College Essay Topics

You write tons of essays on different topics in school. Sometimes it’s a teacher who assigns a topic, and there are some cases when you need to come up with college essay ideas by yourself. Depending on essay types assigned, you know a strategy on how to do research and decide on a topic for your paper.

It doesn’t work that way when you need to choose a topic for your college application essay.


According to admissions officers, they seek students who demonstrate a unique experience that influenced their worldview, are passionate about what they tell, and want to find their voice. How to decide on the topic that would cover all this?

In this article, we’ll share some college essay tips and many college essay ideas to answer your question, “What should I write about?”

What Should I Write About: Choosing a Topic for Your Essay

Our ultimate guide on personal essay writing mentioned the importance of a topic for your college application essay’s success:

This essay tells the admissions officers about your personality and worldview, and it’s a chance to share who you are and what you can bring to their campus.

With that said, you need to come up with a college essay topic idea that would demonstrate a committee that you are a person with a voice, life experience, and established values. Do you have anything to contribute to a college community?

Your college application essay is a kind of “about me” sample, where you can share goals, influences, challenges, experiences, and lessons you’ve learned from them. Think of writing a narrative essay, but short and with your personality between the lines.


Your “about me sample” can be about everything related to you, but, at the same time, specific about who you are. You can write about:

  • a friend or relative who influenced your worldview
  • a teacher who changed your mind about something
  • an award you won, and its role for your life experience
  • a test you failed
  • a famous person or a creative genius who influenced your mindset or plans for the future
  • facing a fear
  • overcoming some obstacles
  • making a difficult choice
  • falling in love

Long story short, any moment or persona in your life that changed you in some way can become a core topic of a personal essay.

The best essay topics are always those profoundly relatable. Write about some moments that could happen in everyone’s life, those communicating some universal truth.

Your story doesn’t have to be with a happy end or solution. Just provide a context for readers to learn who you are and what brought you to this stage in life; also, make a connection on how this experience has influenced your future aspirations.

College Essay Ideas: The List of Topics to Consider

Admissions officers want to read a good story over anything else. Yes, even if it doesn’t have a happy end but provides us with a lesson anyway. When thinking about a topic for your college essay, imagine how people reading it will feel; think of something that excites you or something that has affected you deeply.

Long story short, get personal, be yourself, and keep your story simple yet focused on a discrete moment from your life

Below you’ll find the list of college essay ideas. Regardless of which of them you’ll choose, please make sure that this story will be uniquely YOURS. Be yourself and write about things that matter to you.


Six groups of topics (aka prompts) to consider for your college application essay:

  1. Share a story on your hobby, personality facet, or experience that is meaningful to you.
  2. Tell about your learning from obstacles.
  3. Write about personal growth.Share what captivates you.
  4. Tell about a situation when you challenged a common belief.
  5. Write about the experience of solving a problem.
  6. Share a story about a personality that influenced your values and beliefs.

More specific issues to cover in your college essay:

  1. Write about a situation when you failed at something. How did it affect you?
  2. What about a time when you challenged your worldview?
  3. Describe a moment of your shift from child to adult.
  4. Write about a book (movie) where the protagonist had to make a difficult choice. What do you think about it?
  5. Tell about a person in your life who helped you understand yourself better.
  6. Share one accomplishment besides academics that you are proud of most.
  7. Write about a moment when you had to stand up for what you believed.
  8. Imagine yourself giving a TED talk. What would it be about?
  9. Tell us about a problem you would like to solve.
  10. Please tell us about your life goals.
  11. What was the most embarrassing moment in your life? What have you learned from it?
  12. Write about the best advice you got. Who gave it? Did you follow it?
  13. Tell about the role of your hobby or any other particular activity in your life.
  14. If you had a chance to talk with anyone in human history, who would it be and why? What would you discuss with him or her?
  15. Describe your “Aha!” moment and what sparkled it.
  16. Is there any day in your life that you’d like to change? Share this story, please.
  17. Given that you have a time travel machine, what is one day you would go?
  18. Tell us about why you want to attend this college or university.
  19. Do you have anything you’d like people to know about you, but what you are afraid of telling them?
  20. What do you want to accomplish in college?
  21. If you could prevent one thing from happening, what would it be and why?
  22. If you could read people’s minds, would you use this ability? How?
  23. How your neighborhood modeled the personality that you are today?
  24. Write about your most unique skill differentiating you from others.
  25. Describe the experience that has changed your life forever.
  26. What advice would you give to a 10-year-old you?
  27. Choose a quote that defines you best and explain why.
  28. If someone decided to write your biography, what epigraph would you recommend them to use?
  29. Describe a facet of your personality that is essential to who you are.
  30. Write about why you have decided to spend the next four years of your life in college.

College Essay Tips to Consider

Choosing a great topic for your college application essay is half the battle. Now you need to craft this topic into a compelling story, with its morals and call to action.

These writing tips will help you stand out:


  1. Write about what’s important to you.
  2. Be specific and make sure this story is uniquely yours.
  3. Don’t merely describe the events, but reflect.
  4. Do your best to make readers smile or even laugh! But be careful: Humor is a relative thing; and, what seems funny to you may not be so for adults working in college.
  5. Catch their attention right from the start: Use a compelling hook for your college essay.
  6. Show, don’t tell. Use expository writing, with descriptions, anecdotes, and examples. Please do your best to make your essay engaging.
  7. Write several drafts, stay with the one communicating your message best.
  8. Proofread and edit it carefully. Not only your college application essay is about a story but your writing skills too. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask professional editors or essay makers for help.
  9. Avoid repetitions and contradictions. What you write in your essay shouldn’t contradict any other part of your application.

Any questions left?

Further Reading: