So that time has arrived! You are looking at college admission essay topics to support your application to one or more colleges. In that case, you should know that writing this type of essay is a very challenging - if not the most challenging - part of the process. How is it possible to describe yourself in such a limited space? Moreover, the difficulties can appear to be compounded when all your achievements are already set out on the previous page, and you do not want to seem to be repeating yourself in your essay. There are some clichés you should try to avoid in the field of college admissions essay writing. Read on to discover what you should include and what you should steer clear of during the process.
The Very Worst
Beware of Talking about Sports!
Successful college essays are ones that cause the reader(s) to think, "Wow!" They should be left thinking that they have not previously heard of anyone who has done or experienced what you have written about. Familiarize yourself with the experiences that almost everyone else has had and what they have won or lost. Most particularly, the majority of people have experience of winning or losing at some sport. Describing how you coped with the times you won or lost will put you in the category of applicants who members of an admissions board have already read about that same day. This is not what you want for yourself and the essay you worked so hard to write.
Beware of Talking about a Relationship Breakup!
Talking about a relationship that went wrong in an admissions essay is tempting. Take a moment to consider this. Discussing matters concerning love can seem profound. To you, breaking up with someone can feel like the greatest hardship or heartache you have been through so far in your life. Or it may be you think describing how you helped and supported a boyfriend during a tenth grade math competition can seem like a good way of showing how you intend to help your new university or college community. Nevertheless, as is the case with every good written piece, it is important to know and understand your readers. In the case of an admissions board, they are not likely to be impressed by stories about the relationships you had at high school. Do bear in mind that it will have been a considerable time since members of this board were high school students. They may have experienced divorce, the grief of losing someone close, or supporting a loved one during a heartbreaking time. Essentially, they will have a slightly different perspective on love and relationships that most high school graduates. Therefore, they are unlikely to view the ending of your important high school relationship in quite the same way as you see it.
Beware of Talking about Mission Trips!
Almost every student who has visited Guatemala, Haiti, or Sierra Leone feels a desire to write a piece about their first experience of visiting a Third World country and seeing real poverty first-hand. They want to stress how this experience changed their lives forever. And although such an experience is likely to have a profound effect on your life, it does have the exact same effect on countless other American students (at least those who can afford to travel) in an exactly similar manner. They are even probably writing about this same experience in essays right now. If the time you spent in Togo is something you really want to tell the officials at a college you want to be accepted into about, pick out a specific event such as a friendship you struck up with a local person while you were there. Essays about mission trips can be quite clichéd and can appear very vague. Therefore, if you really feel it necessary to write about this type of experience, make absolutely sure you focus on a specific event or story that draws your reader(s) into a moment they can feel part of.
Beware of Attempting to Make Your Essay "Different!"
There is often a temptation to write a "different" essay. A point in case is the story of one student who wrote about the day he stayed in bed until evening, got up, had something to eat, and then returned to bed to sleep some more. This student was not lazy. In fact, he devoted a lot of time to sport and music lessons but he was anxious to make his essay sound unique and out-of-the-ordinary. Hence, he chose to write something he believed no other student would write about ... i.e. the day he did nothing but sleep. Unluckily for him, there is a very good reason why others do not choose this subject for their essay. This principle also applies to attempts at creativity where the writer responds with a single word, single sentence, or a piece of poetry. While these responses are indeed different from what the members of an admissions board usually read, it is not to suggest they are worthy responses. It is possible to find ways to set yourself apart without appearing to compromise your ability to write an intelligent essay.
Good Topics for an Admissions Essay
How Your Upbringing was Quite Out-of-the-Ordinary (and the lasting effects of this upbringing)
One student has told a story about his attempts to make friends at Harvard where, in the course of doing so, he met another student who was brought up by - wait for it - wolves! You probably think you did not read that correctly. But, yes, this student was raised in a rehabilitation center for wolves. She was also brilliant at economics and did part-time modelling, but it was her "wolf" upbringing that people remembered most about her. If your upbringing was in any way unique, it may make interesting material for an admissions essay and it should help make you a memorable candidate in the eyes of an admissions board.
Choose a Moment to Focus on
It may be that you feel you really do need to write about a clichéd topic e.g. one of the topics we have discussed above. If that is the case, an effective way to make it more interesting is to choose one particular moment and build your story around that. If, for example, your only real interest is basketball and you feel you really do have to base your essay on the theme of sport, it is best to not just write about this in a vague way and how wonderful it feels every time your team wins. Instead, you could focus on the sight of the ball sliding into the "basket" and how that moment gives you an adrenaline rush and your ears start filling with the sounds that rise around you. Then, and more importantly, once you have described that moment you could compare its significance to some bigger idea, deeper meaning, or some characteristic about yourself. Allowing yourself to focus on a life-changing moment - e.g. the time your parents told you your family were all going to live abroad or when you sustained serious injuries in a car accident - can work well in a college admissions essay.
Paint a Vivid Picture of Your Own Personality
Another student story we have been told involves a question a high school student was asked to answer in an admissions essay for the college he ultimately enrolled in. Essentially, this student was asked to describe one of his own personality quirks. A fellow student who read the resulting essay recalled being both amused and moved as she read her friend's essay because she found it so truthful and genuine. The student had described himself as an accomplished story-teller, which indeed he was. He was accustomed to telling his friends stories about fishing trips to out-of-the-way places, tales about bears he talked to when he was camping out, yarns about his super-hero uncle, and so on. The main point here is that this applicant's story-telling abilities would not have come to light in other parts of the application pack even though this really was one of the most prominent traits of this student's personality. So, heed this lesson and read back over your entire application to see if anything is missing. And that missing link might make a great topic for your admissions essay.
Your Love of Literature
If it is the case that any of your friends or members of your family does a lot of reading, it is likely you consider them to be very intelligent. Colleges think like this too and will view you favorably if you mention that you love literature in your admissions essay. Perhaps you feel you relate well to a character in a book you have read. Or it may be that you identify with some philosophical view that struck a chord with you. It may even be that it is your long-term ambition to become as good a writer as some author you admire. In any case, whatever your views, you cannot really go awry when writing about your love of literature because your passion for reading will come through in your essay.