Stand-Out College Essays About Money

When one reads the stand-out college essays about money printed in the New York Times, one has the overwhelming feeling that every one of these applicants better get into the college of his or her choice. If there is any justice in the world, admissions officers at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and — interesting outlier here — Butler University will recognize how much talent is in front of them in the form of four very thoughtful seniors willing to engage with fraught subjects ranging from masculinity to homelessness, thrift store shopping to working part time at McDonald’s:

I felt guilty for thinking the life that I was living and the things I had weren’t enough and began to realize just how lucky I really am. I was born on third base in life, and most of the people I’ve met at McDonald’s are starting at home plate with two strikes and have very little chance of scoring a run in life, let alone winning the game. I understand now that for many, it is hard enough just to survive, let alone save up for an education that costs tens of thousands of dollars per year. … In life, it is really easy to get caught up in your own bubble and never really look outside of it. My time at McDonald’s has made me see the world in a completely different way.

My favorite is the controlled fire of Viviana Andazola Marquez.

In her essay, she describes the difficulty of helping to take care of her family and realizing when it is vital to put herself first. Luckily, I am not alone in being so moved:

[Yale’s] Mr. Quinlan accepted Viviana Andazola Marquez, who lives in Thornton, Colo., into the class of 2018. Her short, matter-of-fact essay about the logistics of homelessness was the most powerful one we read. … Ms. Delahunty was struck by two things in this essay. The first was the language. “This is almost like a poem, it’s so laconic and compressed,” she said. “ ’I fill the cracks in the road to success made by forces beyond myself.’ What a beautiful line.”

The second was the lack of bitterness, which Mr. Quinlan picked up on as well. “She uses the story to her advantage but she doesn’t lament it,” he said. “Lots of people write about obstacles, but there is a forward-looking nature to this. It’s a look at what she’s overcome without her steeping in it.”

Not a lot of adults can manage that, let alone 17 year olds. Clare Connaughton, whose essay about growing up thrift store shopping with her single mother is also a mature and lovely piece of writing, is headed to the University of Pennsylvania. Griffin Karpeck, who wrote about McDonald’s, will indeed be attending Butler. And Andy Duehren’s self-aware, searching essay about his dad losing his job and his coming to terms with his own ideas about money and masculinity, landed him a spot at Harvard.

Writing about money is a risk, especially when so much is at stake. It’s a difficult subject, one that makes lots of people uncomfortable. Sure, appearing in the Times probably helped all of these applicants, but the talent in these essays speaks for itself.

Photo via



Show Comments

From Our Partners