Design Thinking + Storytelling = Lasting Impact

“I put my best forward and with my Inspira Advisor’s help, I wrote an amazing Common App essay and supplementals that I am very proud of.  I would have not even had the chance if it was not for my advisor. So, again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!”

— Madison G., Tufts University ’27

What is Design Thinking?

At Inspira, we use Design Thinking to support students in creating memorable applications. Design Thinking is grounded on the concept of using empathy and the human experience to find and execute the best possible solution to a problem. Brought to life by the Stanford School of Design, it’s is widely used in the product development and technology sector to create products that are innovative and give users the best experience.

We decided to take the design thinking process and combine it with the college application process to create our curriculum. The written components of the college application, such as essays, are critical as they showcase the student’s character in ways that cannot be quantified. Whether it’s the common application essay, or the UChicago supplemental essay question “What is so easy about pie?” design thinking supports students to approach these topics with creativity and curiosity.

Design Thinking brings a set of unique principles to addressing complex challenges:

  • Human Centered: To us, students are more than their quantifiable aspects such as AP/IB exams, standardized test scores, and GPA. Each advisor begins their relationship with the student by taking the time to get to know the student holistically. Students are led through creative thinking activities to bring out and translate their authentic selves on paper. This way, our advisors understand the student’s strengths, and goals to build essays to showcase their experiences to admissions officers.
  • Reframing: Each school has a personality, from their motto, mission statement, traditions, architecture, etc. and we encourage our students in connecting with each of them. Through this process, students explore different angles and impactful ways to approach essay questions by breaking down the prompt and looking for synergies between aspects of their experiences, the college, and essay question. Our students are better equipped to understand how they can align and highlight their interests through their essays to better connect with the school.
  • Ideation: Creativity and curiosity takes reign during our ideation process. We support our student through curated exercises to help brainstorm ideas to widen the realm of possibilities before converging on the most effective and viable ones through the ideation phase. Students are multi-faceted and we believe in broadening all possible ideas that makes up who the student is when exploring the realm of answering essay prompts.
  • Prototyping: Now it’s time to cross off, condense, and select the ideas from our brainstorm session that best builds around the student’s strengths, interests, and demonstrates their authentic selves through outlines. Students work with our advisors to discuss each outline before settling on the essay that best encapsulates the student’s story. This process allows us to work together with students and be a guide to support them in the process of amplifying their voice.
  • Finalizing: In the end, students are confident in their final essay idea as we’ve explored all possible solutions to the prompt. Our advisors support students in their journey of crafting an essay in which brings their idea to life through the art of storytelling.

The Importance of Storytelling

Our story is our narrative, and we believe each student has a story to tell. There’s a reason why we remember certain stories. It’s because those stories are the ones that left us with a strong emotional impact. Stories are made of empathy, the greatest tool we as individuals have. However, not everyone knows how to harness their stories.

Our job at Inspira is to support students as they craft their unique experiences and translate them into impactful essays. After going through the design thinking process to solidify their ideas, our advisors support students in writing a narrative that inspires and communicates the student’s ideas effectively through storytelling. Our method supports students to take a creative lens towards crafting their essays to take reader on a journey of their experiences, beliefs, and understandings to leave a lasting impression.

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