Bad College Essay Topics

May 24, 2014

It’s difficult to decide what you are going to write your college essay about. To make a list of all the acceptable topics would take way too long, but compiling a list of the unacceptable topics is much easier. It’s difficult to match a college essay topic to two completely different people. Therefore, here is a list of what not to write about.

1. Substance Abuse

Colleges are used to issues on campus such as drug abuse. There are certain things that they don’t want to read about, mostly because they have seen student’s lives be destroyed by substance abuse and drug use.

2. Your Personal Life

Topics that make a reader say “Too much information!” are topics you want to stay away from. It makes the reader extremely uncomfortable, and it makes them less inclined to like you given the circumstances.

3. Jail Time

Colleges want a safe campus, and by giving them the idea that you are a criminal, it paints a picture in their mind that you aren’t safe. Due to that, they are more likely to reject you because of the fact that they want a safe campus environment.

4. Heroism

Humility is more important to colleges than hubris. You do not want to seem arrogant or self-centered because you “singlehandedly” did something wonderful. Therefore, heroism is okay, but it is important not to cross that line.

5. Lectures

Issues like abortion are topics that not everyone agrees upon. If you want to write about such an issue, make sure you aren’t trying to say that someone is wrong. You don’t want to attack them or lecture them in such an essay.

6. Woe

Whenever you go through a serious issue - such as suicide - you don’t want to bring that up in an essay unless it’s part of a larger story. Focusing on mental illness without a positive outcome makes colleges question if you are stable enough to continue an education.

7. The Travel Journal

If you go on a trip, and want to write your college essay about it, then don’t create a summary. You want to find an experience that is worthwhile enough to craft a college essay around, not one that describes what South America looks like.

8. Comedy

Although humor is a good quality to have, writing a whole essay proving how many jokes you know and how witty you are is not a good idea. It doesn’t allow you to demonstrate who you are as a person.

9. Excuses

Let’s say you didn’t do too well your first semester of your junior year. You don’t want to waste your essay on why you didn’t do too well. The essay should not focus on your weaknesses, it should focus on your strengths.

10. Accomplishments

In your application, you have already highlighted your accomplishments. Reiterating them isn’t worthwhile in a college essay, and it makes you seem redundant.

Browse Successful Application Files

MIT ‘20

Accepted to MIT, UMich, Rutgers, Cornell, Rice, JHU

computer science / design / music / film
UCLA ‘20

Accepted to UCLA, Cornell, CMU, USC, UCSD, UC Davis

UCLA Class of 2020. Orange County native. I like math and music.
UMich ‘20

Accepted to UMich, GA Tech, Case, Michigan Tech

I am a hard-working, motivated student, athlete, and performer who enjoys having fun on the side.
Rochester ‘20

Accepted to Rochester, Rutgers, Fordham, College of NJ, Drexel

Hey! I'm a freshman at University of Rochester Class of 2020 interested in double majoring in Biology and Spanish, eventually applying to med school. I'm passionate about studying science, doing research and learning new languages.

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