Be sure to keep your topic, well, topical, and within the bounds of reasonable discourse. “While I don’t believe there are any essay topics that are inherently bad, it is important for the student to keep in mind that they don’t know who will be reading their essay,” says Liz Cheron, Associate Director for Admissions at Northeastern University. “If they choose something obscure or related to pop culture, they should make sure to give enough context for a reader who may not be familiar with the topic,” she adds. “If they choose to write about something controversial, they should take an educated stand, rather than what could be seen as an offensive stand.” Remember, extreme views, about politics or religion, especially, are probably unwelcome at most schools.
It’s critical, as well, to stay focused, even if you are trying to say a lot. “There are multiple different avenues you can take. Some essays might be about one topic or event or person, while others weave a compelling story about multiple things,” according to Shawn Abbott, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Admissions at New York University. But, he warns, “The only danger is that the essay is going to be read by admission officers, each with a potentially different expectation for that essay. And they are going to read the application and essay at a relatively rapid rate, so you risk losing the attention of the committee if you try to accomplish too much with one writing sample. It is one writing sample. You’re not expected to tell us about every experience in your life.”
THIS IS NOT A RESUME
“If the admissions essay were meant for applicants to list all their awards and qualifications, it would be called a resume,” says Northeastern’s Cheron. “The essay is more of an opportunity for the applicant to share their character, unique passions and interests, and meaningful experiences.”