Two questions we always ask admissions officers are, "What was your favorite essay of the past year?" and its corollary, "What was your least favorite essay of the past year?" While the answers to the first question are as varied as the personalities of the particular admissions officers (and of the essay writers), the answers to the second question inevitably land on one of the timeworn, threadbare essay topics that initially enthusiastic essay readers have had to slog through for decades. To paraphrase (and invert) Tolstoy’s opening line to Anna Karenina: Each bad essay topic is alike; each good essay topic is good in its own way.
So what exactly is ‘alike’ about each of these bad essays? Well, that’s just it: it is ‘like’ many other essays that admissions officers have read and students have written through the years, and this similarity negates the whole point of the essay as a one-of-a-kind personal statement. Sure, maybe you did do Habitat for Humanity one summer and it really was a great experience, but so did thousands of other students who similarly want to write about it, so your essay would do nothing to differentiate you from that teeming throng of do-gooders. And if your essay says nothing new or interesting about you, then why should an admissions officer even bother to read it?
Our purpose is not to discourage you from writing about something you feel is important; if you can write about one of these oft-used topics in a way that avoids clichés, engages the reader, and, most importantly, paints a clear and vibrant portrait of yourself, then by all means do so. Otherwise, try to come up with something a little more interesting and original.
Without further ado, the list:
List of the Top Five Most Overdone Essay Topics: