What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Feature Common College Application Themes

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Sophie Alina in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



Theme #1: Relationships


One example of an effective application theme is relationships. For example, you might want your application to showcase your fascination with how relationships work and how this affects your values. 


If this is the case, you might write an essay about how your experience coaching youth soccer gave you a passion for teaching and reflecting on how helping children learn these skills was extremely rewarding. However, if you are more interested in psychology, you might discuss how you are fascinated by observing the psychology of different people and learning about how this impacts the way they interact in their relationships. 


Theme #2: Family


Another example of a possible application theme is the theme of family. If you have a tight-knit family, you might use this theme to focus on how close your family is despite your differences and struggles. 


Your essay might highlight how a relationship with a beloved grandparent has affected you and your values. Another strong essay under this theme might compare your relationship with this grandparent to a mentoring relationship or experience. Such essays would give your application a personal touch by highlighting your experiences and strong family values while also connecting these to your passions.


Theme #3: Effort


Another application theme that you can use is effort and perseverance. Sometimes hard work can be its own reward, and it is valuable to show admissions officers that you recognize this. An application theme that is centered on effort might showcase your experience working with an organization such as Habitat for Humanity. 


In your essay, you might describe how seeing so many people working hard to help others was extremely rewarding and had influenced your career goals. 


Theme #4: Leadership


One final application theme is leadership. This can be a very strong application theme because many colleges are passionate about recruiting students who are leaders within their schools and communities. 


For application with the theme of leadership, you might showcase your passion for social justice by writing an essay about your participation in an organization which aims to help underserved populations, such as refugees, people with disabilities, or other marginalized populations. 


How to Write an Essay that Highlights Your Application Theme


The best application themes and essays create a powerful narrative. They should be able to be applied to multiple elements of a student’s school and personal life, and the student should be able to reflect on how these experiences have affected their values and future goals. 


To understand if your essay is strong enough, we recommend using our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. This tool will make it easier to understand your essay’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you make your writing even more compelling.