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IB extended essay topics, a thesis, or a major research project

Maybe you took a class titled “The History of Human Torture” or an elective where you watched the TV show The Wire for an entire semester. While adcoms may know what to expect from an elective class in sociology or creative writing, a brief explanation of what you took, why you took it, and how it enriched your education can provide readers insight into your passions and interests.

During the fall semester of my junior year, I took a class called “The History of Human Torture.” It is an interdisciplinary class that combines history, psychology, and literature to explore the concept of torture. We read a slave narrative by Harriet Jacobs, learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment, and studied the Cambodian Genocide from a historical perspective. This class helped me develop my passion for psychology and interest in studying how and why people use torture to control others.

If you spent your entire junior or senior year on a major project, you may wish to include the title of the project and a brief explanation. If your major project shows a commitment or an achievement to a specific field, especially one you may pursue academically in college, you may want to further explain the project. In addition, if your project required you to engage in an atypical amount of work or required novel research methods, you may want to mention that as well.

For instance, if you want to study English literature, you might briefly describe your thesis that explored “Queer Symbols in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry.” Alternatively, if your project on sleep deprivation included interviews with experts in the field from universities or actual research in a sleep lab, you should feel free to describe how your project went above and beyond what was expected of you to receive a good grade.

Quirky elective classes

You might also request a letter of recommendation from the professor who oversaw the project and kindly ask them to discuss it in their letter.

My IB extended essay topic, “Queer Symbols in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry,” explores how Dickinson uses allusions to Shakespeare’s plays and metaphors of motherhood to discuss the role of women in nineteenth-century America. I hope to pursue projects like this as an English Major.

My junior year research project, “Sleep Deprivation and its Effects on Children,” drew upon interviews from Stanford Professor Dr. William Dement (an expert on sleep) and research in Loyola University Chicago’s sleep lab. I took the subway to the Loyola campus twice a week for a semester to participate in research studies, which were crucial to my project’s conclusions. According to my research, I concluded that children who do not sleep enough are not just affected negatively physically. Sleep deprivation can also impact their ability to socialize with other students at school.

Should I use the Additional Information section to write about my parents’ divorce?

I grew up living in Section 8 housing in Riverside, California. My father was unable to work due to a back injury and my mom left us when I was 6. While government support helped, we often did not have enough money to eat more than one meal a day. We also did not have a car, which made it difficult to get around in an area with insufficient public transportation. The moment I turned 16, I spent much of my time working at a cheese factory to help support my family. Nonetheless, I still enrolled in AP and Honors courses and participated in choir during my lunch period.

That said, there is unfortunately still stigma surrounding many mental health conditions, so I advise you to speak with a college admissions professional about whether and how to include this information on your college application.

Family members: ily and all of your siblings won’t fit neatly into the application. The Additional Information section is a great place to include them. Make sure to include the same information requested in the main application, such as their age and educational backgrounds.

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