Ordinary and Extraordinary Topics for Admission Essays

There are thousands of institutions of higher education in the world. And none of them are ready to admit you, only because you make eyes on an admissions committee. However, a lot of unexpected reasons might help you to enter the university: ethnic background, music talent, athletic skills, or alumni relationships. As a rule, things are much more predictable. Some colleges automatically deny your application if your test score is not good enough. Other institutions will be bored with a standard application essay; they are looking for creativity and an uncommon approach.

topics for admission essays

For example, the University of Chicago has quite an interesting tradition. Every student who wants to join the university “family” receives an e-mail with six creative essay topics. The writing prompts might include debatable questions about everything and everyone: mantis shrimp, odd numbers, “Sharknado”, or your grandmother. Grace Chapin (Sr. Assistant Director of Admissions for the Pacific Northwest and Director of Transfer Admissions) assures: “We ask you these questions not because we want to fool you, or make you squirm, or hurt your brain. We ask you these questions precisely because we love, love, love seeing where your brain goes when you’re asked a question you’ve never thought about before.” She also emphasizes that the admissions officers don’t insist on any kind of standards but the approximate amount of words (500-600).

Usually, the admissions officers check all of the following data:

  • General information about you and your family (level of education, work experience, parents’ occupations).
  • Academic success (test scores, AP, GPA, etc.).
  • Essay and short answers (the most interesting part in regard to our article).
  • Reference letters (your personal qualities, achievements, and social skills).

We are unlikely to help you to pass successfully your exams or to beg your teachers for an impressive and convincing recommendation letter. That, my friend, is entirely up to you. Although we are not almighty, you should read our post about topics for admission essays where we explain how a particular essay influences the decision of the admissions committee and why it is important to choose good topics for college admission essays.

“Essays provide windows into students’ personalities, giving us the chance to learn more about their character, especially what they think, how they think and how well they express themselves,” said Lora Schilder, acting dean of admission and financial aid in Hamilton College. High IQ and extracurricular activities are not enough to enter one of the top universities. Your personal qualities, goals, and expectations have to correspond with the program, undergraduate college, or school you’ve chosen. The institutions of higher education are interested in students who are interested in them. This fact allows us to define the first category of admission essay topics.

Why Us and Why You?

In short, that’s the point. The admissions board wants to know if their establishment is good enough for you and, more importantly, if you are good enough for them. This kind of essay is required in almost every reputable college. Sure, it is unlikely that the universities will confess that they are not as awesome as you expect if you are a real catch for them. However, they will reject your application if your writing is not compelling enough. Here is a list of typical topics for this kind of essay:

  1. Describe how you plan to unlock your potential at name of the university or school.
  2.  Define the specific qualities that attract you to the particular program/school/college for which you are applying at name of the university.
  3. Why do you want to study name of a program (Aerospace Engineering, Women’s Studies, Neuroscience, etc)?
  4. Why is name of the university the right place to pursue your academic interests and to prepare you for your future?
  5. What makes you a person who is able to contribute to name of university’s community?

Every college provides its own variations. Imagine that you are sitting in front of the admissions board. You have already provided them with the information about your academic success, socioeconomic background, and test scores. Now you have to say SOMETHING ELSE about your personality. What else can you say to grab their attention? Your essay is a res
ponse to this question.

A considerable number of colleges accept the Common Application (700 members), the Coalition Application (130 members), or the Universal Application (23 members). Each platform has specific requirements for the applicants and eligibility criteria for member schools.

Common Application

The essay prompts vary from year to year due to the feedback of member colleges. However, the common ideas remain the same:

1) Failure makes us stronger

Nobody is perfect. We often face circumstances that we can’t fight with. Don’t be afraid to show to the admission board how the particular challenge or obstacle has changed you and made you the person you are right now.

Example: Why did I decide to give up my childhood dream?

2) Self-development

Remember an event or a discovery that you may associate with your personal growth. The admissions officers don’t look for an interesting story; they look for the signs of your maturity.

Example: How did I help my father to improve his bakery?

3) What really matters to you?

Colleges want their students to be the all-around person who is able not only to learn but also teach others and share their passion. Don’t try to present a sugar-coated lie. If you are not sure about your sincerity, it is better to choose another admission essay topic.

Example: How is fashion design important to me?

4) Real story

Provide an admissions board with utterly meaningful information about you. They don’t want to reread another version of your CV or resume. Tell something new, honest, and disturbing about your life. Don’t forget to show the connection between a particular experience with your personal qualities or beliefs.

Example: What have I done to make your family’s life better?

5) Debatable idea

Recall a real-life situation when you challenged someone else’s idea or another person questioned your belief. Long-winded debates about some global issue won’t impress the admission committee. We remind that every topic has to be directly connected with your individuality.

Example: How have I convinced my elder brother to become a vegetarian?

6) Important problem

Present your solution for any problem of personal importance. It doesn’t matter whether you have already handled this issue or not. You have to prove its significance and offer a logical or maybe an original approach to solving it.

Example: How have I helped my parents to avoid divorce?

7) Choose your weapon

Actually, you choose your topic. Any topic. BUT! Control your fantasy! You don’t want to enrage or frighten the admissions officers. Remember that they might belong to the specific religion, political party, or any other minority.

Example: Describe one of your family members and his or her influence on your current worldview.

The word limit for the personal essay is 650.

Coalition Application

You may find general essay prompts for years 2016-2018 on the official website of this platform. The recommended word limit is 300-400. The admissions essay topics are similar to the previous ones. If it seems hard for you to choose an appropriate topic, you’ll like this application platform: there are only five variants. In addition, two topics differ from the list above: one refers to the difficulties of being a teenager these days; another one is dedicated to your greatest contribution to others.

Universal Application

This application platform requires not one but TWO writings. The first one is a personal statement (650 words or fewer). The main object of this task is to evaluate your ability to think rationally and to present your thoughts in written form. The second writing is much smaller, only 150 words maximum. They ask to write about your personal work, volunteer, or any other extracurricular experience.

Short Answer Questions

These platforms are very useful, especially, when you apply to more than one college. Unfortunately, the institutions of higher education frequently require their own supplement in addition to the essays you write for the Common, Coalition, or Universal applications. For example, Yale University asks to answer some specific questions. This type of supplement is widespread among the universities.

These questions may refer to your hobbies, or your favorite book, or phrase. They also may be more specified for a particular program or academic area. Your answers have to help the admissions officers to know more about your personality, your aspirations, and tastes. The word limit ranges between 30 and 200. You should follow the instructions for every particular institution. Below, we have placed a list of the popular short answer questions. You may use this list to practice your writing skills and to prepare yourself for the actual application process.

  • What do you like about teaching and learning?
  • What is your favorite movie? Why?
  • What serves you a source of inspiration?
  • Tell us about your summer including your work or volunteering experiences.
  • Describe the situation when you were out of your comfort zone. How has this experience affected you?
  • Choose three words to describe your personality. Explain your choice.
  • What do you consider to be the most important achievement of your life? Why?
  • Name your favorite literary character. Are you similar? Which way?
  • Remember your childhood dream. Have you made it a reality? Why?
  • Do you prefer being a part of the team or its leader? Why?

College Admission Essay Topics

The college admissions boards often ask for an additional essay. The types of these essays vary from one school to another, and you have to check the application rules on the official websites. More importantly, the character of your writing has to correspond with the traditions of the particular university. As we wrote above, the University of Chicago looks for creativity, but this might not work for Yale or Princeton. Sometimes, all the applicants write their essays on the same topic. In that case, you should think outside the box in order to stand out among the hundreds of candidates.

If the committee gives you the freedom to choose, that is your chance not only to write an outstanding essay but also to pick an outstanding topic. We can help with this task. You may use the topics below for your writing or to interpret them in your personal manner.

Interesting Topics for Business School Application Essay

  1. How does gender affect the leadership skills of the individual?
  2. IT companies prefer to hire younger specialists. What peculiarities of this sphere have formed this tendency?
  3. How does multiculturalism influence the team-building process?
  4. Why is the hiring of people of different ages a good strategy?
  5. What professional domains are traditionally associated with female employees? Has the situation changed over the past few years?
  6. What personal qualities are necessary both for the employees and managers?
  7. Is a psychological test the only effective way for HR managers to find an appropriate candidate for the vacancy?
  8. What are the best ways to develop the ability to prevent a work crisis?
  9. The highest price is not always a guarantee of the best quality. What other factors also influence the price of the product?
  10. The start-ups are becoming more and more popular. Will they replace the traditional ways of doing business?

Unexpected Topics for an Essay of Your Choice

  • My favorite polite word (how it characterizes your personality )
  • How does my tattoo define me?
  • If I become an animal, I will be…
  • Why have my parents given me my name?
  • Why do I associate myself with Joy/Fear/Disgust/Anger/Sadness from the cartoon “Inside Out”?
  • Why was the loss of my childhood toy my personal tragedy?
  • Who usually wins: me or my conscience?
  • Why don’t I want to be me?
  • What is so special about my skin color?
  • Why don’t I want to be a superhero?

It doesn’t matter what kind of essay you will choose: provoking, poignant, or serious. Anyway, you should always remember that the admission essay is your opportunity to show the college who you really are and what makes you special. Let them hear your personal voice!

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