7 Questions to Consider Before Writing Your College Essay

College essays are undoubtedly a hassle. Even for students who pride themselves on their writing skills, trying to chose a topic to write about can be a frustrating struggle between a wide array of ideas or no ideas at all. This coupled with the actual merry-go-round of the college application process can make for an interesting time in the lives of many high school seniors.

But have no fear! Choosing a topic to write your college essay about and translating those ideas to paper can be a lot easier than you think. Though the college application process can be time consuming and stressful at times, choosing a topic for your essay can be the least stressful aspect of the process. When choosing a topic, consider the following:

1. Is The Topic True To You?

Don’t attempt to write your college essay about something you know little to nothing about. Pick a topic that relates closely to you, something that you understand and that you can write about honestly and ardently. You could write about a family memory that taught you a lesson or the time you reconnected with an old friend and what that taught you about life. Whatever you choose, make it true to you. Keep it simple.

2. Is The Topic Creative?

This can be the easy part of writing your essay. Your college essay is your time to allow your true self to shine through. Even if you decide to write about something that seems boring, you can make it a very interesting essay by allowing your unique personality to come through in your writing. You don’t have to write about traveling to the moon on a pogo stick in order to have an interesting essay. An essay that centers on your morning routine getting ready for school could potentially be very interesting and revealing. Just be yourself.

3. Is The Topic Focused?

Trying to find a topic to write about can bring about a whirlwind of ideas in your mind. You cannot write about them all so it is essential to narrow down your ideas and focus on one idea. Trying to write about a million different things can make for a confusing and unbalanced essay. Try writing down the many ideas you are debating and narrow it down to your top five. After that, narrow down your top five to your top two. Out of those two, choose the topic that you feel you could write about with those most conviction and honesty. Stay focused on the topic you choose. Though a wandering mind can be interesting, a wandering essay is just baffling.

4. Is The Topic Honest?

This was the best advice my high school advisor gave to me when I was in the process of writing my college essay. She told me that I had to be honest in my essay because the individuals reading it would be able to see through any fabrications I was trying to pass off as my life. If you enjoy volunteering and want to write about when you first volunteered and how it changed your life, then do that. But do not try to make the essay more interesting by creating a fake story of how you saved a litter of kittens from a burning building. As interesting as that may seem, it would not be true to you (unless you’ve actually done this, in which case, there should be a holiday named after you!).

5. Is The Topic Narrative Ready?

The individuals reading your essay want to be told a story, so get into narrative mode! Make sure that the topic you choose can be translated into a story with a beginning, middle and end. I wrote about losing my grandfather and how that affected my life and my family. I wrote of the beginning of our relationship, the middle years, up until the end. I was able to translate that personal story into a narrative form that captured the attention of the readers.

6. Is The Topic Open?

This asks the questions as to whether or not the topic you choose presents you as an individual open to learning more about the world that you live in. If you knew everything, you wouldn’t need to attend college, would you? Let the individuals reading your essay know that you are ready to learn more and experience the world around you, beginning with all that you could learn from their campus. Don’t present yourself as a know-it-all through your essay. Just present yourself as a knowledgeable person ready to know more. Your topic has to be something that shows that you are intelligent yet an individual who loves to learn.

7. Is The Topic Appropriate?

While being yourself is key in writing a great essay, remember that you are trying to be accepted into an institution of higher learning, not talking to your close group of friends. The topic that you chose has to be appropriate. Think of it this way: whatever topic you chose, make sure it is a topic you would be comfortable allowing your mother or father to read.

Remember, you are essentially writing an essay that will persuade the individuals reading it to accept you into the college. Chose a topic and write an essay that is true to you. Allow your unique voice to shine through in your writing. Write your essay about something personal that you are invested in. It could be as simple as a toothache or as complex as family dynamics. Whatever it is, keep it simple and honest.

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Ashlyn Porter

Ashlyn Porter

Ashlyn Porter is a senior at the University of Dayton pursuing a degree in communication with a concentration in theater as well as a minor in sociology. A self-declared cinephile, Ashlyn enjoys watching and studying film in hopes of one day being involved in various aspects of the film industry. Her passions also include in writing, reading, baking and performing Shakespeare for her dog.
Ashlyn Porter

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