College Essays

Common Application

Prompt: 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.


“Come in! Come in!” I say as I make my friends fit into my camera’s frame. When the image of their bright grins fill the screen, a sense of endearment fills me, as well as gratitude for my peers and the moment itself. My 20-year-old Canon and I try to encapsulate joy in its purest, most candid form, because if happiness is one of life’s goals, then why wouldn’t we preserve it?

While helping my father clean out his office, I opened a dusty cabinet to find a battered box that held my now most prized possession. I grew excited at the sight of a digital camera and replaced the decades-old batteries with new ones. The screen lit up and old images that remained on the memory card appeared. Childhood memories erased from my mind emerged like a seedling breaking through the soil, and my smile widened. 

I realized that if a digital camera could bottle my childhood memories and help me to relive those happy moments, I could use it to preserve my high school experiences. I took the camera to the next hangout with my friends, and my index finger never left the silver button. I captured the sun beaming behind us at the beach, the screaming of lyrics at a concert, and everyone’s spiffiness at our formal dance banquet. I rushed home and uploaded them to my computer and instantly wanted to share the delight with everyone else. 

With the age of the camera comes a fuzziness and on the photos that standard iPhone cameras cannot curate. The warmth of my camera’s images allows for an unordinary sense of nostalgia that stands out against “better” photo qualities. This reminiscence is something surreal that I know all of my friends will extend to their future families, laughing with their own kids at a photo my old Canon took, thinking about our high school days. 

With a simple click of a button and the rediscovery of a vintage camera, I have witnessed my peers become lively when they receive a notification that I sent them pictures. I have been able to recount past times and share smiles with people over photos I have taken. Preserving memories through a click of my new companion, I carry out my natural yearning to help and make others be cheerful and thankful for the moment that I was able to catch in time.   

My camera acted as a catalyst to help me discover my love for inspiring elation in others, which I developed further through my volunteering. I started volunteering by performing dances at retirement homes. It allowed the elderly to return to their youthful-selves and filled them with the nostalgia of when they used to do the Twist and Shout to music off of a jukebox. The same smiles and sense of recollection that my camera brings quickly filled the room. I then got the opportunity to work on a horse therapy farm for children with disabilities. Getting to hear their stories and obstacles in life filled me with appreciation for the things I think are “easy” in my life but aren’t to them. The same appreciation I received from friends when I would send them over a link with their photos. Lastly, this past summer I worked at a convent and helped to make repairs to their household. The nuns’ tears of delight when they were able to walk down their new stairs and walkway reminded me of the pure exaltation that I would get while reflecting on photos of my friends and family. 

A scuffed-up 20-year-old camera taught me not only how to hold onto contentment, but it inspired me to share it with others. It was never truly about photography and the simple click of a silver button, but rather about using my abilities and resources to share my joy with others. 

Tips for Writing: 

One of the biggest pieces of advice I could give you is that you should write your essay in a topic that wouldn’t be reiterating what an admissions counselor can ready about in your application. It should highlight an activity or passion of yours in a creative way that showcases your attributes and qualities that make up your essence, and those traits are what admissions counselors truly want to know about you. So when I was writing my essay I was debating writing my essay on my main hobby, but then I learned that it would be too expected and make me seem less dimensional, so I chose to showcase something that not as many people know about me and that gives me more depth.

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