A teenage perspective on failure, big dreams about the future, and role models. These are the usual essay topics that college applicants choose for their application essay, hoping that their perspective and knowledge would prompt admissions tutors to give them an unconditional offer. However, these topics have become dime a dozen. Pop culture has upheld superficiality these past years, so tutors might be looking for something else.
College application rules don't include a list of possible essay topics, which should give aspiring English major students a window of an opportunity. They can assign themselves any topics that they would like to write about. There's a catch, though. Tutors are likely to expect originality with a touch of quirkiness. Think about Henry David Thoreau's "Walden". Geography is not a favorite subject among teenagers, so most of them wouldn't know where Walden is located. (Some might confuse it with what instead.) Any would-be English major students should have read Thoreau's compilation of essays, one of the landmarks of the American Literature. If you want to make Thoreau's masterpiece relevant to the Millennials, then you can consider how far Waldo can take you. It implies the relevance of Thoreau's musings in the 21st century. (If you're up to the challenge, then you can attempt to reach out to the members of Generation Z. Channeling your inner Walden seems good enough.) This is one sample.
Quirkiness, if not handled properly, can end up messy (and cost your chance). If you do it right, then the admissions tutor will discover your voice as a writer. It might be too early to call for a celebration, but you'll like your chances. Success is for those who are willing to take a risk, and having more free rein to be different than the other applicants is the way to do it. Let's look at the other (possible) topics.
These Topics Can Test Your Creativity
Why do you want to go to college? It's an obvious question, which most college applicants wouldn't think of at first. It can grab the admissions tutor's attention right away, so you shouldn't think twice about it. If you're honest about your feelings, then you wouldn't hesitate to write down the very reason why you want to pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend college classes. You want to make new friends, which your tutor won't take it against you. Put it in perspective, like getting a degree is a milestone in your (young) life, and it will be more memorable when you have company. There's a sentimental tone behind it, which you must not be embarrassed about. (If you're writing a personal essay, then you're spot on.) You have a point if you discuss the opportunities that college education has to offer to you, of how it will make you a better individual. Be warned that many applicants have gone through this route. Think of another interesting topic if you can't be creative enough.
Yellow God or Sheba's Ring: Discuss H. Rider Haggard's Influence. Adventure fiction may not be the favorite genre of readers, but there's no doubt that adventure would be an important ingredient in other genres. For instance, Young-adult titles wouldn't be a yarn without the action. (Can you imagine Harry Potter leading a reclusive lifestyle?) In this regard, H, Rider Haggard's works would find their appeal among the young generation of readers. You may not be familiar with every title of Haggard's novels, but you have read the popular ones ("King Solomon's Mines") and the intriguing ones ("A Yellow God: an Idol of Africa"). You can dispute Haggard's claim about Englishmen being adventurous to the backbone, citing your first camping experience. (If you haven't explored the volcanic peaks in Hawaii, then don't imagine it. A first-hand account of anything can be entertaining and insightful.) A comparison with other titles is another option. (It's not a coincidence that Michael Crichton's "Congo" is mostly set in the Great Rift Valley. "She", Haggard's best work, would describe a lost city in the same region. Was it a civilization that predated Mesopotamia and Egypt? Make a guess.) Did Haggard's books inspired backpackers? You might have to refer to Alex Garland's "The Beach" if you want to make a compelling case. Share your traveling experience, be it near your home or far away.
Alien, dinosaur or robot? If you want a truly quirky topic, then nothing can top this one. It's not silly as most people would think (at first glance), as the question should require a knowledge in science fiction. Would you choose to be raised by alien, dinosaur or robot? Arthur C. Clarke may give you an insight, as "2001: A Space Odyssey" describes how an alien race would use a crystalline monolith to encourage the development of an intelligent life. Crichton's "Jurassic Park" should come in handy as well. (You can include polar dinosaurs and global warming. Can scientists discover preserved dinosaur fossils after all the ice is gone? Make sure that you don't touch on the Hollow Earth theory. It's more than you can handle.) Artificial intelligence is a relevant subject, as more and more people are wondering about the near future. Robots will replace men in the workplace, which will appeal to those who seek more time for their leisurely pursuits. Are you one of those people? It's all speculation, which will interest your tutor.
What will you gain from this task?
Standard essay topics will reveal the spirit of high achievers, but admissions tutors will likely lean towards the independent thinkers. If you're unaware of it, then you're one of those few who don't have a clue about reality television. And that's the problem with social media. (There's too much information on the Internet.) You'll read the classics (and write about it), so critical thinking is required foremost. You can show it off early on.
Is there a rise in quirky topics? The word is still out there, but don't be surprised if there are colleges which like to make it a norm. For upcoming English major students (like you), this will gauge the extent of your writing skills. It may not be a good indicator of your success in authorship, but you'll become aware of the areas (of your writing) that need improvement.
Keep in mind that these quirky topics won't be a burden to your application process. It doesn't alienate you from your college of choice. It's an opportunity in disguise. It can also be an example of hooks.