People Who Influenced You Essay

A teacher at one of my recent college essay workshops asked,

“What are some good ways for kids to approach the Common Application essay prompt about a person who’s influenced them?"

Here a few tips.

1.  Remember what “influence” means.

Influence is defined as, “the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another…”  The fact that you admire someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve influenced you.  There needs to be some action or change in your actions, behavior or opinions.   That means you'll need to give specific examples of those things.  Deciding to improve your behavior in school, visiting a particular college you previously refused to see, spending more time volunteering at the soup kitchen—if you did those things because of someone else, that’s influence. 

2. Don’t choose this prompt to try to sound impressive.

The Common Application actually gives you five choices of essay prompts.  A lot of students who choose this one write about a famous activist, politician, or someone else notable in an effort to sound impressive.  Again, you have to remember what “influence” means.  The admissions committee doesn’t need to be convinced that Martin Luther King or Gandhi are admirable.  Unless you can point to specific examples of how someone famous really has affected your actions, behavior or opinions, choose someone else (or chose a different topic). 

3. Focus on the influence, not the person.

The exact wording of the question is, “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.”  The subtext there is that you shouldn’t spend the entire essay describing why this person is so wonderful.  Spend the essay talking about you—your behavior, actions and beliefs—and how those have changed or strengthened as a result of this person’s influence. 

4.    Write an essay nobody else could write.

An essay about how your mother has inspired you to work hard is a nice essay.  But it will read exactly like hundreds of other students’ essays.  Instead, be specific.  Give details.   Write an essay that no other student could write.  And if it’s about your mom, give enough specific examples so that nobody else’s essay about their own mother will be quite like yours.

You can find even more advice in our video, “How to Write Great College Essays.”  It’s $12.99 and available as a streaming download.

Filed Under: College essays

hey, can i please get some help on this essay. it's due tommorow and i really could use some advice. :)

There are many people who have influenced my life but the person who has influenced my life more significantly than the others in my aunt. She has made me the strong person that I am today. Whether it was encouraging me to stand out in the crowd or recommending good books, she has always been there for me when I needed her. She is more like a friend to me than an aunt.

I have lived with my aunt for five years. My parents were frequently away on business trips so she was my second mother. When I was young, she used to read to me for hours, quiz me for my weekly spelling tests and answer all my myriad questions. She brought me to the library and taught me how to find books. She made me read good books. Now that I look back, I realize that she had presented me with the important habit of reading.

"Strength is nothing more than well you hide the pain. "My aunt has had to go through many hardships. I remember that when I first met her, she was struggling to find a job but she still took me in because my parents had to leave for an important conference. She never let her problems show on her face. She covered everything with a smile and taught me to do the same. One thing I greatly admire about her is that even though she had her own problems, she never hesitated to help others. I greatly admire her strength.

Among the various things that my aunt taught me, she taught me to be simple and that less is more. She herself was always very modestly dressed and encouraged me to do the same. She was so polite with people that it made me follow her example. I would be ashamed to be rude to someone. She also taught me to be patient. I would have been an extremely different person if I hadn't met her.

My aunt's life is a great example to never give up. As I mentioned earlier, she was struggling to find a job when I met her. Despite her problems; finding a job, a mother to take of and to get money for all her mother's medical bills, she never gave up. She had worked multiple jobs to pay for her study courses and wasn't about to let her problems stand in the way of her ambition. She worked hard and last year, she achieved her goal of opening a political science institution. She taught me that although we don't realize it, achieving our goal is worth all the hard work and effort.

My aunt is a very important part of my life and who I am. She has played a big in role in shaping my personality. I deeply admire her and her qualities. When I grow up, I hope I can be as good as her; caring, understanding, kind, determined and strong.

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