An autobiographical essay is not a very common academic assignment as most professors strive to teach analytical writing skills, rather than creative ones. But, even humanities majors are not too savvy in writing a proper autobiography, so when they are assigned one, they usually get lost in the process. Most of the time, this paper is a part of a more extensive assignment (for example, an application), but sometimes it may stand as an independent task.
To draft a truly impressive autobiography essay, one will need to know more than the basic writing rules and an acceptable structure for this paper. Ideally, the student is to understand the purpose of an autobiography — this way, one will have more chances to write a winning one. We will offer you a quick writing guide as well as a detailed explanation on what kind of message an autobiography should deliver, so read on to nail this assignment and get the highest grade you deserve.
It’s all about brainstorming and preparation
Most students feel that writing is the most challenging part. In reality, getting ready to start writing is often more important and, as a rule, takes even more time and energy. Here are some suggestions that should help you plan an excellent work your professors will appreciate.
- Step One: Define the topic and think of your story Even though you are working on an autobiography, it does not mean you’re supposed to tell every little detail of your life since the first moment you can consciously remember. First of all, it wouldn’t make much sense; and second — you’ll be limited by your paper length, and it is very unlikely that your professor is expecting a 1000-page long manuscript.So, focus on a particular story instead. It can be prolonged over the years of your life, but it still has to be one distinct story. For example, you can choose to tell how you fell in love with animals and how you mastered the basics of veterinary. Or, in some cases, you do not need to describe entire decades of your life — it can be a story of how you lost a friend (or met one), how you’ve acquired some useful experience, etc.
- Step Two: Think of your paper purpose
Thinking about the goals you want to achieve will help you better define the topic for your paper. If for example, you are writing a college application and you are applying to a vet college, the animal example above is the best fit. Simply put, think about the final impression you hope to make on your professors (or admission committee). If the college you are applying to celebrates leadership skills, think of your life stories that highlight these qualities. Always keep the final goal in mind, and ask yourself the eternal ‘so what?’-question any time you write.
- Step Three: Consider your audience
Once you have defined your autobiography goals and its topic, think of how you can impress your audience. What is the best way to convey your message? For example, when writing an admission paper, it is essential to hook your readers right from the start. Remember — they read thousands of similar papers, so your best shot to get admitted is to stand out. As a rule, a nice hook in your introduction should help with that.
- Step Four: Draft an outline
You may think that when writing about yourself, an outline is not necessary. After all, there is no profound research involved, so you do not have to keep a lot of complex info in mind. This, of course, is true, but still — an autobiography has to be a well-structured and carefully planned work. So, think of what thesis statement you’re going to make in your into; how you are to support this statement in your body paragraphs; and, of course — what impression you hope to achieve in conclusion. Make notes and stick to them — this way, writing will be a lot easier, and the final paper will have a flawless structure.
- Step Five: Think of the polishing touches to express your ideas
Once you have the main arguments for your body text in mind, think of how you are going to dwell on them. Here, details matter a lot — after all, this is a creative work, so your imagination is always welcome. Here are a couple of techniques that should prove useful in this process.
- Creating lists of ideas. If you have multiple ideas for your paper, create a list of them. You do not necessarily have to group them — simply write anything that comes to mind. This, by the way, will also help your practice free writing techniques, which boost ones’ creativity and help get even more creative ideas in the writing process.
- Re-grouping your ideas. Now that you have listed every little idea for your paper, try to rearrange them. Think of how logically they tie together. Perhaps, certain clusters of ideas simply do not belong? Or, on the contrary, need more details and explanations?
- Always question yourself. As you plan your autobiography, apply some critical thinking. As we’ve already mentioned, don’t forget to ask yourself ‘so what?’ any time you are about to write something. Will this detail be engaging? Will it help convey your message? Will it impress your readers?
Topic ideas for an autobiography paper
No doubt, it is not always easy to come up with a great topic for an autobiography, so we’ve selected a couple of ideas that may be a good source of inspiration for you:
- Hobbies. We’ve already mentioned how a hobby may transfer into a life calling in our veterinary example. There are plenty of other ideas that follow the same logic: dancing, cooking, learning foreign languages — any passion of ours starts with a hobby.
- Life philosophy. Life is a series of lessons we either learn or ignore. Choose any experience that made you change your life views — it does not even have to be an ‘event’ in its classical sense. It can be a minor detail that got you thinking and made you change your attitude toward life or people.
- Family. Our families are a vital part of our lives, and they influence us in more ways than we tend to think. So, it may also be a good idea to describe your family, how they raised you, what lessons you’ve learned, etc.
- School. Going to school is our first step to interacting with other people outside our immediate family circle, and it also molds us into who we are. Some experiences are positive; others are negative. Still, they help shape our personalities.
- History and society. This is a more challenging topic for an autobiography, but it can be a great choice when applying to college. We are a part of the community, and plenty of local and global affairs affect us. Often, you may even present some historical background for the current situation that affected you, personally.
Structuring an autobiography
As already mentioned, an autobiography follows the same writing logic as any other academic assignment. You start with an intro that hooks your readers and explains the main point of your paper. Then, you proceed to body paragraphs where you tell your story. Just like with any other essay, each paragraph presents a distinct thought that helps you tell a story more vividly. And finally, your wrap this story up in the conclusion that highlights your main points and leaves a positive effect on your readers.
Next stage is, of course, editing and proofreading. When you have finished writing, come back to your work the next day to see if the paper still looks as good as you thought it would. Do not focus on typos and grammar — those are easily corrected. Instead, pay attention to your story flow. Is it logical? Is it impressive? Does it convey the message you need? All of these questions will help you make necessary corrections if required.
Finally, remember that you can always count on professional writing help, even when working on an autobiography. Sometimes, it’s important to arrange all of your ideas and even come up with a first draft all by yourself. Later on, you can submit this paper to professional writing service and have them polish it up for you. This is exactly what our expert writers excel at, so don’t hesitate to contact us with any kind of writing assistance — from editing and proofreading to creating a custom-written paper from scratch.