Is there a list of good topics to start with for my college essay? Are there any topics I should avoid?

There are no preset "good topics." Start with your own experiences, and use specific moments to show who you’ll be in college and life. You should be writing essays that reveal who you are as a person (not the essay you think will “look good” to the colleges).

Generally, students are better off if they avoid the following topics:

  • Sports-related clichés: triumphs after long, hard work; journey from being sidelined from a sports-related injury to MVP in the championship game
  • Vacations and exotic travel, including community service trips
  • Contrived or overly produced community service projects, especially ones where parents or teachers were heavily involved
  • Early childhood anecdotes (you want the colleges to imagine you as a college student, not a little kid)
  • Sex and romance
  • Anything where you argue one point of view at the expense of others (most colleges are looking for students who are open to multiple points of view). Writing about what you've done in the world usually makes a much stronger essay.

The most important thing is to tell a story from your own experience – particularly a moment of learning, growth, or change – in your own authentic voice.