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The Best and Worst Topics for a College Application Essay

Why the Essay Matters

❶Enchanted Prince Stan decided to stay away from any frog-kissing princesses to retain his unique perspective on ruling as an amphibian.

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
Choose Your Test
Telling Your Story to Colleges

Most selective colleges require you to submit an essay or personal statement as part of your application. It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores. However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit.

You have a unique background, interests and personality. This is your chance to tell your story or at least part of it. The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through. Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable.

Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. Others write about a subject that they don't care about, but that they think will impress admissions officers. You don't need to have started your own business or have spent the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Colleges are simply looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the first-year class. It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life.

Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary. Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you. A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. What you think is funny and what an adult working in a college thinks is funny are probably different.

We caution against one-liners, limericks and anything off—color. Set it aside for a few days and read it again. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring. Stephen's first example breaking into the van in Laredo is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies.

We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

I have always loved riding in cars. After a long day in first grade, I used to fall asleep to the engine purring in my mother's Honda Odyssey, even though it was only a 5-minute drive home. As I grew, and graduated into the shotgun seat, it became natural and enjoyable to look out the window. Seeing my world passing by through that smudged glass, I would daydream what I could do with it.

In elementary school, I already knew my career path: I was going to be Emperor of the World. While I sat in the car and watched the miles pass by, I developed the plan for my empire. I reasoned that, for the world to run smoothly, it would have to look presentable.

I would assign people, aptly named Fixer-Uppers, to fix everything that needed fixing. That old man down the street with chipping paint on his house would have a fresh coat in no time. The boy who accidentally tossed his Frisbee onto the roof of the school would get it back. The big pothole on Elm Street that my mother managed to hit every single day on the way to school would be filled-in. It made perfect sense!

All the people that didn't have a job could be Fixer-Uppers. I was like a ten-year-old FDR. Seven years down the road, I still take a second glance at the sidewalk cracks and think of my Fixer-Uppers, but now I'm doing so from the driver's seat. As much as I would enjoy it, I now accept that I won't become Emperor of the World, and that the Fixer-Uppers will have to remain in my car ride imaginings.

I always pictured a Fixer-Upper as a smiling man in an orange T-Shirt. Maybe instead, a Fixer-Upper could be a tall girl with a deep love for Yankee Candles. Maybe it could be me. Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary one who paints houses and fetches Frisbees.

I was lucky enough to discover what I am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school. On my first day, I learned that it was for developmentally-disabled students.

To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn't had too much interaction with special needs students before, and wasn't sure how to handle myself around them. Long story short, I got hooked. Three years have passed helping out in APE and eventually becoming a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis summer program.

I love working with the students and watching them progress. When senior year arrived, college meetings began, and my counselor asked me what I wanted to do for a career, I didn't say Emperor of the World. Instead, I told him I wanted to become a board-certified behavior analyst.

A BCBA helps develop learning plans for students with autism and other disabilities. Basically, I would get to do what I love for the rest of my life.

He laughed and told me that it was a nice change that a seventeen-year-old knew so specifically what she wanted to do. I smiled, thanked him, and left. But it occurred to me that, while my desired occupation was decided, my true goal in life was still to become a Fixer-Upper. I'll do one thing during the day, then spend my off-hours helping people where I can.

Instead of flying like Sue, though, I'll opt for a nice performance automobile. My childhood self would appreciate that. Bridget takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but her essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of her essay. The essay is arranged chronologically. Bridget starts each paragraph with a clear signpost of where we are in time:.

I wanted to become a board-certified behavior analyst. It helps that the metaphor is a very clear one: Every childhood Fixer-Upper ever. Ask your parents to explain the back row to you.

This essay uses many techniques that make Bridget sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know her. The second technique is the way Bridget coins her own terms, carrying them through the whole essay. It would be easy enough to simply describe the people she imagined in childhood as helpers or assistants, and to simply say that as a child she wanted to rule the world.

The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences.

However, at key moments, Bridget emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences. The last key moment that gets the small-sentence treatment is the emotional crux of the essay. As we watch Bridget go from nervously trying to help disabled students to falling in love with this specialty field, she undercuts the potential sappiness of the moment by relying on changed-up sentence length and slang: The best essays convey emotions just as clearly as this image.

Explain the car connection better. The essay begins and ends with Bridget's enjoying a car ride, but this doesn't seem to be related either to the Fixer-Upper idea or to her passion for working with special-needs students.

It would be great to either connect this into the essay more, or to take it out altogether and create more space for something else. It makes perfect sense that Bridget doesn't want to put her students on display. It would take the focus off of her and possibly read as offensive or condescending.

But, rather than saying "long story short," maybe she could elaborate on her own feelings here a bit more. What is it about this kind of teaching that she loves? What is she hoping to bring to the lives of her future clients? How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay?

Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively. Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it.

Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay. When you figure out how all the cogs fit together, you'll be able to build your own All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life.

It can either be very dramatic did you survive a plane crash? Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Let me level with you: And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it! Interested in learning more about college essays?

Working on the rest of your application? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:. Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education. You should definitely follow us on social media.

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Anna Wulick Jun 1, Visible Signs of Planning Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. Stellar Execution A killer first sentence.

A Strong College Application essay Will make you stand out from the crowd.

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Finally, I’ll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. Want to build the best possible college application? We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service.

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Your essay can give admission officers a sense of who you are, as well as showcasing your writing skills. Try these tips to craft your college application essay.

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Read selected examples of essays that worked, as nominated by our admissions committee. The essays can be the most important components of your application. Read selected examples of essays that worked, as nominated by our admissions committee. I was choosing the best photos I’d taken around town during the . Top College Officials Share Notes on Great Application Essays Learn why application essays stood out to admissions officials from some of the top 15 U.S. News Best Colleges.

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Looking forward to college visits? Check out reviews of colleges - public and private, from the Big 10 to the Ivy League, from small liberal arts schools to large state universities, including 2. The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through. Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable.