Cliché College Essay Topics

While The New Yorker features a cute cartoon on college essays, one would be wise not to heed the advice of its illustrator.

Thinking about writing one of your college essays set in the world of sports? Maybe you worked really hard to swim a best time in your most important event, the 100-yard breaststroke, and, while you never broke 1:01, you learned valuable life lessons along the way? Or maybe you got injured during a baseball game sliding into third base and you were out for most of the season, but you persevered to come back even stronger? Or maybe you came in last place in the mile, but realized running gives you joy even if you’re not particularly fast? If any of this sounds like something you intend to write about in any one of your college admissions essays, we do encourage you to think again.

A big reason our students at Ivy Coach so often earn admission to their dream schools is that they present to admissions officers at elite universities as wonderfully weird. Through their singular pursuits — be they award-winning science researchers or animal rights activists — they dare admissions officers not to offer them admission. Writing about sports, writing cliches does not achieve that objective. In fact, writing about sports will all but assure that applicant will fail to differentiate themselves in the highly selective admissions process. To put it in sports lingo, it’s a no-win game.

So while we very much giggled at the recent New Yorker cartoon by Ali Solomain in which a mother consoles her son on the soccer field, ““Someday, you can turn this crippling loss into a really triumphant college essay,” we urge our readers not to heed such advice. No admissions officer wants to read about your losses on the soccer field. Or in the swimming pool. Or on the gridiron. Hopefully you get the idea. And, while you’re at it, avoid writing about music, community service, grandparents, travel, and illnesses. All essays executed on such topics will undoubtedly fall into the category of utter cliche drivel.

 
 

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