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20 Brainstorming Ideas For College Essays

Another blog post about essays? Yup. That’s right.

Why? Because I’m working on essays with several seniors right now and, for the most part, it’s a painful process for them. Between homework and assignments for school, activities, and sports, it’s hard to find time to write your essay.

And while it’s hard to sit down and turn that blank piece of paper into something poetic, it’s ten times harder if you don’t even know what you want to write about. Sure, you have the Common App essay prompts to work off of, but which one is going to help you write the essay which will propel your application from good to great?

If this is you and you’re having a tough time just getting some ideas on paper, here are a few prompts to get your creative juices flowing:

  1. What is your favorite subject and why?
  2. How do you spend your time outside of school?
  3. What are your most unique talents?
  4. What is important to you?
  5. How has a moment in your life inspired you to be a different person?
  6. What is a life lesson that you’ve learned (especially if you learned it the hard way)?
  7. What are your greatest strengths?
  8. What are your weaknesses?
  9. What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever done?
  10. What is the most interesting place you’ve ever visited or travelled to?
  11. What is an accomplishment or achievement you are most proud of?
  12. What is an obstacle or challenge you have had to overcome?
  13. Who is someone in your life you are inspired by and why?
  14. What jobs have you held and what have you liked and disliked about them?
  15. How are you different from your friends or classmates?
  16. What is your relationship like with your family (think immediate and non-immediate family)?
  17. How would your best friend describe you?
  18. How would your parents describe you?
  19. How would your brother or sister (if you have either) describe you?
  20. If you had a “do-over” in your life, what is something you would do differently and why?

Some of these prompts require you to dig a little deeper than others, but at the end of the day they are all designed to do one thing: get you thinking about yourself. Because that’s what your essay is for; an opportunity to tell admissions counselors about awesome and wonderful you.

If you have questions about writing your college essay or would like some help getting unstuck from writer’s block, use the comment box below or email me directly at I would love to hear from you!

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