Getting started on my essays - need advice/feedback

My semester just finished and I’m trying to get a head start on essays over the summer. I am not the best at creative writing; I mostly write argumentative/persuasive essays or research papers. I am also SUPER indecisive, so I know that selecting a topic will be an issue.

Does anyone have any advice for how to get started or writing tips for very math/science-focused kids?

Would anyone be willing to take a look at a couple of my ideas and give feedback?


Write not about science/math.
Write something that reveals a side of your personality that wouldn’t come out otherwise. Present yourself multi-dimensionally. Not as just a math/science person.

Yes! I am for sure going to write about something other than school. Just to clarify - I meant tips for “math/science-focused kids” as in creative writing tips for kids who don’t do much creative writing.

I know some people have said not to write about sports or extracurriculars already listed, and that you should write about the thing you’re most passionate about. I am a competitive athlete in a not-well-known but super cool sport, and a couple of my extracurriculars are related to the sport. The sport is my main passion and I would love to write my essay about it but I don’t want to have the “sports essay” red flag that people talk about.

Do you think it could be a good essay topic?

Any topic can be good: it depends on how you write it. Authenticity and likability are important and if you genuinely love the sport (and it is not a well-known one and is "cooll) give it a shot. I have been helping kids on CC for a few years now with essays, so feel free to ask. I will PM you so you can message me if desired.


There are many free essay resources at college essay guy .com. Some of the brainstorming exercises are very helpful for many students…search for college essay guy and values exercise, essence objects, five things exercise, and 21 details. There are also youtube videos for many of these.

If you apply yourself in doing these exercises, you should identify a handful of potential essay topics. Then, come back here for some feedback.

I think everyone is different, but personally I think looking at college essay guy makes things a little too complicated, and possibly less natural.

One tip that worked for some is to look at photos of childhood up to present, to get a kind of life review. One example that resulted was an essay comparing Lego play to computer science.

Generally, I have found essay brainstorming exercises (whichever ones are used) to be helpful to many students when they are considering what to write about.

I have found that many students have the erroneous belief that they are “supposed” to write about a struggle (s) they have faced. One problem, just to take an example, is when an essay is primarily about how a student was bullied in 2nd grade, or about their parents’ divorce in 3rd grade, etc. Generally, those things are too far in the past for a college essay (of course there are exceptions, for example if the student had childhood cancer). It’s important for the student to communicate who they are today in their essay. Some important past events can certainly be briefly addressed of course.

Look at the current Common App prompts. Focus on one where you have a natural story/story line you want to tell. This should be a story that allows you to highlight positive attributes about yourself that provides anecdotal support for those attributes (the “show” and not just the “tell”). Remember, the AO’s are most interested in getting insights on how you will be a positive/desirable member of their school’s community vs judging your writing ability. Positive attributes could be: intellectual curiosity, leadership, perseverance, empathy, accountability, teamwork, taking initiative/risks, creativity, open mindedness, generosity… This list is not meant to be exhaustive nor should you feel like you have to cover every point, but you should highlight those points which you feel are your strongest attributes which you can support. If you can, connect the dots around a story line/theme of some “event” in the first sentence that can grab the readers attention.

People read that colleges want to know the challenges or obstacles you have overcome, which leads to a lot of poor essays. One of the best essays I have seen was about blueberry muffins. Life review does not imply writing about the past, though it can. It gives a sense of your story leading up to where you are.

At any rate, the topic may be trivial but the essay may be outstanding- depending on how it is written.

While the topic (really the object/action) around which the essay is written may be trivial, the message(s) that the essay conveys needs to carry meaning and insight into the candidate’s qualities/personality. In your example of the blueberry muffin, I assume the essay wasn’t just about blueberry muffins but something about them that was important to shaping the growth or exemplifying the qualities of the writer.

I think the other mistake applicants make is being so focused on the “hook” of the essay or trying to make it clever that they lose sight of what the purpose of the essay is, which is to distinguish themselves from other candidates as to how they will “fit” in the “orchestra” that the AO is trying to assemble for the incoming class and how they will contribute to the school’s community.

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