Writing your college application essay is going to require some brainstorming so I thought it might be helpful to put forth a very clear, usable definition of what is generally meant by this term. Simply put, brainstorming is the act of coming up with lots of ideas in a short period of time.

Although it’s possible to brainstorm strictly in your head (after all “brain” is half the word), it is more effective to eventually put your efforts down on paper. At that point, the definition expands to, “Writing down everything that comes to mind, even if you know it might not be ‘right’ or ‘perfect.’” For some people, this is not as easy as it sounds. They “pre-edit” their ideas and quickly discard the ones they don’t believe are good enough. Yet weak ideas can often be transformed into strong ones, two flimsy ideas can be combined to make a sturdy one, and an idea that seems to be a dead end, can suddenly open into an abundance of possibilities.

That’s why it’s so important to let your ideas flow, and keep on flowing, without judging what you’re doing. Write down everything –the good, the bad, the truly absurd – even if you’re sure, or you think you’re sure, you will never use it. In the end, the more ideas you compile the easier it will be to tell the outstanding ones from the rest. The goal of brainstorming is quantity over quality.

To put it another way, brainstorming is a little like driving your car without a clear destination in mind. You may not be sure of where you’re going but if you trust yourself and keep moving forward, you just might discover something wonderful.

For more personal help with the college application essay, call Craig Heller directly at 818-340-1276.