How to Come Up with Interesting College Essay Topics

You may be good at writing research papers, but be utterly confused by the need to compose an interesting essay about yourself. Many students think that their lives are too ordinary, and that they have experienced nothing worth telling the world about. This is a common mistake. Your admissions essay does not have to be brilliant or monumental; it just has to be you.

If you don’t know where to begin your search for a college essay topic that will stand out and make a good impression, the techniques below may help you.

Start Early

Begin to think about your essay topic well in advance, maybe three or four months before the application. Keep this task in mind as you are going through your daily routine. Note what things or people around you arouse your strongest emotions or interests. A great idea may come suddenly; carry along a notebook to record it.


Think of the most memorable people, places, and events in your life. Write down any ideas as they come to your mind. Do not try to rate or evaluate them; your task is to note down as many as possible.

Look at your list and think about which of these stories you would love to tell your new friend. They might be good ideas for your admissions essay as well.

Make Lists

If the idea of simply dumping your thoughts on the paper seems a bit scary, try a more organized approach. Write lists of the most exciting and most embarrassing moments of your life, the most amazing places you have visited, and the people who had the greatest influence on you. Make sure to include no less than 3-5 items in each list. From this, you’ll probably have at least several promising topics.

Make a Timeline

Draw a timeline of your life. Mark the events that have changed your life, either in a positive or negative way (going to school, parents’ divorce, moving to a new house, etc.). Then, mark the days that you think you will remember forever. What happened to you then?

Go on a Treasure Hunt

Look around your bedroom. Imagine that you have to describe it to a stranger. What things are on the walls and shelves? Why are they there? What is the story behind this or that item? Go around your house, backyard, or block with the same questions. What do you see? What memories does it arise in you? This is a simple and engaging way to come up with an original, heartfelt topic for your essay.