There is No Good or Bad College Essay Topic

We’ve been reading a lot of stories and blogs focusing on bad essay topics. Dozens of experts want to tell you what not to write, what to avoid. Truth is, you can write about any subject; the subject is secondary. You are what matters.

Your life experience is not boring; your goal is to explain why that experience should matter to a college admissions counselor. You can write about teaching a scared little boy how to blow bubbles in the swimming pool, taking your calculus grade from a B- to an A- in five weeks, babysitting, skateboarding, or learning to drive, as long as you use your subject to illustrate something meaningful about you.

Before you start writing, ask yourself what you want the college to know about you from reading this essay. Are you a hard worker? Do you take risks? Have you always been afraid of your shadow and now you are brave? Have you always been brave, but you learned humility from a challenging experience?

You might wonder what we’re talking about since you keep hearing admissions professionals say “Don’t tell me about the big win” or “Please don’t write about your dying grandparent.” What they mean is Don’t write cliches. Be genuine. You can write about the big win if your story is about a  game where you learned something real about yourself. The subject – the winning game – is secondary. The story is about what you learned from that experience.

Don’t worry about your teammate writing the same story. If your teammate could tell the same story, it would be a story about the team, not a story about you. If your sister could tell the same story about your grandfather, it would be your grandfather’s story, not yours.

As we remind our students time and time again: This is your story, told in your voice and your words. Just let readers know what happened and why it matters. That’s what the essay writing experience is all about.

Ready to get started? Join us at Andover High School on Thursday, July 12, 10 a.m. – noon for Wow Them With Your College Essay. You have a story to tell. We can’t wait to hear it.