12 Unforgettable College Application Essays
It's been a long time since I penned my college application essays, but that doesn't mean I don't still appreciate them. On the contrary: I think memorable college admissions essays are to be applauded. Why? Because anyone who can make theirs interesting, thus bringing a modicum of relief to those who have to actually sit there and plow through them all, definitely deserves some acknowledgment for their work. And hey, wouldn't you know it? That's the subject of today's AskReddit thread: “ College admissions counselors of Reddit , what's the weirdest/worst/most memorable essay you've read?”
As is wont to happen in an AskReddit thread, many — possibly even the majority, although I haven't actually counted them, so do with that what you will — of the responses did not come from their intended source; in this case, we're talking about college admissions officers. Some of them were submitted by the people who wrote them; others by people who knew the writers in question; and still others have the “a friend of a friend who dated my cousin's best friend” level of remove that can sometimes bring their veracity into question. Either way, though, they're all good for a laugh — and a few of them might even teach you something. Full steam ahead for a wide variety of lessons in what to do while writing your college application essays — and what not to do, too.
Here are 12 of the most notable examples; head on over to AskReddit for more . Oh, and for anyone who's waiting on their acceptance letters? Good luck! I believe in you!
1. The Theory of Cat/Toast Equilibrium
But… what does happen? I must know!
While we're on the subject, the University of Chicago seems like they've mastered the art of making college applications not boring for the people who actually have to read them. Check out some of essay prompts from this year's app:
Not going to lie: I am considering writing answers for them just for the hell of it. Because you know what? It actually sounds — dare I say it? — fun.
2. Law and Order: College Application Essays Unit
I would imagine that would be a pretty terrifying read. Quick, teach her to use her powers for the forces of good!
3. The Legendary Hugh Gallagher Essay
You may already be familiar with this one, but for the curious, here's the story behind it: Humorist, writer, and musician Hugh Gallagher penned the glorious satiric creation excerpted here for Scholastic Press' national writing contest when he was in high school. Unsurprisingly, he won. For some years, there was confusion surrounding whether or not he actually used it as his college essay; in 1998, though, Gallagher emailed University of York comp sci professor Susan Stepney , who had posted the essay on her website, noting that he did in fact send it along with his applications. For the curious, he ultimately attended NYU. Here's the permalink for the full comment — it's worth just for the final line. Trust me.
4. The Power of the Mighty Trombone
I was unable to discern whether or not this one actually happened or whether it's just an urban legend — but I'm willing to bet it's the latter. Either way, though, I think it's a terrible way to try to teach the “think outside the box” lesson; I feel like it encourages laziness more than anything else. But maybe that's just me.
5. How to Get Into Yale
That, though? That's pretty funny. Well played.
6. The Key to Effective Multitasking
Here's the thing with writing humorous college application essays: They only work if you're actually… y'know… funny. I feel like maybe the right person might have been able to make this idea work, but the execution of the idea this time around just wasn't up to par. However, this also happened:
Small world, no?
7. Art History Is Best History
Either the admissions officers loved it, or they didn't actually read it. The jury's still out on which one it is.
8. We Are Gathered Here Today…
To be fair, I'm not totally sure what's to be gained by sending your own obituary as a college essay; unless the prompt was something like, “Write whatever you want, as long as it is at least 500 words long,” it doesn't seem like it would really answer any questions the admissions committee might be relying on the essay to fill them in about. At the same time, though, clearly someone could have used a little Journalism 101.
9. An Act of Valor
This one was copied from another thread and pasted in this one , but I think it's definitely a winner.
10. The Importance of Proofreading
Ouch. Just… ouch.
11. The Legacies
Oh, come on. I wouldn't blame these two for using their legacy to help them get a leg up — but relying solely on it like this? That's cheating. Also, shame on the school that let them get away with it.
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Innovative college essay formats: a reddit-inspired exploration.
The college essay is a critical component of the application process, and choosing the right format can make all the difference. In this article, we delve into a popular Reddit thread on college essay formats to uncover unique and engaging ideas from users who have been through the process themselves. Discover how these Redditors have approached their essays and the creative formats they’ve used to make their stories stand out.
The List College Essay Format
One Reddit user shared their experience using a list format for their college essay. By presenting their thoughts as a numbered list, they were able to create a unique and memorable essay that showcased their creativity and writing skills. This format can be an effective way to break down complex ideas and present them in an easy-to-understand manner.
The Letter College Essay Format
Another Redditor suggested writing the college essay in the form of a letter to someone significant in their life. This approach allows the writer to share their personal experiences and emotions in a conversational tone, making the essay more relatable and engaging for the reader.
The Dialogue College Essay Format
A Reddit user proposed using a dialogue format for their college essay, which involves presenting the essay as a conversation between the writer and someone else. This approach can bring a fresh and dynamic perspective to the essay, making it more interesting and thought-provoking for the reader.
The Anecdote College Essay Format
One popular suggestion from the Reddit thread is using an anecdote format for the college essay. By sharing a personal story or experience, the writer can provide a compelling narrative that captures the reader’s attention and showcases their personality, character, and values.
The Chronological College Essay Format
Another Reddit user suggested using a chronological format for their essay. By presenting events in the order they occurred, this approach can provide a clear and organized narrative that demonstrates the writer’s growth and development over time.
We asked Sybil Low to rank traditional pieces of advice about college essay format guidlines:
As demonstrated by the ideas shared in the Reddit thread, there are numerous creative college essay formats to choose from. When crafting your own essay, consider using one of these unique formats to make your story stand out from the competition. Ultimately, the most important aspect of your essay is to showcase your authentic self and communicate your experiences and values in a way that resonates with admissions officers.
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100+ Personal Essay Topics For College And Writing Tips
Table of Contents
Looking for interesting personal essay writing ideas? We’ve got a bunch…
A personal essay is a typical assignment for high-school and college students. It’s a type of non-fiction that incorporates a variety of writing styles. Personal essay topics usually include real stories, experiences, and opinions of people.
Writers need to give an account of their own experience and express their thoughts on the subject of a paper. The key to success is to make an attempt to combine narration and opinion together. In this article, you will find a short writing guide and 100+ engaging personal essay topic ideas.
How to write personal essays?
Keep in mind that personal writing is always subjective. It is based on the writer’s observation, feelings, opinion, and experience. You are the speaker, so it’s quite natural to use such pronouns as I, my, me, we, and our.
First of all, most essay writing websites will say that you need to find a compelling topic. College personal essay topics include a lot of things.
Students may be asked to
- state their opinion about an issue
- document what they observed
- share a story
- give a description of an object, event, place, person
- relate a specific subject to their own life
Whatever theme you choose, it’s crucial to start an introduction of your paper with a strong hook to capture the audience’s attention. Introduce the subject in the first paragraph. Think about the main idea you want to communicate.
In the body of your paper, inform readers about the subject. It’s better to create an outline before to start writing. It will help you organize your thoughts, stay focused, and write clearly and concisely. Start each paragraph with a new idea. Show, don’t tell. Use strong verbs and include a lot of sensory details.
End with a thought-provoking conclusion. You need to explain what lesson you have learned, how your experience contributed to your development as a person and shaped your personality.
Why choose personal persuasive essay topics for writing
When writing on personal persuasive essay topics, writers must state their position or opinion on an issue and try to persuade people to accept their point of view, telling stories and appealing to their feelings and emotions.
That differs from elaborating on personal argumentative essay topics, when students have to support their point of view with strong arguments, reasons, relevant examples, appropriate illustrations, etc.
These types of papers are not easy to write as well as papers on personal cause and effect essay topics.
But there are important reasons why you may want to do that.
- You’ll improve communication and critical thinking skills .
- Challenging themes can help you stand out from the crowd.
- You will be able to demonstrate your creativity and ability to apply persuasive techniques.
… Can’t decide what idea to choose?
Here we have gathered a wide variety of moving ideas for your inspiration. Whether you need personal experience essay topics or personal narrative essay topics, we’ve got you covered.
Personal essay topics: what are they about?
You may write on any subject. Popular themes include hobbies, nature, childhood, illness, travel, making a difficult choice, learning something new, friends, family, and relationships.
You may use some personal challenge essay ideas and tell about overcoming an obstacle. Or you can buy argumentative essay if you don’t have time to work on college tasks tonight.
Actually, the subject is not as important as you think. Readers want to see your point of view that reveals your unique personality.
- How you met a special person in your life?
- A person you admire most.
- The best place in the local area.
- A place where you would like to live your whole life.
- Works of art you admire.
- The job of your dream.
- Your biggest disappointment.
- Books that made a great impression on you.
- What annoys you?
- Your family traditions.
- Are you addicted to technology?
- What modern songs inspire you?
- Could you live without money?
- Do you like commercials?
- What is your best method of studying?
Personal narrative essay topics
- Tell about your first trip abroad.
- The most unfortunate event ever happened to you.
- What happened during your first day at school?
- What is your first childhood memory?
- What is your most memorable family event?
- Did you experience failure?
- What games did you play when you were a child?
- The biggest challenge you have overcome.
- Do you remember your first birthday party?
- Tell how you learn something new.
- Have you ever encountered a wild animal?
- Tell about the first time you were home alone.
- How you cooked a meal for the first time?
- Tell how you helped someone.
- How you overcame fear?
Personal experience essay topics
- What things make you feel happy?
- How you came to healthy eating habits?
- How did you celebrate Christmas?
- Did you bring a stray animal home?
- How did you learn to drive?
- How you met a famous person?
- How did you learn something from enemies?
- Describe the accidents you witnessed.
- How you got hurt?
- Describe disastrous trips or vacations.
- Fantastic concerts you attended.
- Describe terrifying nightmares.
- Your reaction when provoked.
- Experience of being a leader.
- A friendship breakup experience.
Personal argumentative essay topics
- What could you live without?
- Why are you concerned about environmental issues?
- How much money do you need for happiness?
- What does your ethnic identity mean to you?
- Significance of personal growth.
- Male and female roles in your family.
- Your attitude to feminism.
- Explain what does it mean to be a Human.
- Most precious moments of your life.
- What is more critical: wealth or happiness?
- Your attitude to getting a tattoo.
- Is it important to be crazy about fashion?
- Your opinion on cosmetics surgery.
- Significance of healthy lifestyle choices.
- Your favourite holiday destinations.
College personal essay topics
- Have you been in love with someone?
- What is your life’s goal?
- What does success mean to you?
- How freedom matters in your life?
- How you leave the comfort zone?
- Things you appreciate in life.
- What things do you hate?
- How you met college roommates?
- Your plans on spending a gap year.
- How you got your first job?
- Describe intellectual challenges you would like to solve.
- What did you learn from failures?
- Outdoor activities you like most.
- Explain your commitments.
- What motivates you?
Personal persuasive essay topics
- Your opinion of distant learning and online education.
- Can listening to music help complete your homework faster?
- Can hobbies help in a future career?
- Is it ethical to buy products tested on animals?
- Why is volunteering important?
- Should drugs be banned?
- Your favourite restaurant everyone should visit.
- Things to do to help our world survive.
- How can we make the world a better place?
- Is it possible to avoid stress?
- Should zoos be forbidden?
- How online shopping makes me spend more money?
- Why I don’t smoke.
- Things I want to be doing when I become 85.
- Why do I recommend students to study abroad?
Personal cause and effect essay topics
- Why I don’t watch TV.
- Reasons I go in for sports.
- Effects of social media on the daily routine.
- How my failures make me stronger?
- Books that changed my world view.
- Reasons why I study computer science.
- Influence of my parents on my life choices.
- Importance of learning math for my future career.
- Effect of being a single child.
- How my pets make me a better person?
- Influence of regular exercise on my health and wellbeing.
- What makes me rebel against my parents?
- How did my parents help me to study?
- Why going to college made me an independent person?
- What caused my burn out?
Feel free to use our good personal essay topics for creating amazing pieces that will make a powerful impression on your readers and get you high grades.
Can’t grab your thoughts together and come up with a perfect personal essay? No worries! Our writers will do all the writing, while you enjoy your free time. Psst, it takes a few clicks only…
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How To: Write Your Personal Essay
Posted by Carolyn Pippen on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 in Application Process , General Information , The College Essay .
While we still have a few more days until the official beginning of fall, around here it feels a lot like the season has already begun. Classes are back in session , the leaves are falling off the trees, and most of our counselors have departed for the two-month marathon of flights, high school visits, and college fairs that we call travel season.
In addition, thousands of high school seniors across the country have begun the process of filling out college applications. Regardless of whether or not one of your applications will be submitted to Vanderbilt, we would like to offer you a few nuggets of the expertise we have acquired working with students and evaluating applications over years.
Thus we give you: The “How To” Series. Over the next several weeks, we will be posting lists of tips concerning various pieces of the application that we hope will make this process a little less overwhelming for all of you. Today’s tips focus on the personal essay.
- Be thoughtful, but not fretful. As a senior, most of the accomplishments that will make up the bulk of your application – academic performance, test scores, and extracurricular involvement – are said and done. In a sense, the only part of the application over which you have complete control right now is the essay. Don’t let this scare you! While the essay is a valuable tool that we use to understand you better, it is rarely if ever a “make or break” component of your application.
- Keep the “personal” in personal essay. The Common Application presents six different prompts for you to choose from when writing your essay. To be honest, we don’t really care that much what you write about, as long as you’re writing about you. In other words, don’t spend the entire essay detailing the life of your favorite and most accomplished family member, but rather focus on how that person has affected you and your life decisions. Don’t give us a detailed narrative of your favorite community service trip, but instead tell us what you learned from that trip and how it has changed your outlook on the world. This is one time when it’s okay to be self-centered – more than anything, we want to know about you!
- Don’t try to guess what the reader wants to hear. If you ask a hundred different admissions counselors what their favorite kind of essay is, you will likely get a hundred different answers. Trying to figure out what topic will get us most excited is like trying to guess which outfits the judges of Project Runway are going to like the most – no matter how many times we watch, Heidi always manages to confound. Instead of trying to game the system, focus on the things that get you excited. If nothing else, I promise that passion will show through.
- Feel free to be funny or creative – but don’t overreach. If your friends tell you that you’re the funniest person in the class, use that skill to your advantage. If your creativity is what sets you apart from your peers, let that innovation guide the structure and content of the essay. On the other hand, if every joke you make at the cafeteria table falls flatter than a pancake in a Panini press, don’t try to fake it. Figure out what your personal strengths are, and stick with them.
- Tell us something we don’t already know. When writing your essay, be sure to keep in mind all of the other pieces of your application we already have in front of us while we’re reading it. Do not use this space to summarize your extracurricular involvement or your academic achievements if we’ve already seen these things in your resume and transcript. We know that there is more to you than just test scores and leadership roles, so tell us more!
- Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we’re probably going to notice.
- Edit, proof, polish, and breathe. Beyond gaining insight into your personal psyche, the purpose of the essay is also to showcase your written communication skills. Treat this essay just like any class assignment – write it early, proof and revise, keep an eagle eye out for spelling and grammatical errors, and make sure it is presented in a clean and polished way. That being said, do not call our office in a panic if you discovered a missing article or a misused “its” after you hit submit. Because of our holistic selection process , no student will be denied based on one element of his or her application; this includes typos.
Tags: academic credentials , breathe , college applications , Common Application , essay writing , extracurricular activities , Heidi Klum , how to apply , personal essay , Project Runway
November 11th, 2013
Hi Carolyn, students get stressed regarding writing college admission essays. Your tips are going to help them a lot.
November 30th, 2013
thanks it helped me write a good essay
July 22nd, 2015
Thanks for the informative tips on short essay writing .
January 20th, 2016
Hello, I am applying to a liberal arts college and am sort of stuck up on the essay. Should I be completely honest and mention my shortcomings. I am pretty much introverted and not a good conversationalist. Should I or should I not mention these
January 27th, 2016
Your essay should help to give better, deeper insight into you as a person. As the post mentions, your essay should supplement the other parts of your application to help us understand you better. That said, you don’t have to include anything about yourself that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.
April 25th, 2016
September 3rd, 2016
Is there a specific place to write the essay and is there a prompt, the common app doesn’t have a location to attach a personal essay.
September 6th, 2016
Thank you for your question. The Common Application gives students the option to choose one of five essay prompts. You can read the essay promts on the Common Application site at http://www.commonapp.org/whats-appening/application-updates/common-application-announces-2016-2017-essay-prompts
Again, thanks for your question and your interest in Vanderbilt.
September 17th, 2016
so Vanderbilt does not have additional or supplemental essays?
September 20th, 2016
Thank you for your question – you are correct, there are no supplements for Vanderbilt.
September 21st, 2016
Hi! I’m just adding the final touches to my application and I’m ready to send it off. I’m very excited! Just a clarification: when you say there aren’t any supplements for Vanderbilt, does it mean that the activity essay/expansion isn’t required or is that not classified as a supplement? Thank you!
September 22nd, 2016
Hi Hannah, thanks for your question (and congratulations on finishing up your application). This can vary depending on the specific application method you are using. I think you may be asking about the Common App, and in that case the short answer about activities is required to submit your application. We don’t consider that a supplement because it is a part of the Common Application. If you have more questions, please feel free to follow up.
Thank you for the clarification!
September 23rd, 2016
I made a mistake..3 actually! I submitted my application today and after looking back through my pieces of writing, I realized that I accidentally wrote a word twice in my personal statement and forgot a period, and I also failed to include a small word in my topic sentence for my activities essay on the common app. Apparently, I was far too excited to hit submit. I would hate to have my admission chances suffer because of this. I’ve emailed my admissions counselor, but in the meantime, is there anything that can be done? Thank you!
September 30th, 2016
Hi Hannah, thank you for checking in on this. Emailing your admissions counselor is absolutely the right course of action, and I am sure they will handle it from here. Don’t worry about it! And thanks for your enthusiasm about Vanderbilt!
April 13th, 2017
Thanks for tips, right now i’m in the middle of essay writing, so your article is just what i needed. Start to get more and more worried each day, seems like now i know what to do
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52 Argumentative Essay Ideas that are Actually Interesting
What’s covered:, how to pick a good argumentative essay topic, elements of a strong argumentative essay, argumentative essay idea example topics.
Are you having writer’s block? Coming up with an essay topic can be the hardest part of the process. You have very likely encountered argumentative essay writing in high school and have been asked to write your own. If you’re having trouble finding a topic, we’ve created a list of 52 essay ideas to help jumpstart your brainstorming process! In addition, this post will cover strategies for picking a topic and how to make your argument a strong one. Ultimately, the goal is to convince your reader.
An argumentative essay tasks the writer with presenting an assertion and bolstering that assertion with proper research. You’ll present the claim’s authenticity. This means that whatever argument you’re making must be empirically true! Writing an argumentative essay without any evidence will leave you stranded without any facts to back up your claim. When choosing your essay topic, begin by thinking about themes that have been researched before. Readers will be more engaged with an argument that is supported by data.
This isn’t to say that your argumentative essay topic has to be as well-known, like “Gravity: Does it Exist?” but it shouldn’t be so obscure that there isn’t ample evidence. Finding a topic with multiple sources confirming its validity will help you support your thesis throughout your essay. If upon review of these articles you begin to doubt their worth due to small sample sizes, biased funding sources, or scientific disintegrity, don’t be afraid to move on to a different topic. Your ultimate goal should be proving to your audience that your argument is true because the data supports it.
The hardest essays to write are the ones that you don’t care about. If you don’t care about your topic, why should someone else? Topics that are more personal to the reader are immediately more thoughtful and meaningful because the author’s passion shines through. If you are free to choose an argumentative essay topic, find a topic where the papers you read and cite are fun to read. It’s much easier to write when the passion is already inside of you!
However, you won’t always have the choice to pick your topic. You may receive an assignment to write an argumentative essay that you feel is boring. There is still value in writing an argumentative essay on a topic that may not be of interest to you. It will push you to study a new topic, and broaden your ability to write on a variety of topics. Getting good at proving a point thoroughly and effectively will help you to both understand different fields more completely and increase your comfort with scientific writing.
Convincing Thesis Statement
It’s important to remember the general essay structure: an introduction paragraph with a thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A strong thesis statement will set your essay up for success. What is it? A succinct, concise, and pithy sentence found in your first paragraph that summarizes your main point. Pour over this statement to ensure that you can set up your reader to understand your essay. You should also restate your thesis throughout your essay to keep your reader focused on your point.
A typical argumentative essay prompt may look like this: “What has been the most important invention of the 21st century? Support your claim with evidence.” This question is open-ended and gives you flexibility. But that also means it requires research to prove your point convincingly. The strongest essays weave scientific quotes and results into your writing. You can use recent articles, primary sources, or news sources. Maybe you even cite your own research. Remember, this process takes time, so be sure you set aside enough time to dive deep into your topic.
If the reader can’t follow your argument, all your research could be for nothing! Structure is key to persuading your audience. Below are two common argumentative essay structures that you can use to organize your essays.
The Toulmin argument and the Rogerian argument each contain the four sections mentioned above but executes them in different ways. Be sure to familiarize yourself with both essay structures so that your essay is the most effective it can be.
The Toulmin argument has a straightforward presentation. You begin with your assertion, your thesis statement. You then list the evidence that supports your point and why these are valid sources. The bulk of your essay should be explaining how your sources support your claim. You then end your essay by acknowledging and discussing the problems or flaws that readers may find in your presentation. Then, you should list the solutions to these and alternative perspectives and prove your argument is stronger.
The Rogerian argument has a more complex structure. You begin with a discussion of what opposing sides do right and the validity of their arguments. This is effective because it allows you to piece apart your opponent’s argument. The next section contains your position on the questions. In this section, it is important to list problems with your opponent’s argument that your argument fixes. This way, your position feels much stronger. Your essay ends with suggesting a possible compromise between the two sides. A combination of the two sides could be the most effective solution.
- Is the death penalty effective?
- Is our election process fair?
- Is the electoral college outdated?
- Should we have lower taxes?
- How many Supreme Court Justices should there be?
- Should there be different term limits for elected officials?
- Should the drinking age be lowered?
- Does religion cause war?
- Should the country legalize marijuana?
- Should the country have tighter gun control laws?
- Should men get paternity leave?
- Should maternity leave be longer?
- Should smoking be banned?
- Should the government have a say in our diet?
- Should birth control be free?
- Should we increase access to condoms for teens?
- Should abortion be legal?
- Do school uniforms help educational attainment?
- Are kids better or worse students than they were ten years ago?
- Should students be allowed to cheat?
- Is school too long?
- Does school start too early?
- Are there benefits to attending a single-sex school?
- Is summer break still relevant?
- Is college too expensive?
Art / Culture
- How can you reform copyright law?
- What was the best decade for music?
- Do video games cause students to be more violent?
- Should content online be more harshly regulated?
- Should graffiti be considered art or vandalism?
- Should schools ban books?
- How important is art education?
- Should music be taught in school?
- Are music-sharing services helpful to artists?
- What is the best way to teach science in a religious school?
- Should fracking be legal?
- Should parents be allowed to modify their unborn children?
- Should vaccinations be required for attending school?
- Are GMOs helpful or harmful?
- Are we too dependent on our phones?
- Should everyone have internet access?
- Should internet access be free?
- Should the police force be required to wear body cams?
- Should social media companies be allowed to collect data from their users?
- How has the internet impacted human society?
- Should self-driving cars be allowed on the streets?
- Should athletes be held to high moral standards?
- Are professional athletes paid too much?
- Should the U.S. have more professional sports teams?
- Should sports be separated by gender?
- Should college athletes be paid?
- What are the best ways to increase safety in sports?
Where to Get More Argumentative Essay Topic Ideas
If you need more help brainstorming topics, especially those that are personalized to your interests, you can use CollegeVine’s free AI tutor, Ivy . Ivy can help you come up with original argumentative essay ideas, and she can also help with the rest of your homework, from math to languages.
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Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 53 stellar college essay topics to inspire you.
Most colleges and universities in the United States require applicants to submit at least one essay as part of their application. But trying to figure out what college essay topics you should choose is a tricky process. There are so many potential things you could write about!
In this guide, we go over the essential qualities that make for a great college essay topic and give you 50+ college essay topics you can use for your own statement . In addition, we provide you with helpful tips for turning your college essay topic into a stellar college essay.
What Qualities Make for a Good College Essay Topic?
Regardless of what you write about in your personal statement for college , there are key features that will always make for a stand-out college essay topic.
#1: It’s Specific
First off, good college essay topics are extremely specific : you should know all the pertinent facts that have to do with the topic and be able to see how the entire essay comes together.
Specificity is essential because it’ll not only make your essay stand out from other statements, but it'll also recreate the experience for admissions officers through its realism, detail, and raw power. You want to tell a story after all, and specificity is the way to do so. Nobody wants to read a vague, bland, or boring story — not even admissions officers!
For example, an OK topic would be your experience volunteering at a cat shelter over the summer. But a better, more specific college essay topic would be how you deeply connected with an elderly cat there named Marty, and how your bond with him made you realize that you want to work with animals in the future.
Remember that specificity in your topic is what will make your essay unique and memorable . It truly is the key to making a strong statement (pun intended)!
#2: It Shows Who You Are
In addition to being specific, good college essay topics reveal to admissions officers who you are: your passions and interests, what is important to you, your best (or possibly even worst) qualities, what drives you, and so on.
The personal statement is critical because it gives schools more insight into who you are as a person and not just who you are as a student in terms of grades and classes.
By coming up with a real, honest topic, you’ll leave an unforgettable mark on admissions officers.
#3: It’s Meaningful to You
The very best college essay topics are those that hold deep meaning to their writers and have truly influenced them in some significant way.
For instance, maybe you plan to write about the first time you played Skyrim to explain how this video game revealed to you the potentially limitless worlds you could create, thereby furthering your interest in game design.
Even if the topic seems trivial, it’s OK to use it — just as long as you can effectively go into detail about why this experience or idea had such an impact on you .
Don’t give in to the temptation to choose a topic that sounds impressive but doesn’t actually hold any deep meaning for you. Admissions officers will see right through this!
Similarly, don’t try to exaggerate some event or experience from your life if it’s not all that important to you or didn’t have a substantial influence on your sense of self.
#4: It’s Unique
College essay topics that are unique are also typically the most memorable, and if there’s anything you want to be during the college application process, it’s that! Admissions officers have to sift through thousands of applications, and the essay is one of the only parts that allows them to really get a sense of who you are and what you value in life.
If your essay is trite or boring, it won’t leave much of an impression , and your application will likely get immediately tossed to the side with little chance of seeing admission.
But if your essay topic is very original and different, you’re more likely to earn that coveted second glance at your application.
What does being unique mean exactly, though? Many students assume that they must choose an extremely rare or crazy experience to talk about in their essays —but that's not necessarily what I mean by "unique." Good college essay topics can be unusual and different, yes, but they can also be unique takes on more mundane or common activities and experiences .
For instance, say you want to write an essay about the first time you went snowboarding. Instead of just describing the details of the experience and how you felt during it, you could juxtapose your emotions with a creative and humorous perspective from the snowboard itself. Or you could compare your first attempt at snowboarding with your most recent experience in a snowboarding competition. The possibilities are endless!
#5: It Clearly Answers the Question
Finally, good college essay topics will clearly and fully answer the question(s) in the prompt.
You might fail to directly answer a prompt by misinterpreting what it’s asking you to do, or by answering only part of it (e.g., answering just one out of three questions).
Therefore, make sure you take the time to come up with an essay topic that is in direct response to every question in the prompt .
Take this Coalition Application prompt as an example:
What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
For this prompt, you’d need to answer all three questions (though it’s totally fine to focus more on one or two of them) to write a compelling and appropriate essay.
This is why we recommend reading and rereading the essay prompt ; you should know exactly what it’s asking you to do, well before you start brainstorming possible college application essay topics.
53 College Essay Topics to Get Your Brain Moving
In this section, we give you a list of 53 examples of college essay topics. Use these as jumping-off points to help you get started on your college essay and to ensure that you’re on track to coming up with a relevant and effective topic.
All college application essay topics below are categorized by essay prompt type. We’ve identified six general types of college essay prompts:
Why This College?
Change and personal growth, passions, interests, and goals, overcoming a challenge, diversity and community, solving a problem.
Note that these prompt types could overlap with one another, so you’re not necessarily limited to just one college essay topic in a single personal statement.
- How a particular major or program will help you achieve your academic or professional goals
- A memorable and positive interaction you had with a professor or student at the school
- Something good that happened to you while visiting the campus or while on a campus tour
- A certain class you want to take or a certain professor you’re excited to work with
- Some piece of on-campus equipment or facility that you’re looking forward to using
- Your plans to start a club at the school, possibly to raise awareness of a major issue
- A study abroad or other unique program that you can’t wait to participate in
- How and where you plan to volunteer in the community around the school
- An incredible teacher you studied under and the positive impact they had on you
- How you went from really liking something, such as a particular movie star or TV show, to not liking it at all (or vice versa)
- How yours or someone else’s (change in) socioeconomic status made you more aware of poverty
- A time someone said something to you that made you realize you were wrong
- How your opinion on a controversial topic, such as gay marriage or DACA, has shifted over time
- A documentary that made you aware of a particular social, economic, or political issue going on in the country or world
- Advice you would give to your younger self about friendship, motivation, school, etc.
- The steps you took in order to kick a bad or self-sabotaging habit
- A juxtaposition of the first and most recent time you did something, such as dance onstage
- A book you read that you credit with sparking your love of literature and/or writing
- A school assignment or project that introduced you to your chosen major
- A glimpse of your everyday routine and how your biggest hobby or interest fits into it
- The career and (positive) impact you envision yourself having as a college graduate
- A teacher or mentor who encouraged you to pursue a specific interest you had
- How moving around a lot helped you develop a love of international exchange or learning languages
- A special skill or talent you’ve had since you were young and that relates to your chosen major in some way, such as designing buildings with LEGO bricks
- Where you see yourself in 10 or 20 years
- Your biggest accomplishment so far relating to your passion (e.g., winning a gold medal for your invention at a national science competition)
- A time you lost a game or competition that was really important to you
- How you dealt with the loss or death of someone close to you
- A time you did poorly in a class that you expected to do well in
- How moving to a new school impacted your self-esteem and social life
- A chronic illness you battled or are still battling
- Your healing process after having your heart broken for the first time
- A time you caved under peer pressure and the steps you took so that it won't happen again
- How you almost gave up on learning a foreign language but stuck with it
- Why you decided to become a vegetarian or vegan, and how you navigate living with a meat-eating family
- What you did to overcome a particular anxiety or phobia you had (e.g., stage fright)
- A history of a failed experiment you did over and over, and how you finally found a way to make it work successfully
- Someone within your community whom you aspire to emulate
- A family tradition you used to be embarrassed about but are now proud of
- Your experience with learning English upon moving to the United States
- A close friend in the LGBTQ+ community who supported you when you came out
- A time you were discriminated against, how you reacted, and what you would do differently if faced with the same situation again
- How you navigate your identity as a multiracial, multiethnic, and/or multilingual person
- A project or volunteer effort you led to help or improve your community
- A particular celebrity or role model who inspired you to come out as LGBTQ+
- Your biggest challenge (and how you plan to tackle it) as a female in a male-dominated field
- How you used to discriminate against your own community, and what made you change your mind and eventually take pride in who you are and/or where you come from
- A program you implemented at your school in response to a known problem, such as a lack of recycling cans in the cafeteria
- A time you stepped in to mediate an argument or fight between two people
- An app or other tool you developed to make people’s lives easier in some way
- A time you proposed a solution that worked to an ongoing problem at school, an internship, or a part-time job
- The steps you took to identify and fix an error in coding for a website or program
- An important social or political issue that you would fix if you had the means
How to Build a College Essay in 6 Easy Steps
Once you’ve decided on a college essay topic you want to use, it’s time to buckle down and start fleshing out your essay. These six steps will help you transform a simple college essay topic into a full-fledged personal statement.
Step 1: Write Down All the Details
Once you’ve chosen a general topic to write about, get out a piece of paper and get to work on creating a list of all the key details you could include in your essay . These could be things such as the following:
- Emotions you felt at the time
- Names, places, and/or numbers
- Dialogue, or what you or someone else said
- A specific anecdote, example, or experience
- Descriptions of how things looked, felt, or seemed
If you can only come up with a few details, then it’s probably best to revisit the list of college essay topics above and choose a different one that you can write more extensively on.
Good college essay topics are typically those that:
- You remember well (so nothing that happened when you were really young)
- You're excited to write about
- You're not embarrassed or uncomfortable to share with others
- You believe will make you positively stand out from other applicants
Step 2: Figure Out Your Focus and Approach
Once you have all your major details laid out, start to figure out how you could arrange them in a way that makes sense and will be most effective.
It’s important here to really narrow your focus: you don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) discuss every single aspect of your trip to visit family in Indonesia when you were 16. Rather, zero in on a particular anecdote or experience and explain why and how it impacted you.
Alternatively, you could write about multiple experiences while weaving them together with a clear, meaningful theme or concept , such as how your math teacher helped you overcome your struggle with geometry over the course of an entire school year. In this case, you could mention a few specific times she tutored you and most strongly supported you in your studies.
There’s no one right way to approach your college essay, so play around to see what approaches might work well for the topic you’ve chosen.
If you’re really unsure about how to approach your essay, think about what part of your topic was or is most meaningful and memorable to you, and go from there.
Step 3: Structure Your Narrative
- Beginning: Don’t just spout off a ton of background information here—you want to hook your reader, so try to start in the middle of the action , such as with a meaningful conversation you had or a strong emotion you felt. It could also be a single anecdote if you plan to center your essay around a specific theme or idea.
- Middle: Here’s where you start to flesh out what you’ve established in the opening. Provide more details about the experience (if a single anecdote) or delve into the various times your theme or idea became most important to you. Use imagery and sensory details to put the reader in your shoes.
- End: It’s time to bring it all together. Finish describing the anecdote or theme your essay centers around and explain how it relates to you now , what you’ve learned or gained from it, and how it has influenced your goals.
Step 4: Write a Rough Draft
By now you should have all your major details and an outline for your essay written down; these two things will make it easy for you to convert your notes into a rough draft.
At this stage of the writing process, don’t worry too much about vocabulary or grammar and just focus on getting out all your ideas so that they form the general shape of an essay . It’s OK if you’re a little over the essay's word limit — as you edit, you’ll most likely make some cuts to irrelevant and ineffective parts anyway.
If at any point you get stuck and have no idea what to write, revisit steps 1-3 to see whether there are any important details or ideas you might be omitting or not elaborating on enough to get your overall point across to admissions officers.
Step 5: Edit, Revise, and Proofread
- Sections that are too wordy and don’t say anything important
- Irrelevant details that don’t enhance your essay or the point you're trying to make
- Parts that seem to drag or that feel incredibly boring or redundant
- Areas that are vague and unclear and would benefit from more detail
- Phrases or sections that are awkwardly placed and should be moved around
- Areas that feel unconvincing, inauthentic, or exaggerated
Start paying closer attention to your word choice/vocabulary and grammar at this time, too. It’s perfectly normal to edit and revise your college essay several times before asking for feedback, so keep working with it until you feel it’s pretty close to its final iteration.
This step will likely take the longest amount of time — at least several weeks, if not months — so really put effort into fixing up your essay. Once you’re satisfied, do a final proofread to ensure that it’s technically correct.
Step 6: Get Feedback and Tweak as Needed
After you’ve overhauled your rough draft and made it into a near-final draft, give your essay to somebody you trust , such as a teacher or parent, and have them look it over for technical errors and offer you feedback on its content and overall structure.
Use this feedback to make any last-minute changes or edits. If necessary, repeat steps 5 and 6. You want to be extra sure that your essay is perfect before you submit it to colleges!
Recap: From College Essay Topics to Great College Essays
Many different kinds of college application essay topics can get you into a great college. But this doesn’t make it any easier to choose the best topic for you .
In general, the best college essay topics have the following qualities :
- They’re specific
- They show who you are
- They’re meaningful to you
- They’re unique
- They clearly answer the question
If you ever need help coming up with an idea of what to write for your essay, just refer to the list of 53 examples of college essay topics above to get your brain juices flowing.
Once you’ve got an essay topic picked out, follow these six steps for turning your topic into an unforgettable personal statement :
- Write down all the details
- Figure out your focus and approach
- Structure your narrative
- Write a rough draft
- Edit, revise, and proofread
- Get feedback and tweak as needed
And with that, I wish you the best of luck on your college essays!
Writing a college essay is no simple task. Get expert college essay tips with our guides on how to come up with great college essay ideas and how to write a college essay, step by step .
You can also check out this huge list of college essay prompts to get a feel for what types of questions you'll be expected to answer on your applications.
Want to see examples of college essays that absolutely rocked? You're in luck because we've got a collection of 100+ real college essay examples right here on our blog!
Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.
Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :
Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.
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Personal Essay Topics
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- Writing Essays
- Writing Research Papers
- English Grammar
- M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
- B.A., History, Armstrong State University
A personal essay is an essay about your life, thoughts, or experiences. This type of essay will give readers a glimpse into your most intimate life experiences and life lessons. There are many reasons you may need to write a personal essay , from a simple class assignment to a college application requirement . You can use the list below for inspiration. Consider each statement a starting point, and write about a memorable moment that the prompt brings to mind.
- Your bravest moment
- How you met your best friend
- What makes your mom or dad special
- How you overcame a fear
- Why you will succeed
- Why you made a difficult choice
- A special place
- A place you try to avoid
- When a friend let you down
- An event that changed your life
- A special encounter with an animal
- A time when you felt out of place
- An odd experience that didn't make sense at the time
- Words of wisdom that hit home and changed your way of thinking
- A person that you do not like
- A time when you disappointed someone
- Your fondest memory
- A time when you saw your parent cry
- The moment when you knew you were grown up
- Your earliest memory of holiday celebrations in your home
- Times when you should have made a better choice
- A time when you dodged a dangerous situation
- A person you will think about at the end of your life
- Your favorite time period
- A failure you've experienced
- A disappointment you've experienced
- A surprising turn of events
- What you would do with power
- What superpower you would choose
- If you could switch lives with someone
- How money matters in your life
- Your biggest loss
- A time when you felt you did the wrong thing
- A proud moment when you did the right thing
- An experience that you've never shared with another person
- A special place that you shared with a childhood friend
- A first encounter with a stranger
- Your first handshake
- Where you go to hide
- If you had a do-over
- A book that changed your life
- Words that stung
- When you had the desire to run
- When you had the urge to crawl into a hole
- Words that prompted hope
- When a child taught you a lesson
- Your proudest moment
- If your dog could talk
- Your favorite time with family
- If you could live in another country
- If you could invent something
- The world a hundred years from now
- If you had lived a hundred years earlier
- The animal you'd like to be
- One thing you'd change at your school
- The greatest movie moment
- The type of teacher you would be
- If you could be a building
- A statue you'd like to see
- If you could live anywhere
- The greatest discovery
- If you could change one thing about yourself
- An animal that could be in charge
- Something you can do that robots could never do
- Your most unfortunate day
- Your secret talent
- Your secret love
- The most beautiful thing you've ever seen
- The ugliest thing you've seen
- Something you've witnessed
- An accident that changed everything
- A wrong choice
- A right choice
- If you were a food
- How you'd spend a million dollars
- If you could start a charity
- The meaning of color
- A close call
- Your favorite gift
- A chore you'd do away with
- A secret place
- Something you can't resist
- A hard lesson
- A visitor you'll never forget
- An unexplained event
- Your longest minute
- An awkward social moment
- An experience with death
- Why you'll never tell a lie
- If your mom knew, she'd kill you
- A kiss that meant a lot
- When you needed a hug
- The hardest news you've had to deliver
- A special morning
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