Jobs are a great source for topic ideas!!

6 Jul

My students have discovered some of their best topic ideas from their job experiences. I’m not sure why they make great fodder for college essays, but I believe that simply working for others naturally reveals a complimentary set of qualities, skills and values—humility, determination, perseverance, responsibility, people skills, industriousness, dependability, and the good old work ethic. It’s no coincidence that these are the same qualities and skills that you need to succeed in college—and what college admissions folks are looking for!

I also think work experiences often fall under the category of “mundane” topics–which is a good thing! Former students have written lively essays about working at places like Circuit City, a shoe store, ushering at a playhouse, serving gelato, washing dishes at fancy restaurant, bagging groceries at Ralph’s, working at Dunkin Donuts, etc. Most work places lack glamour, and that naturally makes them feel “real,” authentic and interesting. And although we have all worked in our lives, it’s always fun to learn about what it’s like at those places we never worked, no matter how pedestrian they seem (so the essays are naturally interesting to read).

When you think of past jobs, explore them for those other features that make great essays:

  • Something happened. (Look for a little story or moment or example to tell)
  • There was a problem. (Something went wrong; you messed up; you couldn’t do it correctly; you were scared; someone was in your way; etc.)
  • The event or context was “mundane,” meaning simple and common in nature. (in this case, your job or the related problem: cleaning houses, serving burgers, etc.)
  • You learned a lesson. (How you turned something negative into a positive.)
  • There was something “unexpected” about what happened or what you learned. (A twist/surprise)

4 Responses to “Jobs are a great source for topic ideas!!”

  1. collegeessaysolutions July 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Lots of good tips here. For more information on writing the college application essay, check out

  2. Frugal York September 3, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Thanks for leaving the comment at!
    This is a great site; my daughter will definitely be reading through it all.
    I’ll also be passing it on to the kids at school!

    • lagunawriter October 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

      thanks so much! i like to think there’s lots of information on this site that could help students who are struggling to write these cursed essays! i wish i knew more ways to get out the word.

      best of luck to your daughter!


  1. Jumpstart Your Personal Statement in 6 Simple Steps!! « No Fear College Admissions Essays - October 14, 2011

    […] or a crisis, although those can work, too. (HINT: Basic, everyday problems work best! Check out this post about “mundane” topics.) Here are other words for a conflict or problems: challenge, […]

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