What to do if you’re Boring

Essays and Personal Statements

I have worked with a range of students from very diverse backgrounds. Some have overcome poverty, illness, abuse or the death of a parent. Others have had fortunate lives without major challenges.

But regardless of their background, when it’s time to write their college essay, students who haven’t faced hardships are often jealous of the students whose have.

“I wish my life had been harder so I had something interesting to write about.”

“I haven’t had cancer or lost a parent. I’m so boring!”

Comments like this stem from one of the biggest misconceptions about the college essay: That it needs to be about overcoming some huge life challenge in order to be powerful and memorable.

It’s simply not true! Not every 17 year old will have faced illness, loss of a loved one, poverty, violence or natural disaster. And admissions officers know this.

Here’s the truth: a college essay doesn’t need to be about tragedy or hardship to be memorable. Many of the best college essays are about boring, everyday things. The secret is to describe them in a thoughtful way, and use these descriptions to reveal who you are and what matters most to you.

Most of my favorite student essays are about totally mundane topics, described in a way that leaves vivid images in the reader’s mind and gives a glimpse into the student’s innermost self.

One student wrote about listening to his dad’s record player, and described how records taught him how to focus on the moment, a skill that was essential in his chosen major. Another student described his battle to convince his anti-sports mom to allow him to play baseball, revealing his tenacity and determination. Another student wrote about having ugly feet. All these essays could have been really dull, but they came to life because the students used beautiful descriptions and were not afraid to reveal their vulnerabilities, flaws and quirks.

So don’t worry if you’ve had a boring life. Your essay can still be brilliant – it’s all in how you tell it.

We provide personal essay coaching for students applying to college. Learn about working with us here.