Most popular application essay topics for college students

When the time comes to apply for college, a college essay is at the top of your to-do list. Most students choose to write something subjective, or more commonly known as a personal essay. However, application essay topics can range from narrative, experience, argumentative, persuasive, or cause and effect essays.

Keep reading to find out what type of essay is right for you.

Personal Narrative

A personal narrative essay will be your opportunity to tell a story using different sensory details expressing your emotions. Some of the more common topics of narrative stories are:

  • Telling a story about your first trip abroad and how it helped you develop as an individual or what you experienced personally on the trip.
  • A time when you experienced failure and how you dealt with it.
  • If you had to overcome a significant challenge in your life, talk about the challenge and what you overcame.

The end goal of this type of essay is to describe a story in your life through personal observation and how it influenced or changed you.

Personal Experience

Like a personal narrative essay, you will have an opportunity to talk about a specific life experience. You should pick something meaningful and unique to you. This will help make your essay stand out from the others. 

Here are some ideas on personal experience essay topics to help get you started:

  • Talk about a time when you met someone famous or a role model. What was the experience like, what did you learn from it?
  • Write about learning to drive. Include the people that taught you how to drive, your feelings during the process from start to finish. Talk about taking your final test and what it felt like to pass it.
  • Another common theme is family holidays and traditions. You could talk about one particular holiday event if something specific happened that had an impact on your life.

The main focus is not necessarily going to be the topic itself. The content describing how that experience impacted you and your life is what will draw the reader in.

Personal Argumentative

This essay approach is an opportunity to jump out and show you can persuade people through writing using facts and evidence. This isn’t going to be just opinion-based writing. You’ll have to write in a way that can convince someone that your perspective is correct. 

To get you started here are some ideas on what to write about:

  • Talk about an environmental issue you are concerned about and why others should be concerned about it too. Don’t just give your opinion, but include statistics and analytical data that can support your claim.
  • Pick something you could live without and write about why you chose that particular thing. Give supporting details about why you think you should exclude it from your life.
  • Take a side on a topic such as wealth or happiness. Acknowledge one side of the argument but then present a stronger case for the side you stand on. You can use facts to support both showing that you understand the full argument, but offer a strong case why you favor one over the other.

The most important thing is structuring your essay correctly. You will want to have an attention-grabbing introduction followed by a body that includes your thesis, data, a rebuttal to your position, and then finish it with a strong conclusion.

Personal Persuasive

Persuasive essays are similar to argumentative essays, but you can bring in more of your opinion on a particular subject. You will likely include some facts and data, but the primary point of this essay style is to get someone to understand your perspective and acknowledge it. Some of the popular topics in this category are:

  • Write about why you think volunteering is important. Include your personal experiences and how it affected you.
  • Do you believe soda should be served in school cafeterias? Maybe you made a change in your own life about healthier eating habits, and you want to share that in your essay. Perhaps you are someone that just likes the taste of soda and wants to be able to enjoy one on your lunch break. Get your opinion down in writing and show the reader why they should consider your point of view.
  • Drug tests for professional athletes? Whether you are for or against it, get it into words, and get your reader’s attention.

Personal Cause and Effect

Cause and effect essays are when you talk about an action or event and what the outcome could be. You would want to include the repercussions, rewards, benefits, and anything else that could arise. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some quick ideas of common cause and effect essays:

  • How exercise changed my health and well-being. Talk about why you would want to start exercising, what could happen to you if you don’t exercise and what the results could be if you do exercise.
  • Talk about how failing can make you a better person. Some discussion points on this topic might include how it could prevent you from learning to think on your own later on, not understanding how to accept failure, or knowing how to learn from others later on in life.
  • If someone you loved cheated on you. How do you think you would handle that, what do you think you should do?

Regardless of the type of essay you choose to write, you want to make sure your audience understands the story. Through your story, you want to make sure you share learning opportunities and life experiences that have helped shape you as an individual. 

The more unique of an experience, the more likely you are to grab the attention of the admissions advisor reading your application — so make sure you choose wisely.