Writing your college admissions essay can seem treacherous and similar to medieval torture. You stare at the blank computer screen unsure of what to write, or how to begin. You pace your bedroom floor thinking of ways to win over the admissions committee with a stellar theme and an eye-turning performance, yet one does not seem to exist. Soon you find yourself even more stressed out and frustrated at the mere thought of selling yourself and your talents that you can't quite identify.
Proper brainstorming is key to writing a standout college essay that conveys your personality and communicates your value as a future matriculating student. Here are 5 things to do when brainstorming your college admissions essay:
1. Review sample admissions essays.
Reading sample college admissions essays are a great way to help you in brainstorming ideas for your own essay. This exercise can ignite a topic that may work best for you as well as give you more vision into the essay writing process.
2. Review the essay prompt(s) and highlight keywords.
Knowing what the admissions committee wants is half the battle. Pay attention to the question(s) asked of you. For example, the University of Florida's 2016 admissions essay includes 4 topic choices. You can write about your inauguration speech, a time when your perspective changed, being either the villain or hero in a movie, or you can write about specific actions you plan to undertake as a student at the college.
There's a great deal of leeway in choosing what you want to write about. College essay topics are often open-ended and require deep insight into who you are. These topics also require descriptive avenues. Descriptive writing encompasses sensory details (sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch). Descriptive writing is limitless and that is the inherent purpose of the college admissions essay: there are no right or wrong answers, but what matters is how well you answer the question through creativity and uniqueness.
Before you begin, think about your major accomplishments, skills that help distinguish you, your favorite movies and movie characters you identify with, books that have influenced you, people who have impacted your life, difficult times in your life and struggles you have had to overcome, hobbies and activities that have contributed to significance in your life. These can all formulate into a standout college admissions essay.
3. Freewrite for 45 minutes.
Freewriting is a great way to get your thoughts down on paper without the pressure of having to write a formal and organized essay. Some students may find it easier to do a cluster map ofspecific keywords that the essay will focus on. I recommend taking a piece of notebook paper or a journal book and freewriting what comes to mind when thinking about the particular essay prompt. However, you want to create a comfortable work atmosphere when freewriting. Perhaps it requires sitting at Starbucks and sipping on a no-whip mocha Frappuccino while conveying your deepest thoughts about that time your perspective changed. Perhaps it requires sitting in the confines of your bedroom blasting your favorite station on Pandora or Spotify while rummaging through your favorite book collection. Choose a setting that makes you feel comfortable where your thoughts can flow easily and freely. Channel your innermost thoughts and let the pen or pencil capture those feelings.
4. Step away and breathe.
One of the most important concepts for stronger writing is taking a break and coming back with a fresh mind and clean set of eyes. Have a conversation with a friend or family member about your essay topic. They may provide greater insight and introspection into new ideas for you.
5. Create an outline of your essay from your freewriting.
Utilizing your freewriting to formulate your admissions essay is the last step of the brainstorming process. You will extrapolate key sentences from your freewriting and convert them into the structure and form of your essay. Some sentences might be extraneous, and others might piece together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. Some sentences will align more with the body paragraphs of an essay, where others may formulate a strong conclusion. Overall, you will be able to create a strutural framework for your essay that will continue to be filled with details in the revision process.
By following these steps, the brainstorming process for your college admissions essay will bring forth an amazing topic or theme that truly describes your persona in better detail with a winning attitude.