Don’t Spam Admissions Officers — Essay Topics for the Junk Folder

Spam the meat and spam the mail have the same PR challenge.

They don’t seem genuine, appealing or have any real flavor. People work hard to avoid both, and when it comes to spam mail, people just can’t delete fast enough, unsubscribe themselves, and curse under their breath at the mere sight of it.

Don’t spam the admissions officer.

Don’t write about some crappy, played topic that’s been recycled and diluted and regurgitated to the point where an admissions officer begins to fall asleep when he starts to read one. Many of the top schools receive thousands of applications. So that’s thousands of essays to read through. Send a spam essay and he’s already miserable. Ok, so he can’t delete it because it’s like, his job and all, but do you really want him to wish he could?

No, you don’t.

So, we’ve listed here college essay topics that suck. Some of these might be on your list as possibilities, others might be an obvious “hell, no”, but we’ve caught wind of variations of all of these. Don’t do them. No, really, don’t. Yes, you could hope to be the one person who writes on one of these topics and is able to wow the admissions officer. You could also hope to be the person who wins the $120 million Powerball. Hope is not a strategy. So cross these right off your list:

1. Sports-related Victory, or Loss, That Showed You “The Meaning of Life”. Oh, God, yawn, shoot us in the face if another person writes about team spirit and how they learned that it’s not all about winning. Or being a team captain and learning the real meaning of leadership. Or the sacrifice and self-discipline to be prepared athletically, yada, yada, yada. Ugh. It doesn’t matter if it’s well written, because it’s been written so many times before. Learning the meaning of anything through sports is so cliché. Nobody cares.

2. Meeting People Abroad With Less Opportunity Than Me, aka, I Am Now So Grateful For What I Have. You live in the United States, one of the wealthiest nations on earth. If you tell an admissions officer that at 17 years old you finally discovered there were people worse off than you, she may be suspicious that you were smart enough to earn any of the grades on the other part of the application. You’ll sound entitled, clueless, patronizing and boring. You should have been grateful sooner than this. If you weren’t, keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear you grew a soul last week. And don’t even think about writing the dirty cousin topic – meeting people who live in the U.S. who have less than you. That’s just offensive. Seriously. Who ARE you?

3. First Person in My Family to Go to College. Ok, this is going to sound cruel. So, what? You want to go to college or have us hold your hand? Here’s the thing. U.S.? Built by immigrants, slaves and Native Americans. Lots of amazing folks have worked hard to get to where they are. So…while it’s super sweet that your family is going to be so proud of you, you’re just not the only one with this tale to tell. Welcome to upward mobility. You have arrived. And really, all this tells us is that you had kick a*s parents who killed themselves to get you to this point. Write them a thank you note. For the admissions officer, write something else.

4. I Love the Weather/The Campus is Beautiful/I Love the Football Team. Wait, what? You’re going to college to get an education. . .or at least pretend so on the application. No matter how proud a school is of their sports teams (and colleges, you know who you are), an admissions officer is not going to be impressed that you’re planning your academic career based on their NCAA rankings (and yes, even if you’re going to be on the team). And California schools get more applications than any other state in the nation. They know their weather rocks. This is kind of like asking a girl out and telling her you’re into her because she’s hot, and not because she’s cool, funny, or a little bit cray-cray but in a good way. Schools want to be loved too, and not just for their big muscles or well-tended lawns. Make them feel special for what they are on the inside (of the classroom) – institutions of higher learning.

5. My Whole Family Has Gone to This School Since Time Began. Ok, no lie, schools do make room for legacies, and you would be remiss not to put that somewhere else on the application. And it’s even ok if that’s what put the school on your list of choices. But you cannot build a college essay based on the fact that you already have alumni seats. It sounds lazy, like you couldn’t be bothered to check out the 2000 other schools available, and entitled, like they just have to let in the great-great-granddaughter of Mrs. Margaret Whogivesacrap. Or, that you just programmatically did what you were told by Mom and Dad, class of 19XX. Admissions officers want to hear that you independently arrived at the decision to apply. Now, the bursar’s office, that’s a group that are happy to hear from Mom and Dad. . .and they’ll be plenty thrilled that the family money is still green. Tell the admissions officer why you want to be the 23rd person in your family to wear their school colors. And make it sound legit.

Ok, we’ve harassed you enough. Back to Instagram.