Need help deciding between a few essay topics

I am planning out my essay and I’ve chosen to use my father as the theme of it. He is quite the character though, so I am not sure which aspect I should focus on. For reference, I am trying to major in Psychology, for a future in medicine.

Immigrant: Begin by giving context of the warzone he grew up in. Then fast forward to me being born and how he went back and finished college, even though he didn’t need to. Moral here is the how he taught me the importance of education

Cop: Talk about how he’s been a cop his whole life, and how witnessing all the hate cops get by the people around me made me more cautious before I judge someone. Moral here is he taught me the importance of public service (why I want to be in medicine), and how you shouldn’t be quick to label someone.

Ex-alcoholic: Talk shortly about growing up with my dad as an alcoholic, but focus more on him sobering up. Relate it to how I view addiction in our society today (I don’t want this to be a sob story). Moral is he taught me how to overcome challenges and more importantly inspired my interest in psychology and how addiction works. ( I have an EC related to this)

I could always combine all 3 and generalize the theme on how my dad is my role model, but I feel like I would be talking about him too much at that point and not about me. What do you guys think?

I think any of the essay topics are too much about him and not enough about you.


I agree with @lkg4answers. This is your personal statement and needs to focus on you.


I feel like the third one most resonates with me. So following your advice, how about I wrote about my views on addiction and included my dad as a personal anecdote? Or how else do you recommend I structure it?

So how should I change my focus while still including him?

Students are strongly warned not to write the story of their inspiring relative, but instead to write their own story. Of course, growing up as first gen in the US, as the child of a cop, and as the child of an alcoholic are your story, too, but is there anything else that you might want to tell schools about YOU, other than that you’re the child of an immigrant alcoholic who became a cop and who stopped drinking? What do you love? What do you want to become? What are your hopes and dreams? It is possible to write your own story, and still tangentially mention the immigrant cop vanquishing alcoholism, but not as the main part of your story.


Haha I did not plan to include all those topics, just throwing ideas in the air.

To answer your questions:
I love helping people and hope to one day become a psychiatrist possibly specializing in addiction, because addiction is very misunderstood in our society and as a result addicts are treated like they are subhuman. I could mention something about the war on drugs but I feel like that is too touchy of a subject.

First person essays are much much harder to write than most people (of any age) realize.

Back up and look at the purpose of the essay, in the context of your overall application. When an AO opens your file, they will probably spend 5-10 minutes reading it. In that time they have to:

  1. check out your stats (GPA, test scores), in context (the rigor of your courseload, how you stand relative to your class) to get a sense of what sort of academic student you are;

  2. look at your ECs: what do you spend your time on, what can be inferred about you from your participation in those ECs, and what sort of a member of your community/ies you are;

  3. read your three LoRs (GC, 2 teachers), to see what sort of a person you are to the academic people in your life; and

  4. with all of that info. read your essays to see what they can learn about you. Your essays are the place where you can fill in the gaps (parts of you that don’t show in the other sections) and/or link together different aspects of you to give a better, richer big picture of you.

So, start by thinking about the schools you care about the most- the ones you think are truly the best fit for you and where you are going. What do you want them to know about you, that they won’t already know (or might not realize) from the other parts of your app? If you had the Dean of Admissions in an elevator, what would say to convince them that you are a great fit for their college before you get to their floor? Can you think of an anecdote about you that shows that trait? Start there. If referencing your Dad makes sense in context, great- but lead with what it shows about you.

Remember that- unless you are applying to a direct entry major- the AO’s really don’t care about the “what” of what you say you want to do. You won’t impress them by your bona fides on why you are interested in addiction medicine: they know that a very high % of applicants change their goals within the first year of college (and they are fine with that! broadening your horizons is a lot of what first year is about). What they will be looking for is some sense of you, as a person with ideas and goals, who will be a positive addition to the college community.