Are you looking to write an amazing college essay, but you don’t know what college essay topics to avoid? In this blog, we’ll go over what topics you need to be wary of while writing. No matter where you want to end up, we hope these insights help you craft a fabulous narrative that will put your best self on paper.
Tip #1: No Gross Out Topics
Nobody wants to read your essay about diarrhea or vomit. There may be times where you have to mention bodily fluids, but you have to ask yourself how your reader will feel as they read your essay. The best way to know if you’ve crossed the line into gross territory is to have other people read your writing. They will let you know if they feel grossed out!
Occasionally, bodily fluids might work well in an essay. For example, if you’re interested in biology or zoology, you could analyze something like owl pellets or scat. In a scientific context or at an internship, you’re probably in the clear. But you have to ask yourself if this topic will disgust people. Reading essays is often an emotional experience for your readers, and you don’t want them to associate you with something negative like this.
Tip #2: Unresolved Weaknesses
One thing Brooke sees her students do is write about unresolved weaknesses. One of these weaknesses tends to be mental health. If you are struggling with a mental condition, like OCD, for example, and it’s still something that actively gives you a lot of trouble, it may not be a topic you want to write about.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show any weakness in your college essays. We still want to see the vulnerability that shows you’re human. However, try not to write about topics you haven’t resolved. You don’t want to write about unresolved issues and leave colleges thinking these issues are ongoing. It’s okay to hide things! You aren’t a bad person if you don’t disclose problems you’re still working to overcome.
Tip #3: Typical Conflicts with Predictable Endings
Here is another one of our college essay topics to avoid. By typical conflicts with predictable endings, we mean common stories with common themes and trajectories. An example would be writing about how you had a bad grade in a class but studied hard and managed to raise it to an A. More examples include any variation of moving to a new school and feeling lonely until you made friends. Finally, if you were worried about trying a new activity because it was hard, but then you persevered and learned an important lesson in working hard.
The issue with our examples is they are predictable and boring. So how do you write a more interesting essay? There’s nothing wrong with writing about grades or new activities, but you have to write them in an uncommon way. One way to do this is to find the contrast or irony in the topic. You can try to find a unique, new angle. If you’re writing about struggling with sports, then an example of this would be if you question the value of individual sports in the first place and ask why we care so much about excellence. By asking these questions, you create an atypical sports narrative that makes your writing stand out.
Tip #4: Negative Feelings Toward School
Competitive universities don’t want to know that you didn’t care about school, even if it’s true. Talking too much about disliking school can harm your essay. You should also be wary of writing about parental pressure to pursue academics. In general, writing about subjects that look down on the college admissions process is dangerous.
Tip #5: Boyfriend or Girlfriend
Do we really have to explain this? Leave your significant other out of your essay.
Tip #6: Tales of Privilege
One of our final college essay topics to avoid is tales that reek of privilege. This isn’t to say you should avoid talking about experiences involving privilege. Be careful of saying something along the lines of you fundraised $100,000 by contacting five of your parent’s close friends. This example would say more about your parent’s friends being rich than your service. You should also avoid comparing experiences of privilege with hardship.
Tip #7: Any Essay that Views you in a Negative Light
You want your essay to say something positive about you. No matter what topic you choose, after you write your first draft, go through it and ask yourself, “What does this say about me?” Everything should build toward a narrative that says something good about you. Make sure your essay shows that you were able to overcome obstacles. As you revise your essay, make sure the good things it shows are explicit.
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