Common Application Topics: College Admissions Essay Help
Admissions departments give great thought to the essay topics they include on their applications. They're designed to help you reveal something about yourself, and, in turn, to help them decide whom to accept. Chris Ajamian, CEO of Cates Tutoring, uses a roommate theory when helping students with their essays. "Look at the big picture," he stresses. "The purpose of the essay is to show colleges what kind of roommate you'll be. Who are you beyond the numbers, and what will you contribute to the community?"
Some essay topics have a different angle though. They're still personal, but are intended to disclose something called demonstrated interest. This is a relatively new concept in admissions essays, and its appearance coincided with the rise in the number of applications each school started receiving. Simply put, it's an attempt to gauge how enthusiastic you are about attending if you're accepted (since many students apply to seven or more schools, chances are they're only vaguely interested in some of them, and admissions officers would rather not bother with those who seem to have applied on a whim).
Many of these demonstrated interest topics are included in Common Application supplements (additional information required by some schools), and they also appear as prompts for required second short answer essays. While they vary from one application to another, these topics typically fall into one of two categories: asking you why you're applying, or getting you to connect with a specific issue of interest to the school.
In this article we'll explore the types of topics that appear on most applications. Although you're often able to write on any subject (many schools offer a version of "topic of your choice"), sometimes the parameters are much narrower, especially for supplemental essays. Whether you're choosing a topic or responding to a required one, it's important to first understand what each one is really asking for, and how best to approach it. If you've got a choice, this information can also help you determine which topic will best represent you on your application.
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