A teacher at one of my recent college essay workshops asked,
“What are some good ways for kids to approach the Common Application essay prompt about a person who’s influenced them?"
Here a few tips.
1. Remember what “influence” means.
Influence is defined as, “the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another…” The fact that you admire someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve influenced you. There needs to be some action or change in your actions, behavior or opinions. That means you'll need to give specific examples of those things. Deciding to improve your behavior in school, visiting a particular college you previously refused to see, spending more time volunteering at the soup kitchen—if you did those things because of someone else, that’s influence.
2. Don’t choose this prompt to try to sound impressive.
The Common Application actually gives you five choices of essay prompts. A lot of students who choose this one write about a famous activist, politician, or someone else notable in an effort to sound impressive. Again, you have to remember what “influence” means. The admissions committee doesn’t need to be convinced that Martin Luther King or Gandhi are admirable. Unless you can point to specific examples of how someone famous really has affected your actions, behavior or opinions, choose someone else (or chose a different topic).
3. Focus on the influence, not the person.
The exact wording of the question is, “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.” The subtext there is that you shouldn’t spend the entire essay describing why this person is so wonderful. Spend the essay talking about you—your behavior, actions and beliefs—and how those have changed or strengthened as a result of this person’s influence.
4. Write an essay nobody else could write.
An essay about how your mother has inspired you to work hard is a nice essay. But it will read exactly like hundreds of other students’ essays. Instead, be specific. Give details. Write an essay that no other student could write. And if it’s about your mom, give enough specific examples so that nobody else’s essay about their own mother will be quite like yours.
You can find even more advice in our video, “How to Write Great College Essays.” It’s $12.99 and available as a streaming download.
Filed Under: College essays
Good evening everyone,
I have just started to write my first essay since high school. It is very intimidating to me because I do not make it a habit to write very often. I have started the journal, and it seems to help a little. I was wondering if you would please take a look at what I have written so far, and answer a few of the questions I have. I will put my questions at the bottom. I am required to write a descriptive essay about someone who has inspired me, and write about one way they have inspired me.
ESSAY: FIRST DRAFT
What does someone do to inspire you? To me, inspiration is the process of instilling faith in someone to motivate him or her to do something. Many people do things simply out of the kindness in their heart, and do not realize they are inspiring others around them.
To me, my husband Dave inspires me the most. He is a very loving and caring person. He gives me the strength in my heart to do whatever I put my mind to. He inspires me to do things by example. He inspires me most when I see how his generosity makes other people feel, and how good it makes him feel because of their reaction. From that example, it makes me want to do something so I can experience the same feeling.
Dave always inspires me to make goals for myself, chase my dreams, and to do things to help others. He volunteers whenever he can. A few of his favorites are Cub Scouts, Drug Awareness Programs, Children's Hospitals, Supporting our Veterans, Community Highway Clean-up, and Habitat for Society. He is also very dedicated to helping his country. He has been in the United States Navy for almost 20 years as a Senior Chief Builder in the Seabees. He will retire soon, but his desire to help our country and community will continue.
It was one rainy evening in particular I will never forget. We were sitting in the living room discussing his plans for a motorcycle run to raise money for the Veterans Hospital in Hampton Virginia. The TV was playing in the background, and our son was sitting at the kitchen table working on his homework. In the middle of our conversation, his cell phone rang. He stepped outside to take the call, and I went to check our son's progress with his homework. When he came back into the house, he did not say a word. He just turned the volume on the TV up, and started to watch the coverage for the upcoming hurricane.
He began to explain the phone call he had just received. It was from his boss in the military. He said if the hurricane were going to be as strong as they think it will be, he would have to leave right away to be there for the disaster recovery. This started to make me worry about what was going to happen to the motorcycle run. We had over 200 people already pre-registered, the t-shirts ordered, the food was being prepared, the permits were in hand, and the police escort had already been set up. I knew this was something Dave was passionate about, and it had to go on.
Suddenly, on August 29, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast. There was severe damage mostly in the cities of Mobile, Alabama, Waveland, Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans. At least 1,836 people lost their lives due to the severe storm surge damage. Dave was ready to go as soon as he heard the news, so he could provide help to those who lost everything.
More than 3,000 U.S. Navy Seabees from all over the United States aided in the hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Hurricane Katrina was so devastating; Dave and his crew volunteered to stay longer, and could not make it back in time for the motorcycle run for the veteran's hospital.
His passion to help his community, and our country inspired me to take over the motorcycle run. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives just as Dave would have done. He wanted to make life a little easier not only for our veterans in the hospital, but also the people who lost everything due to the hurricane. After a lot of hard work and dedication, it was a very rewarding feeling knowing I could help that day. The motorcycle run was a huge success, and we were able to present them with a check for over five thousand dollars.
Without the inspiration from my husband, and continuing to do things out of the kindness of his heart, I would not have been motivated to do the things I have done. He continues to inspire me to do things everyday, and I would not be the person I am today without him.
1. I am worried about my commas and semi-colon usage. When I listed the things he volunteers for, did I need to use a comma or a semicolon when I said "a few of his favorites are"
2. "He said if the hurricane were going to be as strong as they think it will be, he would have to leave right away to be there for the disaster recovery." Did I use the word were properly?
3. "There was severe damage mostly in the cities of Mobile, Alabama, Waveland, Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans." Did I list the names correctly?
Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.