The Most Popular Topics for Essays
Essay writing actually begins in later elementary school, when students are asked to put a few paragraphs together on topics such as the following:
- What I did on vacation
- What is my favorite pet
- What I want to be when I finish school
Secondary School Essay Writing
From these early years, essay writing evolves into more complex structures and topics, and at the secondary level, students are writing essays of various types, to include the following popular topics:
- Narrative: Recounting an experience, such as the most frightening, the most exciting, or the most life-changing event in one’s life.
- Expository: Explaining something, such as, why teens use drugs, why a certain music genre is your favorite, why you admire a particular person, the consequences of doing poorly in school.
- Comparison/Contrast: Popular topics include the differences among various sub-populations in school (nerds, preps, jocks, etc.); the differences between daytime and nighttime shoppers; rural life versus city life; the differences between capitalism and socialism.
- Pro/Con: These topics are controversial and require a student to take a stand and defend it. Popular topics include: abortion, legalization of marijuana, biogenetic engineering, regulations for environmental protection, gay rights, and such.
- Literary Analyses: These essay topics may include character analyses or discussion of an author’s themes.
- Creative Essays: Students may be asked to respond to specific scenarios, such as: Choose an animal you would like to be and describe a day in your life; you have suddenly become king of a new country. What will you do in your first three days of reign; you wake up the opposite sex – describe your day.
Secondary students are given these essay assignments in order to stimulate their thinking, to force them to organize thoughts and ideas in logical ways, to produce grammatically correct writing, and to prepare them for their possible future writing assignments in college courses.
The College Admissions Essay
Part of any college application process will include one or more essays, with prompts. Students must respond to one or more of these prompts (there are usually options) and produce essays that are highly engaging, compelling, and creative, in order to stand out among the huge number of essays submitted by their competitors. These essays are typically described as “personal statements” because they ask students to describe and reflect upon key aspects or experiences of their lives. The most popular topics for these personal essays include the following:
- Identify and describe an individual who is a role model for you. What makes this person unique and what impact has s/he had on your life?
- Describe a time when you experienced failure. How did you deal with that failure, and how has that experienced changed you are you look toward your future?
- Describe an event in your life that significantly changed your philosophy or beliefs. What philosophy or belief was changed and how will this change affect your future?
- Identify and define three values you have that you believe will never change. How did you acquire these values, and what makes them so permanent in your life?
Students who produce such essays for college admissions often seek help and advice from experts in the field of writing. They have similar backgrounds, grades, and activities as other applicants, so the essay may be the only thing that separates them from the other candidates!
College Essay Writing
Once a student enters college, there is a required freshman English composition course that will be rigorous and demanding. Students will be expected to produce a large number of essays of all varieties and to produce them with sound organizational and grammatical skill. Failure to perform adequately in this course can result in academic probation, so it is really imperative that you write well or get the help you need to produce essays that meet instructors’ expectations. Generally, you can expect to be assigned the same types of essays that you wrote in high school, but there will be additional demands that you have a definite thesis that is clearly stated in your introduction, that you will have some research to back up your statements and/or opinions, and that your composition and grammatical skills will be more sophisticated. Popular topics may include:
- Is a college education worth the cost?
- What are the social pressures on college students?
- Faith is (is not) an essential part of life
- Working during college – good or bad?
- How to reduce debt while in college
- Value of public vs. private colleges
- Define feminism in the 21st century
- How would you solve the illegal immigration issue in the U.S.?
- Is technology making us smarter or dumber?
- Is the higher cost of organic food worth it?
Essay Writing in Non-English Courses
You can also expect to receive essay assignments in a wide variety of college coursework, most commonly in history, political science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and other general education requireds. Using what you have hopefully learned in your English comp course, you should be able to attack these topic-specific assignments with some confidence.
While you may not be majoring in a field that will require essay writing, and while you may feel that all of these writing assignments are irrelevant to your career goals, you should understand that these assignments force you to organize your thinking and to present points and arguments in logical and coherent ways – skills that you will need no matter what profession you enter.
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