Questions to Ask Yourself To Determine Your College App Essay Topic

How do you determine your college application essay topics?

Flickr user Demi-Brooke

Selecting an essay topic is incredibly important for your college app, but it’s also tough. Which story do you go with? What angle to you aim for? Which subject is better than another? Which one of the college application essay topics should you even choose? There are a lot of questions to answer, but maybe a few questions can help you find your answer!

Riddle logic aside, here are some questions to ask yourself to determine your college application essay topics:

What is my proudest accomplishment?

You’ve worked hard to get to where you’re at, so what moment filled you with a sense of pride? Which challenge paid off with your persistence? It could be a big moment, like becoming the lead in a school play, or a smaller one like getting a good grade in a class that was difficult for you.

Another question: Why are you so proud of that moment? What effort did you put towards achieving your goal? Colleges want to see determination and dedication, an anecdote about your proudest accomplishment can do just that.

What unique strength do you bring to the table?

Writing down strengths like a resume is cliche, so why not put a twist on it? What’s a strength unique to you? What talents rise to the surface? Some people can memorize any piece of trivia. Others can read with incredible speed. Some can play devil’s advocate in any argument. Others take meticulous color-coded notes that serve as great study material. But take it a step further—how has that strength helped you? When has it come into play during your life?

A question like this can help you stand out from the crowd, while also showing what you bring to the table as a person and student.

What odd hobby or talent do you enjoy?

Admissions officers have to read dozens of application essays a day. It can get tiring reading about the same sort of things—making the sports team, working hard to ace a test, gushing about a family member you admire. So shake it up, make yourself memorable. What do you do that no one else does?

Maybe you taught yourself magic tricks to amuse yourself or a little sibling—how long did you work on perfecting that trick? Maybe you play D&D on the weekends—how did it feel when the players finished the two-year-long campaign you built? Maybe you built a computer. Maybe you make clay figures and sell them online. Maybe you study Egyptology in your free time.

You aren’t just academics and test scores, after all. Colleges want to get to know what makes you you. What you do in your downtime reflects your personality, and the essay is a great place to show that side of you.

Does this topic portray the best side of me?

Say you’ve already landed on a topic, or are narrowing it down. Does one of the anecdotes you’re thinking about show you in the best light? True, you could focus on a failure you learned from, but make sure it still shows your best side. Avoid controversial or unseemly topics or elements. Think of it this way: is it a story you’d tell your grandmother?

Is the topic engaging?

If you’re getting bored writing your essay, chances are the person reading it will also get bored. Your essay should be engaging for both of you. The topic itself doesn’t have to be about the most exciting thing ever to be engaging, of course, but it should be told in a gripping, meaningful way.

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