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Help Choosing Essay Topic


Hi, I am trying to decide between two essay topics for a program because I feel that my first topic wasn't original enough. I am applying to a program which entails students from different countries coming together to answer a research question.

One of the short essay prompts is: Please describe a challenge you faced recently. This could be academic or personal. How did you overcome this challenge?

I was wondering whether I should write about how I managed to perfect my pancake-making skills (different, I know) in quarantine, or the difficulty of writing my first song for a school event.

Both show my resiliency, and I have mapped out how I would talk about them to connect to my persistence to solve problems. Which one sounds more unique and like the best topic?



2 answers

answered on
Accepted answer

Hey @briannaf, good question here! Choosing an essay topic is always a difficult decision and it can be difficult to find that nice balance of having a unique essay, that's also personal to you, that also gets across some message about who you are as a person. Just out of curiosity, what was your original essay topic going to be?

I think if you included how you would take about these topics and connect them to your persistency it would help but here's my take. While I know this is for a program and not a college, depending on the program you're applying for, I think what I'm about to say will still hold. It's going to be rare for AOs or essay readers for large programs to read truly unique essays. They are forced to read the same general content over and over (sports injury/challenge/success, volunteer trips, working hard to do well in a class you're bad at, etc) and I personally think that any slightly unique essay they read has a better chance at making a good impression just because it's something new and refreshing to read. For these reasons I think you should write about the pancakes. However, and I'm not sure the style you're planning on writing it in, but I'm imagining it written in a somewhat humorous way. I think if you write a very serious/analytical essay on pancakes it might not go over as well as if you take a light-hearted and slightly humorous approach. Also, is this "perfect pancake" something you've been trying to achieve for a while or just since quarantine? I think the essay will be better if this is something you've been trying to accomplish for a long period of time (think years) rather than something that was a challenge you solved in only a couple months.

For what it's worth, I do think the music topic could work too. I just think that's a topic which they've probably seen enough and that won't be as memorable.

answered on

Hmm.. here is my train of thought. it’s up to you to decide but this is my evaluation!

pancake: not really a challenge, very unique, somewhat unprofessional though, may be hard to , will also set you apart, if you can write about it in a way that sounds professional and can highlight your personal growth in some way it will be a slam dunk, super random but it also might be something humorous that shows how you adapted to a difficult time (corona)

music: more personal, although more generic it’s a more “concrete” challenge, will be harder to differentiate yourself, easier to show as personal growth, might be hard to explain how you found inspiration, if it doesn’t have to do with your program then it might be seen as an unrelated extracurricular

thanks for the feedback! unfortunately, you really made it difficult to decide with such great pros vs cons lol
ahah sorry about that! what i would say is pick whether you want to go for 1) originality/uniqueness or 2) professionalism/impact since i feel that if you’re writing for a very stem-y or prestigious application you might want to stick with something safer like songwriting, but if its an organization that you get the vibe values creativity or is more “chill” then you might want to go with pancake
^ completely agree with crsgo
thank you!
I will just say, try to mention covid the least amount possible. I've heard from many different admissions counselors that they don't even want to hear about covid period. obviously it's not the main topic, but definitely try not to mention it too much because they will see it and go UGH
I’d disagree with you gabracadabra if it is unique and pancakes is unique. It’s the oh virtual school this is hard. I over came it. Then s/he writes an essay on how hard virtual school. But creativity is very impactful in essay “scoring”/evaluation. Edit clarification.
i agree w both of you actually
but yes i would avoid the typical covid hardship story as AOs will be seeing it a lot
Yeah you’re both right. honestly if you write something unique, you are good. doesn’t matter what it’s about (unless it’s a “i went on a trip to help poor people and i feel like a better person” essay, those are usually held low), if you write well and uniquely, colleges will love you