Writing the Successful College Application Essay: Tips for Success. Part 6

After evaluating your essay topics with the previous criteria and asking for the opinions of your teachers and of your friends, you should have at least one or two interesting essay topics.

  Definite Considerations For Your Essay Topic

  1. You. If you are planning on writing an essay on how you survived poverty in Russia, your mother’s suicide, your father’s kidnapping, or your immigration to America from Asia, you should be careful that your main goal is to address your own personal qualities. Just because something sad or horrible has happened to you does not mean that you will be a good college or graduate school student. You don’t want to be remembered as the pathetic applicant. You want to be remembered as the applicant who showed impressive qualities under difficult circumstances. It is for this reason that essays relating to this topic are considered among the best. Unless you only use the horrible experience as a lens with which to magnify your own personal characteristics, you will not write a good essay. Graduate and professional school applicants should generally steer clear of this topic altogether unless you can argue that your experience will make you a better business person, doctor, lawyer, or scholar.
  2. The Rest of Your Application. Essays should fit in well with the rest of a candidate’s application, explaining the unexplained and steering clear of that which is already obvious. For example, if you have a 4.0 GPA and a 1500 SAT, no one doubts your ability to do the academic work and addressing this topic would be ridiculous. However, if you have an 850 SAT and a 3.9 GPA or 1450 SAT and a 2.5 GPA, you would be wise to incorporate in your essay an explanation for the apparent contradiction. For example, perhaps you were hospitalized or family concerns prevented your dedication to academics; you would want to mention this in your essay. However, do not make your essay one giant excuse. Simply give a quick, convincing explanation within the framework of your larger essay.
  1. Diversity. Every college, professional school, or graduate school wants to increase diversity. For this reason, so many applicants are tempted to declare what makes them diverse. However, simply saying you are a female or minority will not impress admissions officers in the least. While an essay incorporating this information would probably be your best topic idea, you must finesse the issue by addressing your own personal qualities and how you overcame stigma, dealt with social ostracism, etc. However, you must demonstrate vividly your personal qualities, interests, motivations, and more. Address specifically how your diversity will contribute to the realm of academic opinion, the academic environment, and campus social life.
  1. No Failures. Don’t mention weaknesses unless you absolutely need to explain them away. You want to make a positive first impression. Why admit to weakness when you can instead showcase your strengths?
  2. Be Honest. But not for honesty’s sake. Unless you are a truly excellent writer, your best, most passionate writing will be about events that actually occurred. While you might be tempted to invent hardship, it is completely unnecessary. Write an essay about your life that demonstrates your personality.


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