10 Overused College Essay Topics to Avoid

If you want to get into the college of your choice, then writing a solid essay is an important part of your application. Most likely, you’ll be applying to a school that uses the Common Application. You’ll have to select a prompt from their list and then come up with a topic to write about. One way to go about choosing a great topic to write about is to first know what college essay topics to avoid. Before we get into that, we’ll go over a few of the main purposes of the college essay (or personal statement).

  1. To express yourself
  2. To show a part of your character that doesn’t appear in the rest of your application
  3. To demonstrate your writing skills

If you want to write an amazing college essay, then you want to select an essay topic that you’ll be able to expand upon. At the same time, there are certain essay topics you’ll want to steer clear of. We’re going to go over a few essay topics that are cliché, overused, or don’t add value to your application. When you know what college essay topics to avoid, it can help you plan the best topic for your admissions essay.

A girl writing a college essay
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8 college essay topics to avoid in your application

1. Repeating your achievements

Your application already lists your achievements. If your college essay topic again covers a laundry list of your achievements, it is repetition. It is a cliché topic that admission officers see a lot of. Additionally, it doesn’t let them see part of your character. Can you dive deeper into an achievement that has a backstory and gives an inside look at who you are? Then look there! Don’t write about what is already there in your application. Highlight something unique instead.

2. The sports injury essay

This is an overused topic for the college admissions essay, where students write about injuries, obstacles, and success stories. It is quite common and will not help you stand out. The problem with such a college essay topic is it becomes predictable. Maybe your injury sparked a passion for medicine and has led you to want to pursue a career as a doctor! Then you can explore that route as it is more unique. Do you see where we’re going with these examples??

3. Inappropriate topics

Obviously, you shouldn’t write anything about alcohol, drugs, sexual relations, or other inappropriate topics. These topics don’t show your character.

4. The hero trope

Writing about your hero or a person you admire the most is a clichéd topic. Literally, every student writes on this. Admission officers are tired of reading a college application essay with such common topics. They want to see something unique that tells them more about you. An essay on someone else is unlikely to interest the reader. So avoid it!

5. Your privilege

You may come from a privileged background and consider yourself lucky. Your college admissions essay may talk about experiences that connect to your privilege. What you need to do is reflect on that. However, instead of talking about how lucky you know you are, you should be going deeper about an experience that shows your character. An essay about how you had to overcome driving a minivan instead of a Mercedes does not come off well.

6. A tragedy

Students believe talking about adversity and how they overcame it is a good topic while writing college essays. Writing about a tragedy in your life and how you overcame it seems like a good option. It can be if done well, but at the same time is an overused topic that many, many students use. You’ll have to write it in a unique way. Even then, it is still overused.

7. Humor

Introducing an element of humor in an essay is a good idea. However, if your humor doesn’t land with the admissions officer, it may not have the effect you want. So tread lightly. The difference between humorous and over-the-top is a thin line. Plus, you can add humor, but make sure the meat of the essay is high quality!

8. Controversial topics

Stating your views on a controversial topic seems a bold idea making you stand out. It is an extremely risky idea. Avoid any topic that leads to arguments. Topics like gun control, abortion, and politics are divisive. You don’t know the views of the admission officer. If they have a strong view on this topic that is diametrically opposed to your view, it could be a big problem. It is not worth taking the risk of writing on such topics.

How to come up with an original topic for your college app essay

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Now that you know what college essay topics to avoid, let’s look at what to write about. You want to think of an original topic that shows your character and reflects something that can’t be found in another part of your application. For example, you can go through some brainstorming exercises to get all of your ideas out and reflect on your past experiences and future goals.

After brainstorming, here are some more tips you can follow while you write:

  • Be authentic
  • Grab the reader’s attention from the first line
  • Show your personality
  • Keep the reader in mind while writing
  • End with a strong conclusion that creates a lasting impression
  • Write, read aloud, make changes, re-write, and repeat until you are satisfied
  • Ask others to read your essay and give their feedback

Proofreading and editing your essay

If your essay has spelling or grammatical errors, it will bring down the quality of your essay. Remember, the essay is an important piece of your application to express who you are and what you’d bring to the university you’re applying to.

Hopefully, you proofread and edit so that your essay can stand out among the thousands of essays they receive. Use spellcheck and a grammar checker tool to make your essay the best it can be. Review multiple times until you are confident about its quality.

The big picture

A well-written college essay gives admissions officers an insight into who you are as a person and shows them how you could fit at their university. It’s a reflective exercise that also shows self-awareness while demonstrating your writing skills. Avoid the topics mentioned in this blog and use the tips we’ve laid out in order to write about a great topic. If you need some support with writing your essay, you can check out Lessonpal’s online College Essay Writing tutors to get tutoring and help with your college application essay!

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