The Great Debate: Are Online Essay Samples Truly Helpful?

Navigating the college application process can be a rollercoaster of emotions for high school students. One aspect that often sparks discussion is the usefulness of essay samples found online. A recent Reddit thread debated this issue, with users sharing their thoughts and experiences. In this article, we will explore some of the most upvoted comments and what they reveal about the value of online essay samples.

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Unrealistic Expectations 

PerfectEssayMyth argued that many online essay samples set unrealistic expectations for students. These essays often showcase exceptional writing abilities and unique life experiences that may not be representative of the average applicant. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and increased stress for students attempting to craft their own essays.

Cookie-Cutter Trap

Another user, OriginalityMatters, pointed out that relying on online essay samples can result in generic, cookie-cutter essays. Students who try to emulate these samples may lose their unique voice and personal touch, ultimately producing essays that fail to stand out to admissions officers.

Inspirational Jumping-Off Point

On the other hand, SilverLiningWriter found value in online essay samples as a source of inspiration. They suggested that reading well-written essays could provide students with ideas and motivation to help them begin their own writing process. The key is to use these samples as a starting point, while still infusing the essay with one’s own experiences and voice.

The Plagiarism Risk

HonestyIsKey highlighted the risk of plagiarism when using online essay samples. Some students might be tempted to copy portions of these essays, which could lead to severe consequences in the admissions process. Colleges use plagiarism detection software, and getting caught could result in a rejected application or even expulsion if discovered after enrollment.

Finding the Balance

WiseWords emphasized the importance of finding a balance between using online essay samples as a source of inspiration and maintaining originality in one’s writing. They recommended reading a variety of essay samples to understand different writing styles and approaches while keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is to create a unique and personal essay that reflects the individual applicant’s experiences and voice.

Amidst the intense debate surrounding the usefulness of online essay samples, some users managed to inject a dose of humor into the conversation. Here are some of the lighter, funny comments from the thread:

Over-the-Top Essay

DramaticMuch shared a story about an online essay sample in which the author described their struggle to overcome the life-changing ordeal of accidentally burning their grilled cheese sandwich. While the comment was made in jest, it highlights the extreme lengths some applicants go to make their essays stand out, even when the subject matter might not warrant such dramatic storytelling.

Ivy League Admissions Conspiracy

TinFoilHat humorously suggested that the proliferation of unrealistic essay samples online is actually a conspiracy orchestrated by Ivy League schools to make applicants believe they have no chance of getting accepted. While this theory is clearly tongue-in-cheek, it underscores the frustration some students feel when faced with seemingly unattainable writing standards.

The Cliché Disaster 

BeenThereDoneThat poked fun at the overuse of clichés in college essays by sarcastically suggesting a foolproof formula for success: “Just open with a quote from Einstein, discuss how your life changed during a mission trip, and end with a deep reflection on the meaning of life. Guaranteed acceptance to Harvard!” This comment humorously highlights the pitfalls of relying too heavily on clichés and overused themes in college essays.

The Art of Humblebragging

User Mannings4head brought up the issue of “humblebragging” often found in online essay samples. These essays showcase the writer’s accomplishments or life experiences while trying to appear modest, a tactic that can often come across as insincere. Mannings4head jokingly advised applicants to “master the art of humblebragging” to craft the perfect essay. However, the underlying message is clear: it’s important for students to strike a balance between showcasing their achievements and maintaining authenticity in their essays.

The Essay Swapping Experiment 

VegetableGrapefruit shared a humorous anecdote about an “essay swapping” experiment they conducted with friends. Each person in the group exchanged their essay with someone else, and the recipient had to rewrite the essay while incorporating their own experiences. The results were entertaining, with each essay ending up as a bizarre mix of two different people’s stories. This lighthearted experiment highlights the importance of maintaining one’s own unique voice when writing a college essay, rather than attempting to imitate someone else’s style or experiences.

The Extraterrestrial Perspective

KassieSaturn took a playful approach by imagining the perspective of an extraterrestrial reading online essay samples. They noted that an alien might be puzzled by the dramatic language and exaggerated emotions often found in these essays, questioning if Earth’s young inhabitants truly lead such intense lives. This comment serves as a reminder that sometimes, less is more. College applicants should aim to write essays that are genuine and relatable, rather than trying to impress admissions officers with over-the-top stories or overly dramatic language.

Find inspiration for your unique voice

There are different opinions on the value of online essay samples. While some users found these samples to be unrealistic and potentially detrimental to originality, others saw them as a helpful source of inspiration. When it comes to crafting the perfect college essay, it’s just as important to learn from bad essay examples as it is to be inspired by successful ones. The key takeaway is to approach online essay samples with caution and discernment, using them as a resource to spark ideas but never losing sight of one’s own unique voice and experiences. This approach will ultimately result in a more authentic and compelling college essay.

More stories to follow:

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