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Tips Writing Essay About Myself

I’m writing this to the soundtrack of Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE,” off his wildly popular DAMN. album that came out this past spring. I cannot tell you how many tweets I saw from 18-year-olds right after the album dropped repeating this anthem’s chorus, “sit down, be humble.”

Early 2000s kids, aka those filling out the Common Application this fall, have a pretty funky paradigm when it comes to how big the ego should be. Generation Z falls right behind us Millennials, who have been criticized for being overly encouraged as kids. If Millennials are getting a bad rep for loving the participation trophy and being way too self-confident, what’s a Generation Z-er to do when it comes to trying to sell themselves to colleges?

Listen up, Generation Z. Take it from a so-called self-obsessed Millennial herself: a place between humble and prideful exists, and that’s the exact place you want to reach in your college application essays. Here are five “what ifs?” of college essay humble-bragging and what to do about each of them.

Related:How to Write a Great College Application Essay

If you’re afraid of bragging...

College essays are about selling yourself. If you were selling a pen, you would definitely want to talk to your buyer about the pen’s high-quality ink, super-comfy grip, and trendy appearance. You would never leave any of those amazing pen attributes out because you want the buyer to want the pen. When writing your college essays, think of yourself as the pen. Never, ever leave out something great about yourself because you are afraid of bragging. College essays are the only time you get to talk about all of the wonderful things that make you you without anyone judging you for it. So take advantage!

If you want to come off as confident…

Showing confidence in your college essays might sound tricky, but with the right anecdotes, you can fully achieve that confident aura without literally saying, “I’m confident!” If you’re passionate about something unique that you might not have mentioned in your college app thus far, write about it in the essay. Talk about the time you did an underground production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show even though you didn’t know anyone else auditioning for it. If you thought becoming a ventriloquist as a kid was really cool and eventually gave it a shot, write about it. The best way to sound confident without outright telling the reader so in your essay is to write a story that shows you are confident. That will be more than enough to sell them on you.

If you think you might sound full of yourself…

The “show, don’t tell” rule of writing applies in college essays too. For example, if you are writing an essay about your summer job, never say, “I was the best employee at the grocery store.” Rather, show that you were a great employee by telling a story about the time you caught a shoplifter or exhibited great customer service. You never need to tell the reader you are superior or the best in any way if you can show them instead.

If you feel the need to tell the reader your credentials....

There is a whole other section of the Common App where you list the leadership roles you’ve had and the awards you’ve won. You don’t need to mention them again in the essay portion unless the story you’re telling calls for it. Say you are writing an essay about the time you won a particularly interesting debate for your high school debate team—you can write about your accomplishment without sounding cocky. For instance, rather than saying “I was the best debater on my team, which is why I am captain,” you could talk about the reason you are so passionate about whatever topic you debated that day.

The place for competing with what you’ve done in high school is in the rest of the Common App. The place for letting the college know who you are and what you’d be bringing to the college’s community as a person is in the essay. The best way to make yourself more competitive in the essay portion of your application is to write an essay that describes exactly who you are on a day-to-day basis rather than talking about your achievements. There are a few colleges famous for requesting applicants to pick one of their friends and have that friend write an essay about said applicant. While that type of essay might sound pretty nerve-wracking, the takeaway from the prompt is that colleges want to know what someone you hang around all the time thinks of you. Ultimately, a university is looking for a great addition to their campus, and in the case of writing a portrait of your personality in an essay, you should never have to brag, and you should have a lot of reasons to be confident in who you are.

Ultimately, the college essay is all about balance. Don’t tell the reader how great you are—show them instead. Admission officers will rarely be turned off by an applicant who wrote a great story about something wonderful they did, but they might find it a little off-putting if you call it wonderful yourself.

Looking for more college essay tips? Check out our Application Essay Clinic.

Writing an Essay About Yourself

When you’re reading an autobiography of an exceptional person, such as Fidel Castro, you can’t stop thinking: “some people have so much to say.” After reading a great autobiography example, writing a personal essay seems like a mission impossible.
Who are you? Where do you stand? What’s your role in this world? When you contemplate on these questions, you’re puzzled. Transferring those thoughts in an essay about yourself is a huge challenge, but you have to face it at one point or another.
You don’t even know how to start an essay about yourself? Well, the good news is that you’re not alone. When you’re asked to showcase your personality and interest in a personal essay for school or for college/university admissions, you have a huge goal to meet: show you’re a great person without sounding like an egomaniac. We’re here to help you with that.
In the continuation, we’ll teach you a valuable lesson: how to get better at writing about yourself.

1. Introduce Yourself
This is the hard part: how to start an essay about yourself. You can’t just begin with “Hello, my name is Daniel and I want to be a truck driver when I grow up.” This is not an email you’re sending to someone you want to meet; it’s supposed to be a piece of academic content.
Maybe your life hasn’t been that special. When you’re reading the personal stories of Anne Frank, Benjamin Franklin, or Maya Angelou, you think you don’t have anything to write about. You’re wrong. Every person on this planet is special. You have a lifetime of experiences, skills, and talents behind you. That’s what you need to present in few paragraphs. Brainstorm with these questions on your mind:
• What’s your purpose?
• What are you planning to achieve in your life?
• What do you want people to know about you?
• What interests do you have?
• What achievements have you accomplished?
• Who are you?
“Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla.” That’s how Nelson Mandela’s autobiography starts. An autobiography is much different from a personal essay – it’s longer and gets into details. However, you can take the beginning of this book as an inspiration. Do you notice how many things Mandela told about himself in a single sentence? That’ what we call powerful writing about yourself.

2. Focus on Your Talents and Interests
When you’re writing a personal essay for admissions or for a college course, you can’t focus on great experiences. If you’re like most other young people, you still haven’t changed the world, but you have a bright future ahead. The best solution is to focus on your talents and interests.
If you’re not sure where to start, pick one thing. Do you like reading? You can tell how your favorite books influenced you personally. If you love music, you can write about the way your favorite musicians shaped your taste, style, and lifestyle. Brainstorm and sketch out few possible answers to the questions listed in the previous tip. With that method, you’ll certainly have a good foundation to start a paragraph describing yourself.

3. Focus!
Remember: you’re writing a ‘tell me about yourself’ essay; not a complete autobiography! You have a limited word count. That’s why you need to pick a specific interest or experience and describe it in detail. Although you’ll be focusing on a single aspect of your life, it will still convey a lot about your personality and life.
Maybe you’ll be inspired to write about a sensitive subject, such as a person who influenced you a lot, but is no longer with you. Maybe you want to talk about mental illnesses, political issues, or religious views. In that case, you have to be mindful of the audience you’re writing for. Remember: your points of view must not be insulting for the readers. You’re still free to write anything in a personal essay, but remember that you should stay humble and respectful for other people’s opinions and beliefs.
Extra tip: if you want to protect someone’s identity, it’s okay to change some details, names, dates, and other facts.

4. Read Samples
Here is the best tip on how to get better at writing personal essays: practice! However, it’s not easy to sit in front of the computer, open a blank document and start practicing. In order to understand how a personal essay looks like, you need to go through few successful samples. Reading autobiographies is a plus.
This brief sample essay about yourself will give you an idea:
“Who knew that being an only child, something I had absolutely no control over, would label me as someone with a syndrome in society? This label is given to people who are growing up without any siblings. By default, an only child is seen as selfish. To make things even harder, I was the only grandchild on both sides and I didn’t have many friends as I was growing up. I was brought up in a world of adults, so I should be selfish by default. That’s what people say…”
Do you see the depth in this paragraph? You see a person who is struggling because of a label. They are stamped by the way society sees them. Where will this paragraph lead to? Will this person prove to be what everyone expects them to be, or will they show they are anything but selfish? The first paragraph triggers the reader’s curiosity. That’s the exact effect you want to achieve.
Let’s look at another example.

“I am a person who sometimes feels I have no real identity. Many factors in my relatively short life have contributed to making me into a person who feels no real sense of belonging to a family, community, or even country. I may only be 18 but I feel like I have already lived three lifetimes:  three lives, three families, three countries.”

This paragraph is intriguing. It makes a very bold statement but only hints at why, and your interest is piqued and you want to know why this person feels like this. What happened? What dramatic events has this person experienced, lived through in a short lifetime? You feel the emotion of the statement and want to read on to understand more. It’s not easy to write something about yourself. Some students even prefer doing an in-depth research on any topic over personal writing. That’s because with this type of paper, you’re supposed to do some research in your own soul. Is there anything more challenging? With the right focus, you’ll get there. You’ll write a great essay that will present your true character.

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