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Still looking for a college APPLICATION essay topic that will set you apart from the pack? Here are my Top Five Tips on finding compelling and memorable topics:

1. Start with a defining quality (curious, self-disciplined, creative), and then look for “times” or examples of when you either demonstrated this quality, had this quality challenged or developed this quality. Click HERE to find my Jumpstart Guide to help you with that approach. Don’t know your defining qualities? Click HERE to find them.

2. Try to find something “unexpected” to write about, either something that happened to you that no one would expect to happen to someone like you (you love knot-tying but got stuck in a tree because you used the wrong knot); or something you love or pursue that no one would ever expect of you (a football player who loves to bake cakes.); or some personal trait or characteristic that no one would guess has affected you (you are not even 5-feet-tall but wear a size 9 shoe.) Click HERE and HERE to read more about that.

3. Troll your past for “mundane” or everyday topics as opposed to ones you think might be impressive. Examples: The Day I Washed Dishes at My Dad’s Restaurant; People Think I’m Mean Because I Weigh 300 Pounds; How I Grew to Love Public Busses; I’m a Formal Guy Even Though I Live in Surf City. Click HERE for more posts on the power of mundane topics.

4. Read sample essays. If you are stuck, it’s so worth the little bit of time to get your hands on a cheap collection and skim through them. First, you will see the range of topics that other students have used, and chances are it will trigger your own ideas. Secondly, you will get a feel for the looser, narrative style and structure of these essays, which will help you write yours. Click HERE for books of sample essays. And HERE is a post with online sample essays.

5. Go down memory lane and try to remember “times” when you faced a problem. If you can find a problem, you will find a story. (Problems come in many different shapes and sizes: challenges, change, mistakes, obstacles, phobias, fears, bad luck, physical traits, etc.) If you have a little story (also called an anecdote), chances are you can write an engaging essay. Click HERE to learn more about how this works.

This post originally appeared on http://www.essayhell.com/2012/10/5-top-tips-on-finding-topics-for-college-admissions-essays.html on OCTOBER 27, 2012