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College Application Essay Topics

Typically colleges offer a number of topics on which students may write. These topics usually give a focus to the essay and almost always encourage introspection. Even when you write about a current event, the approach should be personal.

Each year certain social and political themes are common to a large percentage of the essays. It's fine to choose one of these so long as your perspective is distinctive. Admissions people don't care about what you believe but why you believe it. Again, it’s a glimpse into who you are as a person and how you think.

5 College Application Essay Do's and Don'ts


  • Be concise, specific, personal, and honest. Surprise the reader, and take chances that go beyond the obvious.
  • Use wit and imagination, but don't try to be funny if that's not your personality. Forcing humor can backfire and comes across as just plain silly.
  • Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Careless mistakes will drive the admissions board crazy.


  • Be cynical, trite, pretentious, or maudlin.
  • Repeat what is included in other parts of the application by essentially writing out your resume. Go behind the details they already know.

Lastly, review your essay with several people you trust—your counselor, family or your English teacher—and have them provide detailed feedback.