Writing an autobiography essay about yourself can be daunting. First of all, this format differs significantly from any other type of academic essay you have written for high school or even for college. Second, it’s unnerving to be in a spotlight. “What shall I tell about myself? I’m not famous or anything. I have nothing to tell!”
However, there are many situations in life where you might be required to submit a short essay about yourself. For example, for college application or for a scholarship you must always accompany your submission with a personal statement or a “tell us about yourself” essay. Even for a job interview, you have to learn how to talk about yourself eloquently and with confidence. Better start practicing now!
First of all, let’s tackle the format. You remember from the very first essay for college that you had to write, that you should always write an essay in third person, be objective, and analyze your subject dispassionately. Well, this is different. When you write about yourself, essay must be in the form of first-person narration.
Second is what you should write. Although the word “autobiography” literally means, “self-life writing”, you don’t have to write the full story of your life – that would take an entire book! Instead, you should create a narration around one topic that conveys a clear message about you as a person. Examples of such topics that frequent the admission prompts include an accomplishment you are proud of, meaningful memory, adversity you overcame, a formative experience, a moment you will remember forever, etc.
As you can see, the scope is not that daunting. It can be just one event – but it must be real and based on your experience.
How to Decide on a Topic When Writing an Essay About Yourself
First of all, decide on a central message. It depends on the purpose of your essay. Remember, it is important to be sincere – don’t invent anything. However, you have the power to choose which character traits or experiences you will bring forward and explore.
- Writing an admission essay for a highly selective college? Dig down for something unique that makes you… you!
- Writing an autobiography for a job application? Highlight experiences relevant to your future position in the company.
- Pay attention to prompts. Usually, they already have everything you need to start your essay.
If you don’t have any specific goals and prompts, and the assignment sheet simply says “Write an essay about yourself”, you have a freedom to choose. Here is what you can explore:
Your family history
- - How did your family end up where you are now?
- - How does your family history relate to the history of your country/region?
- - Do you have any family traditions?
- - Which character traits you share with other members of your family?
- - Are there any family legends or stories passed down from generation to generation?
- - Do you think your family is typical or unique? In what way?
- - What are your family values and how they relate to the values of your culture?
- - What holidays and customs you observe?
- - Do you have special traditions or foods associated with particular holidays?
- - Do you have special outfits for specific occasions?
- - What language do you speak? Do you speak different languages with different members of your family?
- - What are your earliest memories associated with holidays and traditions?
- - Is there a childhood memory particularly precious to you? What is it? Why?
- - What may seem unique to others about your childhood? (For example, you grew up in a tightly-knit small community, on a farm, in a capital city, or in a popular tourist spot?)
- - What were the people that surrounded you growing up? Whom did you look up to?
- - How do you think your childhood experiences shaped who you are today?
Your life now
- - Describe your typical day. How does it start? What is your first thought in the morning?
- - What do you look forward to? What is the highlight of your day?
- - Who are the people you meet every day? What are your relationships with them?
A meaningful event
- - Think of events that made an impact (the birth of your sibling, the day met your best friend, the loss of a family member, the moment you’ve made an important decision about your life)?
- - What difference did it make?
- - How it changed you personally?
How to Start an Essay about Yourself
Dropping your readers in the thick of events is a great way to start off an essay dynamically and hook them into reading – and that applies to any narrative.
When writing about yourself, begin an essay by diving into the experience or a pivotal moment in your life that you have chosen to be the center of your story. Tease it as a flashback, give a reader just a glimpse and leave them hungry for more. Who says that a college essay has to be boring?
However, make sure that apart from engaging your readers, the hook also works for establishing the main theme of your essay.
How to Write an Introduction about Yourself Essay
When we think about an intro to an autobiography, we usually imagine something Dickensian: “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.” (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield)
However, for a personal essay about yourself, examples like this won’t work, unless you want to convey something important about your family. For instance, if your parents often moved from place to place and it made an impact on how you see the world, you may start with the story of your birth, incorporating it meaningfully with the main message of your essay:
“I grew up on the road, and even when my mother went into labor, my family was on the move to a new city. I learned early on that the only thing constant in this life is change. Maybe that is why I am so adaptable and open to new experiences”.
This is a good example because it already contains the core message of the essay (“I am adaptable and open to new experiences”) that you can develop and explore as your write further – the autobiographical analog of a thesis statement.
How to End an Essay about Yourself
Concluding an essay about yourself is difficult because our life is a story in a process of creation. However, you should remember the overarching theme of your essay and the message that joins all the experiences in a coherent story. Explain it to your readers and reflect upon it. Tell why it was significant, what you have learned from it. Go back to the beginning of the story and tie it all together.
Remember how you should never give any new information in your conclusion? Well, this rule doesn’t work for autobiographies! You can add a surprise spin on your essay by telling about something unexpected that came from your experience. Mind that it still must work for the core message of your essay (e.g. overcoming your fear, remembering important people in your life, perseverance, friendship, etc.)
Sample Essay About Yourself
Do you know what is the best way of learning how to write an essay about yourself? Example! When you see how others handled the task, it immediately turns from the challenging into accessible. Read an excerpt from one of the college essay examples about choosing your path in life:
There is a funny little story in my family about my stubbornness I’ve been hearing while growing up.
My grandfather and I were walking in the park, and I stopped in front of blossoming lilac shrubs. I was about two years old, so everything was new and fascinating to me. After a minute, grandfather suggested we’d go further, but I said “No, don’t want further”. He waited, and then tried to suggest we went home instead since I seemed bored to him. I answered, “No, don’t want home”.
“Let’s go to the swings, then”
“No, don’t want swings”. I was becoming cranky.
“How about ponies? Let’s go and see the ponies!”
“No, don’t want ponies!” I was crying.
“Okay, okay, let’s go where you want!”
“No, I don’t want where I want!” After uttering that iconic phrase, I went into meltdown.
I used to hear this story many times from my grandpa’s perspective. It was amusing and absurd. It was a story about how toddlers make no sense and never know what they want. Except, I knew what I wanted.
I wanted to stay there and watch beautiful lilac blossoms. I wanted to come closer to them and touch them. I wanted to explore the shrubs. What I didn’t know back then were the right words. I didn’t know the word “lilac”, I didn’t know the word “stay” or even “here”. I was crying not because I was stubborn, but because I’ve been struggling to find the words I didn’t have yet.
People say that having memories of something so early in life is unlikely. I think it’s a gift. I swore to myself never to forget how difficult it is to be without the right words in the world that doesn’t understand you. That’s why I decided to teach English to non-English speakers. I help people to find the right words so they could say what they want, what they desperately need – and so the world would understand them.
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