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A college application essay is the written portion of your college application. Think of it as a way to use your voice and give admissions counselors a glimpse into who you are (behind the GPA and test scores). Crafting the perfect essay can feel like the most overwhelming part of you college application. How do you communicate who you are in 650 words or less? Many students find themselves lacking inspiration at the start of their brainstorm. To overcome that hurdle, we have provided some tips to get your creative juices flowing.
Get inspired

Pick up a book or read some blogs. Highlight lines that resonate with you and jot down a few ideas behind why they resonated with you. Reading someone else’s stories can spark your own ideas and imagination. It can also help reaffirm the basics of good writing and provide you some style inspiration. If reading isn’t your thing, browse Ted Talks for some inspiration.

Write (or review) your resume

Your resume should be an autobiography of all your accomplishments, so take some time to either review or create your resume. This will allow you to recall all of the awesome experiences you’ve had (whether it be employment, extracurricular, or academic). As you assess your achievements, you may even come across an experience that can serve as the foundation to a great essay. Plus, it’s beneficial to have a well-written and up-to-date resume available, so this is a super productive exercise.

Check out sample college application essays

Often times, it’s useful to see how other individuals approached a task you’re struggling with. Their execution can certainly inspire your own. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should copy their work exactly. Many admissions offices do use to ensure your submission is truly YOUR masterpiece.

Make a list

Make a list of your strengths, unique life experiences, places you’ve traveled, and things you love. This is a great self-discovery activity to explore your own uniqueness. Experiment with how you record your ideas; try hand-writing this list, typing it, or even using voice to text to see which method helps the ideas flow most naturally for you.

Try free association

Free association is a fantastic brainstorming exercise because it really allows you to tap into your unconscious. Begin with any random word and just see where your train of thought takes you. Don’t fret over spelling or whether you’re choosing the “right” word. Simply let yourself write. You’ll likely start to notice some recurring themes. Be open because these premises might just lead you somewhere.

Keep on, keepin’ on

Don’t kill your own vibe by censoring yourself. Every idea is valid and can be tweaked to perfection. If you continually judge and doubt your work, you’ll quickly derail. Allow yourself to simply write. Openness and relaxation will lead to insight.

Step away from your essay

Yep, you heard that right. Staring at a blank screen or page isn’t helpful for your essay progress (or your eyes). Writer’s block is real; check out tips for conquering it here. Don’t just sit at your desk letting the stress build, get up and move around. Tackle some other homework, go for a walk, or chat with a friend. Time away from your beloved essay allows for a mental reboot. You’ll return feeling refreshed and ready to own your essay.

Two (or more) heads are better than one

Once you have an initial draft of your essay, get feedback. If you have teachers who offer help with college essays, take it! Another suggestion: create a Facebook group or utilize Google Drive to share your essays with a few trusted friends. That way, you will gain feedback from multiple perspectives.


Your college application essay will always be a work in progress. With all the revisions, it will take on countless versions. Though you may be several drafts in, be open to the possibility of new ideas and perspectives. You have been gathering the content for this your whole life, so remember the story is already there and ready to be written. Take these tips and enjoy the process of bringing your amazing story to life. Happy writing!