Read our professional tips to avoid writing clichés in your college essays and create original stories that will improve your chances of acceptance. Learn the best ways to choose a unique and strong topic, as well as how to spot a cliche college application essay topic.
Top Essay Cliches and How to Avoid Them
How do you write a good essay? It’s a problem many graduates face when they have to apply to colleges. A good college essay makes the reader motivated to become an advocate for the student’s acceptance because it captures the eye of admissions officers and shows them the student’s character and personality, going beyond grades and test scores.
It is important to answer the Four Key Questions, which form the backbone of college essays. These are the questions:
- Who are you?
- How come you’re here?
- What makes you special?
- What’s important to you?
The information that a student can provide to admissions officers by responding to these questions includes personality qualities, life experiences, hobbies, skills, and aspirations. Students need to distinguish themselves from other students with a well-thought-out and well-written essay; on the other hand, a weak essay offers little to set a student apart, which is why you need to avoid writing a cliché essay.
Avoiding Cliché Essay Topics and How to Correct Them
1. A summary of your life achievements.
Although CVs are a useful tool for showcasing achievements, they are boring to read. This is the reason cover letters are usually included with CVs in the professional world. An essay describing achievements is unnecessary because a student’s college application essentially serves as their CV and includes their grades, test results, and extracurricular activities.
A better solution is for students to choose one experience that stands out from the rest and describe how it impacted who they are today in an essay. This works particularly well for any experiences that could use more background information or have an intriguing past. You could perhaps, volunteer for an interesting organization, which is an unusual extracurricular activity that few people do. You could decide to concentrate on that aspect of who you are and what matters to you.
You can write about more than one particular occasion, but make sure your essay stays cohesive. The narration of a story over a long period is another typical essays writing structure. This structure has several various experiences connected by a similar theme. This is the standard essay format for you if your story involves development, growth, or change. A basketball player who was ashamed to say he enjoyed singing might serve as an example of how this evolved into his taking singing lessons and coming to accept and love his identity as a singer.
2. Sports injury, struggle, or triumph.
It is common for sports coaches to teach their students how their personal sports experiences can translate to life. Unfortunately, many novels, films, and college dissertations have already covered these ideas and situations. Avoid the typical topics if you want to write an original college essay about sports:
- Facing challenges
- Respecting teammates
- Refusing to give up
- The adrenalin from victory
- The pain of a team losing
For instance, a student should discuss how playing sports helped develop who they are rather than how their team practiced and improved to defeat competitors or win a title. Here’s a unique way to write about a sports accident. For instance, maybe injuring your knee during a football match inspired you to start a blog while recovering, which grew to become one of your main hobbies.
A student might write about learning their motive for sports and exercise along similar lines. They may have always played rugby because they were good at it or because their family made them because they were expected to. However, they may have realized that they didn’t enjoy the competitive aspect of the sport and preferred to engage in more relaxing hobbies like climbing or sailing.
3. An immigrant’s experience.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and while not all students have immigrant stories, many do. Therefore, the following topics relating to immigrants are those that every admissions officer has seen before:
- Taking language classes
- Learning unfamiliar habits
- Getting used to a new way of life
- Being unable to fit in
Asian students, in particular, should refrain from writing essays on an immigrant topic because, according to demographics, they have greater difficulty getting into colleges. This topic merely draws attention to their backstory.
A student should make their immigration essay original or highly personal to it to be successful (and not just another generic college essay). Another idea is to focus on a single experience since conflicting emotions make for compelling reading. A student might, for instance, discuss a period when they felt unwelcome in the United States and how they handled it by working at the local community center.
You can also use an essay to describe a very private experience. Perhaps a student had to walk to school or their work when they first immigrated to the United States because they couldn’t afford a car or public transport. In their college essays, the student might highlight what they discovered on their walks and the ideas they sparked, such as the determination to succeed despite all challenges.
4. Making a lot of effort in a difficult class.
For several reasons, writing an essay on working hard in a challenging class doesn’t work. It’s likely that most applicants for a renowned college attended challenging courses and put in a lot of effort. They probably had complex assignments, struggled, and eventually succeeded. Another argument to steer clear of this topic? The following characteristics are probably covered by recommendation letters:
- Ethics at work
Consider the personality characteristics you want to show when writing your essay rather than focusing on how you overcame a challenge. Choose a different quality to highlight in your essay if you believe your motivation has already been addressed in other parts of your application.
5. A person you respect.
The main problem with writing about someone you respect is that you could end up writing more about them than yourself in the application. Even if students direct the essay toward themselves, they typically end up discussing the same topics:
- Discovering something about themselves
- Learning life’s lessons
- Learning a lot about the society
Keeping the applicant’s perspective will help prevent your essay from sounding like every other cliche application essay. One excellent way to do this is to point out a specific case where they demonstrated qualities or behavior that you admire in a person.
6. Moving to a new city.
Writing about moving to a new location is another overused topic, much like the immigrant story. Each year, many students move or change schools. Many people struggle to blend in or adapt to a new environment, yet they eventually meet new people.
Consider why this would be the case if moving was truly a big part of your high school years and personality. Did it encourage you to pursue new interests or open up more? In your essay, pay more attention to how the move affected your life rather than the move itself and your adaption.
7. Your religion.
In general, religion is a complex topic to write about creatively. Writing about your beliefs and critically analyzing them might be beneficial, but plain religious essays outlining why your beliefs are significant to you are slightly more cliched.
It’s essential to keep your audience in mind as well. Essays on your faith will probably be required if you’re going to a religious school. Avoid discussing your conservative religious beliefs in your essay if you’re applying to a liberal university.
8. Your romantic life.
Breakups are too personal for your college essays, even though they should be intimate. Keep in mind that applying to colleges is similar to applying for jobs. Therefore, you should present yourself professionally. This implies that it’s a terrible idea to write about your romantic life.