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Writing Prompts for College Students

We use this article to guide you in writing an excellent prompt. At Custom University Papers, we recognize the significance of equipping our esteemed clients, primarily college students, with the much-needed writing skills to excel in their forthcoming class assignments. Against this backdrop, please read on as we unravel every aspect of writing prompts for college students. We define writing prompts, identify and discuss various essay prompts, provide examples, and describe how to write an outstanding writing prompt.


What Are Writing Prompts?

Simply put, the term “prompt” constitutes giving a cue or signal to a person to direct them to focus on specific objectives, goals, topics, or tasks. A prompt comes in varying dimensions, primarily a text’s passage, an image, and a word. In this respect, writing prompts are activities, assignments, or assessments that require a college student to read or view a given passage or image and write about its topic (s) or theme (s) as directed. This is because the writing prompt offers a starting point, a clue, or an idea on various forms of writing, such as an original essay, poem, report, story or narrative, and journal entry.

Your professor is more likely to use writing prompts in standardized tests. However, some lecturers in English may ask you to devise your writing prompt. Writing prompts are more specific than most class assignments you will encounter in your English course. As mentioned, essay prompts ask college students to write about specific topics. A writing prompt solicits responses from learners by tasking them to write in an essay format. Equally important, writing prompts test students’ writing, research, analytical, and reasoning skills. In addition, an essay prompt assesses the learner’s ability to provide a well-thought point of view. These attributes explain why an essay prompt’s instructions include details about the topic and writing style.

Basic Components & Characteristics of Writing Prompt

All writing prompts have two major ingredients:

  1. The prompt itself – An image, a passage of a book/text, word, or phrase.
  2. Directions on what to do with the prompt – Instructions/requirements

Apart from these two elements, a writing prompt possesses two distinct features. First, essay prompts touch on the student’s everyday encounters. In other words, a writing prompt revolves around issues or topics accessible to the learners because they experience them in various social settings: schools, churches, museums, parks, grocery stores, restaurants, or supermarkets/hypermarkets.

The second attribute of virtually all essay prompts is allowing college students to write their answers in multiple ways. For example, it is not uncommon for your professor to ask you to complete the following prompt or similar tasks:

  • In this assignment, I would like you to produce a perfectly written and well-formatted personal narrative or story that communicates who you are, your interests and hobbies, and your plans for the future. The primary purpose of this prompt is for every student to introduce themselves in a way that allows us to know them better. Remember that your target audience is classmates and me (the instructor). Your response should include details that paint a clear picture of yourself. Present your ideas and thoughts effectively using Standard English. Support arguments in your essay with reasoning and real-life examples.

Notably, this essay prompt has two parts: an open-ended personal narrative and writing details. In other words, it allows students to write about themselves in ways that show, not tell, who they are.

You can now see from this example (narrative/story) that writing prompts assume wide-ranging forms: original essay, poem, passage, journal entry, or report.

Types/Kinds of Writing Prompts

As mentioned previously, writing prompt assignments take and manifest in varying forms. Still, we have different types of essay prompts:

  • Descriptive Writing Prompts
  • Narrative Prompts
  • Research Writing Prompts
  • Informative or Expository Prompts
  • Persuasive Writing Prompts
  • Opinion Prompts
  • Narrative Prompts

Descriptive Prompts

This writing prompt will ask you to write on a specific topic by including details or information that allows your reader (target audience) to create a clear/vivid picture or image of the theme at hand. As the name suggests, a descriptive essay prompt illustrates or pictorially expresses a topic. Descriptive writing prompts go a long way to solicit your reader’s senses.

For example, a descriptive prompt should appeal to the five senses as follows because descriptive writing appeals to your readers’ feelings and emotions:

  • Taste – The other children watched as the juicy mango melted slowly in the little girl’s mouth. The undistracted girl could not stop motley yellow juice from dripping down her cheeks.
  • Hearing – His voice was high, distressing, and squeaky.
  • Sight – While the movie theatre was gloomy, the appearance of a gigantic and agile Amazon illuminated the mood of the attendees.
  • Smell – While the pancake pizza looked tantalizing from a distance, she discovered it was already stinky.
  • Touch – Her hairy dog’s fur felt fluffy, like our fleece blankets. 

Research Prompts

When your professor asks you to write a research writing prompt, you should focus on locating relevant information on the assigned topic from various sources: books or class texts, peer-reviewed articles, and digital resources. Other online sources include social media platforms, including YouTube and LinkedIn.

Research essay prompts involve in-depth research, note-taking, professional academic writing, in-text citing, works cited page or a reference list.

Expository Writing Prompts

An exploratory writing prompt is informative in which college students are asked to present a chosen topic clearly and provide supporting facts, examples, and related details. The principal purpose of expository writing is to inform the audience.

Custom University Papers will help you with your informative prompt by ensuring that the essay defines the topic, explains it, and provides examples that tell about it.

Example of an Informative/Expository Prompt

  • While summer is a favourite season for most people in the United States and beyond, write an informative essay that describes your favorite season. If it is winter, autumn, spring, or summer, discuss what makes it special or unique to you.

Narrative Prompts

Our team of expert college essay prompts provided an example of a narrative prompt in the previous paragraphs when we discussed a personal narrative. Definition-wise, narrative writing asks college students to write about real (non-fictitious/non-fiction) or imagined (factious/fiction) experiences.

Therefore, a narrative prompt can be in the following forms;

  • Dialogue,
  • Logical sequencing, and
  • Sensory details

Opinion Writing Prompt

As the name suggests, opinion essay prompts ask students to write about or present their opinions or perspectives on a specific theme or topic. In other words, opinion writing involves providing the writer’s point of view regarding an issue, applying appropriate reasoning skills, and backing the arguments with relevant facts.

As a student pursuing a course in English, you are more likely to be asked to talk about (in written Standard English) your position on controversial/sensitive and debatable topics, such as the death penalty/capital punishment, physician-assisted suicide (PAS), abortion, gun violence, and firearm legislation. You must organize your information sensibly and cite credible sources to reinforce the details.

Persuasive Prompts

In persuasive writing, students are expected to appeal to the reader (target audience) to concur or agree with their ideas, points of view, or opinions. In essence, a persuasive prompt involves trying to convince someone or people interested in a topic to accept and nod to your position.


  • To reduce expenses due to the disruptive coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, your financial department manager has written to the company board of directors to cancel all budgeted field trips. Some workers in the organization, primarily full-time employees, think cancelling these trips is a bad move because they need some time off to relax and socialize away from workplace boredom. A handful of employees feel that vacation-like field trips are unnecessary because the money could be diverted to cushion everyone from the crisis. Write a 3 to 4-page essay explaining your opinion or position on this sensitive issue. Remember to present facts and provide real-life examples in your argument.  


These types of writing prompts can be a question, a statement, or a directive. Here are a few prompt examples. Moreover, your lecturer will direct you to produce a perfectly written and well-thought writing prompt in the following fields or disciplines and topics:

TechnologySocial Media, Internet and Tech, and Smartphones.

School and Career: Work and Careers, School, School Rules and Grading, Learning and Studying, College, Education Tech, and Teachers & Grading.  

Arts and EntertainmentMusic, Television, Language and Speech, Video Games, Books and Reading, Movies & Theater, Writing, and the Arts.

Identity and FamilyParenting, Money and Social Class,  Family, Neighborhood and Home, Childhood Memories, Holidays and Seasons, Growing Up, Role Models, Race, Ethnicity, Overcoming Adversity, Gender,  Your Personality, and Religion & Morality.

Science and Health: Health and Exercises, Science and Environment, and Animals & Pets.

Leisure Time and Social Life: Shopping and Cars, Friendship, Travel, Looks, Fashion, Dating and Sex, Holidays and Seasons, Looks & Fashion, Food, Shopping and Cars, Sports and Games, and Travel.

Civics and History: History and News, Guns and the Justice System, and Government Policy.

Type of writing prompts for college students

  1. Coalition for College Essay Prompts: The Coalition for College process has essay prompts for 2022-2023 applicants, including prompts on life experiences, personal topics, academics, and creativity.
  2. Argumentative Writing Prompts: The Learning Network has over 1000 writing prompts for students, including prompts on school rules, college, work and careers, and civics and history.
  3. Journal Prompts: There are several websites with journal prompts for college students, including prompts on where you see yourself after college, your priorities for the semester, and a difficult decision you faced recently.
  4. Creative Writing Prompts: Future Focused Learning has creative writing prompts to help students improve their creative and analytical skills. Some examples include writing about a happy childhood memory or describing something dark in a light place.

These writing prompts can help college students explore their thoughts and feelings, improve their writing skills, and prepare for college applications.

Use writing prompts to improve writing skills

Using writing prompts can be an effective way to improve writing skills. Here are some tips on how to use writing prompts:

  1. Use a variety of prompts: Using different types of prompts, such as personal prompts, creative prompts, and academic prompts, can help improve different aspects of writing skills.
  2. Practice regularly: Regular practice with writing prompts can help improve writing skills over time.
  3. Let your imagination take over: When using a prompt, let your imagination take over, and don’t worry about making mistakes. This can help improve creativity and engagement with the writing process.
  4. Set a timer: Setting a timer for a specific amount of time, such as 10 or 15 minutes, can help focus the writing process and improve time management skills.
  5. Use prompts in an active learning context: Exploratory writing done in an active learning context can help students develop critical thinking skills and discover valuable information.

By following these tips, students can use writing prompts to improve their writing skills and become more confident writers.

How to use writing prompts to overcome writer’s block

Here are some ways to use writing prompts to overcome writer’s block:

  1. Use a variety of prompts: Using different types of prompts, such as personal prompts, creative prompts, and academic prompts, can help overcome writer’s block by providing different angles to approach writing.
  2. Freewrite: Freewriting is a technique where you write continuously for a set amount of time without worrying about grammar or structure. Freewriting prompts can help overcome writer’s block by allowing you to write without judgment or pressure.
  3. Write down your thoughts: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help engage your creative brain and overcome writer’s block. Just making notes can help you get started.
  4. Use a writing prompt guide: Many available resources provide effective writing prompts. These guides can help you understand and work with effective writing prompts.
  5. Experiment with different techniques: Switching genres, formats, or languages can help overcome writer’s block by providing new perspectives and challenges.

These techniques allow writers to use writing prompts to overcome writer’s block and express their creative juices.

Additional Features of Writing Prompts

The core feature of a prompt essay is that it tells a story. While it is an essay centered on a thesis like a traditional academic essay, crafting a top-grade writing prompt requires using a storytelling narrative. You will use a given character’s first-person or third-person perspectives to support your thesis. Rather than using objective scientific information to support your thesis, as is the case when writing an academic essay, writing your prompt essay will force you to use storytelling to support your thesis through the plot you choose to use in your narrative essay.

Writing prompts require that you understand that your primary purpose in writing such an essay is to use a narrative formed by a story to support your thesis to either make a claim, prove a point, demonstrate something, or put forth a moral argument. This represents the equivalent of a thesis in a traditional academic essay. What is different in writing a prompt essay is that you will not explicitly lay out your thesis in the third person. Rather, your thesis should be part of the introduction of your essay and will represent the core element of the narrative that all of your body paragraphs will refer to. While writing a writing prompt thus involves using a thesis, as would be the case in a traditional academic essay, this thesis takes on a new form because of how you use a narrative storytelling approach.

You will advance a thesis for most prompt essays, but your thesis statement might not take on its traditional form. Rather, because writing a prompt essay often involves using personal experiences, anecdotes, and other informal information, the thesis you will use in these essays will be part of the story. Unlike a traditional academic essay in which the thesis is quite obvious, the thesis of a prompt essay might be more implicit because how the thesis is a core part of the story. Keeping this in mind when writing a narrative essay is critical to getting a straight-A because how writing a narrative essay is so saliently premised on using storytelling.

The writing prompt is a type of essay that diverges significantly from the traditional essay because it uses storytelling to support its thesis. With this involving the use of the first-person perspective, dialogue, and the absence of sources, a prompt essay is unique. Remember this as you write your writing prompt because you will use tools and elements you would not consider when writing a traditional academic essay. Writing a prompt essay is unique, and the process of writing it will reflect the fundamental difference storytelling brings to writing a prompt essay.

Writing a Prompt Essay

The first step in writing any prompt essay is to choose a topic and then build a thesis or main point concerning this topic. While your professor will sometimes assign a topic or general orientation for writing your prompt essay, you will typically have a high degree of freedom in choosing your topic. When choosing your topic, make sure that you choose a topic for which it will be easy for you to develop a thesis that you can integrate into a story and then support through at least three paragraphs of storytelling and a conclusion that is also based on storytelling. Because storytelling will be how you prove your thesis, pick a topic you can write about in story form before you begin writing a prompt essay.

Once you have formulated your thesis, you must write a writing prompt by transforming the logic you will use to support your thesis into a story. This means that each of the body paragraphs of your prompt essay should detail one set of events that support your thesis in a specific manner. Organizing your body paragraphs in story format so they all talk about different elements while supporting your thesis is likely the most significant challenge of writing a prompt essay.

Lastly, writing a prompt essay requires significant organization. In reviewing the body paragraphs that you produce in writing a narrative essay, make sure that each of these body paragraphs provides a different element of support for your thesis or main point. You must also ensure that all body paragraphs tie back to your thesis. Unlike a traditional academic essay, writing a prompt essay means that you may include new information in your conclusion. Given that your conclusion will culminate by bringing it to an end, write your conclusion in line with the rest of the story and allow it to represent the logical conclusion of your storyline based on the specific approach to writing a prompt essay taken.

Formatting Writing Prompts

When writing a prompt essay, your professor will likely ask you to write it in MLA style. This is because most wiring prompts are written in English classes. You might be asked to write a writing prompt using APA or Chicago style. Regardless of the style that you are asked to use to write a prompt essay, ensure that you follow the template your professor provides or that you research the formatting style through a source like Purdue University’s style guides to maintain consistent formatting and citations, if applicable when writing a prompt essay.

Once you format your writing prompt in the style your professor has mandated, it is time to ensure that your formatting is appropriate in terms of the organization of your story. This mostly means looking over your prompt essay to ensure that your story is clear and that the different paragraphs you have written all support one element while connecting to your thesis. Doing this is critical as the organization of your story concerning your thesis will be one of the elements that your professor uses in grading your writing prompt.


Now that our dedicated team of expert essay professionals at Custom University Papers has highlighted the key features of a perfectly crafted writing prompt, you can try our essay writing services by ordering your custom writing prompt today.

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