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Run for your lives, it's THE BLANK PAGE!!!

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

For college applicants, "The Blank Page" might sound like the title of a horror movie. It's scary because facing the blank page forces you to confront one of everyone's biggest fears: revealing who you are, both to yourself and to others. It can be as nerve-wracking as getting up on stage in front of a crowd.

Here's the good news: writing your application essays doesn't have to begin with the blank page. In fact, since you're answering prompts or questions, you have the luxury of thinking about your answers before you start writing. Here are some ways to get started that allow you to avoid staring at an empty screen:

  • Think about the prompts and let your mind wander. Good, intuitive ideas can bubble to the surface when you go for a walk, a swim, or, believe it or not, lie down for a nap, Just get to a place where you can have a quiet conversation with yourself about the topics you're considering. Ideas that resonate with you will come – and you'll remember them!

  • Jot down some high-level notes. E.g., "I couldn't talk about myself without mentioning my violin playing," "I thought I'd never get over moving from LA to Oregon, but now I'm so glad we did," or "Moving from Oregon to LA opened up the world for me." You may not use them, but writing them down builds momentum.

  • Discuss your ideas with open-minded, non-judgmental friends, family, teachers, and counselors.

  • Select a few interesting scenes from your life you could use to illustrate your answer, like "The time a bear wandered into my campground," "When I got cut from the soccer team but it freed me up to mentor an 11-year old and how I liked that better than being a goalie," or "That day I got lost in New York City."

  • Sketch out a few scenes by writing what happened and how you felt. Don't worry about style, theme, or anything else. Just get your thoughts down!

You get the idea: relax, think about how you want to answer the prompt, and write some thoughts down. When it's time to start "writing," instead of starting from scratch, you'll already have a lot of material to work with!

Need help getting started or advancing your essay? Choose your essay service here.

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Monday, Nov. 29 at 7 pm Insights for applicants at any stage of the process Open Q&A to support all attendees Registration is required Register now at

Lee Shulman Bierer writes that there are a few common topics to avoid, like your volunteer experiences, or your random sports win. Read the article here to find out what you should write about instead

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