College Essay Topics and Prompts

The college application process can be overwhelming. A good way to stand out from the crowd and boost an application for a “reach” school is with a strong essay. We’ve put together a list of general prompts and advice on how to answer them.

1. Describe a facet of your character, background, or story essential to who you are.
2. Write about a period when you failed at something. How did that failure change you?
3. Tell us about a time when you challenged your pre-existing worldview. Why? Would you do this again?
4. Write about a dilemma that you have or want to solve. It can be as big or as tiny as you can think of!
5. Write about a moment illustrating your shift from child to adult within your community or family.
6. Explain a favorite book or movie where the main character has to choose something complicated. What did you think about their choice?
7. Write your top 10 list.
8. Tell us a topic you have changed your mind on in the past three years.
9. Write about your life goals.
10. Pick a quote that explains a lot about you, and explain why you connect with it.
11. Write about an embarrassing moment and how you learned from it.
12. Tell us when you had to either take a risk or stay safe. What did you do? What happened? Would you do it again?
13. Describe something you’re passionate about. How do you learn more about it? What makes it so appealing?
14. Pick your own topic for this essay.
15. Tell us the best advice you’ve ever received, who told it to you, and whether or not you followed the advice.
16. Write about a certain activity (sports, theater, band, etc.) that has had on your life.
17. If you could meet with anybody, living or dead, for an hour, who would it be, and what would you say to them?
18. What would it be about if you were to give a very important speech or a TED talk?
19. If you were to instruct a class, what would your class be on?
20. Tell us a “Eureka” moment and what sparked it.
21. Write an essay about a moment when you had to be brave or stand up for what you believed in.
22. What makes you mad?
23. What would you change if you could alter one day of your life? Why?
24. Talk about a personal accomplishment unrelated to academics.
25. Where would you go if you could travel to any time or place?
26. If you could offer any advice to an incoming high school student, what would it be?
27. What would it be if you could prevent one invention from being invented?
28. Why do you want to go to this college/university?
29. Pick a law and describe why it is so important to you.
30. What do you want individuals to know about you but are afraid to tell them?
31. What would you add if you could add an amendment to the Constitution?
32. Talk about an individual in your life who has helped you understand yourself better.
33. What book would you recommend to everyone?
34. Who is somebody you have spoken up for because they cannot speak for themselves?
35. What is one thing you want to achieve in college?

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