Well, that's relative to what you define as "killer." A college admissions essay where you feel confident, passionate and overall happy about what your wrote is killer, regardless of what admissions counselors says. But, of course, you didn't come here to listen to some generic comments. Below, you will find a college essay that worked for me along with an in depth analysis of each one.

Sohil Shah '19

Prompt #1: Common Application Essay

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.


Dear Common Application,

Asking me to capture 17 years' worth of life in 650 words should be outlawed. Truth be told, my life is more than one central story; it's the evolution of life experiences that have morphed into who I am today. This is the real Sohil Shah:

1. I am the Indian version of Uncle Sam

Mother: "Tharo divas kevo gyu?

Me: "It was good, the usual."

Mother: "Tiekh."

Conversations like these have pervaded the past 17 years of my life. Born into rural lives, my parents emigrated from India in 1989, bringing with them years of ancient Indian culture. Our home is permeated by Indian traditions, but I am committed to embracing aspects of American culture as well.

For a family who only knew of Thanksgiving as a time when school was closed, I wanted to finally embrace the holiday as many of my peers did, through feasting. For the past four years, I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner. My pumpkin pie is impeccable.

I've learned that open mindedness towards others' beliefs and traditions are absolutely essential. Being strictly American or Indian does not define me; being able to celebrate both heritages with equal respect and enthusiasm does.

2. Someone Please Buy me a GPS.

They said it would be easy-march eight steps forward and eight steps back. It's not.

The tubas lumbered before me. CRASH!

I toppled over. I was in pain, my face red, consumed with anger and scarred with grass stains. I got up, embarrassed by my impaired lack of direction. Practice continued, and I pretended to know where I was going.

I've never possessed a great sense of direction. However, no matter the trial, I've learned to painstakingly work through it. Even though disaster may have threatened, and even if I proved to be the cause of a domino line of band kids to fall, still I persisted and vowed the same error would never happen again.

Falling down is more important than standing. Learning from my mistakes, rather than perfectly building on skills, is what drives me to work hard. And although it takes me longer, I persist. Because when I finally make it to my spot unscathed, I know I have won.

3. My brain shines like a Christmas tree under a PET scan.

With curiosities ranging from botany to the Revolution of 1800, I am an intellectual mess. Fortunately for me, my friends concur with my ravenous thirst for knowledge by contributing topics such as chemistry, music theory, and statistics to the melting pot.

With so much to know in this world, it is an utter shame not to conquest in curiosities that beckon and stir the imagination. However, in a time when technology is solving many of the world's enigmas, I am hopeful that mysteries will still be left for me to uncover.

4. In a world where sexism dominates, I am bold, courageous, and even adventurous.

I dance. Yes, I am part of the slim percentage of males in this world who dance. And I am proud of it.

When I tell people I dance, the utter responses I receive vex me. But I am not ashamed.

Although I passionately enjoy cultural dance, I believe that dance as an actual form of expression takes a backseat to a more important central message: in this world, be who you want to be and do what you want to do. Don't let others block your path and be true to yourself. Be bold. Be courageous. Just dance.

As evident, my life is a story of lessons, experiences and skills that when combined, personify who I am. Although I may fail more than others, juggle two cultures simultaneously, possess a strange penchant for knowledge, and dance 'till I drop,' it is these MANY experiences that make up the overarching image of who I am-another kid making it big.


Sohil Shah


Just take a look at the format of the essay. Nothing more, nothing less – just the format. You may wonder, "oh, this kid got into college because of the format of his writing and numbering of 1-5," or "he didn't even write in a introduction, body paragraph and conclusion essay style, how on earth is he in college?!" While these are both very valid points, they are not the reason for my acceptance or rejection to a certain school.

The entire premise of this essay was bold, daring and charismatic. Put aside the physical style of the essay and focus solely on the content. Read the question; it asked if "I had a story that is central to my being or identity." Then, look at my first few sentences. What do I do? I flat out reject Common Application by telling them "bro, wait. I have more than one story that makes up who I am!" I took a HUGE leap and risk by not directly answering the Common Application; this is a bold and daring move that shows admissions counselors that I am able to step out of my comfort zone, make new thoughts and provide alternative points of view.

I then go on to provide 4 distinct examples, or anecdotes to be precise, of what has made me, me. In the first one, I talk specifically about my ethnic background; however, I focus on the aspect of diversity and open mindedness. In the second anecdote, I focus on my ability to persevere and overcome all obstacles that come my way. The third anecdote speaks on behalf of my drive and crave for new ideas, thoughts and intellect. And lastly, the fourth anecdote provides a message to the reader that I do whatever I want for all the reason why I want; hence, I am my own person and no prompt can strip me away from my complex identity.

Finally, I conclude the essay by reiterating the main points of my anecdote, while also providing a creative exit plan. In the first paragraph, I boldly claimed that "asking me to capture 17 years' worth of life in 650 words should be outlawed." In the last paragraph, however, I go on to explain and conclude that my life is more than 650 words, as evident by these short snippets of my life, and it is these many experiences that make up my central being and identity.

While you definitely do not have to have writing that is as complex of a style as mine, it is important that you identify what kind of story you have. What kind of story makes you, you? Why does that one event, one place or one time define or does not define the individual you have become today. Those are all important questions to have answered in a winning college admissions essay.

Don't use this essay as means of comparing it to your own. Don't do this at all. Rather, use these methodologies of creating ideas, skills to articulate your voice and passion and creative juices to get your essay to be truly killer.