Many of our students initially approach the process of choosing a college essay topic by asking, “What does admissions want to hear?” The real question they should be asking themselves is, “What do I really want to say?”
The College Admissions essay is an exercise in expression. It is a test of creativity. And ultimately, it is the admissions board’s call for each student to display something that is intriguing about his/her personality, passions and beliefs. In execution, this means students are better served, not by trying to read into the desires of their future essay readers, but rather by searching themselves for topics that will showcase their true interests and life experiences.
A perfect example of a student successfully approaching a topic in this manner came from last year’s admissions cycle. A Chinese student applying to schools in the US submitted an essay about his love of ramen noodles. That’s right — he wrote an ode to the salty, savory noodles in the styrofoam cup, explaining how his sampling of this everyday delicacy led to his exploration of a range of other Asian foods and a wider worldview. And he was accepted to University of Rochester, who wrote him a personal letter of congratulations, specifically praising his unique and highly personal take on the essay.
So students, don’t be fooled into thinking you need to write an elevated masterpiece about how you’re trying to save the world. Avoid stretching yourself to come up with topics that are beyond your natural instincts. Think about the things you love, and write from the heart. Write about something you really want to write about. That, as it turns out, is exactly what admissions is looking for.