5 Admission Essay Topics to Avoid

Posted: March 11, 2016 - to EducationBy: Dante
Content 5 topics to avoid at admissions

One of the most important parts of your application is your admission essay, which is why your choice of topic is significant. But some topics are better than others, and some seem like they would be great, but end up being disastrous. Let’s talk about the latter, and why you should avoid them.

  1. That time you were in rehab

Look, we all struggle with some demon or another, and for a lot of young folks, it’s drug abuse. You may have fought that fight and won (congrats!), which is definitely an accomplishment and something to be proud of. Following that line of reasoning, writing about your time in rehab and how it changed your life for the better may seem like the slam-dunk of admission essay writing, but you would be wrong.

Illegal drug use is not a ringing endorsement for a great kid who won’t create problems and college campuses are already struggling to tackle their own illicit substance use issues. Maybe you shouldn’t admit you were an addict in several hundred words.

  1. That “funny” night you spent in jail

In your misspent youth, you did a lot of stupid stuff, but nothing comes close to that one night you and your buddies got thrown in jail. Such fun! That’s a GREAT thing to write your admission essay about! Wrong, again. Jail time is another Not Great thing you don’t want to draw attention to.

Don’t hide it in your application, because they will find out you lied, but don’t voluntarily talk about it and make it your only illustration of your merits and personality, you know? There is more to you than your jail time, and I’m sure you can present yourself in a more flattering light.

  1. The moral issue you feel super strongly about

Young people are often idealistic and very passionate. That is an admirable quality, but also one that can get you in trouble, or make you come across as… intense, hysterical, stubborn, rigid, etc. Hot-button topics like capital punishment, abortion, assisted suicide, gun control or whatever else is currently being debated on TV make poor topic choices for an admission essay.

Why? Because you and the person reading your essay may not be on the same side of the issue. And the last thing you want to do is call gun owners “dangerous paranoids” and people having abortions “baby killers” and risk offending the reader. Save the strong wording for debates with Internet trolls on YouTube.

  1. Your parents’ divorce

Divorce is a trying time for everyone in the family, perhaps especially for the children. It is rare that the kids are not affected by the dissolution of their family, and it often has echoes years after the fact. But however influenced you may have been, your admission essay is not the right place to talk about it.

This is not a therapy session and the person reading your essay is not here to tell you to lie down on the couch, nod, and ask you “And how do you feel about that?”. Leave your family drama aside, especially if you’re using it to excuse yourself for your “lost” semester, bad grades, increasingly low performance, etc.

  1. That time you were a hero

It’s true that your essay should put you in a positive light, but you have to be very careful, because falling into the trap of bragging, exaggerating, and/or lying is so easy. That’s why, although it may seem like the perfect opportunity to show what you’ve got to offer, you may not want to start writing about it just yet.

Sure, you can talk about how you used the Heimlich maneuver on someone and saved them from choking and how that changed your perspective on life, made you realize some things, etc. But if you’re going to spend your time giving a play-by-play of how great and heroic you were when you saved that man’s life and saved the day like the Power Puff Girls, you’re better off passing. 

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