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Nadira Berman

Top Three Worst College Essay Topics

No matter how good your writing is, if you’ve picked a bad topic, college admissions officers will be unimpressed with your personal statement. They will likely have seen hundreds of essays exactly like it. And you definitely don’t want your essay to be trite and forgettable. Try to stand out from the crowd. You are unique, so prove it. Write about something that really shows who you are as a person.

There are three kinds of essays that colleges receive every year without fail. And admissions officers are tired of having to read them. Don’t let yours fall into any of these categories:


The Grandma Essay

In this essay, the student writes about how much their grandmother (or grandfather, mother, aunt, etc.) has inspired them and how they wish to be just like her one day. They perhaps tell a little of her life story and how she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and triumphed in the end. It’s a touching tale.

But as a Tufts admissions officer explained on my tour of the university, your grandma isn’t the one applying to the school. You are. So you should be writing about yourself. Don’t make the whole essay about someone else. No matter how inspiring or influential they were.


The Charity Vacation Essay

This essay tells of the student’s trip to another country, often impoverished and third world. They write about how observing the lifestyle and helping the people of this country really changed their perspective on their first world privilege. The student realizes that he or she is so thankful for what they have after seeing how the rest of the world lives.

First of all, this essay doesn’t really say a lot about you and your unique personality. Going on this trip might have changed anyone’s perspective.

Also, this essay just sounds sort of fake. Putting this kind of experience in a college essay makes it seem like you just helped people because it would look good on an application.


The Sports Essay

Your underdog team won the big game! Or maybe you lost. Either way it really affected your life because you learned valuable skills of teamwork, perseverance and endurance. You believe the experience of playing this difficult game taught you important lessons that can be used in many situations in the real world.

Admissions officers have read this essay quite a few times before. Again, not unique and doesn’t say a lot about you as a person. Your whole team of 20 kids also learned the valuable skill of teamwork. Should they all be admitted as well?

The sports essay is just cliché. Don’t do it.


Need help finding a topic to write about? We recommend that you read The Common Application Essay: Finding a Topic. 🙂


About Nadira Berman

As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

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