Barron's SAT Essay Sample 8

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SAT Essay Sample 8 from Barron's Writing Workbook for the New SAT

SAT Essay Prompt

Think carefully about the following passage and the assignment below.

William Penn said, “Avoid popularity; it has many snares, and no real benefit.”

A century later, Abraham Lincoln said, “Avoid popularity if you would have peace.”

Do you agree or disagree that popularity is best not pursued since it has no benefits nor gives a person peace?Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, experiences or observations.

Eric's Essay - Score of 6

I wholeheartedly agree with President Lincoln’s statement, but I only partly agree with William Penn’s. Being popular does press on a person’s personal space and freedom. While popularity does have many snares it does have some real benefits.

Whenever you go shopping or to the grocery store, almost always there will be a magazine news stand by the checkout lane. It’s usually full of tabloids and pop magazines that feature the latest craze and what all the hit stars have been up to. A recent movie called “Paparazzi” is about an action star who is constantly harassed by photographers who follow his every footstep. While the movie may not be entirely accurate, it does bring to light at least some of the power and freedom the press has. Stars are followed everywhere.Reporters know a star’s favorite restaurant, favorite store and even their favorite color sometimes. Granted none of these things seem very intrusive, but thousands possibly millions of people know them. The star has very little if any privacy. It is there that Lincoln’s
statement holds truth.

William Penn mentioned snares and no real benefit. Yes there are many snares that come with popularity. Peer pressure is a major one. All across the country kids dress, talk and act a certain way to try to be popular. Kids feel like they can’t be accepted as they are. They have to change themselves to how magazines, movies, or their friends tell them they should look or act. Kids have turned into imperfect clones of their favorite movies star or singer instead of being accepted for who they are.

Another snare of popularity is coping with it and the attention it draws (to use the example of stars again) many stars have died or have been in rehab for drug or alcohol abuse. The popularity and benefits it brings weren’t brought on in a way as to learn how to cope. Mel Gibson, for instance, was a severe alcoholic for many years and then went to rehab. Elvis and many others have died of drug overdose.

Despite its many snares and problems, popularity can bring benefits. Popularity can bring job opportunities that might not be available otherwise. Michael Jordan switched from a pro-basketball player to a pro-baseball player. To be totally honest, he was pretty bad. That would not have been possible to him had people not known him, had he not been popular. Likewise, many singers have started out as singers then transformed over to being actors or actresses for the same reasons.

Popularity does have many negative sides and effects to it. However, it does have some positives. I personally enjoy my obscurity, but that’s a thing everyone needs to accept.


This is a nice response, isn’t it? Eric has addressed both prompts individually as well as commented on the overall concept of popularity. His discussion is effective and insightful. He does not skimp with details and support; in fact, he has done a lot of development within his 25-minute time limit.

This clearly focused essay is well organized and easy to follow. Sentences are clear and varied. His support examples are also varied—from typical teenage example having to deal with clothing and behavior clones to broader, more speculative and almost psychological analysis of popularity and the power of the media.

The final paragraph especially allows the reader to hear Eric’s voice as he brings this outstanding response to a close. This is what SAT readers are hoping to see—a response worthy of a 6. 

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