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  • Genine Babakian

Brainstorm Your Way to Your Best College Essay

The sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing the topic for your college essay. For many students, this makes it that much harder to decide. But don’t settle. Brainstorm. This is your chance to tell your story, to stand out from the crowd. You don’t want to choose a topic that doesn’t allow you to do that. If your topic does not inspire you, or allow you to tell that story, then choose another.

The good news is, brainstorming is the fun part. The part when you can write freely, without the tyranny of grammar or spelling. You might not even write at all. Record a sentence or two that pops you’re your head as you are waiting on line at CVS. Keep a running word doc with random thoughts. The point of the brainstorming period is to collect ideas. Then you can see what sticks.

How do you brainstorm, you might ask? First, make sure you have no distractions. This is not a time for multi-tasking (or binge-watching Netflix). Then, open your laptop (or pull out a pen and paper) and set a timer for five minutes. Are you with me so far? Now, choose one of the topics below and write about it for five minutes.

• Write about your favorite 5 minutes of the day.

• Describe your best friend to your worst enemy.

• Write about something that has changed for the worse during your life. Or for the better.

• Write about the dullest thing you do all day.

Don’t overthink this. Or pre-plan. Just write until the timer dings. If you feel like it, you can start again and choose another topic, or move to the list below, and set your timer for ten minutes. Try to fill out as many answers for the topics below as you can. No more than a sentence! The idea is not to focus on one but to jot down ideas quickly and generate a list. You never know which response may lead you to a topic you wish to write about.

Think of these brainstorming sessions as gathering the building blocks for your college essay. You may not use all of the materials, but the process will help guide you. And remember: Personal is the operative word in personal statement. It’s all about you.

Stay tuned for more tips on writing your best college essay. And for more information on one-on-one college essay coaching, check out:

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