Writing compelling college essays is absolutely pivotal to your success in the game of highly selective college admissions. But what, you ask, is compelling? Writing about how your dog’s death impacted you as a child isn’t exactly compelling. Why not? Because the vast majority of applicants have probably experienced the death of a dog. And a good percentage will even write about their dog! Oy vey. Thus, writing about your dead dog doesn’t make for compelling material because if this is a common subject, it invariably can’t be compelling. So writing about dogs, dead or alive, is a no-no.
And what about writing about how playing first chair violin has made you a better person? No, that’s not compelling either! Do you think anyone in their right mind is going to want to read 500 words about you playing first chair violin? No. It’ll most certainly put them to sleep. If you think it might be boring, if you think there’s even a chance that it’s boring — it most definitely is. So don’t write about it. Don’t even consider writing about it. Way too many students make the mistake of writing about something that they themselves don’t find all that interesting. You wonder why they would think that someone else will? Do you think someone else who has read hundreds of that very type of college essay will really find that interesting?
Finding a compelling topic for a college essay can take time. Don’t settle. Don’t just think about something that made you sad or happy. Write about something that can move people. You want to tickle the hairs on the arms of college admissions counselors. You want to get the hairs on the back of the necks of college admissions counselors to stand up tall. You want an admissions counselor to get a lump in his throat, to even a shed a tear. Writing about your dog or getting to be first chair violin will have zero impact on the hairs of the back of the necks, the lumps in the throat, or the tears in the eyes of admissions counselors. We promise you that. So take your time. And think about it seriously. At The Ivy Coach, it’s one of the things we help our students with — coming up with great essay topics that will help them stand out from the pack of applicants.
And check out this post on Writing Ability and College Admissions.