The College Essay

Much of the following information on writing the college essay has been taken from two fine books on the topic. Purchase them at your local book store or find them in your school media center!

Bauld, Harry. On Writing the College Application Essay. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1987.

Mason, Michael. How to Write a Winning College Application Essay. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing, 1994.


Who needs to worry?

bullet Did you receive a 1600 on the SATs?
bullet Is your grandfather president of Harvard?
bullet Did your parents contribute one million to the college of your choice?

If not, then you are "one of the crowd."

Why do you need an essay?

bullet It's the only place where they can hear your "voice" as you want it.
bullet It's where the colleges learn to know the "real you."
bullet It's the "Big Game."  

You need to answer three important questions:

bullet Who is my audience?
bullet What kind of piece is it?
bullet What do I have to say to these readers? (NOT--What do they want to hear?)

First Job

Prevent your audience from falling asleep!

"Sleepy Subjects"

bullet The Trip
bullet My Favorite Things
bullet Miss America
bullet Jock
bullet My Room
bullet Tales of My Success
bullet Hello, my name is...

What's left? EVERYTHING!

There are no really bad topics.

bullet Tell in your own, fresh voice.
bullet Write something only your could write.
bullet Know what you write about.
bullet Entertain.

Click here to learn more about how to bring your essay to life.    


Typical College Essay Topics

Many colleges introduce their essay writing assignments as follows:

WRITING ASSESSMENT Writing is an important component of the ___ (Your College)___________ curriculum. The work you submit will serve as samples of your ability to write. They will be judged on how well you develop and support your thesis, how well they are organized, and how creative you are in selecting and discussing your topics.

Your essay should be typewritten or word-processed, double-spaced, and two-to-three pages long. If you wish, you may submit your essay on separate sheets and attach them to this form. Please make sure your name appears on each page of your essay.

Please select one of the topics below:

1. Community service can be a valuable part of the college experience. If you were to devote one year of service to a volunteer project, what would it be, and what would you hope to accomplish? (Goucher)

2. What do you think has been the most important social or political movement of the 20th century? Do you share a personal identification with this cause? (Goucher)

3. Discuss some issue of personal, local, or national concern and its importance to you. (Hood)

4. If you could travel through time and interview any historical figure, whom would you choose, what would you ask, and why? (Hood)

5. Explain why and how you would, if given the opportunity, change a decision you made in the past. (Salisbury State)

6. Describe how the character of a literary work you have read recently has made a lasting impression on you. (College of Notre Dame of Maryland)

7. Optimistic futurists envision a world without boundaries; an interdependent global society. Write about your personal impression of this idea. (College of Notre Dame of Maryland)

8. Select two people who have been role models in your life and describe why. (College of Notre Dame of Maryland)

9. State in a well-written essay: a) your reason for selecting Loyola College and b) your personal goals and professional plans upon completion of college. (Loyola)

10. You are encouraged to use the space below to supply any additional information or background you believe will be of assistance or service in the consideration of your application. We would also be interested in knowing how you would analyze your academic strengths and weaknesses as a potential University student. (Towson State University)


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