My child and the essay coach brainstormed essay topics and came up with an accomplishment in the weight room, and the approach to that accomplishment, as the focus of the essay. I thought it sounded like a cliche muscle head sports idea - a topic everyone warns you about. The essay coach believes it doesn’t fall into that category because my child does pretty well academically (35 ACT, 4.0 GPA, challenging courses, AP’s, etc.)
It is more about how the essay is written than the topic. I always recommend starting with an outline or rough draft and seeing where/how things go.
IMO a good essay should: 1) say something about the applicant that isn’t elsewhere on the application and 2) give admission officers a reason (positive trait, accomplishment, etc.) that they would want to have the applicant on campus.
I don’t see the relevance of GPA, scores and classes to the issue of essay quality.
As for the essay itself, it depends on how it is written, as others have said. In general, a sport topic can do no harm but it is often a topic for young people. Weight room might be interesting if the story is good.
I think a really good essay could be written about how incredibly boring weight lifting is, or how exciting, or how time consuming. It’s not really about weight lifting and how successful or unsuccessful he was at it but about how he felt while doing it or how he used it to memorize poetry or math formulas.
The cliche essays are often about winning the big game or about losing it. Any subject can be good or bad
Sports are really important to a lot of students and essays about sports aren’t always a cliche. If it shows who they are, it’s fine. OTOH, be wary of the typical “I pushed myself to the limit, sweat pouring off my brow, and scored for the team just as timer buzzed…” AO’s have probably read something like that too many times, so maybe consider a different approach.
There are very few original ideas with essays. The Aos have read hundreds to thousands of these and yes, lots of them can sound the same. The trick here is how to make it your own, personal and maybe a twist. Without second guessing, it should be well written. There are many different ways you can go with this. Like each additional weight you put on can represent something about you.
I know someone that wrote about chess. She’s graduated MIT recently. It’s what you do with the subject matter not really the subject.
My kid wrote a unique sports essay about a very unique experience. It was very well received.
It was an essay no one else could write
It was his voice and his voice alone
It talked about how his experience shaped his outlook on education
It made him stand out as “the kid who…”
He happened to use the essay as his prefect speech at school and people were still talking about it the next week when we were on campus. Truthfully, when he told me what he was writing about (falls into two “don’t” categories: sports and something that isn’t recent) I tried to talk him out of it, but the way he pulled it together really worked.
Does it offer insight into what motivates your kid or suggest a facet of his personality that is both interesting and might potentially contribute to a broader community. Upon reading it would someone think I want to know more or that is someone that is “interesting”.
This is hardly a comprehensive list but hopefully you get where I am going. To paraphrase from Maya Angelou they might not remember the words but will the essay be compelling enough that they remember how it made them feel.
I promise it won’t be perfect (these are kids) but the subject matter alone won’t make it cliche if the real point of the essay is the personal narrative it highlights.