Student Question

"I have a few essay ideas: 1. How my work ethic paid off. 2. How practicing an instrument taught me to be responsible and manage my time. 3. How I need classical music to keep me going. 4. How being short has affected me. 5. My experience visiting a foreign country. 6. How getting diarrhea when I am stressed has affected me.

Any thoughts?"

My Response

Though you can write a good essay about any topic, some of your ideas fall into what I call "essay ruts": common topics that yield familiar insights. #1, #2, #3, and #5 all seem to fall into that category. #6 might be unusual, but the ick factor is probably too high. Of all the ideas you've listed, I think #4 has the most potential.

Yes, I know that other people have written about how being short affected them. But if you write about some specific moments when being short changed your attitude and actions, that would be something interesting. Just be sure you're pushing beyond the general "Being short taught me Some Amazing Life Lesson" essay to focus on details unique to you. Ask yourself, "What would people expect me to write about this topic?" Then steer clear of that familiar territory and explore a surprising aspect of your story instead.

Final Thoughts

If you thought today's post was helpful, please share it with your friends. Good luck writing!


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.