College Admissions Essay Info

  • The college admissions essay is an integral part of the college application, as it is the only part of the application that a student is able to describe themselves using their own voice. This essay has the ability to elevate a student from numbers on a page to a relatable, likeable person.  



    Topics for a college admission essay vary greatly between schools.  Some schools may provide very specific prompts, while others may just have students submit a broad “personal statement”. If a student is using the Common Application, they have the option of choosing between five prompts.  These prompts are subject to change each year. 

    For creative topic ideas, please see the college essay brainstorming ideas sheet in the appendix.


    Tips for Writing the Essay

     The most important objective when writing the essay is to be creative! College admissions officers read hundreds of essays each day, so it is important that the student’s essay is one that stands out.  

     A college admissions essay is not the same type of essay that students are used to writing; it is more of a combination between an anecdote and an essay.  Great college essays make the reader feel as though they are experiencing the topic first-hand; vivid imagery can help achieve this. When writing the essay, students should make sure to focus on one topic instead of covering a multitude.  Similarly, students should avoid restating things that are already present in their application such as their summary of activities or grades. This is an opportunity for students to differentiate themselves from all other applicants. 



     Essay requirements vary greatly between applications.  It is important for the student to read the requirements carefully and closely follow them.  Oftentimes, students will be entering their essay into a textbox that will cut off any characters past the limit. If students are writing the Common App essay, their essay must be at least 250 words but no more than 650.

College Essay Brainstorming Ideas

  • What’s something you never leave home without?

    What’s a snack you crave?

    A food that reminds you of your family?

    A food that reminds you of home?

    What else reminds you of home?

    An object that represents your best friend?

    An object that represents your father? Your mother?

    Your grandparents, or lack thereof?

    Something you loved and lost?

    A toy you used to play with as a kid?

    Something that makes you laugh?

    A book you love?

    Best movie ever?

    Favorite guilty pleasure movie?

    An object that represents something abstract that you broke (a heart, a promise)?

    An object that represents a regret?

    A favorite gift you received?

    A favorite gift you gave?

    An object that represents a secret? (Don’t worry, this stays between us.)

    Something about you no one else knows?

    A dream?

    Something you stole?

    Something you found?

    Something that makes you feel safe?

    The worst thing that ever happened to you?

    The best thing?

    The logo on your imaginary business card?

    The image you’d like carved into your tombstone?

    An object that represents: a smell you love, a taste you hate, the sweetest sound in the world?

    The coolest thing about science?

    Something you forgot?

    Something old?

    Something new?

    Something borrowed?

    Something blue?

    An accident?

    Best thing you ever found in the street?

    Bets money you ever spent?

    Your life lie?

    Your favorite object?

    Something from another country?

    Your favorite sentence?

    You’d cry if you lost this?

    An object that represents someone you’d like to know more about?

    Something you’ll never get rid of?

    A bad habit?

    A perfect moment?

    A time you laughed so hard you cried?

    A time you cried so hard you laughed?

    An image you’ll never forget?

    What they’d put in the museum of your life?

    A tattoo?

    The cover image on your first self-titled album?

    Three objects from your room?

    A near-death experience?

    A moment when you were so embarrassed you wanted to disappear?

    Recurring dream?

    Worst (actual) nightmare?

    When were you most afraid?

    If you had a clone, what would you have the clone do?

    First love?

    A time you were speechless?



    The moment you left childhood behind?

    A quote you love?

    Your favorite photo?

    Taken from