College & Beyond

Essay Topics

I ask my students, “How many people applying to college will write about a sport this year?” Maybe 15,000, 20,000…I don’t know for sure…I do not dissuade those college-bound from writing about athletics; I merely draw attention to the question to see if there is another topic that is more original or if there is a way to address athletics in an innovative way.

One student of mine wanted to write about baseball, but he interweaved his learning disabilities into the essay, describing that all his strengths came together on the pitching mound. Another student’s sport led to his fascination with statistics, which shaped his interest in economics. I encourage those with stories to tell to think about their interests, talents, and backgrounds in a way that is atypical.

One of the most fascinating essays I read talked about how the student viewed physics as creative, and her artwork as technical and precise. Because the reader thinks that physics is technical and art is creative, the spin on the topics leaves the reader wanting to learn more. I was left with the chills at the last sentence, and I knew right away that this student should have her pick of schools.

It takes time to figure out the college topic, which is why I believe that the start time on the essay should be the summer before senior year. I would start in June so that there is time to layer and add textures to the essay. Sometimes, the student has to completely start over because the topic just doesn’t work. Beginning in June gives the student enough time to create drafts and work through new ideas so that the end result leaves the admissions committee believing that the university can’t exist without this candidate.