Recommended Books with Samples of College Essays

High school seniors are now in the throes of writing 650-word personal statements for the Common Application. Or, if you are looking at the University of California schools, 1,000 words divided between two essays.

Students struggling with their essay can benefit from reading previously submitted and successful essays. Often these essays, which cover a broad selection of topics, writing styles and overall quality, assure a student that his or her ideas fit within the band of what is acceptable. The submitted essays can energize the student to write.

I can recommend two especially effective compendia of college application examples.

The Berkeley Book of College Essays: Personal Statements for California Universities and Other Select Schools

Fifty Successful Harvard Application Essays: What Worked for Them Can Help Get You into the College of Your Choice

A warning: these sample essays are for help only. Do not copy them! 

The essay is meant to express yourself in a way that is coherent with your application as a whole. A beautiful essay written by someone with different activities, classes, recommendations and life circumstances will just not make sense. Your application will become incoherent.

More importantly, many colleges now use software to detect plagiarism. Just as you have these books in your hand, so do college admission officers and search services. Essay plagiarism is reason for an automatic rejection -- so read for inspiration only!