College Admissions Guidance

Blog posts about college admissions topics such as essays, extracurriculars,  planning, mental health, etc.

Spend 20+ hours brainstorming your essay topics

application strategy essays senior year Sep 21, 2021
Trust me, it's worth the investment. I see too many students who come to me with well manicured essays, flowery writing, big big words. They hate my guts when I tell them the dreaded words... but you did not answer the prompt... Lot of this boils down to not spending enough time collecting the meet of your thoughts. It's almost like knowing what you want to talk about before even investing anytime knowing yourself to the core.

The main purpose of brainstorming 
  • Generate creative ideas for your personal essay. AOs (admissions officers) look for patterns and values behind each of the student's answers. Brainstorming is the first step to any writing assignment or activity you do. It is when you begin generating ideas, exploring those ideas, and developing what will become your topic, thesis, and, ultimately, your essays. 
  • Read on...
  • Brainstorming or listing is when you freely write down all ideas in the order in which they occur to you. Unlike free-writing, this technique requires the writer to record only ideas and phrases. We guide you to the same using questions. 
  • What is the role of brainstorming in essay writing? The ability to pick and choose which topic is more important or which should go before another is an enormous helping hand. And finally, brainstorming eases tension. You don't have to worry about that horrible feeling you get when you are halfway through writing an essay and you are all out of ideas.
  • Check out the document linked that explains an overall strategy for essays.
More tips directly from an AO I recently talked with
  • AOs don’t care about the story you mention... That should be no more than 20-30% of the essay. I want to know the So What... if you can’t give me examples of how your behavior changed... For e.g. I was president of the club. So what... Whom did that get you to grow,... How did that change your thinking... Trying Korean food the first time.. Made them open to change. What are you proud of yourself... Generosity, curiosity, tenacity, what value is important to you... As your AO I need to know that... Start with that... Now have I always had this? How have sharpened how have I leveraged it? The soccer essay... It’s about tenacity... I learned that from 2-days at soccer... I did it anyway... Tenacity gets results... I sharpened it and then I did my skill and applied
What’s the purpose of a personal statement and why brainstorm before it? 
Jennifer Blask, Executive Director for International Admissions at the University of Rochester, puts it beautifully: “So much of the college application is a recounting of things past—past grades, old classes, activities the student has participated in over several years. The essay is a chance for the student to share who they are now and what they will bring to our campus communities.” 
Basically, college admission officers are looking for three takeaways in your college essay: 

  • Who is this person? 
  • Will this person contribute something of value to our campus? 
  • Can this person write?