April 18, 2015

How to Choose a College Essay Topic

The most valuable piece of information about the college essay I can give is that you should focus on yourself. It may seem cute to write a story about your friend or your goldfish, but admissions committees are considering you for admission. You can talk about how someone else affected you, but make sure that the topic describes how that someone has affected you. 

Discuss a specific experience, activity or aspect of your life that is important to you. Concentrate on details that draw a picture of your experience - they make an essay memorable. The college essay is a precious opportunity to promote yourself to the admissions committee of the colleges to which you are applying: make it count.

However, this does not mean that you should list every club that you have ever joined. There is space available for such lists elsewhere on the application. If you want to write about extracurriculars (which I often recommend doing), pick one that was meaningful to you and explain how it impacted you. What will impress admissions committees more than simply listing a fancy title is an explanation of why you were involved in the club and the contributions that you made.

A great way to choose a topic for your college essay is to simply think about the subject that interests you most. Some questions to get the creative juices flowing:

    * What extracurriculars and hobbies have you enjoyed the most, and why?
    * What events have happened in your life that relate to your potential major(s) in college?
    * Have you overcome any obstacles to achieve your current position in life?
    * Have you witnessed or been part of any life-changing event that changed your perspective?

These questions might not always seem useful if you find yourself faced with a bland topic. However, a bland topic is no excuse to write a bland essay in response. Treat each essay topic as a jumping-off point for what you really want to discuss. This will be the topic that most appeals to you and allows you to promote yourself to the fullest extent.

You can begin the process of choosing an essay topic by taking a moment to write down some ideas in a freestyle brainstorming session. After you choose a topic, make sure it's personal. If the admissions committee sees that your experience is important to you, it will help to define your application in a positive way. In college admissions, as in life, most people face rejection because they fail to distinguish themselves enough, not because they stand out too much.

When you sit down to write the first line of your essay, think about how you will engage the admissions committee. The best way to do this is to start off "in the moment." Ideally, you want to show the reader where you are and how you got there.

After you've written a draft and corrected the grammar, diction, and punctuation to the best of your ability, you're not done yet. It's essential to have other people read it because they'll spot mistakes and opportunities to improve your writing that you wouldn't have seen on your own. Teachers, parents, friends and college counselors can help you to plan and to review your college essays and personal statements as you embark on the college admissions process.

Keep this article by your side as you plan your college essay. Following these tips will provide the admissions committees with a snapshot of your personality and the lasting impression that you are a focused, responsible, and well-rounded individual who will be a valuable part of their community.

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