Sample Essays: Important Issue

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Please select from the following sample application essays:

Essay 1: Carnegie Mellon | Essay 1: Harvard

Note: The following essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.

Sample Essay 1

Carnegie-Mellon, Current affairs: Middle East debate

A Greek philosopher once said, "In argument, truth is born." Even though sometimes feelings and emotions come into play that confuse the issue at hand, usually an argument results in a new insight on the subject. Even if a person holds strong views that are unshaken by anything his adversary may say, he may nevertheless gain from the debate. It forces him to organize and analyze his views, leaving him with a clearer understanding of the subject than before. Further, his opponent's arguments help him better appreciate his views and their differences. Finally, the argument forces both to look inwards, at their character and value system.

For these reasons, I enjoy debating issues that are important to me and about which I hold strong views. One such issue receiving great national attention is the Middle East peace process. While the peace process has always been important to the American community as a whole, and more specifically to the Jewish American community, the assassination of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has focused the spotlight upon it, as well as intensified the debate around it. Since I attend a private Jewish school, I often discuss this topic with my peers, often finding myself in the minority. Most of them support the peace process, while I adhere to the views of the Likud (opposition) party, which opposes the peace process.

Complicating the issue are several emotional stigmas that are often attached to it, transforming the discussion from an objective one to one driven by passion. The foremost of these stigmas is the accusation, which is often hurled at the opponents of the peace process, of promoting war and violence. Often made by people who know little about the issue, this view fails to realize that opposition to the peace process does not imply opposition of peace. Rather, it implies disapproval of certain tactics and specifics of the peace process as it was carried out by Rabin.

Another commonly advanced accusation against American Jews who disagree with the peace process centers around the question of whether they have the right to influence Israeli policy. "You don't have to send your children to the Army," it is said, "your children don't die in wars. What right have you to oppose peace?!" The fallacy of this argument is that it doesn't differentiate between belief and action. While it is true, for precisely the reasons above, that American Jews have no right to try to influence Israeli policy, that does not preclude them from having ideas of what that policy should be.

Finally, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has introduced yet another dimension into this debate. In its aftermath, opposing the peace process sometimes is identified with condoning the assassination itself. Such an identification of the man and his beliefs involves grave dangers, such as rashly implementing his ideas in a flurry of compassion and commiseration.

What all of these stigmas have in common is that they forsake logical and objective debate, opting rather for emotions, generalizations and accusations. And the dangers of that happening are the main lesson I learned from my debates. While those debates have shed new light on the issue and have forced me to reconsider what I think is moral and just, most importantly they have demonstrated the necessity of objectiveness and removal of emotions from the discussion, especially when, as in the case of the peace process, thousands of lives are at stake. When passions and hatred take over, we must stop and think of what it all is really about.


The social concerns or ethics essay is notoriously difficult to write. This essayist tackles it well with solid arguments, clear thinking, and good structure. The main suggestion for improvement came from one officer who felt that the statements made in the first paragraph were too broad and lofty for a college essay.

Very clear headed.

This student put time and energy into this essay and it shows in the writing style, the flow of discourse and the conclusions that the writer comes to in the end. It is a well thought out essay with depth and focus.

This essay is well written, and brings out an interesting point of view, one of which I had not been aware until now. This author grasps the subtleties of a difficult political position. I think he would be an interesting person to know, and would certainly make people think, both in class and in discussions outside of academics.

The argument in the essay is logical and substantiated with solid examples, making it an effective representation of the student's thought and writing style while revealing the student's personal opinions on the Middle East peace process.

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Sample Essay 2

Harvard, Current affairs/family illness: Medicine The Key to Medical Advancement

Throughout the twentieth century, virtually every aspect of modern medicine has reaped the rewards of technological advancements. Society will be forever indebted to those pioneers who conceived the vast array of preventions, treatments, and cures that are readily available to mankind today. Apparently, the imaginations of these pioneers know no boundaries, for every day we are informed of progress in yet another domain of study. Until recently, relatively little ethical consideration needed to accompany our quest for improvement. Indeed, few can find moral fault with important discoveries such as a polio vaccine and insulin. However, medicine is now venturing into areas, such as genetics, which explore the very core of human existence. Consequently, I believe that if medical advancements in these fields are going to continue to benefit society, we need to consider all possible ethical effects before implementing new discoveries. We must ensure that the potential for abuse will not override the capacity for gain.

One of the biggest breakthroughs in genetics has been the use of bacteria to genetically engineer drugs such as insulin and growth hormone. Five years ago, a brain tumor destroyed my brother's pituitary gland. He now takes genetically engineered growth hormone on a daily basis to replace that which he no longer naturally produces. This technology has helped give back to him a portion of what he lost to the tumor. An effort is currently underway to make growth hormone more readily available to the general public for treatment of ailments such as osteoporosis, severe burns, and infertility. Many people could benefit from growth hormone, but there is also a high probability that it will be abused for athletic purposes. Football great Lyle Alzado appeared on national television appealing to the public to refrain from misusing the growth hormone which he felt was responsible for his brain cancer. Therefore I feel we need to limit how available we make the drug in order to ensure that it does more good than harm.

Research in genetics is also helping us to locate genes which are linked to diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Huntington's disease. The knowledge of these genes may lead to better treatments and maybe even a cure one day. As well, genetics is now being used in amniocentesis tests to determine, for abortion purposes, if an embryo has an abnormality such as the medical condition known as Down's Syndrome. Giving people the opportunity to abort an unplanned child is an issue all by itself. Giving people the opportunity to abort a planned pregnancy because the child isn't what they wanted is absolutely ludicrous. I am a support worker for a child who has Down's Syndrome. He's every bit as much a human being as you and I, and therefore is entitled to all the privileges that accompany the status. Every day he makes me smile and reminds me of how lucky I am simply to be alive. He is the epitome of the innocence which is all too often absent from our fast-paced lives. What happens when our knowledge expands, as it inevitably will, and an amniocentesis can test for hair and eye color? Will we abort a pregnancy because the child won't develop blond hair and blue eyes? After all, the argument could be made that a poor physical appearance may cause hardship in life. More importantly, if the technology becomes available, will we custom design children to our specifications by manipulating their genes? Whatever happened to playing the cards we're dealt? If we're not careful we might create another Frankenstein.

Implementing these, and other technologies raises some critical ethical issues. A world war took place over 50 years ago because numerous countries intensely disagreed with Adolf Hitler on some of these same issues. Hitler wanted to create a supreme race and eliminate disabled people such as those having Down's Syndrome. Do we agree with basic principles behind Hitler's intentions and merely disagree with the method he employed? Hitler was one of the most despised men of modern history. Don't look now, but it appears as though we're simply taking a different, more accepted route to the same destination.

Technology seems to be growing at an exponential rate. Every door we open leads to more doors which conceal secrets. The majority of the population can only imagine the excitement of opening one of these doors for the first time ever. The pursuit of this excitement has understandably overwhelmed us. We've been blindly unlocking doors as fast as possible with little concern for what might lie beyond the door. However, if mankind is going to continue to prosper we need to start peering through the keyhole to see what lies beyond the door. Then, and only then, can we catch a glimpse of the pros and cons of opening it.

Until now, the main difficulty in unlocking a door has been finding the right key. Perhaps the true challenge actually lies in deciding which doors should be opened and which doors are better left untouched. The principle consideration in making this decision needs to be the ethics of its potential applications.


This applicant took a risky approach by tackling a tough subject-one that would be hard for most college graduates (let alone a high school senior) to write about succinctly. However, the writer made a good effort. As one officer commented, "The author obviously thinks deeply about these important issues, and an admission officer would recognize that this student would probably think deeply about other issues raised in classes." Tackling these big issues brings two inherent risks. First, the subject matter begs a serious approach, and the writer risks coming across as stiff and impersonal. Second, the writer risks getting in over his or her head and can end up making general claims without the experience or ability to back them up.

This student holds incredibly passionate beliefs about the ethics of medical research. But ethics is a slippery topic, far too subjective for the amount of generalizations he has made. The "we need tos" and "we musts" make his assertions a little too final.

The language is a bit stiff and awkward, and the essay tends to ramble.

"Five years ago, a brain tumor destroyed my brother's pituitary gland." This would be a great opening sentence! So why is it buried? Personal experience is always a useful tool for introducing one's own beliefs, much more so than unsupported blanket statements. Had the student begun here, he would have written a stronger essay without having to compromise his position one bit.

In paragraph seven: Be careful! The Holocaust is a loaded example. There was a lot more to it than just eradicating disabilities. Make sure you understand the implications of the parallels you draw.

It is dangerous for a nonprofessional (especially a high school student) to attempt writing as though the essay will be presented at a professional conference. You may be writing to someone who knows much more than you and will be irritated by your hackneyed proclamations. I give my students this advice: "Write small." Keep the topic close to your own life and write only about something you know.

I admire the student for voicing his beliefs, but I'd admire him even more if he had played devil's advocate a bit. One of my former professors always admonished, "Seek the truth in what you oppose and the error in what you espouse." What are the weaknesses in his arguments? Is a technical advancement without extensive debate on the potential ethical pitfalls ever appropriate? Addressing such questions would go a long way in communicating to the admissions committee that the author is an open minded (if steadfast) person.

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