Five Prompts To Help Find Topics Worth Pursuing For Your Graduate School Or College Application Essay

Nobody sits down and writes a masterful application essay from start to finish. The best way to begin is to choose a topic that resonates with you. Choose to write about something that’s been on your mind recently, and just tell about it in detail. Don’t pass judgments or make moral pronouncements about what it means. Just write it down.

Here are a few prompts to help you get started:

  1. When you brush your teeth, or shower, or are performing some task that allows your mind to go where it wants to go – what do you think about?

2. Think of a conversation that keeps coming back to you because of something you said or didn’t say. Write out the conversation, word for word, as best you can.

​3. When you think of one of the people you respect the most, you likely “see” them in your mind’s eye. Capture that thought, and write what the person is doing. Be specific. What simple things are they doing in your memory or thought of them that are indicative of who they are?

4. Think about a discussion you had with someone else recently. Write down what they said, and what you said, verbatim (as close to the actual conversation as you can reproduce, with all imperfections included. Then, write a response to your position by taking a completely different view. Work to expose the flaws and bias of your initial position.

5. Think of the time when you decided what course of graduate school (or what degree) you were going to pursue. Who were you talking to at the time? What was said? What images and pictures went through your head as you envisioned what you would be doing through school, and once you graduated?

If you get started on one of these prompts but your mind starts in a different direction, follow it and start writing about wherever your mind takes you. As you are starting it’s most important to get ideas down on paper – either so that you can use them later, or so that your mind is freed to work beyond them.

ideas for college application essay

As you write, do not edit your thoughts and do not prevent yourself from writing something down because you think it’s unimportant, mundane, or silly. Write it all down – even the thoughts and details you don’t want to include, and edit later.

Keep These Things In Mind As You Write:

1. Keep a file open through your phone or laptop where you can jot down notes so that when an idea occurs to you, you can save it quickly.

2. Schedule a regular time to work on your essay. Do not expect to write a great essay in two or three drafts. Remember that your typical effort is likely going to be average (in other words, a C grade) when it comes to vying for a position in your preferred school.

3. Choose a package that will work for you – then let’s get started.