Most seventeen-year-olds have not climbed Mount Everest, conducted original scientific research, saved a life, or overcome a major obstacle. In fact, many adults might be hard pressed to come up with a breathtaking story. Yet, these are the stories that seem to set the bar for what a college essay should be about. Whenever I hear educators talk about college essays that have stood out for them, they mention the ones that convey stories of incredible feats, bravery, and selflessness. They often fail to highlight the majority of stories that contain those tiny gems that speak to universal human experiences. We’ve all heard or uttered the oft proffered phrase, good things come in small packages, when receiving or presenting a gift. We do this to make up for the size, as if it might connote or equate to quality.

The truth is that, when considering what to write for their personal statements, many teens whose stories are encapsulated in small packages, struggle to come up with ideas that they think will be big enough to impress and amaze. The real truth is that, even through the simplest moments or events can come the biggest ideas and profoundest thoughts. For some it might be a life lesson or strategy learned through an activity, or a setback. For others it might be a passion that is not only about the activity itself (sports, art, or music) but is also about the other things the passion provides, such as time for personal reflection and wellness, or connectedness to others with the same interests. If the essay is told through authentic content and voice, and demonstrates reflection and growth, no story is too small. And, that’s the truth!