So you haven’t cured cancer, and you have yet to make your debut as a Broadway star. Come college application essay writing time, many students struggle, assuming that they do not have anything interesting enough to say. This kind of thinking is a trap–the closer you look, anyone and everyone has a wealth of potential content at their disposal. It’s merely a matter of knowing what kinds of ideas are best suited to the genre of the college essay. If you’re still convinced that your life is too boring to write a killer college essay, then check out some of our guidelines here:

  1. Think small, then think smaller. The best college essays are not necessarily about some big, monumental moment in the writer’s life. In fact, smaller, quirkier, or more subtle details and stories are often much more interesting. Reflect on personal memories and break them down into the most descriptive terms possible–sights, sounds, and smells can all serve as unique starting points. Does, say, the smell of blueberry scones baking in the oven remind you of growing up with your British grandmother? Write about it.
  2. Ditch anything impressive-sounding. You’ll have the opportunity elsewhere in your application to show the admissions committee how smart you are, so use the essay as a chance to show them what kind of person you are. You don’t have to write about some huge accomplishment–in fact, doing so might hurt your chances, as you’ll be giving up an opportunity to demonstrate that you’re an intriguing, multi-dimensional candidate. That time you leaned over a candle on the dinner table and your hair caught on fire? You probably didn’t win a Nobel Prize for it, but it sounds like the kind of essay we’d want to read.
  3. Say something. This one sounds obvious, but hear us out. While your essay can and should be entertaining to read, use entertainment value as a vehicle for making a broader statement or claim. Regardless of whether or not you’ve been to Mars, you have something worthwhile to say–so get writing and say it! Keep in mind that your “something” might be different from what your parents or teachers want you to write about. That’s okay, and it might even be to your benefit (we love our parents and teachers, but they don’t know us as well as we do).

As you can hopefully see by now, it’s not imperative to have some big, flashy story to tell. In fact, the vast majority of successful essays approach a seemingly simple topic in an innovative or interesting way. If you keep these tips in mind and reframe your thinking, you’ll be on your way to a great essay.

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