Three Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises for some specific suggestions on how to brainstorm for your college essay. One of these prompts might spark an idea in your mind that would also be appropriate for the colleges to which you are applying. Rather, you should choose your topic based primarily on what subject will allow you to write the best essay.
The topic you initially like the most may not be the one that allows you to write the best possible essay. A thoughtful and well-written essay on a topic that might initially seem more mundane will benefit you far more than a dull or poorly-written essay on a more exciting-sounding topic. If you can find meaning and significance in a small incident, that can be incredibly compelling for your readers.
Drawing from your ordinary experiences to illustrate a larger point will make your essay all the more personal and revealing. Remember, the value of your essay is much more in how you write about your experiences than what experiences you write about.
Feel free to go back to your brainstormed pool of topics, or even to come up with something new entirely. Just make sure that you have enough time left to develop and edit your new essay appropriately. Want to make sure your essay topic is strong enough? Submit your essay to our free Peer Essay Review and get fast feedback on your college essay. The value of the experience and the point in writing about it lies not necessarily in what happened, but how it affected you, and in how you analyze and consider that effect.
Vivid and evocative details can turn an essay on a seemingly mundane topic into something truly fascinating. The key to writing a strong college application essay is in your delivery. It depends. For more information about choosing and developing a college application essay topic, you can check out the CollegeVine blog for tips and tricks. Our Essay Breakdown posts about how to write the school-specific essays for various top schools contain a wealth of good ideas.
Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. Still have questions about filling out the Common Application? Does your Common App essay actually stand out? Brainstorming College Essay Topics First of all, set aside the idea that you need to write your essay about something dramatic and unusual.
What makes an appropriate essay topic? This question can help you identify an issue that you are passionate about or a cause that matters a lot to you. What is your proudest accomplishment so far? What about it makes you feel proud? This question can reveal what you consider most important about yourself and what you want colleges to know about you.
When have you been the most nervous, and why were you nervous? And they are just 17 years old! Many students think that the essay is primarily about proving how accomplished they are academically, according to Urrutia Gedney. They want students who are well-rounded, who show character and resilience in difficult circumstances.
Experts like Watson and Urrutia Gedney agree that the everyday challenges students face often make the most compelling essay topics of all. These experiences might include taking care of younger siblings every day after school, for example, or picking up groceries for a grandparent, or working an after-school job to help the family cover rent.
Such experiences demonstrate qualities that colleges are looking for, including courage, grit, responsibility, leadership, and resilience. What has that weekend or after-school job taught you? How are you going to use that knowledge going forward? For Ernesto Ye Luo, it took many drafts and a college rejection to help him get there.
Ye Luo lived in Panama until the age of 10, when his family moved to San Francisco. He says his original essay, which he submitted to Middlebury College in his early decision application, covered too many topics. My essay was all over the place. Looking back, he thinks he may have been rejected, at least in part, because his essay was so scattered.
Ye Luo had a compelling story to tell. As a Chinese person in Panama, he never felt that he fit in. But in the US, he felt just as out of place. His family was very poor and lived in a cramped, one-room apartment. They shared a bathroom and kitchen with other tenants. Ye Luo became withdrawn and discouraged, and he was failing in school. His parents helped him turn things around. His family is Hakka, a Chinese ethnic group that has always faced discrimination.
That is our history. Ye Luo says that their words gave him a sense of pride and determination to succeed. I tried to adapt socially and academically. After Ye Luo rewrote his essay with a narrower, deeper focus, he was accepted by a number of colleges, including Wesleyan University, where he is now a freshman. At ScholarMatch, Watson uses freewriting exercises to help students start their essays. Students come to ScholarMatch workshops feeling nervous about the process. Freewriting helps kids relax and simply write; it also usually helps elicit an essay topic.
For the exercises, Watson asks students to write whatever comes into their minds. From the freewriting, he and other writing coaches help students identify points they can develop into an essay. At LA, Urrutia Gedney and volunteer coaches help students identify essay topics by asking questions like the following:. Many kids get overwhelmed by the format of the college essay. Instead, think about what you would say if the person was standing right in front of you.
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Notice how in this example, which is not a real example either but was written for illustrative purposes, the author chooses three specific aspects of the pandemic and devotes one bullet point to each. The author begins by describing a particular need supporting local businesses and what they did about it started a blog. This demonstrates the values of leadership and entrepreneurialism—even without naming the values explicitly, which is fine. The second bullet point addresses a separate value health , and the author gives evidence that the impact went beyond themselves—to their parents!
Again, the tone is straightforward, which works well. Like this:. Example 3 faced significant challenges :. Zuli, have you seen the scissors anywhere?! Life in quarantine was actually four lives squished together. Living in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles meant that internet speed was often slow and privacy was minimal. Although I was discouraged, I knew that the tension in our house came mostly from fear of uncertainty, not a lack of love.
I kept a level head and called a family meeting. Together, we organized a rotating schedule, marking off when we needed to be online. With this information, we created a system in which only two family members would be on the internet at any time. The people who were not busy would keep quiet or go outside to talk. In a matter of days, the internet was faster and the noise had gone down. I did what I could to make the best out of a difficult situation. And I learned how to hit pause when things got intense.
Using a slightly more creative approach is also fine. In fact, some readers may find it refreshing. The rest is pretty straightforward. Notice how, in this example, the author takes the framework of the first example essay and bends it into a more cohesive narrative. It still follows the same path i. It also gets a bit more creative with the intro, hooking readers with some intriguing sentence fragments.
If you want to do something a little unconventional, this is a good framework you can use. Also notice that the author still keeps all the relevant information here. Remember, important information like that should be included no matter which of these formats you use.
Use this Values List to identify values you gained or strengthened during the pandemic. Brainstorm examples to demonstrate each value e. Write one bullet point per value. Keep it succinct, as in the examples above. Know that writing about coronavirus in this section is also totally fine. If you do use this section, here are some general tips:. Probably keep the tone straightforward and factual. Value content over poetry. This is, after all, the Additional Information section.
Note that I say probably in the bullet points above. Could there be an exception to these tips? If you are that exception, rock on. Quick recap in case you skipped straight to this section:. Probably use the coronavirus-specific word section on the Common App.
That may be enough space to say what you want to say. Read the section above to see if that might be true for you. Part of your personal statement to your pandemic experience maybe because it connects to a topic you were considering anyway or. In other words, think of it as a chapter in your life as opposed to the whole book.
What was my main take-away from the pandemic? A simple way to figure that out is to look at this List of Needs and identify main needs that became more apparent to you during the pandemic. Example: Maybe you realized how much you needed community. Or structure. Or contribution. Whatever need s you identify, next answer: How did I work to meet that need during the pandemic?
In other words: How did you meet your need for community? Or structure? Or contribution? What did you actually do? Or how did I grow? A great way to figure out what you learned or how you grew is to pick from this List of Values. Try to identify values you connected with more deeply as a result of your work to meet your needs. How I tried to meet these needs: Hosted a virtual open mic with my class where my peers took turns reading and sharing their pandemic experiences.
Again, make this just one part of the larger story of your life. So, if possible, brainstorm other possible ideas using the resources above before you commit to this as your topic. Having said all this, if you still feel that describing your pandemic experience is The Best Way to Show Who You Are, then I recommend this structure:. Important: Make sure that only the start of your essay describes the challenges and their impact on you, then most of your essay is devoted to describing what you did about it and what you learned from the experience.
Because your goal with the personal statement is to demonstrate skills, qualities, values, and interests. Is that true? Is this your deepest story? Watch the lessons on your own or via the live option. Graduate School. Online Courses. Free Resources.
College Application Hub. Personal Statement. Supplemental Essays.
While sports competition is, of course, largely about winning, it is also about the means by which a player or team wins. Athletes who use any type of biotechnology give themselves an unfair advantage and disrupt the sense of fair play, and they should be banned from competition.
In the case of an argumentative essay, the evidence might be research. Write the body in a logical order. Some essays work well chronologically, where the events are presented in the same sequence that they happened in time. Argumentative essays are often emphatic, where the least important points are presented first and build up to the most important.
Tools like Citation Machine and EasyBib can help. In your conclusion, you wrap everything up in a neat package. Restate your thesis in a clear way without repeating it word for word. Leave your reader with a takeaway or something to think about. Unless we are willing to organize separate sporting events and leagues—an Olympics, say, for athletes who have opted for a boost from the test tube and another for athletes who have chosen to keep their bodies natural—we should ask from our athletes that they dazzle us less with extraordinary performance and more with the fruits of their hard work.
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