The college admissions season is right around the corner. Writing a killer personal essay can be daunting, so I’ve created four values-focused college essay brainstorming exercises to help you dig deep and get to the root of what makes you YOU. Insight involves revealing on paper something that has been hidden from view—whether it’s a part of your personality or something that shaped your perspective on life. By digging deep into your own experiences and those of others you care about (like family members, teachers, mentors, etc.), you’ll be able to identify value-driven insights for your essay.
These four college essay brainstorming exercises will help you get some good distance on yourself, give you some meta revelations, and get you thinking deeply about your life experiences–all while having a little fun.
You can try these four values-focused college essay brainstorming exercises independently or find someone you trust–a teacher, friend, counselor, family member, or classmate. See if your English teacher is open to using these activities in class.
But First: What Is Insight?
Insight is defined as a “newly gained understanding.” In other words, insight is when something clicks—the AHA! the moment when you finally understand something important.
For example, consider this question: How can we describe insight? One way to get started on your answer is to ask yourself what it was like for you when you had an insight about something in your life. What happened? What were you thinking and feeling at that moment?
Exercise 1: Host Your Own Values Podcast
A values podcast is an audio or video show where you interview people about their values. You can use this exercise to brainstorm your college essay by doing the following:
- Host your own values podcast. Before you start interviewing people, hosting your own values podcast first is a good idea. This will force you to think through what questions are important for this project and help you figure out how much time needs to be spent researching each guest’s background before recording them.
- Find guests for your value podcast. After hosting your value podcast, it’s time to find other guests for future episodes! You can start by asking friends and family members if they’d be interested in being interviewed about their values. But don’t limit yourself just because those people are familiar with yours. You may want someone with opposing viewpoints so listeners can get more insight into different perspectives from multiple sides (this could be useful when writing about controversial topics like religion). If possible, try finding guests who haven’t been interviewed before; this way, listeners can think about what makes each person unique rather than getting repetitive answers from others who’ve already shared similar thoughts on airwaves around town (which could result in monotonous writing).
Exercise 2: Review Your Favorite Show
You can also use a show to brainstorm your college essay. Just think about the values of the show, characters, and creator. Then think about how you would apply these to your life and goals. If you love the show, the chances are that there’s something in there that represents who you are or what you want to be.
Exercise 3: Pitch Your Docuseries
A docuseries is a unique type of television series that follows the lives of real people. It’s like a documentary but has a narrative and often features an overarching story arc. Examples include The Real World, Intervention, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and Cheaters.
While many college essays focus on your life experiences and struggles, this exercise helps you look at yourself through new eyes by thinking about how others might perceive you based on your behavior in different situations over time. This can help spark ideas for effective essay topics because it allows you to see yourself as others do: You might find that there are sides of yourself that surprise or even disgust you!
Additionally, this exercise encourages students to think outside their comfort zone to write something original and unexpected that will stand out from all the other essays submitted alongside theirs!
Exercise 4: Make A Grand Statement
Now it’s time to make a grand statement about your values. Make sure that this statement is big and bold. In other words, the more outrageous or provocative you can be, the better! This is the time to get creative in your writing and stretch your mind and your ability to make people think. There are no wrong answers here; make sure that whatever you write is something that will stick with readers long after they finish reading it.
Here are some examples of statements from students who participated in this exercise:
- “My life has changed because I used my creativity to express myself!”
- “I’m not afraid to do things differently than others expect me to.”
- “I am not afraid of failure.”
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- A college admissions decision is one of the most important life decisions you will ever make. To succeed in college and life, it’s important to know your values and how they can shape your future.
- Once you’ve identified your values, utilize them when writing about yourself for college applications by reflecting on them in your essays and discussing how they’ve impacted your life so far.
- Remember that the essay is just one part of the application process—you’ll also have to create a resume, send in recommendations from teachers or mentors, and write an addendum explaining why you’re applying as a transfer student (if applicable), and more!
Get Help from our Experts with your College Essay Paper
I hope these four values-focused college essay brainstorming exercises gave you some ideas for where to start on your college essay! We know it’s a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Once you get the brainstorming going, then comes the writing part. If you need more help with that, we’ve got a whole team of experts who can support you through everything from editing to outlining.
If you have never written a college essay before, or if you need help with brainstorming ideas for your college essay, then we are here to help. We will help you identify values that are important to you and how to express them in your college essay. Our experts can help you develop these ideas into an outstanding essay with proper structure and organization. We offer editing services so that all of the work is done by us, so there are no mistakes made on your part!
Through my engaging and informative blog posts, I aim to provide helpful tips on topics such as essay writing, research skills, and academic planning, empowering students to thrive in their academic pursuits.