This lesson covers... the style that jumps around in time, with events that aren’t based on cause-and-effect.
By the end you should... have a second option for structuring your main personal statement.

How to Give Feedback on an Essay Topic
Think about a time when you had a really cool idea and you shared it with someone and that person said, “That’s a stupid idea” or something similar. You probably felt defeated, sad, and like you should probably never share your ideas with that person--and maybe anyone--ever again.

Keep in mind that when an idea is new it’s very fragile. And that’s what your partner is bringing to you when they’re discussing their topics: brand new, baby ideas.

So tread lightly.

Here are some ways you can help your partner pick a topic:

  1. Mostly just listen. Imagine that you’re interviewing them. You should do 10% of the talking and let them do 90%. So if you have a ten minute conversation, you’re only talking for one minute. How can you make this happen?

  2. Ask lots of questions. Here are some good, simple questions to ask: 

            a. What topics are you deciding between?

            b. What do you like about each one?

Open-ended questions are great too:
            c. Can you say more about that?

Simple, right? Then listen some more.

Your job isn’t to figure out your partner’s topic for them; your job is to help them figure out their own topic.

Also, don’t forget about the work you’ve already done in the workshop. If, for example, your partner has experienced challenges...

       3. Use the Feelings and Needs Exercise from Lesson 2.1. Try asking your partner to walk you through one of the experiences that came up during the exercise. Here’s how to do that. If they can articulate
              a. what the challenge was,
              b.) what they did about it, and
              c.) what they learned, tell your partner, “It sounds like a good topic--go for it.”

    If your partner has NOT experienced challenges...

            4. Use the Montage Exercise from Lesson 2.4. Ask your partner:

                   a. What are four or five qualities you definitely want to communicate to the admissions officer?
                   b. What could you use to connect all these qualities?
                   c. Bonus: Here’s a 90-second video with tips to help you make sure your essay isn’t boring.

    Here are some other questions you might have:

    If you’ve tried all these and you or your partner is still totally clueless on their topic, here is a list of 100 Brave and Interesting Questions. Try these. See where they lead.

    Oh, and if you’re super stressed and deadlines are looming, here’s the “break-in-case-of-emergency” resource:

    But try everything else first.

    Remember: you don’t need a perfect topic right now, you just need a good one to get started.

    So pick something and get started.

    How to Give Feedback on an Essay Draft
    Have you already completed a draft or are you working with a partner who has? Skip to the next lesson, The Great College Essay Test.

    « Previous: 3.1 Picking a Topic & Writing a DraftNext: 4.1 The Great College Essay Test »