Education logo

My Creative University Application Essays

by Estrella Lo about a year ago in how to

Sharing them so you can ace it!

by Lucian Stroiny (via ArtStation)

Every year, seniors dread completing university supplementary applications and for good reasons — the questions are tedious to answer and they make you doubt your achievements. I know I hated writing them when I first started. It was exhausting writing them in a span of four months and pulling an all-nighter during my Christmas vacation. But weirdly enough, writing my university applications rekindled my passion for writing and allowed me to get my creative juices flowing. It also forced me to learn more about myself and confront my flaws. Over time, I viewed the process as an escape from my school assignments and a method to reflect on myself.

From completing 10 Canadian business program applications, I can empathize with your struggle. I would also like to think I know a thing or two that I can share with you. So here is a compilation of my unedited responses to the most common essay prompts. They're not perfect (some of them might even be cringe-worthy) but I thought I would show you them so you can learn to enjoy the process, communicate your accomplishments authentically and stand out from the crowd!

Queen's: Describe an experience that influenced the person you are today (maximum 2000 characters with spaces).

One of the greatest challenges I have overcome occurred shortly after I graduated from kindergarten. At age six, I underwent an inpatient surgery for torticollis, a condition in which I had a wry neck. The moment I acknowledged the possibility of surgical mishaps, my body went into paneck mode but I quickly calmed myself down.

Although the operation was a pain in the neck, I woke up from the ordeal feeling immensely grateful for my existence. My nervousness prior to the incision made me feel silly as I witnessed the success of the operation. As I glanced over to the muscle on the tray that was once in my body, I chuckled — it looked like a burned pork chop.

Nowadays, I no longer look at the event neckatively. In hindsight, it was the first experience that presented me with perseverance and perspective. Through accepting the permanent scars on my neck, it led me to believe that inner beauty should take precedence over physical appearance. My scar is a constant reminder that I need to embrace my identity instead of hiding my insecurities and disguising a tough demeanor. I felt as though it was my calling to tackle challenges head on.

Once I developed that mentality, I was drawn to develop a career in business partly because it accentuates a belief I cultivated from undergoing the surgery — life is a game. Similar to how I overcame my fear of blood to endure the operation, I have to play by the rules of life to win it. The business industry is undoubtedly competitive, which is also evident at Queen’s Commerce since students compete neck and neck for internship opportunities. However, I believe I have the determination to not only survive but leverage my business skills to improve people’s well-being just as the surgeon relieved me from further health problems. Whenever I encounter adversity, I look at my battle scars to remind myself that I can be courageous. If I can endure the pain at age six, I can face any hardship.

Queen's: "You Belong". Reflect on what this means to you (maximum 2000 characters with spaces).

Charles Bukowski, a writer whom I revere, once said, “Understand me. I’m not like an ordinary world ... I live in another dimension”. Similar to Bukowski, I believe everyone shares the desire to covet a sense of belonging while suffering from alienation. My interpretation of belongingness is the craving for feeling like a member of a community where diversity is celebrated. I believe acceptance is not cultivated from being understood by people who are similar to us, but when we embrace other people’s differences. Due to variations in culture, experience, sexuality and religion, we cannot expect people to be identical in values but we can choose to respect them. From visiting over 10 countries, I noticed that I have become increasingly receptive to the infinite nuances in perspectives by accepting people’s differences. Hence, I gradually grew an affinity for places outside of the city I was born and raised in. Whether it was the humility that is exceptionally common in Malaysia or the Norwegians’ inclination for eccentric music, I found myself connected to people with various social backgrounds. What I once perceived as peculiarities, I started adopting into my lifestyle. While I gained a sense of belonging when I travelled, growing up I often felt isolated from my peers due to my eczema breakouts. As a result, I longed for people who lacked my experience to regard me as one of them. Thus, I chose to feel accepted by offering the knowledge about clean beauty I acquired from treating my eczema and create a business that helps others feel comfortable in their own skin. During the summer of 2019, I created Edi Skincare, a brand that offers products that are effective for all skin types. Through this endeavour, I perceived that beneath our skin we are all the same - our souls yearn for a home in this universe where we are connected anatomically to. (Edit: yep, I included a link to an interview for some pizazz.)

Western: Consider all the extracurricular activities (community involvement, paid and/or volunteer work experience, entrepreneurial ventures), that you have been involved in during the past four years. Select an activity that you feel demonstrate your leadership abilities best. Focus your description on elements that demonstrate: leadership, teamwork, initiative, achievement, commitment and breadth.

1. Eyeshield (a Junior Achievement company)

Among the many leadership positions I garnered, my first time guiding a huge group of students in grade 11 comes to mind because it paved my path as a leader. I took the initiative to apply to the Junior Achievement Company program, which fosters entrepreneurship in high school students. There, I created an innovative venture known as Eyeshield with 21 like-minded students. Having Scotiabank Markham as one of our sponsors, the team wanted to seek innovation by providing a product that is not only unique but solves a problem.

After extensive discussions, the members decided on selling reusable webcam covers and placed orders. However, the executives became less motivated and diverted their focus to studying for their exams after the Christmas break. Although I was only the marketing assistant, I took on the responsibilities of the marketing executive when I noticed his failure to fulfill his tasks is contributing to the business’ stagnant performance. Initially, I was hesitant in taking on his responsibilities since it requires me to communicate and share my ideas in big groups. Despite being shy, I was eager to go outside of my comfort zone since it meant I could unlock the potential of the company.

Consequently, I took the initiative to devise a clear brand image along with the marketing team members. During the conversations, we decided that the company’s core value is to raise awareness for safe cyber practices. We ensured our promotional methods would reach our target market, which consists of youth, parents and teachers. I delegated tasks according to each member’s strengths when creating digital illustrations for three social media accounts. Not only that, I mentored 20 members in marketing techniques and contacted local companies and schools to be our sponsors. Besides my duties, I coordinated with the tech team to design our online store and worked closely with the sales team to promote at trade shows. I sacrificed my time on the weekends to promote our products at our pop-up booths and helped assemble 200 products, committing approximately 5 hours every week for 7 months to enhance our brand. In an attempt to build the business, I continued it with a few students when the program ended.

Due to the compelling content we posted on Instagram, our company quickly attracted over 3000 views in merely three weeks. Our business sold over 1000 units of reusable webcam covers in just two months. My strong work ethic allowed me to gain respect from my team as I was nominated for the Marketing Award and the Corporate Social Responsibility Award.

Through my leadership experience at Eyeshield, I discovered the significance of interpersonal effectiveness in forming healthy relationships in a workplace. In order to be an effective leader, I realized that I should encourage collaboration and listen to each member’s concerns and ideas as opposed to performing all the tasks independently. I also learned that effective communication skills and a strong work ethic is important in establishing trust and respect.

2. Edi Skincare

In May 2019, I accomplished something I never thought I would in the course of my high school career - establishing my own business. As a founder of Edi Skincare, a company sponsored by the Ontario government, I designed product packaging, marketing strategies and distribution methods according to my business’ mission. With sustainability in mind, I handmade skincare products that are natural, vegan and cruelty-free. I was committed to making products that do not contain any parabens, sulfates, artificial colours or synthetic fragrances. Edi is short for edible, which encapsulates my belief that my customers’ skin regime should be treated with as much care as their diet. To reinforce my philosophy, I created products with food-based ingredients that impart the aroma and appearance of food. I spent months deliberately formulating the line of products, which includes chocolate bar soaps, matcha clay masks and raspberry lip balms.

The inspiration for my venture began when I discovered an opportunity to provide a solution for myself and others after experiencing an eczema breakout during grade 9. When investigating the ingredients of the mainstream beauty products, I was appalled by the amount of harmful chemicals they contain. Hence, I turned to all-natural remedies and to my surprise, the flare-ups on my face disappeared in a few months. While researching, I discovered that 20% of Canadians have acne and 2 million Canadians suffer from rosacea. With the positive results of my own skincare treatment, I wanted to help other Canadians with my new-found passion for clean beauty.

My idea came to fruition thanks to the Summer Company program, which provided me with $3000 in start-up fund and mentorship opportunities to launch my brand. Through managing the business independently, I gained first-hand experience in the fluctuating nature of business and the resilience required to build a sustainable company. For instance, when I initially sold my products at farmers’ markets, my sales were unsteady. However, I noticed that there were approximately 100 people trying my samples during subsequent occasions. Hence, I continued using the market as a promotional method. Besides vending, I also collaborated with a photographer to take product shots for my online store. After listening to her professional advice, I offered her the freedom to express her creativity. By doing so, I demonstrated my trust in her craft, which ultimately exceeded my expectations and the result was aesthetically-pleasing.

Due to my perseverance, I excelled in the Markham Business Plan Competition as I won both the BDO Award of Excellence for First Prize and the Seneca Award of Innovation. This led me to garnering $800, which I reinvested into my business.

This is only the prelude to the entrepreneurial chapter of my life. I aspire to help people feel comfortable in their own skin by expanding my business’ product line and donating a portion of my proceeds to Canadian Dermatology Association. Since I have celebrated inclusivity and followed my ambitions, I am devoted to encouraging others to do so as well. (Edit: yes, I included a link to an interview for credibility sake. You want to prove that you're a good candidate however you can.)

Western: Character in leadership matters. At Ivey, character is defined as an amalgam of virtues, values and certain traits. Character speaks to who a person is rather than what they are able to do. Some would say the virtues of courage, humility and humanity are equally as important as the virtues of accountability, drive and integrity. Do you think this is true? Relate your answer to your experiences in the activities you've included as part of your application. (500 words)

What do Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Emily Weiss all have in common? Apart from their immense influence, they encompass a leadership that is both dynamic and multifaceted. Although many businesses value accountability, drive and integrity, the success of these leaders is characterized by their attention to balancing the former virtues with courage, humility and humanity.

Each of the traits mentioned above can hinder one’s leadership if they are practiced in excess or deficiency. As an executive member at DECA Unionville, I discovered that conscientiousness and effort alone are not beneficial enough unless they are combined with other virtues. As the Written Training Director in the chapter with the most experience in creating business plans, I took ownership in unlocking the potential of my fellow members. I was well adept at enhancing the members’ papers to make them professional and presentable. For the first time since DECA Unionville’s inception, I took the initiative to collaborate with other executives to design comprehensive lesson plans in order to maximize the motivation of the team. Since I empathize with the team’s feelings of stress, I ensured to assign them a reasonable amount of work so as not to overwork and discourage them. Incorporating humanity as well as accountability and drive was proven to be a great approach because it led to more students qualifying for the Provincials competition than previous years.

Although elements of humility, courage and humanity are required to achieve integrity, the latter itself does not encompass all the components of the former virtues. For instance, honesty, an element of integrity, cannot be achieved without courage and self-awareness, an element of humility. For example, during my time at DECA, I did not attend several executive meetings because I was often exhausted from enduring personal issues. I also did not offer my team an explanation because I was afraid of displaying vulnerability. Consequently, my team’s trust in me waned as my efforts in organizing events had diminished. Through realizing the effect I had on the entire group, I recognized the need to apologize despite it being overdue. Eventually, I mustered up the courage to apologize to my team’s advisor and president. In doing so, I understood that enduring family issues was not an excuse but instead an explanation. Thankfully, their faith in me was restored and they even encouraged me to ask for help. I increased my responsibility and attended meetings regularly. Thus, without bravery and humility, I would not be capable of truly exhibiting integrity.

Evidently, all the virtues are equally important as they work in tandem. Through examples like Emily Weiss, Jack Ma and Bill Gates, companies should recognize the value of leaders who develop the sense to activate all six virtues appropriately.

Laurier: Briefly tell us how the Laurier academic program(s) you have chosen will help you towards any future career plans and aspirations you may have. (Max. 2000 characters)

Entrepreneurship has always been a desire of mine, which was fostered through my experiences of having to persevere and exhibit originality. Throughout my upbringing, I have had a keen interest in visual arts. I find it fascinating that similar to artists, entrepreneurs can cultivate a business from an idea to reality. My imagination from creating and interpreting artwork has driven my curiosity and entrepreneurial mindset. Just as painters commit to their craft, business owners devote years to innovate a sustainable company. In discovering the time and resilience required to create a business, I became awe-inspired and made it my challenge to achieve the goal. In the future, my aspiration entails working in an ever-growing market of innovation and technology to better my community. I am particularly intrigued by marketing and finance because it allows me to help startups reach their full potential. Laurier’s Business Administration program is perfectly fitting for my goals due to its immersive learning and multi-disciplinary co-op placement. From my high school co-op experience, I became privy of the value of hands-on industry training and networking with professionals. Moreover, my extra-curricular endeavours have prepared me for the competitive nature of the business industry. Laurier is especially appealing for its high standard co-op admissions, which will further my ambitions of transforming the objective of businesses. I believe I will enjoy the program’s various focus topics because it will present me with the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to grow my own skincare brand. The Laurier program is truly one-of-a-kind because of its direct entry, which will allow me to dedicate all of my energy to propelling my passion. Lastly, Laurier understands the significance of tackling real-world problems as a team. The learning method of the program aligns with my values as I strongly resonate with the saying “If you want to go far, go together”.

Laurier: Please list any extracurricular activities or employment experience you have which you think demonstrates good citizenship and leadership qualities. These could include school involvement, volunteer experience, work experience, involvement in athletics or the arts, participation in student exchange or leadership programs, or other activities which show your leadership and innovation skills. You can respond to this question in bulleted/point form. (Max. 2000 characters)

I began to implement my integrity and leadership qualities after I was offered to be part of the Student Journeys program at the University of Oxford. Not only did I deepen my understanding about the relationship between international affairs and the global economy, but I was also inspired by the participants’ involvement in their communities. Since I wanted to establish my pursuit in the business field, I took the initiative to join an investing internship at one of Canada’s leading asset management companies. At IG Wealth Management, I gained insight into how businesses operate and developed effective communication skills. I committed a year to the internship, in which I calculated the rate of return of clients’ investments, input complex investment data on Excel and managed the division director’s social media accounts. As a founder and CEO of Edi Skincare, a business sponsored by the Ontario government, I designed product packaging, marketing strategies and distribution methods. Through managing the business independently, I gained first-hand experience in the fluctuating nature of business and the resilience required to build a sustainable company. Considering I have acquired numerous leadership skills from my previous experiences, I wanted to share my knowledge with the students at my school as the Written Training Director of the DECA team. For the first time since DECA Unionville’s inception, I collaborated with other executives to devise comprehensive lesson plans in order to maximize the motivation of the Written Events Team. In addition to my business endeavours, I have demonstrated respectfulness and self-discipline volunteering as an Altar Server at St. Justin Martyr Parish. In my role, I assisted the priest in the sanctuary during the mass, serving a congregation of over 300 people. Not only that, I devoted three years to working closely with the librarians and organizing the Children's Arts and Crafts program and Games program at the City of Markham.

Laurier: Please list any awards or recognitions you have received for your academic and/or extracurricular achievement. This could include completion of a Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) or enrolment in specialized programs, courses or curriculum. (Max. 2000 characters)

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by music and visual arts because it allowed me to express my innate creativity and extraordinary fantasies. Although practicing piano requires a lot of patience and diligence, my perseverance led me to earning Honours in the RCM Level 8 practical and advanced rudiments exams. In grade 10, I earned the Visual Arts Award at my school for demonstrating individuality through my various art pieces. Upon realizing the immense impact businesses have on the community, I completed the Business SHSM program, in which I had the opportunity to earn a co-op placement at the accounting department of Nicholby’s. Through the experiential learning the SHSM program offered, I have developed effective communication and teamwork skills that I continue to implement in other facets of my life. In grade 11, I won my school’s DECA Entrepreneurship Award for writing a comprehensive startup business plan and for presenting humility as I often asked for feedback from the executives. Not only did the award secure my position in the DECA executive team, it also gave me the confidence to apply to a competitive entrepreneurial program. During the summer of 2019, I received the Summer Company award after successfully devising an extensive business plan and participating in a formal interview. I am proud to say that I have also excelled in the Markham Business Plan Competition by winning both the BDO Award of Excellence for First Prize and the Seneca Award of Innovation. My company’s triumph is due to its specialization in hand making vegan and cruelty-free skincare products that smell and look like food. Additionally, I was chosen by my parish to receive the Bishop’s Altar Server Award for Service, which recognizes my commitment to my responsibilities at the altar and providing leadership to new servers. As a devoted Catholic, being represented as a role model of compassion and empowerment at my church was the utmost honour.

Laurier: Briefly explain a time where you demonstrated leadership that yielded a positive result. (Max. 2000 characters)

Among the many leadership positions I garnered, my experience in the Junior Achievement program takes precedence over my subsequent roles. As a marketing assistant, I created an innovative venture known as Eye Shield with like-minded students. Since it was my first time guiding a huge group of students in grade 11, it paved my path as a leader. Upon realizing that the business performance was stagnant, I took on many duties despite them being beyond my responsibilities. For instance, I took the initiative to devise a clear brand image along with the marketing team members. I also delegated tasks according to each member’s strengths when creating the company logo and digital illustrations for three social media accounts. Along with the marketing team, I mentored 20 members in marketing techniques and worked closely with the sales team to promote our pop-up stores. Along with my effort in contacting local companies and schools to sponsor our business, I coordinated with the tech team to design our online store. Through dedicating approximately 5 hours every week for 7 months, I aimed to harness the potential of the company. Due to the engaging and compelling content my team and I posted on Instagram, our company quickly attracted over 3000 views in only three weeks. In just two months, our business sold over 1000 units of reusable webcam covers. Through my leadership experience at Eye Shield, I discovered the significance of interpersonal effectiveness when forming healthy relationships in a workplace. In order to be a successful leader, I realized I should encourage collaboration and listen to each member’s concerns and ideas as opposed to performing all the tasks independently. I also learned that effective communication skills and strong work ethic is vital in earning trust and respect from others.

Waterloo: Please tell us about your educational goals, your interest in your chosen program(s), and your reasons for applying to the University of Waterloo. (900 character limit)

My future aspirations entail securing a career in Accounting by earning the CPA designation, which I hope to achieve through the AFM program at The University of Waterloo. My interest in the AFM program began during my co-op placement at Nicholby’s, where I was responsible for generating the SKU analysis using the NAV accounting software. I was also in charge of reconciling store accounts payable with purchase orders, which helped me discover the importance of accounting in business’ decision-making processes. I realized that my analytical skills have the potential to make accounting a fulfilling career. Waterloo’s unique capability to fast-track one’s career path through the MAcc is appealing. The success of Waterloo is evidenced by its promising potential for experiential learning. These initiatives make me especially motivated to apply to the most promising program in Canada.

McMaster: Tell us about one of your passions, or about something that matters to you.

Ice-skating has a unique appeal because I believe it is both a sport and an art form, considering that it encompasses all the competitiveness of the business industry and the creativity required to establish an entrepreneurial venture. Any self-taught skater understands the level of patience and resilience needed due to the constant potential for losing balance. The perseverance I have developed as a skater has helped me in pursuing my business endeavours. Much like skating, one must be comfortable in taking risks and have the potential to strategize effectively in the business industry. Along with this rigor, it is integral that entrepreneurs are consistently challenging themselves through means of innovation, just as an ice-skater often attempts new choreography. Moreover, imagination is a key component to a skater as one must envision gestures that align with the music. Although I have a busy schedule, I have practiced ice-skating since the age of seven. By balancing my academics, extracurriculars and hobbies, I am able to continue honing my ice-skating techniques for a few hours a week whether it be after school or on the weekends. Through being a member at the DeGroote community, the skills I would acquire from my business courses would help me enhance my competence in ice-skating similar to how my passion has helped me develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

McMaster: Tell us about someone you admire.

Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of the cosmetics business Glossier, has transformed the beauty industry within a few years. Initially, she began the company independently while working a full-time job after her online beauty blog gained a loyal audience. She devised an online beauty empire that creates and enhances products solely based on customers’ opinion. Due to the significant growth of her business, many makeup brands are currently trying to replicate Glossier’s brand model. What’s most impressive is that her products empower people’s natural appearance rather than pressuring them to conceal their facial features. As a result, she is constantly defying the odds as a female entrepreneur by taking risks that allows her to reinvent the beauty industry. From the interviews I’ve watched of hers, I admire her motivation and resilience as a leader the most. Weiss’ has had a considerable influence on me, so much so that I followed in her footsteps and founded my own skincare brand known as Edi Skincare. Through my company, I promote clean beauty by producing cruelty-free and vegan products that accomodate all skin types, including sensitive skin. I also value customers’ feedback and adjust the products accordingly. Witnessing Emily Weiss’ success has inspired me to persevere and follow my ambitions of creating a business that not only innovates high-quality products but also provides its customers the opportunity for input.

McMaster: Tell us how you and DeGroote can have a positive impact on one another?

Since I have various leadership experience in business, I am excited to share my knowledge and inspire other students to reach their full potential. Just as I was initially inspired by the participants of the Student Journeys program, I aspire to motivate others to seek a gratifying career in business. I hope to share the knowledge I have acquired from establishing my own skincare brand and the fulfilment of serving people through entrepreneurial ventures. At DeGroote, I will continue to convey qualities such as integrity, responsibility and collaboration. By sharing my virtues including actively volunteering at the campus and encouraging students to be involved, I hope to be a positive influence at DeGroote. As a Chinese-Canadian who grew up in a diverse community, I enjoy meeting people with different cultural backgrounds. I am pleased that DeGroote proudly embodies a culture of inclusivity as I believe embracing different ethnicities is integral to building a healthy environment. On the flip side, DeGroote is a great fit for me because I enjoy problem-based and hands-on learning as someone who has resolved various problems creatively during my internship at IG Wealth Management and co-op placement at Nicholby’s. As an ambitious student leader, I particularly like that DeGroote fosters leadership in students and prepares me to tackle the world’s social issues. Therefore, I believe that DeGroote and I will work in tandem to create a positive impact on one another.

If you've read through the whole article, don't stress too much. At the end of the day, everything will work out and you'll be admitted to the school you are meant to attend. Don't forget to enjoy everything the last year of high school has to offer while it lasts!

Give this article a like and I'll share more tips on how to ace your university supplementary application.

how to
Estrella Lo
Estrella Lo
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Estrella Lo

Hey, nice to meet you! I'm an 18-year-old writer & entrepreneur who enjoys shedding light upon taboo subjects. Your support goes towards my English enrichment programs and clothing brand. Find me:

See all posts by Estrella Lo

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links