College Essay Prompts

Here is a list of college essay prompts to help you decide on a topic for your application essay.

Some are light and fun writing prompts, while others are more serious.

However, when it comes to writing a college application essay the most important thing to remember – regardless of which writing topic you choose – is that the best essay is the one ONLY YOU could write. It must be unique in the way it transmits something unique about you. In other words, it should portray who you are and what you’re like.

Simply, think of your application essay as a photograph. Let’s illustrate this with an example:

Imagine a college admissions officer sitting at her desk with three separate student applications (three separate photographs for our example). Unfortunately, there’s only room for one more student, so she has to select one among the three photographs of three different student applicants in front of her.

The first photograph was taken at a professional studio and shows a nicely dressed and very well groomed student candidate neatly sitting on a chair, with a soothing background behind him. She’s thinking, “hmm.. that’s very nice”.

The second photograph is an an out-of-focus, crumbled up shot taken from the student candidate’s cell phone. She’s thinking, “ugh.. not very impressive”.

But the third photograph is a picture of you holding a paint brush in your hand, while painting your bedroom wall. You’re wearing a baseball cap and a long flannel shirt. You’re completely covered with paint, but smiling and appear to be having a lot of fun.

A professional photographer would pick photo number one, no doubt. Lucky for you, though, a college admissions officer is not a professional photographer. Instead, this simple photo just gave the admissions officer an insight into your life and personality. You might not be the world’s best painter, but you’re a productive person carrying out a worth-while task with a healthy and positive attitude. In other words, your photo transmitted something unique about you!

College Essay Prompts

→ Essay Prompt 1) The first time you cooked a meal or baked a cake.
Maybe it turned out to be such a great meal it surprised even you, or maybe it turned out to be the most horrible meal you’ve ever tasted. Either way, it could make a topic for a good story!

→ Essay Prompt 2) A fun or memorable family vacation.
Don’t think that a great topic needs to be about some world-consuming event where you solve all the world’s problems. A simple run-of-the-mill theme like a family trip to the beach could set the stage for a wonderful essay.

Essay Prompt 3) One of the most difficult or hardest thing you’ve ever had to face.

→ Essay Prompt 4) Loss of someone or something important.
If you choose you this sort of topic you need to show how the experience made you grow or change in a POSITIVE way.

→ Essay Prompt 5) A memorable work experience.

→ Essay Prompt 6) How would your friends describe you?
(Make a list of adjectives that describe you – i.e. friendly, stubborn, etc. – and think of some stories or anecdotes where these characteristics showed up).

→ Essay Prompt 7) Volunteer work in your community.

College Essay Prompts
College Essay Prompts

→ Essay Prompt 8) Moving.
Moving is typically considered one of the most stressful activities for any family. Can you think of an entertaining anecdote that started out disastrous but ended with a good conclusion?

→ Essay Prompt 9) The best advice you’ve ever given someone.

→ Essay Prompt 10 ) A special teacher that truly inspired you.
Make sure to show examples of how and why.

→ Essay Prompt 11) A day that started out being one of the worst days of your life and ended being one of the best.

→ Essay Prompt 12) A charismatic or interesting relative or family background.

→ Essay Prompt 13) A foreign country you visited and how you gained from the experience.
But watch out with this topic. Don’t over do it by over dramatizing about how a trip to a third-world country turned you into a better person. It won’t come across as authentic unless you are ready to support this claim with real believable examples.

→ Essay Prompt 14) A book which had a great impact on your life.
Be careful not to write anything that might make the reader feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Stay away from topics involving religion or politics.

→ Essay Prompt 15) An experience that made you grow or change.

→ Essay Prompt 16) Your first day at school.
Many people have fond memories of their first day of school. Perhaps something that left an indelible impression on your young mind. Or maybe you moved in from another town or school district and have a story to tell.

→ Essay Prompt 17) A character-building challenge or fear you overcame.

→ Essay Prompt 18) What was your happiest moment or greatest thrill?

→ Essay Prompt 19) A family tradition.
Maybe you decorate the Christmas tree together or go hiking as a family every year to the same place. Think of any family ritual that you found to be bonding through your growing up years.

→ Essay Prompt 20) The best advice you ever received in high school and how it helped you.

→ Essay Prompt 21) A story of when you learned how to drive or when you took your driver’s lesson.

→ Essay Prompt 22) A story of when you first learned to ride a bicycle. 
You can keep this same theme and just substitute the subject to suit your needs. For example: a story of when you first learned to play tennis, or play guitar, or scuba dive, etc. etc.