“I don’t know what to write about!”
This is the number one source of frustration for students starting their college essays.
A typical scenario occurred last week with one of my students from Madison, CT. She struggled to choose between two different essays. One, she really liked, but feared it wasn’t “traditional” enough. The other, written as a backup, she didn’t really like, but felt it was the “safer” of the two.
I told her to go with her gut–the supposedly “less traditional” topic centered on something she really cared about and found meaningful. The result was a clearly written essay with a powerfully individual voice. The other essay focused on something she thought her colleges would “appreciate” more. It didn’t have nearly the same power or coherence.
For her, the “right” topic was the one she cared the most about.
The same is true for most students, if not all. Few high school seniors are skillful enough writers–and nobody expects them to be yet–to craft their best essays when they feel lackluster about their topics.
The “best” college essays reveal a student’s authentic character and personality, so the best topics are those that focus on what they care most about.