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Selecting a College Essay Topic

What Makes an Ideal College Essay Topic?

For most high school students, the most difficult part about writing a college admissions essay is coming up with an essay topic. Sure, if you’ve done something incredible such as traveling to the moon or curing cancer, that’s probably what you’re going to write about. But if you are like 99% of the population who haven’t had such an experience, how do you choose an essay topic?

Basically, what college admissions committees are looking for is to learn more about who you are. The best admissions essays form a bond between the reader and the applicant. The quality of your writing is very important, so make every effort to be grammatically correct, but the essay topic you choose is equally important. The majority of college essays aren’t very effective because the applicants write about subjects that do not shed any light on their lives or what’s important to them.

Here are three tips to choosing a first-rate admissions essay topic for college:

1) Be interesting and not boring

Obvious huh, but you’d be surprised at how many students choose boring essay topics for their admissions essays. If you read it and it sounds boring to you, imagine how it will probably sound to the admissions officer.

The good thing is that an interesting essay doesn’t necessarily have to be about an exciting topic. The essay about how you won a bowling tournament will most likely be boring because there aren’t many unique things to say about bowling. Instead, the essay can be about the anguish you felt when you chose to give up bowling.

Ask yourself this: Is this essay something you would pick up and read? Is it something you want family and friends to read?

2) Write about yourself

The soul purpose of the essay is to let the admissions committee get to know you better. Try to avoid essays about your grades, test scores, and other basic information, because they already have this information from your application. The goal is to show your personality and make a personal connection. Here are some personal questions to ask yourself:

  1. What’s important to you?
  2. What issues do you think about?
  3. What experiences have shaped you?
  4. How have you changed over the past several years?

3) Choose an essay topic that lets you write about something not obvious from your application.

This essay is great an opportunity to show the admissions officers the life you live that is not part of the application. Do not write about the following topics. They can be boring, trite, or inappropriate.

  1. Essays about death – therapeutic but you want a positive experience
  2. A sports triumph – screams boring to an admissions officer
  3. Essays that are too clever – such as writing from your dogs perspective
  4. Bad comedy with bad jokes
  5. Inappropriate topics such as drinking, drugs, and sex
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