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Choosing Your College Essay Topic | Ideas & Examples

Published on October 25, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on August 29, 2022.

A strong essay topic sets you up to write a unique, memorable college application essay . Your topic should be personal, original, and specific. Take time to brainstorm the right topic for you.

Some topics are easier to make work than others, but it’s possible to write an exceptional essay from a common topic.

Attend one of our upcoming livestreams and have your topic reviewed by an admissions essay coach. We’ll tell you if you’re on the right track and explain whether or not your topic has the potential to make a great college essay.

Want some extra inspiration? Watch recordings of past topic review sessions.

Table of contents

What makes a good topic, brainstorming questions to get started, discover the best topic for you, how to make a common topic compelling, frequently asked questions about college application essays, want some extra inspiration.

Here are some guidelines for a good essay topic:

In most cases, avoid topics that

Spend time reflecting on and writing out answers to the following questions. After doing this exercise, you should be able to identify a few strong topics for your college essay.

Topic category Reflection questions
Your background, identity, or talents
Your challenges
Your values and beliefs
Your role models
Your accomplishments and goals
Your academic and personal interests
Your character and qualities would your friends and family use to describe you?

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Writing about yourself can be difficult. If you’re struggling to identify your topic, try these two strategies.

Start with your qualities

After identifying your positive qualities or values, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.

Qualities Stories
Loyalty and concern for others on nights when she was sick from her chemo treatment
Hard work and commitment
Selflessness and sacrifice

Start with a story

If you already have some memorable stories in mind that you’d like to write about, think about which qualities and values you can demonstrate with those stories.

Stories Qualities
Resilience and growth
Patience and empathy
and getting my friends to participate in an episode where salmon was the secret ingredient Creativity and initiative

Talk it through

To make sure you choose the right topic, ask for advice from trusted friends or family members who know you well. They can help you brainstorm ideas and remember stories, and they can give you feedback on your potential essay topics.

You can also work with a guidance counselor, teacher, or other mentor to discuss which ideas are most promising. If you plan ahead , you can even workshop multiple draft essays to see which topic works best.

If you do choose a common topic, ensure you have the following to craft a unique essay:

Here are a few examples of how to craft strong essays from cliché topics.

Common topic Why it’s difficult How to make it work
Extracurricular activities Your application already lists your extracurriculars
Your role model It’s not about you
A traumatic experience or death in the family Negative and may seem like you’re trying to win sympathy points
Struggling with new life situations (moving homes, parents’ divorce) Cliché narrative and insight
Becoming a better person after community service, traveling, or summer camp Cliché narrative and insight

Here’s a checklist you can use to confirm that your college essay topic is right for you.

College essay topic checklist

My topic is focused on me, not on someone else.

My topic shares something different from the rest of my application.

My topic is specific and original (not many students could write a similar essay).

My topic reflects positively on my character and behavior.

If I chose to write about a traumatic or challenging experience, my essay will focus on how I overcame it or gained insight.

If I chose a common topic, my essay will have a surprising story arc, interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style.

Good topic!

It looks like your topic is a good choice. It's specific, it avoids clichés, and it reflects positively on you.

There are no foolproof college essay topics —whatever your topic, the key is to write about it effectively. However, a good topic

Yes—admissions officers don’t expect everyone to have a totally unique college essay topic . But you must differentiate your essay from others by having a surprising story arc, an interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style .

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are:

Here’s a brief list of college essay topics that may be considered cliché:

It’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic. However, it’s possible to make a common topic compelling with interesting story arcs, uncommon connections, and an advanced writing style.

During our livestream sessions, we invite students to submit their essay topics and receive live feedback from our essay coaches. Check out recordings of our past sessions:

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The 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts

Tips and Guidance for the 7 Essay Options on the New Common Application

For the 2021-22 application cycle, the Common Application  essay prompts remain unchanged from the 2020-21 cycle with the exception of an all new option #4. As in the past, with the inclusion of the popular "Topic of Your Choice" option, you have the opportunity to write about anything you want to share with the folks in the admissions office.

The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. The essay length limit stands at 650 words (the minimum is 250 words), and students will need to choose from the seven options below. The essay prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event. Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.

According to the folks at the Common Application , in the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Option #7 (topic of your choice) was the most popular and was used by 24.1% of applicants. The second most popular was Option #5 (discuss an accomplishment) with 23.7% of applicants. In third place was Option #2 on a setback or failure. 21.1% of applicants chose that option.

From the Admissions Desk

"While the transcript and grades will always be the most important piece in the review of an application, essays can help a student stand out. The stories and information shared in an essay are what the Admissions Officer will use to advocate for the student in the admissions committee."

–Valerie Marchand Welsh Director of College Counseling, The Baldwin School Former Associate Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania

Always keep in mind why colleges are asking for an essay: they want to get to know you better. Nearly all selective colleges and universities (as well as many that aren't overly selective) have holistic admissions, and they consider many factors in addition to numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. Your essay is an important tool for presenting something you find important that may not come across elsewhere in your application. Make sure your essay presents you as the type of person a college will want to invite to join their community.

Below are the seven options with some general tips for each:

Option #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.

"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write a story about your "background, identity, interest, or talent." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. You could write about an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. Your "interest" or "talent" could be a passion that has driven you to become the person you are today. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why  the story you tell is so meaningful. 

Option #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?

This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss setbacks and failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question—how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty are key with this prompt.

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is. The "belief or idea" you explore could be your own, someone else's, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief. The answer to the final question about the "outcome" of your challenge need not be a success story. Sometimes in retrospection, we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Here, again, the Common Application gives you a lot of options for approaching the question since it is entirely up to you to decide what the "something" and "someone" will be. This prompt was added to the Common Application in the 2021-22 admissions cycle in part because it gives students the opportunity to write something heartfelt and uplifting after all the challenges of the previous year. The best essays for this prompt show that you are a generous person who recognizes the contributions others have made to your personal journey. Unlike many essays that are all about "me, me, me," this essay shows your ability to appreciate others. This type of generosity is an important character trait that schools look for when inviting people to join their campus communities.

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

This question was reworded in 2017-18 admissions cycle, and the current language is a huge improvement. The prompt use to talk about transitioning from childhood to adulthood, but the new language about a "period of personal growth" is a much better articulation of how we actually learn and mature (no single event makes us adults). Maturity comes as the result of a long train of events and accomplishments (and failures). This prompt is an excellent choice if you want to explore a single event or achievement that marked a clear milestone in your personal development. Be careful to avoid the "hero" essay—admissions offices are often overrun with essays about the season-winning touchdown or brilliant performance in the school play (see the list of bad essay topics for more about this issue). These can certainly be fine topics for an essay, but make sure your essay is analyzing your personal growth process, not bragging about an accomplishment.

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?

This option was entirely new in 2017, and it's a wonderfully broad prompt. In essence, it's asking you to identify and discuss something that enthralls you. The question gives you an opportunity to identify something that kicks your brain into high gear, reflect on why it is so stimulating, and reveal your process for digging deeper into something that you are passionate about. Note that the central words here—"topic, idea, or concept"—all have rather academic connotations. While you may lose track of time when running or playing football, sports are probably not the best choice for this particular question.

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.

The popular "topic of your choice" option had been removed from the Common Application between 2013 and 2016, but it returned again with the 2017-18 admissions cycle. Use this option if you have a story to share that doesn't quite fit into any of the options above. However, the first six topics are extremely broad with a lot of flexibility, so make sure your topic really can't be identified with one of them. Also, don't equate "topic of your choice" with a license to write a comedy routine or poem (you can submit such things via the "Additional Info" option). Essays written for this prompt still need to have substance and tell your reader something about you. Cleverness is fine, but don't be clever at the expense of meaningful content.

Final Thoughts

Whichever prompt you chose, make sure you are looking inward. What do you value? What has made you grow as a person? What makes you the unique individual the admissions folks will want to invite to join their campus community? The best essays spend significant time with self-analysis rather than merely describing a place or event.

The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options. If your essay could fit under more than one option, it really doesn't matter which one you choose. Many admissions officers, in fact, don't even look at which prompt you chose—they just want to see that you have written a good essay.

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., popular college application essay topics (and how to answer them).

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).

brainstorming college application essay topics

2019–20 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 2019, you will have 250–650 words to respond to ONE of the following prompts:

Read More: Get Expert Essay Advice From Former Admissions Officers!

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 résumé 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.

Perfect your college essay video

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 accomplishment 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.

Read More: QUIZ: Test Your College Knowledge!

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.

Read More: 5 Ways College Application Essays and High School Essays Are Different

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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Here you'll find a detailed explanation of each admission application requirement. Most of the information here applies to both first-year and transfer applicants. Don't forget to reference our Application Tips for guidance on filling out the Common Application.


We accept the Common Application  and the Coalition Application, Powered by Scoir . Both are treated equally by the Admissions Committee. Complete and submit your materials as soon as possible to ensure full and timely consideration of your application. If you use the Common Application, you must submit your application before your supporting materials (Secondary School Report, Teacher Reports, etc.) can be released to a college. Until you submit your own application sections, no part of your application will be transmitted to the Harvard Admissions Office.

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What if i am homeschooled.

Each applicant to Harvard College is considered with great care and homeschooled applicants are treated the same as all other applicants. There is no special process, but all relevant information about your educational and personal background is welcome. In addition to the application, all applicants are required to submit a transcript (which can be created by the family member or agency overseeing your schooling), and recommendations. If the application fee presents a hardship for your family,  simply request a fee waiver .

Hear from Harvard students who were homeschooled, in the Harvard Gazette article ‘ Homeschooled en route to Harvard .’

What if I need to make updates to my application after I submit it?

Do not resend your application in order to make updates. If you need to update your identification or contact information, or send updates, additional information, or corrections, please do so via the  Applicant Portal .

Misrepresentation of Credentials

Be completely accurate in your application materials. If we discover a misrepresentation during the admissions process, you will be denied admission. If you have already been admitted, your offer will typically be withdrawn. If you have already registered, your admission will normally be revoked, and we will require you to leave the College. Harvard rescinds degrees if misrepresentations in application materials are discovered.

The determination that an application is inaccurate or contains misrepresentations rests solely with the Admissions Office and will be resolved outside the student disciplinary process.

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Midyear school report.

When you apply, your school counselor will often send your transcript with few or no senior year course grades included. That is why the midyear school report is required - to allow us to review your performance in the first half of your senior year coursework .  The midyear school report must be completed by your school counselor or other school official. Please request that the midyear school report is completed and returned to our office as soon as possible. 

Midyear School Report FAQs

What if i'm applying restrictive early action and i don't have my midyear grades yet.

Restrictive Early Action applicants are not required to submit the midyear report by the November 1 deadline. If you applied Restrictive Early Action and are deferred to Regular Decision, please submit the midyear report and transcript in February, or as soon as your midyear grades are available.

I'm an international student and my academic year is different. Do I still need to submit the midyear report?

If you study the IB curriculum or the A-level curriculum, then we expect that your school will send predicted grades, based on your current classroom work and the results of any internal or mock exams you have taken up to that point. If your school does not issue official or predicted midyear grades for your final year of school, then you do not need to submit the midyear report form, although the item may remain on your checklist.

What if I have already graduated from high school?

If you have already graduated from high school, you should ignore the midyear report requirement (though the item may remain on your Checklist in the Applicant Portal) and simply ask your school to send a final school report if you have not already done so.

Teacher Evaluations

Ask two teachers in different academic subjects who know you well to complete the Teacher Evaluation forms. If you wish to submit additional letters of recommendation, you can do so after you submit your application. In your application confirmation email, there will be a personalized link to send to your recommenders.

What courses should I take to prepare for applying to Harvard?

There is no “one size fits all” rule about which curriculum to study during secondary school years. Students should challenge themselves by taking courses deemed appropriate by their teachers and counselors. But some students believe that “more is always better” when it comes to AP, IB or other advanced courses.

While some students prosper academically and personally by taking large numbers of such courses, others benefit from a more balanced approach that allows them additional time for extracurricular and personal development. Even the best students can be negatively affected by taking too many courses at once, and might benefit instead from writing, reading or research projects on subjects of great interest to them.

To learn more, read our Guide to Preparing for College. To avoid the “burnout” often seen among secondary school students, please refer to our article, Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation .

Is there a specific math requirement?

Applicants to Harvard should excel in a challenging high school math sequence corresponding to their educational interests and aspirations. We recommend that applicants take four years of math courses in high school. Ideally, these math courses will focus on conceptual understanding, promote higher-order thinking, and encourage students to use mathematical reasoning to critically examine the world. Examples include rigorous and relevant courses in computer science, statistics and its subfields, mathematical modeling, calculus, and other advanced math subjects.

Students’ math records are viewed holistically, and no specific course is required. Specifically, calculus is not a requirement for admission to Harvard. We understand that applicants do not have the same opportunities and course offerings in their high schools. Moreover, many programs of study at Harvard do not require knowledge of calculus. We encourage applicants to take the courses that are available to them and aligned with their interests and goals.

Students intending to study engineering, computer science, physics, mathematics, statistics or other fields where calculus is needed may benefit from taking calculus in high school. However, students at Harvard can still pursue such fields by starting with one of our introductory calculus classes that has no high school calculus prerequisite. On balance, we encourage all students to master foundational mathematical material instead of rushing through any of the more advanced courses.

Final School Report and Transcripts

All admitted students who choose to enroll are required to send a Final School Report and transcript as soon as their final grades become available – no later than July 1. The Final School Report and transcript should be completed and sent by a school counselor or other school official through Parchment/Docufide or Scrip-Safe International, if your school has access to these submission options.

IB students should send their final results as soon as they are released in mid-July. We will expect to see final A levels results by mid-August.

Standardized Test Scores

For the College Classes of 2027-2030, students may apply for admission without standardized test scores. Please read our announcement for more details on the application changes for the upcoming cycles. 

If you choose to submit standardized tests, you may submit the SAT or ACT (with or without the writing component). While the College Board no longer offers Subject Tests and they are not a requirement for applying, you may submit Subject Tests taken in the last 5 years. If you choose to submit Subject Tests, it is more useful to choose only one mathematics test rather than two. Similarly, if your first language is not English, a Subject Test in your first language may be less helpful.

Standardized Testing FAQs

How do i let harvard know whether i would like my application reviewed with or without test scores.

When you apply for admission, you can choose whether or not our review of your application will include your standardized test scores (SAT and ACT).

  • If your scores already are on file before you apply and you choose at the time of your application to proceed without scores, we will not consider those scores. 
  • If you initially chose an application review without scores and would now like to include scores in your file, you may make this request by submitting the "Change to consideration of test scores" form on your Applicant Portal. 
  • If you ask that our review includes your scores, either at the time of application or after you apply by submitting the form in the Applicant Portal, they will be part of your application throughout the admissions process.

Can I self-report my test scores?

Yes. Applicants may provide self-reported SAT and ACT test scores (including Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, IB, etc.). Admitted students who decide to enroll at Harvard College will be required to submit official test scores.

How do I send my test scores?

You are free to use the College Board Score Choice option or the similar option offered by the ACT. Our official codes are 3434 for the College Board SAT Reasoning Tests and 1840 for the ACT if you are submitting official test scores as part of your application.

  • How to send your SAT scores
  • How to send your ACT scores

Are there test score "cutoffs"?

There are no score cutoffs, and we do not admit “by the numbers.” For the ACT, we will evaluate your highest composite score and any other scores you choose to share with us. We take into account your educational background when reviewing your scores.

Should I prepare for standardized tests?

Opportunities to prepare for standardized tests vary greatly for students of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Research indicates that short term test preparation usually has little effect, but the free “test prep” now offered by the SAT and the ACT might make a significant difference for students who follow their programs for extended periods of time. Such free programs could help to level the playing field for students from under-resourced schools by providing the academic skills that will serve them well on standardized tests and also in college. Students can also do well by studying widely and deeply over a long period of time on their own with the help of family, school, or community organizations.

What do standardized tests and grades indicate about academic preparation for college?

Standardized tests provide a rough yardstick of what a student has learned over time and how that student might perform academically in college - but they are only one of many factors considered. High school grades in a rigorous academic program can also be helpful in assessing readiness for college courses, but the thousands of secondary schools around the country and the world employ various high school curricula and a wide range of grading systems - and some have no grades at all. Other students have been homeschooled or prepared for college by taking part in multiple schooling opportunities both in person and electronic.

Given the wide variation in how students prepare for Harvard – as well as the fact that most applicants and admitted students have outstanding academic records – it is difficult for high school grades to differentiate individual applications. That does not mean that high school grades are unimportant. Students who come to Harvard have done well day to day in their high school studies, providing a crucial foundation for academic success in college, including a 97% - 98% graduation rate.

SAT and ACT tests are better predictors of Harvard grades than high school grades, but this can vary greatly for any individual. Students who have not attended well-resourced schools throughout their lives, who come from modest economic backgrounds or first-generation college families have generally had fewer opportunities to prepare for standardized tests. Each application to Harvard is read with great care, keeping in mind that talent is everywhere, but opportunity and access are not.

Does Harvard accept SAT Subject Test scores?

As announced by the College Board, Subject Tests and the essay portion of the SAT have been terminated, except in certain special circumstances. See the  College Board's announcement for more details. Harvard admission officers review all material that an applicant submits, so if you have already taken Subject Tests or the essay portion of the SAT, you may still submit it along with your other application materials.

How do I choose whether to submit my standardized test score?

Choosing whether or not to submit test scores is a personal decision for every applicant. There are many reasons why students do not submit test scores, including expense. In general, though, anything that might give a more complete or positive picture of an applicant can be helpful. Even if you feel your test scores do not fully represent your strengths, perhaps because of a lack of resources at your school or limited opportunities to prepare for or take the tests, you could note this fact in your application to provide context. There are no score cutoffs and we do not admit “by the numbers.”

Why can't I view my standardized test scores in the Common Application?

Since Harvard College is not requiring applicants to submit standardized test scores for the 2022-2026 application cycles , your standardized scores will not display in the Common Application PDF preview, even if you have chosen to submit them. However, if you entered your test score information and would like it to be considered, that data will still be transmitted to us with your application and we will review it. You can verify this by viewing the Application Checklist in your Applicant Portal. You will see a green check mark if we have received your standardized test scores.

How will Harvard evaluate the new digital SAT?

The College Board's shift to a digital delivery of the SAT will not impact the way in which Harvard reviews test scores within applications. For the College Classes of 2027-2030, students may apply for admission without standardized test scores. Students who do not submit standardized test scores will not be disadvantaged in their application process. Please  visit the College Board FAQs  for more information.  

Supplemental Materials

Our standard application materials typically give us ample information for making admission decisions. However, we recognize you may have truly exceptional talents or achievements you wish to share, and we want you to have every opportunity to best represent yourself.

At the discretion of the Admissions Committee, supplementary materials—such as music recordings, artwork, or selected samples of academic work—may be evaluated by faculty. These materials are entirely optional.

Material Types

How to submit documents and articles.

Scholarly articles, research, creative writing or other documents of which you are the primary author should be submitted in the Upload Materials section of the Applicant Portal . This is the most efficient and direct method of submitting these materials, because they will be added directly to your official application. All submissions should include a list of any individuals with whom you collaborated in the production of the work. If appropriate, please identify your research sponsor, mentor, and/or laboratory or research group leader and provide a short description of your particular contribution to the work.

How to submit media (video, audio, or images)

You may submit optional supplementary media materials (e.g. videos, audio recordings, or images) electronically via Slideroom . Details for submissions in art, dance or choreography, musical performance or composition, will be found on the Slideroom website. There is a small submission fee, but if this fee causes you economic hardship, you may request a fee waiver at the point of submission. You may also contact us to request a fee waiver.

Should I submit other academic materials?

Harvard accepts other standardized tests or other academic credentials if you choose to submit them. In any admissions process, additional information can be helpful. For example, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-levels, national leaving examinations, national or international contests, early high school assessment scores such as the PSAT or pre-ACT, or courses taken outside your school during the school year or summer are just some examples of information that could be submitted. Subject Tests and the essay portion of the SAT have been terminated, except in certain special circumstances. Harvard admission officers review all materials that an applicant submits, so if you’ve already taken Subject Tests or the essay portion of the SAT, you may still submit them along with your other application materials.

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Your Guide to College Entrance Exams

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College entrance exams attempt to measure your math, verbal, analytical, and writing skills. Many four-year colleges and universities use these tests. Certain community and technical colleges also require ACT scores or SAT scores, especially if you plan to enroll in a program that prepares students to transfer to a four-year school.

This guide can help you navigate standardized testing by covering the structures and scoring processes of the ACT and SAT. You can also gain insight into AP, CLEP, PSAT, and TOEFL tests. The guide also provides tips on how to score well on college entrance exams.

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Table of contents.

The Scholastic Assessment Test , or SAT, is one of two major standardized exams used by postsecondary schools to evaluate the college readiness of undergraduate students. Over 2 million learners take the SAT each year.

For tips on how to effectively study for this important test, consult our SAT Prep Guide .

SAT Overview

  • Collapse All

Is it required by colleges?

East and West coast schools typically prefer the SAT over the ACT. Some schools also ask students to submit the optional SAT essay score.

What is the format?

The standard SAT spans three hours and is divided into reading, writing and language, and math sections. Students who take the essay test add another 50 minutes to their total time.

When do you take it?

High school students generally take the SAT during the spring semester of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. However, you can take it as early as your first year of high school and as late as your prospective university allows. View upcoming test dates for additional information.

Where do you take it?

Many high schools offer designated testing days where students can take the SAT on site. You can also take this exam at any official test center in the U.S. and abroad.

How much does it cost?

You need to pay $52 to take the standard SAT ($68 to include the essay portion). Registering for an exam date after a deadline incurs a $30 late fee. For more information on costs, consult the College Board .

How should you study for it?

Experts suggest that you should start studying about four months before your test date, dedicating about two hours each week to your studies. Alternatively, you can start studying about 1.5 months before your test date for five hours per week. You can make the preparation process easier by taking advantage of resources like the Khan Academy .

How does scoring work?

Each of the SAT's standard sections is scored on a scale of 200-800. The essay test breaks down into three scores for reading, analysis, and writing -- each ranging from 2-8. The class of 2019 earned an average SAT score (excluding the essay) of 1068.

SAT Subject Tests

The College Board began offering a series of subject-specific exams in 1937. Today, you may choose from 20 SAT Subject Tests in five broad areas of study: English, history, languages, math, and science. These tests allow you to highlight areas where you excel or make up for lackluster grades on your high school transcript, thereby improving your chances of earning admission to competitive colleges and universities.

SAT Subject Tests Overview

Are they required by colleges.

SAT Subject Tests are typically optional, with students using them to bolster certain areas of their academic record. However, certain postsecondary schools may require or recommend that you submit these scores based on your chosen major.

All SAT Subject Tests span one hour and consist entirely of multiple-choice questions.

When do you take them?

The College Board offers Subject Tests on the same days and at the same locations as the standard SAT. However, not all 20 tests are offered on every test date. Consult this list for specific details.

Where do you take them?

You can take SAT Subject Tests at the same place you sit for the general exam. Find an official testing center near you by visiting the College Board's website .

How much do they cost?

The College Board charges a flat $26 registration fee that enables you to take up to three Subject Tests on a given day. You must pay $22 for each test you take ($26 for each language test with listening). To learn more about fees, go to this page .

How should you study for them?

SAT Subject Tests evaluate your knowledge of 20 specific areas at a high school level. The College Board recommends that you prepare for these exams by taking relevant courses. Companies like Varsity Tutors provide free practice tests.

Like the standard SAT, Subject Tests are scored on a scale of 200-800. You can find scoring percentile ranks for the 2017-2019 graduating classes by reading this official report from the College Board .

First introduced in 1959, the ACT (or American College Testing ) assesses a student's college readiness in English, reading, math, and science. Colleges and universities use these scores as common data points with which to evaluate applicants. You can learn how to maximize your performance by checking out our ACT Prep Guide .

ACT Overview

In general, four-year universities in the Midwest and Southern U.S. prefer the ACT over the SAT. Some institutions may also require you to submit the optional writing score.

The ACT lasts two hours and 55 minutes and breaks down into English, math, reading, and science sections. The optional essay portion takes an additional 40 minutes. With the exception of the essay, the ACT consists entirely of multiple-choice questions.

You can take the ACT as early as sixth grade. However, most students take the test during their junior year. The ACT is offered every year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. You can register for the test through the ACT's official website .

Some high schools facilitate ACT testing on site. You may also take the test at any of the official test center locations scattered across the U.S., U.S. territories, and Puerto Rico.

The general ACT costs $55 ($70 if you want to include the essay section). You can register after the formal deadline by paying a $30 late charge. Visit the ACT website for more information on fees.

You can follow the same guidelines mentioned above for the SAT by studying for about five hours a week starting 1.5 months before your test date. If you retake the test, a good rule of thumb is that you should spend about 10 hours studying for each point you want to gain. The official ACT website offers free prep materials and sells official guides.

Each standard ACT section is assessed individually and then combined to form a cumulative score from 1-36. If you take the optional essay portion, you will receive a separate score from 1-12. The average ACT score is 21.


What's the difference between the act and sat.

The ACT and SAT assess student college readiness and achievement in primary academic areas. Similarities between the two exams include the following:

Both tests are content-based. The exams include sections in English and reading, as well as a math section measuring skills in arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, and trigonometry.

Optional Writing

The ACT and SAT both feature an optional essay portion.

Students must figure out the meaning of a word in a sentence based on contextual clues. Due to a recent revision, the SAT no longer features questions requiring students to select the best vocabulary word.

Timed Sections

Each section must be completed within predetermined time constraints.

Both exams allow roughly three hours of total testing time; the additional essay sections add 40-50 minutes for those who choose to participate.

Number of Multiple-Choice Answers

Both the ACT and SAT now offer four possible answers for all multiple-choice questions. The SAT previously offered five.

No 'Wrong Score Penalty'

Currently, the ACT and SAT exams only award points for correct answers and do not penalize students for incorrect answers.

Test Availability

Though test times vary by location, both exams are typically available on six dates throughout the year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected some test dates.

Despite these similarities, there are several major differences between the two exams. The ACT measures overall educational development, while the SAT focuses more on testing logic and problem-solving skills.

Question Delivery The ACT features more challenging questions phrased in a straightforward manner. The SAT often disguises simpler questions by phrasing them in a more convoluted manner.
Mathematics The ACT features more complex questions in the math section and allows students to use an approved calculator throughout this section. The SAT focuses less on advanced math skills, and calculators are not allowed in certain segments of the mathematics section.
Science The ACT includes a science reasoning section with readable passages followed by multiple-choice questions. The SAT does not contain a science component.
Education and Career Planning In addition to general background information, the ACT collects information related to student education and career planning. The SAT does not collect information regarding student education and career planning.
Scoring Each required section of the ACT is scored up to a maximum of 36 points. Final scores represent a composite of all four sections. The SAT features two required sections with a total of 200-800 points possible in each section. Final scores represent the total points earned in both sections; the maximum score on the SAT is 1600.

How Do I Compare My ACT Score and SAT Score?

The maximum score on the ACT is 36, while the maximum SAT score is 1600. Comparatively, each point on the ACT represents 40-50 points on the total score of the SAT. For example, an ACT score of 35 is generally equivalent to an SAT score of 1540-1590.

The average ACT composite score in the U.S. during the 2017-2018 calendar year was 20.8 points. The average total SAT score in 2018 was 1068 points.

Should I Take Both the ACT and the SAT?

Generally, colleges and universities that require standardized test scores accept either the ACT or SAT. Some schools recommend taking both tests and submitting whichever score is higher, whereas others advise against this practice because splitting time studying for two tests may lower your overall scores on both.

The decision to take both the ACT and SAT depends on your specific academic strengths. To make the most of your scores, consider potential advantages you might have by taking one test over the other.

Which Test Should I Take?

If you excel at science ....

  • If your math skills (particularly in trigonometry) are more advanced.
  • If your grammar and punctuation skills are advanced.
  • If you have an easier time with multiple-choice math problems.

You should take the ACT.

If you excel at writing ...

  • If you can decipher multi-faceted, wordier questions.
  • If your vocabulary skills are more advanced.
  • If you can answer non-multiple-choice math problems with ease.

You should take the SAT.

If you have advanced time-management skills ...

  • If you perform well under pressure.
  • If your writing skills are advanced.
  • If your English language skills are advanced.

You can take either test.

If you are still unsure which test is right for you, the Princeton Review offers a free quiz that can help.

The PSAT, or Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test , is a shortened version of the SAT, which students typically take in 10th or 11th grade. Also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, the PSAT allows you to practice for the SAT and gain National Merit distinction.

PSAT Overview

No. However, by taking the test, students can participate in the College Board's Student Search Service, which connects them with participating schools.

The PSAT is a multiple-choice assessment that lasts two hours and 45 minutes. Students spend 25 minutes on the math with no calculator section, 45 minutes on the math with a calculator section, 35 minutes on the writing and language section, and 60 minutes on the evidence-based reading section.

You can take the PSAT every autumn -- usually in October. The College Board offers a primary date, a Saturday session, and an alternative option. You may find the 2020 test dates by visiting the official website.

You register to take the PSAT at your own high school by speaking with a counselor. If your school does not offer the test, you can take it at a nearby high school.

The PSAT costs $17. Your school may pay part of the cost or the entire amount. Fee waivers are available to low-income 11th graders.

Should you study for it?

Because the PSAT is similar to the SAT, you can study for this preliminary test by using the same tools and guides. Khan Academy offers a free practice test.

The PSAT is scored on a scale of 320-1250. To qualify as a National Merit Scholar , you need to perform in the top 1% in your state.

Advanced Placement (AP) tests are college-level assessments students can take after completing the relevant high school course. The College Board provides over 35 AP options, including music theory, English literature and composition, statistics, Chinese language and culture, and environmental science .

By earning a high score on an AP test, you can gain college credit, which helps save time and money in the long run.

AP Tests Overview

Are ap tests required by colleges.

Postsecondary schools do not require AP tests as part of the admissions process. However, by earning high AP scores, you can opt out of general education and major prerequisite coursework.

AP tests vary in length, but usually last 2-3 hours. Depending on what exam you take, expect to encounter multiple-choice and/or free response questions. For details on individual AP tests, consult the College Board .

AP tests are offered each May. You can find specific test dates through the official website. Register for the exam through the My AP online portal and talk to your school's AP coordinator about paying fees.

Students typically take AP tests at their high school. If you are homeschooled, contact AP Services .

The majority of AP tests cost $94 if you reside in the U.S, U.S. territories, or Canada. They cost $124 if you live anywhere else. You incur a $40 late fee if you order an exam between November 16 and March 13.

Because you usually take an AP test after completing relevant coursework, you should already have prep materials handy. Take 1-3 months before the test date to review content, familiarize yourself with the question types, and take a few practice exams.

For most AP tests, your overall performance is a weighted combination of individual section scores. You will ultimately receive a 1-5, with most colleges offering credit for a score of 4 or better.

The College-Level Examination Program was launched in 1967 as a way for military personnel and adult learners to obtain degrees while maintaining work and family responsibilities. Today, any individual can take one of 34 CLEP exams to earn college credit at more than 2,900 postsecondary schools in the United States.

CLEP Overview

Like AP tests, CLEP exams are not required by higher education institutions. These exams cover five broad categories: business, composition and literature, history and social sciences, science and mathematics, and world languages.

Most CLEP exams take 90-120 minutes and consist entirely of multiple-choice questions with five possible answers. Some of these tests require you to write answers, to which you will receive separate scores.

The College Board offers CLEP test dates each month at locations across the United States. After obtaining a registration ticket , you have six months to take the exam.

You can take CLEP exams at any one of the roughly 2,000 civilian and military testing centers. The College Board offers a searchable database you can use to find nearby locations.

All CLEP exams cost $85, which you can pay online through the official College Board website. After completing registration, you should contact a local testing center to confirm a date and time to take the test.

You should spend at least 20 hours studying for your CLEP exam. Through Modern States , you can sign up for free preparation courses. The College Board also offers online resources and practice tests.

Computers score multiple-choice questions on the CLEP exams, while two or more English professors evaluate essays. You will receive a cumulative score from 20-80. Each college maintains its own CLEP policies. You usually need to earn at least a 50 to receive credit.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a common entrance exam that non-native speakers must take to attend colleges and universities in English-speaking countries. You may also need to submit TOEFL scores when applying for study abroad programs or international employment. Rather than testing conversational/casual English, the TOEFL assesses a student's competencies in formal, academic language and college-level vocabulary.

TOEFL Overview

The majority of higher education institutions in the U.S. require the TOEFL or IELTS for students hailing from countries where English is not a major language. Confirm your school's English language requirements with an advisor.

The TOEFL includes reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections. The first two sections feature multiple-choice questions. The last two sections include independent and integrated tasks that test your ability to understand English and formulate your own thoughts on a particular subject.

You can take the TOEFL on 60 days throughout the year at authorized testing centers worldwide. Pick a test date that is at least 2-3 months before your application deadline. To register, visit the official Educational Testing Service (ETS) website.

You can take the TOEFL at any authorized testing center. Use this search tool to find upcoming test dates and locations near you.

The cost to take the TOEFL is usually $200. You will pay an additional $40 for registering late and another $60 to reschedule your exam date. Consult this table for additional fee information.

In general, you should spend two months preparing for the exam. The official ETS page and websites like Magoosh offer free practice tests.

You will receive four scaled section scores (ranging from 0-30) and a total score (ranging from 0-120). In 2017, the average overall TOEFL score was 84. You can view how the data breaks down by reviewing the official ETS report .

Do All Colleges Require Entrance Exams?

Entrance exams like the ACT and SAT provide streamlined and data-supported means for colleges and universities to evaluate your academic capabilities. However, higher education increasingly eschew standardized testing, opting for more holistic methods of student evaluation. This opt-out movement continues to gain momentum as concerns over the effectiveness and equity of college entrance exams grow.

Students who want to bypass standardized testing often enjoy a variety of options.

Today, students who want to bypass standardized testing often enjoy a variety of options. To recruit a diverse array of learners, online colleges generally do not require entrance exams. Learners who want to enroll in campus-based programs should seek out test-flexible schools. In lieu of test scores, these institutions may allow applicants to prove academic preparedness through factors like professional experience and leadership accomplishments.

Online Test Taking

Many entrance exams, including the SAT and CLEP, allow students to complete the entire test on a computer at a designated location. Online test taking will continue to evolve as these companies seek to decrease operational costs by eliminating the need for testing centers and on-site proctors.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, standardized test companies are scrambling to provide remote options. The College Board is currently working on several online SAT tests, although they have decided to delay plans for an at-home digital SAT. However, the ACT still plans to let students take the test at home should widespread quarantine measures remain in effect in the fall of 2020.

Adaptive Test Taking

Sometime in the future, college entrance exams may move toward computerized adaptive testing. The quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT and GRE already use adaptive testing.

With adaptive testing, each student essentially takes a different test.

With adaptive testing, each student essentially takes a different test. Every answer a student provides influences the subsequent question. If an answer is correct, then the test moves on to a more challenging set of questions. Alternatively, if an answer is wrong, the test holds off on asking the student harder questions.

Adaptive testing can better gauge a student's abilities. Each student's final score measures not only their correct answers, but also the particular items the student answered right or wrong.

Given that adaptive testing bases the next question on the previous answer, a student cannot skip or bookmark a question and return to it later. When students are stumped on a question, they should take time to figure out the answer. While a quick guess could end up being correct, it could also lead to more difficult questions.

How to Study for College Entrance Exams

To prepare for college entrance exams, you can use a variety of tools, many of which are free. Check for resources in your community, especially at local libraries where you can borrow ACT and SAT prep books. High schools benefit from their students' strong performance on standardized tests and often provide review sessions and peer tutoring.

Websites like Khan Academy and Test Prep Practice enable you to access tutorials, tips, and practice tests online. You can also access free practice tests through the College Board's website and other official test sites. If you want to pay for dedicated support, popular test prep companies include The Princeton Review and Kaplan.

What to Expect on Test Day

The following section covers a few tips you should follow to effectively prepare for test day, including what to do the night before and what to bring the day of.

Things to Bring With You

  • Check Circle Printed admission ticket and photo ID
  • Check Circle Approved calculator
  • Check Circle Two No. 2 pencils
  • Check Circle Water and snacks

Things to Leave at Home

  • X Circle Cell phones
  • X Circle Unapproved calculator
  • X Circle Highlighters and colored pens
  • X Circle Books, pamphlets, dictionaries, and other prohibited materials

Test Day Schedule

Planning ahead for your exam is very important. Following a detailed itinerary for your test day (beginning with the night before) can help you alleviate stress and head into the exam with confidence. We have included a model schedule below to help you plan for your exam.

The Night Before

A good night's rest is essential before you take your exam. Sufficient sleep is linked to focus, energy, stamina, and cognitive abilities. Ideally, you will have studied for weeks leading up to the testing date and you will not need to cram the night before your exam. Be confident in your exam prep and try to relax the evening before your exam.

  • Check Circle Go to bed at a reasonable time
  • Check Circle Set at least one alarm
  • Check Circle Relax
  • Check Circle Get everything organized the night before


  • X Circle Stay up late
  • X Circle Take sleeping aids (unless part of your normal routine)
  • X Circle Study for the exam
  • X Circle Wait until the morning to get organized

Morning of the Test

If you have organized everything (e.g., clothing, car keys, and directions to the testing center) the night before your exam, then the morning of your test should be fairly relaxed. Check all of your testing equipment before you leave the house. Eat a well-balanced meal that will not upset your stomach and limit your coffee intake; caffeine can cause added anxiety.

  • Check Circle Get up at a reasonable hour
  • Check Circle Check your exam materials
  • Check Circle Eat a healthy breakfast and limit your caffeine
  • Check Circle Relax and leave the house with enough time to arrive at the testing center a few minutes early
  • X Circle Get up too early
  • X Circle Leave the house without ensuring your materials are in working order
  • X Circle Eat or drink anything you don't normally consume
  • X Circle Cram or leave the house without sufficient travel time

Upon Arrival

Plan to arrive at the test site by 8 a.m. at the latest. Once you arrive, present your admission ticket and (if applicable) ask where you can store your bags. Wait to be seated by a test supervisor. The test will begin between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. The test supervisor will give verbal instructions once it is time to get started.

After the Test

Congratulations! Do not overthink your performance. Follow the test coordinator's instructions, pack up your belongings, and head home (or out to celebrate). Be sure to check your online account in the days following your exam to see if your scores have been posted, and contact the testing organization if you think there might be an error or discrepancy with your results.

Comparing Scores

On top of your cumulative score (1-36 on the ACT and 400-1600 on the SAT), you should figure out your percentile rank among your test-taking cohort when determining your overall performance. The College Board offers a comprehensive guide to understanding and comparing your score. The ACT also publishes reports to help you analyze your performance in relation to your peers.

In general, you want to score in the upper end of your prospective school's percentiles. Most colleges publish a 25th-75th range to reflect the test score distribution of the incoming class. Half of the admitted students scored between these two numbers, while 25% scored above and 25% scored below.

Should I Retake My Exam?

You can retake any of the exams discussed in this guide, although there may be some restrictions regarding how often you can retake a test within a period of time. For example, you cannot take the TOEFL more than once within a three-day period.

The College Board recommends that you take the SAT at least twice, planning carefully around deadlines.

Students who retake a standardized exam generally perform better on their second try because they have experience with the content and test-taking process. Because retakes are common, colleges and universities almost always use your best scores. Some schools even practice superscoring, taking the best results from individual test sections, even if they were earned on different dates.

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College Essay Topics for 2022

essay topics for college entrance exam

Overwhelmed by the many college essay topics you can write about? Don’t be. We’ll show you potential topics you can choose for your college essay.

As discussed in the post about   How to Choose an Essay Topic , don’t start with the Common App, Coalition App, or other college application essay prompts. Instead, begin writing your essay and go back and choose the prompt it answers best later.

Key Takeaways

Table of Contents

What is the college essay.

The college essay is the piece of writing in your college application where you tell admission officers:

The college essay brings color to your file and can give “aha” moments to highlight or bring clarity about why you’re a good candidate for the college. Your college essay is so important that a great essay can push you over the edge if it’s between you and another candidate. A bad college essay will likely lead to a decision to decline your application. College essay topics set the tone of the entire essay.

2020 is the first year that most colleges considered files without test scores. They placed more emphasis on the college essay. Things will be the same in 2020. The University of California and many other colleges have announced that 2021-2022 will also be test-optional.

While we never know the exact impact of the college essay on admissions, before COVID-19,  75% of admissions officers responded that they found the college essay to be a factor in their decisions . This shows that the college essay is important. The essay you write is guided by the college essay topics you choose.  With so many things happening in your life, how do you choose which to write about? 

This post digs into the most compelling topics of the 2022 college application season. The examples presented here will get you started on writing an essay that is unique to you and makes the case for your admissions.

Something you're afraid of

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Fear is a great topic to explore in your college essay. It’s one of the most primal of all human emotions. Fear keeps us from making decisions that can hurt us. But more often than not, fear also holds us back from doing things that will help us grow. With a key objective in your essay to show growth, writing your essay about something that keeps you up at night is sure to be a winner. 

Some examples can include the fear of loneliness, fear of failure, or the fear of success . I had a former student write an essay about his fear of heights and how he overcame that fear and worked his way up to riding the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios. Here’s an excerpt from the student’s essay:

"I am scared of many things (needles, sharks, blood), but no fear has conquered me more than height fright. I spent a decade visiting Disney World with my mom, dad, and younger brother and never set foot on a thrill ride. I especially feared The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a Hollywood Studios headliner, engineered to drop at accelerated speeds while being struck by lightning bolts or what epitomized my waking nightmare. In August 2011, when my dad suggested we ride Terror, I profusely refused. His stone-cold face glared at me down when he said, "Logan, this ride isn't even scary!" But I, arms crossed and standing my ground, wouldn't waver. Of course, I got my way, and he stayed back with me. Although relieved for the time being, upon returning to New York, I felt bad that I had burdened my family with my fear, which persisted for five more years. Then, last year, I rode Terror and haven't looked back since. Here's how I did it." Student Writer

Something you're grateful for

girl on the bus laughing looking outside

This topic perfectly aligns with the Common Apps new 2021-2022 essay prompt that says: 

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

The motivation for this question update is that so much has happened in the last two years. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the world will never be the same. We have lost so many lives. Also, there is social unrest, economic decline, and lots of uncertainty. Some people liken what’s happening to the early 20th century, ironically in the same 20s decade. If you’re alive, breathing, and have had good fortunes this year, this may be an excellent topic for you to dig into further.

Someone who has inspired you

Dad and daugther posing for picture studying in the library

For this essay topic, you’d write about a real person in your life . Avoid choosing a celebrity, popular politician or pubic figure, out of the risk of being too clich é . The person you choose should have a direct or indirect influence on the person you have become. 

This could be someone like your mom or dad, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, cousin, friend, teacher, coach, or anyone else who you can speak vividly and candidly about lessons they have taught you. This person can be living or may have passed on. The essay you write will illustrate what insights and learnings you can apply to your life because of the influence they have had on you.

Here’s an excerpt from a sample student who wrote about her late father: 

"In his final days, I recall my father reclining on a plush black couch. His expressionless face was attached to a gas mask and oxygen tank. It still brings me to tears that the father I loved - the man who walked ten blocks every Sunday to Parisi's Bakery to buy his little girl strawberry-filled bread cookies - was losing his battle with lung cancer. Even as his health started to deteriorate, my father proved himself to be a hero. Like a devout Muslim, he read his favorite Koran passages and prayed five times daily until the eleventh hour. Oblivious to his weakening condition, I sat by his side, asking questions about everything like spelling a word, the question to a Jeopardy answer, and what a fact means. Hoarse and out of breath, my father always gave me an answer. He was aware that this moment might be the last time we would have together. But I believed that he would pull through cancer and be around forever. After all, real heroes never die, right? While difficult to be fully expressed in words, my father strived to be a good parent to my brothers and me. He made sure we got to school on time, taught us how to save for the future, and encouraged us to value our Muslim beliefs. Still, more importantly, he made us earn his approval. On those rare occasions, when I could get him to share a proud smile for something that I achieved, I felt like my world was complete. For example, my father walked with my brothers and me to Rainey Park on Saturdays, where he challenged us to a relay race. Of course, he always won. But during each race, he yelled at me to run faster, pull through the pain gushing through my legs, and pump harder and harder. After following his advice, on one particular Saturday afternoon, I beat him! And when I waited for his expression, his grave eyes finally gave me the approval I yearned for. On the way home, he stopped at the store to buy me red Baby Bottle Pop candy. It was the perfect day!" Student Writer

Something you're fighting for

girl with afro hair protesting

2020 is arguably the year of the most protests in your lifetime (and my lifetime!). Mashable featured a great article about the 15 protests of 2020 that you’ll tell your children about. Why wait? Your college essay is a great place to start, especially if you’ve been part of any of the protests. Nothing explains who you are and what you stand for than sharing causes that you care about. 

Something you're sacrificing for

boy studying in his computer

One of the most incredible moves you can make in your life is sacrificing something in your life for the greater good. For example, maybe you’re an aspiring teen entrepreneur and next founder or creator. You’re building a business, like a few of my students. 

One has a jewelry company and sells her products on Etsy. Another is buying and selling cryptocurrency on an exchange. Running a business comes with sacrifices, such as missing out on having fun with friends. Or perhaps your grades. Many of my entrepreneurial students have less than stellar grades or limited extracurricular involvement because they’ve spent more time building their businesses. 

This essay would serve a dual purpose of explaining why their grades aren’t perfect (addressing something that admissions officers would want to know) and showing their passion for something worth sacrificing the time and energy they’d spend elsewhere that wasn’t as significant.

Something or someone you value

teenager boy opening a secret box

A classic topic, you can use it as your general essay. Some schools, like Stanford University, use this topic as a supplemental essay. At its core, motivation, and passion lead to action. In this essay, you can show admissions officers what type of person you are, how you show up in the world, and your plans for the future – for yourself, the campus community, and society. 

To be sure, this is a BIG essay to write. If you select this topic, be sure to focus on one thing (as opposed to ten) that is meaningful and most important to you. Avoid repeating anything you have said in another part of your application. A great example of this essay is a student who wrote about a memory box where she keeps her most precious treasures. She speaks about each treasure, a book from her mom and a pair of gold hoop earrings, and the significance they’ve had in her life. Here’s an excerpt:

Here’s a college essay excerpt from a student who wrote about a box for her most precious treasures: 

I am a collector. It started with a box. But my head is ingrained with the idea that every object worth saving has a story worth remembering. Peeking out from the edge of the box was Our Moon Has Blood Clots, a book my mom had given me two years ago to read. It vividly details Kashmir's purge of the Kashmiri Pandit community, a part of our history my mom felt was important to understand. But I avoided it. For me, it was too uncomfortable to face a past ridden with war, violence, rape, and exile. I didn't want to relive my parents escaping their homes with only a few documents, living in tents, and everything they worked for and knew was gone and forced to restart their lives from ground zero. Instead of reading it, I buried it, deep, in my memory box. Although I was born 13 years later, I read in a PBS article that trauma is an inherited trait. And like so many victims of trauma, be it first-hand or through DNA, we hold on to things but put memories away. I am without a piece of myself. One day, I'll face the truth and accept how the mass exodus has shaped me. But today, I find solace in understanding that my parents' struggle gave rise to more opportunities I could hope for given their arrival as American refugees. By taking advantage of everything at my disposal, I am grateful for my education and relationships, all assets no one can ever take away." Student Writer

Something you're passionate about

girl listening music in her earphone

This essay topic is a great way to show your curiosity and hunger for knowledge or mastering a skill . You wouldn’t want to write this essay about anything already in your college application, like why you enjoy biology or why you joined your school’s video club. Instead, you’d write about something that shows your interest in something that would not fit anywhere else. You enjoy something so unique that your application would not be complete unless they knew this about you.

Interests you can write about like:

These are a few examples, and you likely have your own examples of interests you’re passionate about that you do on your own and outside of school. Speaking about your hobbies and interests can give insight into what else you’ve been up to during your high school years. Often for students, these interests may lead to career options or influence how you’ll engage in the campus community, both of which admissions officers are very interested in learning about you.

Your cultural roots and background

girl having a snack in the kitchen

If you’re a newcomer to the United States or a first-generation American with parents who migrated to our country, this may be a good topic for you to explore. You have a unique voice and perspective that college admissions officers highly value. You can speak about so many things — experiences, culture, food — what meaning these things have had in your life, how you’re balancing with ideals in American culture.

You can speak about it directly, such as telling the reader about your journey as a newcomer or first-generation American student. Or you can talk about it indirectly, as one of my students from last year did. The student wrote about his joy in making empanadas. He shares his grandmother’s recipe and what it’s like making them with her and ties it to his cultural ties to Equador and being of Italian heritage. Here’s an excerpt from his essay:

Here’s a college essay excerpt from a student who wrote about his joy of cooking empanadas for his family: 

"I have become more comfortable with the recipe, and I am confident that I can make any empanada I want. I like making empanadas for several reasons. First, I can be very creative with them, changing the ingredients every time I make them. Over the years, I have made empanadas with all kinds of varieties of beef, chicken, cheese, and vegetables. But if I wanted to, I could fill it with tomato sauce and cheese to make a pizza empanada or American cheese and beef to make a cheeseburger empanada. From start to finish, no matter what you put inside, it takes half an hour, and you have yourself a meal. Also, around the time that I made my first empanadas, it was not often that I would find a restaurant that sold them. I had to make them myself. However, as time has passed, I have seen more restaurants and food trucks that strictly serve empanadas open in my neighborhood, where there are few from my Ecuadorian culture living here. And like so many other things, empanadas have arrived in mainstream American culture, making their mark on the world, something so unique, diverse, and delicious. But most importantly, empanadas represent a significant part of Ecuadorian culture, to which I've always felt connected through my grandma's stories. Growing up, I remember vivid stories about her life in Ecuador. She eventually moved to the United States at 18-years-old and was immersed in American culture as a young woman and immigrant. Learning to cook empanadas and staying true to her recipe has strengthened my relationship with my grandma. While I have never traveled to Quito, Ecuador's capital city, where she was born, the empanadas link me to my cultural roots." Student Writer

Once you decide on a topic, then you can proceed to write your college essay. Start here with this post about Writing a College Essay. Also, you can check out an upcoming College Essay Workshop .

essay topics for college entrance exam

essay topics for college entrance exam

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Your Guide to College Entrance Exams

Learn more about the three primary entrance exams—the SAT, ACT, and CLT—you can take when you're getting ready to apply for college.

[Featured image] A young man with glasses and a backpack smiles.

A college entrance exam is a standardized test that measures your college readiness through multiple choice questions that focus on several areas—most often reading, writing, and math—in order to gauge your comprehension, critical thinking, logic, and problem-solving abilities.

There are three primary college entrance exams you can take when you're getting ready to apply to college or university : the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) , the American College Test (ACT) , and the Classical Learning Test (CLT) . You may be asked to submit your exam scores as part of your overall application package. Typically, most schools accept SAT or ACT scores, with little preference about which you submit. However, the CLT is considered an alternative college entrance exam and not every school takes it.

While a growing number of institutions have stopped requiring standardized testing scores in an effort to promote greater equity among applicants, submitting your scores may strengthen your application or help you qualify for certain scholarships [ 1 ]. In this article, we'll discuss the SAT, ACT, and CLT, so you can determine which is the best college entrance exam to take—if you choose to take one.

High school students typically take the SAT during their junior year or early in their senior year, giving them enough time to receive their scores and possibly retake the test if they want. In 2021, 1.5 million students took the SAT [ 2 ]. You may be able to register for the SAT through your high school, or find a testing center through the College Board's website. 

SAT format and content

SAT takers have three hours to complete 154 multiple-choice questions. There are two key sections, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math, that are further broken down into the following sub-sections: 

SAT sectionNumber of questionsTime allotted
Reading52 questions65 minutes
Writing and Language44 questions35 minutes
Math (no calculator)20 questions25 minutes
Math (calculator)38 questions55 minutes

For the ERW section of the SAT, you'll be asked to read several passages from a range of texts (literature, history, science) and show an ability to comprehend and analyze the meaning of each one. You'll also be asked about vocabulary words and grammar.

In the math section , you'll need to answer questions drawing on algebra, geometry, and some trigonometry. One math section does not let you use a calculator, while the second math section does.



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After you've completed the SAT, you'll earn separate scores (between 200 and 800) for each of the ERW and math sections. Your composite score can range from 400 to 1600. Learn more about what constitutes a good SAT score .

You should receive your SAT scores approximately two to four weeks from your completion date [ 3 ]. You can also opt to have your scores sent directly to the colleges you plan on applying to. In that case, scores are sent to your chosen schools within ten days of receipt.   

As with the SAT, high school students tend to take the ACT during their junior year, to allow for retesting if necessary. In the US, the test is only offered seven months out of the year: February, April, June, July, September, October, and December.

If you’re interested in taking the ACT, many high schools offer onsite testing, so check with your guidance counselor to find out if your school serves as a testing location. You can also find testing centers through the ACT's website.

ACT format and content

The ACT consists of 215 multiple-choice questions, and you have two hours and fifty-five minutes to complete the test, which is broken down into four sections:

ACT sectionNumber of questionsTime allotted
English75 questions45 minutes
Math60 questions60 minutes
Reading35 questions40 minutes
Science35 questions40 minutes

With the reading section , you'll be asked to read, comprehend, and analyze passages; the English section tests your vocabulary and grammar knowledge; the math section draws on algebra, geometry, and some trigonometry; and the science section provides several science-based passages containing charts and graphs for you to use your logic skills to read, comprehend, and analyze them.

Like the SAT, the ACT doesn't penalize you for wrong answers, so it's a good idea to guess when you aren't sure. However, unlike the SAT, you're allowed to use a calculator on all math questions on the ACT. The ACT also has an optional writing section in which you'll complete an essay. Adding this to your ACT exam typically costs extra.

For each section, you'll receive a score from 1 to 36. Those numbers are then averaged to come up with your composite score. ACT composite scores also range from 1 to 36. Learn more about what a good ACT score is. Generally, you'll receive ACT scores two to eight weeks after testing. 

The CLT is a newer alternative to the SAT and ACT, and isn't as widely accepted. Over 200 colleges across the US accept the results of this test as part of your college application, so it's worth double-checking to make sure the schools you wish to apply to take CLT scores [ 4 ]. 

CLT format and content

The CLT takes two hours to complete a total of 120 questions, which are broken down into three sections:

Verbal reasoning40 questions40 minutes
Grammar and writing40 questions35 minutes
Quantitative reasoning40 questions45 minutes

The CLT emphasizes more of a classical education compared with the SAT and ACT. Unlike those exams, the CLT is administered in two ways:

1. You can take the test online with a remote proctor. This allows you to test from the comfort of your own home, using your desktop or laptop computer.

2. You can take the test at a designated testing site, which will be supervised by an in-person proctor. To register for an online exam or find testing sites in your area, you can visit the CLT website.

This entrance exam features very straightforward scoring: one point for each correct answer for a possible score of 120. You should receive your CLT score one to two weeks after testing. 

Preparing for a college entrance exam

Not sure which college entrance exam is right for you? We've broken down the SAT and ACT into a comparative guide to help you think through that choice. But no matter what type of college entrance exam you take, knowing how to prepare can make a world of difference when it comes to your score. Here are a few tips and strategies that can help:

Begin preparing about three months prior to your exam, and plan to study for at least three hours per week.

Purchase one of the test prep guides on the market to learn about the type of test you're taking.

Look into test-prep apps that offer simulated testing—and practice often. 

Re-familiarize yourself with standard math concepts and formulas. 

Read challenging articles or books and look up unfamiliar words. 

Enroll in a test-prep class, work with a study group, and/or hire a test-prep tutor. 

Give yourself enough time to retake a college entrance exam if needed.

Visit the College Board, ACT, or CLT website to get specifics about testing sites, dates, and times.

Explore further

Earn your bachelor's degree from prestigious universities on Coursera—many of which don't require a college entrance exam.

Article sources

KTLA. " Harvard Drops SAT and ACT Requirements Through 2026 , https://ktla.com/news/nationworld/harvard-drops-sat-and-act-test-requirements-through-2026/. Accessed January 12, 2023.

Inside Higher Ed. " 70,000 Fewer Took the SAT , https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2021/09/20/sat-annual-report-says-those-who-took-test-fell-700000." Accessed January 12, 2023.

The College Board. " When Do SAT Scores Come Out? , https://blog.collegeboard.org/when-do-sat-scores-come-out." Accessed January 12, 2023.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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College Entrance Exams — What Admissions Tests to Take and How to Prepare

High school students often have many questions regarding college tests. Which tests do colleges care about most? How do colleges use test scores? There are many different tests that high school students can take in preparation for college and college admissions.

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Top 7 Entrance Exams and College Tests

The main college entrance exams are the ACT and the SAT. The CLT is a newer alternative that is accepted by a small number of colleges. Colleges and universities, especially highly selective schools, may also require SAT Subject Tests. International students may be required to include a TOEFL score in their application to U.S. based schools.

How Do Colleges Use Entrance Exams?

College entrance exams are used by admissions counselors to evaluate applicants from different high schools and locations. For example, if an admissions counselor from one of the colleges in the pacific northwest is comparing an applicant from California with a 3.7 GPA to an applicant from New York with the same GPA—are the two students equally prepared, capable and meriting admission? Entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT help answer this question.

How important are test scores?

Some colleges require a minimum ACT or SAT score that applicants must have earned from an entrance exam in order to be admissible. Other schools look at the applicant holistically and utilize test scores as just one piece of the whole picture in making the admissions decision.

Many schools will publish the average SAT and ACT scores of incoming freshmen of the previous year. Knowing the average college entrance exam score for a university can help determine if you are a good candidate for admission at that school.

Colleges can also use test scores in other ways. In addition to qualifying a student for admission, a high test score can also qualify the student for merit-based scholarships. Math and English sections of college entrance exams are often used to place students in the appropriate first math and English classes at the university.

1. ACT (American College Test)

The ACT has four sections of multiple-choice questions (English, Math, Reading, and Science) plus an optional Writing section. The exam itself is 2 hours and 55 minutes or 3 hours 35 minutes with the Writing section. Each section is scored on a 1-36 scale. Your composite score is an average of the four sections with the highest score being a 36. The highest score possible on the Writing section is 12. The optional Writing section does not impact the composite score.

The four sections have the following time limits, with a 10-minute break after the Math section:

English: In this 75 multiple-choice section, students have 45 minutes to show their skills in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and rhetorical skills.

Math: This 60-minute section has 60 multiple-choice questions. Students are permitted to use a calculator from the list of approved calculators. Students will show their skills in Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry and are expected to know some basic formulas as they will not be provided.

Reading: Students will have 35 minutes to answer 40 multiple-choice questions on four passages (10 questions per passage). This reading comprehension test measures the ability to read closely, reason logically about texts, and integrate information.

Science: In the Science section, students have 35 minutes to answer 40 multiple-choice questions. Students read science-based passages utilizing graphs, charts, tables, and research. Students are asked to interpret data, analyze and evaluate scientific information (such as experimental results), draw conclusions, and make predictions.

ACT exams are offered seven Saturdays each year. When you register with ACT online, you will choose your test date and your testing site (often a local high school or college will host the exam). You need to register by the registration deadline for the date you choose, typically about a month prior to the exam. To register, you will need a computer with internet, a credit card or other payment, and a headshot photo. You will also be asked to provide information about your high school courses. Registration takes about 45 minutes.

2. SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)

There are two main sections of the SAT. You will earn a score from 200-800 for each section and your total score will be from 400 to 1600. The first section is called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and it is comprised of two tests: The Reading test and the Writing and Language test.

The second part of the SAT is the Math test, which has two portions: The Math Test—Calculator and the Math Test—No Calculator. The SAT is a three-hour exam, not including breaks, with an optional 50-minute essay. There is a 10-minute break between the Reading test and the Writing and Language test, plus a five-minute break between the two parts of the Math test.

Reading: This section allows 65 minutes for students to answer 52 multiple-choice questions based on five passages. The passages cover a variety of topics, but you can expect one from literature, history, and social studies, and two from science. The types of questions vary as well. You may be asked to find the main idea of a passage, determine the meaning of a word in context, and determine how the author’s word choice impacts the style and tone of a passage.

Writing and Language: In this section, you are asked to edit writing samples using standard English conventions, such as grammar and sentence structure, to improve sections of passages. You will be asked to improve word choice and to strengthen the argument of a passage. You have 35 minutes to answer the 44 multiple-choice questions in this section.

Math: Students have 80 minutes to complete the SAT Math test, which is divided into two parts. In the “No-Calculator” section, you have 25 minutes to answer 20 questions (15 multiple choice questions and 5 grid-in questions). In the “Math with Calculator” section, students have 55 minutes to answer 38 questions (30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-in questions).

Grid-in questions are also called “student-produced response questions.”  Instead of choosing the correct answer from a list of options, students must enter the answer they calculated using the grids provided on the answer sheet. SAT describes the areas of math covered in this test as Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math , as well as Additional Topics of Math that includes geometry and trigonometry.

SAT exams are offered seven Saturdays each year by the organization College Board®. When you register online, pay attention to the registration deadlines (approximately one month prior to each exam). You will choose the test date and location for your exam, upload a headshot photo and pay the registration fee.

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3. SAT Subject Tests

What are sat subject tests.

SAT Subject Tests are a collection of college entrance exams that focus on individual subjects. These tests can improve your admission credentials, however, not all colleges and universities require or consider SAT Subject Tests in their evaluation of applicants. As you prepare for college admissions, it is important to look at the requirements of each school you are interested in attending. If a college requires SAT Subject Tests, you should choose the subjects that you have recently covered in advanced classes—at honors, IB, or AP level, if possible.

There are 20 SAT Subject Tests, based on high school courses in the areas of history, English, foreign languages, science, and math. Each Subject Test takes one hour. The questions are all multiple-choice and you will earn a score of 200-800. Subject Tests are given six times a year, on the same days and locations as the SAT. However, when you register, pay close attention to the dates, as not all Subject Tests are offered each time.

4. CLT (Classic Learning Test)

What is the clt.

The new kid on the block of college entrance exams in the CLT. It remains to be seen if it will grow in mainstream acceptance. For now, the CLT is accepted at a small number of colleges—notably Catholic colleges, Catholic universities, protestant Christian schools, as well as some secular liberal arts schools. It offers a slightly shorter exam—just two hours (not counting the optional essay). The CLT is taken online, and scores are reported on the same day.

It’s worth noting that the CLT also allows students to score higher than a perfect 1600 on the SAT or 36 on the ACT, as these scores are comparable to 114 on the CLT. But students can score as high as 120 on the CLT, allowing for greater differentiation among top students.

5. AP Test (Advanced Placement Test)

Many high schools offer AP (Advanced Placement) courses. Content of AP courses must be approved by the College Board®, which is the same organization that administers the SAT and SAT Subject Tests). AP exams are standardized tests taken in May at the completion of each AP course to measure mastery of course content and skills. Scores are on a scale from 1 to 5. Scores of 3, 4, or 5 have the potential of earning you college credit.

Most AP exams are 2 to 3 hours in length. The 38 exams are unique, although the first part of the exam typically consists of multiple-choice questions and the second part consists of free-response questions.

While AP scores are not typically considered college entrance exams, it may be wise to include your scores when you apply to college if you have earned a high score. If your score meets the college’s guidelines for earning college credit, you will want to make sure to have your score(s) sent to the college you end up attending.

6. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

What is the toefl.

TOEFL tests are designed and administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service). This test provides a standardized way to measure the English skills of non-native speakers prior to enrolling in English-based colleges or other educational programs. TOEFL can be taken as a paper-based test but it is largely an internet-based test (TOEFL iBT is the full name of the test). The test is approximately 3 hours in length and has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The score range for the TOEFL iBT exam is 0-120. Each section has a scale of 0-30 and the four scores are added together to earn the composite score.

7. GED (General Education Development)

The GED is a credential that can take the place of a high school diploma, allowing a student who did not complete high school to apply to college. A GED is earned by passing the GED test, which covers four subject areas--Mathematical Reasoning, Reasoning Through Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science. The four subjects can be taken one at a time or all at once at an official GED test center.

Registration for the GED test is completed online. The test is $120 ($30 per subject area) and includes two free retakes per subject area. Scores for each subject range from 100 to 200. A passing score of 145 (150 in New Jersey) in each subject area is required to earn high school equivalency. A score of 165 is considered “college ready” and a score of 175 could earn college credit. The GED is accepted in lieu of a high school diploma at most US colleges. Online registration closes 7 days before the desired test dates.

ACT vs SAT - What’s the Difference?

Do colleges prefer the act or the sat.

Both the ACT and the SAT can be used for admission to any college or university in the USA. Some schools require or recommend the optional writing section these tests offer, so be sure to research the requirements of the schools you are interested in attending. It is true that some schools “prefer” one test over the other, but there are official conversion tables that colleges use to translate your ACT composite score into the comparable SAT score and vice versa. While the tests are similar in many ways, there are some differences that can help students determine which test is a better fit.

In the SAT, math makes up half your score. If a student typically does well in the math section, then the SAT may be the best choice. Math is only one-fourth of the composite score on the ACT.

The SAT may be better for students who struggle with running out of time on exams. The SAT averages 48 seconds for each Writing and Language problem, while the ACT allows for only 36 seconds per question. The SAT allows 75 seconds for each reading problem and 83 seconds on average for each math problem, while the ACT allows only 52.5 seconds per question in the Reading section and just 60 seconds each in the Math section. If a student can focus well and work quickly, the ACT can be a great fit.

Calculators and Math Formulas

The ACT allows the use of calculators for the entire math section. The SAT has two math sections: one which allows calculators and one which does not. The SAT provides a reference sheet that contains some of the formulas needed, specifically geometric math formulas and three math laws. The ACT does not provide any formulas; students need to remember them. 

Essay Content: Understanding the Argument vs Making the Argument

The optional essay section on the ACT requires you to read a short passage about an issue, then write an essay analyzing the different points of view—while also making the argument for your own opinion.

The optional SAT essay requires you to use evidence and reasoning to analyze the argument used by the author of a passage. Students are directed to avoid offering an opinion on the issue. In the SAT essay, you only need to demonstrate an understanding of the argument.

students studying in library with laptops

How to Prepare for College Entrance Exams

If you are in high school, it is not too early to start preparing. By junior year, you should have a good idea how to prepare for college and how to choose a college . The first step to prepare for a college entrance exam is to choose which exam you are going to take.

Most students find that if they take an ACT practice exam and an SAT practice exam (you can find practice exams online or from your school counselor), score them, and compare the scores, there is a clear choice for which exam is a better fit. If you score about the same on each practice exam, ask yourself if you prefer one test over the other and focus on the test you like best. Alternatively, if you took the PSAT exam, and also a preACT exam or ACT Aspire, you can use your test scores from these practice tests to help you choose which college entrance exam is best for you.

Although the best preparation for a college entrance exam is to take challenging high school classes and apply yourself to your schoolwork, it is also helpful to prepare for your ACT or SAT using a test prep program. You can pay a lot of money for the expertise of a tutor or test prep center, and the benefit of the individual expert help will maximize your time spent on test preparation.

There are more affordable ways to study for your entrance exam. You can buy an official test prep book from ACT or SAT. The book will include practice problems and test-taking tips to help you review your knowledge, learn important rules and common types of questions, and help manage your time on exam day.

You can also practice for free online. SAT has partnered with Kahn Academy to provide free online SAT exam preparation. ACT recently released ACT Academy , a free online test preparation resource. When practicing for entrance exams, self-discipline is key. If you are close to your exam date, schedule a regular time each day to practice testing.

Many students plan to take the ACT or the SAT multiple times. Students often find that they can improve their scores after learning from the first experience. Since it is advisable to complete your testing by the end of your junior year, it may be wise to register for your first exam at the end of sophomore year or by early spring of your junior year. If you are only going to take the test once, plan for one right at the end of junior year. This can help minimize the chances of forgetting something important during summer vacation.

Final Tips on College Entrance Exams

Don’t wait until the last possible test date to schedule your college entrance exam. Things can happen—for example, you may catch a cold and not be at your best. As you develop your list of preferred colleges, keep track of their admissions requirements and any information about how they evaluate test scores. Many colleges require that your test scores be sent directly from the testing agency (from ACT or SAT), while other schools will accept a test score if it is listed on your official high school transcript.

When you register for an ACT or SAT, you can choose to send your score to four colleges for free. Take advantage of this offer, unless you’d rather wait for the results. To send your score to a university, log in to your ACT or College Board account and order your test scores sent to the schools that need them. You may need to pay a fee for each score report. If you wait until the last minute and need the scores “rushed” you will be an additional fee for that.

Some colleges will “superscore” if you took the ACT or SAT multiple times. For the ACT there are four sections that make up the composite score but a superscore takes the highest score for each section (for up to 4 different test dates) and creates a new super composite score. If you’re interested in a college that superscores, it makes sense to take the entrance exam multiple times.

Remember to bring what you need on test day and avoid bringing any restricted items. You will be dismissed from the testing if you do not follow the policies and procedures (such as having your phone ring during the exam). Don’t bring a brand-new calculator—bring one you know well and make sure the batteries are going to last through the exam. Finally, get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast before the test.

College entrance exams are an important part of the college admissions process. These standardized tests help schools evaluate applicants from a variety of educational backgrounds. As you narrow your list of preferred colleges, research each school’s testing preferences and requirements. If a college accepts both the ACT and SAT, you can choose the test that best suits your skillset. Evaluate your strengths and your performance on practice exams to help you decide between the ACT and SAT tests. With proper planning and preparation, you’ll be ready to perform your best on test day.

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 113 perfect persuasive essay topics for any assignment.

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General Education


Do you need to write a persuasive essay but aren’t sure what topic to focus on? Were you thrilled when your teacher said you could write about whatever you wanted but are now overwhelmed by the possibilities? We’re here to help!

Read on for a list of 113 top-notch persuasive essay topics, organized into ten categories. To help get you started, we also discuss what a persuasive essay is, how to choose a great topic, and what tips to keep in mind as you write your persuasive essay.

What Is a Persuasive Essay?

In a persuasive essay, you attempt to convince readers to agree with your point of view on an argument. For example, an essay analyzing changes in Italian art during the Renaissance wouldn’t be a persuasive essay, because there’s no argument, but an essay where you argue that Italian art reached its peak during the Renaissance would be a persuasive essay because you’re trying to get your audience to agree with your viewpoint.

Persuasive and argumentative essays both try to convince readers to agree with the author, but the two essay types have key differences. Argumentative essays show a more balanced view of the issue and discuss both sides. Persuasive essays focus more heavily on the side the author agrees with. They also often include more of the author’s opinion than argumentative essays, which tend to use only facts and data to support their argument.

All persuasive essays have the following:

  • Introduction: Introduces the topic, explains why it’s important, and ends with the thesis.
  • Thesis: A sentence that sums up what the essay be discussing and what your stance on the issue is.
  • Reasons you believe your side of the argument: Why do you support the side you do? Typically each main point will have its own body paragraph.
  • Evidence supporting your argument: Facts or examples to back up your main points. Even though your opinion is allowed in persuasive essays more than most other essays, having concrete examples will make a stronger argument than relying on your opinion alone.
  • Conclusion: Restatement of thesis, summary of main points, and a recap of why the issue is important.

What Makes a Good Persuasive Essay Topic?

Theoretically, you could write a persuasive essay about any subject under the sun, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Certain topics are easier to write a strong persuasive essay on, and below are tips to follow when deciding what you should write about.

It’s a Topic You Care About

Obviously, it’s possible to write an essay about a topic you find completely boring. You’ve probably done it! However, if possible, it’s always better to choose a topic that you care about and are interested in. When this is the case, you’ll find doing the research more enjoyable, writing the essay easier, and your writing will likely be better because you’ll be more passionate about and informed on the topic.

You Have Enough Evidence to Support Your Argument

Just being passionate about a subject isn’t enough to make it a good persuasive essay topic, though. You need to make sure your argument is complex enough to have at least two potential sides to root for, and you need to be able to back up your side with evidence and examples. Even though persuasive essays allow your opinion to feature more than many other essays, you still need concrete evidence to back up your claims, or you’ll end up with a weak essay.

For example, you may passionately believe that mint chocolate chip ice cream is the best ice cream flavor (I agree!), but could you really write an entire essay on this? What would be your reasons for believing mint chocolate chip is the best (besides the fact that it’s delicious)? How would you support your belief? Have enough studies been done on preferred ice cream flavors to support an entire essay? When choosing a persuasive essay idea, you want to find the right balance between something you care about (so you can write well on it) and something the rest of the world cares about (so you can reference evidence to strengthen your position).

It’s a Manageable Topic

Bigger isn’t always better, especially with essay topics. While it may seem like a great idea to choose a huge, complex topic to write about, you’ll likely struggle to sift through all the information and different sides of the issue and winnow them down to one streamlined essay. For example, choosing to write an essay about how WWII impacted American life more than WWI wouldn’t be a great idea because you’d need to analyze all the impacts of both the wars in numerous areas of American life. It’d be a huge undertaking. A better idea would be to choose one impact on American life the wars had (such as changes in female employment) and focus on that. Doing so will make researching and writing your persuasive essay much more feasible.


List of 113 Good Persuasive Essay Topics

Below are over 100 persuasive essay ideas, organized into ten categories. When you find an idea that piques your interest, you’ll choose one side of it to argue for in your essay. For example, if you choose the topic, “should fracking be legal?” you’d decide whether you believe fracking should be legal or illegal, then you’d write an essay arguing all the reasons why your audience should agree with you.


  • Should students be required to learn an instrument in school?
  • Did the end of Game of Thrones fit with the rest of the series?
  • Can music be an effective way to treat mental illness?
  • With e-readers so popular, have libraries become obsolete?
  • Are the Harry Potter books more popular than they deserve to be?
  • Should music with offensive language come with a warning label?
  • What’s the best way for museums to get more people to visit?
  • Should students be able to substitute an art or music class for a PE class in school?
  • Are the Kardashians good or bad role models for young people?
  • Should people in higher income brackets pay more taxes?
  • Should all high school students be required to take a class on financial literacy?
  • Is it possible to achieve the American dream, or is it only a myth?
  • Is it better to spend a summer as an unpaid intern at a prestigious company or as a paid worker at a local store/restaurant?
  • Should the United States impose more or fewer tariffs?
  • Should college graduates have their student loans forgiven?
  • Should restaurants eliminate tipping and raise staff wages instead?
  • Should students learn cursive writing in school?
  • Which is more important: PE class or music class?
  • Is it better to have year-round school with shorter breaks throughout the year?
  • Should class rank be abolished in schools?
  • Should students be taught sex education in school?
  • Should students be able to attend public universities for free?
  • What’s the most effective way to change the behavior of school bullies?
  • Are the SAT and ACT accurate ways to measure intelligence?
  • Should students be able to learn sign language instead of a foreign language?
  • Do the benefits of Greek life at colleges outweigh the negatives?
  • Does doing homework actually help students learn more?
  • Why do students in many other countries score higher than American students on math exams?
  • Should parents/teachers be able to ban certain books from schools?
  • What’s the best way to reduce cheating in school?
  • Should colleges take a student’s race into account when making admissions decisions?
  • Should there be limits to free speech?
  • Should students be required to perform community service to graduate high school?
  • Should convicted felons who have completed their sentence be allowed to vote?
  • Should gun ownership be more tightly regulated?
  • Should recycling be made mandatory?
  • Should employers be required to offer paid leave to new parents?
  • Are there any circumstances where torture should be allowed?
  • Should children under the age of 18 be able to get plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons?
  • Should white supremacy groups be allowed to hold rallies in public places?
  • Does making abortion illegal make women more or less safe?
  • Does foreign aid actually help developing countries?
  • Are there times a person’s freedom of speech should be curtailed?
  • Should people over a certain age not be allowed to adopt children?


  • Should the minimum voting age be raised/lowered/kept the same?
  • Should Puerto Rico be granted statehood?
  • Should the United States build a border wall with Mexico?
  • Who should be the next person printed on American banknotes?
  • Should the United States’ military budget be reduced?
  • Did China’s one child policy have overall positive or negative impacts on the country?
  • Should DREAMers be granted US citizenship?
  • Is national security more important than individual privacy?
  • What responsibility does the government have to help homeless people?
  • Should the electoral college be abolished?
  • Should the US increase or decrease the number of refugees it allows in each year?
  • Should privately-run prisons be abolished?
  • Who was the most/least effective US president?
  • Will Brexit end up helping or harming the UK?


  • What’s the best way to reduce the spread of Ebola?
  • Is the Keto diet a safe and effective way to lose weight?
  • Should the FDA regulate vitamins and supplements more strictly?
  • Should public schools require all students who attend to be vaccinated?
  • Is eating genetically modified food safe?
  • What’s the best way to make health insurance more affordable?
  • What’s the best way to lower the teen pregnancy rate?
  • Should recreational marijuana be legalized nationwide?
  • Should birth control pills be available without a prescription?
  • Should pregnant women be forbidden from buying cigarettes and alcohol?
  • Why has anxiety increased in adolescents?
  • Are low-carb or low-fat diets more effective for weight loss?
  • What caused the destruction of the USS Maine?
  • Was King Arthur a mythical legend or actual Dark Ages king?
  • Was the US justified in dropping atomic bombs during WWII?
  • What was the primary cause of the Rwandan genocide?
  • What happened to the settlers of the Roanoke colony?
  • Was disagreement over slavery the primary cause of the US Civil War?
  • What has caused the numerous disappearances in the Bermuda triangle?
  • Should nuclear power be banned?
  • Is scientific testing on animals necessary?
  • Do zoos help or harm animals?
  • Should scientists be allowed to clone humans?
  • Should animals in circuses be banned?
  • Should fracking be legal?
  • Should people be allowed to keep exotic animals as pets?
  • What’s the best way to reduce illegal poaching in Africa?
  • What is the best way to reduce the impact of global warming?
  • Should euthanasia be legalized?
  • Is there legitimate evidence of extraterrestrial life?
  • Should people be banned from owning aggressive dog breeds?
  • Should the United States devote more money towards space exploration?
  • Should the government subsidize renewable forms of energy?
  • Is solar energy worth the cost?
  • Should stem cells be used in medicine?
  • Is it right for the US to leave the Paris Climate Agreement?
  • Should athletes who fail a drug test receive a lifetime ban from the sport?
  • Should college athletes receive a salary?
  • Should the NFL do more to prevent concussions in players?
  • Do PE classes help students stay in shape?
  • Should horse racing be banned?
  • Should cheerleading be considered a sport?
  • Should children younger than 18 be allowed to play tackle football?
  • Are the costs of hosting an Olympic Games worth it?
  • Can online schools be as effective as traditional schools?
  • Do violent video games encourage players to be violent in real life?
  • Should facial recognition technology be banned?
  • Does excessive social media use lead to depression/anxiety?
  • Has the rise of translation technology made knowing multiple languages obsolete?
  • Was Steve Jobs a visionary or just a great marketer?
  • Should social media be banned for children younger than a certain age?
  • Which 21st-century invention has had the largest impact on society?
  • Are ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft good or bad for society?
  • Should Facebook have done more to protect the privacy of its users?
  • Will technology end up increasing or decreasing inequality worldwide?


Tips for Writing a Strong Persuasive Essay

After you’ve chosen the perfect topic for your persuasive essay, your work isn’t over. Follow the three tips below to create a top-notch essay.

Do Your Research

Your argument will fall apart if you don’t fully understand the issue you’re discussing or you overlook an important piece of it. Readers won’t be convinced by someone who doesn’t know the subject, and you likely won’t persuade any of them to begin supporting your viewpoint. Before you begin writing a single word of your essay, research your topic thoroughly. Study different sources, learn about the different sides of the argument, ask anyone who’s an expert on the topic what their opinion is, etc. You might be tempted to start writing right away, but by doing your research, you’ll make the writing process much easier when the time comes.

Make Your Thesis Perfect

Your thesis is the most important sentence in your persuasive essay. Just by reading that single sentence, your audience should know exactly what topic you’ll be discussing and where you stand on the issue. You want your thesis to be crystal clear and to accurately set up the rest of your essay. Asking classmates or your teacher to look it over before you begin writing the rest of your essay can be a big help if you’re not entirely confident in your thesis.

Consider the Other Side

You’ll spend most of your essay focusing on your side of the argument since that’s what you want readers to come away believing. However, don’t think that means you can ignore other sides of the issue. In your essay, be sure to discuss the other side’s argument, as well as why you believe this view is weak or untrue. Researching all the different viewpoints and including them in your essay will increase the quality of your writing by making your essay more complete and nuanced.

Summary: Persuasive Essay Ideas

Good persuasive essay topics can be difficult to come up with, but in this guide we’ve created a list of 113 excellent essay topics for you to browse. The best persuasive essay ideas will be those that you are interested in, have enough evidence to support your argument, and aren’t too complicated to be summarized in an essay.

After you’ve chosen your essay topic, keep these three tips in mind when you begin writing:

  • Do your research
  • Make your thesis perfect
  • Consider the other side

What's Next?

Need ideas for a research paper topic as well?   Our guide to research paper topics has over 100 topics in ten categories so you can be sure to find the perfect topic for you. 

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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For most college students, the opposite of the word EASY is not the word complex or complicated, but the word ESSAY. Yes, you read it correctly. It may sound funny, but it’s true. Writing a college essay topic is indeed a challenge for many students. Perhaps, you consider it as a challenging task too.

Now, the biggest question is why is it so difficult to write a good college essay topic? Is it because you simply don’t know anything about the topic or don’t know which one to pick?

Moreover, how many of you graduated from college without writing a single essay? College life is intertwined with college essays; take it from admission to the last year before graduation.

Why do we have to write an essay when it pains most students? The simplest answer is that it shows or reveals what your perception of the world is and who you really are.

Well, rest all your worries. In this article, we have chosen 100 best college essay topics that can surely help you write a distinguishable essay worthy of an excellent mark.

Let’s cut this long wait and go through them one by one.

In this article:

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1. What topic interests me the most?

2. Why is this relevant to me?

3. How meaningful is it to me?

1. tell us your story., 2. having a positive attitude towards obstacles., 3. standing up for what you believe in., 4. identifying a problem and solving it., 5. a growth in your personal life., 6. is there anything that fascinates you, 7. everything is fine as long as it piques your interest., what is the best way to write personal essays, writing tips for compare and contrast essay topics for college, parts of a persuasive essay, argumentative essay structure, quick tips to make your fun essay work., conclusion:, how to choose a college essay topic.

Choosing the best college essay topic is quite challenging. However, it is still possible and a lot easier if you know how to narrow down the broad ideas into specific ones. Occasionally, teachers will give you choices as to what topics to cover, but sometimes they will just let you choose. So, how would you end up on the college essay topic that you will write?

To make things easier to understand, you can try following the tips and tricks of past students who have passed these tests. Then, you will get your ideas flowing and your thoughts moving.

Take a look at these three questions that you can use in selecting the best essay topic for you:

If your teacher gave you options on what to write about, you choose the one that catches your interest. You would be motivated to do research and share more about it if you were interested in knowing more about it. The same rule applies when your teacher lets you pick a topic for your essay.

An essay reflects the idea of the writer toward a specific topic. If you write something that you can relate to, then writing won’t be as hard as you thought it would be. With a relevant topic to write about, you can also give more realistic examples or explanations that most teachers or readers love.

When writing essays, you should always share something that has influenced or changed you (whether in your thoughts or actions). It will raise your game if you manage to give a resolution to your college essay topic. It will be meaningful and enjoyable to you and not to mention, to your readers.

Now, let’s have an example regarding how it works.

Answer: Football

Answer: Since I was a sophomore in high school, I have enjoyed it a lot.

3. How meaningful is it for me?

Answer: I realized that playing football is not just about fun. The game actually taught me the value of teamwork, friendship, and trust.

Answering the following questions will help you come up with a unique and interesting college essay topic.

Topic: “How Football Changed My Egocentric Behavior”

That’s how it works. What are you waiting for? Try it!

College Admission Essay Topics

College Admission Essay Topics

Entering university is probably the most important moment in a student’s life. This is the time students choose their life path. Before that, though, students have to be assessed and one of those assessments is writing an essay. 

College is a serious matter, so you have to undergo a series of assessments from the admission exams down to your admission essay. Each evaluation has a certain percentage that contributes to your total score. As you’ve probably guessed, the essay exam plays a vital role in your admission because it represents a high percentage of your total admission score.

So, how can you ace the college essay test? Well, rest all your worries because we are here to help you.

What are the usual college admission essay prompts that you should prepare for?

You should reflect on a personal trait or a meaningful relationship you have with someone. An honest personal statement will allow the admissions officers to see you for who you really are. Avoid picking something the admissions committee might already be aware of from your application form.

The idea of showing colleges your best self might seem counterintuitive, but overcoming challenges demonstrates strength, courage, and grit. Explain the impact of an obstacle on your life, no matter how big or small it was.

An excellent answer to this prompt might be a time when you challenged others or when your preconceived views were challenged. Choose this prompt if you can recount a relevant and specific experience. The admissions committee will not learn anything useful about you by reading thinly-phrased essays about a hot topic.

Provide a scenario or a dilemma and showcase the steps you took to resolve it. Admissions officers will appreciate knowing how you concluded that the problem was essential to you. They may also want to know how you solved the problem. Don’t forget to explain how it impacted your life.

A college admissions committee wants to see evidence of your growth and maturity. Share your sense of achievement or an event that shaped you. Colleges are seeking signs of personal growth, so share your learnings or moments of discovery.

Here’s a chance to write about something that matters to you. Don’t focus on what you think might impress the admission committee. Focus on what’s truly important to you. Colleges are seeking curious students, after all.

The question is entirely up to you. The topic you choose must demonstrate that you are much more than just grades and test scores. Research your topic deeply by asking why and how. There isn’t a single guideline to follow, except just one – be yourself. 

After knowing the usual college admissions essay prompts, it’s time for you to choose the actual topic.

Here’s a college essay topic list that will help you stand out and ace that admission exam.

  • A program you consider deploying at your college to respond to a known problem, such as a massive amount of trash on the campus.
  • A time when you mediated an argument between two people.
  • What do you do to make people’s lives easier, and do you develop apps or other tools that make this happen?
  • An experience when you tried to resolve a problematic situation at school while working as an intern or as a part-time employee.
  • The steps you took in detecting and fixing a programming error on a website or program.
  • The advantages of an academic major or a specific program in helping you achieve your academic or professional goals.
  • What kind of equipment or facility do you look forward to using on campus?
  • An experience where you had a memorable and positive interaction with faculty members or students at your school.
  • The purpose of your proposed club would be to raise awareness of a major issue.
  • An exciting study abroad program or a similar experience you are really looking forward to.

Personal Essay Topics for College

Personal Essay Topics for College

The most unforgettable experiences in life, whether good or bad, always end with a lesson learned. These life-changing personal experiences are the best personal college essay topics. Why? Simply because these essays will show who you are and how much you know about yourself.

You are the speaker, so you should use pronouns like I, our, my, me, and we. The writing is always subjective. It reflects the writer’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, and experiences. It’s not just about personal experiences, though. You have to find something engaging and worth sharing.

There are several things you can discuss in your personal essay. Things like stating your opinion about an issue, talking about a documentary you saw, telling a story, making a comparison between individuals, events, or anything else you can think of.

Regardless of your choice of topic, a strong hook is crucial for grabbing the audience’s attention. An interesting title will engage your readers and draw them in. Your thesis statement will be the most important aspect of your introduction.

In your essay’s body, explain the topic and go over the key points. It’s best to outline your paper beforehand. This strategy will help you write clearly and concisely. Begin each paragraph with new ideas. Use strong verbs and sensory details wherever possible.

A thought-provoking conclusion will help you illustrate how your experience contributed to and shaped your development and personality.

If you followed the tips mentioned above, you could generate and craft a good personal essay topic for college.

Most of the time, these personal college essay topics can also be used as college admission essay topics. These tell real situations and authentic experiences.

Here are personal college essay topics that can help you stand out among the rest.

  • A bad or self-destructive habit you kicked.
  • A favorite book which inspired you to write or read more.
  • Do you have a remarkable enthusiasm for international exchanges or learning languages?
  • How do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years?
  • Describe your most enjoyable hobby or interest and how it fits into your day-to-day routine.
  • A movie star or TV show you genuinely liked but is less appealing to you now (or vice versa)?
  • You became more aware of poverty because you (or someone you know) faced a change in socioeconomic status.
  • Something someone once said to you that caused you to realize you were wrong.
  • Documentaries that made you pay attention to a social, economic, or political issue happening in your country or the world.
  •  In terms of friendship, motivation, school, etc., what advice would you give yourself?

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College

It can be more fun to draw parallels between two people or objects than to discuss a single issue. If you like doing that, then you might consider writing a compare and contrast essays topics for college . These kinds of essays allow students to express their thoughts regarding certain contradictory issues.

Similar to other essays, compare and contrast essays are also crucial for the cognitive development of an individual. Besides, compare and contrast essays are essential in helping students enlist the positives and negatives to any given subject. As a result, the learning process becomes more comprehensive.

Also, as its name implies, compare and contrast essays discuss two or more subjects. Therefore, the objective is to discover and analyze differences and similarities between the subjects at hand.

Here are some best tips on how to write college-level compare and contrast essay topics.

1. Brainstorm and Create an Outline

Brainstorm, do a little research, if necessary, and write down three different topics on a blank sheet of paper. Once you choose your subjects, organize your ideas. Create a table that lists both the similar and unique features of each subject. Then arrange the information and create an outline for your essay.

2. Relate to Relevant Facts or Literature

Write a hook sentence based on examples of compare and contrast essays. It will influence how the reader feels about reading your text on a specific topic. You can use statistics, facts, etc., to instantly grab the reader’s interest.

3. Master the Proper Formatting and In-text citations

Citations are powerful evidence that will support your compare and contrast essay. Also, they should be used to make your text more persuasive.

Here is a list of compare and contrast essay topics for college level.

  • What is the connection between education and employment?
  • How do Master’s and Doctoral degrees differ?
  • Is being persuasive the same as being argumentative?
  • Is it better to learn remotely or in traditional classrooms?
  • 16th century pirates – heroes or a menace?
  • Professional vs Vocational Courses: Which is the better option?
  • Who has a tougher role to play: The UK Prime Minister or the US President?
  • Hollywood vs Broadway: Which is more sophisticated?
  • Unemployed Student and Employed Student: Who gets the best life in the future?
  • Research Paper and Essay: What is more responsible?
  • Which form of English is easier to use: American or English
  • Saving Money: Worth it or not?
  • Spending time partying vs getting a part-time job while in college?
  • Which college is better, private or public?
  • Electronic books or Printed books?
  • Seminars vs. Webinars: Which is more effective?
  • Written learning vs Oral learning
  • Obtaining knowledge from books or finding it via the Internet?
  • What is more productive: visiting a library or studying at home?
  • EQ or IQ: Which determines success?

Persuasive Essay Topics for College Students

Persuasive Essay Topics for College Students

Arguments, research, and ideas presented in a persuasive essay should sway the reader into accepting your perspective. Readers often explore persuasive essay topics in-depth and find something new and interesting that makes them want to learn about a topic even more.

Moreover, persuasive essays are more powerful than narratives. To sound convincing with any interesting persuasive essay topic , you have to remain on top of the hottest issues, discoveries, and trends. Plus, college students must possess the ability to do solid research, write well, and be familiar with academic standards such as MLA referencing.

Knowing the parts of a persuasive essay will help you write it with ease and control.

1. Introduction

This paragraph outlines the issue and why it should concern the reader.

2. Thesis Statement

This is still part of your introduction, and it is the point that you want your readers to believe in.

3. Counterargument

It is important to include the counterargument correctly at the beginning of your essay. Be sure to refute it with your main objections.

The body consists of paragraphs that provide credible evidence that support your thesis.

5. Conclusion

These last few paragraphs wrap up your essay by restating the thesis and summarizing the main points.

Here are some good persuasive essay topics for college that will make your reader get even more interested.

  • Feminists devalued motherhood because of its nature
  • The calorie content of meals should be disclosed
  • There is an unfair tax system currently in place
  • Patients with chronic diseases should not be placed in mental hospitals
  • It is unacceptable to sell weapons to the rest of the world
  • Distance learning is not for all
  • Online learning or e-learning is dangerous
  • The current High school system needs a reform
  • Local terrorism is more important than international criminal activity
  • Ads geared toward kids need to be restricted
  • Surviving disasters encourages people to value their existence more than others
  • Becoming more self-confident requires embarrassing moments in life
  • We need to expel bullies from school
  • A video game can be an educational tool
  • Playing sports is a good way to improve your career prospects
  • Life can be lived spontaneously for a number of reasons
  • The most important personal quality is kindness
  • Youth should make their own decision whether or not to join the military
  • You can do homework faster by listening to music
  • You should stay true to yourself in any  situation.

Argumentative Essay Topics for College

Argumentative Essay Topics for College

Argumentative essays are probably the most common writing assignments. To begin an argumentative essay, you need to choose a topic you can either argue for or against. This type of essay assignment requires extensive research of previously published material or literature.

Furthermore, the chosen argumentative essay topic for college may also require empirical research. This means the student should collect data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. A strong thesis and sound reasoning go hand in hand regardless of the amount or type of research that goes into an argumentative essay.

The structure of the argumentative essay relies on the following.

1. The thesis statement should be precise, concise, and purposeful

To begin a persuasive essay, students should define the topic in general terms. After that, you should explain why the matter is important or why readers need to be concerned about it. In the last section, students should present the thesis statement. If the student fails to master this aspect of the essay, composing an effective and persuasive essay will be much more difficult.

2. The introduction, body, and conclusion are all linked in a logical way

Transitions are essential to the essay’s structure. Throughout the essay, they serve as a link between each section, allowing the coherence of the argument to be maintained thoroughly.

3. The evidence-filled body paragraphs to support your arguments

Every paragraph should discuss one main idea to ensure clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, this makes the essay easier to read. A strong argument must be made for how and why every paragraph in the body of the essay supports the thesis statement. Some paragraphs directly support the thesis statement with facts and arguments gathered during the research.

4. The strong supporting evidence that keeps your thesis credible

A well-written, accurate, detailed, and current essay supports the thesis statement with accurate facts, logic, statistics, and anecdotes. Some statistical, factual, or anecdotal evidence should also be used to support the thesis. Although different points of view are considered when collecting evidence, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not directly aligned with the thesis.

5. The conclusion that restates the thesis and most important key points

A good conclusion will leave a lasting impression on the reader because it should be interesting, but also practical and logical. There is no need to present new information here, but rather summarise what you have already written.

Here are some interesting argumentative essay topics for college students.

  • Is it time to change how long high school students spend in school?
  • Are schools giving students enough chances to be creative?
  • Do school exams test knowledge or memory?
  • Arts education: how important is it?
  • Can gym help students perform better in every class they attend?
  • Who should have access to student records?
  • Does a child of an illegal immigrant have a right to public education?
  • How much group work should a student do in school?
  • Do you think your school day is too short?
  • Are you in favor of a longer school calendar?
  • Is it a good idea for schools to put tracking devices in students’ id cards?
  • Would it be okay to skip the senior year of high school?
  • How can you handle students who misbehave?
  • Is it okay for schools to use corporal punishment?
  • Should cyberbullying be punishable by schools?
  • What should schools do about bullying?
  • Would you say that standardized tests accurately measure your abilities?
  • Does it make sense for schools to award cash bonuses for high scores on tests?
  • Why should something you say on Facebook be grounds for getting fired?
  • Are girls being pressured too much to have a ‘perfect’ body?

Fun Essay Topics for College Students

Fun Essay Topics for College Students

A college essay can be fun too, because you can try to find sense in topics that are a bit unusual. Teachers also get tired of seeing the same ideas, structures, and same topics. Going out of the box often works for teachers or admission officers because their interest is instantly triggered.

What can you do to grab your tutor’s attention? Well, grading papers can be quite boring, so keep it fun, and he or she will remember you when the exercise is done. Eventually, you’ll see that to your benefit. In your fun college essay topic, you can be sarcastic, humorous, or ironic. But you need to make sure what you are writing about makes sense and is well-thought of.

  • Provide examples to support your ridiculous point.
  • Instead of discussing what should be done, discuss what should not be done.
  • When starting new sentences, remember to use effective transition words.

Here are some fun college essay topics that will make your readers laugh:

  • Does your surname mean anything to you?
  • Would you be an effective writer if you smoked pot?
  • Teenage workers: why do they have the worst jobs?
  • What is the best way to use your video gaming skills to get a good job?
  • Here’s what your driving instructor isn’t telling you.
  • The truth behind infomercials: is there any?
  • What’s the deal with funny animal videos?
  • Why should your parents support your gaming?
  • Mistakes that can no longer be corrected.
  • What do I like most about spam emails?
  • Does your pet dog know what you are thinking?
  • Health benefits of smoking.
  • Why do I want to be older than my brother?
  • Here are some reasons why you need your morning coffee.
  • Is it helpful to drink before exams?
  • Why do cats do what they do?
  • Success can be quickly attained by disobeying your parents.
  • It is always possible to read the minds of animals.
  • Is it necessary for every teenager to own an iPhone or a smartphone?
  • Students with little attention spans are the most successful students.

In a nutshell, we can say that college essay topics are quite hard to pull out, but with proper strategy it should not be a problem. Also, writing them is not as challenging if you know what you are writing and if what you are writing talks about you. You also learned in this article the interesting, unique and significant essay topics that your reader, teacher or admission officer will definitely love to read.

We hope that you don’t see essays as problems or challenges that you need to surpass at this point. Instead, look at them as an opportunity to show how you think, who you are, your beliefs, stands and points. Who knows, you might just become the great essayist of this current generation.

Let’s keep in mind that writing an ESSAY is an EASY task. What you think is what you become. If you will write an essay, and you feel negative, unhappy and uninterested, your output would be a disaster, and so would your assessment score. It’s better to be positive, happy and excited whenever you write essays, so your output would be as great as your feeling when you were writing it.

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SAT vs ACT: Comparing College Entrance Exams •

My Experience In The Examination Hall Essay | Essay on My Experience In The  Examination Hall for Students and Children in English

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My Experience In The Examination Hall Essay | Essay on My Experience In The Examination Hall for Students and Children in English

Analytical Writing Piece Year 9 Exam Selective Entry Test Victoria (Vic) -  YouTube

Analytical Writing Piece Year 9 Exam Selective Entry Test Victoria (Vic) - YouTube


  1. 30+ College Essay Examples

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  1. 3 Steps to Understand an Essay Question

  2. College Planning Bootcamp ft. The College Essay Guy

  3. How to Write Argumentative and Narrative Essay| USAT Preparation

  4. Write an essay on "Examination" || Essay Writing || Essay writing "Examination" || Exams Essay

  5. Avoid This College Essay Mistake



  1. Choosing Your College Essay Topic

    Your topic should be personal, original, and specific. Take time to brainstorm the right topic for you. Some topics are easier to make work than others, but it’s possible to write an exceptional essay from a common topic. Want …

  2. How to Write a College Essay

    Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a College Application Essay. 1. Explore essay prompts and select a topic. 2. Start your college essay outline before jumping in. 3.

  3. 53 Stellar College Essay Topics to Inspire You

    In addition to being specific, good college essay topics reveal to admissions officers who you are: your passions and interests, what is important to you, your best (or possibly even worst) qualities, what drives you, and so on.

  4. 35 College Essay Prompts and Topics

    Make sure to focus your essay around one or two focused and achievable goals. This is also a great opportunity to mention specifics about the college you’re applying to. With these prompts and ideas, you’ll be off to a great start on your college applications.

  5. 2021-22 Common Application Essay Prompts: Tips, Samples

    The best essays focus on self-analysis, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event. Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of …

  6. Popular Application Essay Topics

    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.

  7. Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback

    In the admissions essays, you are using an essay to convey something about yourself. You will probably be asked to write about the reasons you want to enter a specific field or college, an event in your life that helped shape you, or other personal subjects.

  8. College Admission Essay Topics: Best and Worst

    A great college admission essay makes the reader say something along the lines of, “Wow, I’ve never heard of someone who did/experienced that before.” Know what nearly everyone has experienced before? Winning or losing. More specifically, almost everyone has either won or lost a sports game.

  9. Application Requirements

    Examples include rigorous and relevant courses in computer science, statistics and its subfields, mathematical modeling, calculus, and other advanced math subjects. Students’ math records are viewed holistically, and no specific course is required. Specifically, calculus is not a requirement for admission to Harvard.

  10. Free Essay On Entrance Exams For Colleges Or Universities

    Free Essay On Entrance Exams For Colleges Or Universities Type of paper: Essay Topic: Education, Students, Information, Time, University, School, College, Attention Pages: 2 Words: 450 Published: 12/05/2019 ORDER PAPER LIKE THIS

  11. 19 College Essay Topics and Prompts

    Either way, a strong college essay conveys to the admissions team who you are, why you want to attend that particular school, and what matters to you. It's a way to personalize an application that often focuses on quantitative data, such as …

  12. Your Guide to College Entrance Exams

    College entrance exams attempt to measure your math, verbal, analytical, and writing skills. Many four-year colleges and universities use these tests. ... The essay test breaks down into three scores for reading, analysis, and writing -- each ranging from 2-8. The class of 2019 earned an average SAT score (excluding the essay) of 1068.

  13. University Entrance Examination Free Essay Example

    Custom essay writing Flashcards and Quizzes Literature Q&A Tools Thesis statement generator Alphabetizer Conclusion Generator Essay Rewriter Free plagiarism checker Paraphrasing Tool Read My Essay Hire Writer University Entrance Examination Categories:EducationExaminationUniversity About this essay Download paper Download …

  14. College Essay Topics for 2022

    While we never know the exact impact of the college essay on admissions, before COVID-19, 75% of admissions officers responded that they found the college essay to be a factor in their decisions. This shows that the college essay is important. The essay you write is guided by the college essay topics you choose.

  15. Your Guide to College Entrance Exams

    There are three primary college entrance exams you can take when you're getting ready to apply to college or university: the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), the American College Test (ACT), and the Classical Learning Test (CLT). You may be asked to submit your exam scores as part of your overall application package.

  16. College Entrance Exams

    Top 7 Entrance Exams and College Tests 1. ACT (American College Test) The ACT has four sections of multiple-choice questions (English, Math, Reading, and Science) plus an optional Writing section. The exam itself is 2 hours and 55 minutes or 3 hours 35 minutes with the Writing section. Each section is scored on a 1-36 scale.

  17. College Entrance Exam Essay Topics

    College Entrance Exam Essay Topics, Essay On Criminal Justice And Technology, Problem Statement Research Proposal Pdf, Esl Bibliography Proofreading Service For School, How To Write A Pa School Personal Statement, Cover Letter For Associate Director Of Admissions, CollegeEssay.org provides college essay writing services at the lowest cost.

  18. Essay Topics

    Essay Topics on Technology. Technology; Computer; Wonder Of Science; Mobile Phone; Internet; Newspaper; Science; Essay Topics on Festivals on Events. Diwali; Independence Day (15 August) Holi; Teachers Day; Summer Vacation; Christmas; Children’s Day; Swachh Bharat Abhiyan; Durga Puja; Janmashtami; Republic Day; Essay Topics on Education ...

  19. 113 Perfect Persuasive Essay Topics for Any Assignment

    List of 113 Good Persuasive Essay Topics. Below are over 100 persuasive essay ideas, organized into ten categories. When you find an idea that piques your interest, you’ll choose one side of it to argue for in your essay. For example, if you choose the topic, “should fracking be legal?” you’d decide whether you believe fracking should ...

  20. My College Entrance Exam Essay

    My College Entrance Exam Essay. Satisfactory Essays. 1173 Words. 5 Pages. Open Document. As the only child of an official and a professor of Politics Department, I was advised by my parents to choose Art rather than Science when I was in high school, but I insisted on studying science regardless of their rejection.

  21. Essay Topics For College Entrance Exam

    An admission essay, for example, from a premium writer will definitely get you into any college despite the toughness of the competition. Coursework, for example, written by premium essay writers will help you secure a positive course grade and foster your GPA.

  22. Top 100 College Essay Topics That Will Make You Stand Out

    Here are some best tips on how to write college-level compare and contrast essay topics. 1. Brainstorm and Create an Outline. Brainstorm, do a little research, if necessary, and write down three different topics on a blank sheet of paper. Once you choose your subjects, organize your ideas.

  23. Are College Entrance Exams Fair and Effective? Essay

    Open Document. A pervasive issue in education today is the college entrance exams. There are several college exams used in the United States and around the world. These include the SAT, the ACT and many other various versions of those tests. These tests are an unfair and ineffective measure to determine a student’s acceptance into college.

  24. Entrance exam essay topics

    Entrance exam essay topics by xmpp.3m.com . Example; StudyMoose. University Entrance Examination Free Essay Example StudyMoose. Entrance Examination System Free Essay Example ... 60+ College Essay Prompts for 2022-2023 Applicants Custom-Writing.org. 205 Essay Topics for Grade 8, 9, 10, 12 + Writing Tips [2023 Update] ...

  25. Common Universities Entrance Test Post Graduate

    CUET PG previous year question paper PDFs are available for download. Candidates can find CUET question paper 2022, 2021, and more in this article. CUET PG question paper consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. Part A of CUET PG question paper consists of 25 questions on language comprehension/speaking ability while Part B …