Essay on Family Businesses
Family business overview.
Currently, business family is becoming more influential and simpler to manage. This type of business is mainly owned by people with close relation to other forms of business internationally (Aguila and Briozzo, 2020 pp 49). Therefore, a family business can be defined as a business type in which two or more family members or related people form a cartel, thus operating as one firm. In most cases, the business’s complete control lies within the family members since they have common objectives to achieve. According to the research, the family business is recognized as one of the international forms of business contributing to the growth and development of most countries’ economies. Nowadays, the family business is believed as the engine of industrialization in most countries since they have contributed significantly to revenues and tax provision, especially to the governments (Ahmad and Yaseen 2018 pp 345). For any country to achieve its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), micro-business, such as family business and other small operating businesses, should provide taxes and revenues to the government.
Even though family business is categorized as micro, multinational family corporations can operate in more than two countries. Most of these multinationals’ family businesses are located in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Colombia. Basing the research conducted by the Institute of Family Business (IFB) 2012, about 5millions micro-businesses operating internationally are private sectors. These macro businesses contribute approximately 76% internationally to create job opportunities for the family members and other none related people (Antcliff et al.; 2020 pp 34 ). In the United States of America, micro-businesses such as family businesses are more considered than governmental sectors. Family businesses are believed to have contributed positively to providing affordable products and services to most unstable people.
In most cases, the family business is owned and directed by family members, thus minimizing the chances of loss due to poor organization. The main strength of a family business is that there are no interferences since its characterized by monopolistic. Here are some examples of the most successful family business in the world.
Family-owned businesses are believed to be the oldest form of business organizations. Since the 1980s, the research shows that family business has distinct significance, especially in raising the county’s Economy; that’s why most countries consider operating micro-businesses as big firms and companies.
These family businesses are currently recognized as crucial and dynamic participants contributing to the highest world economy (Brenkman, 2020 pp 67-89). Basing U.S statistics, 90 percent of the United States of America owned family business. The growth and development of family business have mainly contributed in some countries such U.K. and Colombia. According to the IFB, the United Kingdom record more than a 4.8million family business which occupies more than 88 percent of the total business conducted within the United Kingdom. Currently, family businesses are the backbone of the United Kingdom economy, thus contributing about $ 150 billion annual tax. Within the age of huge businesses, it is significant to understand why family businesses are emerging to be the most successful than other forms of enterprises. In the United Kingdom, family business is growing at a higher rate, thus tending to outperform other close companies in physical markets. Naturally, United Kingdom is a unique country dominated mainly by heritage and encourages most families to inherit their parents’ work even if they pass away (Caputo et al.; 2018). The aspects of origin in the country elaborates on why the percentage of family businesses is rapidly increasing every year. In most cases, the family businesses are operated depending on the types and complexity of each. For instance, the chart below shows different kinds of family businesses and how they are managed.
The main reasons family businesses are more than other private sectors are that they are easy to perform and operate since they do not need to hire specialists or managers. Instead, they are primarily used and ran by related people. Additionally, these types of businesses do not incur much labor costs since they mostly rely on family members who are always available to offer free assistance (Seaman et al.; 2019 pp 345). According to Bolton Consulting Groups (BCG) arguments, the analysis shows that family businesses contribute about 45 percent of all the companies and organizations. To prove this, Dyson and JCB are good examples of the most prominent family businesses in the United Kingdom, which participate within their country and internationally. In connection to this, family businesses are the largest employers in the United Kingdom. So, it’s clear that family businesses have more benefits since people are derived by their determinations and what they need to achieve after operating their business.
Characteristics of Family Business
Family businesses are characterized by several features, which makes them operate successfully, unlike other companies. Family businesses are monopolistic by nature since only family people, and other relatives can run the business. In most cases, the business will only operate depending on the culture and norms of the family, thus not satisfying customers’ needs. From a perspective, a family business has operating hours and mostly may limit people from purchasing since customers have different times of purchasing. Basing the analysis of 33 countries, family businesses are simple to manage since their structure is less complex than other operating businesses (Chang et al.; 2020 pp 56). The design and characteristics of a family business depend on the number of people involved in the business operations. Concerning this, some features can be tangible while others are intangible. One of the most crucial characteristics of a family business is its strong trust and the inter-relationship between the family members.
In contrast to the other companies, there exist constant ideological differences between the management and other stakeholders within the industry. Regardless of the type of ownership and management team, the entire family members remain the critical participants in the company and can immediately decide to manipulate the nature of products they deal with. Another characteristic of a family business is that the management is always informal, and it’s hard to recognize any mistakes arising from the way of operations.
Most managers of these businesses have no definitive ideas to promote the business’s operations from one level to another.
The excessive intermingling between the company and family members may encourage financial problems since most of the business’ capital can be directed to family issues that were not planned in the money. In some family businesses, there is no working time and private hours. Therefore, the operation of the company may become monotonous to some members. Naturally, doing one thing over a long time reduces interests (Pham et al.; 2019). Even though a family business may consist of other non-family members, the ownership and management of the company lie within the family members only. The figure below shows an example of business ownership and its structure. This is one of the main characteristics of family business currently
Therefore, the family business needs more management teams to ensure proper supervision is achieved. In some countries such as Canada and Australia, family business focuses on the companies’ long-term sustainability rather than gaining considerable profits. Most family businesses have limited access to goods and services; therefore, all characteristics of family business are passed from one generation to another. The generation to come will have to use unique features but what they think it’s good. However, according to Ryann’s arguments, family businesses have supported entrepreneurship since most family members another characteristic of a family business is complete control in terms of productions since the family is responsible for any required materials. However, most companies produce limited goods and services, such that there are no suppliers that can benefit none family people. To have a robust business, most families form cartels and partners with other more developed cooperation’s thus getting more chances of thriving in business.
Challenges facing family business
Even though family business is simple to manage, there are several challenges. The main challenge affecting family businesses is a generation gap. When many generations of different families are administering the company, the rate of changing from one technology to another might take long since not all people may understand it (Friar and Clark, 2021). For instance, the founders of some family businesses may resist handing off the management responsibilities to other upcoming families. This action creates characteristics of monopoly since most leaders make decisions based on their perspectives and ignoring the opinions of others. Even though younger generations may have some great ideas on how the business can operate efficiently and accurately, they are never involved in the business operations. This means that the company will continue working within flawed and outdated technologies since they lack the knowledge and skills to implement the new ideas (Heinonen et al .;2020 pp 1-34). Due to this, there may occur conflicts and frustrations since some employees feel that their voices and opinions are not considered in the implementation of the business.
Currently, most family members fail to understand that everybody can contribute positively to the industry. To overcome such challenges, the family should negotiate towards the succession of leadership without chaos. Another challenge associated with family businesses is business culture. In this type of business, it’s tough for the company to accept all cultures and values from different families. Even if related people form the industry, some people have different cultural opinions that may not match other family members involved. For example, Samsung business involves different families with different ideological thinking thus may be difficult to operate within the same culture. In this case, most family businesses use basing the cultural system of the paramount families. The interferences of business can lead to low turnover rates, thus reducing the productivity of the company. Setting up payment strategies can currently face other problems facing family business (Núñez et al., 2018). Determining payments in the industry may raise conflicts because some members cannot be paid equally. The prices should be determined based on the duties and responsibilities of the individuals; however, some family members may demand equal payment, thus building uncertainty and mistrust. Some employees may get annoyed in the reaction to such cases since they don’t expect to work hard and get fewer payments.
When employees are not positively encouraged, they may lose morale, while others may decide to leave the job to look better. Therefore, this means some family members will lose business morale and, with time, will seize supporting business operations. Another challenge affecting family business is mixing business with home life. According to the research, when family members work in the same companies and organizations, it becomes challenging to make definitive decisions without basing personal feelings. (Kanade et al.; 2020) Due to this, family businesses can operate poorly due to family events, whereby families may decide to make frequent holidays that do not concern business operations. The issue of holding every family member in the same standard is another challenge facing family enterprises. For instance, some employees may be spending a lot of time in the breakfast rooms than in the business desk operations. The aspects of some members westing time in the busines may contribute low output thus reducing the business’s productivity.
When some people in the business are not operating according to business formalities, the other employees may develop negative implications. They may not work smart to achieve the objectives and anticipated target of the organization. Additionally, these behaviors will create laxity and mistrust in the organizations. According to the research, the most family business faces interferences and challenges from within the family members especially those in the top management (Michiel et al.; 2017 pp 369). Planning for the future is another upcoming challenge facing the operations of most family businesses. Since most family enterprises are characterized by solid planning, it becomes difficult to modify the planned decisions.
Consequently, making decisions becomes tedious because of the extended channels to be followed. If the business involves more than two families, the decisions are made based on both families’ final discussions. Therefore, before plans and decisions are made, there must be consultations from all the family and relatives. Nowadays, there is a need for family members to understand how the business should be conducted to avoid such challenges.
To overcome the social and economic contributions made by the family businesses, there are crucial aspects that we need to look at. Both characteristics and challenges associated with family businesses can be overcome if the family members get serious with business and stop focusing on things that do not relate to the business (Michiel et al.;, 2017 pp 369). According to the discussions, most family businesses are affected by top management’s ignorance since they think they control everything in the business basing their knowledge. According to my perspective, family businesses can only improve if the management team considers the opinions of others. To have good business, there is a need to involve all the employees in the decision-making process. To have a better understanding of family businesses, the following recommendations should be taken into account. The performance of the business should be optimized and act as a reference to other generations to come. Family businesses are believed to have contributed positively to providing affordable products and services to most unstable people.
In most cases, the family business is owned and directed by family members, thus minimizing the chances of loss due to poor organization. Additionally, the operation of a family business should not base on the specific family since it may promote hatred and non-stoppable conflicts within the related people (Musso et al.; 2020 pp 23). Also, the business should be in the position to serve the general population without considering if the buyers come from the same clan. The family business will act as a catalyst that speeds the growth and development of the Economy. For better family business success, the younger people should be involved in the management team since they might have more technical skills to help family businesses thrive well.
To have peace and harmony within the industry, there should equal distribution of the profits gained from the company since its efforts of every individual performing in the industry. For instance, when some industries are not operating according to business formalities, the other employees may develop negative implications. They may not work smartly to achieve the objectives and anticipated target of the organization (Musso et al.; 2020 pp 23). The family should be considered as the primary influence both on the companies’ operations and strategic orientations. For this reason, the management and combination of the several families will positively contribute to the growth and prosperity of the business even in the future.
Self-reflection on family businesses
The family business is one the best enterprise to operate despite its challenges. Basing the research analysis, the family business is simple to use compared to all other forms of business internationally. Basing my views, the family business has benefited most people worldwide by providing employments to non-employed people. Even though the company operates without physical interference from governments, it faces some challenges which can be solved basing its structure. This reflection is a way of considering all the characteristics and challenges that have been facing family businesses. According to my arguments, a family business can improve if they follow all the above recommendations. Additionally, there is a need for the managers and supervisors to understand that the success of most companies depends on decision-making.
To sum up, the family business has contributed to social-economic growth, especially in European countries. According to the research, these businesses have contributed about 67% of Gross Domestic Products, especially in the United States of American and the United Kingdom. Regardless of the type of ownership and management team, the entire family members remain the critical participants in the company and can immediately decide to manipulate the nature of products they deal with. Another characteristic of a family business is that the management is always informal, and it’s hard to recognize any mistakes arising from the way of operations. Even though family business is categorized as micro, multinational family corporations can operate in more than two countries. Most of these multinationals’ family businesses are located in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Colombia. The prosperity of many family businesses depends on their structure and operational structure. Basing the research arguments, the family business will continue been in the top in European’s countries since families believe in amalgamation is more effective than individualism.
Aguilar, V.G. and Briozzo, A., 2020. Family businesses: capital structure and socio-emotional wealth. Investigación administrativa , 49 (125).
Ahmad, Z. and Yaseen, M.R., 2018. Moderating role of education on succession process in small family businesses in Pakistan. Journal of Family Business Management . pp 345
Antcliff, V., Lupton, B. and Atkinson, C., 2020. Why do small businesses seek support for managing people? Implications for theory and policy from an analysis of U.K. small business survey data. International Small Business Journal pp 34
Brenkman, A.R., 2020. Exploring the management succession process in small and medium-sized family businesses (Doctoral dissertation, North-West University (South Africa)). pp 67-89
Caputo, A., Marzi, G., Pellegrini, M.M. and Rialti, R., 2018. Conflict management in family businesses. International Journal of Conflict Management .
Chang, A.A., Mubarik, M.S. and Naghavi, N., 2020. Passing on the legacy: exploring the dynamics of succession in family businesses in Pakistan. Journal of Family Business Management . Pp 56
Friar, J.H., Ippolito, J. and Clark, T., 2021. The challenges of transitioning to professional selling in family businesses. In A Research Agenda for Sales . Edward Elgar Publishing.
Heinonen, J. and Ljunggren, E., 2020. It’s not all about the money: narratives on emotions after a sudden death in family businesses. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship , pp.1-23.
Kandade, K., Samara, G., Parada, M.J. and Dawson, A., 2020. From family successors to successful business leaders: A qualitative study of how high-quality relationships develop in family businesses Journal of Family Business Strategy , p.100334.
Michiels, A. and Molly, V., 2017. Financing decisions in family businesses: a review and suggestions for developing the field. Family Business Review , 30 (4), pp.369-399.
Musso, F. and Francioni, B., 2020. The strategic decision-making process for the internationalization of family businesses. Sinergie Italian Journal of Management , 38 (2), pp.21-43.
Núñez-Cacho, P., Molina-Moreno, V., Corpas-Iglesias, F.A. and Cortés-García, F.J., 2018. Family businesses transitioning to a circular economy model: The case of “Mercadona”. Sustainability , 10 (2), p.538.
Pham, T.T., Bell, R. and Newton, D., 2019. The father’s role in supporting the son’s business knowledge development process in Vietnamese family businesses. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies .
Seaman, C., McQuaid, R. and Pearson, M., 2017. Social networking in family businesses in a local economy. Local Economy , 32 (5), pp.451-466.
Visser, T. and van Scheers, L., 2020. HOW IMPORTANT IS ENTREPRENEURIAL ORIENTATION FOR FAMILY BUSINESSES?. Management: Journal of Contemporary Management Issues , 25 (2), pp.235-250.
Wang, Y. and Shi, H.X., 2020. Particularistic and system trust in family businesses: The role of family influence. Journal of Small Business Management , pp.1-35.
Yoshida, S., Yagi, H. and Garrod, G., 2020. Determinants of farm diversification: entrepreneurship, marketing capability and family management. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship , 32 (6), pp.607-633
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Everything you need to know to get Accepted
November 1, 2021
7 Tips For MBA Applicants From a Family Business Background
You work for the family business and are applying for an MBA. Will this background be a net plus for you, or a minus? How can you make the most of this experience?
Whether you work for your family’s tiny startup with headquarters in your home’s basement, at one of your family-owned local grocery stores, or at your family’s multimillion dollar enterprise with hundreds of employees, you definitely have numerous strengths that you can focus on in your essays.
Here are some benefits of working for your family business:
- You have an owner’s mindset, not an employee’s mindset. As a family member, you have a vested interest in the ongoing success of the business and its destiny. This will be true whether you plan to return to work there post-MBA or not. This personal incentive to see the business thrive and grow may have prompted you to work after-hours on projects that you initiated. Additionally, with some level of built-in trust from management, you may also have been given more leeway to innovate. The potential impact of your contributions will be that much greater and the lessons learned that much more valuable.
- You’ve developed communications skills that allow you to influence those senior to you. You are most likely much younger than your relatives who own the company and may also be considerably younger than other employees who have management responsibilities. Therefore, you may have helped to introduce more tech-savvy innovations, a social media campaign, or other ideas to tap into a new market. Getting “buy-in” from an “old school” mentality is another opportunity to show your communication skills and savvy.
- You have a job when you graduate, if you want it. The school won’t need to worry about your employment prospects if you want to return to the family business. Having said all that, you still need to prove that you’ve enjoyed the level of responsibility that you claim.
Challenges for MBA applicants who work in a family business
The adcom members may be skeptical that your dad/mom/uncle/aunt really held your feet to the fire in meeting deadlines or proving yourself on the job. The dynamics among relatives who work together can also be tricky, and getting letters of recommendation will be a challenge.
Here’s how you can deal with these issues:
- Quantify your achievements and offer as much anecdotal evidence as possible. This is strategically important even if you are not from a family business background, but it’s especially true here. If you successfully negotiated a new lease agreement for the business, saving it $X per month, found a better way to find job applicants through UpWork, Fiverr or other gig economy platforms, brought in new customers through targeted social media ads or posts, write about it. The classic rule of “ show, don’t tell ” is critical here. Just as you would with any other company, if you began with one lower-level function but now have a higher-level title, list these roles, along with your added responsibilities. This shows your professional growth.
- Demonstrate your ability to navigate the pitfalls of working with family members. There are often built-in conflicts between and among family members who all have a stake in a family business. One client of ours proved his management chops when he helped resolve a huge, ugly fight over succession. The family patriarch and founder of the family business had passed away, and all the siblings were fighting over who was next in line for company control, which had been left unclear legally. Our client convinced everyone in the family to agree to work with a skilled mediator to help reach an understanding. The mediation succeeded , which arguably saved the business from being destroyed by lawsuits. It also managed to preserve family relationships. What if older family members continue to resist ideas you are convinced are necessary, such as introducing a new CRM or other software program, or introducing an additional service or product line? What if you have conflicts with a long-term, highly valued employee? If you find ways to overcome these obstacles you will have substantial and compelling stories to tell about thriving in this business environment. For example, you might have been able to find research that convinced decision-makers that your new ideas were excellent calculated risks. You might have sought advice from a business management consultant to find a way to smooth relations with the long-term, valued employee. Finding creative ways to solve problems will emphasize your skills as a future business leader.
- Don’t ask relatives, especially those who share your last name, for your letters of recommendation. Even if that relative is your direct supervisor and knows your work and capabilities better than anyone, there is simply no way that a letter from a parent, cousin, grandparent, or other family member will seem objective enough to be credible. So, who should you ask? Possibilities include: a supervisor from a previous job or other organization where you were an active volunteer or member. Either one should be able to attest to your maturity, quantitative skills and initiative, and other achievements. Still, you need recommenders who can speak about your abilities in the recent past – within the last two years. If you’ve only worked in the family business, perhaps someone affiliated with the business might be suitable: an accountant or attorney, or an important customer or supplier. Remember, your interactions with these individuals must be frequent enough and substantial enough for them to comment intelligently and with some specificity on your work and personal character traits.
All in all, working for a family business has probably provided you with extremely valuable experience. It has taught you to be nimble in your abilities to work across different departments and given you a front-row seat in watching your relatives deal with the ongoing challenges of running a business in rapidly changing times. Not a bad set of experiences with which to apply to b-school!
If you are applying to b-school with the unique–and uniquely valuable–experience of working in a family business, our consultants can help you present it to a winning advantage. We have teamed up with many clients with this same background and helped them achieve their dreams of acceptance at the MBA programs of their choice.
• Top MBA Application Essays: How to Answer Them Right , a free guide • How an Admissions Committee Views MBA Work Experience • 4 Tips for Demonstrating Professional Growth in a Flat Organization
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 177 college essay examples for 11 schools + expert analysis.
College Admissions , College Essays
The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.
In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article will be a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!
What Excellent College Essays Have in Common
Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.
Visible Signs of Planning
Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.
Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.
A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!
A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.
Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.
And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.
Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!
Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.
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Links to Full College Essay Examples
Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.
Common App Essay Samples
Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts.
- 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025
- 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
- 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
- 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
- 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
- 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007
These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).
- 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
- 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
- 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
- 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
- 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
- 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
- 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020
Essay Examples Published by Other Websites
- 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia
Other Sample College Essays
Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.
- 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020
- 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
- 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out
University of Georgia
- 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
- 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
- 10 Harvard essays from 2023
- 10 Harvard essays from 2022
- 10 Harvard essays from 2021
- 10 Harvard essays from 2020
- 10 Harvard essays from 2019
- 10 Harvard essays from 2018
- 6 essays from admitted MIT students
- 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018
Books of College Essays
If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.
College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.
50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .
50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.
Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.
Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked
I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.
Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)
I had never broken into a car before.
We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.
Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.
"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"
"Why me?" I thought.
More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.
My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.
Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.
But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.
Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"
The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.
Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.
What Makes This Essay Tick?
It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!
An Opening Line That Draws You In
In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).
Great, Detailed Opening Story
More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.
It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.
Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.
Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight
Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.
Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."
Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims
My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.
"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.
Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice
My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.
Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."
The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.
An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future
But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"
The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.
This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.
What Could This Essay Do Even Better?
Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?
Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.
Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.
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Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)
My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.
Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.
Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.
I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.
In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).
I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.
A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.
It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.
Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.
One Clear Governing Metaphor
This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.
But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:
This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.
Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:
While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.
An Engaging, Individual Voice
This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.
Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).
My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.
I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.
Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.
Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!
For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:
Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.
Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.
Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.
Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.
In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.
The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.
Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.
Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.” The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.
Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.
4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay
How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.
#1: Get Help From the Experts
Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings . If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .
#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own
As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
- Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
- Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
- Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?
Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.
#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment
All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.
Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.
#4: Start Early, Revise Often
Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.
Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!
For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .
Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.
Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .
Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .
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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.
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College Essays That Worked: See Examples
Experts say a good college essay features a student's voice and personality.
Students should know themselves and write authoritatively so they can share a sense of their lives with admissions officers. (Getty Images)
Many college applications require a personal essay, which can be daunting for students to write.
But a few simple tips, some introspection and insight into what admissions officers are looking for can help ease the pressure. U.S. News has compiled several college essay examples that helped students get into school. Shared by admissions staff or referenced from admissions websites, these essays stand out, they say, because the student voices shine, helping the school get to know the applicants.
"Students can get caught in the trap of overthinking it and write the essay that's going to impress the admissions committee," says Andrew Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College . "The best essays, the ones that really pop, are the ones that come across as authentic and you really hear the student's voice."
The essay gives schools a feel for how a student writes, but it's the content of the essay that matters most, admissions professionals say. In other words, while it's important to showcase sound grammar and writing, it's even more important to showcase your character and personality.
"I care more about their stories than if it is a perfect five paragraph essay," David Graves, interim director of admissions at the University of Georgia , wrote in an email.
Many schools give students a wide range of topics to choose from, which experts say can be beneficial in helping students find their voice.
While you want your voice to be apparent, it's wise to be aware of your tone, says Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, an admissions consulting company that works with students to craft and revise their college essays. The goal of the essay is to make a strong case for why you’re different from all the other applicants, not necessarily why you’re better, he adds.
"You have to pass the genuine likability test. Sometimes kids are so busy trying to brag or tell their story that they’re forgetting they have to sound like a likable person. That’s a very simple test, but it’s really important."
Good essays tend to be "positively emotional," he says. It's best to avoid using sarcasm because it tends to fail on college essays.
Any humor used "really has to be a very positive, witty humor, not sarcastic," which he says can be hard to pick up on in an essay.
The Perils of Using AI for Essays
Choosing the right tone can be a challenge for many students, but admissions pros encourage them not to take shortcuts to completing their essay.
Though some college professors have embraced artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT in their classrooms, Strickler says he's begun to stress in recent talks with high school audiences the importance of original work and avoiding the use of AI tools like ChatGPT to craft college essays. While it might produce a technically well-written essay and save time, your unique voice will be stripped away, and it may leave a bad impression on admissions offices as well as prevent them from truly getting to know you, he says.
Instead, Graves says, start early and take time to write it yourself, then "actually read it out loud to someone ... to listen to the rhythm and words as they are 'read.'"
Each spring on his admissions blog , Graves shares an enrolling student's essay and why it was strong. The essay excerpted below, shared with the permission of the University of Georgia, uses descriptive word choice and gives the admissions office deep insight into the student's life, their love for writing and their connection to their family, Graves says.
It was chosen as an example "to show our applicant pool how to express themselves through similes, sensory language (words that capture the senses of the reader), and emotion," Graves wrote on the blog.
Here's how the essay opened:
If you asked me what object I’d save in a burning fire, I’d save my notebook. My notebook isn’t just any notebook, it’s bubble gum pink with purple tie dye swirls, and has gold coil binding it together. But more importantly, it’s the key that unlocked my superpower, sending me soaring into the sky, flying high above any problems that could ever catch me. However, my notebook is simply the key. My real power rests in the depths of my mind, in my passion for writing. But to know how my powers came to be (not from a spider or a special rock), I must travel back to the first spark.
Four years ago, I wrote my first 6-word memoir in my eighth-grade rhetoric class. Inspired by my father’s recently diagnosed terminal illness, I wrote “Take his words, don’t take him”. It was as if all the energy of my powers surged into six meaningful words meant to honor the man that I would soon lose to a villain known as ALS. This was the first time I felt my writing. Three years ago, my dad’s disease severely progressed. The ALS seized his ability to speak and locked it in a tower with no key. The only way we could communicate was with an old spiral notebook. ...
The essay counted down each year ("three years ago," "two years ago," etc.) and concluded with this paragraph:
One month ago, I needed my powers more than ever before. I needed them to convey who I truly am for the chance at the future of my dreams as a writer. Except this time, I didn’t need the key because my powers grew into fruition. Instead, I opened my laptop only to type out one sentence… “If you asked me what object to save in a burning fire, I’d save my notebook.”
This style of storytelling, which shows not just the triumph at the end but also the conflict, struggle and evolution in between, makes for great essays, Koh says.
"The student also used an intriguing timeline (counting down years and month) to tell their story, and showed how she had grown," Graves says.
This next essay, by an anonymous writer and shared on Connecticut College 's admissions page , "manages to capture multiple aspects of the writer's personality, while not becoming overly cluttered or confusing," writes Susanna Matthews, associate director of admission at the school.
Every person who truly knows me believes that I was born in the wrong century. They call me "an old soul" because I'm a collector, attracted to books, antiques, vinyl records and anything from the 80's. But they also think I am unique in other ways. I believe it is because of the meaningful connections to my two languages and two cultures.
When we moved into our first American house, I was excited to decorate my new room. The first thing I knew I needed was a place to organize my most cherished possessions I have collected throughout my life. I searched and finally found a bookshelf with twenty-five thick sections that I could build and organize alphabetically ... Each shelf holds important objects from different parts of my life. ...
These books are a strong connection to my Brazilian heritage. They also remind me of the time when I was growing up in Brazil, as a member of a large Italian-Brazilian family.
The writer continues on, describing the types of books on each shelf, from Harry Potter to books used to learn English. They describe the bottom of the bookshelf housing some of their most prized possessions, like an old typewriter their grandfather gave them. They wonder about the words it has crafted and stories it has told.
As I grab my favorite Elvis vinyl to play, I can only wonder about the next chapter of my life. I look forward to adding new books, new friends, and a wide variety of experiences to my bookshelf.
"By placing one subject (the bookshelf) at the center of the piece, it lends some flexibility to layer in much more detail than if they had tried to discuss a few different interests in the essay," Matthews writes. "You learn a lot about the person, in a way that isn't in your face – a great thing when trying to write a personal essay."
Some colleges require a supplemental essay in addition to the personal statement. Typically, admissions pros note, these essays are shorter and focus on answering a specific question posed by the college.
The University of Chicago in Illinois allows students to submit essay prompts as inspiration for the admissions office and gives students some latitude in how they answer them. Essay prompts range from questions about the school itself to asking students to pick a question from a song title or lyric and give their best shot at answering it.
"We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions," the school's admissions website reads. "They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between."
While the University of Chicago says there is no strict word limit on its supplemental essays, other schools prefer brevity. For example, Stanford University in California asks students to answer several short questions, with a 50-word limit, in addition to answering three essay questions in 100 to 250 words.
Georgia asks for a school-specific supplemental essay that's 200-300 words in addition to a 250- to 650-word personal essay.
"Sometimes a shorter essay response is not as polished an essay, but instead is a more casual, more relaxed essay," Graves says. "In addition, sometimes a student needs to get to the point or be concise, and this helps see if they can give us their story without overdoing it."
Other schools allow for a little more creativity in how the supplemental essay questions are answered. Babson College in Massachusetts, for example, gives students a 500-word limit to answer a prompt, or they can choose to submit a one-minute video about why they chose to apply to the school.
One student, Gabrielle Alias, chose to film a "day-in-the-life" video , which she narrated to answer the prompt, "Who Am I?"
"Visiting campus twice, I know I could see myself as one of the many interesting, innovative, and enticing students that come out of Babson," she says in the video. "But who am I you ask? I am a student. I am a reader. I am a researcher. I am a music lover. ... I am Gabrielle Alias and I am excited for who I will be as a graduate of Babson."
An essay by Babson student Bessie Shiroki, seen below, describes her experience in the school's admissions office and how she immediately felt comfortable.
I immediately smiled at the sight of my favorite board game. Babsonopoly. I love the combination of strategy and luck in this traditional family pastime. Seeing this on the wall in the admissions office gave me immediate comfort; I knew I was home.
Shiroki describes what she felt set Babson College apart from other schools, such as being surrounded by "sophisticated and mature individuals" and a tight-knit, entrepreneurial environment that would help her reach her career goals.
It is natural for me to be in a small class where more than one language is spoken. I am accustomed to discussions with diverse viewpoints, open minds, and where differences are seen as advantages. I embrace my cultural uniqueness, and I will add my voice to the community. I can’t imagine not continuing this in college.
She notes that as she toured the campus and saw students studying, she could see herself as one of them, feeding off of their studious and entrepreneurial energy. She mentions that Babson's Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship class got her attention immediately and she saw it as a launch pad for a future that included running a business.
Babson recognizes the potential of their students, and FME is a great way for young entrepreneurs like me to find our place in the business world and learn from our mistakes. I am capable of this challenge and will conquer it with tenacity. I will bring my dedication, commitment, and innovative skills to Babson College.
Now it’s my turn to pass go and collect my Babson acceptance letter. I’ve found my next challenge.
Babson College offers several tips for what make good essays, including a strong "hook" to engage the reader from the start and a topic that allows you to share something that's not as obvious on your application.
When it comes to writing a college admissions essay – whether personal or supplemental – experts advise students to follow these rules:
- Find your voice.
- Write about a topic that matters to you.
- Share your personality.
- Express yourself.
- Proofread extensively.
With both traditional essays and supplemental essays, Koh says it's best to write long and work with someone you trust to edit it down. Teachers, friends and parents can all be helpful proofreaders, but experts note that the student voice should remain intact.
A good editor can help edit a long essay to keep the main message but with fewer words. “If I see 400 words, I know I’m a dozen drafts away from getting it to 650,” he says. “If I see 1200 words, we might just be one or two away. It’s at least going to be a shorter haul.”
Strickler encourages students not to stress too much over the essay or put unnecessary weight on it as part of their college application . While a strong essay helps, he says, it doesn't make or break an application.
"There's this sense that you write the most amazing essay and it gets you over the top because it opens the door to the pathway to the Magic Kingdom," he says. "But it's just one piece of a myriad of pieces that allow us to get to know a particular student and help us figure out if they're a good fit and how they're going to contribute to our community."
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College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't
Published on November 8, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on August 14, 2023.
One effective method for improving your college essay is to read example essays . Here are three sample essays, each with a bad and good version to help you improve your own essay.
Table of contents
Essay 1: sharing an identity or background through a montage, essay 2: overcoming a challenge, a sports injury narrative, essay 3: showing the influence of an important person or thing, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
This essay uses a montage structure to show snapshots of a student’s identity and background. The writer builds her essay around the theme of the five senses, sharing memories she associates with sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
In the weak rough draft, there is little connection between the individual anecdotes, and they do not robustly demonstrate the student’s qualities.
In the final version, the student uses an extended metaphor of a museum to create a strong connection among her stories, each showcasing a different part of her identity. She draws a specific personal insight from each memory and uses the stories to demonstrate her qualities and values.
How My Five Senses Record My Life
Throughout my life, I have kept a record of my life’s journey with my five senses. This collection of memories matters a great deal because I experience life every day through the lens of my identity.
My classmate pulls one eye up and the other down.
“Look what my parents did to me!”
No matter how many times he repeats it, the other kids keep laughing. I focus my almond-shaped eyes on the ground, careful not to attract attention to my discomfort, anger, and shame. How could he say such a mean thing about me? What did I do to him? Joseph’s words would engrave themselves into my memory, making me question my appearance every time I saw my eyes in the mirror.
Soaking in overflowing bubble baths with Andrew Lloyd Webber belting from the boombox.
Listening to “Cell Block Tango” with my grandparents while eating filet mignon at a dine-in show in Ashland.
Singing “The Worst Pies in London” at a Korean karaoke club while laughing hysterically with my brother, who can do an eerily spot-on rendition of Sweeney Todd.
Taking car rides with Mom in the Toyota Sequoia as we compete to hit the high note in “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera . Neither of us stands a chance!
The sweet scent of vegetables, Chinese noodles, and sushi wafts through the room as we sit around the table. My grandma presents a good-smelling mixture of international cuisine for our Thanksgiving feast. My favorite is the Chinese food that she cooks. Only the family prayer stands between me and the chance to indulge in these delicious morsels, comforting me with their familiar savory scents.
I rinse a faded plastic plate decorated by my younger sister at the Waterworks Art Center. I wear yellow rubber gloves to protect my hands at Mom’s insistence, but I can still feel the warm water that offers a bit of comfort as I finish the task at hand. The crusted casserole dish with stubborn remnants from my dad’s five-layer lasagna requires extra effort, so I fill it with Dawn and scalding water, setting it aside to soak. I actually don’t mind this daily chore.
I taste sweat on my upper lip as I fight to continue pedaling on a stationary bike. Ava’s next to me and tells me to go up a level. We’re biking buddies, dieting buddies, and Saturday morning carbo-load buddies. After the bike display hits 30 minutes, we do a five-minute cool down, drink Gatorade, and put our legs up to rest.
My five senses are always gathering new memories of my identity. I’m excited to expand my collection.
Word count: 455
College essay checklist
Topic and structure
- I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me.
- My essay reveals something different from the rest of my application.
- I have a clear and well-structured narrative.
- I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.
Writing style and tone
- I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
- I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of tells.
- I’ve used appropriate style and tone for a college essay.
- I’ve used specific, vivid personal stories that would be hard to replicate.
- I’ve demonstrated my positive traits and values in my essay.
- My essay is focused on me, not another person or thing.
- I’ve included self-reflection and insight in my essay.
- I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.
Making Sense of My Identity
Welcome to The Rose Arimoto Museum. You are about to enter the “Making Sense of My Identity” collection. Allow me to guide you through select exhibits, carefully curated memories from Rose’s sensory experiences.
First, the Sight Exhibit.
“Look what my parents did to me!”
No matter how many times he repeats it, the other kids keep laughing. I focus my almond-shaped eyes on the ground, careful not to attract attention as my lip trembles and palms sweat. Joseph couldn’t have known how his words would engrave themselves into my memory, making me question my appearance every time I saw my eyes in the mirror.
Ten years later, these same eyes now fixate on an InDesign layout sheet, searching for grammar errors while my friend Selena proofreads our feature piece on racial discrimination in our hometown. As we’re the school newspaper editors, our journalism teacher Ms. Riley allows us to stay until midnight to meet tomorrow’s deadline. She commends our work ethic, which for me is fueled by writing一my new weapon of choice.
Next, you’ll encounter the Sound Exhibit.
Still, the world is my Broadway as I find my voice on stage.
Just below, enter the Smell Exhibit.
While I help my Pau Pau prepare dinner, she divulges her recipe for cha siu bau, with its soft, pillowy white exterior hiding the fragrant filling of braised barbecue pork inside. The sweet scent of candied yams, fun see , and Spam musubi wafts through the room as we gather around our Thankgsiving feast. After our family prayer, we indulge in these delicious morsels until our bellies say stop. These savory scents of my family’s cultural heritage linger long after I’ve finished the last bite.
Next up, the Touch Exhibit.
I rinse a handmade mug that I had painstakingly molded and painted in ceramics class. I wear yellow rubber gloves to protect my hands at Mom’s insistence, but I can still feel the warm water that offers a bit of comfort as I finish the task at hand. The crusted casserole dish with stubborn remnants from my dad’s five-layer lasagna requires extra effort, so I fill it with Dawn and scalding water, setting it aside to soak. For a few fleeting moments, as I continue my nightly chore, the pressure of my weekend job, tomorrow’s calculus exam, and next week’s track meet are washed away.
Finally, we end with the Taste Exhibit.
My legs fight to keep pace with the stationary bike as the salty taste of sweat seeps into corners of my mouth. Ava challenges me to take it up a level. We always train together一even keeping each other accountable on our strict protein diet of chicken breasts, broccoli, and Muscle Milk. We occasionally splurge on Saturday mornings after interval training, relishing the decadence of everything bagels smeared with raspberry walnut cream cheese. But this is Wednesday, so I push myself. I know that once the digital display hits 30:00, we’ll allow our legs to relax into a five-minute cool down, followed by the fiery tang of Fruit Punch Gatorade to rehydrate.
Thank you for your attention. This completes our tour. I invite you to rejoin us for next fall’s College Experience collection, which will exhibit Rose’s continual search for identity and learning.
Word count: 649
- I’ve crafted an essay introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
This essay uses a narrative structure to recount how a student overcame a challenge, specifically a sports injury. Since this topic is often overused, the essay requires vivid description, a memorable introduction and conclusion , and interesting insight.
The weak rough draft contains an interesting narrative, insight, and vivid imagery, but it has an overly formal tone that distracts the reader from the story. The student’s use of elaborate vocabulary in every sentence makes the essay sound inauthentic and stilted.
The final essay uses a more natural, conversational tone and chooses words that are vivid and specific without being pretentious. This allows the reader to focus on the narrative and appreciate the student’s unique insight.
One fateful evening some months ago, a defensive linebacker mauled me, his 212 pounds indisputably alighting upon my ankle. Ergo, an abhorrent cracking of calcified tissue. At first light the next day, I awoke cognizant of a new paradigm—one sans football—promulgated by a stabbing sensation that would continue to haunt me every morning of this semester.
It’s been an exceedingly taxing semester not being able to engage in football, but I am nonetheless excelling in school. That twist of fate never would have come to pass if I hadn’t broken my ankle. I still limp down the halls at school, but I’m feeling less maudlin these days. My friends don’t steer clear anymore, and I have a lot more of them. My teachers, emboldened by my newfound interest in learning, continually invite me to learn more and do my best. Football is still on hold, but I feel like I’m finally playing a game that matters.
Five months ago, right after my ill-fated injury, my friends’ demeanor became icy and remote, although I couldn’t fathom why. My teachers, in contrast, beckoned me close and invited me on a new learning journey. But despite their indubitably kind advances, even they recoiled when I drew near.
A few weeks later, I started to change my attitude vis-à-vis my newfound situation and determined to put my energy toward productive ends (i.e., homework). I wasn’t enamored with school. I never had been. Nevertheless, I didn’t abhor it either. I just preferred football.
My true turn of fate came when I started studying more and participating in class. I started to enjoy history class, and I grew interested in reading more. I discovered a volume of poems written by a fellow adventurer on the road of life, and I loved it. I ravenously devoured everything in the writer’s oeuvre .
As the weeks flitted past, I found myself spending my time with a group of people who were quite different from me. They participated in theater and played instruments in marching band. They raised their hands in class when the teacher posed a question. Because of their auspicious influence, I started raising my hand too. I am no longer vapid, and I now have something to say.
I am certain that your school would benefit from my miraculous academic transformation, and I entreat you to consider my application to your fine institution. Accepting me to your university would be an unequivocally righteous decision.
Word count: 408
- I’ve chosen a college essay topic that’s meaningful to me.
- I’ve respected the essay word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.
As I step out of bed, the pain shoots through my foot and up my leg like it has every morning since “the game.” That night, a defensive linebacker tackled me, his 212 pounds landing decidedly on my ankle. I heard the sound before I felt it. The next morning, I awoke to a new reality—one without football—announced by a stabbing sensation that would continue to haunt me every morning of this semester.
My broken ankle broke my spirit.
My friends steered clear of me as I hobbled down the halls at school. My teachers tried to find the delicate balance between giving me space and offering me help. I was as unsure how to deal with myself as they were.
In time, I figured out how to redirect some of my frustration, anger, and pent-up energy toward my studies. I had never not liked school, but I had never really liked it either. In my mind, football practice was my real-life classroom, where I could learn all I ever needed to know.
Then there was that day in Mrs. Brady’s history class. We sang a ridiculous-sounding mnemonic song to memorize all the Chinese dynasties from Shang to Qing. I mumbled the words at first, but I got caught up in the middle of the laughter and began singing along. Starting that day, I began browsing YouTube videos about history, curious to learn more. I had started learning something new, and, to my surprise, I liked it.
With my afternoons free from burpees and scrimmages, I dared to crack open a few more of my books to see what was in them. That’s when my English poetry book, Paint Me Like I Am , caught my attention. It was full of poems written by students my age from WritersCorps. I couldn’t get enough.
I wasn’t the only one who was taken with the poems. Previously, I’d only been vaguely aware of Christina as one of the weird kids I avoided. Crammed in the margins of her high-top Chuck Taylors were scribbled lines of her own poetry and infinite doodles. Beyond her punk rock persona was a sensitive artist, puppy-lover, and environmental activist that a wide receiver like me would have never noticed before.
With Christina, I started making friends with people who once would have been invisible to me: drama geeks, teachers’ pets, band nerds. Most were college bound but not to play a sport. They were smart and talented, and they cared about people and politics and all sorts of issues that I hadn’t considered before. Strangely, they also seemed to care about me.
I still limp down the halls at school, but I don’t seem to mind as much these days. My friends don’t steer clear anymore, and I have a lot more of them. My teachers, excited by my newfound interest in learning, continually invite me to learn more and do my best. Football is still on hold, but I feel like I’m finally playing a game that matters.
My broken ankle broke my spirit. Then, it broke my ignorance.
Word count: 512
This essay uses a narrative structure to show how a pet positively influenced the student’s values and character.
In the weak draft, the student doesn’t focus on himself, instead delving into too much detail about his dog’s positive traits and his grandma’s illness. The essay’s structure is meandering, with tangents and details that don’t communicate any specific insight.
In the improved version, the student keeps the focus on himself, not his pet. He chooses the most relevant stories to demonstrate specific qualities, and the structure more clearly builds up to an insightful conclusion.
Man’s Best Friend
I desperately wanted a cat. I begged my parents for one, but once again, my sisters overruled me, so we drove up the Thompson Valley Canyon from Loveland to Estes Park to meet our newest family member. My sisters had already hatched their master plan, complete with a Finding Nemo blanket to entice the pups. The blanket was a hit with all of them, except for one—the one who walked over and sat in my lap. That was the day that Francisco became a Villanova.
Maybe I should say he was mine because I got stuck with all the chores. As expected, my dog-loving sisters were nowhere to be found! My mom was “extra” with all the doggy gear. Cisco even had to wear these silly little puppy shoes outside so that when he came back in, he wouldn’t get the carpets dirty. If it was raining, my mother insisted I dress Cisco in a ridiculous yellow raincoat, but, in my opinion, it was an unnecessary source of humiliation for poor Cisco. It didn’t take long for Cisco to decide that his outerwear could be used as toys in a game of Keep Away. As soon as I took off one of his shoes, he would run away with it, hiding under the bed where I couldn’t reach him. But, he seemed to appreciate his ensemble more when we had to walk through snowdrifts to get his job done.
When my abuela was dying from cancer, we went in the middle of the night to see her before she passed. I was sad and scared. But, my dad let me take Cisco in the car, so Cisco cuddled with me and made me feel much better. It’s like he could read my mind. Once we arrived at the hospital, the fluorescent lighting made the entire scene seem unreal, as if I was watching the scene unfold through someone else’s eyes. My grandma lay calmly on her bed, smiling at us even through her last moments of pain. I disliked seeing the tubes and machines hooked up to her. It was unnatural to see her like this一it was so unlike the way I usually saw her beautiful in her flowery dress, whistling a Billie Holiday tune and baking snickerdoodle cookies in the kitchen. The hospital didn’t usually allow dogs, but they made a special exception to respect my grandma’s last wishes that the whole family be together. Cisco remained at the foot of the bed, intently watching abuela with a silence that seemed more effective at communicating comfort and compassion than the rest of us who attempted to offer up words of comfort that just seemed hollow and insincere. It was then that I truly appreciated Cisco’s empathy for others.
As I accompanied my dad to pick up our dry cleaner’s from Ms. Chapman, a family friend asked, “How’s Cisco?” before even asking about my sisters or me. Cisco is the Villanova family mascot, a Goldendoodle better recognized by strangers throughout Loveland than the individual members of my family.
On our summer trip to Boyd Lake State Park, we stayed at the Cottonwood campground for a breathtaking view of the lake. Cisco was allowed to come, but we had to keep him on a leash at all times. After a satisfying meal of fish, our entire family walked along the beach. Cisco and I led the way while my mom and sisters shuffled behind. Cisco always stopped and refused to move, looking back to make sure the others were still following. Once satisfied that everyone was together, he would turn back around and continue prancing with his golden boy curly locks waving in the chilly wind.
On the beach, Cisco “accidentally” got let off his leash and went running maniacally around the sand, unfettered and free. His pure joy as he raced through the sand made me forget about my AP Chem exam or my student council responsibilities. He brings a smile not only to my family members but everyone around him.
Cisco won’t live forever, but without words, he has impressed upon me life lessons of responsibility, compassion, loyalty, and joy. I can’t imagine life without him.
Word count: 701
I quickly figured out that as “the chosen one,” I had been enlisted by Cisco to oversee all aspects of his “business.” I learned to put on Cisco’s doggie shoes to keep the carpet clean before taking him out一no matter the weather. Soon after, Cisco decided that his shoes could be used as toys in a game of Keep Away. As soon as I removed one of his shoes, he would run away with it, hiding under the bed where I couldn’t reach him. But, he seemed to appreciate his footwear more after I’d gear him up and we’d tread through the snow for his daily walks.
One morning, it was 7:15 a.m., and Alejandro was late again to pick me up. “Cisco, you don’t think he overslept again, do you?” Cisco barked, as if saying, “Of course he did!” A text message would never do, so I called his dad, even if it was going to get him in trouble. There was no use in both of us getting another tardy during our first-period class, especially since I was ready on time after taking Cisco for his morning outing. Alejandro was mad at me but not too much. He knew I had helped him out, even if he had to endure his dad’s lecture on punctuality.
Another early morning, I heard my sister yell, “Mom! Where are my good ballet flats? I can’t find them anywhere!” I hesitated and then confessed, “I moved them.” She shrieked at me in disbelief, but I continued, “I put them in your closet, so Cisco wouldn’t chew them up.” More disbelief. However, this time, there was silence instead of shrieking.
Last spring, Cisco and I were fast asleep when the phone rang at midnight. Abuela would not make it through the night after a long year of chemo, but she was in Pueblo, almost three hours away. Sitting next to me for that long car ride on I-25 in pitch-black darkness, Cisco knew exactly what I needed and snuggled right next to me as I petted his coat in a rhythm while tears streamed down my face. The hospital didn’t usually allow dogs, but they made a special exception to respect my grandma’s last wishes that the whole family be together. Cisco remained sitting at the foot of the hospital bed, intently watching abuela with a silence that communicated more comfort than our hollow words. Since then, whenever I sense someone is upset, I sit in silence with them or listen to their words, just like Cisco did.
The other day, one of my friends told me, “You’re a strange one, Josue. You’re not like everybody else but in a good way.” I didn’t know what he meant at first. “You know, you’re super responsible and grown-up. You look out for us instead of yourself. Nobody else does that.” I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t trying to do anything different. I was just being me. But then I realized who had taught me: a fluffy little puppy who I had wished was a cat! I didn’t choose Cisco, but he certainly chose me and, unexpectedly, became my teacher, mentor, and friend.
Word count: 617
If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Writing process
- Transition words
- Passive voice
- How to end an email
- Ms, mrs, miss
- How to start an email
- I hope this email finds you well
- Hope you are doing well
Parts of speech
- Personal pronouns
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:
- A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
- A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.
Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.
Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.
You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.
Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.
Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.
When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.
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Global Thought Leadership Partners
- We work with our Global Thought Leadership Partners to offer programs that are designed for a family business or a group of family businesses to engage with each other and with Babson’s unique Family Entrepreneurship approach.
- Each session is led by a Babson faculty member or a global thought leader in family entrepreneurship, in which they actively engage the group in a discussion in their area of expertise.
- Sessions are suitable for groups of 40 or more.
- 60- to 90-minute customizable sessions.
- Private webinars can be arranged individually or grouped together to create a custom series.
Family Startups: How Identity and Relationships Inform New Venture Creation in Family Firms
Faculty: Eliana Crosina , Babson College
Identity and relationships are especially salient in family businesses because family enterprises involve intersecting personal and work-related identities and relationships. On the one hand, such identities and relationships might bolster the functioning of family firms by providing their members psychological, social, and material resources; on the other, they might undermine it, generating added tensions. Based on her research, Prof. Crosina will lead a discussion on how identity and relationships in family businesses can influence the launch and development of new entrepreneurial endeavors, ranging from projects to the entire organizations. Join this interactive session with questions, curiosity, and be ready to share your own experiences.
Mapping Family Interest and Involvement in Entrepreneurship
Faculty: William Gartner , Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor in Family Entrepreneurship, Babson College
William B. Gartner, the Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor in Family Entrepreneurship at Babson College will lead a workshop that utilizes three widely used family business frameworks to clarify each family member’s role, motivations, interests, and capabilities for engaging in entrepreneurial activities. The workshop would be of benefit for any family that is beginning the process of growth and change from their current circumstances to the creation and development of new opportunities.
Game-changing Innovation & 3rd Generation: Future-proofing your Family Business’s Market Leadership
Faculty: Gina O’Connor , Babson College
For start-up companies, the innovation culture is set by the founding team. In fact many companies are founded on the basis of a game-changing innovation. In most cases, the 2nd- and 3rd-generation leaders drive growth through geographic expansion and operational efficiencies that help to scale the business. Individuals who champion breakthroughs can find a senior sponsor and get the attention they need through the informal networks that family business cultures enable. But as the business grows, routines and processes create formal systems, and championing behavior that creates the business platforms of tomorrow can be snuffed out. Subsequent generations of leaders find that they may need to reset an innovation culture and discipline.
Join Gina O’Connor, Professor of Innovation and Management in the Entrepreneurship Division, as she reveals how you can build organizational capability for horizon 3, game-changing, innovations that create future markets and whole new platforms of business for your family enterprise, without sacrificing today’s business.
Passion and Purpose in Family Entrepreneurship
Faculty: Jennifer Tosti-Kharas , Babson College
Professor Tosti-Kharas’ program is based on her research—what it means to experience work as meaningful, or as a “calling,” a consuming, meaningful passion. She will address how people find their callings, the promise—and even pitfalls—of making work your calling, the difference between working for oneself vs. to benefit society, and more. This program will help family members identify whether their work is—and should be—their passion or worry about work taking over their life. Prof. Tosti-Kharas will consider how these dynamics play out in family business ventures.
Transforming Your Family Business
Faculty: Lauri Union , Babson College
Innovating and creating positive change in a family business requires not only business and technical skills but also relationship skills that are critical to implementing change. This workshop will help participants navigate both to achieve transformative impact in their family business. Lauri Union will lead this session to develop participants’ capacity to grow and transform their family business but understanding key steps in business transformation through Collaborative Organizational Transformation™.
How Boards Can Help Entrepreneurial Families Move Forward
Faculty: Les Charm , Babson College
In this two-way question and answer exchange, professional board member and family entrepreneurship and turnaround expert Professor Leslie Charm will lead an interactive discussion about how boards can help entrepreneurial families move forward in times of crisis and beyond. Topics discussed include the role and value of a board, board composition, and the role of the next gen.
Incumbent at the Crossroads: The Succession Timing Dilemma
Faculty: Francisca Sinn Rosende , Universidad Adolfo Ibanez, Chile
Professor Francisca Sinn, an expert in strategy, family business, and governance, will share a presentation about the factors that affect the incumbent intention to step aside from the family business. Many family businesses suffer a lack of definition, tension, and ambivalence of the succession process. The consequences of this sometimes chaotic process can severely affect both the business and the family. Understanding and managing it in a timely fashion is critical for smoothing the transition for all stakeholders involved. Participants will expand their understanding of the succession process, opening the door for better addressing these issues within their own business family.
Women Power in Family Businesses: The Inevitable Change
Session Leader: Dr. Nupur Pavan Bang , Associate Director, Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business, India
Smaller family sizes, education and exposure to women and changing mindsets are changing the gender dynamics in the top management teams and board rooms. Yet, there are challenges galore for women, parity in pay and opportunities remains a far cry and many remain “invisible” despite playing critical roles in their families as well as businesses.
Associate Director of the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business, and co-author of the recent STEP Project report, “The Power of Women in Family Business,” Dr. Nupur Pavan Bang will present to the audience the challenges that women face, the changes required to make the workplaces gender diverse, the competencies and capabilities that women must acquire to contribute effectively to the business, the role of government and regulators and the contributions that women make in making family businesses successful.
Peer Coaching – A Tool to Achieve Your Goals in Your Family Enterprise
Faculty: Candida Brush , F.W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, Babson College
In this Peer-Coaching Workshop led by Professor Candida Brush, Franklin W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, you will do a deep dive into peer coaching. Participants will identify a particular challenge they face in their business and bring this to the session. They will learn effective models of coaching, and then practice peer coaching. For this session, you will be asked to do a brief reading and worksheet prior to the session.
Professor Brush is one of the early pioneers in entrepreneurship research, and conducted one of the first and largest studies in the U.S. She has co-authored reports for OECD , the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and presented her work at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the US Department of Commerce.
Taking Action—“Giving Voice to Values” (GVV): Values Driven Leadership in Family Entrepreneurship
Faculty: Dr. Mary Gentile , Professor, University of Virginia-Darden School of Business, and Senior Fellow of Social Innovation, The Institute for Social Innovation
The “GVV” method focuses on ethical implementation and asks the question: “What if I were going to act on my values? What would I say and do? How could I be most effective?” In this webinar session, as a family entrepreneur, Dr. Gentile will present the importance of ethics sharing actionable strategies for voicing and enacting values-driven leadership.
Family Entrepreneurial Leadership: Think and Act Like a CEO
Faculty: Jay Rao , Babson College
This program develops Entrepreneurial Leadership skills for family business members who aspire to lead family startups, scale-ups, non-profits, or large enterprises. As the world is experiencing greater levels of VUCAH—volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, and hyper-connected—there is the need for more Entrepreneurial Leadership. Entrepreneurial Leaders, different from other forms of leadership, energize, engage and enable their teams without spreadsheets and Power Points. Entrepreneurial leaders are storytellers who rally their troops to solve unclear problems with untested solutions. They help their teams to either think their way into new action, or act their way into new thinking. Entrepreneurial leaders bring together strategy, innovation, and culture to lead transformations and change.
Related sessions by Professor Rao:
- Disruptive Innovation: Gorillas v Chimps v Monkeys: Re-Invention by Getting Back to the “Core”
- Navigating Inter-Generational Change: Re-Invention by Finding a new “Core”
- Crises Fuel Creativity and Innovation: Managing Innovation in Good Times & Bad Times
- Crises Re-Ignite Customer Intimacy & Immediacy: Digital Transformation and Business Model Innovation
Rethinking Leadership in Entrepreneurial Families
Faculty: Scott Taylor , Babson College
Join Professor Scott Taylor for an engaging discussion on how our definition of an effective family entrepreneurship leader is changing during these turbulent times and what this means for you and your family. At this time when life has become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), traditional leadership approaches are insufficient and ineffective. Resonant family business leaders focus on the overall emotional tone they set and make an authentic effort to develop a meaningful connection with their employees, family, and other constituents they lead. We will examine the emotional and social connections to outstanding family entrepreneurship leadership.
Are Transgenerational Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Development Two Sides of the Same Coin?
Faculty: Pramodita Sharma , Professor & Schlesinger-Grossman Chair of Family Business, University of Vermont
Businesses all over the world and in multiple sectors are redefining success to integrate purpose, values and sustainability into their operations. Family firms seeking to engage the most talented next generation members look for examples of how other firms have embarked on this sustainable development path. In this webinar with Prof. Sharma, insights from her recent book Pioneering Family Firms’ Sustainable Development Strategies , are shared with a focus on pragmatic ways to engage the most talented next generation members and attain triple bottom success.
Paradoxical Tensions: Managing Tradition and Change in the Family Enterprise
Faculty: Eric Clinton , Dublin City University
The family enterprise is an organization built on paradox, including tradition versus change, family liquidity versus business growth, business values versus family values, and founder control versus successor autonomy. Paradoxes can both inhibit and foster sustainability, performance and entrepreneurial behavior. Understanding paradoxical tensions is a central ingredient in building a multi-generational family enterprise. Prof. Clinton will present his learnings from long-lived family firms across the globe (e.g. Japan, France, Germany) and this webinar will assist your family to identify, appreciate and ultimately manage paradoxical tensions in your family enterprise.
Managing a Family Business in the Post-Pandemic Environment
Faculty: Ed Marram , Babson College
Join Professor Ed Marram in an interactive forum to discuss issues that can be challenging, if not devastating, to successfully operating and growing your family business. Some of the most relevant issues include the volatile economy, high interest rates, hiring staff, building culture in a remote work force, encouraging employees to return to the office, and dealing with supply chain issues among others. Prof Marram will lead a back-and-forth discussion on these issues and more as we learn to deal with the post-pandemic environment of the current decade. Under Prof Marram’s guidance you will discuss these critical issues and discuss possible action plans for your business.
Family Values Ethics
Family Values as a Competitive Advantage
Faculty: James Hoopes , Babson College
Professor James Hoopes will lead this interactive session addressing the impact of culture and background values on a family's business. In this two-way discussion, Prof. Hoopes will share findings from his case studies and provide an exercise to evaluate your own family values and guide you to understand the connection to your family business values.
Prof. Hoopes’ upcoming book is called “Leading for Virtue” with a theme of the role of moral leadership in family business. The book highlights stories from South Asian family businesses and will provide a basis to learn from these traditions. It involves case studies of three family firms and shows the relationship between character and strategy—where all three firms survived crises in their early years because of the character and the commitment to virtue they had acquired from their family background. Their high ethical standards, which to some would have seemed like a competitive disadvantage, both compelled and enabled them to create innovative strategies which less scrupulous competitors would never have come up with.
Building Capacity in the Family of the Enterprising Family
Guest Lecturer: Dr. Mariana Martinez , Bowen Center for the Study of the Family
Dr. Martinez, a faculty member at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington, DC, brings to bear her expertise in Family Systems, Family Businesses, and Family Wealth Advising to present what it means to be a strong enterprising family. She will present five dimensions that families should work on to get stronger. In this webinar, you will learn how to move the needle towards building capacity in the family to create continuity in relationships and in their enterprises and to face challenges, and successfully adapt. Dr. Martinez will present evidence that keeping the family front and center is the most important factor for maintaining the integrity, and for promoting the progress of the family enterprise.
Translating the Family’s DNA into the Next Generation’s Impact Investing
The case of firmenich and impact finance.
Faculty: Dr. Marta Widz (pdf) , Affiliated Faculty at the Family Business Institute at the Grossman Business School of the University of Vermont and Executive in Residence at the INSEAD’s Wendel International Centre for Family Enterprise.
Join Dr. Marta Widz and her presentation about a case study about Firmenich, a Geneva-based family business and the world’s largest privately-held manufacturer of fragrances and flavorings industry for consumer goods. Established in 1895, Firmenich is currently entirely owned by family shareholders from the third to the fifth generation. The company is present in more than 100 markets worldwide and operates over 80 facilities across the globe. Firmenich DNA developed over generations and is marked by the recognition of the societal value reflected in its purpose and fundamentals, and the inclusive capitalism business model. The DNA of sustainability and resilience is inherited by the next generation family members. “This is who I am,” says Benjamin Firmenich, who chose not to work in the family business, and co-founded Impact Finance together with Cedric Lombard, next-gen of Lombard Odier, a Swiss private bank founded in 1796.
In this private webinar, Dr. Marta Widz illustrates how sustainability and resilience are intertwined, how they manifest themselves in impact investing, and why and how they can become bridges between generations.
Relationships and Trust
Relationships Matter! Diving into Self-Assessment and Its Impact on Relationships in Your Family
Faculty: Frank Barbera , Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Francesco Barbera will share his presentation on how one of the most widely used personality profile systems in the world, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is a useful tool in many aspects of life—including understanding the dynamics of your relationships, honing a career, as well as guiding self-reflection and personal development. In this webinar, Dr. Barbera will present the underlying dimensions of the MBTI, share how to discover your own personality profile, and present how such knowledge can be applied to better understand the challenges—and make improvements—in both your family and business life.
Building and Rebuilding Trust: the Core of all Relationships
Faculty: James Davis , Utah State University
Professor James Davis, an expert in trust, family business, and entrepreneurship, will provide a presentation about trust and family relationships. It has been said that trust is the glue that holds people, organizations and societies together. Without trust, relationships become rigid, less efficient and economies are slowed. Yet, despite all the studies and platitudes, trust may be one of the most misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied aspects of human and organizational relationships. Based upon years of his award-winning research in psychology and business, James Davis explains what trust is along with its associated risks. In this session you will learn what you can do to influence how people trust you by nurturing three traits others perceive about you and improve trusting relationships.
Engaging Non-family Employees Working and Building a Career in Your Family Business
Faculty: Albert James , Dalhousie University, Canada
The intersection of family and business is at the heart of all the challenges and opportunities faced by every family business. Rightfully so, a great deal of attention is paid to business owning families managing the intersection between their family and their family business. This focus on the business family can sometimes lead to the intersection between the owning family and their non-family employees being overshadowed. As we all know, any business plan, strategy, or innovation’s success requires a workforce. Almost inevitably in family businesses non-family employees will make up the bulk of their workforce. The purpose of this workshop is to shed light on the non-family workforce, what it is like for a non-family employee to work and build a career in a family business. In this interactive session, Professor Albert James, a long-time non-family employee, draws on research and experience to assist participants in developing greater awareness, understanding, and engagement of their non-family workforce.
Managing Conflicts in Family Business Succession
Faculty: Miruna Radu-Lefebvre , Audencia Business School, France
One day or another, every (family) relationship encompasses some kind of conflict. The overlap of the family, business and ownership spheres makes conflicts almost inevitable and their emotional resonance certainly more intense in family firms than in other companies. Although varying types of conflicts, such as task conflicts, process conflicts, conflicts of interest, relational conflicts, or work-family conflicts may arise throughout the life of the family business, family business succession is a conflict arena requiring effective conflict management strategies. Being able to manage incumbent-successor conflicts is critical for securing transgenerational transfer and preserving family harmony. Professor Miruna Radu-Lefebvre will present her experience and research learnings from European family firms and present how to assist your family to identify types of conflicts and conflict management strategies. She will share how reflection on the role of social skills can help families to successfully manage conflicts in family business succession.
Relationship Building: Investment and Networking
Faculty: Mohar Yusof , Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK), Malaysia
Prof. Yusof believes that relationship building within and outside the family and business is a critical success factor for family entrepreneurship. In this webinar, Prof. Yusof will present the importance of the process of building relationships, social capital and strategic alliances with investors, business partners, professional managers and advisors, the government and other key stakeholders. Specific attention will be given to defining and addressing roles and responsibilities of family shareholders, particularly among siblings, cousins and in-laws, in building a strong, dynamic and cohesive family entrepreneurship system.
Mohar Yusof is professor of leadership, family business and entrepreneurship, and Director, Academic Innovation, Centre for Continuing Education at UNIRAZAK. He was a recipient of the Waesche Family Scholarship award, which led to the attainment of the Certificate in Family Wealth Advising from the Family Firm Institute in the United States. He was recognized by the Malaysian government as the Grand Winner–Outstanding Entrepreneurship Mentor, Ministry of Education Entrepreneurial Awards (MEA) in 2018. Later, he led in the writing of a book titled, ‘Entrepreneurial Leaders: Shaping the Malaysian Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.’ He sits in the Board of Directors and Advisory Boards of several family and non-family organizations.
Digital Transformation Workshop for Family Businesses
Faculty: Rubén Mancha , Babson College
Do you want your family business to create a sustainable legacy and have a positive lasting impact? In this workshop, you will learn tools and skills to help you and your family to align digital transformation and generational transition.
Family businesses lag in their use of digital technologies to confront disruptions and competition, while their limited digital capabilities impair their growth and ability to create positive impact. Family businesses need a vision shared across generations to plan their digital transformation journey and build a sustainable, impactful legacy.
Future Lens on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and Machine Learning: Implications for Entrepreneurs
Faculty: Erik Noyes , Babson College
How is A.I. advancing and reshaping industries? How will A.I. and machine learning affect our lives and businesses—in customer service, healthcare, retail, banking and even government surveillance? Babson Entrepreneurship Professor Erik Noyes takes a multidisciplinary look at A.I technologies and their implications for entrepreneurial families. Core A.I. concepts and examples are introduced. The session is an opportunity to consider the future, as well as innovation possibilities and new horizons suggested by A.I.
Organic vs. Inorganic Growth in the Family Firm
Faculty: John Hallal , Babson College
Most family businesses, but certainly not all, rely on internal business activities and resources to grow. This is referred to as “organic growth.” Given the global economy and rise in competition, many families have pursued or contemplated using external resources (e.g., strategic partnerships, alliances, joint ventures, and mergers & acquisitions) to grow.
Join Babson Adjunct Lecturer, John Hallal, as he leads an engaging and thought provoking session on inorganic growth strategies and structures in the family firm. In the session, participants will reflect and engage in discussion how this strategy could apply to their own circumstances in their family firm.
Global Entrepreneurial Mindset
Developing a Global Entrepreneurial Mindset
Faculty: Amir Reza , Dean of the Babson Academy for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurial Learning, Babson College
The world of entrepreneurship is increasingly interdependent, complex, and uncertain, and learners need to develop attitudes, knowledge, and skills that prepare them to engage with contexts and people who may be culturally, linguistically, and socially different from them, while also developing a sense for the importance of the commonalities we share to humanize and empathize with stakeholders around them.
In this interactive session, participants will collaboratively engage in play, explore the possible definitions of a Global or Intercultural mindset, and engage in a brief interactive lecture, which will tie together attitudes, knowledge, and skills required for development of a global mindset and introduce two developmental frameworks for continuous global mindset growth and development.
Family Entrepreneurship in the Fashion Industry: The Dynamic Normal
Faculty: Caroline Daniels , Babson College
Family Entrepreneurship and Fashion Professor Caroline Daniels leads an interactive discussion about how various stakeholders in the Fashion Industry (Apparel, Accessories, Jewelry, Home Décor) are innovating today and applying lessons of the dynamic normal. Learn about how entrepreneurial families can keep moving forward in times of change and build an innovation pipeline, while maintaining family values. Bring your questions, challenges, and experiences to learn from and share with Professor Daniels and the other participants.
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Topic: Apple , Mac , Family , Business , Parents , Mike , Davis , Dee
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The story revolves around the members of Monroe’s family i.e. Mac Four, Mike Monroe, Bea, Little Bit and P. Dee Chambers. Dee is a family business consultant with a great experience. Once she helped Mac by reporting about a president. It was a Sunday night. Mac called Dee to ask for some help regarding Carolina Construction Supply which was running short for wages. He wanted Dee to help him. They decided to meet (Miller). Mac started by telling about the Georgia Building Supplies. It was started by Mac and his business partner Morrie. Mac was the salesman, and Morrie was the bean counter. Mac and Morrie began to disagree who was more valuable to the business, so Mac bought Morrie out and recruited Mac Four, who was fresh out of college to run GBS. The company did very well with over $170 Million dollars in a sale. GBS was sold $13 Million five years later when Mac Four died to International Lumber supply. Some said Mac could have sold for more if he integrated technology but Mac’s heart was out of it Mac Four died (Miller). He continued by introducing about Carolina Construction Supply. Bea Monroe wanted to help out John after he got out of college and couldn’t get a job. Because of this Bea convinced Mac to start CCS. Little Bit negotiated hard and got a great overpaid salary along with overseas paid vacations. Mike was recruited from International Lumber Supply and turned down a promotion to work at CCS. Dad offered him $5,000 extra a month in salary out of his pocket. CCS does over $1,000,000 Million dollars in credit from the local bank and needs Dad’s personal financial sheet to keep the credit line open. Little Bit believes that the company can benefit from using technology in their business. Dad believes that salespeople are the more important than tech could ever be. Little Bit brings a dog into the office that causes tension with other employees so Dad will throw a couple of Benjamin in their hand to smooth things over. Mac realizes that his Dad knew how to sell but not much else (Miller). According to Gerry Boschwitz, CCS has a good nucleus of salespeople, and Little Bit can help bring them up to speed with the technology. But they need an outsider to pilot the ship. He suggests that CCS can be saved. Rudy Boschwitz says that CCS should be cut loose because it’s of no use to save a business that has three people and a dog in charge (Miller). Mary F. Whiteside adds that if the family can create a way to remember their losses, they may find energy and vision to move towards a meaningful future. According to her questions should be asked about what is the family’s original dream?
Joe Mattos suggests that CCS can be saved as long as Mac and Bea take a long hard look.
John L. Ward demonstrates the importance of having potential successors gain outside work experience. The senior generations need for definitive estate planning, and younger generations need to become self-reliant (Miller).
Compare and Contrast with a similar Article
The article used for comparing the given article is “Managing the Family Business: Preparing to Sell”. In the first article, she agreed after listening to the story and interviewed Little Bit and Mike, the sons of Mac, and Bea. Here there comes a contrast in the perception about Mac in the minds of three of them. According to Little Bit, he wanted to convince his father to use websites for the sales in the business as it is serving a way better now and in the future but Mac refused to accept it. Furthermore, Mike was also not supporting him as Mike thought it was not according to what he should do (Davis and Pellegrin). According to Mike, he didn’t want to help his father, Mac, in any way but he is compelled to work because of his father pays him a lot. Whenever Mike tells his father of any idea, Mac never approves it by saying that Mac Four wouldn’t have done that (Davis and Pellegrin). According to Bea, she was tired of it all. She knew Mac was not just and wanted to end it all as it was disturbing his sons a lot. Now, for Dee, it was difficult to choose whether she could help them or not. Some expertise overview of some professional experts over CCS and its future is given as follows (Davis and Pellegrin). According to Gerry Boschwitz, CCS has a good nucleus of salespeople, and Little Bit can help bring them up to speed with the technology. But they need an outsider to pilot the ship. He suggests that CCS can be saved. (Davis and Pellegrin). Rudy Boschwitz says that CCS should be cut loose because it’s of no use to save a business that has three people and a dog in charge. Mary F. Whiteside adds that if the family can create a way to remember their losses, they may find energy and vision to move towards a meaningful future. Joe Mattos suggests that CCS can be saved as long as Mac and Bea take a long hard look.
Miller, Warren. "The Ghost In The Family Business". Harvard Business Review. N.p., 2000. Web. 9 Apr. 2016. Davis, John, and Jonathan Pellegrin. "Managing The Family Business: Preparing To Sell". HBS Working Knowledge. N.p., 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
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