Responding to Offbeat College Admissions Essay Topics

Earlier we discussed some offbeat college admissions essay topics presented by universities such as the University of Chicago, Tufts, and UNC Chapel Hill. While some college admissions essays still ask the typical, “Tell us about yourself,” or “Why do you want to attend XYZ?” several are now asking offbeat essay questions.

These schools are not alone in this either. More colleges are asking offbeat essay questions so that they stand out. These questions certainly have more people talking, but you may be left wondering how to handle such outlandish topics. I’ve posted a few tips for those finalizing applications and to lighten up the cold weather doldrums.

So how do you respond to college admissions essay questions such as the University of Chicago’s, “What do you think about Wednesday?”  Continue reading

How to Answer the College Admissions Essay

Wouldn’t it be great to have the college of our dreams hand us an acceptance letter without our having to fill out lengthy applications or, better yet, without our having to write that dreaded college admissions essay? Well, very few of us have that luxury. In fact, in addition to the common app essay, many schools require their own supplemental essays.

Perhaps the only thing worse than having to write the college admissions essay is having to read hundreds of those essays. How do you make your essay stand out rather than just becoming part of the dreaded slush pile admissions officers must wade through? Follow the tips below.

  1. The college admissions essay is not the place to tally your accomplishments. There are plenty of places on the application to list all the amazing things you’ve done. Doing so on the essay can make you sound like a braggart.
  2. The college admissions essay is also not the place to repeat what the admissions officer already knows. He knows ABC University has an amazing science program and that the campus is conveniently located near some of the best hospitals and he’s heard from thousands of people who have always wanted to be a doctor when they grow up. He wants to hear something he doesn’t know.
  3. What you do want to do is make your essay stand out from the hundreds the admissions officer will go through. The best way to do this is to avoid predictability by telling your own story.
  4. Ask yourself what you want the college admissions officer to know about you. Give a snapshot of one experience that helped make you who you are. It may refer to an aspect of your family life, school life, or volunteer activities or a seemingly random tidbit that actually sheds light on what makes you tick or how you think.
  5. Make yourself likable. You don’t need to tell everything about yourself in your college admissions essay. It’s not an autobiography. It is a snapshot and you want to leave the admissions officer wanting to get to know you better. He should finish your essay with the thought that you would be someone who will contribute to his school in any of a variety of ways. Colleges don’t want just brainiacs.

Rather than dreading the college admissions essay, anticipate it as one of the best places to make yourself shine. This is your chance to show your personality. Be yourself and be free to have fun with it.


The Right Path is available for college admissions essay help through small group workshops and both in-person and online counseling sessions. Please use the Contact Us form in the bottom right corner to let us know what we can do to help you write the perfect essay or email us at


The College Essay – Not Your Typical What I Did for Summer Vacation Essay Anymore

Today’s college essays are not what most of us remember writing about in high school. The “What I Did for Summer Vacation” type of essay will no longer pass muster at many schools where creativity and individual thinking are highly valued. Look at the following college essay topics. Continue reading

What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is the college admissions application used by many colleges and universities as part of their admissions process. The Common Application, often called the Common App, was designed to streamline the application process by allowing students to fill in standard information once rather than multiple times when applying to multiple schools. For example, many schools require the same family information, (parent and sibling names, address, etc); rather than having a student fill this out ten times for ten different schools, the Common Application is filled out once and then sent to the schools chosen by the student.

The Common Application premiered in the 1975-76 school year with 15 colleges. As of this printing, it is used by almost 500 participating post-secondaryschools. There is a link at the bottom of this post to the Common Application Member Page which details which schools accept the Common App.

The Common App is part of the process used to evaluate both freshmen and transfer students, however, applications are different for freshmen and transfers so students should be certain to choose the application that works for them.

The Common Application is now accepted in both online and print format although online submissions are often easier and preferred. When filling out the Common App for online submission, it is a smart idea to answer questions in a Word or other document and then copy and paste them into the appropriate boxes. Printing the application out and asking others to review your writing, especially your essay, prior to submission, is often a good idea.

While the Common Application is helpful to most students and many colleges, it is often only part of the application process. Many schools require supplemental essays as well as interviews, recommendations, extra curricular activities, and, most importantly, transcripts. Be sure to find out what else you may need to submit along with the Common App by going to the Common Application website or to the websites of your schools.

To find out if the Common Application is accepted at the schools you would like to apply to as well as any supplemental material required by your schools, go to the Common Application Members Page.