Brainstorming for the Common App Essay

The essay prompts for the 2017-2018 Common Application are currently available on The Common Application website. Reviewing the essay prompts and brainstorming now is useful preparation for writing the essay. It’s never too early to begin brainstorming. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Read through all of the essay prompts. You can find the 2017-2018 Common Application prompts here.

  • Mark the prompts that appeal to you. The essay is an opportunity to shine and express yourself, so choose a topic that genuinely interests you.

  • Identify any trends or themes in the prompts that resonate with you. Are you a problem solver? Do you have a significant life experience you want to share?

  • After reading through the prompts, consider using these brainstorming strategies:

    • Create an idea list. Write down anything that comes to mind. Write lists of ideas, thoughts, values, goals, likes, dislikes, or inspirational people in your life. Write a list of words that best describes you.

    • Create an idea map. Write a prompt inside a circle and map out connecting ideas and thoughts. Having a visual representation of your ideas can be helpful. Don’t worry about organization at this point. Generating ideas, thoughts, images, and anecdotes during this phase of the writing process will be helpful when you transition to your first draft.

    • Create an informal outline. If you’re the kind of a writer who likes to start with organized ideas, try an outline. You can refine it and expand it as you continue to formulate ideas.

  • Establish a timeline or schedule for future brainstorming and drafting.

When application deadlines arrive in the fall, the time spent brainstorming, drafting, and revising will have been well spent. Preparing now and writing over the summer will help alleviate stress when senior year begins.

Do you have questions about the Common Application essay? Contact Hughes College Prep to discuss all stages of the essay writing process.

Chenoa Harrington