Popular Essay Topics Writing Essays

Writing an essay can be a daunting task for both teachers and students in terms of creating and crafting a high quality essay,  and finally editing and grading them.

It seems though we may have overlooked one of the toughest steps in writing an essay and that is actually selecting an appropriate and interesting topic for your students.

Thankfully I have put together a list of 25 great essay topics that might just make that process a little easier.  Enjoy.  And remember to add any other great suggestions in the comment section below.

If you are still struggling with the essay writing process and need further guidance be sure to check out our definitive guide to writing a great essay. 

  1. Zoos are sometimes seen as necessary but not poor alternatives to a natural environment.  Discuss some of the arguments for and/or against keeping animals in zoos.
  2. Imaginethat your teacher wants to teach a new subject for the next few weeks.  Your teacher will take suggestions, and then let the students vote on the new subject. What subject should your class choose? Write an essay to support your choice and to persuade the other students to vote for your choice.
  3. Are actors and professional athletes paid too much?
  4.  Should teachers have to wear uniforms or have a dress code?
  5. Since the invention of nuclear weapons we have had a long period of GLOBAL peace and stability.  Are nuclear weapons global peacemakers or killing devices?
  6. Should boys and girls be in separate classes?
  7. Is the death penalty effective?
  8. To what extent is the use of animals in scientific research acceptable?
  9. What age is appropriate for dating?
  10. Pretend you woke up one day and there were no rules. People could suddenly do whatever they wanted! Explain what the world would be like. Use your    imagination!
  11. Should student’s textbooks be replaced by notebook computers?
  12. Should students be allowed to have cell phones in elementary and high schools?
  13. Should wealthy nations be required to share their wealth among poorer nations?
  14. Should money be spent on space exploration?
  15. Is fashion important?
  16. Are we too dependent on computers?
  17. Ifyou had the opportunity to bring any person — past or present, fictional    or nonfictional — to a place that is special to you (your hometown or    country, a favourite location, etc.), who would you bring and why? Tell us    what you would share with that person
  18. Most high level jobs are done by men. Should the government encourage a certain percentage of these jobs to be reserved for women?
  19. Should students be allowed to grade their teachers?
  20. In your opinion what factors contribute to a good movie?
  21. The destruction of the world’s forests is inevitable as our need for land and food grows.  Do you agree?
  22. Many parents give their children certain chores or tasks to do at home. Should    children have to do chores or tasks at home? Be sure to explain why you    think it is a good idea or a bad idea. Include examples to support your    reasons.
  23. Should the voting age be lowered to thirteen?
  24. Should the government place a tax on junk food and fatty snacks?
  25. Should more be done to protect and preserve endangered animals?

Get help writing your college application essays. Find this year's Common App writing prompts and popular essay questions used by individual colleges.

The college essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers who you are apart from your grades and test scores (and to distinguish yourself from the rest of a very talented applicant pool).

2018-19 Common App Essays

Nearly 700 colleges accept the The Common Application, which makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form. If you are using the Common App to apply for college admission in 2017, you will have 250–650 words to respond to ONE of the following prompts:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter  can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.  How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts

Prompt #1: Share your story.

Answer this prompt by reflecting on a hobby, facet of your personality, or experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you. Admissions officers want to feel connected to you and an honest, personal statement about who you are draws them in. Your love of superheroes, baking chops, or family history are all fair game if you can tie it back to who you are or what you believe in. Avoid a rehash of the accomplishments on your high school resume and choose something that the admissions committee will not discover when reading the rest of your application.

Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.

You're trying to show colleges your best self, so it might seem counterintuitive to willingly acknowledge a time you struggled. But overcoming challenges demonstrates courage, grit, and perseverance! That’s why the last piece of this prompt is essential. The obstacle you write about can be large or small, but you must show the admissions committee how your perspective changed as a result.

Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.

Your answer to this question could focus on a time you stood up to others or an experience when your own preconceived view was challenged. Choose this prompt if you have a relevant—and specific!—experience to recount (and reflect on). A vague essay about a hot button issue doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything useful about YOU.

Prompt #4: Solving a problem.

This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!

Prompt #5: Personal growth.

Just like Prompt #2, the accomplishment or event you write about can be anything from a major milestone to a smaller "aha" moment. Describe the event or ccomplishment that shaped you but take care to also show what you learned or how you changed. Colleges are looking for a sense of maturity and introspection—pinpoint the transformation and demonstrate your personal growth. 

Prompt #6: What captivates you?

This prompt is an invitation to write about something you care about. (So avoid the pitfall of writing about what you think will impress the admission office versus what truly matters to you). Colleges are looking for curious students, who are thoughtful about the world around them. The "what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more” bit isn't an afterthought—it's a key piece of the prompt. Make sure you explain how you pursue your interest, as well.

Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.

This question might be for you if you have a dynamo personal essay from English class to share or were really inspired by a question from another college’s application. You can even write your own question! Whatever topic you land on, the essentials of a standout college essay still stand: 1.) Show the admissions committee who you are beyond grades and test scores  and 2.) Dig into your topic by asking yourself how and why. There isn’t a prompt to guide you, so you must ask yourself the questions that will get at the heart of the story you want to tell.

More College Essay Topics

Individual schools sometimes require supplemental essays. Here are a few popular application essay topics and some tips for how to approach them:

Describe a person you admire.

Avoid the urge to pen an ode to a beloved figure like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. The admissions committee doesn't need to be convinced they are influential people. Focus on yourself: Choose someone who has actually caused you to change your behavior or your worldview, and write about how this person influenced you .

Why do you want to attend this school?

Be honest and specific when you respond to this question. Avoid generalities like "to get a good liberal arts education” or “to develop career skills," and use details that show your interests: "I'm an aspiring doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation." Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them beyond its reputation or ranking on any list. Use the college's website and literature to do your research about programs, professors, and other opportunities that appeal to you.

What is a book you love?

Your answer should not be a book report. Don't just summarize the plot; detail why you enjoyed this particular text and what it meant to you. What does your favorite book reveal about you? How do you identify with it, and how has it become personal to you?

Again, be honest in answering this question—don't choose a classic from your literature class or a piece of philosophy just because you think it will make you seem smarter. Writing fluently and passionately about a book close to you is always better than writing shakily or generally about a book that doesn't inspire you.

What is an extracurricular activity that has been meaningful to you?

Avoid slipping into clichés or generalities. Take this opportunity to really examine an experience that taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow. Sometimes it's better to write about something that was hard for you because you learned something than it is to write about something that was easy for you because you think it sounds admirable. As with all essay questions, the most important thing is to tell a great story: how you discovered this activity, what drew you to it, and what it's shown you about yourself.


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