The Ivy Coach Daily

September 24, 2023

What Not to Write: 3 College Essay Topics to Avoid

What Not To Write College Essays

Previously Published on March 11, 2015:

College applicants sure do write about the strangest things! Several years ago, Bustle ran a piece on topics college applicants write about in their college admissions essays, topics they should never have broached — not in 2015 when the article came out and not now in 2023 when addressing the 2023-2024 college essay prompts at our nation’s highly selective universities. So, what kinds of topics do students make the mistake of writing about in their college essays?

What Not to Write About in College Essays

Here are three topics to avoid when writing college essays:

1. College Essays on Losing One’s Virginity

According to the piece by Rebecca Jane Stokes on crazy college essay topics, one admissions officer commented: “I got a handful of kids each year writing their college essays on losing their virginity. Always cringeworthy.” We at Ivy Coach would sure say so!

Why would a high schooler ever think to write about losing their virginity? That’s entirely too personal and inappropriate. Many students choose to lose their virginity in high school. But that doesn’t mean that Harvard will admit them for doing so. So why would a student spend the valuable real estate of The Common Application’s Personal Statement discussing as much? Oy vey.

2. College Essays with Grandiose Claims

Here’s another tidbit from an admissions officer quoted in the Bustle piece: “There was one applicant I remember who turned in an admission essay detailing his time as a clandestine operative for the CIA and informing us that he was the guy who invented the M16 rifle. The second was easily researchable on the internet (seriously, did he not think we’d Google that?) and the first…well…yeah.”

First, if this applicant was a covert operative for the CIA, why have they shared as much with colleges? This student clearly cannot be trusted since they’ve breached the code of the CIA. But, of course, the student was not actually a clandestine operative for the CIA, nor did they invent the M16 rifle. Did they really think making a mockery of the college admissions process — and lying — would lead to admission? Honesty matters in elite college admissions. Oy vey again.

3. College Essays with Alarming Statements

Another admissions officer shared in the Bustle piece, “Got a little scared of a kid who wrote an essay about someone’s murder. Never figured out if it was a personal story or a work of fiction.” Holy cow. 

Does one really think that a university would ever consider admitting a student who writes such an essay? Even if the student has perfect grades and perfect test scores, this is the kind of Personal Statement that will do the applicant in. Don’t murder people. And don’t write about such murders in college essays. But, mostly, don’t murder people!

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with College Essays

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to elite universities by submitting compelling essays showcasing a singular hook — rather than well-roundedness — that would never dare touch a third-rail topic such as those discussed above, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college admissions counseling services.

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