What They are Looking for in this Application Essay Question

This is the most common question you will find. There are a large number of appropriate topics from which you can choose. There are 2 principal things the admissions committees want to see from this question:

  1. The topic you select. Is it interesting? Does the topic provide additional insight into your unique personality and values?
  2. What you have to say about the topic. How will you benefit the college? Will you become an active contributor in classroom discussions? Will your extracurricular and social involvements improve the lives of the other students? Will the college be proud to call you an alumni when you graduate?

Does this sound like a lot to think about? It is. But it is precisely this level of planning and accompanying work that most often separates the Ivy league and other top-notch students from their peers at the slightly less competitive schools.

Our Suggestions

Topic Selection

Choose a topic you feel passionate about. Think about this carefully before you begin writing. All the time in the world revising the writing won’t be very effective if the topic is not optimal for you.

It may take a while (don’t expect this to be a 5 minute exercise), but you will be able to recognize the right topic when it comes.

This topic will have the following traits:

  1. You will be able to relate the topic back to you, and
  2. You will be able to demonstrate how you have grown and developed because of the topic.

Helpful hint: Try to articulate the topic out loud to a friend or relative. Find someone who will be play devil’s advocate. (Let’s face it. A friend or relative who does not even attempt to find fault in your topic is not going to help you.)

What You Have to Say About the Topic

Be sure you demonstrate your understanding of the cause and effect dynamics surrounding the topic. Spend some time introspecting about the topic. Chances are good that you have already done a lot of this in the topic selection process.

Remember, you are not a Forrest Gump going through life and getting lucky. You are a smart, analytical applicant who understands what is happening and adapts accordingly.

You are also the type of student who will enhance the college’s campus through your classroom discussion contributions, extracurricular involvements, and personal interactions.