Saint Louis University Essay Example by an Accepted Student

 

Saint Louis University is a pretty selective college, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share an essay a real student has submitted to this school for their Presidential Scholarship. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).

 

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Example 1

 

Prompt:

The Presidential Scholarship is awarded to students who live Saint Louis University’s mission of being servant leaders and men and women for others along with demonstrating strong leadership and interpersonal skills. What does it mean to you to be a leader? Give a detailed example of how you have positively influenced others through leadership and explain how you would continue the University’s mission as a student. (500 words)


“Do you live in a house?” It seemed like a silly question- of course I live in a house! And that’s what I told the quiet four-year-old. I didn’t realize how insensitive my answer was until it was too late. His bright red mop of hair peeked over the collar of the donated North Face jacket as he explained, “Yeah, you look like you live in a house.” Every Tuesday for several weeks, I had been supervising the group of thirteen kids, entertaining them with paper snowflakes, Pictionary, and Kidz Bop karaoke. Aside from the second-hand shoes and canned food diets, there wasn’t that much of a superficial difference between these kids and my younger self. However, they had endured trauma, poverty, and more hardship than any child should. Most of them had been previously homeless- I was supervising them because their parents were either working night shifts or taking mandatory GED classes. All the kids lived in an apartment building of a strict 3-month transitional housing program. Sometimes wisdom is manifested by the smallest of voices. 

 

On the basketball court, in the classroom, and in positions of responsibility, I’ve developed my identity as a teammate, classmate, and leader. Hearing that I “look like [I] live in a house” fundamentally altered my perspective. Many of the leadership positions I have held have been afforded through my Catholic private high school. It’s easy to be proud of accomplishments until you realize how relatively insignificant they are to others. Singing the national anthem at the Royals game doesn’t matter to kids who don’t have a TV. Earning a state medal in track is meaningless to people who can’t safely go for a run in their neighborhood. Getting promoted from lifeguard to assistant manager doesn’t feel as great when you realize you make a higher wage in your summer job than a single mother of four makes full-time. These experiences have been foundational to my development as a leader, but they cannot (and will not) be the final result. Leaders who improve their communities do so because they make things happen. They identify problems and work for solutions. In response to the civil unrest and injustice of 2020, I founded a school club called Christian Advocates for Social Equality and Justice (C.A.S.E. for Justice) that coincidentally parallels the environment of service-oriented student involvement that initially attracted me to SLU.  As I walked past signs on campus advocating for racial equality, noticed flyers for a fundraiser to support women’s education in third-world countries, and talked with students in the Micah program, it became clear that SLU emphasizes the dignity of the human person and shares my desire to serve the marginalized. 

 

To whom much is given, much is expected. I’ve been given a house to live in, but- most importantly- I’ve been instilled with lifelong values of service and social justice through my Catholic education and upbringing by Jesuit-educated parents. Pursuing a career in pediatric medicine, I intend to incorporate these values. A scholar strives to know the Gospel. A leader strives to live it. 

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

Overall, this is a strong essay for a variety of reasons. Its strong hook: “‘Do you live in a house?’” draws readers in, making a person want to read on and learn who is asking this unusual question and why!

 

Secondly, there’s a smooth transition from the hook to the rest of the essay, a pattern which continues throughout. There are no abrupt topic changes making this an easy, smooth read. The writer shifts smoothly from one idea to the next, all while staying true to their original message and the essay prompt.

 

This piece is detail-rich and specific. Small info bits like “ paper snowflakes, Pictionary, and Kidz Bop karaoke” bring the story’s imagery to life and add a layer of realism. Notice how the author makes sure to name the specific organizations he is involved with and/or interested in, avoiding boring and vague generalities. This is especially crucial when you’re trying to prove to adcoms that you belong at their school

 

This essay toes an interesting line. Admissions experts will frequently gripe about the infamous “I’m so lucky” college essay trope, in which students talk about how interacting with an underprivileged group helped them realize how privileged they are. If the student writes this sort of essay without sufficient elaboration, it can sound like a basic and ineffectual acknowledgement of luck that doesn’t teach the officers anything new about the student. However, this student did a marvelous job of tying their experience into an exploration of their personality and values. The fact that they had concrete experiences with helping underserved communities added a second layer of legitimacy.

 

What Could be Improved

 

However, no piece is perfect, and there are always areas for improvement. As you can see, the student made an effort to include a few “words of wisdom” throughout the essay to showcase their perspective on the world. When including general sayings like “To whom much is given, much is expected” and “A leader strives to live [the Gospel],” make sure that they make perfect sense within their respective contexts. This writer did a pretty good job of this overall, but the sentence “Sometimes wisdom is manifested by the smallest of voices” is placed a little abruptly in the essay, right after a detailed elaboration of the children’s living situation. It would have been better placed after an acknowledgment or evidence of a child’s said wisdom to avoid seeming out of place. 

 

More Free Essay Resources

 

All of Our Essay Guides: Don’t miss our essay guides for all of the top schools.

 

How to Write the Common App Essays: Learn how to write a strong Common App essay for each of the prompts, with examples.

 

Free CollegeVine Peer Essay Review: Submit your essay and get feedback from another student. Editing other students’ essays will also help you improve your own writing skills!

 

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Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer

Short Bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!

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