How to Find a College Essay Topic

By Kim Lifton
Wow Writing Workshop

The college essay topic is you
The college essay is a story about you!

Rising seniors, as you dive into the college admissions journey this summer, you will be told over and over again what to do in your college essay.

Well-meaning adults will tell you, “Start with an anecdote,” or “Show your passion,” or “Don’t write about sports.” That type of advice is not going to help you; the secret to standing out and getting the results you want is knowing how to write a college essay.

At Wow, we focus on the how in everything we do.

To get that essay (or essays) to stand out at the top of the application pile at your dream school, you’ll need simple step-by-step instructions.

Today I am going to teach you how to think about your college essay before you get started so you can knock it out of the ballpark. I’ll give you a little taste of Wow’s virtual college essay writing system so you can get an idea of how it’s done.

To start, forget about college essay topics. Instead, answer this question:

What do you want colleges to know about you beyond your grades, test scores and extracurricular activities?

You will not be ready to share a meaningful story about yourself if you do not know what you want colleges to know about you. Are you smart? Funny? Resilient?

What do you want readers to know? After you have an answer to that question, you will be ready to start the writing process. With your answer in mind, consider these tips to help you start generating college essay topic ideas.

Keep a journal. Journaling is like talking to yourself on paper. Think of your journal entries as though they were quick snapshots from your cell phone. Their purpose is to jog your memory and remind you of an experience, not to capture it in spectacular detail.

Focus on YOU! Whether you write about shopping for sneakers with your little brother or building houses for disadvantaged residents of rural Arkansas, the topic is secondary. You are the subject of your essay. Choose a topic that will allow you to share something genuine about yourself.

Start with a cliché. When in doubt, go for the obvious. Start brainstorming with a cliché, like I play to win or I give 110%. You never know where or when the story will emerge.

Once you have a few topic ideas, make sure they illustrate what you want readers to know about you. The best college essay topic shares something meaningful about you that readers could not otherwise find out.

If you really want to stand out and improve your chances of admission to a selective university, you’ve come to the right place! We have something for every type of student, including free videos and webinars, a low-cost do-it-yourself essay-writing program with a “virtual coach,” plus essay review and private coaching services. Sign up today, and we’ll get started.