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“When they write about something that they are passionate about, it is in their favor; they become real to us.” So, what types of topics should be avoided?Schiller cautions against any subject that could portray the student negatively.
She also warns against forcing humor because it can have an unintended effect.
For students who want more information on ways to write a stellar college application essay, Schiller recommends a persona.quiz that helps students identify their "personas," and also an essay outlining tool.
“The key is to inspire using a personal story that captures this quality.” Papszycki believes that transformational experiences are great topics.
“For example, did you overcome extreme shyness by shining in the school musical production?
“If your profile is a little uneven, like you’re successful outside the classroom but your grades aren’t quite there, or you’re the valedictorian but you’re not a good test taker, the essay can push you from a maybe to a yes,” De Cario explains.
According to Schiller, such topics as the student’s goals, passions, personality, or periods of personal growth are all good areas in which to start brainstorming.
However, he says that students rarely select topics in these areas.
Cailin Papszycki, director of college admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep agrees, and says the aim of the essay is to present the student as thoughtful and mature.
“Some common poor choices of topics we see are getting poor grades due to lack of effort, depression or anxiety that you have not overcome, conflicts with other people that went unresolved, or poor personal decisions,” he warns. Schiller believes that it’s important for students to organize their thoughts, and an outline can help them structure their thoughts.
“First, always start with the end in mind – what do you want your reader to think after reading your essay?