College Essay Prompts

Here is a list of things to write about for your college application essay.

Some of these college essay prompts are light and fun, while others are more serious.

However, when it comes to writing a college application essay the most important thing to remember – regardless of which essay writing prompts 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 app 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 – Things to Write About

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.
This could be a good topic, but make sure not to whine. Because nobody likes a whiner!

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) Of the seven dwarfs from Disney’s Snow White, I identify most with…
A touch of humor can work well as long as you DON’T overdo it. It’s okay to incorporate your sense of humor into your essay, as long as you remember that an essay filled with puns or off-color jokes won’t make it passed the first paragraph.

Essay Prompt 8) Volunteer work in your community.

Essay Prompt 9) 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 10) The best advice you’ve ever given someone.
Using an informal, conversational tone in your essay is fine, but make sure it’s not as informal as colloquial speech. 

Essay Prompt 11) A special teacher that truly inspired you.
Make sure to show examples of how and why.

Essay Prompt 12) A day that started out being one of the worst days of your life and ended being one of the best.

Essay Prompt 13) A charismatic or interesting relative or family background.

Essay Prompt 14) 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 15) 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 16) An experience that made you grow or change.

Essay Prompt 17) 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 18) A character-building challenge or fear you overcame.

Essay Prompt 19) What was your happiest moment or greatest thrill?

Essay Prompt 20) 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 21) The best advice you ever received in high school and how it helped you.

Essay Prompt 22) A story of when you learned how to drive or when you took your driver’s test.

Essay Prompt 23) 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. 

Essay Prompt 24) One lesson you learned the hard way…

Essay Prompt 25) A quote you absolutely love.
You can show how you’ve been inspired by that quote and/or how it has been a constant motivating factor in your life.

Essay Prompt 26) Someone you have lost contact with that you would really love to talk to.

Essay Prompt 27) Write about your interest in traveling someday.
Where, when, why, how and with whom?

Essay Prompt 28) Tell us about a time you stepped out of your comfort zone.
How did the experience help you grow? What did you learn from it? Would you do it again?

Essay Prompt 29) An essay about a childhood book that changed your life and still has an impact on you today.

Essay Prompt 30) Write about three things you wished you had learned earlier in your life and why.