Are you a high school junior? Are you getting stressed thinking about college? Start a journal that you can pull out in a few months when you begin writing your college admissions essays.
This is not a major assignment; write for 10 minutes a day, and you'll get some good material (in your own words.)
Write your entries as though they were quick snapshots from your cellphone—something you might post on Facebook or a photo-sharing website. Their purpose is to jog your memory, to remind you of an experience, not to capture it in spectacular detail.
If you try to record everything that happens on your trip to the Grand Canyon or every life-changing insight from your job as a swim teacher, you’ll give up after a day or two. On the other hand, if you jot down, “Sunset with Brian and Sarah. The sky looked like it was painted in watercolor,” you will remember that evening forever.
If you scribble, “Ava finally put her head in the water! I threw the red plastic ring to the bottom of the pool, and she went straight down for it,” you’ll also remember the way smell of chlorine and the anxious mom sitting on the side of the pool pretending to read.
Keep a journal during spring break, and for another week after that. Jot down bits and pieces–things you notice, places you go, people you spend time with. After you have collected several days’ worth of notes and memories, see if anything comes to mind. You should be more tuned in to the details around you. Either something essay-worthy happened this week or the journaling exercise will help you recall something from the past.
The journal won't be graded; there's no pressure to do it. There's no right way or wrong way. All you have to do is write. When you are done, you will hear clearly what your voice sounds like. Remember, no matter what your after-school or weekend plans, it's a great time to start brainstorming for ideas that might make your college essays shine.
Kim Lifton is Co-Founder of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches students how to craft college essays and personal statements that stand out from the crowd. Visit wowwritingworkshop for a schedule of speaking engagements and class offerings.