How to Ace that Personal Essay

The time may come to write a personal submission or essay. It could be soon or it could be a little while off. But it could be for a scholarship, for university entrance or any additional tertiary education applications AKA, important. There are questions and starting points that may throw you off or create trouble in providing a response. If you are struggling to grapple with your response or are finding hardship in defining a topic, try to follow a few of the following tips to ensure you are confident and proud of the product you produce.

  1. What’s important to you? Picking a topic that students see as important or valuable to them will increase the validity of the essay. The points and arguments presented within the allocated words, will come across with a certain passion that couldn’t be matched if students took the easy way out or chose a topic that they had little to no interest in. The passion that comes from writing about something important adds flair to writing and academic personnel will be able to determine whether or not a piece has been written with passion and intent.
  2. Build upon personal experiences. Just like writing about something your passionate about, don’t make it up. Making a story or scenario up won’t seem sincere and definitely won’t carry the correct tone. Using personal experiences or stories will allow for credibility and the real accounts and personal anecdotes will reveal a sense of character and personality.
  3. Use your own perspective. Don’t approach the essay or questions trying to be someone you think will look better from faculty eyes. They don’t want to know what that story sounds like, they want to hear your story, from you from your perspective. In this way, try to refrain from looking at research or additional opinions. Sure, a little research will further your writing, but too much research and insight into varying opinions can hinder your own.
  4. Write an outline. Get it all out the page. Perhaps you like mind maps or opt for more structured dot points. Whatever your weapon of choice, get it down and out of your head. Having points and themes written down not only allows for reference points but progresses the argument along.
  5. Read your essay and ask for feedback. This shouldn’t be something that’s written the day of. There should be a few drafts with red strikeouts and annotations to ensure the essay is of a worthy standard both for yourself and the institution. Read the essay to yourself, make sure that you are content and confident on what is on the page. Ask around too. Your mum, neighbour or friend would be honoured to read it and give you their thoughts!

If you’re still stuck on a topic (in which case I have done a terrible job with the above advice), these are just some of our suggestions:

  • Describe a hardship or challenge you have faced that has influenced you or your values?
  • Who are the people that have shaped you?
  • What is a key event of your life that you associate with importance?
  • Where is your happy place? Why?
  • Name a strength and weakness of yours that you believe equips you with the skills to defeat obstacles.
  • What lessons have your past mistakes taught you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What legacy would you like to leave behind?
  • What are 3 key traits you think or wish people would describe you as?
  • Flashback to your 5-year-old self, what would you say?