Top 5 Essay Topics to Avoid

The college essay is a major component of the college application process. This is your last opportunity to show a college what you’re all about. This essay ought to be about you and reflect who you are as a person. What are your values? What are you all about? Pro tip: Do NOT write your essay about someone else.

Essay #1: Political Issues

Similar to when you keep politics out of Thanksgiving dinner, you don’t want to voice your political opinion via college essay. This essay should be easily avoidable knowing that you could potentially offend the person reading it. You don’t know the readers political leaning, therefore this essay would be a great risk to be associated with your college application.
A note: discussing current events in your essay is different than discussing your political views, however discussing current events is most definitely not about you.

Essay #2: Divorce

Of course a divorce is an extremely emotional event in anyone’s life and it is understandable that a student would want to write about that. Although it’s a significant life event, it doesn’t really reflect anything about the student. It’s much more about the parents and what they have going on between them. Outlining the breakdown of two people’s marriage and the effect it had on the student is just not effective and displays an overly emotional perspective. At the end of the day, that emotion is not necessarily the kind of emotion that you’d want to get across via college essay. It’s simply none of their business, so let’s keep that topic of parental divorce or any kind of parental strife to yourself.

Essay #3: Anything Inappropriate

I haven’t seen this topic too much from students but anything inappropriate, partying, obviously drinking (not legal), just don’t write about it. Any kind of crimes, even if they’re very minor, where you’re describing it as a lesson learned, I just wouldn’t go down that route because it has a very high chance of being perceived negatively. If a college reads an essay where a student makes a mistake and it’s a crime, underage drinking, partying or destroying something, the first thing on the reader’s mind is how the student may act in college. You want to make sure that you don’t give a college the idea that you’re a troublemaker or someone that you’re not. Things happen, maybe not always good things and obviously anything that you need to disclose in your application you should disclose. However, there’s no need to overshare about what you do on weekends with your friends or anything like that.

Essay #4: Sports

This is the most common essay that I see. Many students discuss how they persevered through an injury or being cut from a sports team. This is your one opportunity to tell a college something about you. If you say to them, “I’m pretty good at a sport” that’s not getting you anywhere with whoever’s reading it at your dream college. Yes, it shows perseverance, but at the end of the day most of the ones that I’ve read have just fallen flat. It may not get you rejected, but what it could do is just leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. The reader will know that you could have come with something better than that.

Essay #5: The Charity Trip

This is probably the cliche of cliches for college essays. You go to a faraway place for a week, during a break or over the summer, and your goal is to somehow in that week
impact an unfortunate community. Helping anyone, anywhere, I think is great but to then act like you are now this amazing philanthropist just seems not genuine. It just comes across as very staged because these trips are expensive. So your parents or you are paying a couple of thousand bucks to send you there through some sort of company, so it’s obviously organized in advance to be used for these purposes. I’ve been to school fairs and at local high schools and they have companies that literally are in existence to send kids on these trips. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go on it if you want to go help someone, that’s amazing. But to then use that as fodder for your college application essay is probably just not the best idea because realistically everyone knows that’s staged.

Bonus: Essays to Avoid
Rewriting your resume. Students often regurgitate what they have on a resume via their college essay. The college knows all of this already as it’s on your application. I think we could all agree we don’t need to tell them that twice. Tell them something new.

Avoid any essay that is a fib or major exaggeration. If you’re taking something really small that (may have) happened and trying to blow it up into a big deal, just don’t. You don’t need to be overly dramatic, that’s not what this is about.

Many of these essays focus around negativity, it’s going to be really hard to write a positive essay about a negative experience. We want to be as positive as possible, we’re going to a new opportunity, a new environment, a new community and we want to show how we’re gonna be a valuable and important member of that community.

If you talk about yourself honestly and explain who you are as a person, you’ll give the college a small slice of your life. Those are often the best essays, the ones that give you a bit of life that everyone seems to forget. What makes you who you are? At the end of the day that’s what will get you where you want to be.