Ten Successful Harvard Application Essays

For those who are looking for examples of what makes a good essay, here are ten that were just published in Harvard’s newspaper. Also, the NYT publishes essays every year that somehow relate, even tangentially, to the subject of money/finances/economic class. Reading essays like these can give students an idea of how they might approach their own essay.


I’ll look at these more thoroughly later, but do we really know the essays helped these students get in? I mean, a lot of essays have a neutral effect and other factors get the kids in.

I just read the first paragraph and already ran into some bad writing:

"When I was a child, I begged my parents for my very own Brother PT-1400 P-Touch Handheld Label Maker to fulfill all of my labeling needs. Other kids had Nintendos and would spend their free time with Mario and Luigi. While they pummeled their video game controllers furiously, the pads of their thumbs dancing across their joysticks, "

This last (excerpted) sentence is overwritten, and the details are irrelevant. Much better to just write “While they spent their time playing video games…”

The worst advice for essay writers is to aim for this kind of “creativity,” which often means unnecessary adjectives and lots of details that don’t contribute to the main points.

That said, admissions folks, I am sure, take immaturity into account and essays don’t matter as much these days anyway, with all the coaching going on. Applicants should just do no harm and this essay doesn’t do harm.

Keep in mind that these essays were apparently chosen by students, albeit Harvard students.


Wait this links to a site with a commercial ad. It will probably get removed.

The college essay guy’s site publishes many personal statement and supplemental essay examples, and has many great free resources.

Some schools also publish actual essays:


And Tufts Why Us samples:


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I doubt it: one of the essays is sponsored by CC!

Sponsored by Elite Prep

Elite Prep is the overall sponsor. Each essay then has its own different sponsor.

CC sponsors this one: 10 Successful Harvard Application Essays | 2021

Silly me. I just thought that some high school kid, without the first idea of how to approach writing his admissions essay, might find it helpful to read the ten essays here, and might also go to the NYT to read some of the essays that they have published over the past few years. I know that we would have found such a thing helpful; in fact, we found the NYT essays (some of which were very impressive, some not so much), and did find them useful.