College Essay Topics to Inspire You

November 8, 2022
What Is A Good College Essay Topic?College Essay TopicsFAQs: College Essay Topics


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

College essays need to inspire the admissions teams and get them excited about the idea of you joining their community. The college essay is your opportunity to show why you’d be a good fit.  

The college essay is the portion of your college application that best showcases who you are. College admissions officers are looking for the most authentic you; a good college essay topic can showcase that. 

The prompts for the essay change year-to-year, so the college essay topics can be hard to prepare for. However, here is some advice for writing your essay where you can display your authentic voice and some college essay topic examples to help you apply this advice.

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What Is A Good College Essay Topic?

Good essay topics can be difficult to come by. It’s often harder than anticipated to sit down and think about the influences in your life that have led you to where you are, and to pick out those pivotal influences is even more difficult. But, it’s necessary to work to find a good essay topic and write a stand-out college essay

You can structure this introspection by thinking about your ‘Why?’ and subsequently your ‘What?’ 


Your ‘why’ is a key part of your college essay topic and a good question to pose to yourself when figuring out what inspires you. Honing in on your ‘why’ and finding your purpose will make for a compelling college essay. 

These guiding questions should help you craft your ‘why’ statement, which is a concise few sentences that explain at a high level why you’re passionate about any given topic. 


Now that you’ve cultivated your ‘why’ statement, you can move into what you plan to do with this purpose. Your ‘what’ is about giving concrete examples of past experiences and future ambitions that can give insight into your ‘why.’

These guiding questions should help you further express your ‘why.’ By offering pivotal moments in your life that inform your ‘why’ statement and expressing what you plan to do in the future to fulfill your ‘why,’ you offer admissions officers an insightful look into who you are as a person.  

Based on the prompt, if you can connect these questions through a story of how you’ve come to apply for your desired program, then you’ve shown that you truly care about your application. Weaving these questions into a story might look something like this:

  1. Revisit a moment that made you aware of a passion you had
  2. Express the steps you have taken to act on this passion, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the influence these challenges have has on you
  3. How acceptance into this program is the next step on your passionate journey of self-discovery

There is no magic formula for writing a captivating, inspiring college essay. It will always depend on how you highlight your life experiences and exemplary candidacy. 

In general, a good college essay topic displays both the journey you have taken to reach the application process and how this journey has changed you as a person. It will display the problem that you’re trying to solve through this journey and why this problem personally compels you. 

This process will likely take time, given that it can be challenging to craft a compelling reason for why you intend to pursue what you're passionate about, given that the passion is likely still relatively new. With this, an important component to identifying a good college essay topic is not necessarily about your essay topic but who you are and where you are on your journey.

College Essay Topics

Below are some college essay topic examples to look over and. Using these prompts can help you draft a strong college essay for a stellar application!

1. Write About A Time Where You Were Inspired

Where did you find your passion? Your inspiration for applying to a school or program is one of the main aspects of your application that admissions officers want to hear you express. Writing about these moments can make a great college essay. 

2. Write About A Time Where Your Opinion on Something Was Radically Altered

Writing about a radical change in your worldview can display authentic growth that showcases your thoughtfulness and ability to grow as a person.  These two qualities can make a worthwhile addition to any college campus. 

3. Write About Your Life Trajectory Through Your Parent or Guardians’ Perspective

Nobody will know your journey and the impact events in your life have had on you better than your parents. Writing about yourself from their perspective can give a great birds-eye-view of who you are as a person and why you’re applying for this particular program/school. 

4. Write About One of Your Failures

Diving deep into a failure (whether personal, academic, professional, etc.) is one of the best ways to grow as a person. Writing about a failure, why you failed and how that failure changed you is a perfect college essay topic because it displays growth, perseverance, and maturity. 

5. Write About an Extracurricular Activity That Changed You

Extracurriculars are an important part of college applications. Writing a college essay to showcase your profound relationship with one or multiple extracurricular activities can give new depth to your application. It can also make you stand out against others with a 

comparable extracurriculars

6. Write About Your Goals for College

Writing about what you wish to achieve at college as your essay topic can help display your excellent candidacy to admissions officers. If your goals align with the goals of the program/school (which they likely do, considering you’re applying there), then it can show admissions teams that you’ll fit well at the school.

It might also be helpful to search online for some existing college essay topics from the specific school/program you’re applying to. This way, you can understand what each specific school is looking for in the essay portion of the application.

FAQs: College Essay Topics

Finding the perfect college essay topic is a worthwhile journey of self-reflection. Below are some common FAQs to help you write about the best college essay topic for you!

1. What Are 3 Good Topics for an Essay?

There are many strong topics for college essays, and below are a few examples. Just remember to write about you. That’s what the admissions officers are reading for. 

It’d be good to write a few essays with different prompts, take the best of each essay, and work them into a single, excellent college essay. 

2. How Do I Find a Good College Essay Topic?

Think about significant moments in your life and how they’ve led you to this moment. If you can express why these moments are of significance to you and how they’ve changed you as a person, you’ve got a good topic. 

3. What Are Good College Essay Topics to Avoid?

Some essay topics to steer clear from include but are not limited to highly personal stories, stories with controversial subject matter, stories boasting about accomplishments and accolades, humorous topics, and stories exemplifying your luck or privilege. 

4. Can You Reuse College Essay Topics?

It might be possible to tweak a college essay you’ve already written if another school’s essay prompt is similar. However, you shouldn’t anchor yourself to an essay topic you’ve previously written about. If there’s a prompt another college has offered you to write about and you feel that you can write a better essay with this prompt, then don’t be afraid to start from scratch!

5. How to Decide Between College Essay Topics?

If different topics compel you and are compatible with the prompt, it can be hard to figure out which one might be better to write about. It’s important to remember that your college essay displays you as a person. You should give preference for whichever essay topic you believe best displays your qualifications for the college/program. 

6. Can A School Counselor Help You Pick Your College Essay Topic?

Feedback and advice from school guidance counselors and parents can help you flesh out your college essay topic. It can also help you display your best. They can not offer much help in picking what you want to write. 

Final Thoughts

The essay portion of your college application gives admissions officers a deeper understanding of who you are and why you chose to apply to this school and program. Make sure your essay topic is up to par in authenticity, as it can make a lasting impression on admissions teams.

In 2019, over half of admissions counselors ranked the essay portion of a college application to be of moderate to considerable importance. This means that your essay is as essential an aspect of your application as any other, and has the potential to make or break your application. 

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