Seniors: The Real Topic of your Essay is You

Still struggling with an essay topic? Remember, the real topic is you. Whatever the essay is about on the surface, colleges care what the essay says about you.

Here's one strategy to help you find a topic:

Put a microscope to your life. Take a look at the little things around you. Go to your room and look at what’s on the walls, what’s under the bed, the things you’ve kept since second grade, or what about the thing you threw away that you really miss now. Where in the house do you spend the most time? Look for inspiration right under your nose. Ask yourself some of these questions:

• How do I spend my time?

• What do I like to do?

• What do I think about most of the time?

• What are the things that truly matter to me?

• What is my family like? Do we have any interesting rituals about dinners or board games or TV shows?

• What would I say about myself if I had to omit any mention of my extracurricular activities?

• When I think about who I am or what I care about, is there a particular day, moment, or event that was important in shaping that?

• If I, like Tom Sawyer, had a chance to eavesdrop at my own funeral, what would people say about me?

• What do I like best about my school?

• If I had a day to do anything I wanted— no school, no work, no homework, no chores— what would I do?

• What do I want this college to know about me?

• What keeps me up at night?

• What drives me, makes me tick?

• What am I most proud of?


For more on essays, including advice from deans of admission at Georgetown University, Northern Illinois University, Sarah Lawrence College, and more, please see Chapter 13, "Essays", in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.


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