Writing a solid essay is difficult. Usually, this is caused by unfamiliarity with the assigned topic, but once in a while, students are asked to write an essay about the most familiar topic of all: themselves. However, many students find writing a personal essay to be a surprising challenge.
Are you someone who cringes when asked to write an essay about yourself? If so, this is the article for you! Whether you are here to learn how to write an autobiography or just finish a childhood memories essay, the strategies and resources in this article will make your writing easier.
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Avoid the biggest mistake in an essay about yourself
When assigned a seemingly simple essay about life, most students think something like, “What could be simpler than an essay about me?” or “Why should I prepare for an essay about myself?”
The most common mistake students make when writing about themselves is forgetting the basics of formal essay writing, which is the number one cause of poor essays; a disorganized essay that does not have a clear point cannot earn you a top grade.
The basics of essay writing are the key
Do you feel completely comfortable writing a great essay on any topic? If not, you should stick to the basics:
- Use a simple 5 paragraph essay structure with an introduction paragraph, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.
- Prepare an outline detailing, at least, the purpose of each body paragraph.
- Make sure your introduction ends with a clear thesis statement that will guide the thoughts of your reader as well as your writing.
- Write a conclusion that revisits your thesis statement, essentially reminding the reader how the body of your essay supported your thesis statement.
If you can organize your text this much, your essay will be one of the best in the class.
Brainstorm essay topics for the perfect essay
Before you apply the basics you’ve learned from previous essay assignments, take a moment to brainstorm. If you were assigned a life changing event essay, make a list of life changing experience stories that you tell friends. If you were assigned a personal character essay, make a list of your favorite character traits about yourself. If the task is a simple personal statement, just write down anything about yourself that comes to mind.
Rather than limiting your thinking, just let your ideas spill onto the page, and after about 10 minutes, review your lists of topics.
Pick the best topic
Hopefully, you’ve produced a long list of topics, but the challenge is now picking the best topic for your assignment. Here are 3 easy steps to accomplish this goal and keep your essay focused:
- Reread the essay prompt, consider which of your ideas address this goal, and then cross out the topics that do not. (By the way, the second half of this article is dedicated to the different types of personal essays.)
- Determine which essay topics you can write about for 5 paragraphs (or the specific assignment length).
- Pick a topic, and start writing an outline and thesis statement. If your outline or thesis statement do not properly address the essay prompt, try another topic.
Top tips for all essays about yourself
If you know how to write a good essay and pick a solid topic, you may still need some tips specific to personal essays. One big tip is to take a look at essays written by others. Read a sample biography, some excellent personal statement examples, or perhaps some examples of scholarship essays. (By the way, many universities post sample college essays from recently accepted students, and these are a great source of inspiration for writing.)
Breaking down the types of essays about you
When working on different types of essays, it is important to stress different points in your writing. Accordingly, here is an overview of the types of essays you are likely to encounter when you are the topic.
By the way:
Much of this info works across essay types, soyou should read through each of these types of essays to see what applies to your specific prompt.
Mastering essays on hobbies
Perhaps you are asking yourself, “Why should I worry about an essay on my hobbies?” You’re right, so don’t worry. Instead, take a look at any hobbies essay sample, and you will be likely to see a very common problem: these essays can be boring, which is an easy way to get a poor grade.
Here are some common problems with hobby essays (and their solutions):
- Problem: The writer didn’t explain the hobby well enough for the reader to understand it.
Solution: Try to determine if a random reader would understand your hobby. If not, include more detail. If your hobby is a rare one, you will need to include more details.
- Problem: The reader does not see why you enjoy the hobby.
Solution: Tell one or more short stories about you engaging with your hobby. You may want to explain why you fell in love with your hobby, but this is not essential if your story is very common. The purpose of a hobby essay is to show yourself by explaining an interest of yours. Most importantly, you should explain why you love your hobby.
- Problem: Your hobby essay does not stand out from other essays.
Solution: Focus on a unique hobby or a unique reason you became interested in a common hobby. Perhaps your teacher has already read 15 essays about baseball, or maybe your teacher feels like your hobby was totally interchangeable with another hobby.
If you think the story of your love for your top hobby is generic, pick another hobby.
No matter what, make sure the focus is on you. When you are writing about a personal hobby, you should aim to make yourself the star by essentially telling your reader about yourself through an interest of yours.
Mastering life changing experience essays
The purpose of a life changing experience essay is obvious: simply put, you need to tell the reader about a specific event that changed your life (which also works for a closely related type of essay, the personal narrative essay).
There are three essential elements that should be clear to readers of any life changing experience writing:
- The reader should understand the event — both what happened and how it made you feel at the time.
- The reader should understand what the event changed about you. It is best to tell the reader about yourself before the event and after the event (but this depends on the essay length).
- The reader should understand how you feel about the event now (in the conclusion or elsewhere, for longer essays).
If you need personal experience essay ideas, focus on events that you can write about to meet the three above criteria. (If your assignment is very free form, take a look at a list of prompts for personal writing.)
Mastering essays about education
As a student, you will be asked to write an essay about education eventually. Because education is a common topic for scholarship or college admissions essays, they tend to cluster around the same topics again and again.
You’ve read enough of this article to know that is a problem.
Personal writing is about setting yourself apart, so tell the reader what made your education unique.
How can you make your educational essay really stand out? First, go beyond generic stories of overcoming an academic weakness by avoiding essays that take the following form: “I was terrible at subject X, but through hardwork, I became quite excellent at subject X!”
Focus on an assignment or subject that captured your attention — the more unusual the situation, the better. Use storytelling to enhance your essay. (In fact, the best education essays can be essays about life changing education experiences; for example, many great educational stories focus on the teacher or class that changed the author’s life.)
Occasionally, teachers will assign a grandiose assignment, like write your own biography (i.e., write an autobiography). Unfortunately, you probably have no idea how to write your own biography.
But don’t fear!
This section will explain precisely how to write a short biography using a very basic biography template. (The focus is on a short biography because you probably won’t be asked to write a book-length autobiography.)
Remember that you need to keep the attention of your reader. If nothing else, you want to capture the attention of your teacher or the scholarship review board. For this reason, you should tell a good story about yourself because learning how to write a biography is all about learning how to tell a good story.
Mastering biographies: the biography template
A solid biography is a solid story. For this reason, the biography template is essentially the template of a well-crafted story, which typically is divided into 3 specific parts:
- First, you must establish the characters. In this case, the characters are people in your life. For example, if your autobiographical essay includes family member, you need to tell the reader about them,and you need to do this first, before anything exciting happens.
- Next, you must build tension. In any piece of fiction, a problem arises, and strong biographies mimic this quite well. This escalation of tension might be a problem in your family. It might be a big move across the country. It is best for the problem in your biography to gradually emerge rather than appear out of nowhere.
- Lastly, your biography should conclude with a resolution. But a resolution is not the same thing as a problem being solved. (For example, when a loved one dies, there is no solution to that problem. Instead, you grieve and learn to live without that person in your life.)
If your biography manages to achieve all 3 of these elements, you will surely have one of the strongest essays in the class.
Here are two more quick tips:
- Don’t be afraid to show some of your weakness in your biography. Because this is a story, you will want your reader to empathize with you. No one likes someone who is perfect and has no flaws. A common mistake of many students is to write a biographical essay that is all bragging. Don’t do this!
- But don’t show too many weaknesses! If your biographical sketch is for a scholarship, the last thing you want to do is make yourself seem awful. By hinting at one of your personal flaws, you will seem like a human being. If you list half a dozen flaws, you may seem like someone who does not deserve a scholarship, college admission, or a passing grade.
Each of the above types of essays may be the basis for a biographical essay. For example, you may consider a hobby, event, or education experience as the context for your biography, and this approach is an excellent way to make your autobiography more focused.
Mastering personal statements
The last type of personal writing is unfortunately the least taught, but most important. If you are like most students, no one will teach you how to write a personal statement. When faced with their first college application, most students go to the web to find the format for a personal statement. (If you are reading this article in preparation for a college application, be sure to watch a video about writing strong personal statements because every bit of preparation can help get you into the college of your dreams.)
If you learn from examples, the best thing to do is check out several strong personal statement examples. As mentioned earlier, many universities post essays from accepted students. Or perhaps you should read a breakdown of portions of a personal statement. The point is, read what others have done for inspiration. Examples of strong personal statements can be of great help.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of personal statements:
- Some personal statements are based on very specific prompts. For these, read the prompt very carefully and craft a thesis statement that addresses it directly. Build the rest of the essay around that thesis statement as you would for any essay. (Remember that you can also use lots of the tips given in this article for specific types of personal writing.).
- Some personal statements give you complete freedom. For many scholarship or college applications, there is very little direction, which can be make writing a cohesive essay particularly tricky — if you are not somewhat disciplined
The best approach to any personal statement without a prompt is structure. Often, college admission boards and scholarship review boards use freeform personal statements as a way to identify focused, articulate students. Thus, the top tip for these is to write a clear thesis statement. A thesis statement for an essay without a prompt should be so clear that it sounds like it addresses a writing prompt.
When there is no prompt, this is the time you should specifically use the standard 5 paragraph essay. Your discipline will impress your readers, which is exactly what you want.
However, an open-ended essay prompt is sometimes just too much to handle in time, but that is alright. It happens to everyone, and the writing experts at Custom-writing.org can help, luckily. You can work with one of their expert writers or editors to create the perfect personal essay.