"There is an ongoing joke among college counselors about essays that students shouldn't write because every student does," says Ruderman.
"The 'study abroad essay' is very overused," he says. "The 'grandma essay,' which is when you write about your grandmother and how she's amazing, is nice, but I don't learn anything about you in the process."
Other overused topics include enduring an athletic injury or wanting to become a star, says Ruderman. "However, it's about how you approach it rather than the actual topic."
For instance, former Stanford admissions officer Grace Kim landed a full ride to Princeton University with an essay that some would say is cliche.
"Its funny, because I think my application essay is something I would advise students not to write about now," she tells CNBC Make It. "Often times we see essays about service trips that people do abroad and mine actually was about a trip that I took to Costa Rica with my church."
"I tell students to avoid writing about it just because it's often times a sort of cliche," says Kim, who currently works as a college consultant for education company LogicPrep. "If there's anything else that a student can highlight about themselves outside of that experience I would recommend they write about that instead."