Brainstorm College Essay Topics

Deciding on a topic for your college application essay seems daunting but there are ways....

Propel Smart

April 8, 2022

Deciding on a topic for your college application essay seems daunting but there are ways to make it fun.  Remember to have someone you trust as a sounding board to get feedback.  Here are a few ideas to try to come up with a topic:

  1. Go to a bookstore, walk around until you find the section that interests you. Why are you interested in this section of the store? When did you become interested? Is there something about it that is important in your life? I learned this exercise from a professor when I was getting ready to write my Master’s thesis. He had us all meet at Barnes and Nobles, and while we were there I decided on a topic for my thesis. Applying for college is just as monumental, though I hope you don’t spend as much time writing your essay as I did writing my thesis!
  1. Do you have a specific major in mind? Why do you want to major in that?  Is there a defining moment or period of time that made you want to go into that field?
  2. Think about your favorite place to be and, if possible, go there. What do you love about this place? Is there something that is comforting about it or healing? Was there a time you needed to be in that place for comfort? Does it remind you of something you miss? If there is a story behind this spot, try to tell a friend. If they are intrigued, you may have found your topic.
  3. Who are your favorite people? What traits about those people that stand out to you? Tell them and ask them what they notice about you. Start a conversation and see what you discover, it may help you choose a great topic. If not, you have told people who are important to you something you appreciate about them.
  4. Go for a long walk or run by yourself, enjoy the outdoors, notice the smells, sights, sounds while you spend time letting your mind wander. Sometimes we can learn the most about ourselves by leaving distractions behind. Instead of music or a podcast, listen to the noise outside. You may hear birds and leaves rustling or lawnmowers and construction equipment. Not all of it will be peaceful but it will allow your brain a chance to think.

These may or may not help but exercises that give you a chance to think and reflect will only help you in the long run so try to enjoy the process.

A final thought to keep in mind, you are trying to make sure that the college admissions officers are getting to know YOU.  While each of us has had our struggles and triumphs during this era of COVID-19, the fact that we have missed vacations, weddings, funerals, and school activities is not a unique situation.  If something has changed you and made you a different person, feel free to write about it, but make sure the story is about you as a person and not the situation during COVID-19 that we’re all sick of living.  Admissions counselors have been living it and reading about it frequently and would prefer to hear about what has made you the person you are today.


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