Now we come to the moment of decision: choosing the essay topic.

You need to select the topic that speaks to you, that you feel most connected with, but you also have to avoid just writing whatever you feel like, you have to answer the question. Your essay must be focused. And hopefully you will leave a lasting impression on the admissions tutor who has to read dozens of essays each day.

Before selecting your essay topic, have a think about the following:

  • Have you selected a topic that describes something of personal importance in your life, with which you can use personal experiences as supporting details? E.g. the moment when your father came home from work and announced that you were all leaving your home country and going to live in ???
  • Can you offer valid supporting paragraphs to your essay topic? If you cannot easily think of supporting paragraphs with concrete examples, you should probably choose a different essay topic.
  • Can you fully answer the question within the word limit? Or will you end up writing a poor summary of something that might be interesting as a 4,000 word IB Extended Essay?
  • Can you keep the reader’s interest from the first word? The entire essay must be interesting, considering the fact admissions tutors will probably only spend a few minutes reading each essay. Grab the reader’s attention and keep it.

Contentious topics:

Be very wary of alienating or offending the reader. He or she may not share your political, religious or moral views. E.g. do not say everyone should worship your God, do not say the Republican Party is evil and the Democratic party is good, do not say abortion is good. You can, however, approach these topics and say how they impact you. Or you can provide a balanced essay that examines different viewpoints.

If you plan on writing something technical, then make sure you can make it interesting and not merely throw around complicated scientific words that may mean little to the admissions tutor.

Do not try to be funny.

Just a few thoughts: 

  • Will an admissions tutor remember your essay after reading hundreds of other essays? 
  • What will he/she remember about your topic? 
  • What will his/her lasting impression of you be?

Remember your essay is part of a whole, it must fit with the rest of your application. You should not repeat what is already listed elsewhere in your application, the admissions tutors are too busy to read the same thing twice.