Help Writing An Essay About Myself
Even though we know ourselves better than anyone else, writing about yourself is hard work! When applying for scholarships or college, questions that force us to analyze ourselves come up all the time in all different forms and they often leave us stumped! Some common examples of personal essay prompts are:
Tell me about yourself.
Describe a challenge or event that made you who you are today.
What are your short- and long-term goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
Write about a time you failed at something. How did it affect you?
and the list goes on and on!
We might find it so difficult to write about ourselves because we’re embarrassed, don’t want to brag, or simply don’t know what to include. But knowing how to approach these essays can make them much easier!
Check out these 8 tips for writing an essay about yourself:
1. Create a List of Questions
After understanding the prompt, the first thing you should do when figuring out how to write an essay about yourself is to make a list of questions that you’d like to answer. The best way to do this is to think of smaller questions that relate to the big question.
To get you started, here are a few common examples:
What is your background?
What’s your greatest accomplishment?
What are your goals?
What are your interests?
2. Brainstorm and Outline
After deciding which questions you want to answer, it’s time to brainstorm your responses. Feel free to write down anything that comes to mind. Once you have all your thoughts out, focus on the most important parts and create a comprehensive outline to work from!
3. Be Vulnerable
Don’t be afraid to let both your weaknesses and strengths shine through in your essay! Scholarship and admissions committees love to see that you’re self-aware and conscious of how you can improve as a person so go ahead and talk about your mistakes and how you learned from them.
4. Use Personal Examples
Since this essay is all about you, you should make it as specific as possible! Avoid using generalizations (e.g. I’m really good at music) and, instead, go for more personalized statements (e.g. My fourth-grade teacher really inspired me to pursue my interest in the clarinet). Your own personal examples are what will make you still out in the end.
5. Write in the First Person
Even though you likely had an English teacher at some point who told you to never write an essay in the first person, you can throw that advice out the window. When figuring out how to write an essay about yourself, you should absolutely write in the first person. Using the third person perspective for a personal essay is strange and awkward, so it’s best to avoid it.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Off But Don’t Overdo It
Most students hate writing a personal essay because they don’t want to brag, but it’s more than okay to highlight your accomplishments and strengths. However, it’s a good idea to take a second look at your essay to make sure that you’re keeping the tone informative and realistic. Also, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed when writing your essay. The committee wants to hear all about you so there’s no shame in giving them what they want!
7. Let Your Personality Shine Through
Just because it’s an essay doesn’t mean it has to be dry and boring. This essay is all about you, so let your personality shine through! Trying your best to express who you are as a person will have a huge effect on the admissions or scholarship committee!
8. Proofread and Edit!
The last step in writing your personal essay is to double check your work! One typo can bring your essay from amazing to just okay and it doesn’t take long at all to avoid that. In addition to proofreading, it’s also a great idea to go back and change sentence structures or add/delete information to make your essay stronger.
Now that you’re ready to write an awesome essay about yourself, sign up with Going Merry. You can easily upload your essay to your profile and submit your essay with your scholarship applications.
How To Write About Yourself: Great Tips For Personal Writing That Won’t Sound Awkward
Does writing about yourself feel like pulling teeth? Or maybe writing a personal essay feels like wrestling an angry cat into a tiny Christmas sweater? Or perhaps it just feels like a rainy Saturday on the first free weekend you’ve had in months?
For lots of high school students, writing about yourself feels awkward and forced. How can you share personal things without resorting to cliches or feeling braggy? How do you write an essay describing yourself and your accomplishments without making it sound like a resume?
Well, just like most things, you get better at writing about yourself by writing about yourself. You practice. That’s it.
Your personal statement is a big part of any college application and writing it shouldn’t be the first time you’ve ever written about yourself, your accomplishments, or the challenges you’ve faced.
To help you hone your writing chops and prepare for your personal essay, here are four of the best ways to learn how to write about yourself.
HOW TO WRITE ABOUT YOURSELF:
Become a better writer by journaling
It’s good to write more, period
Different types of writing help you know your audience + hone your voice accordingly
Good personal writing is vulnerable
1. BECOME A BETTER WRITER BY JOURNALING
Journaling has been shown to help manage anxiety and reduce stress both things that are helpful as you navigate this challenging time of standardized testing and college applications. Journaling also helps you hone your writing voice outside of academic expectations or social media’s pressure to be funny or deep.
If writing about your feelings in a notebook every night feels a little too Judy Blume/Dear Diary, there are plenty of other options. You could keep a giant Google Doc filled with bullet points or record voice notes on your phone.
You could keep a video journal you don’t have to show it to anyone or upload it to YouTube! You could write lists on any topic that sparks your interest fantasy jobs, favorite books, times I thought I’d ruined everything but it turned out fine.
If you’re not sure what to journal about, here are a few journaling prompts:
The two moments I’ll never forget in my life are (describe them in great detail, and what makes them so unforgettable)
The words I’d like to live by are
I couldn’t imagine life without
When I’m in pain physical or emotional the kindest thing I can do for myself is
Make a list of the people in your life who genuinely support you, and whom you can genuinely trust. (Then make time to hang out with them.)
Regardless of the shape your journal takes, keeping a record of your thoughts helps you track important experiences in your life something that will come in handy when you’re writing that personal essay.
2. IT’S GOOD TO WRITE. PERIOD.
The more you write the better your writing will be.
And any kind of writing counts! Emails, journal entries, long Instagram captions any writing that helps you tap into your voice and your experiences will prepare you for your college essays.
You’ll get in the habit of including details, crafting narrative arcs, and structuring your sentences with care. We all need junky first drafts, and the more you write, the more first drafts you’ll have that can be edited into something great.
3. GOOD PERSONAL WRITING INCLUDES INTERESTING DETAILS.
Good personal writing, whether you’re writing a social media post or scholarship essay, includes interesting details. Specifics add color and context to a story. Telling your reader you were shy, for example, is fine. But opening your essay with this paragraph is more interesting:
The clock was remarkably slow as I sat, legs tightly crossed, squirming at my desk. ‘Just raise your hand,” my mind pleaded, ‘ask.” But despite my urgent need to visit the restroom, I remained seated, begging time to move faster. You see, I was that type of kid to eat French Fries dry because I couldn’t confront the McDonalds cashier for some Heinz packets. I was also the type to sit crying in front of school instead of asking the office if it could check on my late ride. Essentially, I chose to struggle through a problem if the solution involved speaking out against it. For the rest of this essay, click here.
Telling your readers that you took a trip to an unfamiliar place is fine. But this paragraph is better:
Day 1: ‘Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk. Labbayk La Sharika Laka Labbayk,” we chant, sweat dripping onto the wispy sand in brutal Arabian heat, as millions of us prepare to march from the rocky desert hills of Mount Arafat to the cool, flat valleys of Muzdalifa. As we make our way into the Haram, my heart shakes. Tears rolling down my cheeks, we circumvent the Ka’ba one last time before embarking on Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage of Islam. It became the spiritual, visceral, and linguistic journey of a lifetime. For the rest of this essay, click here.
4. BE VULNERABLE.
Writing about yourself doesn’t need to reopen emotional wounds. If you’re wondering what to write your personal essay about, the answer isn’t necessarily ‘That thing I go to therapy for.”
That being said, being vulnerable in your writing is one of the best ways to showcase your accomplishments without being annoying or braggy. Share your own personal before and after the challenges you overcame in order to accomplish something, the self-doubt you worked through to become good.
When you’re writing about yourself, contextualize it by providing a backstory. How many hours did you practice that trumpet solo before you auditioned? How many times did you run that lab test before you got the results you wanted? How many times did you try out for the varsity soccer team before you made it?
And good personal writing doesn’t always end with a traditional win. Maybe you never made the varsity soccer team, but you learned a lot about yourself when you tried out. Perhaps the results of your lab tests didn’t turn out the way you expected, but you discovered something important in the process. Show us the work that went into the person you are now.
Learning how to write about yourself doesn’t have to feel awkward or uncomfortable. Promise! Use these personal writing tips to practice being reflective before you start your college essays. Practice may not make perfect, but it will definitely make it easier for you to showcase yourself to colleges down the line.
Essay is a popular genre. Trouble is, the number of essayists lobbying for space on the page far exceeds the available slots. For example, The New York Times’ Modern Love column sees thousands of submissions each year of which only 52 run.
Despite this sobering stat, not all publications that run personal essays are this competitive. Out of every 15 essays I draft, I usually sell about 10. Not a bad ratio.
While I’d like to believe each of those 10 is a masterpiece, the truth is, I’ve learned to avoid the common essay pitfalls. Plus, when I know an essay is good, I never give up until I snag a sale.
Common mistakes while writing an essay about yourself
Don’t feel bad if you’re making one of the mistakes outlined below. I came up with this list after years of not only writing my own essays, but critiquing essays by other writers.
In fact, these mistakes are so common that I teach a personal essay writing course to help writers avoid them and get published in their dream outlet.
So let’s help you get an editor’s attention and land a coveted spot in your favorite publication! Avoiding these mistakes each time you write an essay about yourself is a solid starting point.
Here are eight common mistakes you should avoid when writing a personal essay:
1. Using essay to vent
Writers often use an essay as an opportunity to express a moralistic stand, rant about a controversial issue or vent about a family member. Don’t.
If you take a stand on an issue and run it into the ground chances are, you’ll lose your reader the moment she (or he) gets your point.
Instead, challenge the reader to adopt his own stand without stating it outright. Give your reader a new way to look at the issue by sharing part of yourself and showing him your experience, and you may, indirectly, change a viewpoint.
Need an example? Christine Gross Loh’s piece on toy guns is one of my favorites.
2. Clearing your throat on the page
Most first drafts I critique come with at least three lines of superfluous throat-clearing that can easily go without impacting the piece.
See how your essay sounds if you start out with the fourth or fifth sentence instead.
Essayist Jody Mace tells a story about an essay she wrote about her kindergarten-aged son who kept feeling women’s breasts. ‘I started with a discussion about raising sons to be gentlemen, and eventually said, ‘My son is a breast man.’ A friend said, ‘Cut everything before ‘my son is a breast man.’ I did, and it was a great opener.”
3. Writing long way too long
Don’t be afraid of the butcher knife.
When you’re revising and polishing an essay, make sure what you’ve written is tight there are no unnecessary words, no superfluous anecdotes and no nonsense!
If you need to trim your piece so it will fit into a particular column, try cutting extra words or even extra graphs, and see if your piece still works. And don’t be so pleased with how you’ve turned a phrase that you keep it in your piece even though it doesn’t add to or support your takeaway.
4. Overlooking day-to-day life as essay fodder
An essayist’s job is to extract universal meaning from the mundane facts and experiences of life.
I’ve written about my husband’s toy collection, my son’s rare congenital heart condition, even my attempts at selecting the perfect wine to pair with a dish.
No matter what your story is about, it should involve some sort of personal transformation that allows you to see the world differently. Will your story make readers feel something, or think about an issue differently? Will it motivate them to act (by calling their mom, for example)?
If your piece makes readers recall an event or life experience of their own, chances are you’ve crafted a great essay.
5. Using lazy language
Many writers tend to use words and phrases repeatedly.
Try this self-editing experiment: Circle or highlight all of the adverbs and adjectives in your piece. Are they the best words for the job? Can you come up with better, richer or more meaningful words? Or do you find that you’ve used the same adjectives and adverbs over and over again? Each description should only appear in your piece once.
Next, look at your verbs. Are they action verbs? Picturesque, hard-hitting and precise? Or do you have a lot of ‘to be” verbs that don’t impart any meaning?
6. Being afraid of dialogue
Using direct dialogue is often more effective than telling the reader what someone said.
Instead of saying, ‘The pediatrician told us to get rid of our son’s thumb-sucking habit,” write ”If you don’t put a stop to his thumb-sucking before he’s three, his teeth will be set and the damage will be done,’ warned our pediatrician.”
Using dialogue is another way of showing the reader your story rather than telling them.
Worried about the fallibility of your memory? Quotes don’t have to be exact; they just have to be exactly how you remember them. Unlike a reported piece, essay is about your personal experience your perception of events.
7. Holding back
If you’re determined to stay safely on the surface of your story, essay might not be the right form for you. To write essays, you have to put your whole self into them your biggest hopes, greatest fears and deepest regrets. You have to be vulnerable.
If you feel yourself censoring aspects of your experience, stop. Maybe this isn’t the right time for you to write this piece. Maybe you need more distance from the situation so you can uncover deeper truths.
You have to be ready to let yourself go and know that the more of yourself you bring to your writing, the better essayist you’ll be.
8. Taking rejection personally
Personal essays are deeply intimate, so it’s painful when editors reject them.
But good writers know there are countless reasons why an editor might reject a piece. Maybe they ran something similar recently (or have something similar in the works). Or maybe that particular editor didn’t connect with your piece. That doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with someone else.
If you get a rejection, find another publication to pitch! The Write Life offers ideas of where to pitch your personal essay. And if that list isn’t enough, my online course comes with a list of 130+ editors who publish (and pay for!) this genre.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun. Writing is a deeply personal and challenging pursuit, but it should be an enjoyable one, too.
This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.
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