THE BLOG
10/19/2012 10:20 am ET | Updated Dec 19, 2012

10 Topics to Avoid in Your College Essays

It's mid-October, and that means college application panic time for high school seniors.

At this point, you've already nailed the ACT on the seventh try and received a glowing letter of recommendation from the genome lab where you interned last summer.

All that's left is that darn essay, arguably the only place on the whole application where you can let your "you" shine through... even if that "you" is conjured up by a college counselor.

No pressure here, but you should know that college admissions reps read thousands of these awkward teen musings. Your job is to make yours stand out -- without being so good that it's obvious you got professional help.

If you're planning on writing the essay yourself rather than hiring David Sedaris to do it for you, here is a handy list of five topics NOT to write about:

➢ The illness of a pet

➢ The death of a pet

➢ My internship at Prada in Milano

➢ I went to (fill in name of developing country) and learned that everyone there is just the same as the people in my hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut

➢ "Sports are a metaphor for life's more difficult lessons. Our team, faced with adversity, only triumphed when all the players realized that the whole is more than the sum of its parts."

Ah, but you say that a grown-up is assisting you? In that case, here are five topics to stay away from:

➢ Surviving a ponzi scheme

➢ I heart kale

➢ How a pilates Groupon changed my life

➢ How our contractor ripped my family off installing our outdoor firepit

➢ The words "aforementioned" and "heretofore" -- in fact, we advise thinking twice about using any compound word other than "snowman."

Now it's time to get to work. There's no point in procrastinating or being nervous just because this is far and away the most important piece of fluff you'll ever write.