Essay Examples

With permission from the writers and their parents, college essay examples are featured below. Naked Essay students have had their writing published in Johns Hopkins’ Essays That Worked collection and have been awarded numerous merit scholarships.

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by J.W.

When I was 8 years old, my dad was in a Humvee accident while completing his tour of duty in Iraq. My mom and I rushed to the hospital once he arrived stateside. I still remember the feelings of fear and unease as we waited to see him. Thankfully, my dad’s injuries were not life-threatening; he had sustained broken bones and a moderate head injury. However, the doctor had warned us that the damage to my dad’s hippocampus could cause anterograde amnesia—he would likely have difficulty forming new memories for the rest of his life. As a child, this was a frightening and confusing concept, but the doctors took the time to explain it in a simple, straightforward way that I could understand. This experience ignited the spark for me to want to become a doctor. What impacted me the most was the friendliness and tenderness they showed in spending time comforting my mother and me. It was there that I experienced firsthand the power and compassion of medicine.

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. There, I dissected mice brain tissues, learning more about brain anatomy and the protocols to properly freeze down brain tissue. This was an eye-opening and exciting experience that has only cemented my interest in understanding the human mind and brain. After learning that the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to show damage in Alzheimer’s disease, I’ve followed the progress of Alzheimer’s research including the most recent studies that reveal hallmark changes of the plaques that cause the twists and clumps of tumors that cause Alzheimer’s. One day I hope to help lead the team that finds the cure.

Given the opportunities at Hopkins, I would love to study both neuroscience and psychology. I am especially interested in how our brains create, process, and retain memories. In particular I am excited by the Cognitive Neuroimaging Methods in High-Level Vision course taught by Professor Park and Professor Bedny’s lecture on the Neurobiology of Human Cognition. I am also eager to study at the Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and conduct clinical research aimed at understanding the disease.

Outside of my studies, an extracurricular passion that I hope to continue is volleyball. I would love to be a leader on the Blue Jays club team. I also look forward to getting involved in community service and hope to serve on the student advocacy board for the Center for Social Concern and volunteer at Johns Hopkins Hospital!

Before, it used to worry me when my dad would forget something important to me such as attending one of my orchestra or volleyball events. But my growing understanding of science and constant curiosity have given me hope. Each day, I am continuously awestruck by the complexity and resilience of the human body from what I learn in class, and by working hard I plan to reach my dream of unlocking the mysteries of the hippocampus.
by Bella L.

The energetic, chaotic atmosphere of the fifth-grade Sunday school class at Temple could be seen as overwhelming to some, but it is where I feel at home. Glitter glue is permanently stuck to the tables, and 30 enthusiastic children simultaneously raise their voices to answer questions. I began volunteering as a teacher’s assistant my sophomore year. On my way to bonding with students and helping them discover their Jewish values, I learned a great deal more about myself.

Before I volunteered, I had felt uncomfortable around people with autism. In middle school when I was introduced to our family friends’ son with severe autism, I was too afraid to shake his hand. I can only imagine how my dismissal of his friendly greeting made him feel.

My shame at treating him so callously and my discomfort about having an irrational fear motivated me to research autism. I realized that instead of seeing his developmental disability as a part of him, I was seeing him only as his disability. One morning during Sunday school, while other children were busy twisting pipe cleaners into historic Jewish figures, a new girl with autism named Lexi sat alone. Feeling confident, I sat next to her. At first she was quiet and gave one-word responses, but we slowly developed a connection as she gained more confidence. I was learning the value Tikkun Olam (“repair of the world”) begins with kindness and connection with others, even on a small scale.

Though I was raised Jewish, I had never identified with my religion. While I researched the culture in order to lead group discussions, I realized the same values are a part of me. Intrigued, I joined the Temple’s youth group. There I met friends who became family. Through social action events, community service, and weekly discussions on the meaning of Jewish values in the modern world, I came to feel like part of a community. I loved the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself, and I wanted to share it with others. The following year I ran for Board and was elected secretary. This year I was elected president; I organize our events, lead board meetings, and speak at services. Through glitter glue and community, Temple has led me to become a more confident leader, an empathetic friend, and a better person. I’ve never felt so connected to something so important.
by B.L.

Nearly every day I have a “wow, this is what I want to do” epiphany from a desk in one of my high school classrooms.  From learning about the cardiovascular system to discussing the implications of the American Dream in modern society, my range of interests seems endless. With my parents both being doctors, I’ve had an interest in medicine since I put on my first stethoscope at the age of four. As I began to expose myself to new subjects in school, however, I found that I am also fascinated by English, History, and Government.

At the College of Arts and Science, there are limitless opportunities to explore various academic fields, combine my interests, and discover my passion. I am excited to apply to a school that will allow me to expand my vision to new areas of study, as well as foster the development of my current varied interests. I am especially intrigued by political science and cell biology. With political science being one of Vanderbilt’s top five disciplines, I am eager to explore this field and see if the world of politics is right for me. My American Government class this year piqued my interest, and since then I’ve really enjoyed following the presidential debates and learning about the candidates’ differing views on modern issues.

With Vanderbilt’s reputation as an innovative research facility, I look forward to participating in undergraduate research. Under a professor’s guidance, I will not only develop my academic interests, but also begin to make an impact on the world around me. I am currently working on a paper to enter into the MIT INSPIRE competition.  I am researching the dismantling of care for the mentally ill in America, and the repercussions of the recent closures of psychiatric hospitals, with the goal of determining the best way for America to proceed. I am eager to attract attention to this issue of critical importance. While this research is an opportunity for me to start impacting society around me, Vanderbilt will allow me to participate in projects that have greater and more immediate effects.

I am also excited about the opportunities offered by the AXLE program. While I am unsure about which major I will pursue, I know that I want to make a difference in the world. Whether I will positively impact the lives of my patients as a physician, or a larger group of citizens as a politician, I believe strongly in the importance of critical reasoning.  Whatever field I choose, I hope to be challenged with complex and multidimensional questions. The trait that separates the good from the great is the ability to solve problems and think critically—I know that the AXLE program will help me develop those skills. Because Vanderbilt emphasizes the importance of both academic breadth and the individual student’s interests, I will be able to discover my passion and gain the skills and knowledge necessary to begin making an impact on the world.
by Guilherme L.

Shuffling past the fancy clothing stores in Santiago de Chile, my dad’s face burned with humiliation. His only brand-name possession, a pair of secondhand Adidas, were several sizes too large. He was certain that everyone could tell the toes were stuffed with newspaper.

As a kid, I remember the pain in my dad’s face as he recalled his trip to Chile in 1967. Like many kids in Brazil, he grew up poor. When a rich friend’s family invited him on vacation, his parents saved up $50 so that he would have some means during the trip. It was a lot of money, especially since they were starting a small business and struggled even to pay rent. Because my dad knew the value of that money to his family, he didn’t buy himself anything. He gave the $50 back to his father.

My dad went on to help his parents build a successful business and create a wonderful life, but the lessons he taught me from his childhood have shaped my own ambitions. I am determined to use my education in economics to help reduce global poverty. Transferring to the University of Miami will put me in a position to reach my goals. While FIU has shown me what college is about―being independent, building lifelong relationships, and going after your dreams―the opportunities at UM are unparalleled. Smaller class sizes in my major such as ECO 371 Economic Problems of Latin America and ECO 442 International Monetary Economics will take my passions to the next level. I am excited to be part of a strong campus community through co-curricular programs such as The Launch Pad, Economics Club, and SIFE/Enactus, the business club for students who want to improve standards of living around the world. Additionally, I was recently invited to join FIU’s National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and I hope to have the honor of joining the UM chapter.

I want to have the best possible education in order to be as successful as my parents and grandparents. Success, I learned from them, is measured in the lives you impact. Their 750 employees are like family, and nobody is better than anyone else. My father is just as skilled at cleaning the bathroom as he is at negotiating important contracts. Leadership and service are inseparable, and it is not position or wealth that warrants respect, but the humanity inside each of us. This message is essential today given the economic problems that Brazil is facing. We desperately need a new generation of civic-minded business leaders, and I want to be one of them.

Last year, I founded the online ticket exchange Wanna Ticket. In Brazil, tickets to parties are purchased in advance. After noticing the decentralized market, with buyers and sellers posting to the Facebook pages of each nightclub, Wanna Ticket was born as a safer, more convenient solution. We have now expanded to include all kinds of entertainment events and are making steady progress towards our goal of 500,000 downloads. Soon we will be partnering with a national radio station. While I am flattered to have had this chance of showing my potential at an early age, I have learned the most during times of trouble. When we lost a major investor overnight, it was hard not to become discouraged, but I wouldn’t give up until I had done my best for my team. Going to my father for help or advice wasn’t an option because I wanted to solve the situation as an adult. After making trips around Brazil and scheduling many meetings with investors, Wanna Ticket emerged stronger than ever.

My father says, “The best feeling is to battle for something, and in the end, conquer it.” I hope that becoming a proud UM alumnus is one such memorable achievement and that someday, like my dad, I will have inspirational stories of my own to share.
Of the 1.6 million students who take the PSAT each year, fewer than 1% qualify as NMSC Semifinalists. Of those, less than half are awarded scholarships. On a percentage basis, it’s more competitive than the most selective university! Congrats to Naked Essay student Joy W.!

by Joy W.

When I first made the transition from middle school to high school, I was terrified. What if my friends had all moved away during the summer? What if my teachers were mean? What if I got lost in the big building? Most of all, I dreaded fourth period: honors chemistry. My middle school teachers warned me not to take chemistry as a freshman, but I didn’t listen. I was ready for a challenge. I wanted to learn as much as possible in my four years of high school, so I planned it all out. And it started with chemistry.

On my first day of high school, I made my way through the halls, practically running for fear of being late (but of course, I wasn’t). I had heard horror stories about Mr. Dodd, the chemistry teacher. As soon as the bell rang, he began to explain how he structured the class. We were not allowed to miss a day of class for any reason, and he had zero tolerance for misbehavior. By the time he finished speaking, I was petrified. This was an entirely different environment.

But even though the teacher and the workload were intimidating, I began to love the subject. It was amazing how two solids combined to form a gas and another solid. It was mind-blowing that an acid and a base could react to form the universal solvent, water. The concept of weight vs. mass is fascinating too. Why is weight affected by gravity but mass isn’t? The people who came up with these ideas are beyond amazing! I loved learning about the periodic table and the elements, and to this day, I can still remember the atomic masses of most of the common elements.

In the end, Mr. Dodd turned out to be one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He was extremely organized and explained things very explicitly so that everything made perfect sense. Although he demanded excellence, Mr. Dodd spent untold time and effort to ensure the success of his students. I began to look forward to fourth-period chemistry. Mr. Dodd retired that year, so I wouldn’t have been able to be his student if I had waited another year, and he was a large factor in me taking AP Chemistry my sophomore year. One of his colleagues, Mrs. Derenburger, came out of retirement for a year to teach us. AP only solidified my love for chemistry and I began to seriously consider a career in chemistry. It was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life—I really loved it.

This past summer, I started doing research with a professor, Dr. Xiaoping Sun, at the University of Charleston. I have reduced uranium (VI) to uranium (IV) and created SOCl2, an organic solid, under his guidance. I also plan on researching the production of cosmetics with him. Doing work in a professional laboratory is awe-inspiring and there are so many exciting chemistry processes and techniques that I have yet to learn.

Before I took chemistry with Mr. Dodd, I thought the only way to study chemistry would be through majoring in chemistry in college, but he opened my eyes to endless possibilities. I can combine two of my interests, economics and science, by majoring in economics with a concentration in environmental policy or healthcare. I could also pursue pathology and be able to continue studying chemistry through conducting research and working to find cures for diseases. And there are still countless other pathways I could take that involve chemistry. More than any other subject, chemistry has helped me grow as a person by allowing me to see the impact that I can have on others. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my love of chemistry, and I’m really glad that I was not late that first day of class with Mr. Dodd!
Any reference longer than two words has to be put in quotes and cited with a footnote, even in an informal essay. I learned this important lesson the hard way at the beginning of my junior year. I was confused and humiliated when a teacher took one of my first assignments, a 20-minute SAT home practice essay, to the honor council and presented that I had used a phrase without properly citing. English was my favorite subject and I had always taken a lot of pride in my writing. Being accused of an honor code violation for misunderstanding citation rules seemed unfair. I was given a one day in-school suspension and had hard feelings about it for most of the semester. But over time, and getting to know my teacher better, I started to see the situation differently and appreciate where he was coming from. I understand what I did wrong, and why learning and following citation rules is so important. If I had to learn this lesson the hard way, I’m glad it was early on with a practice essay and not on a real paper, or in college, or at my first job.