Brainstorming College Admission Essay Topics

Posted on July 30, 2015 in Admission Essay

The single most important part of the college admission essay is choosing a meaningful and important topic to write on. We recommend that you spend at least a week brainstorming ideas that you will write on. Many times, a college will give you a specific topic to write on - such as your most important academic acheivement, your biggest loss, etc. Other times, they will leave it open-ended and instead instruct you to write on anything that you wish the admissions department know about you. In either case, its important to spend a good amount of time getting your ideas laid out.

To help with the brainstorming session, the following are a list of questions that you should be asking yourself as you formulate your admission essay. These topics/questions have come up on numerous applications and can provide a good framework for you to expand on and really develop a powerful essay.

  • What are your major accomplishments, both academic and extra-curricula wise? What are the reasons you consider these accomplishments and how have they affected your life, either positively or negetively? Be sure to touch on accomplishments NOT previously documented in your application - remember, you want your essay to provide additional information on yourself so don't pidgeonhole yourself by only considering academic acheivements as your accomplishments. While it may seem that an advisor would want to hear in-depth info on your academic merits, you want to convey yourself as a well-rounded applicant so try and touch on accomplishments outside of academia.
  • Do you have a particular skill or attribute that distinguishes you from other applicants? Perhaps, you're pursuing a Computer Science degree and you are also a concert pianist - this will certainly set you apart and provide you with depth compared to other applicants. Talk about your skill and explain how you developed it and how it has affected your life, both academically and socially.
  • What are your favorite works of art, books, movies, etc? How have they influenced your life and how were you introduced to them? Do you follow the principles of a given work of literature? Does a particular movie reflect your upbringing?
  • What was the most difficult setback that you have ever faced? How did you grow and learn from it? Did this change your perspective on life? These types of essay topics can really humanize you with the admissions department.
  • If you could do anything in the world, what would it be? Who would you be? Where would you live? These types of questions can provide context for what you love most and are very natural to write about.
  • What have you done outside of academia that would be enticing to an admissions advisor? If you can link this to your degree of interest, all the better.
  • What are you dreams and goals for the future? Where do you hope to be in 30 years? If you look back on your life when you are 60 years old, what one thing do you hope to have accomplished (don't say attend XYZ College - its cheesy)?

These are just a handful of topics to help you start drumming up ideas. If you are still having difficulty formulating a strong topic for your admission essay, we recommend reading some of our Sample Admission Essays to see some of the themes other students have come up with.

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