Writing the College Admissions Essay – Six Tips for Choosing a Topic

Finding a suitable topic for your college application essay is one of the most challenging, and critical, aspects of the entire application process. Here are six tips that might make it easier.

1. Go small.

By this, I mean, simple, clear, highly personal and revealing of your character. Your lifelong inability to tell a joke, for example, could make a wonderful essay topic, as long as other criteria were also met. One of those is, make the essay something only you can write.

2. Go deep.

Look past your first, second and third essay topic ideas. Push yourself to find something that is not immediately apparent. If your search for that deeper level isn’t successful, you can always return to your original idea. But first, explore every possibility.

3. Go bold.

College Admission Directors read a lot of essays, which mean they read a lot of essays on the same topics. So don’t be afraid to pick a topic that’s not right down the middle of the road. It will make the reader sit up just a little straighter in his or her chair, read with greater interest, and remember you.

4. Go beyond your activities list.

In searching for the ideal essay topic, choose one that doesn’t merely expand on something you’ve already listed elsewhere in your application. Granted, sometimes elaboration is necessary, and desirable. But, if possible, try to come up with a topic that shows a different dimension, a different part of yourself.

5. Go “Once Upon a Time”

In choosing your college application essay topic, try to pick one with a narrative. Of course, this is not always possible as essay topics are somewhat determined by the particular essay prompt. But having a story to tell will often make it easier to keep your reader engaged.

6. Go Public

Bouncing your essay topic off friends or family, before you write it, can often be helpful. Naturally, you need to find someone whose opinion you respect and who actually knows something about the essay process. Once you do, float your essay topic (or several) past this person and watch their eyes and facial expression when they hear it. Their response will be visceral and honest and a good barometer of whether the topic is a winner.

For more personal help with the college admissions essay, contact Craig Heller at 818-340-1276 or [email protected].

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