College Essay Topics

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College Essay Topics

Florida State University: We ask that you respond to two of the following topics. Your personal statement should be no longer than

one page each or a total of two pages for both statements. The best personal statements are not necessarily the longest ones.

  1. Discuss an activity, interest, experience, or achievement in your life (this could be a book, movie, or an activity or experience

  2. at work, home, or school) that has been particularly meaningful for you.

  1. How has your family history, culture, or environment influenced who you are?

  1. What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that would allow you to contribute to the university community?

University of Florida: The Personal Essay

Your essay can be a very important part of your application. What you provide helps the university know you as an individual, independent of grades, test scores and other objective data. Remember to keep the essay within the 400-500 word maximum length.


How will your individual background, experiences and personal identity influence your educational pursuits and your contributions to the campus community at the University of Florida?


You may wish to reflect on the following:

                        Significant life challenges or personal circumstances

                        Exceptional talents and outstanding achievement, awards and recognitions

                        Educational aspirations

                        Personal and/or family responsibilities

University of Central Florida: we ask that you respond to two of the topics below. Your personal statement should be no longer than 250 words each or a total of 500 words for both statements. The best personal statements are not necessarily the longest ones.

  1. Describe an activity, interest, experience or achievement in your life that has been particularly meaningful to you.

  1. If you were president of the United States for a day, what one policy- whether serious or semi-serious- would you implement? Why?

  1. How has your family history, culture or environment influenced who you are?

  1. Why did you choose to apply to UCF?

  1. What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that would allow to contribute to the UCF community?

Florida A&M University: We ask that you respond to two of the three topics below. Your personal statement should be no longer than 250 words each or a total of 500 words for both statements. The best personal statements are not necessarily the longest ones.

  1. Describe and activity, interest, experience or achievement in your life (this can be a book, movie or an experience at work, home, or school) that has been particularly meaningful to you.

  1. How has your family history, culture, or environment influenced who you

3. What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that would allow you

to contribute to the university community?

University of South Florida: No essay is required when applying to this university.

Florida International University: No essay is required when applying to this university
University of North Florida: No essay is required when applying to this university.
Florida Atlantic University: writing an essay is optional when applying to this university
University of West Florida: No essay is required when applying to this university.
Florida Gulf Coast University: No essay is required when applying to this university.

Selected University Essay Topics

Bethune-Cookman College

Be sure to include your name and Social Security number on your essay. Please limit your discussion to one side of an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper.

1. Evaluate a significant experience or achievement that has special meaning to you.

2. Identify a local or national social or political issue that concerns you, and describe actions you have taken in your community to influence change.

3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you and describe how that person has influenced who you are.

4. Topic of your choice.

Boston University: All applicants are required to submit a short essay in the space provided on the application form, and one long essay, which should be typed and submitted with the application. The long essay should be no more then 500 words. The short essay should be limited to 20 lines.

  1. Write a personal statement of no more then 500 words on a subject that is most meaningful to you. For example, you may write on an issue about which you feel strongly, an experience that has greatly influenced your life, or other circumstances that you would like the admissions staff to consider in reviewing your application. These are only suggestions, however; the choice of topic is yours.

  1. We would like to know, in no more then 500 words, what experiences have led you to select your professional field and objective. Complete only if you are applying to Sergeant College, the school of education, the college of Engineering, the college of communication, the school of Hospitality Administration, the School of Management, or any of the accelerated programs.

Short Essay: How did you become interested in Boston University? (Please limit response to 20 lines.)

Cornell University / Princeton / Harvard/ Dartmouth (Common Application)

This personal statement helps us become acquainted with you in ways different from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will demonstrate your ability to organize thoughts and express yourself. We are looking for an essay that will help us know you better as a person and as a student. Please write an essay (250–500 words) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box below.

1 Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

2 Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

3 Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

4 Describe a character in fiction, an historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

5 A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

6 Topic of your choice.

Attach your essay on a separate sheet(s) (same size please). You must put your full name, date of birth, and name of secondary school on each sheet.

Duke University: If you are interested in reading our essay questions for this year, we have provided them here for you. Students who used the Common Application were asked to answer Question 1 (a) and have the option to answer Questions 1 (b) or 1 (c) in addition to the Common Application Essay.

These short answer and essay questions provide an opportunity for you to present your ideas to the Admissions Committee and help us understand you as an individual. How you think and express yourself helps us learn more about your intellectual and personal interests.

1. Please answer the following questions. Please limit your answers to no more than one or two paragraphs.

A. (Required) If you are applying to Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular at Duke that attracts you? If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke.

b. (Optional) If you have participated in any significant research activity outside of school, please provide a brief description. Please limit this response to one or two paragraphs and attach a separate sheet. If you choose not to submit the information, your chance of admission will not be affected.

c. (Optional) We seek to understand and appreciate you as an individual. If there is a parent, sibling, other relative, or friend of yours who you think could help us do that, we would be happy to receive a one-page letter from one of them. This optional information will be considered in our understanding of you as a person, but will not be formally evaluated as part of your application. If you choose not to submit the information, your chance of admission will not be affected.

2. Please answer one of the following questions. We ask that you limit your essay to no more than 2-3 pages and use double spacing if the essay is typed or computer printed. Remember, this is your opportunity to speak to us in your own voice, so be yourself.

A. Have you witnessed a person who is close to you doing something that you considered seriously wrong? Describe the circumstances, your thoughts, and how you chose to respond. If you discussed it with the person, was his/her justification valid? In retrospect, what, if anything, would you have done differently and why?

B. What has been your most profound or surprising intellectual experience?

C. Write on any topic of importance to you. If you have written a personal essay for another purpose - even an essay for another college - that you believe represents you, your writing, and your thinking particularly well, feel free to submit it.

Emory University: Emory University comprises nine separate schools. Each school, including Emory College, is a division of the larger University. Each school handles its own admissions process.

George Washington University: Freshman are required to submit two essays on separate pages. Applicants to the school of Media and Public Affairs should submit essays B and C, and all other freshman applicants should submit essays A and C. The committee on Admissions will use your essays to determine your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself clearly. Please put your name and social security number on each essay sheet that you submit with your application.

    1. Choose one of the following and compose an essay of no more than 500 words.

    1. As you strive to further your education, we are interested in knowing what matters most to you. How has an experience you have had, an I interest you have pursued, or a person you have known shaped your thinking

    2. Design your own monument. (Case in Point: The Vietnam veteran memorial was designed by college student Maya Lin Ying, who at age 21 was commissioned to design the memorial after competing nationally for the honor.) Now it is your turn to immortalize a movement, an event, a person, and an icon. Describe what your national monument would commemorate or celebrate.

    1. School of media and Public Affairs should answer one of the following essays in no more than 500 words.

1. Political Communication- If could be any one person who has been active in politics, who would you choose to be and why?

2. Electronic Media- Tell us what you are most interested in studying: production, media criticism, or media management, and what you expect to learn in Electronic Media that will help you achieve your goals.

3. Journalism- Write a profile about yourself in news or news feature style, as if you had interviewed yourself.

C. Tell us in no more than 500 words what motivated you to apply and describe what contacts you have had with GW. We have told you about the dynamic GW classroom, campus, and city experience; now tell us how you will make use of these resources in meeting you educational goals.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Provide your response to either Essay A or B on separate sheets, attached to this page

  • Make sure your name is on each sheet of paper you include

  • Please keep to a 500-word limit

Essay A: Life brings many disappointments as well as satisfactions. Tell us about a time in your life when you experienced disappointment, or faced difficult or trying circumstances. How did you react?

Essay B: An application to MIT is much more than test scores, grades and activities. It’s often a reflection of an applicant’s dreams and aspirations, dreams shaped by the worlds we inhabit. We’d like to know a bit about your world. Describe the world you come from, for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has the world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

In reading you application we want to get to know you as well as we can. In the space provided (100 words or fewer), use the following questions to give us a sense of who you are and where your interests lie.

a. We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for pleasure of it.

b. Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why?

Northwestern University: In the spirit of Northwestern’s tradition of collaborative learning, please provide us with an original essay topic or short statement you’d like to see on next year’s application. (Students suggested all of this year’s essays and short statements, except for this one.)

Northwestern Statement Please respond to the following question in no more than 300 words. What are your reasons for wanting to attend Northwestern? Personal Statements Please respond to one of the four topics below with an essay of 400-500 words. Note which topics you are addressing at the beginning of your essay.

        1. In 1972 meteorologist Edward Lorenz theorized that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could cause a tornado in Texas. What small action had a larger impact than you expected? How were you affected by the consequences?

        2. Ballpoint pens do not write in the zero-gravity conditions. Wile a pen manufacturer spent more than $2 million and years of research developing a pen that worked in outer space, astronauts solved the problem by using pencils. Describe a time when you discovered a simple solution to a seemingly complex problem. What was its impact on you or others?

        3. According to astronomer Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” What unknown would you like to like to see revealed in your lifetime? Why is this of personal importance?

        4. U.S. President Richard Nixon (1969-74) stated. “The Chinese is two brush strokes stands for danger, the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of danger- but recognize the opportunity.” In what “crisis” situation were you aware of the danger but were able to seize the opportunity, and how did this experience affect your future actions?

University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.

Below are the questions for this year's application. Applicants are asked to respond to one of the five questions in a page or two.

Essay Option 1

"One of the very nicest things about life," as Luciano Pavarotti once said, "is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." Pavarotti, in all of his well-fed wisdom, suggests that eating and meals are a separate kind of activity-often a break from the work and play of life. Yet food and meals sustain our lives in many ways every day. Tell us about an ordinary food or meal that may seem mundane to the rest of the world but holds special meaning for you. Think about how the food is prepared, packaged, or served and by whom. Do you eat it in a distinctive manner? At a special time? In a certain place or with select company? Most importantly, explain how this everyday food sustains or satisfies you in a way that another food or meal could not.

Inspired by Sameera Kumar, a graduate of Huntington High School, Huntington, WV

Essay Option 2

If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk? (No net.)

Inspired by Emma Ross, a graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Plainsboro, NJ

Essay Option 3

In his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela writes, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." Tell us about an unchanging place to which you have returned. In what way has the place never changed? How does its constancy reveal changes in you?

Inspired by Anna Zawadzka, a graduate of Curie Metropolitan High School, Chicago, IL

Essay Option 4

Albert Einstein once said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." Propose your own original theory to explain one of the sixteen mysteries below. Your theory does not need to be testable or even probable; however, it should provide some laws, principles, and/or causes to explain the facts, phenomena, or existence of one of these mysteries. You can make your theory artistic, scientific, conspiracy-driven, quantum, fanciful, or otherwise ingenious-but be sure it is your own and gives us an impression of how you think about the world.

Love    Non-Dairy Creamer       Sleep and Dreams        Gray   

Crop Circles    The Platypus    The Beginning of Everything     Art    
Time Travel     Language        The End of Everything   The Roanoke Colony     
Numbers Mona Lisa's Smile       The College Rankings in U.S. News and World Report      Consciousness  
Inspired by Akash Goel, a graduate of Saint Bede Academy, Peru, IL

Essay Option 5

Take as a model the students who inspired Options 1-4 as you pose and respond to an uncommon prompt of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, sensible woman or man, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk and have fun.

University of Pennsylvania


Essays 5a and 6 (on page 29) are required for freshman applicants. Essays 5a or b, and 6 (on page 29) are required for transfer applicants. Please return your responses with Form 1B to avoid any delay in evaluating your application.

Answer one of the following essay questions on a separate sheet of paper or in the space provided. (Do not exceed one page.)
5a. Describe the courses of study and the unique characteristics of the University of Pennsylvania that most interest you.Why do these interests make

you a good match for Penn?

5b. Transfer candidates only:

Please state your reasons for transferring to Penn. If this is not your first change in colleges, explain your reasons for the previous transfer. An evaluation

of your college education to date and why your educational goals may be better served at Penn should be addressed. If you have not been

enrolled in school continuously since high school graduation, please indicate how you have spent your time. (This question may be substituted for

question 5a.)
Tufts University (Optional): We invite you to submit a second essay (less than 500 words) on one of the two topics listed below. The admissions committee views this additional essay as a way to learn more about you as a person and as a potential member of the Tufts community. We look forward to reading your response. In lieu of the optional second essay, you may send a graded essay complete with teacher comments (the graded essay should be less than five pages in length).  

  1. Write an essay that would instruct the reader on how to do something (e.g., how to cook a certain dish, learn a particular dance, etc.).

  2. Describe the environment in which you grew up and how it has shaped your personal goals.

University of Michigan: ESSAY

ALL APPLICANTS must answer one of the following questions, either [A], [B], or [C].

Type or print your answers on a separate sheet of paper. Make sure your name and the question text are on each sheet of paper you include.

(approximately 500 words)

[A] Describe a setback that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?
[B] Discuss an issue of local, national, or international concern. Why is this issue important to you? How do you think it should be addressed?
[C] Advances in science and technology often create ethical dilemmas for individuals and society. How does a recent scientific or technological innovation pose an ethical challenge for you?

UNC-Chapel Hill: Required short essay- choose one (please limit your answer to approximately 250 words)

  1. If you could break a record in the Guinness Book of World Records, which record would it be, and why? OR

  2. What advice about life—either serious or lighthearted—would you share with a 10-year-old? OR

  3. Everyone has a shortcoming. What is yours, and how has it helped or hurt you? OR

  4. If you could be a fly on the wall anywhere in the world today—with the exception of a university admissions office! —Where would you want to be? Why?

Required Long Essay- choose one (please limit your answer to approximately 500 words)

  1. Complete the following phrase: "I wish I didn’t have to..." OR

  2. Is censorship in a classroom ever justified? Why or why not? OR

  3. To learn to think is to learn to question. Discuss something you once thought you knew with certainty but have since learned to question. What aspects of this something are you questioning, and what conclusions have you reached so far? OR

  4. If you have written an essay for another school's application that you really like, feel free to use it as your longer essay for us. Please be sure to tell us (a) what question you are answering and (b) why you think this essay represents you well (your explanation will not be included in the essay word count).

Optional Additional Statement- (please limit your answer to approximately 250 words)

Is there anything else you would like to share with us regarding your background or interests? For example, do you have any exceptional talents or passions? Have you overcome exceptional difficulties or challenges? Have you participated in any programs or activities to help you prepare for college, such as Project Uplift, Gear-Up, AVID, Upward Bound, LEAD, or Summer Ventures?

Yale University:

Note: There are separate forms and essay questions for freshman and transfer applicants.

1. Why do you wish to transfer to Yale? What personal or educational experiences influenced your decision to apply?

2.There are limitations to what grades, scores, and recommendations can tell us about a candidate. Write a personal essay on a topic of your choice that will help the Admissions Committee to know you better.


There are an endless number of essays out there for colleges to choose from, and it's not possible to predict them all. But after looking at lots of old college applications, I've compiled a list of the twelve most common questions that come up as essay topics. The reason for this list is in case any of you would like to start on your college application essays early. These are generic essays and chances are high that one of these will be one of your essay topics. No promises though! Also, some of these also show up as essay topics for many scholarships. So enjoy the fruits of my labor.

1. The University seeks to enroll on each of its campuses an entering class that is academically superior and that embodies a wide range of talents, experiences, achievements, and points of view. Describe the qualities and accomplishments you would bring to the undergraduate student body here.

2. Identify a real or fictional person or character that is a personal hero or heroine and describe the influence this person or character has had on you.

3. Briefly discuss which of your activities (extracurricular and personal activities or work experience) has had the most meaning for you and why.

4.Describe any unusual circumstances or challenges you have faced and discuss the ways you have responded.

5. Many people have experienced a significant event in their lives, which has played a critical role in making them who they are today. Describe such an event in your life, and tell us how it has been important to you.

6.Provide us with a summary of your personal and family background. Include information about your parents and siblings, where you grew up, and perhaps a highlight or special memory of your youth. Include any information about yourself that will assist the Committee in evaluating your application.

7.How has the place in which you live influenced the person that you are? Define ‘place’ any way you like... as a context, a country, a city, a community, a house, a point in time.

8. Tell us about an opinion that you have had to defend or an incident in your life which placed you in conflict with the beliefs of a majority of people and explain how this affected your value system.

9. Intellectual vitality is an important value of university life. Describe one of your intellectual achievements such as a paper, project, production, or performance. Explain not only the achievement, but what you gained from it, as well.

10. Select a creative work -- a novel, a film, a poem, a musical piece, a painting, or other work of art -- that has influenced the way you view the world and the way you view yourself. Discuss the work and its effect on you.

11. Please discuss your ideas concerning an event, occurrence or issue of local, state, national or international importance which took place within the last five years. You should address the following in the essay: the final outcome of the event or issue; your opinion of the manner in which the situation was handled; future implications for your community, your state, the nation or the world.

12. Please describe your most significant leadership experience. Feel free to draw upon experiences, extracurricular activities or your personal interactions, describing a period of formal or informal leadership.
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