A killer essay is a make or break part of your college app, and sets you up to be noticed when competing for scholarships. A good one takes some time to craft. “Written the night before” probably won’t cut it, but you can get off to a strong start with these pre-writing activities.

 

Fast & Furious

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Print out the essay prompts from the Common Application. Yes, they’re the same as the questions used last year.

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Pick one. I like the idea of placing them all face down in front of you (kind of like the old-school Memory game) and picking one up at random.

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Set a timer for 10 minutes and jot down anything that comes to mind.

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Repeat for a second prompt. You can spread this out over several days or do all of the prompts in one sitting but the idea is to get some ideas flowing and get some ideas about what your approach could be to each question.

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Save your answers for each (remember that binder I suggested?) and add ideas as they come to you. The goal is to get your creative thinking going and have some material to begin writing with.

P.S. This can be fun with friends. Pass out the prompts, hit the timer and when the buzzer sounds, share and discuss your ideas.

Sometimes, you gotta say what’s on your mind 

Instead of starting with pen and paper, try talking your way to the best ideas.

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Open up your voice memo app.

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Read the prompt(s) out loud.

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Record your answer to the question as you would in an interview.

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Transcribe what you adi onto paper and you’ve got some great material to work with.

As with the process above, you can easily do this one with friends who can help make it into a more interactive interview.

What makes it work?

You are not the first (or the last) to write a college essay. One way to get a feeling for the kind of piece you’re trying to craft is to read essays of others.

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Try searching for “college essays that worked” and you’ll have a treasure trove of inspiration.

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What is the tone, voice, and length of each? Did the writer find a unique angle or device that made the essay work?

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Highlight and save the pieces that speak to you to re-read when you start writing.

Happy Writing!

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