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10 Killer Common App Essay Topics + 3 to Kill

by Story2 Staff, on Jul 22, 2021 7:33:02 PM



The Common App essays are your chance to show admissions who you are and how you will make a difference in college and in life.. Admissions officers describe the essay as a “deal breaker.” They use your essay to add nuance to the numbers and to distinguish between students whose records otherwise look alike. Remember, you already have what you need to complete your application essays and the whole application–in your experiences, your perspective, and your unique voice.

So, how are you going to get started? Take any one of the topics below and write a first draft of 500-1000 words about it. Eventually, you’ll want to prune it back to 500 words. But the idea here is to get past your usual responses, to get to the heart of what’s important to you. So just let your pen go. If you find your ideas going all over the place, that’s great; you’ll come up with a bunch of ideas by writing freely: 

1. My favorite pair of shoes

2. If I were vice president

3. The painting comes to life

4. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore

5. Wacky weather

6. Tea with Eleanor Roosevelt

7. What I do after midnight

8. A lie my parents told me

9. Things I left behind

10. The most important thing no one knows about me

And here are three topics that are almost always a mistake – because they make you sound smug, or privileged, and not someone who will be a positive member of your college community. Here’s how you can turn one of those around, and get your essays and yourself back on track. 

1. Why I don’t drink (or something else that’s pretty standard high school behavior). If you started Safe Rides at your high school, that’s important!  

2. My best friend. The essay should be about you, not someone else. So perhaps explore how that person has shaped you, and what you have done as a result.

3. Traveling to another country and giving restaurant leftovers to a homeless person. To this person you are making a difference, and that is a great thing. But as JFK said, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” If you are in the position to see the disparities and make this sort of difference in one life, what are you doing closer to home with those insights, or perhaps on a broader scale?  

Looking for more tips on the Common App? Download our Ultimate Guide to The Common App 2021-2022 Edition!

For more info about college admission and scholarship essays and interviews, sign up for self-paced courses and our award-winning StoryBuilder writing platform FREE. Want to stay up to date on the latest tips and resources? Follow us @story2 on Instagram!

Topics:college admissionscollege essaysapplication essay topicscommon appessay writing tips