The holidays are upon us and so is the pressure to find just the right gift for everyone on your list.  We’d like to suggest a gift that fits children from any age, 6-18.  Ready for it: a journal, a notebook, a tablet, a gift that encourages writing.


As soon as students can sound out words in kindergarten, we encourage them to write.  Write your name, write a sentence, or write a poem.  In school, your student may be asked to write an analytical paper about something they’ve studied. However, in the college search process, most colleges want to see a student’s writing ability, not in an analytical essay, but a self-reflective essay.  Students are often asked to answer questions like: 

  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?  

And two of our favorite quirkier questions:  

  • Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—know you better. 
  • Carleton College is powered by wind turbines. What empowers you? 


Students need to know how to evaluate what makes them unique and to communicate those attributes in writing. We think one of the best ways for students to start the self-reflection process is to write in a journal. Journals are personal and an outlet for expression, creativity, and reflection. A journal entry is all about the writer. It can tell their story of happiness, sadness, obstacles, and triumphs.  Recounted, it can also be a great source for finding just the right story to tell an admissions committee.


So, as you think about what to put in a stocking this season, our official recommendation is a journal of any size, color and shape, a trusty pen, and some quiet time to go along with it!