deserves access to justice, and as a lawyer, I would be able to fight for the rights of those who have been wronged. Everyone should have access to the legal system, regardless of their income or social status.

Becoming a lawyer would also allow me to use my creativity and critical thinking skills. The legal profession is constantly changing, and as a lawyer, I would need to be able to adapt my thinking and approach to new situations. This would be a challenge that I would enjoy, and it would allow me to grow as a person.

I have always been interested in social justice and fighting for what’s right. As a lawyer, I will have the opportunity to work on cases that could potentially change people’s lives for the better. I will put my skills and knowledge to the aid of those who may not be able to help themselves.

Of course, becoming a lawyer won’t be easy. It will require dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. But it will be worth it if I can make even a small difference in the world.

I enjoy being able to research and analyze problems on my own, and then present my findings in a clear and concise manner. This type of work requires both critical thinking and strong writing skills, which are two areas that I excel in. Additionally, I have a strong interest in justice and advocacy. Becoming a lawyer would allow me to help others who may not have the same resources or opportunities that I have had.”

Example 3: “What I would change in history if I could go back in time”


“Fortunately or unfortunately, our life does not represent itself as a spiral model where we would be able to go back in time and change some events. Every step we take, as an individual or as the human society in general, is irreversible and cannot be called back. That is why we have to consider all possible outcomes and make the right choice, as we will not have the possibility to fix our mistakes.

Nevertheless, people tend to choose precisely what is the worst for them sometimes, and it may happen for various reasons. One can take a risk, gamble with destiny, not consider all possible options and just randomly choose one. However, it all results in one thing: we regret something we have done and would give everything to go back in time and act differently. This is because what we received after we had made our fatal choice was not what we had expected.

Human history has survived many bloody wars, fights and battles. Our planet bears a deep scar of all the cruelty and evil which has ever inhabited our world. What first comes into my mind when I think about the event that I would like to erase from the annals of world history is undoubtedly World War II.

Each and every human being is taught about this historical event at school. Never have I met a person who would simply take this as a mere historical fact. This war involved the majority of the world’s countries. There can be only a few people in this world who do not have any members of their family, living or dead, participating in the World War II battles. It strikes me with shock when I think that the outcome of this war turned out to be more than 50 million fatalities. Many people were injured and left mentally and physically challenged. It was the deadliest conflict in human history.

Living in the free country under the bright blue sky, I cannot imagine the horror of the people who were not sure whether they would survive through the day. Thankfully, I have never had to be worried about my family’s stability. Comparing my relatively careless life to the sufferings of those trapped by the terror of war have I realized that I take so much for granted. I first became interested in World War II in Middle school and started to read a lot of literature on this topic. This historical event opened my eyes to many things and turned my world upside down at some point.

Firstly, I have lost the belief that our world is full of kind, caring, thoughtful people. The war clearly showed that some people are ready to kill only because others do not support their ideas or opinions. They would kill for the mere purpose of winning the battle, not being able to betray their political and social beliefs for the sake of their moral and spiritual values.

On the other hand, I have learned that there are many people who can stretch out the hand of help to others even when they are in danger themselves. People, who were hiding from the bombings, still cared for other victims, people who were dying from hunger. Still, they shared their food with other suffering human beings. People who lost their families still found the strength to move on and take responsibility for the younger, even though they were not related in any form.

Secondly, I have been shocked by the idea that a strong political leader can get so deep into people’s minds and change their perspectives and beliefs. They can trick them into thinking that their old beliefs were wrong and the ones they presented are the only right ones.

Nevertheless, it is still pleasant to think that there were people who fought Fascists’ ideology and had the heart to rise against it.

Thirdly, I have been impressed by how strong our life is. Even after all the losses and witnessing horrible war since, people who survived were able to get their lives back on track afterward and move on. The terror of war is not fully forgotten, but slowly fading away from their memories and leaving just a feeble trail behind.”

Example 4: “Challenging an idea or belief”


“I’m not really an athlete. I’m all for a rousing game of badminton or tennis, and I enjoy cross-country skiing and hiking, but I enjoy these activities as recreation. I don’t find enjoyment in testing my physical limits to the point of pain. I’m not competitive by nature; I rarely challenge others, or find myself face-to-face with an opponent. Except, to my surprise, if that competitor, that challenger, is simply myself.

“Ok, I need some folks to run a mile,” Mr. Fox, the PE Teacher, bellowed over the 40-odd preteens loitering around the playing fields behind Lafayette Middle School. We were working through a unit on track and field events. Up to this point, I had managed to avoid participation. “It’s four times around the track. Any takers?” A couple of people raised their hands and began assembling at the make-shift starting line. “Well, let’s get a few more out there,” he continued.

Looking over the rest of us, he made a quick assessment and called out, “Johnson. Patterson. VanHouten. And, uh, Baxter.” I froze. Were there any other Baxters in my class? No. Only me. And, to my dismay, I heard myself saying “Okay!” as I made my way to the track, my heart already pounding, my stomach in knots, with zero confidence in myself. I couldn’t do this.

Where did my doubt come from? No one ever said to me, “Oh, you can’t run a mile.” I don’t even remember any askance looks, any raised eyebrows implying I was out of my depth. Middle schoolers can be a cruel bunch, but not that day. There was just that voice in my head, as clear as a bell: “You’ll never be able to run a mile. You can’t even climb stairs without getting winded. It’s going to hurt. You’ll probably pass out. You could never run a mile.” A whole mile? That voice was right. It was, in my mind, impossibly long. What was I going to do?

I ran a mile. There was nothing else to do; I didn’t have time to question it, or come up with an excuse. Sometimes challenging a belief is as easy as just doing something. It wasn’t a conscious “I’m going to challenge this doubt and insecurity I have.” I just started running. Four laps around the track—it took me thirteen minutes. Which, as I research it now, is not particularly impressive. But at the time, I was pretty proud.

For someone who never ran, I was just happy I finished. I didn’t feel great; my legs were shaky and there was something rattling around in my chest, but I had proven myself wrong. I could run a mile. Of course, I ended up throwing up about five minutes later. Even if I had new-found confidence and a sense of accomplishment, my body wasn’t quite ready for it yet.

I’m sure there’s some lesson to be learned there—something about not pushing ourselves too far, too fast. About knowing and assessing our limitations. But that’s not the important moral of the story. I discovered I wasn’t always right. I learned that I was too critical of myself, too cruel, too unforgiving. Yes, I’m not going to the Olympics anytime soon. Yes, I’m not going to set any records for track. But—once I stopped telling myself no, and just got on with the task at hand, I surprised myself. And that’s something I’m carrying with me into my future: the ability to shut off those doubting voices, and sometimes just going for it. I may surprise myself by discovering I can do much more than I thought possible.”


Example 5: “My life as an LGBTQ student”


“Wow I thought black people are supposed to be scary.” This honest and uncensored statement that a little girl recanted as I recited my biographical speech on Florence Nightingale. I was clothed in the white sheets that represented Ms. Nightingale’s pure heart tore down my dignity and self-esteem to shreds like a machete chopping off the foundation of a plant. Nevertheless, these words instilled a spark in me to relentlessly stand up for others that are unjustly judged.

Many years later, I was prompted to act when my friend grumbled about how the Day of Silence for LGBTQ individuals that I and some members of the diversity club initiated was garbage. At first, I ignored him, but then I overheard him tell his like-minded friend that he would “never have a college roommate who was gay.” That very spark in me was lit, and I felt morally obligated to challenge this prejudiced line of thinking.

I began to ask him if he would really refuse to have a roommate who was gay. As our conversation escalated, his face turned red, my heart beat faster, and our voices grew louder. My friend felt that one couldn’t be a devout Catholic like myself and yet support gay marriage. I countered by attacking his Biblical argument that gay marriage is a moral abomination with my belief that Christianity should be about love and acceptance of others. After a drawn-out argument in which I constantly refuted my friend’s points, I remembered that inner beat-down I had suffered many years ago. It really triggered my confrontational stance. This was about a whole lot more than a logical or ethical argument, this was about an attack on my human rights.

I don’t know what it feels like to be gay, bisexual, or transgender. However, I do know what it is like to have a facade of inferiority hang over me because I look “scary.” I know how worthless it is to pat the victim on the back or assure him in times of privacy that “it doesn’t matter what she thinks.” This applies even in the most intimate of settings as I find my friend is not the only one I must confront on such issues but also my own personal heroes.

“But granny regardless of what the bible says isn’t the struggle for gay rights just like the struggle for racial equality?” I know that it may seem wrong to challenge those that have unconditionally loved and taken care of you. Doing so is however important to ensure that others can feel this same love from all people.

I speak up because when one sees an injustice and just shrugs one’s shoulder it is just like promoting it. We live in a society of interdependence in which we must be allies for each other in all social spheres for the continual progress of society as a whole. If one analyzes any prolonged societal injustice against any social group in history, one will see that a critical component in its persistence was the silent approval of the unaffected. I will admit that it can be very confusing at times to stand up for others, especially when it involves challenging ideal systems I’ve always considered absolute or people I look up to. But in order to reap the vast benefits of the great diversity around us, we must take to heart the sorrows of our fellow human-being and make them our own.”


10 strong introductions from Common App essay examples


Example 1: “The strength in telling stories”


“I began measuring my life in flipped pages, packed boxes, and school maps when I was 6. As my family and I flitted between states and coasts for my father’s job over the last decade, I shielded myself with fantasy novels. With my head propped on the baseboard near my nightlight and a book held up in front of me by aching arms…”

Example 2: “Why my family means the world to me”


“Laughter and loud music pour from the upstairs of my house. As I walk closer, the noise gets louder and louder. Clothes are strewn across the floor of the hallway next to open magazines and bottles of hot pink nail polish…”

Example 3: “Importance of equity”


“Does every life matter? Because it seems like certain lives matter more than others, especially when it comes to money.

I was in eighth grade when a medical volunteer group that my dad had led to Northern Thailand faced a dilemma of choosing between treating a patient with MDR-TB or saving $5000. This was the estimated treatment cost for this patient, which could be used to save another life in the future. I remember overhearing intense conversations outside the headquarters tent…”

Example 4: “How physics gave meaning to my life”


“The little white ping pong ball gained speed as it raced down the ruler smashing into the clear plastic cup at the bottom, displacing it a couple of inches. My stubby hands reached for the plastic yellow ruler to measure the distance the collision had caused the cup to move. I still vividly remember taking the fourth grade science test, even then I knew that I liked science and was good at it….”

Example 5: “My story as a first-generation immigrant in the US”


“My background has had a significant impact on my life today. My family has always been supporting my career and life goals, despite their restricted education levels and unfamiliarity with academia. Along with my community, they have cultivated a supportive environment allowing me to build my own identity reflecting my ethic, social, and academic journeys…”

Example 6: “Defeating my fear of public speaking”


“For years, the thought of having to speak in front of a crowd made me so nervous I’d get shivers. But now, public speaking is a sign of how much I’ve grown and changed. I’ve learned that showing my vulnerability is the key to unlocking my potential and connecting with others…”

Example 7: “How volunteering gave me a fresh perspective on life”


“Throughout my life, I have been blessed with more opportunities than many other people my age. This is why I strive to act on all of the opportunities I have been given, while also satisfying my passion for giving back to those who are less fortunate…”


Example 8: “The strength of my multicultural family”


“Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror, questions formulated in my mind. I often wondered about my appearance. I compared my hair to the rest of my family and saw it was not the same. Everyone else had beautiful pin-straight hair, while mine was curly. I knew something was strange because most Asians do not have naturally curly hair. I was different and it made me insecure…”

Example 9: “Why music is important in my life”


“The hard work and practice are over, and now it is time for the curtains to open, the first note to be played, and the show to begin. No longer nervous, I stand there waiting for my final chance to transport the audience to a fictional world. As the lights go down, my mind wanders and I reflect on the gifts musical theater has given me…”

Example 10: “Why I want to become a surgeon”


“When I was twelve years old, a drunk driver hit the car my mother was driving while I was in the backseat. I have very few memories of the accident, but I do faintly recall a serious but calming face as I was gently lifted out of the car. The paramedic held my hand as we traveled to the hospital. I was in the hospital for several weeks and that same paramedic came to visit me almost every day….”

How to use these Common App essay examples to craft your own essay

It’s essential to keep in mind that your essay should reflect your own individual personality and experiences. To make the most of these Common App essay examples, here are some tips on how to craft your own essay:

  • Start your college essay process off with these examples as inspiration.
  • Brainstorm new and creative ways to respond to the essay question.
  • Don’t be afraid to be innovative and put your own spin on it.
  • Reflect on the author’s own experiences and how they’ve used them to express their individual qualities and views.
  • Notice the way the authors elevate their writing with descriptiveness, literary devices, imagery, and more. You can use these strategies too!
  • Pay attention to the particular examples and stories the author employs to demonstrate their points.
Student reviewing Common App essay examples
Image by Freepik

The big picture

Crafting a great Common Application essay can be intimidating, but now you can rise to the challenge. By constructing a well-structured and articulated essay focusing on your individual characteristics and experiences, you can stand out.

Go back through the 15 Common App essay examples we’ve gathered for more inspiration and, most importantly, be true to yourself! To get guidance, support, and feedback on your Common App essay, you can use one of Lessonpal’s awesome online College Essay Writing tutors. They’re flexible and ready to help you succeed in the process. Best of luck.

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