Warm Up Before Starting Your College Essay

By Kim Lifton

Wow student doing Morning Writing

Before you work out, you warm up by stretching. When you perform in a play, you warm up with rehearsals. When you write a story about yourself, you should warm up, too.

Juniors, as the school year comes to a close and you prepare for your college journey, you will most likely need to write at least one application essay. Before you begin the process, we suggest you do a little stretching.

In our online tutorial and in all of our college essay workshops, we warm up with an exercise called Morning Writing.  The goal is to get your creative juices flowing, help you to relax, and show you what your unique voice actually sounds like.

Here’s how it works:

  • Get out a piece of paper and a pen, or open a document on your computer. You are going to write fast – and messy!
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • Think about this prompt: What did you do this morning from the moment you woke up until you left your home?
  • Using all of your senses, begin writing. Quickly record as much as you can recall about your morning.
  • Be specific, but don’t worry about making sense or sounding clever.
  • Write fast, and do not judge what you write. You can write fragments, sentences, lists or run-ons. It doesn’t matter because you are not writing an essay; you are simply capturing details.
  • Don’t read it as you go along. Don’t erase anything. Don’t stop and think about what you will write. Keep your pen on the paper or your fingers on the keyboard at all times.
  • When the timer goes off, stop. Look back at what you wrote about your morning, and find three segments that truly sound like you. Each one can be anything from a short phrase to a multi-sentence description. They don’t have to be exciting or clever. They just have to sound like YOU.

You should be able to see that your writing voice is unique, and shines through when you relax and write freely. This is what you sound like when you are not trying too hard. This is the voice you should write in when you begin to compose your application essay.

Kim Lifton is co-founder and president of Wow Writing Workshop. For more tips about the college application essay, try Wow Online – College Essay free for one week. Save $50 by purchasing this self-guided online tutorial by July 1 (a $149 value for $99.)