The sample essay by a neuroscience student opens with narrative technique, telling an affecting story about working in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Thus we are introduced to one of the motivating forces behind her interest in neuroscience. Later paragraphs cite three undergraduate research experiences and her interest in the linked sciences of disease: immunology, biochemistry, genetics, and pathology.
Sometimes you have a story to share that doesn't quite fit into any of the options above. However, the first five topics are broad with a lot of flexibility, so make sure your topic really can't be identified with one of them. Also, don't equate "topic of your choice" with a license to write a comedy routine or poem (you can submit such things via the "Additional Info" option). Essays written for this prompt still need to have substance and tell your reader something about you.
Perhaps somewhere between these two attitudes is the most profitable approach when studying the work of your peers. In critiquing the work of others who essentially represent your competition, you should take a respectful stance both critical and kind, just as selection committee members are likely to do. The sample essays in this chapter represent personal stories that are intriguing, diverse, complex, honest, and humanizing. These samples present opportunities for you to study, admire, question, emulate, reject, and—most importantly—consider how to present the best, truest, most effective picture of yourself, carefully refined for the eyes of others.
Smalley was born in Akron, Ohio, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. His father, a publisher of agricultural trade journals, worked with his son in their basement shop, building things and fixing mechanical and electrical equipment—good background for a future inventor of scientific instruments. It was Smalley’s mother who inspired her youngest son with a love of science. She had returned to college after having four children and enjoyed discussing her studies with him. Smalley’s aunt, Sara Jane Rhoads, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wyoming, also served as a great example and gave Smalley a summer job in her laboratory. He began his undergraduate studies in chemistry at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and finished at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Rather than going directly to graduate school, Smalley worked at the Shell Chemical Company’s polypropylene plant and technical center in Woodbury, New Jersey, for four years, after which he enrolled in doctoral studies in chemistry at Princeton. He did his postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago, where he pioneered supersonic jet laser-beam spectroscopy. Smalley joined Rice University in 1976 to collaborate with Curl.
Sample essays for professional school—written by students applying for business, law, or medical school—are abundant online, and they also can be highly specialized. Many medical schools require two separate applications: one directly to the target school itself and one through the , both of which usually require essays. Both law and business schools also often require multiple essays of their applicants, with questions ranging from details about your personal background to questions asking you to write an essay exploring a controversial issue. Therefore, I provide just a few samples of professional essays here in the pdf link below, referring you to online sites in the “Self-Study” box below for further study and targeted samples.
The two business application essays, written by the same applicant, are in response to questions posed by an MBA program, which is especially interested in how candidates take risks and overcome challenges. The writer handles the first question, which allows for one page to describe a personal risk and its impact, by vividly recounting a life-changing 3500-mile bike trip he took across the US with his brother at the age of 21. The second essay gives applicants two pages to describe a challenging team experience and their contributions to its success. Here, the writer has the advantage of having already worked in business for a few years after completing his bachelor’s degree, so he wisely turns to his most successful team experience at his company, where he was a project leader.