Topics to Avoid in a College Admissions Essay

on October 3, 2016

A well-written essay can define you personally and academically to the college admissions committee, increasing your chances of getting in. The first step in writing a good essay is to choose a great topic. Sometimes, the college will provide a list of topics to write about and sometimes, you can write about a topic of your own choosing. In either case, there are certain topics that are best to avoid when you are trying to convince the admissions committee that you will make a valuable addition to the college. However, choosing the best essay topic is easier said than done. In the interest of making an important choice a bit easier for you, here’s a little guidance on choosing the right topic.

A common error made by many students is taking a topic of importance to them and not using it to its fullest potential. For example, writing about an experience doing volunteer work in poverty-stricken regions could be a great essay topic. However, writing a chronological list of what you did each day does not communicate much about you as a person. Too often, students provide a step-by-step account describing their weeks spent digging a latrine, repairing a roof or painting a house and nothing more. There should be a personality behind these volunteer activities, and the essay should highlight what motivated you to pursue this kind of experience. These can be anything from a significant moment or person that inspired you, to the skills and qualities you learned that you can carry on into your future academic pursuits.

The use of controversial topics is also not a good idea for a college admissions essay. Politics, religion, capital punishment and many other debate-inducing subjects may yield an essay where you’re pushing an agenda rather than pushing for yourself. Even if you write a balanced essay and express positive views about a subject, not everyone evaluating your essay will necessarily have the same opinions. Some readers may react emotionally and may be inclined to write you off because of the essay. This is an area where the essay content can overpower your intent, potentially causing you to be perceived negatively.

Another topic to be wary about is writing about a role model. Students tend to take up a lot of time with these essays reflecting on what makes the person in question such a great idol. This doesn’t leave much space to write about yourself. Take the time to explain this person’s influence in your life and how it translates to your future.

Your college application essay shouldn’t just reflect on the good qualities and skills you already have gained through your life experiences. It should explain how you are going to use those qualities to benefit others, instead of just being another student attending the institution. It is important to remember that when applying for any college, the focus should not just be about how great a fit the college will be for you, but also how great a fit you are for the college. College is the next step in your future, so make sure that your topic engages with how your college education will influence your future.



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