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What should your college application essay be about?

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5 Answers

Obviously, you want to pay attention to the topic that they're asking you. The purpose of this question is to find out those elements of your personality and character that do not appear in your GPA or ACT/SAT scores. Your essay shows how you think and what is important to you.
 
Most college application essays have to do with a personal experience or with an expression of your personal opinion about a particular topic. Make sure that you prepare an outline of your story, with a clear beginning, middle and ending, and show that outline to your high school English teacher, or a tutor, or to your parents. Explain to that person why this story is worthy of inclusion in your college essay. If you can sell this person on it, and if your outline makes sense, then you are well on your way. Good luck!
Kimberly,
Write about why you want to go to that college in particular and why that college will benefit from you going there.
Look up the college on the internet and see what they proudly showcase and then include that in your essay as something that impresses you.
Assure them that you wish to become involved in campus life and that you will be a dedicated student that will eventually graduate from that school.
They want to know that you are committed to them and that you will serve as a good representation of them to the world.
Good Luck!
I agree with all that has been written in response to your question so far. I'd add one more thing, though it may or may not be helpful for YOU. Imagine, if you can, that you are NOT writing this essay to "get into college." Imagine instead that you are writing it for no reason other than that the subject matter means a great deal to you, perhaps even to the extent that what you have to say is a part of what makes you who you are. Better essays in general (in my opinion) are passionate as well as well put together.
 
One piece of advice suggested that you look up the college to which you are applying and identify how something they showcase is something that impresses and attracts you, and how you will both make use of that showcased quality and contribute to the campus. This is good advice, but may lead you into the "pick me" camp, unless what you discuss is both VERY specific and VERY special to the college in question. 
 
I would advise that your essay needs to be honest. Write what is true, in the most basic sense, to you; what feels true in addition to what is factually true. I met some friends in college who had written very specifically about what it was at Brown (where I went) that attracted them specifically. But the things they wrote about were very VERY specific, and not generally broadcast to the universe at large. At least not at loud volume. They had discovered something others might have overlooked, and imagined themselves into a world with that something (or someone).
 
The "topic" of my essay sounds, even to me, like old hat: as if it would be boring, dull, and not particularly attention-getting. What did I write about? Being the only daughter among four children, and the youngest as well. However, I wrote it with great specificity and with what I hope was passion. My brothers were and are immensely important in my life, in virtually every way one can imagine. Each of my brothers is tremendously unique, and each in a different way contributed to who I was becoming
   The purpose of the college essay is for the college to get a sense of what makes you the kind of student they would like to have as one of their students.  Many years ago, students wrote standard bio essays that pretty much sounded all the same- "PICK ME". What the colleges look for now is what is unique about you and what do you hope to find with this education.  For some individuals it is their background or heritage.  For others it can be a specific hobby or goal.  Still for other students it might be a talent or at the other spectrum, a disability that has helped shaped who they are today.  I had one student who wrote about his love of writing which began for him as early as nursery school.  I had another who wrote that he was accomplished in every facet of academics but he did not have one really good friend and realized that the university life could offer him an opportunity to round out his academics.  Another student was the first to get a college degree in her family; an honor for all of them.  Ask yourself the following questions:  Why do you want to go to college?  What do you hope to gain from the experience?  What do you want the college to appreciate about you?  Good luck!
You certainly want to pick a topic in which you are very interested and make sure it is something you can write passionately about without sounding forced or repetitive.  You should also have a view to being original; consider writing about something unique that you have experienced.
 
Accoding to the admissions offices I have worked with, some topics are overdone, and while they aren't bad, they won't make you stand out.  Some of these are: a death in the family; a divorce; fitting in (or not) in high school. 
 
Make sure your personality shines through in the essay!
 
I hope this helps!  Good luck!