Are you a quick brainstormer?

-In and out in an hour? Or do you spend weeks mining for jewels among your students’ experiences?  

Do you think brainstorming ideas is all about finding a unique story? Or are you trying to help students identify an effective topic?

We’re in the quick and effective camp.  

Why? Because drawn-out, elaborate brainstorming exercises…

  • don’t necessarily lead to better essays.
  • wear students out before they even get to the first draft.
  • send the message that students will never stand out unless they can tell an amazing story that no one else has ever heard. (Most students are normal people with normal experiences, and that’s okay. In fact, we think it’s amazing.)

What do we do instead? We keep it simple. Our students spend 1-2 hours on three tasks before we meet. 

  • Morning Writing: Students complete a simple writing exercise that helps them recognize what their writing voice sounds like when they’re not trying to impress anyone.
  • Step 1 (Understand the prompt): We ask three key questions: 1) What is the prompt trying to find out about you? 2) What do readers already know? (accomplishments) 3) What would you like readers to know about you? (characteristics)
  • Step 2 (Brainstorm ideas): On their own, with no coach input, students come up with four potential topics. These ideas are usually too broad, full of cliches and otherwise imperfect. But they tell us a lot about what matters to the student. And they make great conversation starters.

Pre-work in hand, we meet for a relaxed, one-hour conversation. Almost every student comes out of that conversation with a theme for their essay. After that, they’re on their way, ready to write.

Could this work for you? We suggest giving it a shot. Here’s a link that explains our brainstorming approach in even more detail.

Want to learn more? Join us each month for a Free Pro Chat with Wow’s Susan Knoppow. If you can’t join us live, sign up anyway; we’ll send you the recording.

Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches students and educational professionals a simple, step-by-step process for writing effective college essays, so students can stand out and tell their stories. Kim leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the college admissions industry with our unique approach to communicating messages effectively through application essays, including personal statements, activity and short answer essays and supplements.  We teach students – and we train professionals

Coming Up 

Wednesday, April 14:  How to Run a Group Workshop, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Wednesday, May 12: Should My Students Write about Covid (and other sensitive topics?), at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let your students know we have a free class for them, too!

If you wants to help students with the basics, encourage them to sign up for our monthly free student class, or listen to the recording. Next up: Wednesday, April 14 and Wednesday, May 12, at 7 p.m. ET! You are welcome to sign up, too.