Autobiographies, or autobiographical statements, are often required at different phases of college. An essay may be required for undergraduate admissions, as an English assignment or for acceptance to graduate school. Use this essay to make yourself stand out from your peers in some way—remember that you are the only person who has lived your life and had your unique experiences. Capitalize on the traits and events that make you different from the rest of your classmates.
Determine exactly what your professor requires based on the description of the assignment and the class in which the autobiography has been assigned. Although autobiographies are generally summations of pivotal events in one's life, the events you choose may vary depending on the course curriculum. For example, in an autobiography for English class, you might choose to discuss how language has shaped your learning; in a science class, you might discuss how elementary and high school science projects taught you how important it is not to procrastinate.
Choose a pivotal event (or series of events) that occurred in your life that you feel represents a catalyst to growth and maturity, development of a personal philosophy or a revelation. Make sure that whatever event you choose relates directly to the angle your professor has assigned.
Open the essay with a sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. Start with the unexpected; for example, if the essay is about how you thought you were a cat lover until a stray dog stole your heart and made you realize the value of friendship, open with a line like, “If you lick my face, I’ll love you forever.”
Use the opening sentence to build the essay into discussing your life through the lens of the pivotal event. Discuss your life before the event, discuss the event, discuss how the experience changed you, the lesson you learned and how your life has been in the wake of the experience.
Write the body of the essay. Keep the language active rather than passive. Make the essay as descriptive as possible, so the reader feels as if they’re experiencing the events with you, and not simply hearing you talk about them. For example, if you’re trying to explain how an event scared you, instead of saying “I felt afraid,” say something like “Chills of fear ran icy fingers up my spine.”
Bring the essay full circle to reflect on the wisdom you’ve gained and how your point of view changed from the beginning to the end of the essay.
- Keep the essay in first person. Remember that it’s about you, from your perspective, so it will need to be from the “I” point of view.
- Use simple language. Even though this a college-level assignment, it isn’t a scholarly paper. Use correct grammar and spelling (unless reciting dialogue), but remember this paper is a direct reflection of you; use words you’d normally use in everyday conversation.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.