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College Essay Brainstorming

Posted by: Website Administrator on 9/7/2012

It’s September, and the fall semester is starting up.  This means it’s time to dig into your college application essays.  Before you start writing, however, you should probably do some reflecting and brainstorming.  Putting some work in before you write will allow you to spend less time figuring out what you want to say, and more time working on how to say it.  Here are some helpful tips to get you started brainstorming college essay ideas.

§  Check out the 2012-2013 Common Application prompts.  Chances are, you’ll be applying to at least one Common Application school, and the prompts are broad enough that schools that are not on the Common Application will probably ask you some of the same questions. Write them down and carry them around with you for a while. As ideas come to you, jot down some notes right then and there.

§  Admissions officers want to get to know you through your essay. They want to read an essay that is truly about you, or about something important to you. So spend some time thinking about what’s important to you. How you like to spend your free time…Why you want to go to college…What you cannot live without… Pondering ideas like these will help you identify some possible topics.

§  College essays don’t have to be about something important, either. You can start with some fun ideas like adjectives you would use to describe yourself, and a story that demonstrates each one. Think about how your friends and family would describe you. Make a list of some of your favorite things – books, subjects in school, quotes, movies, or TV shows. Brainstorming these ideas could give you a fun way to show colleges who you are. 

§  Free Write! Sometimes, the best ideas come out of no idea at all. Give yourself a generic prompt such as “I used to wish…” or, “I’m looking out a window…” and without thinking about it too much, write for 10 straight minutes in response. The result will not be a finished product, but you may be surprised to find some great raw material to use in your college essay.

§  Sometimes, great essays are inspired by specific experiences.  Think about some moments that have stood out to you since you’ve been in high school.  Remember, they don’t necessarily have to be impressive or important experiences, but they do have to show something unique and interesting about you.

Ideally, you should enjoy writing your college essay. If you enjoyed writing it, an admissions officer is more likely to enjoy reading it. Doing some pre-writing exercises and brainstorming activities will help you be more relaxed when you write your essay. You will feel less stressed and anxious, allowing your authentic and unique voice to shine through in your writing.