How to Make Your Essay Not Boring

Bored by your own college essay? Here are some tips that will liven it up, from Ethan Sawyer, aka the College Essay Guy!

Here are three tips to help you avoid writing an essay that’s, for lack of a better word, boring:

1. Make sure the connections your essay makes are non-obvious and specific.

Boring essays provide obvious and vague insights.

How do you avoid this? Use this Values List to make a few connections that don’t make immediate sense and make them super specific.


  • A boring or obvious connection might sound something like “my hospital internship taught me the value of helping others.” (Zzz…)
  • A less-obvious connection might sound something like, “my hospital internship led me to re-evaluate what I’d witnessed at the hospital in India, and ultimately taught me a lesson in democracy.”

Now that’s an essay—or even just a paragraph—that I’d totally be interested to read. (Note: she goes on to discuss promoting equal access to healthcare.)

The key: at first we should be like, “What?” Then, once it’s explained, we’re all, “Ohh…”


2. Be vulnerable.

Boring essays are rarely vulnerable. And what is vulnerability? It’s openly admitting to fears, insecurities, anxieties, or weaknesses. It’s beginning an essay with the words (or at least the thought): Heres something most people dont know about me. In short, it’s revealing something you might not normally reveal when meeting someone for the first time.

How can you do this? Easy. At the top of your page write the prompt: Heres something most people dont know about me Then write a line that’s true and vulnerable. Keep in mind that even if you are currently the all-star of your class, club or team, it may not have always been this way.


3. Change the order of events in your story.

Ever seen Pulp Fiction? Told chronologically, that film would be much less interesting. Part of why it engages us is because we’re kept wondering: what’s happening now? How does this all connect?

If your essay is boring, chances are it could be too chronological, so try beginning with the ending, or using a flashback. Note that you don’t need 37 time shifts; one or two will do.

For a great example of this, check out the “dead bird” essay.

And, for more personal statement help, visit us at


Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, has been helping students tell their stories for more than ten years. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, received an MFA from UC Irvine, and received two counseling certifications, one from UC Irvine and another from the Interchange Counseling Institute. He’s also a certified Myers-Briggs® specialist and his type (ENFJ) will tell you that he will show up on time, he’ll be excited to meet you, and, more than anything, he’s committed to–and an expert in–helping you realize your potential.


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