How to Choose a Great College Essay Topic

Don’t want your college application essay to get in the way of enjoying your summer? Considering that the Common Application Essay prompts and Apply Texas prompts rarely change and the objectives are always the same, now is a great time to start!

In our Narrative Roadmap post, we gave a few suggestions of how to brainstorm as well as what your essay topic should accomplish, namely:

  • Show who you are outside of your resume
  • Demonstrate personal growth 
  • Have conflict (without this, it will be facts instead of a story)
  • Have a point. What do you want your reader to gain/learn about you?
  • Be specific to you and your experiences.

Easier said than done, right? How do you choose the right topic? How do you even get started? Here are a few simple steps we use to choose a college application essay topic.

  1. Narrow Options.

If you’ve done a brainstorming freewrite, you should have come up with a variety of topic ideas. Now, look over them again and take out any clichés or ideas that won’t show personal growth. Pick two or three favorites that demonstrate who you are and how you’ve changed and move to the next step.

  1. Write Hooks

For each of your ideas, write a hook to see how well you can grip the reader and vividly describe the experience you went through. It should be several sentences long and drop your audience into an enticing and detailed scene from your narrative.

  1. Revise

Read through your hooks and pick the best one. Edit it by adding more sensory details and ensuring your reader is invested in you and your story.

  1. Draft

Congratulations, you’ve chosen your topic! If you’re a planner, your next step might be outlining. If you’re a “pantser,” maybe you jump directly into your first draft. Either way, our Narrative Roadmap blog post is a great next resource. 

If you’re interested in more help on your narrative and supplemental essays, we hold workshops and work one-on-one every step of the way. Click here to sign up.

Hillary, Essay Specialist

University of Virginia

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