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I need help figuring out what to write about

nattileenattilee 250 replies24 postsRegistered User Junior Member
edited August 2010 in College Essays
So, here's the thing.. I really want to get a head start on my essays and everything and get them all done before school. But I haven't started because I keep thinking and thinking but I don't know what to write about! I'm usually a really good writer, it's just getting started is so hard! >.<

I want to write an essay that will highlight the hardships I've overcome without seeming whiny or dramatic, but I just don't know how to go about doing that... But the hard ships aren't even that bad :/ I'm really poor, have always been. But never to the point of homelessness.

Anyway, I was also thinking I could write about my niece. But that just seems rather trite/common to me. I would write about how her coming into this world really affected me, and how helping to take care of her has changed me.

Also, this is my brother's daughter. My brother's going to have his second kid in september. My sister is due to have a kid in about two weeks. My childhood best friend's son just turned one. So I was wondering if maybe it would be ok to write an essay about all this babymaking going on around me, and this epidemic with poor people of the babies, and how it all relates back to me. But I dunno if that would be absurd..

>.< I have made a list of topics, but I just don't feel like anything is right. So, does anyone have any advice? Any of the new college students went through this last year? Mm..
edited August 2010
22 replies
Post edited by nattilee on
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Replies to: I need help figuring out what to write about

  • legendofmaxlegendofmax 4528 replies209 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    IMO writing about something anecdotal is a good idea. Try to think of an event if your life that may seem innocuous/small/useless/mundane at first, but write about it in a way that shows a greater implication or meaning behind it. For instance, instead of writing a general topic about my niece, I might write a story about some quirky habit of hers and somehow tie the anecdote to myself as a way for the reader to learn more. You get more creative freedom, and it's generally more interesting to read (nobody wants to read a long, trite, expository essay).

    I personally wrote about a time in my life when I first bought a Rubik's Cube.
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  • elaslawekelaslawek 923 replies214 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Here's some advice if you don't know what your essay topic is going to be - Just write. Take a paper or use the computer and set an hour of time for you just to write an essay about something, about anything, that could be used for a college essay. Think to yourself that you have only one hour to write an essay that is going to be sent to your top college, so let your emotions speak. You could surely start with one of the topics you mentioned, and see how it comes out. I'd do this for maybe 5-6 essays and see where that takes your brain in terms of what you want to write for your college essay.
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  • nattileenattilee 250 replies24 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thank you guys, both seem like good ideas. I realized I want to write about my niece as the 150 word activity section (cause i put taking care of her down as a family responsibility), so that's off the list.

    I realized I might want to write about my dad, our odd relationship, and how it's influenced me. Is this too common? If I did write about it, I would want to include a song that is really special in terms of it has always been 'my song' since I was a kid. It helps to describe my relationship with my dad. Is quoting song lyrics a bad idea for your essay?
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  • BrownParentBrownParent 12597 replies179 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I also suggest that you put aside the idea of writing and completing your entire essay for a moment. My daughter's school had a pre-school bonding camping exercise for Seniors and part of it was devoted to doing some mini essay prompts. Not to get the whole essay done, but just to start writing and getting the ideas flowing. These prompts were not necessarily what they though they should write about, just little exercises. Sometimes a train of thought can take you somewhere and suggest a new idea. So do some exercises first.

    You can look at colleges websites to see unique prompts. Use these as exercises, you might even find a seed of your essay in one. University of Chicago is famous for quirky essay prompts and my daughter used a ridiculous question to fashion an insightful essay that demonstrated her passions, her work ethic and her quirkiness and wit. I can PM you some details.

    Overall you want to show some insight into yourself and what makes you tick and always avoid cliche. Just start writing and see what comes out, you only go in circles in your head, you don't write by thinking, you write by writing.
    https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/pdfs/PastPresentEssayQs.pdf

    And please don't be afraid to write extemporaneously, then edit later. An essay never appears fully formed on the page. It is all about rewrite, and rewrite again.
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  • collegeattemptcollegeattempt 169 replies22 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I agree with elaslawek--just write about whatever is on your mind. Sooner or later, you'll reread something you've written and think, "Wow! This is definitely my essay."

    Also, do NOT worry about writing about a "common topic" that other people may use in their essays: because "...in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

    --C.S Lewis

    Cheers!
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  • JannockJannock 24 replies3 postsRegistered User New Member
    Quoting song lyrics is not a bad idea; it just depends on how you use the song lyrics. I know someone who quoted Miley Cyrus's song The Climb on her essay.

    She now attends Harvard.

    Good luck :)
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  • amy11112222amy11112222 71 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    tons of essay advice on this site - consider writing in 1st person present tense. (ex - "I am looking at my sister and ..... ")i think it's an easier way to SHOW the reader (as opposed to TELL the reader) a story. you can write about ANYTHING, but it's how you convey a sense of who you are that is important.
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  • swim2daendswim2daend 2293 replies204 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ Very good advice amy. DEFINITELY go with 1st person.

    To figure out WHAT to write, you really need to stop and relax and think about what your really passionate about. You need to feel what you've felt the past years doing whatever, thinking whatevr, believing whatever. If you do that, you can find a way to write an essay on it and if you feel it when your writing, the reader will, too.
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  • appsaavyappsaavy 2 replies0 postsRegistered User New Member
    I think your idea of talking about all the relatives and young friends you have who are making babies and how you are taking a different path by getting a college education is an excellent idea. Admissions officers would be interested in this -- your background is important to them...especially if you are first generation attending college.
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  • ReAdvocateReAdvocate 9 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    College admissions officers want a look into your life, they want to know who you are and you’d fit into their school. Your idea is great, and a common essay topic can be fresh and exciting if written from a new perspective. I know you said that you are going to tie it back to yourself, but before you submit it make sure you’ve done so extensively; they want to know about you not all about your family. This is a common mistake when people choose to write about the people that have touched their lives. Just make sure to keep connecting it back to yourself. If you are interested you should pick up a copy of Amazon.com: On Writing the College Application Essay: The Key to Acceptance and… it gives amazing tips for essay writing in general honestly. Good luck!
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  • onemorechanceonemorechance 25 replies3 postsRegistered User New Member
    what topic r u writing on?
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  • xamazingnessxxamazingnessx 64 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @ OP
    Here are a couple problems I've run into during this whole process and what I did/am doing to solve them:

    -Writer's block: For about a month, I was stuck in this absurd pre-pre-writing stage, half-heartedly scouting for possible topics. Eventually I got fed up with myself and decided to just do a brain dump. I took a piece of printer paper, wrote one word/phrase on it (like "challenge" or "ethical dilemma"), set the timer for 20 minutes and furiously scribbled everything that came to my mind. After my brainstorm, I sifted through what I wrote and along the way found quite a few suitable topics.

    -Getting past the first paragraph: I'm still sort of struggling with this. I'm very critical of myself, so when I write personal statements they tend to be very negative. With the college essay, I was determined not to do that, and started editing and revising while I was writing (I would write a sentence and then decide it was too negative and cross it out). I found it was helpful to train myself to not cross anything out.

    -If you keep getting distracted: I tend to turn into a chronically hyperactive person during the summer months. EVERYTHING distracts me. It is therefore impossible for me to do any serious work on the computer. Instead, I use a pen and a notebook meant only for college essays. So far, it's worked pretty well.

    Anyways, I know this wasn't exactly the answer you were looking for, but I do hope it might help you in some small way. :)
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  • amy11112222amy11112222 71 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    here's a nice link i saved in favorites some time ago. from u. virginia site. it has some good advice on good vs. bad essays Essays, Admission Information, Undergraduate Admission, U.Va.
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  • mom6350mom6350 118 replies11 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I would suggest that you start by making a list of your strong points. Brainstorm for awhile -- are you creative, helpful, cautious, inquisitive, caring, resourceful, resilient, persistent,..... If you can't think of many, then ask your family members and friends for a few words that they think describe you. If you google "personality traits", you will also find some lists of traits to get you thinking.

    You want to write the essay in a way that communicates to the admissions people who you are and what qualities you have. They want to see what you might bring to their campus. But -- you want to write it in a way that communicates your traits indirectly. You want to describe a situation or scenario where you were creative or helpful or inquisitive, etc.

    So once you've got the list of traits that you want to communicate, think about instances in your life that you could describe that illustrate you having these traits. I don't think it really matters which particular situation/story you write about as long as it does a really good job of illustrating who you are.

    Best wishes!
    mom6350
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  • nattileenattilee 250 replies24 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Hey guys, thank you for all your great advice! I finally wrote a rough copy of an essay today. I was sitting and I basically just jumped at the pen and paper and wrote in a mad scramble lol. I don't think it'll be the essay I end up using, (it's not about me as much and not as risky as I want), but it's pretty deep, uses my voice, and helps to hint at my background. So I would say a good back-up. At least I got started writing something!
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  • nymom4kidsnymom4kids 12 replies0 postsRegistered User New Member
    Great news! Keep with it.
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  • gadadgadad 7471 replies301 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    A lot of students use essays to brag about their accomplishments. I'd be impressed by a student who wrote about the experience of coming up short on a goal, cited what they learned from the experience, and indicated how they used that insight in the future. As an example, one of my daughters wrote about getting a C in Calculus I, finding a tutor who she found helpful, and working with both the tutor and her instructor in order to get an A in Calculus II.
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  • 2924SW2924SW 72 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Jut start writing. See what you come up with. Sift. I know of 2 boys---one is my son and one is a friend's son, and they both spent a long time polishing their essays, worked with their teachers etc, and then the night before they sent them in, they wrote completely different essays. Each was accepted at the college of their choice (top schools). In their gut, neither one was really happy with his polished essay, even though it read well. Their second (successful) essay was, of course, not polished having been written hours before it was sent in. Of course, no one knows if their first polished essay would or would not have helped them get in to college they ultimately went to. Actually my son had sent in several applications with his first essay and he did get accepted at those schools.
    I have an acquaintance who was on the admissions committee at a prestigious college. He said that when the committee meets to talk about the students, deciding whom to admit, the admissions officers call the applicants "the baseball" kid, the whatever-your-essay-was about kid, because that is how they identify applicants , ie by your essay---they don't remember names. So make it personal, so they get a sense of you when they talk about you.
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  • SamcookSamcook 1 replies0 postsRegistered User New Member
    You will here from me soon.
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  • 1000PaperCranes1000PaperCranes 73 replies18 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I bought 100 Successful College Application Essays and On Writing the College Application Essay by Henry Bauld yesterday at Barnes and Noble. Imo, both of them were extremely helpful, and give you an idea of how to get started.
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