How to Write an Engaging Essay about Something Not So Engaging

How to Write an Engaging Essay about Something Not So Engaging

As a result of the pandemic, college essays have actually gained importance. With the near-constant academic disruptions that significantly impacted GPAs, the test-optional policies so many schools have adopted, and the fear of participating in more social extracurriculars, the admissions process has taken a necessary shift. Colleges that typically place the majority of their focus on grades, test scores, and extracurriculars have, therefore, moved their attention to the essay.

However, for many college applicants, this can be a little scary…especially for those who have lived perfectly normal, secure lives.

The reality is every student has a wealth of stories to tell that have built up over the last 18 years, even in the smallest and most mundane of moments. These tips can help take those moments and turn them into a killer essay.

Exciting Life Story Does Not Mean Exciting Essay

Often, when a student has experienced a very significant life event, an incredible accomplishment, or a unique journey, the essay’s focus becomes that event. While many of these essays evolve into inspiring writing pieces, those with such events at their disposal are not at an advantage when it comes to essay topics.

Instead, choosing a smaller story and pairing it with attention-grabbing imagery, sharp writing skills, and thoughtful reflection can show college admissions a lot about who you are as a student and as a person.

It’s all about how you say it.

When students demonstrate that they can find meaning in seemingly insignificant moments, they show themselves to be deep thinkers and observers, with a strong awareness of the world. 

What You Can Do

If you are racking your brain for potential topics, with every one feeling “not good enough”, try asking yourself some questions:

  • What did you do last weekend?
  • What news stories have stuck with you?
  • How has your community impacted you?
  • When have you felt nervous recently?
  • What do you often find yourself googling?

These simple questions encourage brainstorming, along with some self-realization. If you find yourself interested in news stories about injustice, for instance, that might clue you in to what you are passionate about. If, in thinking about community, you remember how your neighbor taught you to ride your bike, you might discover an aspect of your background that helped shape who you are now.

Let’s Take a Closer Look

Recently there was a blog post about the most recent prompt added to the Common App:

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Maybe your family experienced a life-altering event in which the community worked together to help you through. In all likelihood, however, such a major incident never happened.

Instead, you could ask yourself: What’s a recent time I’ve felt thankful to someone?

It could be as small as someone lending you money for a sandwich, giving you a ride when someone else was using your car, or calling you to check in after a hard day.

Whatever you decide on, the unique and specific details you add in and the meaning you draw from that moment may lead to an impactful, engaging and impressive essay.

Coupled with the pressure of applying to colleges, knowing how to write an engaging essay can seem overwhelming. Remind yourself, as you brainstorm, that no topic is too insignificant or small to stick out to college admissions officers. If you need help throughout this sometimes stressful process, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.


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