College Admissions Essay
Title or No Title?
I like titles. But they need to be good. A title should be short and witty. Not cutesy. The tone of the title and essay should match. The best ones don’t give away too much about the essay, and only hint at what’s to come. Do not use questions. And don’t even think about a title that sounds anything like “My College Admissions Essay.”
Now, how do you think of a title, a good title? Brainstorm ideas by playing off words that link to your theme, message or topic.
Example: A student wrote an essay about how he broke his wrist playing football, and how he learned more about the game sitting on the bench that season. Theme: How bad things can result in good things/How you can learn from a new perspective. (This “theme” is also a Universal Truth or “life lesson”. Check out this post on Universal Truths to see if you have one hidden in your essay.)
Make a quick list of words from the essay that you could play around with: break, benched, football, sports, view, injury, hurt, new perspective…Let yourself “free associate,” which means you list key words and sayings that come to mind when you say one of them, such as “break.” Try the word in different tenses, in common phrases, in pop culture phrases (titles of movies, books, songs, etc.) and even clichés can work. Also, skim your essay for catchy phrases that might work. Try mixing up a couple keys words to make your own phrase. You can also use the Internet to brainstorm ideas–just Google your keywords or phrases. Have fun with it.
Breaking Away (movie title)
The Big Break
You Deserve a Break Today (line from McDonald’s commercial)
An Unexpected Break
Give Me A Break
A Break from the Past
Beyond the Break
I guess my favorite is Beyond the Break, since it implies the metaphorical movement beyond the injury. But if I didn’t like that one, I would move on to another key word. Keep playing around with them. Make a list. Read them out loud. One word will spark another and so on. You will know almost immediately when you hit on the right one.
If you can’t find one you like, just skip it. Better no title than a bad title for your college application essay—unless one is requested or required.
If you are still at the starting point with writing your essays, try my super helpful Jumpstart Guide. (You can worry about a title later!)
Sure you are done? Read my Ultimate Checklist before you push the button!