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The college admission essay plays an important role in the application process. It is important to write an essay that highlights your unique qualities and experiences. However, there are certain college essay topics to avoid that can often do more harm than good. 

 List of Cliche essay topics to avoid

When it comes to admissions essays for colleges and universities in the U.S., there are certain cliche essay topics you need to avoid when brainstorming ideas. Here are some of the most common college essay topics to avoid.

1. Tragic Events

While it may be tempting to recount a tragic event in your life to make your college application essay stand out, it’s best to avoid this topic. Admissions officers want to read a well-written essay that focuses on the applicant, not a stream-of-consciousness recount of a highly personal tragedy. This type of essay probably won’t make the essay stand out positively and may even polarize the admissions committee.

2. Privileged Life

Essays on how perfect and privileged your life is may not resonate with admissions officers. While showcasing your strengths is important, writing an essay that seems like you’re applying to college from a bubble of perfection doesn’t mean you’re a more desirable candidate. Admissions officers want to see well-written personal essays that show the real you.

3. Controversial Topics

While it’s important to choose a topic that allows you to stand out from the rest, it’s best to avoid controversial topics that may polarize the admissions committee. Essays on politics, religion, or hot-button issues probably won’t positively impact admissions officers. Instead, focus on a topic that allows you to showcase your strengths and make a positive impact.

4. High School Drama

A breakup with a significant other or a feud with a friend may seem compelling for your college application essay. Still, it’s a poor college essay topic and won’t make any positive impression. Admissions officers want to see essays highlighting your growth and overcoming challenges, not rehash high school drama.

5. The importance of family

While family is important, avoid writing an admission college  essay about it to stand out from other applicants.<br />

While family plays a significant role in many people’s lives, writing a generic essay about the importance of family may not set you apart from other applicants. If you choose to write about your family, be sure to highlight specific experiences or relationships that have shaped your identity.

6. Athletic Topics

Subjects related to athletics, such as emerging victorious in a championship game as the less favoured team or devoting extensive efforts to preparation for a competition, are not recommended as suitable college essay topics. Student-athletes, in particular, may feel inclined to select sports as the central theme of their essays due to their familiarity with the subject matter. However, sports is a conventional topic that can hinder your ability to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Even if sports are your predominant interest, choosing a different subject matter is advisable. 

7. The Heroic Figure: 

While it is admirable to write about a family member or mentor who has had a significant impact on your life, this topic can come across as derivative and fail to let the admissions committee learn more about who you are as an individual

8. Negative Aspects of the College

It may appear apparent, however, it is advisable to refrain from discussing any aspects that negatively affect the institution to which you are seeking admission. While some students may view discussing negative topics as a means to differentiate themselves or receive recognition for taking a bold approach in their essays, the institution is unlikely to perceive it similarly. Devoting your college essay to criticizing the institution or highlighting its negative aspects is a definite way to create an unfavourable impression. Such actions could jeopardize your opportunity for your application to be seriously considered. Instead, you can choose essay topics from our curated list of Evaluation Essay Topics.

9. Travel Experience

If you have extensive travel experience, you may be inclined to document a vacation or volunteer trip in your writing. Nevertheless, essays about travel are a well-trodden path and may not provide a sufficient opportunity to distinguish yourself. To ensure a travel-themed essay stands out, it is imperative to delve into a specific aspect of the journey, such as a transformative encounter with an individual or an unforeseen obstacle that arose. Broadly summarizing a trip should be avoided, as it diminishes the potential for creating a memorable and engaging narrative.

10. Personal Achievements and Accomplishments

When submitting your college application, it is advisable to include a compilation of your accomplishments and honours, highlighting any awards you have received. While it may be tempting to focus on your achievements in your college essay as a means of impressing the admissions committee, it is important to note that this approach could potentially backfire. The individual reviewing your essay may not find it sufficiently engaging or informative. Furthermore, there is a risk of coming across as boastful or self-promoting. Your college essay serves as an opportunity for schools to evaluate you based on your writing skills. Simply submitting a list of achievements does not allow your unique voice and personality to shine through your writing.

11. Creative Writing 

Engaging in creative writing is often cited as a typical pitfall to avoid when crafting college admission essays. Expressing your ideas through a stream-of-consciousness, poetry, or theatrical format is unlikely to garner favour with the admissions committee for its creativity. While it is natural to aspire for your essay to be distinctive, opting for a creative approach instead of conventional prose may not be the most effective strategy. To make a positive impression on the college, deliver compelling, well-articulated, and descriptive content in your essay.

12. The internship or job experience

Discussing a summer internship or job experience can be valuable, but it is also a common topic that may not make your essay stand out. Instead of focusing solely on the tasks you performed, consider writing about the skills you learned or challenges you overcame during the experience.

13. Humorous Topics 

Topics that should be avoided in college essays also include jokes or humour. While writing your entire essay in a humorous tone or incorporating a few jokes may appear to be a way to ensure its entertainment value, it is important to remember that humour and jokes are highly subjective. The individual assessing your essay may not appreciate your sense of humour, or they may view attempts at jokes or humour as inappropriate or lacking professionalism. It is best to exclude this type of content from your essay entirely and refrain from aiming for a witty or sarcastic tone. This does not mean that your essay will inevitably be dull or dry. The goal is to craft an engaging and informative essay to read without relying on humour.

14. The Volunteering Experience:

Describing your volunteer work may show your commitment to serving others, but it is a topic that lacks personal reflection and often fails to highlight what sets you apart from other applicants.

15. The life-changing Immigrant story

Traveling to a foreign country can be transformative, but it is a cliche topic for college admission essays.

Traveling to a foreign country can indeed be a life-changing experience, but writing about it in your college essay has become a common trope. If you want to write about a trip, be sure to focus on a unique aspect or perspective that sets your essay apart.

16. Your religious faith

When writing about your religious institution or faith, it’s important to consider your audience. If you’re applying to a religious school, essays about your faith will likely be expected. However, if you’re applying to a liberal school, you might want to avoid writing about your conservative religious views.

17. Relationships and breakups

Avoid writing about romantic relationships and breakups in your college essays. It’s important to present yourself professionally, and personal romantic experiences may not be appropriate.

18. Illegal Behavior

Refrain from writing about illegal or illicit behavior in your college application. This includes underage drug and alcohol use, sexual exploits, or any other illegal activities. Admissions committees are looking for students who demonstrate good judgment and decision-making skills.

19. Family pressure to choose a specific major or career

If you feel pressure from your family to pursue a particular major or field, it’s best to avoid making this the focus of your essay. Admissions committees want to see that you have the independence to make your own decisions.

20. Effort in a Difficult Course

Working hard in a challenging may not be the best admission essay topic.<br />

Writing about working hard in a challenging class may not be the best essay topic. Admissions committees already expect applicants to have faced and overcome academic challenges. Instead, focus on highlighting your unique personality traits and experiences that showcase your strengths.

Read On: To learn about Process Analysis Essay Topics.

What Do Colleges Look For in College Essays?

Personal and Meaningful Content: Colleges want to see essays that are personal and meaningful to them. They gravitate toward essays that showcase your formative experiences, personal growth, and creative writing abilities. Avoid writing about cliched topics like your high school experience or the championship game you won, as these won’t work in your favour.

Unique and Engaging Topics: If you’re applying to a religious university or a school known for athletics, you’ll need to think outside the box. Colleges want to see essays on truly unique topics, such as a volunteer trip or your aspirations to become a titan in your field. Be sure to stay away from topics that people aren’t comfortable with. You can also check out our Expository essay topics to get an idea.

Prompt and Relevance: Make sure your essays are relevant to the prompt and the college you’re applying to. If you want to attend a particular college in the U.S., be sure to tailor your essay to fit their values and mission. Colleges want essays that show you’ve done your research and are genuinely interested in their institution.


College essay topics that stand out are crucial for high school seniors hoping to make a strong impression on admissions officers. While it may be tempting to write about cliché topics like your grades and test scores, it is important to remember that many other applicants will likely be covering similar ground. If you’re applying to colleges in the U.S., taking the time to craft a compelling essay can make all the difference. Remember, the goal of your essay is not to impress per se but to authentically show who you are and why you want to become a part of their institution.

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