Once you have a list of ideas, you will need to narrow your choices. For each idea spend a few minutes thinking about what your essay might look like.
A key to writing a successful essay is that it must be original. Therefore, you need to eliminate any topics that would not yield an original essay. One of the best tests is employed by an admission officer who calls it the RULE OF THUMB. Basically, if he can cover the name of the author with his thumb and insert the name of any other applicant, then the essay is not original.
You can perform a similar test on your topics. Think about each topic and what you would write about. Now ask yourself if someone other than you could write this essay. If they could, then the odds are that it will not be original.
For example, let’s say that part of your list of possible essay topics includes the following two ideas…
My trip to France taught me that people everywhere are the same.
My Dad has been the biggest infl uence on my life.
Start with your first idea. In thinking about what you would write about, you decide that the best essay you could produce about your trip to France would be how you realized that while people speak different languages and have different customs we are all basically the same. As an example you might describe how you got to know your French host family and learned that they are concerned with the same issues as your American family.
Now ask yourself.
Are you the only one who could write this essay?
Do you think many other students have traveled to other countries and discovered the same thing?
Is your experience with your host family unique to you?
When you think about it, you will likely realize that there is a high probability that many students will write about travel or living abroad and that they too will focus on how they have learned that people from different countries are generally the same. This topic, at least in the way we have described it, is probably not going to be a very original essay. Both the topic is common and what you would write about (your approach) is common.
Next topic... Without a doubt, you already know that dads and moms are going to be common topics. After all, who is not influenced by their parents? So already you see that the topic may not be original.
But does this mean you should eliminate the idea? Not so fast. As you think about how your father has been an influence, you consider how every morning he wakes up to make you breakfast. You also realize that of his many breakfasts, his one specialty is banana pancakes and that he takes great pleasure in preparing this for you. You then think about what this act has taught you about dedication, commitment and not settling for anything but being the best.
Now ask yourself if another student could write this essay. How many will focus on their dads’ preparation of breakfast? How many will construct an essay around what they have learned from their dad through his perfection of banana pancakes? Even though dads are written about often, this approach is highly original. This topic may lead to a great essay after all.
Most students find that to be original they will have to fi nd a unique approach to what is often an ordinary topic. You don’t need to wrack your brain for an original topic. In many cases, you can be original in your approach to an ordinary topic.