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The Essay that Won Me $406,000

Jane introduces us to her multi-scholarship-winning essay.

Jane Cooper: Red Kite writer, YouTuber, and mom to a belligerent silver tabby.

Sitting pretty with a 2.7 GPA in your junior year of high school doesn’t exactly scream “scholarship.” The year before, my older sister – who aspired to be a rocket scientist (no, literally) – had gotten rejected from 3 of the colleges she’d applied to. And she had a 4.0. No pressure, right?

And yet, in December of my senior year, I found myself gut sobbing on my mother’s kitchen floor, clutching a book-sized envelope to my chest. The highest one of them all – a $112,000/year scholarship offer. I suppose that you’re now wondering the exact same thing as I was in that moment: how in the world did this happen?

I won’t keep you hanging, but it’s important for me to note that we live in an ever-evolving, ever-competitive world, and it took a dedicated support system to pull me up by my whiny bootstraps.

I give full credit to my college counselor and my lovely parents (with their saintlike patience) for connecting me to where I needed to go. They also used resources like Red Kite (heyyyyy) to narrow down the application pool to schools with reputations for being generous with scholarships.

Before applying, I had never heard of any of the three schools that extended scholarship offers to me, but their writing programs were reputable, and my amazing counselor correctly guessed that they’d be a good fit for me.

But there’s only so much anyone can do to help you out, especially when you’re a moody teenage girl convinced that her prospects of getting into college at all are pretty much nonexistent. You have to want it, and want it bad. And the best way you can show colleges just how much you want to be there is through your essay.

Christmas diploma – BA in English Literature and Creative Writing (with Emphases in Fiction and Nonfiction) and a minor in Women’s studies.

I lucked out by having so many supportive people around me, and although I recognize that privilege, I also know that these days, there are so many resources available for kids who are navigating this process all on their own. Red Kite – our free, personalized scholarship-finding platform – is one of them.

Another foolproof strategy is the ole learn-by-example, which is a recurring theme we want to offer on this blog. Watch people who succeed, learn how they did it, and incorporate their strategy into your own. No gatekeeping around here!

I don’t pretend to be the greatest writer in the world, nor that my college essay is perfect. Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind when I read back on this – along with a whole wave of cringe – is somewhere along the “bruh… you’re kidding” spectrum. But, facts are facts: this essay won me a cumulative $406,000 in scholarships.

We’ll dissect this essay more in-depth next week, where we’ll get our experts’ opinions on what exactly went right here – and what could’ve been better. We’ll update this page with a link to our analysis then.

For now, here’s my $406,000 college application essay.

Jane Cooper

College Essay for CommonApp

While I was creating each of my novels, I had to think to myself, “how do I make people who don’t know me care about my work, even if they have no reason to?” The same goes for personal essays like this. Anyone can talk up and down about all the things they had to overcome and their accomplishments in their life, but the difference is how it is told. The answer has unequivocally always been to embellish, exaggerate, and create sympathy. This is not what I plan to do here.

Instead, I would like to introduce the truth of my own story, as raw and unbiased as I can manage. I hope to symbolize the confidence I have that the truth alone is enough to set me apart from other essay writers, applicants, and authors.

I was born in Austin, Texas to a mother who earned a Bachelor’s in Journalism at the University of Texas and self-published a book of autobiographical columns. My father also dabbled in poetry, and we like to joke that I took their flairs for writing and multiplied them exponentially.

I wanted to be a writer before I could write. When I was two, I would scribble nonsense in notebooks, then read them out loud as if they were actual books. It has always been a deep passion ingrained within me to the point where it feels as natural as breathing or eating. During my childhood, I had so many ideas that I never ended up completing anything I wrote, because I would too quickly move on to the next one. Eventually, I had thousands of unfinished books, ranging from 2 to 250 pages.

After my family moved to New York when I was in elementary school, I faced abuse at the hands of teachers and family members, suicidal tendencies, and crippling anxiety that would go on to take almost a decade to overcome. I began to slow down, and I finished a 45 thousand word book when I was 12, my first ever novel. It allowed for the confidence that I was actually able to complete my ideas, but more than that, it set the tone for the next five books that I would go on to write.

I joined a website for writers in 2013. It took another 2 years, but eventually, my work began to take off on the site, and in 2018, I had over 100,000 followers, and I’d racked up above 70 million views across my various books. Because I was still a minor, the site placed advertisements on my work, and never paid me for them. Eventually, they deleted my profile and all of my writing over this money dispute, and I was back to square one. I had spent 4 years of my life creating on this site, and now had nothing to show for it except for screenshots and memories.

After moving back to Texas and going through 3 high schools in 3 years, I finally found God and began meditating, effectively curing the anxiety that had crippled me since my childhood. Now, I am a straight-A student about to publish a second novel to Amazon, and my comedy-based YouTube channel has almost 1,500 subscribers. I also volunteer at a local organization teaching creative writing to underprivileged 2nd graders once a week. It’s small compared to what I achieved on the writing site, but I’m proud of it, and most importantly, I’m happy.

Only a year ago I had lost so much, and although I’m still suffering from certain aftereffects of that loss, I now firmly know I am strong enough to face anything. Nobody and nothing can take away my potential, my determination, and my talent.

My name is Jane Cooper. It took some time for me to see it, but I know my future is full of greatness.

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