Some can write about anything and make it turn out right, but when writing your college essay, especially if you are applying to competitive college, there are some topics to avoid because writing about then can be a problem.
Here are some things not to write about.
• Don’t write about things on your resume, like extracurriculars, volunteer work, or your job experiences. That will be repetitive, especially of you just list all you have done. If you can take one incident from one of the areas listed above and write about it in a fresh way to reveal something about you, you can try—but, make sure it’s a very original approach.
• Don’t be a standup comedian. It is good to show you have a sense of humor, but humor should be sprinkled in among more serious prose and self-analysis in a college essay.
• Don’t explain why you have done poorly in school. You may have legitimate reasons for having a bad semester or first two years in high school, and those should be explained. But, let your guidance counselor do so in his or her general letter of recommendation, or write a supplemental essay and add it to your application. Your personal essay should not be about what happened TO you but about what is happening for you.
• Don’t do a travelogue. More and more students are traveling so it is a too-often visited subject. Also most just write a description of a trip or all their many trips. If you have one experience that truly reveals something about you, it’s okay to go there. However, most travel subjects fall flat and, at best, are overdone.
There are some things you should never write about because they reveal too negative a side of you. You are trying to be honest, but also you are trying to put your best foot forward, too. Don’t write about these:
• The right side of political or religious issues like abortion, capital punishment, or gun control. You might seem righteous or close-minded.
• Traumas you have experienced such as rape, attempted suicide, or cutting. These traumas might suggest you need more healing time before college.
• Your sex life – TMI.
• Drug use; it’s illegal.
• Jail time.
We are all human, but the personal essay is a part of an application. You should be authentic but in a way that shows how you might contribute to a college, how you are ready for college, or how you will be able to transition to college easily. Unless you are a terrific writer and understand how to approach any of the subjects above to put yourself in the best light possible, DON’T!