Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Select a Topic for Your Student Admission Essay

Even though you will most often be given a prompt of some sort for your admissions essay, you will still need to come up with a topic that is individual and unique to you. This can be difficult, considering you’re a young person and may not have all that much life experience yet. Even so, there are plenty of things you can write about, you just need to look long and hard to find them. Here are a few tips for evaluating potential topics you come up with.

Step 1: Brainstorm

You can’t evaluate topics without having any! Before you start thinking too hard, just come up with a nice list of topics that could potentially be used to answer the given prompt. This will give you something to work off of as we move on to step two.
Now that you have a list of potential topics, it’s time to start narrowing that list down. Steps 2-9 will help you do just that.

Step 2: Eliminate What Can’t Be Expanded

Some topics may look good as the focus of your essay, but once you try to expand it at all, you soon realize it will only make for an essay that is very thin and low on content. Look through the list you’ve compiled. Do you see any topics that you can’t, for the life of you, expand upon? If so, scratch them off the list right away. If there are a few you’re not too sure about, set them aside and see if any other elimination factors come into play with them.

Step 3: Eliminate The Cliché

Are any of the topics on your list things that have been talked about over and over again? If you went ahead and wrote an essay on that topic, do you feel as though you’d just be repeating what everyone else has already said? If this is the case, it’s time to move on to other topics. The whole point of an admissions essay is to stand out, not blend in. you want to write an essay the reviewers will remember, not one that they feel as though they’ve read before.

Step 4: Eliminate The Pity Party

When you write an admissions essay, a lot of the time the prompt will call for you to write about something that’s happened in your life. And, the things we usually remember are the events that were either tragic or negative in someway. It’s perfectly okay to write about such things, but you have to be extremely careful. Are any of the topics you’ve compiled going to make you look bad or pitiful? You have to be honest with yourself here, because even though it was heartbreaking to lose your pet fish, can you really write about this in such a way so as to show your positive characteristics?

Step 5: Eliminate The Offensive

There are many issues that you should really avoid on a college application essay. For instance, issues that may be offensive to others should be avoided at all costs. Anything that causes problems in the world between groups such as religion or politics should not be discussed, unless you are going to be discussing it in such as way that only pertains to you. Rather than talking about why everyone should be a Christian, instead focus on how the religion has affected you and helped you become a responsible individual. You see the difference? If any of your potential topics could cause a negative response, cross it off the list.

Step 6: Eliminate Dishonesty

You don’t have to have been through some terrifying ordeal to write a fantastic essay. You don’t need to invent or embellish upon events in your life. All you need to do is be honest and search for the events that say something about you as a person and that can be written about for at least five paragraphs. So, if you’d made anything up or have visions of a stampede of elephants coming down your block to “jazz” up your essay, scratch it off the list. Admissions officers know when you’re making stuff up, so don’t even try.

Step 7: Eliminate The Negative

The admissions essay is your chance to shine and to impress the college admissions reviewers. You don’t want to depress them and you certainly don’t want to show off your every little flaw. Your human and that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to show in your essay. However, you don’t want to make the topic of your essay how you overcame a drinking habit or how you stopped partying on the weekends. Even though you may have really overcome these things, the admissions reviewers are going to be caught up in the fact that you ever partook or had certain things as a weakness at all. If you can, it’s better to avoid the things that make you look bad.

Step 8: Eliminate What’s Outside of You

The goal of an admissions essay is to tell your story, not someone else’s. The admissions reviewers want to see your personality shining through, so don’t try to come up with the most elevated topic imaginable or try to write in a tone that you think the reviewers would appreciate. Rather, write in your own voice and style and on a topic that expresses who you are. Doing otherwise will be obvious and trite. Besides, the best way to write a unique essay is to let your personality come out to play. Any topic that seems as though it could be written by someone else should be eliminated from the list.

Step 9: Eliminate the Lackluster

If a topic does nothing to impress the judges or to portray yourself in a positive light, then you should not use it. Quite simply, you need to select a topic that will leave a lasting impression on the reviewers. They read many essays a day, which makes it hard to distinguish one from another after awhile. You have to work your hardest to make that essay stand out from the whole host of other essays the reviewers receive. To do this, you need to eliminate the topics and subject matter that you could take or leave. So, maybe you could write about how you ran for class president and what you learned along the way, but maybe that’s not the most exciting or unique thing you’ve done. It may take awhile, but try to figure out which topics need to be eliminated.

Step 10: Select Your Topic

Now that you have gone through the elimination steps, it’s time to pick your topic. Go through the remaining topics on your list after reading the prompt one last time. Which of the topics you’ve come up with fits the prompt the best? Which one portrays you in the best light? Which one really emphasizes who you are as a person and as an individual?
If you follow these steps, you should be able to come up with an essay that speaks from your heart and shows the reviewers what you have to offer their school. Best of luck to you!

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