College Essay Topics to Avoid

Finding the Right Topic for Your College Essay

Writing a college essay is an exhilarating and nerve-wracking endeavor. It presents an opportunity for you to showcase your exceptional qualities and experiences to admissions officers. However, choosing the right topic for your personal statement and supplemental essays is crucial. College admissions officers read thousands of essays each admissions season. In this blog post, we’ll explore several college essay topics to avoid, so you can steer clear of common pitfalls and present your best self to admission counselors.

The High School Topic Idea: Digging Deeper Than Just High School

One common mistake students make is choosing a topic solely focused on their high school experiences. While high school plays a significant role in shaping who we are, digging deeper and exploring other aspects of life is essential. Admissions officers want to know what sets you apart from your peers beyond your academic achievements and extracurricular activities. Instead of simply recounting your high school achievements, consider delving into personal growth or your passions outside of school.

The Creative College Essay: Balancing Creativity and Relevance

Creativity is commendable, but exercise caution when it comes to overly artistic or unconventional approaches. While standing out is important, balancing creativity and relevance is crucial. Some students might be tempted to write their essay as a poem, song, or play. While these formats can be engaging, they may not effectively convey your story or showcase your writing abilities. Choose a format that allows you to express yourself authentically while maintaining clarity and coherence.

The Good Essay Topic: Avoiding Broad and Clichéd Subjects

A topic that is too broad or clichéd can dilute the impact of your essay. Popular subjects such as “the importance of education” or “my role model” have been extensively written about and lack originality. Instead, focus on a specific aspect of these broader themes that is unique to your experience. Consider your personal connection to the topic and how it has shaped you as an individual. Narrowing your focus can provide a more insightful and meaningful account of your story.

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The Extracurricular Activities: Going Beyond the Laundry List

Participation in extracurricular activities is undoubtedly important, but avoid creating a laundry list of every club, sport, or organization you have been involved in. Admissions officers already have access to your resume or activity list. Instead, choose an activity that profoundly impacted your personal growth or allowed you to overcome challenges. Discuss the lessons you learned, the skills you developed, and the values you gained from your involvement. This approach will allow you to showcase your depth and reflect on your character.

Remember that your essay should not be a comprehensive list of achievements or activities. Admissions officers already have access to your resume or application. Instead, use your essay as an opportunity to showcase your character, passion, and the impact you’ve had on others. Discuss your leadership roles, community involvement, or any initiatives you’ve undertaken to make a positive difference.

When writing about your extracurricular activities, go beyond superficial descriptions. Instead of simply listing your positions or responsibilities, delve deeper into the impact you made and the contributions you brought to the table. Showcase your passion, commitment, and the positive influence you had on others. This will create a compelling narrative that captivates admissions officers and highlights your unique qualities.

As you reflect on your experiences, consider the lessons you’ve learned and the skills you’ve developed. How have these activities shaped your character and prepared you for college? Admissions officers are interested in understanding how you will contribute to their academic community and how you will grow as a student and as an individual.

The Travel Experience: Beyond a Common and Clichéd Topic

Traveling can be an enriching experience, but exercise caution when using it as the sole focus of your essay. Many students may have embarked on similar journeys, making it a common and sometimes clichéd topic. If you decide to write about a travel experience, emphasize how it influenced your personal growth or broadened your perspectives. Instead of simply narrating the trip, focus on the lessons you learned and how they connect to your overall development.

While travel experiences can be enriching and eye-opening, be cautious about making them the sole focus of your essay. Travel is a common topic, and many students may have similar experiences. Instead, focus on the lessons you learned during your travels and how they have impacted your personal growth. Discuss the cultural exchanges, challenges you overcame, or moments of self-discovery that occurred during your journey. Highlight how these experiences have shaped your values, worldview, and aspirations.

Tips for Writing a Good College Essay: Showcasing Your Best Self

Writing a compelling college essay requires thoughtful consideration of your experiences and careful selection of the right topic. By avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls and clichéd topics, you can create a strong essay that captivates admissions officers and leaves a lasting impression. Remember, the goal is to present your unique qualities, personal growth, and character traits in a way that sets you apart from other applicants.

Tips for Writing a Great College Essay: Unleashing Your True Potential

Choosing a good college essay topic allows you to showcase your individuality, reflect on significant experiences, and provide insights into your values and aspirations. To write a great college essay, your writing must be authentic, engaging, and self-reflective.

One key aspect of a great college essay is focusing on personal growth. Share impactful anecdotes that highlight moments of growth, transformation, or self-discovery. Discuss how these experiences have shaped your values, worldview, and aspirations. Admissions officers are interested in understanding how you have evolved as an individual and how you will contribute to their college community.

Another important element is offering a thoughtful perspective. Instead of merely stating facts or recounting events, go beyond the surface and provide deeper insights. Reflect on the significance of your experiences and offer unique perspectives that demonstrate your critical thinking and analytical skills.

To make your essay impactful, incorporate specific details and vivid anecdotes that bring your story to life. Use descriptive language to paint a picture and engage the reader’s senses. Show how the experience changed your outlook, made you think differently, or inspired you to take action. Through a well-crafted narrative, you can demonstrate that your travel experience was more than just a fun vacation—it was an opportunity for growth and development.


In conclusion, writing a remarkable college essay requires thoughtful consideration and careful selection of a compelling topic. By being authentic, reflecting on personal growth, offering a thoughtful perspective, and showcasing your unique qualities, you can craft an essay that stands out and resonates with admissions officers. Remember to proofread and edit your essay multiple times to ensure it is error-free, polished, and professional. And if you need assistance or guidance, don’t hesitate to seek help from a writing tutor or college advisor who can provide valuable insights and support. With dedication and effort, you can create an exceptional college essay that showcases your true self and sets you apart in the college application process.

Many students choose to seek professional guidance through the essay process. While an essay coach won’t write the essay for you, they will help you pick a topic and offer expert guidance and feedback as you craft your personalized essay. Here at HelloCollege, our Essay Team works with our students through one-on-one essay idea brainstorms that focus on topic selection and planning for their first draft. Students receive professional reviews to finesse and improve their essays. A good college essay coach should listen and support you throughout the entire process. They should never write an essay for you. Colleges want to know your authentic story. Be proud of who you are and what makes you special.

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The Hello College Team

The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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