What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

For more information on the fourteen topics, you should never write in your college essay, keep reading.

Making a good impression on the colleges you want to attend through your college essay can increase your chances of getting accepted when you apply.

However, you must select the subject matter for your essay before starting to write. It may not seem challenging, but it’s crucial to know which topics to steer clear of when writing a college essay.

Check out the fourteen subjects you should never write about in your college essay below to prevent choosing an essay topic that could result in you receiving a rejection letter.

Controversial Or Hot-Button Issues

Some essay questions allow you to demonstrate your commitment to your beliefs, which is something that colleges value in applicants.

However, it’s best to steer clear of particularly divisive subjects like religion, abortion, and other contentious discussions. You never know who or what they think will read your college application essay. You don’t want to risk upsetting this enigma, who holds your future in their hands to some extent.

It can vary depending on how the topic is presented. If, for instance, your upbringing included a lot of church attendance and it holds a special place in your heart, you could mention this aspect of who you are in your college application essay.

However, it’s crucial to avoid implying that your religion is superior to others’ or disparaging those who don’t follow it. If you’re not sure, follow the golden rule of college application essays: Leave it out if you’re unsure.

What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

Illegal/Inappropriate Behavior

In very rare cases, it might be appropriate to tell a story that shows how much you’ve changed and grown as a person. But generally speaking, you should steer clear of discussing any unethical, immoral, or improper behavior in your essay. And it’s best to omit it if you’re unsure.

Therefore, avoid discussing major personality flaws like underage drinking, drug use, trespassing, stealing, risky behavior with your friends, or any other such topics. Avoid glorifying violence and describing situations that might be upsetting to your reader. Likewise, refrain from using coarse language and profanity.

You can’t predict who will read your essay or how they will react to the subjects. They may doubt both your moral character and their decision to grant you housing on campus, which is a distinct possibility.

Overused Ideas

It can be difficult to introduce the reader to anything new when applicants write about tired or overused topics. Additionally, admissions officers won’t have the opportunity to learn more about you if you don’t offer anything novel. It also implies that your essay won’t stand out for the right reasons.

Here are common topics that you should avoid:

  • Highlights of a sports career
  • A sports injury
  • Family history in a career field
  • Performing well in a challenging class
  • Overcoming divorce or the death of a pet
  • Starting your essay with a famous quote
  • Moving to a different part of the country
  • Volunteering
  • Volunteer trips/traveling (especially how you realized everything you have to be grateful for)
  • Religious background
  • Romantic relationships
  • Using a common object as a metaphor for you or your life
What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

But that doesn’t mean that none of these subjects can’t be handled expertly. Some of the topics listed here might lend themselves to a really inventive approach. For instance, having divorced parents is a common occurrence, but perhaps you handled it differently.

In order to be safe, it is still preferable to investigate a different idea that will seem novel to admissions officers and provide more depth into your personality and uniqueness.

Experimental Or Creative Writing

Writing without punctuation or in a non-linear format out of stylistic preference will not get you any points for your college essay because it is unlikely that it will be nominated for a PEN or Pulitzer prize.

Instead, choose a clear voice and writing style that will interest your readers rather than confuse them. You should save your first-person accounts for the literary magazine in high school.

One of the most popular topics, we advise against writing about your golf team’s underdog tale or the injury you thought would end your softball career because so many students write the same formulaic narrative. This is not to say that these are unimportant stories to tell.

If you do decide to write about a sporting endeavor or challenge, make sure to keep it current by concentrating more on how it affected you than on what actually happened.

Highly Personal Topics

What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

All subjects that are extremely sensitive or personal are also bad choices for college essay topics. Don’t write an essay about a severe illness, disability, or injury, for instance, or one that goes into too much detail about any of these topics.

In order to highlight how you were able to handle it or get past difficulties associated with it, you might want to write about this kind of experience. Choosing a personal challenge as a topic is still an option, but it’s best to refrain from writing about anything gruesome or overly intimate, like going into great detail about an injury.

Personal Achievements and Accomplishments

List your accomplishments and achievements on your college application, including any honors or awards you may have won. There’s no need for your college essay to have these as its main subject. While highlighting your accomplishments in writing might seem like a great way to wow the school you’re applying to, it can actually have the opposite effect.

It’s possible that the reader of your essay won’t find it interesting or informative enough. Additionally, you might come across as boasting or bragging about your accomplishments.

Schools can evaluate you based on your writing skills by reading your college essay. You can’t express your unique voice and personality in your writing when you submit what essentially amounts to a list of your accomplishments.

Most Important Place Or a Role Model

If you’re considering writing about a location or individual who has inspired you, this is probably not a good choice for a college essay topic. When you choose to write about a subject like this, you run the risk of putting too much emphasis on the subject at hand or the setting and not enough on your own experiences.

What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

College essays are used by schools to discover more about prospective students. The school won’t learn enough about you as a person from an essay that focuses primarily on a location you find inspirational or a person you view as a role model.

If you decide to write an inspirational college essay, be sure to concentrate more on the effect this person or place had on you.

Lies and Exaggerations

Students frequently feel under pressure to choose a completely original essay topic that has never been done before in order to make their writing stand out. When these students can’t think of anything “cool” or “special” enough, they make something up.

Don’t do this.

It’s possible that admissions officers for colleges will think you’re lying, which is a bad sign for your morals and ethics. Even if they don’t suspect you’re lying, you’ve missed your chance to showcase the real reasons that you’re a good fit for this school.

Always keep in mind that a college application essay is meant to introduce you to the admissions committee. You’ve completely missed the point if your essay is full of fabrications and exaggerations.

In fact, it’s important to write in your authentic voice and avoid using “fancy” vocabulary just to impress admissions officers. Your writing should be authentically you.

Over-the-Top Humor

If being humorous comes naturally to you, feel free to sprinkle in a joke or two throughout your essay. But natural is the key here. Make humor a secondary theme in your college essay rather than trying to force it.

A reader who doesn’t know you well may have trouble understanding your humor in writing. Admissions officers might find your “funny” essay forced and unamusing. Avoid using irony or sarcasm as well.

What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

Topics That Don’t Focus on You

Last but not least, your essay should provide more depth on you, including your personality, beliefs, and values, as well as what has molded you into the person you are today. It’s OK to briefly talk about other people or places in the context of how they have influenced you, but try not to overly focus on:

  • Your hero
  • A relative who has inspired or influenced you
  • A famous book, painting, or quote that you love
  • An issue or current event and how you would fix it
  • The work, performance, or life of another person

Athletic Topics

If you are a sportsperson, it may seem simple to write a college essay about a sporting challenge you overcame. “Sports challenges” include essays about winning the big game, losing the big game, making (or not making) the team, and even getting a nasty sports injury.

Despite how intriguing the athletic challenge itself was, these rarely make for good college essay topics. (They are difficult to write well in ways that stand out, to repeat.)

What Not to Write About in a College Essay? Top 14

A sports challenge college essay is very popular, which raises the question, why is that so? It doesn’t really help to copy what a ton of other people are doing because one of the main purposes of the essay is to make you stand out.

For example, almost everyone writing about losing the big game ends up writing the same “lessons learned” about humility, teamwork, overcoming disappointment, etc.

Travel Experience

If you’re a seasoned traveler, you might want to write extensively about a trip you took for pleasure or even volunteer work. However, essays about travel are another popular topic that may not give you a good chance to stand out.

Focusing on a specific aspect of a trip or vacation, such as meeting someone who had a significant impact on your life or dealing with an unexpected challenge or event, would help a travel topic stand out. Avoid writing solely in general terms when discussing a trip because this won’t make your essay interesting to read.

Negative Aspects of the School

Even though it might seem obvious, you should try to stay away from writing anything that gives a bad impression of the school you’re applying to. Some students may think that choosing a depressing subject will help them stand out or earn points for taking a chance on their essay.

The school, however, probably won’t view it in this manner. It’s a surefire way to leave a bad impression if you spend your college essay criticizing the institution you’re applying to or concentrating on its drawbacks. Your opportunity to have your application seriously considered could be lost as a result.

Final Thoughts: College Essay Topics to Avoid

In most cases, your essay isn’t the factor that determines your admission to college. Your chances can be harmed by an offensive, unattractive, or forgettable essay, though. By staying away from the subjects mentioned above, you can make sure that your essay enhances rather than detracts from your chances of admission.

Start writing your essays as soon as possible to allow enough time for proofreading and revisions. You should start right away if you’re a rising senior.


Is It Bad to Write About Mental Health in College Essays?

Although a student’s disability or mental health history may be a significant part of who they are, applying to college does not always require that information to be relevant. Keep in mind that it is actually illegal for colleges to ask for these types of details about your life because it can be considered discrimination.

How Long Should College Essay Be?

The primary essay for your college application, often called a personal statement, is typically around 400-600 words. More than 800 colleges use the Common App personal statement (which must be between 250 and 650 words) as their main application essay.

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