Notes on Journal Prompts
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Based on the assumption that an academic year, in most cases, consists of 180 days divided into 4 quarters, I have grouped these prompts accordingly. You, of course, may choose to use any of these at whatever time you like.
There are eight graphics on this page to serve as general visual bookmarks. Additionally, please consider using the following text links to jump to specific points on this page:
Go to 1st Quarter Prompts
Go to 2nd Quarter Prompts
Go to 3rd Quarter Prompts
Go to 4th Quarter Prompts
1st Quarter Journal Writing Prompts
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What follows below is a simple listing of prompts.
If you'd like to make these really POP (and save yourself some effort at the same time), you may be interested in Journal Jumpstarts, Volume 1, which contains prompts 1-20 listed below.
1. Write about going back to school after summer vacation.
journal writing prompts
2. Write a thank you note to a friend who gave you onion and garlic-flavored chewing gum.
journal writing prompts
3. Draw an imaginary constellation. Write a story such as ancient people might have told about it.
4. Describe a real made-up dream or nightmare.
journal writing prompts
5. Write about your favorite childhood toy. journal writing prompts
6. Write out the best or the worst day of your life.
7. Finish this thought: if I could change one thing about myself (if you can't think of anything, you might want to consider telling how you got to be perfect!)
8. If and when I raise children, I'll never...
9. I have never been more frightened than when...
10. Persuade a friend to give up drugs.
11. Five years from now, I will be...
12. Write about a day you'd like to forget.
13. Invent and describe a new food.
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14. Describe an event that changed your life forever, or make up and describe an event that would change your life forever.
15. Describe someone who is a hero to you and explain why.
16. Write about a time in your life when you struggled with a choice and made the right one.
17. Imagine yourself in a different century and describe an average day in your life.
18. Which character from a book would you most like to meet and why?
19. Three goals I have set for myself are...
20. What would you do if 300 mice had just gotten out of their cages in a pet shop where you worked?Just like the above 20 prompts, prompts 21-40 listed below have not been "dressed up" much.
To see them in their finest clothing, you may want to download Journal Jumpstarts, Volume 2.
21. What would you do if you were locked inside your favorite department store overnight?
22. What would you do if you woke up one morning to find yourself invisible?
23. What would you do if you were able to communicate with animals?
24. What would you do if you could travel into the future?
25. What would you do if you could travel into the past?
26. What would you do if someone just gave you $1 million?
27. What would you do it all the electricity in the world just stopped?
28. What would you do if you could travel free anyplace in the world?
29. What would you do if the dinner served to you in a fancy restaurant came with a fly in the mashed potatoes?
30. Write a list of at least 50 things that make you feel good.
31. Describe the perfect day. Put in as many details as you can. Make it a possible day, not a "dream day."
32. Who is the person from history that you would most like to meet and talk to? Why? What would you like to ask?
33. Who is the person from literature that you would most like to meet and talk to? Why? What would you like to ask?
34. Compile a list of words that describe you as a child. Compile a second list that describes you as you are now. How are these lists the same? How are they different?
35. Compile a list of inanimate or animate objects to which you might compare yourself metaphorically. (I am a windmill. I change direction or my thoughts whenever someone talks to me...)
36. Tell about what triggers anger in you or someone else.
37. Invent a monster and describe it. Tell where it lives, what it eats, and what it does.
38. What is your favorite kind of weather? Why?
39. What is the best book you have ever read? Why did you like it? Did reading the book change you in any way? What way?
40. Write about what you didn't do this weekend.Prompts 41-60 (listed below) are included in Journal Jumpstarts, Volume 3.
Just display the prompt of the day via your digital projector, SMART Board, or classroom TV and take a break from your whiteboard for awhile!
41. Think about an incident that happened to you and exaggerate in the telling. Make it into a tall tale.
42. If you were ruler of the world, what things would you banish absolutely for all time (rain on weekends, eggplant, and so forth)? Make a list. Use your imagination.
43. If you could go back in time anywhere and "anywhen," where/when would you go and why?
44. What law would you like to see enacted which would help people? How would it help?
45. What commercial on TV do you dislike beyond all others? What about it is particularly annoying to you?2nd Quarter Journal Writing Prompts
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46. Design some gadget, machine, building, or other creation that might enrich the future. What does it look like? What does it do? How does it function? In what ways might it benefit people?journal writing prompts
47. What current fashion in clothing do you particularly like or dislike? Explain. journal writing prompts
48. Convince someone why music or art or computers are important in your life. Make them appreciate your viewpoint.
49. If you had $100,000, how would you spend it?
50. Be a building you know well. Talk about your life and memories.
51. You are to tell a person from a distant planet or from another era what pollution is. Make that person understand what causes it and why it is bad.
52. If you could do something that you never have done before, what would it be? Why would you want to do it?
53. Begin a list of questions that you'd like to have answered. They may be about the future or the past.
54. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date and why?
55. Write one characteristic or habit about yourself that you like and describe it. Or write about one thing you don't like about yourself.
56. What is your hobby? Why do you enjoy it?
57. If you could go somewhere where you've never gone before, where would you go and why?
58. What's, if anything, would you be willing to fight or even die for? Explain your answer.
59. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Why would you make this change?
60. Is there a machine you feel you could not live without? Explain.The following prompts (61-80) are included in Journal Jumpstarts, Volume 4.
Just like all of the volumes in the Journal Jumpstarts series, Volume 4 features 21 high-quality animations that add “punch” to the prompts.
Use these animations in your own Powerpoints wherever you choose to do so.
61. Write about what you think you will be like and what you will be doing 10 years or 20 years from now.
62. Did you ever stick up for someone?
63. Describe your neighborhood bully.
64. Write about a baby-sitting experience.
65. Describe a great fort you built for a great game you played as a child.
66. Write about an enemy who eventually became your friend.
67. Write about a time you cheated and got caught.
68. Write about a privilege you earned.
69. Write about the stray animal you brought home.
70. Did you ever send away for something that turned out to be a disappointment? (Or order something over the Internet)
71. What is it like to go shopping with your mother?
72. Write about a time you performed in front of an audience.
73. Write about a difficult decision you had to make.
74. Write about learning to skate, to ride a bike, to climb a tree, or to turn a cart wheel.
75. Did you ever get lost in a strange town?
76. Were you ever locked in or out? What did you do?
77. What was it like to spend your first night away from home?
78. What was it like to come back home after a long vacation?
79. Write about a disappointment.
80. Write about something minor that turned into a big deal.The following prompts (81-100) are included in Journal Jumpstarts, Volume 5.
All of the prompts in the Journal Jumpstarts series are titled and listed in a clickable table of contents, making it easier to determine where to resume.
81. Did you ever win or lose a contest? Tell the story about what happened.
82. Write about something you desperately wanted when you were younger.
83. Did you ever know someone who had "everything"?
84. Write about the time as a child you played in one of the following: treehouse, a cornfield, a construction site, a junkyard, an abandoned house or barn, a stream, a cemetery, a swamp, a pasture, railroad tracks.
85. Did your mom or dad ever make you wear something you hated?
86. Write about a time you were talked into something and you regretted it.
87. Were you ever in a helicopter, limousine, racecar, hot-air balloon, submarine, or horse-drawn carriage?
88. Did you ever forget something really important? What happened as a result?
89. Write about an experience in a hospital.
90. Were you ever accused of something that you didn't do?3rd Quarter Journal Writing Prompts
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91. Write about a disastrous trip or vacation.
92. Were you ever given a responsibility that you couldn't handle? journal writing prompts
93. Were you ever in a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane?
94. Describe the best concert you ever attended.
95. Write about a window you broke or something valuable you lost.
96. Did you ever catch fireflies? Crickets? Frogs? Snakes?
97. Write about a time you tried to help and ended up making things worse.
98. Did you ever break an important promise?
99. Write about moving to another city or neighborhood.
100. Describe an outdoor game you used to play in the summer time.
101. Write about building sand castles or mud pies.
102. Did you ever meet a famous person?
103. Write about mowing the lawn, burning leaves, or weeding the garden.
104. Describe the club you organized as a kid.
105. Describe a car or bicycle accident you were in.
106. Write about being a misfit.
107. Write about a day spent in another country.
108. Write about a time you out-smarted someone.
109. Write about going shopping for new clothes.
110. Did you ever turn someone in or tell on someone and feel bad about it later?
111. Imagine that you are an animal in the zoo. What type of animal are you? How do you feel about being caged? How do you feel about people that visit and watch you?
112. Write about a time your parents embarrassed you.
113. Describe learning something from a friend.
114. Write about a time you gave someone good advice.
115. Write about the funniest thing that ever happened to you.
116. If you had to escort a visitor from outer space for a 30-minute tour of your community, where would you begin and end?
117. Be a grape that becomes a raisin: describe how it feels to shrink, to shrivel, to become dry and wrinkled.
118. Be an icicle that becomes water. Describe how it feels to be cold and firm and full of beautiful crystals but only to melt and lose your shape.
119. You go to the store with your parents and baby brother. Your parents go into a store and tell you to watch your brother. You take your eyes off your brother for just a minute and you can't find him. You...
120. I really hate it when my mother/father/sibling...
121. What if the use of robots in school becomes a workable reality?
122. What would you pack in your suitcase if you could not go home again?
123. You have just met an alien from another planet. He wishes to take a student back to his planet. Convince him you would be the perfect specimen for him to take.
124. If you could change one law, what law would it be and how would you change it?
125. How forgiving are you when a friend lets you down? Explain. Give an example.
126. What if you were named principal for the week? What would you do?
127. If you could only speak twenty words for the rest of your life, what words would head your list and why?
128. It started out as an unusual Monday morning, when I...
129. As I approached the deserted house at the end of the road, I saw...
130. Do you think girls are raised differently from boys? If so, in what ways?
131. Do you think you are treated differently because you are a boy or girl?
132. Do you think men and women are equal in today's society? Why or why not?
133. Do you think a woman will be President of the United States in the near future?
134. Two men or women have it easier in our culture? If so, why do you think so?
135. Have you ever wished you were either older or younger? What would you consider to be the benefits? The problems?4th Quarter Journal Writing Prompts
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136. Describe what you think of as the typical mother.
journal writing prompts
137. Describe what you think of as the typical father.
journal writing prompts
138. Do you think women should take men's last names when they marry? Why or why not?
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139. Would you rather have a brother or sister? Why?
140. Describe a fight you had with your mother. Now tell it from her point of view. journal writing prompts
141. Write a short biography of your mother.
142. Write a short biography of your father.
143. Visualize a time when your mother was laughing. Recall a time when you two shared a good laugh over something.
144. Write a physical description of your mother. Write as if you were looking at a movie rather than a photograph.
145. Concentrate on a particular habit that your mother has and write about it.
146. If you had three wishes, what would they be? (Do not ask for three more wishes)
147. What is something special and/or different about you? Why do you think it is special or different?
148. Write about two things that your family has taught you.
149. Write about some of the things that you worry about.
150. Describe a happy memory of your family.
151. How do you know someone loves you, even if he or she doesn't say it?
152. Name one thing you like about yourself and why you like it.
153. Imagine yourself as a teacher. What type of student would you like to teach and why?
154. Name and describe a teacher who made a difference in your life. What did that teacher do that was so special?
155. What makes you proud to be an American?
156. Describe the one thing that gives you the most comfort.
157. If you could be a character in any book, TV show, or movie, who would you be and why?
158. If you had to work in any store at your favorite mall, which store would it be and why?
159. Describe the most difficult thing about being your age.160. Describe one possession that means the most to you.
161. Who is the most important role model in your life?
162. Describe your best personality trait.
163. If you could study one subject in school that wasn't offered, what would it be and why?
164. If you had a chance to live anywhere you could, where would it be and why?
165. Write about the pros/cons of year-round school or a four-day school week.
166. Write about your favorite sport.
167. Is the school year too long? Too short? Why?
168. What does your summer usually consist of?
169. Who should be paid more, professional athletes or teachers? Why or why not?
170. What class do you enjoy the most and why?
171. Write about the worst fight you ever had with a friend.
172. If you had only one month to live, what would you do?
173. Describe your dream house.
174. Who is your favorite person to be with? Why?
175. What would be your ideal job when you grow up? Explain.
176. If you could guest star on any TV show, what would it be and why?
177. What do you think your life will be like in 10 years? 20 years?
178. Describe how you would manage your own radio or TV station.
179. What is your definition of success?
180. The saying goes, "Money cannot buy happiness." Do you agree or disagree? Why? journal writing prompts
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Resources / College / 35 College Essay Prompts and Topics
35 College Essay Prompts and Topics
The college application process can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming. A great way to stand out from the crowd and boost an application for a “reach” school is with a strong essay. We’ve put together a list of common prompts and advice for how to answer them.
- Describe a facet of your identity, background or story that is essential to who you are.
For this essay, try finding a part of your identity that will set you apart and highlight the unique perspective you will bring to the university. Try to avoid writing an essay that a school will most likely get a million different times — for example, an essay about your talent playing a sport or your early love of learning. Think about an aspect of your personality, family or upbringing that is truly special.
- Write about a time that you failed at something. How did that failure affect you?
Don’t be afraid to dig deep and talk about something that may feel vulnerable. Try to conclude with an example of how the failure improved the way you deal with similar situations now. It can be uncomfortable for anyone to admit they’re less-than-great at something, but that honesty can be refreshing, especially if you tell your story in an authentic, relatable way.
- Tell us about a time where you challenged your pre-existing worldview. Why? Would you do this again?
In this essay, choose a time that you were able to listen to experiences and perspectives contrary to yours with respect and maturity. Demonstrate that you are able to zoom out from your personal worldview and learn from those you may disagree with. This can not only give colleges an idea of your ability to engage in difficult ideological debates, but also your character and humility.
- Write about a problem that you have or want to solve. It can be as big or as small as you can think of!
For this question, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. It is easy to say a typical world issue — like hunger — but a creative problem can showcase your specific passions and interests and set you apart. An admissions officer is much more likely to remember an applicant who has a very specific essay written in a unique and quirky way.
- Write about a moment that illustrated your shift from child to adult within your community or family.
If you can’t immediately think of a pivotal event for this essay, you may want to skip it and try a different one. Essays like this are best answered with significant and unique moments rather than less important ones.
- Describe a favorite book or movie where the main character has to decide something difficult. What did you think about their choice?
The defining factor for this essay is what book or movie you choose. Stay away from pop culture novels that many people may use (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc.) and try to pick a book you have read in school or something unique you read for fun that stayed with you. However, don’t use a book you didn’t enjoy! Inauthenticity will always come through in your writing.
Coordinate tutoring sessions for admission help with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Write your top 10 list.
With this prompt, get creative. Don’t simply put 10 things you enjoy — get specific! Pick something you love and give your top 10 — maybe top 10 memories of your life, top 10 favorite books, top 10 quotes, etc. Make sure you give clear explanations of the items on your list as well. The more specific your list is, the better.
- Tell us a topic that you have changed your mind on in the past three years.
For this essay, don’t hesitate to get silly or serious — but make sure you go all the way whichever side you choose! Pick an issue that doesn’t come immediately to mind. Try to pinpoint a specific “a-ha” moment your opinion changed, and make sure to give an example of how your changed perspective has influenced your behavior.
- Write about your life goals.
To answer this prompt, go beyond the generic career and family goals. Try to answer things with a personal spin — maybe talk about goals you have for yourself as a person (e.g., to be more kind) or something unique you want to check off your bucket list!
- Pick a quote that describes a lot about you, and explain why you connect with it.
For this essay, choose a quotation that the admissions officers won’t see over and over. Stay away from individuals who are constantly quoted — like Dr. Seuss — and make 100 percent certain your quote is correctly attributed! Genius Tip: Check out these 25 inspiring volunteer quotes.
- Write about your most embarrassing moment and how you learned from it.
This is a great opportunity to get creative and share a funny experience! Try transitioning the experience into a more serious explanation of how it changed you — for example, maybe it encouraged you to be more considerate toward others’ feelings.
- Tell us about a time where you had to either take a risk or stay safe. What did you do? What happened? Would you do it again?
For this situation, if you made a poor decision, focus on the way you would change it. On the other hand, if you made a good decision, focus on what influenced you to make that decision and how it has changed you. You might think you have to pick an example where you took a risk, but your essay could be more memorable if you choose a candid example of when you chose to play it safe.
- Describe something you’re passionate about. How do you learn more about it? What makes it so appealing?
This is the perfect essay to set yourself apart from other applicants. Talk about that thing you love, that obscure topic you’re an expert about — anything, as long as your passion shines through in your writing!
- Pick your own topic for this essay.
This is a great instance to use an essay you’ve already written for another college. (Make sure to include modifications as needed.) This way, you can limit the number of essays you write and focus on quality of writing over quantity of essays.
Manage student advising appointments with an online sign up. SAMPLE
- Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten, who told you it and whether or not you followed the advice.
Don’t write a generic essay — find an example of advice that was specific and personal to you. Explain why it was so important, and connect it to a specific example in which you did or did not follow it.
- Write about the role that a certain activity (sports, theater, band, etc.) has had on your life.
This prompt gives you the opportunity to talk about your passions and show off your extracurricular activities. Make sure to connect the importance of the activity to a certain experience or story to give the essay direction.
- If you could meet with any person, living or dead, for an hour, who would it be and what would you say to them?
For this prompt, stay away from figures that are likely to be written about by hundreds of potential students (presidents, Mother Teresa, etc.), and pick a figure you are actually passionate about and interested in, rather than what you think sounds most academic. If you want to go personal and choose a family member, make sure you have a memorable and unique reason.
- If you were to give a very important speech or a TED talk, what would it be about?
When writing this essay, pick a topic of interest. Additionally, make sure whatever you write about has a clear, one sentence takeaway that you can stress throughout the essay to give it direction. To prep, watch a few TED talks online to help give your essay voice.
- If you were to teach a class, what would your class be on?
This essay topic is a great opportunity for humor. Choose a unique topic that others might not think of, and whatever you choose, make sure you know a lot about it!
- Tell us a “Eureka” moment that you had and what sparked it.
For this essay, make sure you think of a turning point that’s also an interesting story. This can be an opportunity to talk about an experience from one of your jobs or extracurricular activities. Tie it in to what you learned and how you’ve taken that lesson and incorporated it into your life.
- Write an essay about a time that you had to be brave or stand up for what you believed in.
This can be a great opportunity to talk about what’s important to you and what beliefs you hold most central to who you are. Center the essay around one experience or time in your life. Don’t play this one down the middle — take a stance and defend it.
- What makes you angry? What are you doing or what have you done about it?
Take this essay as big or as small as you want, but commit to it! Whether you write a funny essay about pet peeves or write one about large social problems, go all the way.
- If you could change one day of your life, what would you change? Why?
If you can’t immediately think of a significant day, you probably don’t have a lot of material for this essay. Save this essay for an unusual experience!
- Talk about a personal accomplishment that is unrelated to academics, but that means a lot to you.
For this essay, focus on a unique accomplishment that illustrates the diversity that you can bring to your university and really tells a lot about who you are. It can be a big or small accomplishment as long as it means a lot to you.
- If you could time travel to any time and place, where would you go?
When writing this essay, either pick a historical, personally significant or futuristic moment, but make sure you are passionate about whichever moment you choose. Begin with explaining the moment’s significance and your desire to experience it, then describe your personal connection to it.
Organize after-school help with an online sign up. SAMPLE
- If you could give any advice to an incoming high school student, what would it be?
In this essay, try to stay positive. Give advice about helpful things the student could do to benefit their high school career, rather than pointing out and seemingly complaining about the negative parts of high school (unless you are really funny) and then giving advice about how to deal with it. Be honest about your high school experiences while also displaying the perspective you have gained.
- If you could stop one invention from being invented, what would it be?
Try to be unique for this prompt. Make sure to outline not only your reasons for choosing the invention, but also the impact that the invention not being created would have on the world.
- Why do you want to attend this college/university?
For this essay: BE SPECIFIC! Colleges can tell when your essay is just a form essay. Make sure your essay mentions specific and unique aspects of the college/university you’re applying to so it’s clear that your essay is not just generic. There’s so much information out there on the Internet that there’s really no excuse for a poorly researched response.
- Pick a law and explain why it is so important to you.
There are many ways to interpret this kind of prompt. Whether you talk about a political law, religious law, physical law or something else, make sure to connect it your personal experiences. The more unique you are, the more likely an admissions officer will remember your essay.
- What do you want people to know about you but are afraid to tell them?
In this essay, don’t be afraid to get vulnerable and be specific. Whether you pick a trait or simply a specific memory, connect it to what it means to you personally and why you don’t generally tell people about it.
- If you could add an amendment to the Constitution, what would you add?
Silly or serious, this essay can be fun. Just make sure the amendment is NOT already part of the Constitution, and be sure to outline the impact your new amendment would have. Go a step further by explaining your strategy for getting the amendment passed.
- Talk about a person in your life who has helped you understand yourself better.
For this essay, give a few examples of how this person has impacted you. Then, conclude the essay with how you have understood yourself better because of these experiences.
- What book would you recommend to everyone?
Stay away from books that are likely to appear many times. This might go without saying, but make sure it’s a book you’ve already read! Rather than just summarizing the book, explain why you’re recommending it.
- Who is someone you have spoken up for because he/she cannot speak for him/herself?
If you don’t have a good example for this essay, don’t massage a story to make it fit. You’ll risk sounding privileged. This essay can be good, but it needs to be about a significant moment where you spoke up for someone who couldn’t speak for him/herself.
- What is one thing you want to accomplish in college?
In this essay, focus on the interests/activities that you’re passionate about. Make sure to focus your essay around one or two focused and achievable goals. This is also a great opportunity to mention specifics about the college you’re applying to.
With these prompts and ideas, you’ll be off to a great start on your college applications. One last piece of advice: Give yourself plenty of time to outline ideas and review — don’t wait until the last minute!
Kayla Rutledge is a college student who spends most of her time writing, singing for her church and eating quesadillas.
Posted by Kayla Rutledge
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