Expert guidance for all your college essays

Prompt’s Essay Specialists share tips to help you write better essays in less time

Get fresh essay tips in your inbox

All Posts

The Essay Topics That Get Into Harvard

Many college applicants feel they’re being tasked to create the next Mona Lisa when writing their college application essays. The problem? Most of those applicants have never touched a paintbrush in their lives.

Thankfully AdmitSee has shared an analysis of more than 15,000 successful applications in their database, all of which are available for your perusal at As it turns out, each college has their own unique personality that affects which applicants they will admit. Let’s find more about how your dream school’s personality affects the essay topics of the applicants they submit.

Schools Have Personality

And they like it when your essay does, too...

Once you’ve been accepted to colleges, the decision which to choose can be incredibly difficult – but sometimes, the harder choice to make is deciding where to apply in the first place. When crafting your college essay, first and foremost, it’s extremely important to know the schools that you’re applying to. Many applicants have never experienced the college admissions process. Relying on advice and research done by others can only get you so far, so it’s important to consider aspects beyond just name – student body, location, size, academics, and more. Fit is one of the most important parts of college, as it can directly impact a student’s level of happiness, thus affecting success. Too many students think about what sounds best, instead of working to understand whether the schools ideals align with their own.

Once you have a better understanding of why you’re applying to any given school, it will be much easier to fine-tune your essay based on the school. Writing about what’s most important to you will come across as more genuine than trying to figure out exactly what schools are looking for, and will offer more insight for schools to understand what you can offer on campus.

Words Are Important, Too

It just depends which words you choose

Just as it’s important to know your schools and do more research, it’s also important to pay close attention to what you write in your essay. The personal statement is the ideal time to showcase what isn’t already on your application – your personality, your background, and who you really are. Every student applying to college has a GPA and test scores, but not everyone can thoroughly relay who they are in fewer than 1,000 words.

As AdmitSee’s data shows, words can be important. In their recent study, AdmitSee found that Stanford is more interested in personality, while Harvard seems to be more interested in accomplishments. UPenn and Cornell favor goal-oriented essays, while Brown favored volunteer experience anecdotes. While other schools don’t necessarily have biases towards topics like these few schools do, it’s important to understand what the data shows. While Harvard and Stanford might not exclusively admit students based on their topics, students clearly choose words carefully based on their schools. In a similar study from AdmitSee, the words “mom” and “dad” occurred more in Stanford essays, while “mother” and “father” were more popular in successful Harvard essays. “Difficult” and “hard” experiences were more frequent in Harvard essays, while “passion”, “happy”, and “improve” were more prevalent in Stanford essays.

While the data isn’t necessarily absolute, it is important to recognize the importance of knowing your audience. Every school has a different community, so the ability to hone in on the key differences can help you craft your essay.

For Peers, By Peers

Check out AdmitSee before writing your college essays to access 15,000 successful applications and information that applicants traditionally were only able to obtain from pricey admissions consultants. They’re giving students the opportunity to understand the admissions process by increasing transparency, providing comprehensive content, and simplifying big data insights to at an affordable price (the service is free for students at Title I schools or for those from high-needs, low-income communities). Use AdmitSee to get perspectives from your peers and figure out how to approach telling your story to your dream school. Then, use Prompt to get professors quality feedback on a student budget.
Get a free college app essay review from an admissions expert

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

Get Your Essay Reviewed

Related Posts

The Big Reveal from Harvard’s Admissions Lawsuit: Essays Really, Really Matter

Good news for anyone deferred Early Decision/Early Action: It turns out that Harvard gets enough applican...
Brad Dec 21, 2020 4:08:27 PM

How to Write the University of Arizona Honors College Essay and the UA SALT Center Essay

The University of Arizona has supplemental essays for students who are applying to specific programs for ...
Lauren Dec 18, 2020 10:47:45 AM

How to Write the Boston College Engineering Essay: Showcasing Compassion and Intellectual Curiosity

Boston College’s Human-Centered Engineering program launches in Fall 2021. This exciting new program will...
Bex Dec 17, 2020 4:08:44 PM