Every summer, several parents of soon-to-be seniors contact Creative Marbles to ask about finishing college application essays before the next school year starts. In parents’ minds, the thinking goes, “Summer’s a totally unstructured time. Less distractions with school work and after-school activities. The college essay is essential to a competitive application, and I want my son/daughter to be accepted to _______ college (or a college).” Students may understand their parents logic, yet the “less distractions with school work and after-school activities” may mean more time with friends, not time writing a college essay. In our experience, students begin the brainstorming process for the essay during summer, while drafting continues until the application deadlines in the fall.
Brainstorming is key to the entire essay. Since the college essay is biographical–asking students to condense their 17 years of life experience into 500 words or less, while writing within the topic limits of the prompt–brainstorming allows students to carefully consider each experience and how it will exemplify greater themes in a student’s life. One way to see the themes is to do a thorough brainstorm…over time. The unstructured nature of summer allows students pockets of time to free-think and let ideas percolate.
Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, is a University of California and Harvard trained educator and Partner at Creative Marbles Consultancy. You can contact Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org or, read her short biography.