3 College Application Essay Topics That Always Work

By | June 2, 2017

college essay topics
Picking a college application topic is always a tricky issue. For most applicants, this is the first time they get to make such a responsible and larger-than-life decision. This decision alone can shape their future lives: in the short term – their next few years in college (or not, if they happen to be unfortunate), and in the long term – their future careers.

High school students do treat this life-changing decision with all seriousness. More often than not, they try to visualize the admission officers and brainstorm about how to win them over, how to convince them that they are more worthy to get that position than other applicants. But while this approach is indeed serious, it is nevertheless essentially wrong.

You cannot possibly know the admission officers who will be reading your application essay. You have no idea what kind of people they are. Your any guess will be just as good as any other. So, there is nothing to work with in this regard.
What you can work with, though, is what you do know. And that is yourself. So, rather than guessing about how to please these strangers, you should better focus on yourself. After all, your application essay is a means for you to present yourself, – so, it should be about you. Therefore, it is always better to focus on what you are interested in, what you strongly relate to, and what you have experienced personally. This is an almost guaranteed way to appeal to all kinds of people.

Realizing that there are no universal topics to grant you a golden ticket to the college of your dreams, here are some of our picks on the ultimate college application essay topics that usually work:

Life goals

Sad as it is, many high school students still have a vague idea of what they want to do with their lives as the graduation day approaches. Sometimes they let their parents or other figures of authority choose their future college and specialty for them; sometimes they want to continue their studies in the same school or at least the same town as their friends. In other words, they tend to allow circumstances or other people to make this vital choice for them (and, consequently, take responsibility for it).

Being the smart people that they are, the admission officers cannot but notice this tendency. Therefore, they will pay special attention to application essays where an applicant discusses what she wants to do with his or her life upon graduating from the university and how s/he plans to use the obtained knowledge to make the world a better place.

You can go into detail about what life experiences have motivated you to make these choices. You are also welcome to talk about what you are going to do for the college community while you are a part of it. A person with a clear vision of his or her future is always more appealing.


Each of us has experienced failures in our lives. Often, we desperately want to achieve something, but it just doesn’t work out. Other times, we expect things to go one way, but they end up totally different. Such occurrences inevitably get us stressed and disappointed. Our task here is not to let it get to us, and instead, see what we can learn from it.

But giving generic life lessons is not the goal of this article. The point is that such situations only seem generic, because they have indeed happened to everyone, including you. Surely you have a story like this to share, and people love stories.

Some people may argue that failure is a grim topic. It may get the reader in a bad mood without necessity, and this bad mood may translate into their overall negative impression upon reading the essay.

The counterargument will be that this “grimness” also allows for much more depth than annoyingly positive light-hearted stories that get forgotten in no time. A touch of sadness allows a story to get stuck in the reader’s mind for quite some time.
As an illustration of such effect, you can remember any of those movies that are commonly referred to as Oscar baits, like the 2003 flick Monster. It has some pretty generic sadness, but it also has a universal theme of two outcasts struggling to build a conditionally impossible relationship that ends in ultimate failure. Everybody can relate to that to some extent. Everybody will be touched by that, one way or another.

Everyday life details

Our lives always comprise of a set of rituals. They may include something that you regularly do alone, like walks on the beach. It can be a family or a group activity, like outdoor activities. Or it may even be something as mundane as a meal. It can all be put under the microscope, scrutinized, and taken a look at under a quite peculiar and unexpected angle.

Such seemingly boring things are a great place to build some stunningly rich imagery, genuine metaphors, healthy warm humor, etc., – you can take any direction you want or even several!

The ability to give trivial things a fresh look and to show the mundane in a genuinely new light is always appealing and appreciated.

To sum it up, there are only two things that an admission officer will look for in your application essay, aside from the strong writing skills. These are your unique perspective and your strong voice. So, you need to remember that this essay is about you, not the admission officers, not your school teachers. As egoistic as it may seem, keeping your essay about yourself is the key to success. Focusing on your individuality is the only way to make your essay stand out and ensure that your reader will remember it out of all the flow of typical papers.

So basically, all you need to do to get a great application essay topic is to sit down and think about what is the most outstanding thing you have to share with an unknown reader – be it an experience or a future plan.

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