There are very few topics that you should avoid and there is absolutely no "correct" way to write an essay. Don't be afraid to try something unconventional and don't kill a good idea just because you think the admissions officers wouldn't like it. If you care about your subject and it is important to you, anyone reading your essay will sense that and appreciate it. Make sure that your grammar, spelling and sentence syntax are correct, of course, and that your essay is free of typographical errors—but never shy away from a unique topic or approach.
As your list gets smaller and smaller, you're going to have to make some hard decisions. You might have two equally good topics and need to find a way to break the tie. Pick that topic that you truly care about. If you are passionate about a subject, that excitement will automatically come through in your writing. The same is true for topics that you don't really care about—your lack of enthusiasm will be obvious to the reader.
Using the finest chocolate in the world does not guarantee a successful soufflé. This is because up until the time you serve it, the soufflé can catastrophically collapse upon itself. The same is true for your essay. You can start with what seems like the best topic on your list; but once you start writing, you may discover that your essay simply collapses. The only way to see if you can bake—er, make—a successful essay is to actually write it. You will find that some ideas that seemed promising do not translate well onto paper, while others that were lower on your list end up making great essays.
Don't skimp on the process of finding a topic. With the right topic, the essay will almost write itself while no amount of writing and editing will be able to save a poor topic. Some of the best essays we've read have come from students who spent as much time going through this topic discovery process as they did actually writing their essays.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Learn how to write the essay that will get you into your dream college with this step-by-step guide that includes writing strategies from top students and admission officers. Read over 50 successful essays, and learn the 25 essay mistakes you must avoid.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
The only how-to book which shows all students how to get into the school of their dreams. Based on the experiences of dozens of successful students and authored by two graduates of Harvard, this book shows you how to ace the application, essay, interview, and standardized tests.