1. Have I selected
a topic that conveys something meaningful about my personality?
Will the reader walk
away with an enriched understanding of who you are? If you cannot answer
in the affirmative, then you have
probably chosen a topic that is too generic. Search harder to find a
subject for which you can take a more personal and original approach.
2. Am I painting a complete
portrait? You cannot write a
comprehensive essay that discusses everything you have ever done, but
you can aim to offer an argument that details the full range of what you
have to offer. If you choose only one topic, that topic should be broad
enough in scope to allow you to discuss layers of your skills and
characteristics. If you choose multiple topics, they should build upon
and supplement each other without becoming redundant.
3. Is my topic unique? It is hard to have
something entirely new to say, but you should at least have a fresh take
on your topic. If you recognize a lack of originality in your ideas, try
to be more specific and personal. The more specific you get, the lower
the risk of blending in with other applicants.
4. Will it keep my reader's
interest? It is true that good
writing can make any topic fascinating to read about, but there is no
need to start yourself off with a handicap. Choose a topic that will
naturally be of interest to any reader. For this criterion, it is
necessary to step back and view your topic objectively, or else consult
the opinion of others. If someone described the basic idea to you, would
you care enough to ask for more details?
5. Can I write a detailed
essay on this topic? You should make sure ahead of time that your topic is
fundamentally based on concrete evidence. If you are choosing specific
experiences or events, then the relevant details should be clearly
available. However, if your topic is more abstract, then you must be
prepared to back up any claims with concrete examples and illustrative
6. Does my topic answer the
overlook the very basic necessity of actually answering the question
posed. They think they can get away with a loosely adapted essay from
another application, or they simply do not take the time to review the
question carefully. Make sure the topic you choose gives you room to
address all parts of the question fully. Admissions officers could
perceive an irrelevant response as an indication of your carelessness or
lack of interest in their school.
7. Does it resort to
While creativity is
encouraged, there must be substance to make your tactics worthwhile. Do
not expect mere novelty to win you any points, and realize that you risk
coming across as frivolous. Also, there is a good chance that any
gimmicks you come up with have been done already.
8. Is the topic too
negative? As far as your topic
is concerned, the main idea should be focused on your positive
attributes. This does not mean, however, that you should not mention past
weaknesses that you have learned to overcome, as the emphasis there is
still on the strength you demonstrated.
9. Does my topic simply
repeat information found elsewhere on the application? Your topic should not
merely be a list of activities or a prose version of your résumé.
Rather, it should offer the kind of insight that only you can provide in
a personal manner.
10. Is my topic too
If you get a
sympathetic reader, a controversial topic might help you to stand out,
but you risk offending others and severely hurting your chances. You
would do better to search for a topic that makes you unique without
resorting to cheap shots or obvious cries for attention.
11. Will my topic inspire
pity? You can describe
misfortunes or a disadvantaged background, but do not use them as an
excuse for bad performances or to seek pity. Doing so not only could
sound manipulative, but also means that you have not emphasized your
strengths sufficiently. Thus, as in the case of weaknesses, you should
bring up obstacles in your past only to show how you have overcome them.