College Admission Essays

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Emily Heikamp - “Why” - University of Virginia

My favorite word annoyed my parents when I was small, and continues to puzzle my teachers today. In fact, it has baffled the greatest minds of all time. This word is responsible for the birth of every religion, and the entire discipline of science is based on this single syllable. Authors, artists and scholars have attempted to explain this word, but each has given a different interpretation. Although it is quite a basic word, complexity lies in its simplicity. When used alone, it may pose a question that many find difficult to answer. This word is also unique, as it is one of the few grammatonyms of the English language (a word that sounds like a letter of the alphabet). It is also a popular word and has even appeared on this very application. My favorite word is “why.” Throughout my life, I have always asked why things happen or even why I must clean my room. “Why” represents a thirst for knowledge and has been an essential part of my education and my life. Asking “why” has produced new ideas and explanations, whereas those who do not inquire “why” must be satisfied with superficial facts. “Why” has given me reasons for working hard, for believing in myself, for applying to U.V.A. and even for my very existence. I shall never stop asking my favorite word, “why.”

Why This Essay Succeeded

In a very brief space, Emily successfully shares an important side of her personality. Clearly this is only one aspect but from the college’s perspective it is probably one of the most significant. Colleges like to see that students are interested in learning and gaining knowledge not because they have to but because they want to. Emily’s essay leaves no doubt that she is passionate about learning more about the world around her.

In at least one of your essays, try to address your academic or intellectual curiosity. What have you enjoyed studying most in high school? What would you like to study in college? What intellectual questions keep you up at night? By sharing this kind of information, you will reinforce to the college that you are ready for the academic rigors.

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