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What follows are excerpts from college essays that say a lot about the students who wrote them in just a few short paragraphs . . . 

The sandwich*

The sandwich—a concept so simple, yet so brilliant: take two slices of bread and pick your middle. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a good sandwich. What I like most about the sandwich are the infinite possibilities it offers. If I want a chili, pickle, and chocolate syrup sandwich, I can concoct it with ease. . .

I guess you could say that I’m like a sandwich myself in that I, too, have many different layers. On the outside, I am laid back Jeff, the tennis player with constantly changing hair styles who often dares to be different. Like a pickle hidden between the meat and cheese though, there are parts of me not everyone sees. There is Jeff, the 16-year-old who just got over his fear of roller coasters, and Jeff the avid reader who got caught “sneaking” books in his second grade class and hasn’t stopped gobbling them up ever since. Then, there is Jeff, who listens to loud music but who has a secret soft spot for Sam Cooke tunes. Finally, there is Jeff, future college student, confident on the outside but uncertain what he will be when he “grows up.”

*The University of Pittsburgh sent a postcard to the author of this essay congratulating him on such a wonderful, unique composition!


The rumble of approaching coach busses filled the morning air. It was the first day of summer camp. I, along with the other counselors, anxiously awaited our new campers, who had now begun to file off the busses one by one. There was emotional commotion all around: hugs and visible tears of joy from campers and staff members alike who reunited for the first time in months as one big, happy family.

My experience that summer at Camp Green Lane reinforced many doubts I have had about myself as a teenager. School has always presented certain challenges for me and I often second-guess myself and my abilities. Camp, however, changed that. I know now that I am truly a “people person” who has much to offer. I am outgoing and friendly and am often told I have a great sense of humor. I look forward to having the “camp Scott” embrace all that college has to offer, including meeting and getting to know a diverse student population, developing relationships with my professors, and hopefully, working on the college radio station. . . Sleepaway camp brought out the best in me and I am confident that I can and will succeed at joining a “new family” at college where I can continue to grow and develop my “signature style.” 

The Suitcase

It was an ordinary suitcase: big, black, and in poor condition. Certainly, it was nothing special. The suitcase was old and contained torn sheets and clothing that no longer fit. It traveled with me on my trip to Costa Rica for a summer language and community service program. The plan was to donate the suitcase and its contents to the local people who were in desperate need of basic items.

I soon realized that an act as simple as carrying around a suitcase for a couple of days could make a significant difference in people’s lives. The experience made me more sympathetic to the needs of others. I learned to evaluate decisions and determine how my decisions affect others. My big, black suitcase did not change the world, but it changed who I am as a person and the role I play in this world.

I took a picture of my suitcase that day in Costa Rica as it sat under a bench. When I arrived home, I shared my photo and my story with friends and family. Most importantly, I brought home the most valuable souvenir: the lesson that an unlikely traveling companion can improve the lives of deserving people and can positively impact my life as well. 

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