Essay Topics – Incoming Freshmen

A key component of the college application process is the essay. The majority of Texas universities require two.  The third essay, which is optional, is also recommended by university admissions counselors for students with special circumstances. As it was explained to me by a counselor from Texas Tech, if your child is a borderline accept, the optional essay and teacher recommendations (covered in a future post) are reviewed to look for that something extra that makes the student a good fit (or not) for the university.  In our case, we lived overseas for seven years.  This influenced our children’s ideas about living abroad, their global view of the world and gave them an appreciation for what they have here in the US versus how other children live in developing countries.  Universities find this type of information useful.

It goes without saying, but, essays should be well-written, with proper spelling and grammar. They should be concise (no longer than one page), specific and not repeat what has already been included in the resume.  Imagine you are the admissions counselor at the University of Michigan and you have 35,000+ applications on your desk.  What makes a student stand out besides grades, extracurriculars and the like?  (Everyone who applies has those things to their credit.)  The answer: A well written, memorable essay.  The counselor doesn’t want to see a repeat of what has already been covered on the application in the essay – how boring!!!

There are loads of tips on the internet about writing stellar essays – Google it and you’ll see what I mean.  Also Collegeboard.Com has a whole section on the well written essay.  Here are some tips from the University of Texas.  Senior students enrolled in Katy ISD schools, work on an essay in their senior English class.  A good essay is a work in progress, it will develop over time.  A student should never submit their first draft – yikes!  Advice to you parents – read over them, red-pencil them, send them back for corrections.  Trust me, it’s worth the grief and the whining from your young adult ={

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Texas Essay Topics –  Following is a sample from the website (

These essays will be sent to BOTH the admissions and financial aid  (scholarship) offices of [insert uni name here].  The sample school in this example was Texas A&M.

All applicants must complete and save all required essays. These must be  submitted electronically via if you are applying for  scholarship. Once your application is submitted, these essay(s) will be  sent to both the admissions office (if required or optional at that  university) and the scholarship office at the university to which you are  applying. Use the links below to save all required essay(s) online before  submitting your application.

Topic A:          REQUIRED   

Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.

Topic B:          REQUIRED

Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the                significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.

Topic C:          optional

There may be personal information that you want considered as part of your admissions application. Write an essay describing that information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse learning environment.

Department Specific Essays

Submit this essay in place of Essay A when applying for admission to architecture, art history, design, studio art, or visual art studies/art education. (This is from University of Texas website)

Topic D:          Major-specific essay

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

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As mentioned in my previous post, there most likely will be additional essays or short answer topics that your student will need to be prepared to write about. Scholarship applications and department- or college-specific topics will be included in their writing assignments during the process. Some universities consider the department-specific as Topic D (see example above), while others are looking for a short-answer question. You’ll
have to research each university’s requirement as you go along.

There are generally two ways to submit essays, electronically and via snail mail.  In this day and age, electronically is the only way to go.  You eliminate the risk of the essay not arriving, being lost, or late for a submission deadline.  Make it easy on yourself, file it electronically.



About wagnerjb2011

Retired systems analyst and retired volunteer. For 12 years I volunteered at the International School of Hamburg (Germany) and in various schools in Texas. My first child, a son, graduated high school in 2009. I had an excellent mentor going into his senior year, who gave me wonderful advice about navigating the college application process. I again found this information quite handy as our second child, a daughter, found herself filing applications in 2011. Both made it into the schools of their choosing without much trepidation. I am a firm believer in paying things forward. So there you have it!
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