Demonstrating Leadership Essay Prompt

In my last email, I introduced and gave a few writing tips for the leadership personal insight question for the University of California application. At the end of the email, I promised some examples of actual responses.

First, please note that for a good reason, I have chosen not to write these essays to the required UC word count. Why? There is the very real possibility that someone will copy the writing entirely and use it as an actual response. Or more likely, use this writing as a template. Neither case is desirable.

Recap of the essay prompt:

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.

Examples:

(Note: The following writing is completely my original writing based on composites of the hundreds of application essays I’ve read in the past decades.)

Uninspiring:

In tenth grade, I was president of the Latino Culture Club. There were about 20 members in the club, but most of them didn’t come very often. We met to discuss the unique aspects of our culture in the United States, and my job was to get more members and figure out ways to show our culture to others.

In the first week of the club, I was overwhelmed by what to do. It seemed like I had so much responsibility, but not much time. But I decided that the best way to get ahead and reach our goals was to use: teamwork.

As a team, we were not only stronger, but we had more ideas. Suddenly, people who kept to themselves spoke up. They seemed more excited about coming to meetings. And we also had many more suggestions about what to do. After this, one of the best suggestions came up, we should put on a talent show to show the different kinds of culture we had amongst ourselves. We decided to include singing, dancing, music, and traditional costumes that each performer could pick.

The talent show was a great success, and it could never have happened without harnessing the power of the team. It’s like a bundle of sticks—alone, each one is breakable. But together, they are unstoppable.

Compelling:

In ninth grade, I set a goal for myself: I wanted to increase the presence of the Latino Culture Club at my school—I wanted it to be one of the clubs people talked about and actually wanted to join because they enjoyed it, not because they felt like they were required to.

I initially joined the club because I wanted to share the beauty of Latino culture with others, and hopefully, even improve race relations at my school. We have a fairly balanced mix of races at my school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our opinions of each other are as fairly balanced. I believe that to some extent we all represent others who look like us and come from similar backgrounds, and if we can create favorable impressions of our cultures with others, we can help reduce the racial tension that plagues some areas of the US.

Running for president, I gave some short speeches and presentations, and my fellow club members seemed impressed. And then I launched my big plan: Pull off an event that the whole school would talk about.

We had dozens of suggestions, from a talent show to a “Cultural Awareness Day” to a flash mob-style performance in the cafeteria of a fusion of hiphop and Latino music. But in the end, we decided on a food festival with music; after all, if there’s anything that brings people together, it’s delicious food.

For several months, we planned and marketed. To create excitement for the event, we announced that we’d be giving out prizes for students who arrived early and for those who visited every table at the festival. I believe that any good leader is also in the trenches, so in addition to overseeing preparations, I was also planning for my table, which would showcase the Brazilian snack “kibe” (a Middle East-inspired mixture of beef and bulgar wheat that is fried and served with hot sauce). I decided to play “baile funk,” a style of dance music popular in clubs in Rio de Janeiro.

We encountered a number of obstacles and disagreements along the way, but nothing that logical discussion and decision-making couldn’t overcome. In the end, I couldn’t have been happier with the result—for the four hours of the event, I heard the laughter of the attendees amid the various types of music being played. While I cannot state with 100% certainty that our club succeeded in creating a positive image of Latino culture at our school, I can say without any hesitation that everybody who attended had a good time and left with tummy full of delicious food, all homemade and provided by us.

See the difference between the two examples? Although nearly the same events happen in both essays, the student in the second essay sounds much more impressive. Many students believe that they must encounter some completely unique hardship or invent the cure for some disease in order to "have something interesting to write about," but really, the events themselves are only half of the puzzle. As these essay examples have shown, the other half of an interesting essay lies in how well the essay is written. Good writing can make a conventionally boring event come alive, just as bad writing can make a dramatically gripping event seem dull.

The takeaway from all of this:
If you think you have a "boring" story, don't worry! You'll do fine as long as you are descriptive and really show your passion.
If you think you have a good story, that's great! But make sure you don't get complacent! A stellar writer with an everyday story easily outshines a mediocre writer with a "good" story.

Best of luck with your college admissions!

It’s easy to talk about being a leader, but how do you demonstrate that in your college application essay? Here are 5 successful examples from students at UPenn, Stanford, Brown, and Columbia:

Johnmasson

UPenn ‘17

To divide all mankind into such a distinctive and witty set of classes can only be the brainchild of someone as clever as Benjamin Franklin. Still, this classification is one of profound implications. Defining oneself amongst the movers, the movable, or the immovable can reveal one’s true character. It is with this mindset that I consider myself one that ‘moves.’ Of course, as an inherently imperfect human being I cannot deny that I have been lazy or inflexible at times; nor have I not been one to follow and let others take action for me. But I the grander scope, I am definitely one who prefers to lead and be the individual to take action or make decisions. Keep reading. 

Sk94

Columbia’ 17

I watch my grinning friends troop into the auditorium. Some can sense my nervousness, and call out to me reassuringly. I wonder if our relationship will change, once I become head boy. I will no longer be able to take part in all the pranks that they wanted to pull off in senior year. I just hope they will not do something so reckless that I need to march them to the principal’s office. I realise then that I would if I had to. Read more.

Ecpj_chief

Brown ‘17

I stand on the peak of a mountain, 4,867 feet above the ground, accompanied by a handful of summer camp friends. From the top of the mountain, I take in the beautiful panoramic view of the Adirondacks, unfettered by pesky clouds. The sun shines directly into my eyes, forcing me to squint. Beads of sweat drip down my forehead. Although I am tired, I feel exhilarated. This particular summit is perhaps the most significant of those I have climbed as a hiker. Continue reading.

Ecschici

Stanford ‘17

I felt a bead of sweat tracing its way down my forehead. My legs began to twitch, as if they knew how badly I wanted to run. I stared, in desperation, back at the nine pairs of eyes that watched my every move. For a second, I imagined my escape- sprinting down the stairs, past the faded murals on the walls, out the gate and into the street. But just for a second. Read more. 

Brownandproud

Stanford ‘15

I walk off the stage and see my nephew running to me. He says “congratulations,” and as I look around I see my 2 parents, 2 sisters, 15 cousins, 9 aunts and 9 uncles smiling at me and clapping so loud I forget where I am. Twenty five years ago, my parents decided to leave not just Mexico City but their home, family, and culture, in pursuit of a better and brighter future for their families. My father and mother worked endlessly to bring their families over to California. I envy my father’s determination, as he gave up his teaching job in Mexico and worked 60-hour weeks for a decade to provide homes for my relatives. He was the leader, the commander of the ship guiding though the rapid current. It did not matter that we had 18 people living in our home; the most important priority was that we were together. View full profile.

Applying to college?

View the app files and essays of accepted students.

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Liked these essay intros? Unlock them all in one go in this leadership package. Brainstorm and think carefully about what you want to write in your personal statement and how you want to share your own, unique story. For more inspiration, AdmitSee has a database of 60,000+ successful college applications files waiting for you! 

About The Author

Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.




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