6 College Essay Topics to Avoid and What Not to Write About


6 College Essay Topics to Avoid and What Not to Write About

College essays can play a vital role in college admissions. Often times, it is the only way a student can get his or her voice heard. The application itself provides the biographical information: class rank, SAT scores, class choices, and community service. But the essay lets the student really speak to the admissions officials who will be deciding his or her fate at that college. Essays are getting more and more complicated too. Aside from asking about influential people and issues, some of them now ask students to describe uses for kitchen gadgets, discuss fictional characters, or compare Plato to Playdoh. A student who chooses a bad topic to write about can get rejected from a top college. Some topics are just too controversial, complicated, or just to “wrong” to write about during this critical stage. Here are 6 examples of topics NOT to write about:

1. Your bad behavior

You might have learned great things from past bad behavior, but admitting to drug use, jail time, a promiscuous sex life, high school ‘pranks’, bullying or others is not what college admissions professionals want to read about. Admissions staff is trying to create a safe campus and your description of illegal or unwanted behavior does not work in your favor.

2. Your travel diary

Students who travel and explore other countries and cultures are generally more experienced, mature and well-rounded. If you went on an abroad community service project, such as building an orphanage in Haiti, then please write about it. Don’t write about how pretty Paris was, or how great the beaches were in Mexico.

3. Your excuses

Some students think that the essay is a great time to explain that semester of failing grades, or that you would have more community service hours if your parents didn’t make your get a summer job. Most of the time, these topics come across as excuses. The last impression you want to leave the college is that you’re whining about your situation. If you have a legitimate reason that can explain a bad semester’s grades (such as an illness or parents’ divorce) have your high school counselor write a short supplement for you.

4. Your best jokes

Being funny is important but the entire essay shouldn’t be a running monologue about how funny you are. Use some of your wit and humor in an essay with a different topic.

5. Religious or political lectures

Controversial issues such as capital punishment, abortion and gun control are divisive for a reason. The person reading your essay might not agree with you and they may not like being lectured to.

6. Your great accomplishments

Sure, your essay should be a place to brag a little, but it should not turn into a self-absorbed, arrogant, “look at me” piece. The application will give you space to list community service and extracurricular activities. If you did something truly heroic, such as saving someone’s life, then go ahead. But if your big accomplishment is winning the state football game, please keep it to yourself. You can also pick one accomplishment if it needs to be explained or expanded on, but don’t list them out like a resume.

Jolyn Brand is the Owner & Director of Brand College Consulting. She has 8 years of college counseling experience as well as being a Certified English, ESL and Special Ed teacher. Jolyn offers Unigo Sessions on Getting In, Paying For It, and College Life.