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Topics to Avoid in the Personal Statement


We’re all for being positive, but in this case, we feel the need to give you a few don’t’s. Certain topics, for various reasons, are risky subjects for a college application essay. So even if a story or event is incredibly important to you, if it’s not going to help your chances for acceptance to the college of your choice, we suggest you look for alternatives. Avoid the following topics and essay pitfalls:

  • Sports analogies – scoring the winning touchdown can be memorable, but you will not be the first or even the billionth person to write about it.

  • A terrible event from which you never recovered – while this event may define you in some way, you don’t want to alarm readers or suggest that you are unstable.

  • Illegal, immoral or unseemly actions that you learned from – common sense dictates that you not emphasize poor decision-making.

  • Surviving suicide attempts or other serious psychological traumas – the jury is out on this one. Some folks believe such an essay can be quite powerful. If you decide to tackle such an issue, you need to provide an uplifting outcome and convince the reader that you are in a solid place now.

  • Making someone else the focus – if there is a person who inspires you, and you decide to write about him, make sure the essay is really about you. Admissions officers are always telling stories about how they’d love to admit Grandpa to their college, but he’s not the one applying.

  • Listing your accomplishments – you’ll be able to talk about your activities and achievements in other parts of the application. Use the essay to provide information that can’t be found elsewhere.

  • Bad taste – your essay is not a good place to display humor that could be considered offensive, stand on a political soapbox or disparage/complain about other people.


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