What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Strong UNC Chapel Hill Essay Example

UNC Chapel Hill is a pretty selective school, especially for out-of-state students, 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 UNC Chapel Hill. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).


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. 


Read our UNC Chapel Hill essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.




Prompt: If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be and why? (200-250 words).


Sitting behind the loaded plates on our dinner table, I predicted my mom’s first question with 100% accuracy: “So, how did you do on the trigonometry test today?” Notorious for failing math classes, my brother paused from chewing his chicken wing. 


I knew he’d be in trouble. 


Indeed, after hearing his grade, my mom scolded: “Look at our neighbor’s kid; then look at you! She never gets anything below a 90!”


There it is again: “the neighbor’s kid,” a Chinese concept that I wish would serve a different purpose. Upon learning about their children’s unsatisfactory academic performance, Chinese parents often bring up a so-called perfect neighbor’s kid for comparison. It saddens me to see individuals raised under the shadow of “the neighbor’s kid” not able to simply enjoy exploring knowledge. They toil through years of schooling for good grades and a prestigious college’s acceptance letter at the cost of their mental well-being. Worse, some measure their self-worth by grades alone: my brother believes he’s not good enough, despite all his admirable traits outside of academics. 


Instead of “the neighbor’s kid who got a good grade” at the dinner table, I suggested my parents discuss “the neighbor’s kid who sells bracelets to raise money for charity”  or “who had a hot discussion with the teacher about whether animals have consciousness.” I look forward to a more vibrant and colorful dinner conversation, where families talk about their roses and thorns of the day, rather than a neighbor’s kid defined by numbers.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay does a great job of opening with a strong anecdote and seamlessly transitioning the anecdote into an answer to the prompt. The reader feels the suspense of sitting at the dinner table with the student and their family waiting for the response to their mom’s question, and might even relate to hearing the student’s parents complain about their grade. It’s a simple and quick story, but everyone can find something in it they relate to, which makes the reader want to keep reading.


The essay was also successful at transitioning from a personal anecdote to a broader topic that addresses the prompt. The anecdote is connected to the larger issue the student has with their home environment and provides context for their reasoning that growing up surrounded by this mentality is harmful. The use of the anecdote bolsters the entire essay by perfectly setting up the student’s response to the prompt, rather than being an out-of-place inclusion to add some empathy or imagery, which is a common mistake with anecdotes.


Another positive aspect of this essay is how the student’s passion for the issue shines through. The reader learns a good deal about the student’s family life and familiarity with the “the neighbor’s kid.” The student’s expressed sadness and disapproval at not being able to enjoy learning because the immense amount of stress their parents place on them to get good grades is evident when they said, “They toil through years of schooling for good grades and a prestigious college’s acceptance letter at the cost of their mental well-being.” The inclusion of the student’s brother also shows how close this issue is to the student’s heart because they are watching stereotypes harm someone they love. The details and direct language included provide strong evidence for why the student wants to change this aspect of where they live, which is the most important part of the prompt to address.


What Could Be Improved


For the most part, this is a great essay. The one thing that could be improved is the last paragraph that explains what the student wants to change. As far as the reader knows, the suggestions the student makes to discuss “the neighbor’s kid who sells bracelets” or “the neighbor’s kid who had a hot discussion with the teacher” are random topics the student chose to contrast with the idea of valuing a kid for a numerical grade. Since these appear as random topics, it distracts from other qualities the student and their brother might possess and want to showcase to their parents.


In an essay that is focused on changing the norm of equating worth with a grade, it would reveal more about what the student wants to be recognized for if they mentioned topics of conversation that related back to their interests. For example, if the student liked to ice skate and play the trumpet they could say: “Instead of the dreaded question about my grades, my parents would ask about how my axel is coming along or what new song I’m considering for the winter concert.” An ending more like this, that discusses the student’s interests rather than randomly mentioning other students, still achieves the same goal of the student not wanting to solely be measured by a number, but conveys the idea while also providing more insight into the student and what they value.


Where to Get Your UNC Chapel Hill Essays Edited


Do you want feedback on your UNC Chapel Hill 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!


Short Bio
Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.