Sample Essays Education

Below is a pdf link to personal statements and application essays representing strong efforts by students applying for both undergraduate and graduate opportunities. These ten essays have one thing in common: They were all written by students under the constraint of the essay being 1-2 pages due to the target program’s explicit instructions. In such circumstances, writers must attend carefully to the essay prompt (sometimes as simple as “Write a one-page summary of your reasons for wanting to pursue graduate study”) and recognize that evaluators tend to judge these essays on the same fundamental principles, as follows:

  • First, you are typically expected to provide a window into your personal motivations, offer a summary of your field, your research, or your background, set some long-term goals, and note specific interest in the program to which you are applying.
  • Second, you are expected to provide some personal detail and to communicate effectively and efficiently. Failure to do so can greatly limit your chances of acceptance.

Good writers accomplish these tasks by immediately establishing each paragraph’s topic and maintaining paragraph unity, by using concrete, personal examples to demonstrate their points, and by not prolonging the ending of the essay needlessly. Also, good writers study the target opportunity as carefully as they can, seeking to become an “insider,” perhaps even communicating with a professor they would like to work with at the target program, and tailoring the material accordingly so that evaluators can gauge the sincerity of their interest

Overview of Short Essay Samples

Geological Sciences Samples

In the pdf link below, the first two one-page statements written by students in the geological sciences are interesting to compare to each other. Despite their different areas of research specialization within the same field, both writers demonstrate a good deal of scientific fluency and kinship with their target programs.

Geography Student Sample

The short essay by a geography student applying to an internship program opens with the writer admitting that she previously had a limited view of geography, then describing how a course changed her way of thinking so that she came to understand geography as a “balance of physical, social, and cultural studies.” Despite her limited experience, she shows that she has aspirations of joining the Peace Corps or obtaining a law degree, and her final paragraph links her interests directly to the internship program to which she is applying.

Materials Sciences Student Sample

For the sample from materials sciences, directed at an internal fellowship, the one-page essay has an especially difficult task: The writer must persuade those who already know him (and thus know both his strengths and limitations) that he is worthy of internal funds to help him continue his graduate education. He attempts this by first citing the specific goal of his research group, followed by a brief summary of the literature related to this topic, then ending with a summary of his own research and lab experience.

Teach for America Student Sample

The student applying for the Teach for America program, which recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in underprivileged urban and rural public schools, knows that she must convince readers of her suitability to such a demanding commitment, and she has just two short essays with which to do so. She successfully achieves this through examples related to service mission work that she completed in Ecuador before entering college.

Neuroscience Student Sample

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.

Medieval Literature Student Sample

This sample essay immerses us in detail about medieval literature throughout, eventually citing several Irish medieval manuscripts. With these examples and others, we are convinced that this student truly does see medieval literature as a “passion,” as she claims in her first sentence. Later, the writer repeatedly cites two professors and “mentors” whom she has already met, noting how they have shaped her highly specific academic goals, and tying her almost headlong approach directly to the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, where she will have flexibility in designing her own program.

Beinecke Scholarship Student Sample

The Beinecke Scholarship essay is written by a junior faced with stiff competition from a program that awards $34,000 towards senior year and graduate school. This student takes an interesting theme-based approach and projects forward toward graduate school with confidence. This writer’s sense of self-definition is particularly strong, and her personal story compelling. Having witnessed repeated instances of injustice in her own life, the writer describes in her final paragraphs how these experiences have led to her proposed senior thesis research and her goal of becoming a policy analyst for the government’s Department of Education.

Online Education Student Sample

Written during a height of US involvement in Iraq, this essay manages the intriguing challenge of how a member of the military can make an effective case for on-line graduate study. The obvious need here, especially for an Air Force pilot of seven years, is to keep the focus on academic interests rather than, say, battle successes and the number of missions flown. An additional challenge is to use military experience and vocabulary in a way that is not obscure nor off-putting to academic selection committee members. To address these challenges, this writer intertwines his literacy in matters both military and academic, keeping focus on applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), his chosen field of graduate study.

Engineer Applying to a Master’s Program Sample

This example shows that even for an engineer with years of experience in the field, the fundamentals of personal essay writing remain the same. This statement opens with the engineer describing a formative experience—visiting a meat packaging plant as a teenager—that influenced the writer to work in the health and safety field.  Now, as the writer prepares to advance his education while remaining a full-time safety engineer, he proves that he is capable by detailing examples that show his record of personal and professional success. Especially noteworthy is his partnering with a government agency to help protect workers from dust exposures, and he ties his extensive work experience directly to his goal of becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist.

Click here to download a pdf of ten short essay samples.

  • Alexa Rain 3 months agofrom egypt

    A lot of inspired topics and issues,

    you always help in finding ways by arrange your reader thinking and informative things.

    i am big fan of you.

    Great Hub!

  • Virginia Kearney 4 months agofrom United States

    Hi Christina--My articles on how to write can help you! Find them by looking to the side or on my profile page. Or just use Google and type what you need with my name.

  • Christinaaa 4 months ago

    I'm trying to write an argument research paper on social media and mental illness or social media and relationships but I'm having trouble narrowing my topic and creating the key points for my paper.

  • Virginia Kearney 5 months agofrom United States

    Hi Rosie--You have a good topic and an interesting personal connection. I'd suggest that you do a frame story introduction and conclusion. Start with your situation and then stop part-way through and ask the question: should you call CPS? Then do your answer and tell why or why not. Finish with telling the end of your story. See my articles on "How to write an argument paper" and "How to write a position paper" for full instructions.

  • rosie 5 months ago

    Wondering how to write a position essay. Topic should you call Child Protective Services. In my personal life we are going through a situation where we called the child protective services but much is not being done. Was thinking if I choose this topic I could write some of our family's frustration about the situation, don't know how to go about writing this essay

  • Virginia Kearney 6 months agofrom United States

    Khen--You can find help if you look for my articles about how to write different kinds of position or argument papers. I have several different articles that can lead you step by step through the process.

  • Khen 6 months ago

    Can you please help me in my position paper?

  • Virginia Kearney 7 months agofrom United States

    Roami, You have an interesting idea. I think one way for you to get some good information to start your paper is to research why local languages are not included in the instruction first. Next, you might want to interview some people to find out their positions and to get some quotes on this topic. Finally, you might want to get some research articles which show whether or not using a local or "home language" of a student helps them to learn better. In the United States, research has shown that students who receive some instruction in their own language at least at first often do better in the long run than a child who is "fully immersed" in English. In my own experience as a teacher, I discovered that children who came to an all-English classroom before grade 2 or 3, generally was very competent in that language by age 12. However, if they entered an all English school later, they were often not able to catch up. However, that only works if the child is in a school where no one else speaks their native language (as is often true in the U.S. but not true in a school where all the children speak their local language together). You have a wonderful topic and one that is very important for your country to consider. I wish you great success in your paper.

  • roami 7 months ago

    pls, i need u to look into this position topic for me. Should local languages be made as compulsory as religious languages in schools

  • Virginia Kearney 9 months agofrom United States

    Hi Sam, you might want to try my article about Funny Argumentative Essay Topic Ideas, or else do the negative of any idea here or in one of my many other argument essays. In a "devil's advocate" paper, you want to go against what most people think. Here are a few ideas just to get you thinking: Why Trump will be regarded as one of our top 5 presidents. Why we should leave ISIS alone. Why race is less a problem in America than Europe. Why the leader of North Korea isn't really crazy.

  • Sam 9 months ago

    Hello,

    I have this assignment of playing the role of devil's advocate and I can't think of a good topic!

    help!

    ( I personally prefer a political related topic).

  • Virginia Kearney 12 months agofrom United States

    Aidyn-You add a very interesting position topic. I had not thought about schools making rules against fasting but it certainly could hurt a child's performance in school if they were fasting for a longer period than a day or two. That could cause a school to be concerned. Thanks for your comment and idea.

  • Aidyn Krikorian 12 months ago

    I greatly appreciate your website, and I have a suggestion for a topic. "Should we allow fasting or other religious acts in schools?" This topic facsinates me and I do hope you will consider it. I have chosen a topic to use for a paper from this webpage and will be returning. Thank you, Aidyn.

  • Virginia Kearney 12 months agofrom United States

    Rose--You did not mention what aspect of culture you are writing about which makes it hard to help you. However, for example, if you are writing a paper arguing to people that only like modern music that classical music is worth listening to, you could start by talking about what you agree with about modern music and acknowledge why people of your generation might prefer to listen to it. Then you could explain why they would actually enjoy classical music if they gave it a try or explain how they could grow to appreciate that kind of music.

  • rose lasu 12 months ago

    I need help on my regerian Argument eassy on culture. I dont now how to start it, Does anyone knows how.thanks

  • Preston Heard 14 months ago

    These are great topics for the upcoming research essays. I will definitely be using one of them. Thank you for this resource!

  • Aaron Gibson 14 months ago

    Excited for your class this semester!

  • Matt Hartman 14 months ago

    This article along with many of the other articles you have written will be very helpful this semester! I'm looking forward to your class!

  • Virginia Kearney 16 months agofrom United States

    Look for my articles about how to write argument or position essays for lots of ideas on how to introduce essays and find sources. Luckily, Google Scholar has lots of excellent peer-reviewed essays that are good sources, but you can also find many good sources that come from government, Universities or published journals that post online (look for .gov, .edu or a journal that also appears in print). One easy way to start your introduction is to tell a story about a student who is generally shy (or maybe bullied) but gets excited (and more included by others) when they are able to share about their own culture during a multiculturalism unit.

  • jenn 16 months ago

    I am doing an Apa essay on "should schools be required to teach multiculturalism" any idea on how I should start my intro and what sources I should use?

  • Virginia Kearney 17 months agofrom United States

    Bebe--You don't tell me whether your paper is a research paper or not, but I've written many articles on how to write different sorts of essays. You can use the search engine on HubPages to find them, or look at the links that usually appear when you pull up one of my articles. Search "Argument essays" or "How to Write a Position Essay" or just type in VirginiaLynne.

    To start a paper on your topic, I think I would use a story in the introduction showing a miscommunication when people don't talk face to face.

  • bebe 17 months ago

    Hey . Can you please help me in my position paper . I dont how to start . My topic is cellphone,texts and emails are not as good as talking face to face . It is from yours sample :) thank you

  • B-RAD 24 months ago

    I think that is video gaming good or bad is a great topic to choose.

  • Virginia Kearney 2 years agofrom United States

    Yes Alsaifl, I think that "What is beauty?" could be a topic. You are right that your answer would be a definition claim.

  • Jumanah Alsaif 2 years ago

    Is the topics What is true beauty? (definition) a good topic for a position paper? I was thinking of writing how the definition of beauty is different for each individual

  • Brittany Adams 14 2 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting! This helps a lot with my writing!

  • Tariq Ali Khan 2 years ago

    Excellent work buddy! Thank you so much !

  • Kristen Howe 2 years agofrom Northeast Ohio

    Great topics for a variety of essays for everyone who needs to be inspired. Voted up for useful!

  • Joanna 3 years ago

    That Tom Hanks video is hilarious. These ideas are very thought-provoking and inspiring!

  • Virginia Kearney 3 years agofrom United States

    Cindy A. So glad I was able to give you some good information!

  • Cindy A. 3 years ago

    Unbelievable. You have helped me enormously. Thank you so much

  • Bluerider 3 years ago

    Thank you for these great topics.

  • VJG 3 years agofrom Texas

    This would be an interesting article for school students. They always seem to struggle for essay ideas.

  • Virginia Kearney 3 years agofrom United States

    Hi Safa--Here are the main steps:

    1. Choose a question you are going to write about. Then think about what your answer to the question is going to be.

    2. Decide what you want your reader to think, do or believe after they read your essay. That is your thesis (the answer to your question).

    3. Decide who you want to persuade to believe this (that is your reader or audience). Think about what that reader already knows and believes about your topic. That will help you develop your arguments. The reader should not be someone who already believes what you do. If they do, you aren't really arguing are you?

    4. Think of at least 3 reasons why your reader should believe your thesis. Those reasons will be the main body part of your essay.

    5. Think of examples or evidence which supports each of those reasons. That is what you will use to support those three reasons.

    6. What objections will your reader have? Write those out and also your answers to those objections. This will be a paragraph after your reasons.

    7. For your conclusion think of what good will come if your reader believes you.

    I've written more in detail about this in my article: https://owlcation.com/academia/How-to-Write-an-Arg...

  • Virginia Kearney 4 years agofrom United States

    Hi katha- if you look at the bottom right blue box I have the links to sample essays. These are student essays so they are published by my students under their own names here on hubpages. Maybe I should move these up on the page so you can find them more easily.

  • Virginia Kearney 4 years agofrom United States

    Samarah--Yes I think that vaccinating children is a very good topic. You can also narrow that to particular types of vaccinations that are new like the chickenpox vaccine or the HPV. Another possible argument on this topic is whether or not it is true that vaccines are the main reason for better health in people today than in the past.

  • samarah15 4 years ago

    Is the right to vaccinate children a good topic?

  • Virginia Kearney 4 years agofrom United States

    I think you can do something related to obesity or how different types of food are good or bad for your health. Or you can talk about GMO foods or organic or locally grown produce.

  • Virginia Kearney 5 years agofrom United States

    Xstatic--I love the fact that you do have a position on everything--I like to look at all sides of things and that is great as an instructor teaching positions, because I can play the devils advocate, but sometimes I do need to just nail down my own point of view!

  • Jim Higgins 5 years agofrom Eugene, Oregon

    A great "how to" for position papers. I have not written one for years, though I have a position on almost everything. Useful Hub and well done as usual.

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