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How to Handle Topic?

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Often, colleges will ask you, the applicant, to write about an experience you've had, an achievement in your life, or someone who has had a significant influence on your life. In handling such a topic — or, for that matter, any topic you select — go beyond the what and dig into the how and why. In other words, don't settle for simply providing a description of an event. Take the next step and tell about the impact the situation had on you.

For example:
  • This is a personal essay, not a travelogue. So, if you're writing about a trip to another country, tell about how your experiences effected you, and why they were interesting or meaningful to you. In other words, the people reading the essay are interested in what makes you tick and how you got the way you are, not in how the trains run in Paris.
  • Are you writing a tribute to your grandparents and their influence on your childhood? Be personal and specific, not just sentimental. Explain how the particular things your grandparents did or said were important to you.
  • Did you overcome an athletic injury and recover to perform well? A description of the type of cast you wore and your rehab routine is not likely to make a compelling essay. However, your reflections on what it felt like to be watching your teammates, instead of competing alongside them, might be the basis of a memorable essay.

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