College essays

Essay Lab: Day Five Prompts

Today we conclude our first week of the Essay Lab with some final writing exercises for students working on their college application essays.

Shelly King, author of Morning Fog, available in Epiphany 

One of my favorite prompts was from a master class that novelist  Elizabeth Rosner conducted. We described a character by describing an object that is important to him/her. The example she gave was a friend of hers who always wore flip-flops, even in the dead of winter, even when he was hiking. Here are some others:

                Where were you last night?

                I don't remember....

Ken Harvey, author of the memoir, A Passionate Engagement, and the award-winning collection of short stories, If You Were with Me Everything Would Be All Right.

                Talk about a time when you changed your mind.

                Talk about a time when a book surprised you.

Essay Lab: Day Two Prompts

Yesterday, we kicked off our series on essay writing with prompts from best-selling writers Firoozeh Dumas and Ellen Sussman. If you're just joining us, we'll be posting a couple of prompts each day for students who may be in the throes of writer's block or have fallen prey to procrastination.

To recap, one of the ways to get “unstuck” and develop some good material you might be able to use for your essays is to actually take a detour and write about something else. This may seem counterintuitive, but responding to a different -- and slightly provocative -- question than the one you seek to answer in your application essay can help move things along. And doing so can also help you find the heart of things, so that what you say and how you say it can have more impact.

Can writing exercises like this help you? They very well might. Some of them even have the potential to work for the open-ended "Topic of your choice" essay.  Give them a try.

Today's prompts -- and some excellent advice:

Irena Smith, writing teacher and independent college consultant