What Makes a Good College Essay Topic?

One of the most daunting aspects of the college application process is the college essay.

Whether you have to write an open-ended personal statement, a school-specific topic or you’re answering a question from the Common Application’s essay prompts, deciding what you will write about is often the most challenging part.

In actuality, the topic you choose is probably less important than your writing execution and the insights you share. Still, choosing a topic that fits you best will make the writing flow more naturally, and ultimately, make you shine.

Here are some tips from Sarah Ramsey, a high school English teacher, for choosing the best college essay topic.

With a college essay, students think they need to have experienced something really unusual or unique. But sometimes the best essays are about very mundane experiences. You may be inclined to write about those dramatic experiences in your life, but when you are so emotionally attached to a particular event it might not be the best choice.

Tip 1: Think small to go big with your essay

“Some of the best college essays I’ve read have focused on one really small moment,” Sarah shares. Beginning with a very small, focused start of your essay makes for a stronger essay than if you try to speak about your entire experience.

Tip 2: Show, don’t tell

For example, instead of saying, ‘My piano teacher is a wonderful person,’  show your reader by offering specific experiences you’ve had with them. Avoid cliché or blanket statements.

Tip 3: Choose a topic that can fit multiple application prompts

Some colleges will require only one essay, called the common app essay. Other schools may have supplemental essays. Take the time to understand the requirements for each application. Try to find ways to write about the same topic for each school to save yourself from extra work.