Brainstorming Tips for College Application Essays

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

college essay brainstorming tipsUse Spare Time During Your Summer Break to Brainstorm College Essay Topics


Brainstorming is the first step toward writing an authentic and compelling college admission essay. For some students, however, brainstorming can be a challenge.

If you’re applying to college this fall, now is the time to get started on your college application essays. The 2016-17 Common Application and the 2016-17 Coalition Application have already released their essay prompts, so students can get started on their applications earlier in the summer, leaving more time for supplements and other college prep in the fall.

The hardest part of the college application process is often choosing an essay topic. This is why it’s important for students to invest in essay brainstorming – colleges want to learn something new about you in the essay. The essay an opportunity to reveal something about yourself that’s not found anywhere else in the application, and for some students it can be hard to decide what to write about.

Here are some brainstorming tips for college admission essays.


One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read more! Reading sparks creativity and exposes students to new ways of thinking, writing, and can help them tap into parts of their imagination they didn’t know existed. Read books, poems, and even other admissions essays. Use other reading materials as inspiration and guidance toward an essay topic that showcases your unique personality and life experiences. Be careful not to borrow ideas, however. Your essay should be original. Don’t mistake copying or plagiarism for inspiration.

Think About an Impactful Moment

As we said before, colleges want to learn something new about you in the essay, so spend some time reflecting on some important and impactful moments in your life. Think of the essay as describing a snippet of time – not your whole life story. What events shaped you, changed you, or made an impression on you?

Talk to Friends, Family, Mentors, and More

The people who know you best can often offer some insight into what moments or events reveal something compelling about you. Spend some time bouncing ideas off of friends, your parents, teachers, counselors, and others. Sometimes brainstorming with others can lead you to ideas that you may not have come up with otherwise.

Make a List

Start writing down all of your essay ideas that come from your brainstorming sessions. Revisit the list every time you have a new idea and see what topics still resonate with you and which don’t. Sometimes a college application essay topic that sounded great a few days ago looses its luster after thinking about it for a while – or a new and better idea comes along. Don’t jump into writing right away while brainstorming college admission essay topics. Take some time to think about them and then move forward with those that speak to you the most.

Investing in brainstorming when writing your college application essays can go a long way toward saving time and allowing you to write a compelling piece that reveals something new and interesting about you. Use spare time during the summer to brainstorm, draft, and ultimately complete your college application essays.

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