Get really specific with what the idea is. (In my experience, a very particular idea tends to work better than an experience.) 

If possible, clarify what the idea is in the first 50 words (some students wait too long to clarify and the essay feels vague as a result, as we’re not sure what to focus on).

Consider using this another opportunity to share a part of yourself you have yet to share.

Connect the idea, as abstract as it may be, back to something personal. Many students keep the essay focused outwardly (on ideas) and as a result the essay feels abstract and swimmy. (Yes, that’s a technical term.)

If you need some inspiration, check out this Excel document with almost every single TEDTalk ever given.

Here’s a nice example essay for this prompt: 

What’s more probable: dying from a shark attack, or dying from falling airplane parts? Surprisingly, the answer is falling airplane parts. But why does our intuition point us towards shark attacks?   

The answer lies in the availability heuristic, or the WYSIATI (“what you see is all there is”) rule, which describes how our minds evaluate decisions based on how easily we can think of examples to support both sides. From Jaws to YouTube surfer videos, we have all likely heard of a horrific shark attack, and by WYSIATI, the ease with which we conjure up that memory leads us to assign greater probability.

Learning about WYSIATI evolved the way I communicate my ideas. When I first started debate, I over-focused on comparing statistics at the expense of clearly communicating larger arguments. WYSIATI taught me that a more effective approach involves weaving in memorable images like that of a horrific shark attack. 

This past summer, when debating whether labeling environmental activists as “eco-terrorists” is justified, my opponents cited dozens of crimes associated with activists from 1995-2002. With my knowledge of WYSIATI, I looked past the numbers and searched for more memorable, image-based examples and discovered that most of the so-called terrorist acts were actually “pie-ings”: environmental groups throwing pies to protest. So, instead of responding with only numbers, I declared that “the only thing that could make pie-ings terrorist acts is if the activists didn’t know how to make a good key lime pie!” 

Much clearer. And perhaps, a little bit funnier.

Nice, right?