College Essay Themes

When applying for admission to your selected colleges, most colleges will require you to write a personal statement to submit along with your college application. To assist you in writing your best personal statement, colleges might provide creative college essay prompts to help stimulate your thinking process so that you can write the best possible personal statement.

In case that colleges don't provide creative college essay prompts we've listed 25 creative college essay prompt to help you write your best possible personal statement:

1. Describe an experience where you were unsuccessful in achieving your goal. What lessons did you learn from this experience?

2. Think back to a situation in your life where you had to decide between taking a risk and playing it safe. Which choice did you make? What was the outcome of your choice? Would you have made the same decision looking back on the experience or would you have made a different decision?

3. What movie, poem, musical composition, or novel has most influenced your life and the way that you view the world? Why?

4. Describe an experience that forever changed your life and your outlook on life.

5. Why have you chosen to spend the next four years of your life in college?

6. What do you plan on doing after you graduate from college?

7. As of right now, what do you see as your long-term goals in life?

8. If you were given the ability to change one moment in your life, would you do so? Why or why not? If so, what moment would you change and why?

9. Presuming there was only one open admission spot remaining, why should this college choose to accept your application and not that of another student?

10. What would you describe to be your most unique or special skill that differentiates you from everyone else?

11. Describe some tasks that you have accomplished over the past two years that have no connection to academic studies.

12. If you had the chance to have a 30-minute conversation with any person in human history (either living or deceased), who would be the person you choose? Why? What topics would you discuss with this person?

13. If you could be any animal in recorded history, what animal would you choose? Why?

14. If you were given the capability to travel back in time to any period in history, where would you head to and why?

15. What do you consider to be the best advice you ever received? Who gave you that advice and did you follow that advice or not?

16. What do you consider to be the most important political or social movement of the 20th century? Why?

17. What advice would you offer to a student just beginning his/her high school career?

18. Devise a question that is not on this college admission form and provide a complete, thoughtful answer to it.

19. Choose one quotation that defines who you are and explain why that quotation describes you so well.

20. How has the neighborhood you've grown up in molded you into the person you are today?

21. Imagine that you have written a 400-page autobiography of your life to this point. What would page 150 of that autobiography say?

22. Choose the invention that you think has had the most negative impact on our world and explain why you chose that invention.

23. If you had the ability to read other people's minds (a.k.a. telepathy), would you use this ability or not? Why?

24. Tell a story that directly or indirectly illustrates the type of person you are.

25. Describe the most embarrassing moment of your life and explain what you learned from that experience and how it has made you a better or stronger person today.

The 25 creative college essay prompts listed above should give you a starting point to write your own personal statement. The personal statement is used by most colleges to help them evaluate the type of person you are, which can help differentiate yourself from other applicants who have similar academic backgrounds to yours. By considering the 25 creative college essay prompts above, you can be more prepared to write an engaging personal statement that will let your personality shine through and will help you to be accepted into the college of your choice.

The essay is easily one of the most difficult parts of the college application process. How can someone describe themselves in such a short amount of space, especially when all their accomplishments are listed on the page before and they don’t want to sound repetitive? There are a few clichés to avoid in the college essay world. Keep reading to find out what to avoid and what to approach in your college essay writing journey.

Related: Warning! These College Application Essay Ideas DON'T Work

Worst of the Worst

The sports game

A great college admission essay makes the reader say something along the lines of, “Wow, I’ve never heard of someone who did/experienced that before.” Know what nearly everyone has experienced before? Winning or losing. More specifically, almost everyone has either won or lost a sports game. Talking about your experience coping with your win or loss will pile you in with every other applicant that the admission officer reads about that day, aka the exact opposite of what you want to happen to you and your beloved essay.

The breakup

A lot like dating a bad boy, this essay tempts you. Think about it: talking about your love life seems deep. Maybe a breakup feels like the biggest hardship you have faced thus far, or perhaps you think the way you supported your 10th grade girlfriend during her science competition seems like a great metaphor for how you plan to support your university community. However, just like with any good piece of writing, you need to know your audience. And in this case, your audience does not think anything about your high school relationship sounds impressive. College admission officers have not been in high school for a very long time. They might have been through a divorce or had to support their spouse through the death of one of their parents or children. But they have a bit more perspective on relationships than the average high school senior, so they will probably not find the demise of your junior year relationship as poignant as you do. 

The mission trip

Everyone who has been to Togo/Haiti/Guatemala wants to write about the time they saw real Third World poverty for the first time and extrapolate on how their lives were never the same after said experience. And while that experience may have really affected your life, it affects the lives of thousands of upper–middle class students around America in the exact same way, and they are all writing the same essay about it as we speak. If your time in Sierra Leone really feels like what you need to tell your dream school about, talk about a specific experience, like a conversation you had with someone who lived there. The cliché service trip essay often sounds incredibly vague, so if you must write about your experience, make sure you tell a very specific story that brings the reader into a certain moment with you (more on that later). 

The “different” essay

I once had a friend show me an essay he wrote in which he had to describe the best day of his life. Naturally, he wrote about the time he slept until five in the evening, ate some ice cream, then went back to sleep. However, he was not a lazy kid at all. He was really into piano and lacrosse, but he wanted his essay to sound off the beaten path and unique. So rather than talking about one of his passions, he decided to write about something he knew no one else would try…the time he slept all day. Unfortunately, there is a really good reason no one else wrote that essay. The same goes for trying to be creative and responding with one word, one sentence, or a poem. Although those are very different responses from what admission officers reads, this does not mean they are good responses. There are other ways to stand out without compromising your intelligence. 

Better essay ideas

The ridiculous way you grew up (and how it affects you now)

The first time I went to Harvard to hang out with friends, I met a student who was raised by wolves. Yes, you read that right; she actually grew up in a wolf rehabilitation community. Sure, she was also a model and an Economics major, but the whole raised by wolves thing was definitely more memorable than anything else about her. If you grew up in a unique way that affects who you are now, it might be worth writing about in a college essay to make your application more memorable. 

Focusing on a moment

If you decide you have to talk about one of the cliché essay topics mentioned above, a good way to tell a more common story is to focus on one specific moment and build from there. For instance, if I were only interested in field hockey and felt I absolutely had to write about the sport in my essay, I would not write about some vague game and how good it felt when my team won. I would write about the sound the ball makes hitting the back of the goal, how my adrenaline changes in that moment, how all the sounds around me slowly rush into my ears afterwards. Then, most importantly, after describing the moment, I would write about its significance by connecting it to some larger idea or meaning or characteristic about myself. Focusing on a moment that changed your life—such as the time you broke your back as a kid in a car crash, or the time your dad told you the family was moving to a different country—can also function well in your college essay. 

Personality pic

A good friend of mine in high school had to answer an interesting question for the school where he ended up enrolling. The university’s supplemental application asked him to describe one of his quirks. I distinctly recall reading my friend’s essay about him being a storyteller above all else and visibly grinning as my eyes passed over each line, because the essay was just so genuine and true. He was a storyteller; he told all of us tales of his fly-fishing summer job in the Adirondacks, spun yarns about wolves that spoke to him while he was camping, and talked about his skydiving uncle like he was a superhero in a comic book. The storyteller anecdote never would have come through in the rest of his Common Application, but it was truly one of his most significant personality traits. So, lesson learned, read over your Common Application, and at the end, ask yourself, “What’s missing?” Who knows—the answer to that question might be the basis for your admission essay.

Lust for literature

If you have a friend or family member who reads a lot of books in their free time, I bet you think they’re pretty intelligent. Fortunately, colleges will think the same thing about you if you decide to incorporate your love of literature into your essay. Maybe you have a book in which you strongly relate to one of the characters. Perhaps a philosophical text really elucidates your current paradigm. Or maybe you strive to write like a certain author one day. Whatever the case, you really cannot go wrong writing about the literature you love, as your passion for it will shine through the pages.

What did you write your admission essay about? Did it work? Let us know in the comments! And find even more college essay advice in our Application Essay Clinic.

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