Essay brainstorming meeting



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Essay Brainstorming Questions

At your upcoming “essay brainstorming meeting,” we will review your written responses to the following questions and help you select the best stories for your college essays. The best responses to the essay brainstorming questions are those that include good details about the story.


To give you an idea of what I’m looking for, here are some samples of responses that are NOT helpful:

  1. What are your favorite activities and hobbies? Why do you enjoy them? Soccer, community service, hanging out with friends.


2. Which of your high school activities (sports, drama, clubs, etc.) has had the most meaning for you and why? Soccer. Made friends, had fun.

Here are some samples of responses that ARE helpful:



  1. What are your favorite activities and hobbies? Why do you enjoy them?


I’ve always enjoyed acting and being on stage. I’m a ham—no question about it. That’s probably why I’ve stuck with drama for so long. There’s just something about that feeling when a curtain goes up and I know that 300 people are all watching me. I also really love playing the guitar even though I’m a pretty terrible guitarist. But it’s amazing how many of my favorite songs I can play while only knowing three chords.
2. Which of your high school activities (sports, drama, clubs, etc.) has had the most meaning for you and why?
Early on in high school, I decided to just accept the fact that I am a “drama geek.” That was one of the best decisions I ever made. After all, drama pretty much defined my high school experience. Everything that’s meant something to me in high school can be traced back to drama. I’ve spent nearly all my time rehearsing for the upcoming show, performing, or auditioning for my next role. Some of my best high school memories will likely involve the casts I’ve worked with and the late nights we spent together rehearsing. But mostly, my involvement in drama is what made me comfortable with who I am—a guy who can’t run a mile or throw a ball, but who can do a mean Hamlet.

THINK OF THE FOUR I’S:

BE: 1. INTROSPECTIVE 2. INSIGHTFUL
TALK ABOUT: 3. IMPACT 4. INFLUENCE

Please provide detailed written responses to at least 10 of the following 36 questions.
The more time you spend trying to provide thoughtful, revealing answers, the stronger your college essays will be. Please remember there are absolutely no right or wrong answers to these questions. Don’t second-guess yourself. Just think carefully and answer honestly. TYPE RIGHT ON THIS SHEET AND SAVE THE DOCUMENT AS Essay Brainstormer – the date. Then send back to me by the day before our Essay Brainstorming meeting.
Here’s a reminder about being detailed. Not one of the great essays that I’ve edited began as a result of one-word answers to the Essay Brainstorming Questions. It is not necessary to write a novel for each question, but the more time you put into this, the better your essays will be.


  1. If your best friend was going to introduce you to someone who has never met you, what would he/she say? What is a story (or stories) he/she would tell about you that would help the person understand you better and like you?




  1. Describe a moment or place when you experienced a sense of belonging, a sense of arrival, a sense of satisfaction, or dissatisfaction with yourself or others.



  1. What was your best day or experience? The worst?




  1. Is there anything you’ve done that, knowing what you know now, you would like to have done differently? Explain.



  1. What keeps you up at night?



  1. What drives you, what makes you tick?




  1. What was the most memorable experience you have had with a member of your family? How about a memorable experience with a friend?




  1. Describe a place you’ve visited that you enjoyed.



  1. What is something, no matter how trivial, that you really enjoy doing?




  1. What are some interesting or funny stories that your parents remember about you? Ask them ahead of time to think about this question.




  1. Tell me about an interesting conversation you’ve had, with whom? When? And what were the circumstances?



  1. Tell me about a favorite artifact, item and its significance; a photo, a rock/shell, something you hope to one day pass onto one of your children, a piece of jewelry, etc.?



  1. Tell me about a special memory when you felt especially close to someone.




  1. Tell me about a time when you surprised yourself: when you were especially mature, resolved something, etc.?




  1. Tell me about the relationships in your life: Grandparent: are you closer/more alike one grandparent than another? Parents: do you see traits of yours in one or both of your parents? Siblings: how do they annoy you? What do you love/admire about them? Friends: who has been there for you? Who have you been there for? Describe your family in one or two sentences. What is your “role” in your family? (For example, are you the comedian? The responsible older sibling? The performer or athlete?)


  1. What are the things that truly matter to you?



  1. Ask three people to give you three adjectives to describe you. List them. Which ones did you expect to hear? Which ones surprised you? Why?



  1. Put a microscope to your life. Take a look at the little things around you. Go to your room and look at what’s on the walls, what’s under the bed, the things you’ve kept since second grade, or what about the thing you threw away that you really miss now. Where in the house do you spend the most time? Look for inspiration right under your nose.



  1. What do you think about most of the time?



  1. What is your family like? Do you have any interesting rituals about dinners or board games or TV shows?



  1. What would you say about yourself if you had to omit any mention of your extracurricular activities?



  1. When you think about who you are or what you care about, is there a particular day, moment, or event that was important in shaping that?



  1. If you had a chance to eavesdrop at your own funeral, what would people say about you?



  1. If you had a day to do anything you wanted— no school, no work, no homework, no chores— what would you do?



  1. What do you want colleges to know about you?



  1. Do you have any special talents or skills? These might be significant things—like playing piano or acting—or they might be more trivial things like juggling, doing a back-flip, etc. Describe.


  1. Which of your high school activities (sports, drama, clubs, etc.) has had the most meaning for you and why? Be sure to answer the second part of this question in detail—your response will likely end up in one of your essays!


  1. Who in your life has been particularly influential or memorable?



  1. What are your favorite activities and hobbies? Why do you enjoy them?




  1. Is there a particular class you’ve taken (even if it wasn’t at school) that you really enjoyed? Explain.




  1. Describe your greatest success. Remember, this may not be something impressive to others, but rather, something of which you were very proud.




  1. What makes you special or unique (tough question…just think about how you are different from other people)? What do you think is your best quality?




  1. What is something you can’t do that you wish you could?




  1. What part about going to college are you most excited about?




  1. What have you done during your high school summers that have been particularly meaningful, memorable, or difficult?




  1. Have you worked any summer or after-school jobs? Describe.


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