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College Essay Writing: Mining your Memory for the Best Topic
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

by Kate H
Tutor Tango Staff Subject Tutor, Test Prep Tutor, and College Admissions Advisor

When you sit down to write your college essay, it’s natural to feel absurdly daunted--after all, this thing could change your LIFE...change your FUTURE!

No. Take that pressure off of yourself right now--it’s an essay. Yes, you want to put your best foot forward, but you also want to be yourself and embrace the opportunity to show college reviewers just how amazing you are. And that’s really the golden rule about these college essays: YOU. You should focus on writing a good, interesting essay that showcases you as a writer and a person, but it needs to also showcase YOU. But wait! What on earth do you write about?!

There is no right or wrong answer about which topic to choose. Sorry. Of course, whatever you choose to write about, you want to make sure it answers the college’s prompt. Sometimes, they want to hear about you--who are you? Sometimes, they want to hear about themselves--why do you want to attend THAT university? And sometimes, they want to see some creativity. But within their question, within that bubble, the sky is the limit!

No matter what question you have to answer, remember who you are. Are you a fantastic creative writer? Do you love science fiction? You could easily twist all your answers into an allegorical story that takes place in space--and that way, you aren’t gouging your eyes out writing yet-another-two-page-essay.

As we embrace this ‘theme of uniqueness,' it’s important to keep in touch with what makes you you. Sit back and think about some personal experiences, or people in your life, or lessons you have learned, or work you have done that made you a deeper, more enriched person. Ideally, you have come out the other side of your anecdote with something new, be it an understanding of the world or something completely different. While you are encouraged to embrace your personality, writing style, and creativity, make sure you aren’t pushing into grandiose territory simply to impress the reader; keep the essay truthful!

No matter what you write or how you write it (be it fantastically or straight-essay..ly...), please make sure that you are not relying simply on the seat of your pants. Be informed. Use your resources. Get names, dates, and other relevant information correct! Above all, make it personal and keep it endearing, thoughtful, and positive (in outcome, if not necessarily in transit).