How to avoid cliché essay topics

violin and sheet musicDon’t use the first topic you think of. This is the easy way out. Chances are that if this was an easy topic for you to think of, it was an easy topic for thousands of other applicants as well. When you’re brainstorming, you have to start somewhere. Just make sure that you don’t stop at the first thing you think of!

Focus on one single story. One big mistake a lot of students make is to talk about broad topics. Instead of writing about how being in band changed your perspective on life, focus on one event that made you think in a different way. It could be a moment during a concert, a solo you performed, or even a conversation with a teacher. It will be easier to avoid cliché topics when you focus on one moment.

Never say what you feel. In everyday life, we tell people about how we feel: “I’m happy,” “I’m doing well,” “I was really excited about…,” etc. Even though you want your admissions essay to have a conversational tone, you want to show what you feel – don’t ever write it down.

Here’s an example: Instead of saying, “I was so excited I made the team!” you could say something like, “After I saw my name on the ‘accepted’ list, I ran a few laps around the field just to get my excitement out.” In the first sentence, I told you how I felt. In the second, I described details to show my excitement.

Have someone objective look at your essay. It’s important to have someone read your essay, and it’s even more important to find someone honest. Most likely this probably won’t be a family member or friend.

Check out some books with sample essays for ideas. One way to get ideas of essays that work is to check them out for yourself:


Write the opposite. Writing about the opposite of what other students might think of will give a fresh perspective to your essay. For example, many students write about how sports showed them how to work in a team. The opposite would be how sports didn’t teach them anything about teamwork. Turning your ideas upside down could help you write an essay admissions officers will pay attention to.

Write about you. Don’t write about something you don’t care about just because you think admissions officers will like it. If it’s not something you’re interested in, you won’t be able to focus on a single story and it will feel generic and forced.


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>>8 essay topics to avoid