Example College Essay About Influential Person

A teacher at one of my recent college essay workshops asked,

“What are some good ways for kids to approach the Common Application essay prompt about a person who’s influenced them?"

Here a few tips.

1.  Remember what “influence” means.

Influence is defined as, “the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another…”  The fact that you admire someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve influenced you.  There needs to be some action or change in your actions, behavior or opinions.   That means you'll need to give specific examples of those things.  Deciding to improve your behavior in school, visiting a particular college you previously refused to see, spending more time volunteering at the soup kitchen—if you did those things because of someone else, that’s influence. 

2. Don’t choose this prompt to try to sound impressive.

The Common Application actually gives you five choices of essay prompts.  A lot of students who choose this one write about a famous activist, politician, or someone else notable in an effort to sound impressive.  Again, you have to remember what “influence” means.  The admissions committee doesn’t need to be convinced that Martin Luther King or Gandhi are admirable.  Unless you can point to specific examples of how someone famous really has affected your actions, behavior or opinions, choose someone else (or chose a different topic). 

3. Focus on the influence, not the person.

The exact wording of the question is, “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.”  The subtext there is that you shouldn’t spend the entire essay describing why this person is so wonderful.  Spend the essay talking about you—your behavior, actions and beliefs—and how those have changed or strengthened as a result of this person’s influence. 

4.    Write an essay nobody else could write.

An essay about how your mother has inspired you to work hard is a nice essay.  But it will read exactly like hundreds of other students’ essays.  Instead, be specific.  Give details.   Write an essay that no other student could write.  And if it’s about your mom, give enough specific examples so that nobody else’s essay about their own mother will be quite like yours.

You can find even more advice in our video, “How to Write Great College Essays.”  It’s $12.99 and available as a streaming download.

Filed Under: College essays

I’d like to start off by saying this: The most important person in my life is my mom, but if I have to talk about one of the most influential person in my life, I have to talk about my father.The reason that I choose him is because he is an example of successful person.:

My father is quite person who dedicate all his life studying and achieving all his goals, He is a professional engineer who actually work in a big company in fort Lauderdale . . Since an early age my mom and my father decided that living together was not the best for our family. At first understanding their problem was not easy for me, but thanks to that I was able to get proper knowledge from both. . He doesn’t spent a lot of time with me or with my brother and sister but he was always a good example to me that a person who I want to be.

I remember several years ago I was like 20 or 21, I had a conversation with my father, and in the middle of that conversation there was a phrase that I won’t never forget . . He said “ Whatever you want to be, try to be the best, if you want to be a doctor you have to study a lot but you have to try to be the best one , but beside doctor you work as waiter you have to be the best waiter. These tips inspired me during my life to achieve several goals . One of the most important things that my father has taught me is to be responsible and independent because it will help me when I live on my own.

My father and I live together for about 11 month when I was in Italy, and there I had the opportunity to know him very well, it was a wonderful experience because we were like friends, like brothers and we have fun and enjoyed a lot of time together. . I’m here in Miami because of him, he was really an influential person who convinced me to moved here in the United States and I will always thank for that For me, my father is an example of a successful person, He treated everybody fairly and was a good teacher to the people who asked for his advice

Let me end by saying that I continue to make myself more and more like him daily. I have far to go but the more I do it, the more I understand him Probably he doesn’t know that I’m just talking about him, and I bet that probably he will never know that he was one of the most influential person in my life…

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