One of the first steps in crafting the college essay is gathering the material.

The questions below are a helpful tool for starting the process:

College Essay Self-Eval Helper Questions

Write a self-evaluation answering the following questions. There is a method to the madness of the assignment. I am not giving it to you simply because I am dying to know more about your life. Colleges, however, do want to know and will make you write essays and meet people who will want to know about you. This exercise will prepare you for both situations.

At this stage, no one cares about poor spelling or bad grammar, it is your ideas and experiences that count. So write it down, write it all down and keep writing until you have covered everything. Don’t worry about whether it is in the right order or even if it contains complete sentences. Just write it down. Go. Now.

1.      Tell me about yourself. Start with the basics. Give me your biographical information. Age, sex, ethnicity, family background, ten fingers/toes kind of stuff. Be sure to include any unusual aspects of your upbringing. Did you live with orangutans in Africa until the age of eight while your mom photographed them for National Geographic? Ok, maybe not, but perhaps there was a move or a family event that shaped your life.

2.      Write about your educational experience. Where did you go to school? How long did you attend each school? How did that school/schools meet your needs? What would you have done differently? What courses or teachers had an effect on you, either positive or negative?

3.      Detail your academic strengths and weakness. What are you looking forward to studying in college? What are your possible career goals someday? Do you want a research scientist at an ivy league institution? Do you want to be America’s next top model? What do you want to do and as of right now, how do you think you will get there? If you don’t have a clue, write that too, but tell me what you are thinking.

4.      Use your words to describe yourself, the “real you” outside of school. What are your hobbies, interests, summer experiences, passions, midnight reading (or youtube watching/internet surfing), favorite foods, etc. Don’t just make me a list. Describe what it is that you enjoy about those things and what makes you do/like them.

5.      What have been some pivotal experiences in your life which have changed you or shaped you. (Neither the demise of the Harry Potter series nor the first time you had your hair highlighted are acceptable experiences to write about. Unless of course, you are REALLY REALLY funny. Chances are, you are not old enough to be that funny yet. If you are, I will let you know. Until then, go look up the meaning of the word PIVOTAL.) This question may be a more detailed account of something that you listed in question #1, or some other experiences that you have thought of as you have been writing.

6.      What are your values? Can you describe yourself in 50 words or less? What do you think about the world outside your backyard? In ten years will you be able to say that you have changed that world, or your backyard? Do you have a plan for either (if you don’t, that is OK, then write about that).

7.      Think about life beyond high school, even beyond college. What would you like to do? How would you like to change and grow in order to get there? What do you need, from a college, or a community, or your family, or friends to get there?

Hint: You can’t answer these questions in five minutes.