With the Common Application and UC Application portals opening on August 1st, now is the time to make your portal accounts and draft your application essays! If you haven’t started drafting your essays over the summer, don’t worry!
In today’s blog, I’ll give you some ideas of how you can start brainstorming for your college application essays. This brainstorming activity may be best utilized if you have not read the application prompts yet, so that your mind is not held back by the prompts you have already seen. Also note that brainstorming for your college essays is not a task that will take only 10 or 15 minutes, but you should really set time out of your day to sit down and brainstorm.
Write Freely: When you are brainstorming, you want to write freely. Do not edit yourself or make changes at this stage, but write down everything that comes to your mind. Allow your stream of consciousness to flow. Big or small, you never know if an idea that you wrote down in your brainstorming stage could become a great basis for a main or supplemental essay.
During the brainstorming stage, it may be helpful to gather materials such as your resume or activities list so you can remember all of the things you’ve done so far in your life. Take a walk around your room to see if any of your trophies, art, or memorabilia spark ideas or feelings within you.
The next three points are the topics you can brainstorm about:
1. List Things Important to You - hobbies, activities, volunteering, social justice, goals, experiences, your background, people. Write down some important activities or aspects from the categories listed here. You can also create additional categories that have significance in your life. Take some time and really dig deep on the ideas you are writing down here.
2. List Qualities/Traits that you have: With this point and the last point, you want to spend time on brainstorming in order to dig past the surface on what you are writing down. With listing qualities and traits, you don’t want to be too vague or abstract in this area because it can be difficult to write good essays about those topics.
An easy way to find your top qualities and traits would be to do the values exercise! I did this exercise my freshman year of college in the student government club I was a part of and it really opened my eyes to what traits I really value.
This exercise is a great way to start thinking about the values that are truly important to you because maybe you have never thought about these before!
3. List some Stories, Senses, Settings that Relate to your Stories: With points one and two where you listed things important to you and qualities/traits that you have, now you want to use this session to come up with some stories, senses, and settings that relate to the ideas you have already come up with. Through writing down stories, senses, and settings, you will start to fill in some of the background information of your potential essays that will give your essays more voice. This will help to give your writing a human aspect so that your essays do not sound robotic or emotionless.
Finally, when brainstorming, writing, and editing your college application essays, you want to have the following questions always in mind:
Hopefully this brainstorming session can help spark some ideas to get you started! Good luck brainstorming, drafting, and editing your college application essays! If you want a Consultant on our team to review your college application essays, definitely check out our website at https://www.shcollegeconsulting.com/ to see the services that we offer! Happy brainstorming!
Rachel is the Founder of Study Hall College Consulting. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2020 where she double majored in Cognitive Science and Legal Studies. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.