Sample Short Answer Essay on Running

Christie Writes About Her Love of Running for Her College Application

A Female Runner on a Country Road
A Female Runner on a Country Road. Uwe Umstaetter / Cultura / Getty Images

The Common Application no longer requires a short answer essay from all applicants, but many colleges continue to include the short answer as part of a supplement. The short answer essay prompt typically states something like this: "Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences."

Colleges like this type of question because it gives their applicants the opportunity to identify an activity that is meaningful to them and to explain why it is meaningful. This information can be useful to colleges with holistic admissions as they try to identify students who will bring interesting skills and passions to the campus community.

Sample Short Answer Essay

Christie wrote the following sample short answer essay to elaborate upon her love of running:

It is the simplest of movements: right foot, left foot, right foot. It is the simplest of actions: run, relax, breathe. For me, running is both the most basic and the most complex activity I perform in any day. While my body adjusts to the challenges of gravel paths and steep inclines, my mind is free to drift, to sift through whatever needs sorting or disposing—the upcoming day's tasks, an argument with a friend, some nagging stress. As my calf muscles loosen and my breathing settles into its deep rhythm, I am able to release that stress, forget that argument, and set my mind in order. And at the midway point, two miles into the course, I stop at the hilltop vista overlooking my little town and the surrounding woodlands. For just a moment, I stop to listen to my own strong heartbeat. Then I run again.

Critique of the Short Answer Essay

The author has focused on a personal activity, running, not any history-making achievement, team triumph, world-changing social work, or even a formal extracurricular activity. As such, the short answer essay does not highlight any kind of remarkable accomplishment or personal talent.

But think about what this short answer essay does reveal—the author is someone who can find pleasure in the "simplest" of activities. She is someone who has found an effective way for dealing with stress and finding peace and equilibrium in her life. She reveals that she is in tune with her self and her small town environment.

This one little paragraph gives us the impression that the author is a thoughtful, sensitive, and healthy person. In a short space, the essay reveals the maturity of the writer—she is reflective, articulate, and balanced. These are all dimensions of her character that will not come across in her lists of grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. They are also personal qualities that will be attractive to a college.

The writing is also solid. The prose is tight, clear, and stylistic without being over-written. The length is a perfect 823 characters and 148 words. This is a typical length limit for a short-answer essay. That said, if your college is asking for just 100 words or something longer, be sure to follow their instructions carefully.

Role of Essays and Your College Application

Keep in mind the role of any essays, even short ones, that you submit with your college application. You want to present a dimension of yourself that isn't readily apparent elsewhere in your application materials. Reveal some hidden interest, passion, or struggle that will give the admissions folks a more detailed portrait of yourself.

The college has asked for a short essay because it has holistic admissions; in other words, the school tries to evaluate the whole applicant through both quantitative (grades, test scores, rank) and qualitative (essays, interview, extracurricular activities). A short answer essay gives the college a useful window into the applicant's interests.

Christie succeeds on this front. For both the writing and the content, she has written a winning short answer essay. You may want to explore another example of a good short answer on working at Burger King as well as learn lessons from a weak short answer on soccer and a weak short answer on entrepreneurship. In general, if you follow the advice on writing a winning short answer and avoid common short answer mistakes, your essay will strengthen your application and help make you an attractive candidate for admission.