As I read through your essays, I am crafting an image in my head of the person who will arrive on our campus in the fall if admitted. Your job is to arm me with examples of who this person is. Show your essay to two people, and no more: Often the worst thing that can happen to a college essay is editing. You're hidden behind perfect grammar, sterile language, and phrases thrown in because "it's what admissions officers want to hear. And forced. And misguided. Sometimes you need to disregard the conventions of English essay writing to make sure your tone and style are prominent.
What experience, talent, interest or other quirk do you have that you might want to share with colleges?
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In other words, what makes you you? Possible topics include hobbies, extracurriculars, intellectual interests, jobs, significant one-time events, pieces of family history, or anything else that has shaped your perspective on life. Unexpected or slightly unusual topics are often the best : your passionate love of Korean dramas or your yearly family road trip to an important historical site.
You want your essay to add something to your application, so if you're an All-American soccer player and want to write about the role soccer has played in your life, you'll have a higher bar to clear. Of course if you have a more serious part of your personal history—the death of a parent, serious illness, or challenging upbringing—you can write about that.
But make sure you feel comfortable sharing details of the experience with the admissions committee and that you can separate yourself from it enough to take constructive criticism on your essay. What do you see when you look in the mirror? The last brainstorming method is to consider whether there are particular personality traits you want to highlight. This approach can feel rather silly, but it can also be very effective.
If you were trying to sell yourself to an employer, or maybe even a potential date, how would you do it? Try to think about specific qualities that make you stand out. What are some situations in which you exhibited this trait? Looking at the Common App prompts, Eva wasn't immediately drawn to any of them, but after a bit of consideration she thought it might be nice to write about her love of literature for the first one, which asks about something "so meaningful your application would be incomplete without it.
In terms of important events, Eva's parents got divorced when she was three and she's been going back and forth between their houses for as long as she can remember, so that's a big part of her personal story.
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She's also played piano for all four years of high school, although she's not particularly good. As for personal traits, Eva is really proud of her curiosity—if she doesn't know something, she immediately looks it up, and often ends up discovering new topics she's interested in.
It's a trait that's definitely come in handy as a reporter for her school paper. Now you have a list of potential topics, but probably no idea where to start. The next step is to go through your ideas and determine which one will make for the strongest essay. You'll then begin thinking about how best to approach it.
There's no single answer to the question of what makes a great college essay topic, but there are some key factors you should keep in mind. The best essays are focused, detailed, revealing and insightful, and finding the right topic is vital to writing a killer essay with all of those qualities. As you go through your ideas, be discriminating—really think about how each topic could work as an essay. But don't be too hard on yourself ; even if an idea may not work exactly the way you first thought, there may be another way to approach it.
Pay attention to what you're really excited about and look for ways to make those ideas work. Once you have a bunch of "deas, you have to decide which one really stands out. If you don't care about your topic, it will be hard to convince your readers to care about it either.
How to Write the Common Application Essays 12222-2020 (With Examples)
You can't write a revealing essay about yourself unless you write about a topic that is truly important to you. But don't confuse important to you with important to the world: a college essay is not a persuasive argument.
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The point is to give the reader a sense of who you are , not to make a political or intellectual point. The essay needs to be personal. Similarly, a lot of students feel like they have to write about a major life event or their most impressive achievement. But the purpose of a personal statement isn't to serve as a resume or a brag sheet—there are plenty of other places in the application for you to list that information. Many of the best essays are about something small because your approach to a common experience generally reveals a lot about your perspective on the world.
Mostly, your topic needs to have had a genuine effect on your outlook , whether it taught you something about yourself or significantly shifted your view on something else. Your essay should add something to your application that isn't obvious elsewhere. Again, there are sections for all of your extracurriculars and awards; the point of the essay is to reveal something more personal that isn't clear just from numbers and lists. You also want to make sure that if you're sending more than one essay to a school—like a Common App personal statement and a school-specific supplement—the two essays take on different topics.
Did you know your essay makes up 25% of your college application?
Your essay should ultimately have a very narrow focus. This means you either need to have a very specific topic from the beginning or find a specific aspect of a broader topic to focus on.
If you try to take on a very broad topic, you'll end up with a bunch of general statements and boring lists of your accomplishments. Instead, you want to find a short anecdote or single idea to explore in depth. A vague essay is a boring essay— specific details are what imbue your essay with your personality. For example, if I tell my friend that I had a great dessert yesterday, she probably won't be that interested.
But if I explain that I ate an amazing piece of peach raspberry pie with flaky, buttery crust and filling that was both sweet and tart, she will probably demand to know where I obtained it at least she will if she appreciates the joys of pie. She'll also learn more about me: I love pie and I analyze deserts with great seriousness. Given the importance of details, writing about something that happened a long time ago or that you don't remember well isn't usually a wise choice. If you can't describe something in depth, it will be challenging to write a compelling essay about it. You also shouldn't pick a topic you aren't actually comfortable talking about.
Some students are excited to write essays about very personal topics, like their mother's bipolar disorder or their family's financial struggles, but others dislike sharing details about these kinds of experiences. If you're a member of the latter group, that's totally okay, just don't write about one of these sensitive topics. Still, don't worry that every single detail has to be perfectly correct. Definitely don't make anything up, but if you remember a wall as green and it was really blue, your readers won't notice or care. You don't have to know exactly how many dewdrops there were on the leaf.
As long as you're talking about yourself, there are very few ideas that you can't tie back to one of the Common App prompts. But if you're applying to a school with its own more specific prompt, or working on supplemental essays, making sure to address the question will be a greater concern. Once you've gone through the questions above, you should have good sense of what you want to write about. Hopefully, it's also gotten you started thinking about how you can best approach that topic, but we'll cover how to plan your essay more fully in the next step.
If after going through the narrowing process, you've eliminated all your topics, first look back over them: are you being too hard on yourself? Are there any that you really like, but just aren't totally sure what angle to take on?