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How to Come Up With Catchy Titles for College Essays

by Kristine Tucker, studioD

A catchy title is an ideal way to spur your professor's or your reader's interest in the topic you're writing about in a college essay. Even if your essay contains extensive research and has a serious tone, a thought-provoking title can make your paper stand out from the rest. If you're writing a college essay as part of your application for enrollment at a university, a captivating title could help your essay make a positive first impression.


Make a list of all the interesting words that come to your mind when you think about your topic. Don't worry about trying to formulate your title during the brainstorming session; let your thoughts flow freely. If your essay is about the portrayal of women in Emily Bronte's novel "Wuthering Heights," you might brainstorm words such as vulnerable, free-spirited, socially acceptable, trapped, guilty and rebellious. Use your list to craft a memorable title such as "Trapped Between Past and Future" or "Vulnerability -- Guilty by Obsession."


Create a witty title that involves a play on words. Hidden meanings, puns and unusual terms create mystery and suspense. The Bright Hub Education website encourages essay writers to use creative wordplay to develop titles that contain contrasting elements. Titles such as "Dictator by Day; Womanizer by Night," "Hungry for Money; Full of Pride" and "Coffee Today; Water Tomorrow" make a reader curious about your views on the topic. Do you support it or are you against it? Is it inherently good or evil? Are there advantages and disadvantages relevant to the subject? Wordplay is an intriguing way to approach your reading audience.

Two-Part Title

According to the English department at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a catchy title can be interesting and informative and help the reader understand where you're headed with your essay. The "Catchy Title: Descriptive Title" format makes it easy to do both. Titles such as "Life or Death: Survival Skills During the Black Death Epidemic" and "Is God Really Dead: The Impact of Communism on Religion" create interest and communicate the main goal of the essay. Use a colon to separate the thought-provoking part of your essay from the informative section.


Survey your friends and family members to uncover first impressions about your essay topic. You're not asking them to come up with a title for you, so don't tell them the purpose behind your inquisition. If you're writing a college application essay about an issue of personal importance such as bullying, gun control or animal cruelty, ask your parents or peers how they feel about the topic. Write down key words that stick in your mind as they're talking. This strategy for coming up with a catchy title could provide ideas, words or concepts you hadn't previously considered.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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