9 essay topics colleges love

marching bandColleges are looking for certain qualities in their applicants. You don't have to exhibit all of them, but choose one or two characteristics you'd like to showcase in your essay. Use this list to help steer your college essay in the right direction:

Leadership. Did you start a club? Were you the captain of a sports team? Did you have a lead part in a play? Just doing one of those things doesn’t mean you have good leadership skills. Talk about what you’ve done to get there and what obstacles you’ve overcome.

Teamwork. Working well with others is a characteristic colleges and jobs look for. You don’t have to make your entire essay about it, but if your topic includes an experience with a team, club, after school job or volunteer opportunity, it’s a good idea to slip in a sentence or two about being a good team player.

Humor. Not everyone can use humor well, so make sure you have someone read over your essay before you send it. Your essay doesn’t have to be a big joke, but even subtle humor can lighten it up.

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Passion. What are you excited to tell others about? Do dream about starting your own business or nonprofit? Have you always wanted to be a social worker or a writer? What experience have you had that can show how excited about pursuing your passion?

Diversity. You’re going to encounter people from many different backgrounds in college. Have you been in a situation with people that are different from you? If you haven’t, maybe that’s something you’re looking forward to. Show them it’s important to you to learn from people of different backgrounds.

Commitment. Have you played baseball since you were four years old? Have you spent every Friday night at the soup kitchen? Did you return to the same summer job every year? Commitment shows that you know yourself enough to know what you want and when you find something you’re interested in, you stick with it. Colleges would rather accept someone who spends their entire college career at their school than someone who is likely to transfer or drop out.

Learning from failure. Everything can’t go your way all the time. The fact that you failed isn’t what matters, but rather what you learned. Did you try to do it again but in a different way? Did the failure lead you to a different path? How did you take advantage of the new opportunity?

How you handle pressure. Everyone knows college is stressful. Colleges want to know if you can handle the pressure. Maybe you organized your junior prom, the yearbook staff, or a blood drive. Maybe you kept your grades up even though your family situation was changing. How did you stay calm? What advice was useful to you? What was the outcome? What would you have done differently?

Taking on a challenge. This is another way to talk about how you overcame an obstacle. It could be anything from being nominated team captain when you didn’t expect it to taking AP classes with a learning disability. Whatever your challenge is, make sure the emphasis is on how you handled the challenge rather than how difficult it was.


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