2 Spectacular Spelman Essay Examples by an Accepted Student
Spelman College is a private, all-girls HBCU located in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1881, the school prides itself on being a “global leader in the education of women of African descent.” Spelman students have a host of influential alumni to look up to, including Georgia politician and activist Stacy Abrams, civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, and acclaimed author Alice Walker.
Because of Spelman’s reputation for excellence, they are looking for students who can do more than just earn good grades. In addition to the rest of your application, you will have to have strong essays to earn a coveted spot at Spelman. In this essay, we will share two essays from a student who was accepted to Spelman College, and discuss what those essays did well and where they could be improved.
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Essay Example #1 – Why Major?
Essay: Epigenetics: The study of how a person’s environment can affect their genes without changing their DNA
I came across the subject of epigenetics while researching childhood obesity. The topic piqued my interest, so I decided to dig a little deeper into the subject. I put my headphones on and dove head-first into a pool of research articles about epigenetics. While doing more research, I discovered generational trauma.
So I went and repeated the process again, this time with a different keyword. Just from a description of this topic, I realized that generational trauma affected my family. Generational trauma, the psychological and physiological trauma passed down through generations of families, affected my whole community.
I was never interested in history. It bored me, and it always seemed like my history was cut for a shorter, more “appropriate” version. When I learned about generational trauma, it changed everything. History affected me much more than I thought, on a much deeper biological level.
I explored this topic more by trying to recognize behaviors around me that may have been affected by epigenetics and generational trauma. For example, things such as black parents downplaying their children’s success, which is a direct parallel to enslaved parents trying to hide their child’s intelligence and or strength to avoid their child being auctioned off. This made me wonder. Are African Americans more susceptible to obesity due to being starved and underfed during slavery? There are lots of resources verifying the psychological effects of generational trauma, but what about the physical ones? I want to learn more about evolution and physiology so I can one day conduct my own research.
Not only did this experience spark my interest in biology, but it also gave me the confidence to know that biology was the right major for me. Until then, I didn’t have any actual interest in Biology, just that I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Discovering epigenetics and generational trauma fueled my passion for biology. Majoring in Biology at Spelman will allow me to explore these topics further. Courses like Evolution in Action and Genetics at Spelman will help me learn more about epigenetics and build the connection further between slavery and health problems that plague the African-American community today.
What the Essay Did Well
This essay does a fantastic job not only depicting this student’s intelligence and curiosity, but also providing the reader with insight into how she approaches learning and how she thinks about the topics that intrigue her. Let’s delve deeper into what works so well.
To start, this essay revolves around a central anecdote, which creates a focused, cohesive framework. That allows the student to share her thoughts and feelings in a clear, organized way, as everything is anchored to one particular moment.
However, she starts her essay not directly with her interest in epigenetics–and therefore biology–but by giving the reader background: “I came across the subject of epigenetics while researching childhood obesity.” By showing us this topic was something she stumbled upon, we see that she is a naturally curious person, who acts on her intellectual curiosities even outside the formal structure of a classroom.
We also get details like “I put my headphones on and dove head-first into a pool of research articles,” and “I went and repeated the process again, this time with a different keyword,” which help us visualize her learning process. This technique is incredibly effective, as it allows Spelman admissions officers to perfectly envision what she would look like studying in their library or student center.
The essay’s greatest strength, though, is that in the process of describing how she became interested in epigenetics, the student ties in other topics like generational trauma, history, and slavery, which are not obviously connected to biology. That shows admissions officers that she can think critically and make connections at a high level, two skills which are crucial to success in college.
Just as importantly, the transitions between one topic and another are all clear and logical. For example, the line “While doing more research, I discovered generational trauma” is simple, but takes us directly from the initial topic of epigenetics to the student’s interest in generational trauma. If she had a less clear transition, like “I’m also interested in generational trauma,” readers might feel confused about how we got from A to B, and thus not fully appreciate the student’s interdisciplinary way of thinking.
We also get to see just how passionate she is about these topics thanks to the lines she includes that show she thinks about them outside the realm of academia, such as “I explored this topic more by trying to recognize behaviors around me that may have been affected by epigenetics and generational trauma.”
Moreover, the question she poses, “Are African Americans more susceptible to obesity due to being starved and underfed during slavery?” perfectly encapsulates her deductive reasoning and ability to think critically about complex issues. Including this question gives us great insight into what it’s like to be inside of this student’s head, which in turn allows us to perfectly imagine what she would contribute to a college classroom.
Finally, the student goes a step further than what was asked of her in the prompt and mentions a class at Spelman that will allow her to continue learning about the effects of slavery, generational trauma, and epigenetics. This shows admissions officers exactly how she would fit into Spelman’s campus community, and that she is prepared to take full advantage of the school’s resources.
What Could Be Improved
There is very little that needs improvement in this essay. That being said, if the student had elaborated on how generational trauma has affected her personally, the essay could have been even more impactful.
She does tell us that generational trauma affects her family and community, and later on she gives us an example of how it affects Black parents and their children in general, but we don’t get an example that is specific to her. Since she is about 40 words under the limit, some of that space could have been well-spent on providing this kind of personal connection.
Essay Example #2 – Positive Social Change
Essay: I am the older sister in my friend group. I am the older sister in my household. I am an older sister in my clubs and classes. The role of being an older sister breaks all boundaries in my life and surpasses everything.
My role as older sister includes things such as always having a hair tie or providing support to others; most importantly, my duty to provide resources to my peers. In middle school, I was determined to access higher education. I put hours into researching and learning about how to achieve my desired career. After attending a high school with a diverse racial makeup and majorily low- to middle-class students, I realized that many of my peers didn’t have the resources I did. From then on, it became my personal mission to give my peers these same resources.
I helped my peers in a wide variety of ways. I shared scholarships and college preparatory organizations with financial assistance when my peers wondered how they could afford college. When my peers asked how to find colleges, I shared social media groups and websites that could be useful to them.
One of the first steps in achieving positive social change is increasing access to higher education. For many, higher education is just an overlooking, looming figure; people know it’s there, but not enough about it or how to access it. The disparities that surround my community manifest in numerous ways, one being lower access to education. Despite my efforts only having a small effect, I have worked toward access to higher education in my social group. I decided to become the push for my friends who wanted to go to college even though they had unsupportive parents. I became a mentor to underclassmen so I could help them not make the mistakes I made. I became a resource to teachers and counselors at my school by sharing opportunities with them so that they could advocate them to their students.
In my future college community, I will continue to be an older sister. Whether that be by sharing words of encouragement or looking over an essay before submission, I am dedicated to my duty as an older sister.
What the Essay Did Well
In this “Community Service” essay, the analogy of an older sister is a clever way to instantly portray this student as affectionate, supportive, and positive. In the first paragraph, her repetition of “I am the older sister” drives home the point of how, although she is a part of several different communities, she plays a similar role in all of them. She then goes on to demonstrate to us what being an older sister means to her.
Crucially, we get to see through the writer’s actions how she has taken on the role of a wise, caring older sister while helping others access higher education. These actions include:
- “I shared scholarships and college preparatory organizations”
- “I shared social media groups and websites”
- “I became a mentor to underclassmen so I could help them not make the mistakes I made”
- “I became a resource to teachers and counselors at my school.”
Rather than simply telling us something like “My role as older sister in my community has inspired me to improve access to higher education,” the student describes tangible actions she has taken. As a result, we get a much clearer sense of how she has “advocated for positive social change,” to quote the prompt directly.
Another thing this essay does well is connect the student’s individual actions within her community to a larger social impact. By explaining the importance of education—”One of the first steps in achieving positive social change is increasing access to higher education”—she shows admissions officers that she has the ability to think about the big picture and work towards it with smaller, more manageable goals.
What Could Be Improved
One area that could use some improvement in this essay is the transitions between ideas. For example, in the second paragraph there is a rather disjointed transition:
“My role as older sister includes things such as always having a hair tie or providing support to others; most importantly, my duty to provide resources to my peers. In middle school, I was determined to access higher education.”
A better way to introduce a paragraph highlighting higher education as one of her primary personal goals might look like this:
“The first tenant of being an older sister is to provide resources to your younger siblings. For me, the ultimate resource is education. I’ve made accessing that resource my personal goal since I was 11, and over the last few years, that goal has expanded to also providing it for all my younger brothers and sisters.”
Another awkward transition is between the third and fourth paragraphs, when the student zooms out from the ways she helped her friends learn about colleges, to the broader impact of higher education on social change. Especially since later in that paragraph she returns to talking about how she has helped others pursue education, the flow would be more logical if she started with the big picture, then narrowed her focus to the tangible ways she has helped her peers achieve this abstract goal.
Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay
Do you want feedback on your Spelman essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!