Personal Essay Tips

By The Dunbar Team


In high school, students learn the value of writing a clear and logic-based essay, revealing their thesis early in their essay and then, proving their thesis with evidence throughout the body paragraphs, and finally restating it in the conclusion (perhaps with some new insight).

Writing clearly and using vivid language is also essential in the Personal Essay. Using evidence to support an idea, applying correct grammar, and proofreading carefully matter as much in the Personal Essay as they do in an essay for any academic course. However, while an academic essay strives to be objective and impersonal, the Personal Essay is, well, personal. Its purpose is to express who you are and should reveal personal insight. When you begin writing the Personal Essay, use those writing techniques you learned in the classroom, but remember that the purpose of this essay is to reveal the authentic YOU, so do not be afraid to stray from a strict academic format and get more creative.

Our Tips for Success:

1.  Ask yourself, “What do I want admissions officers to know about me that they cannot learn from my transcript and scores?”

2.  Make sure the opening sentences draw the reader into your essay right away. Specific, sensory details can help the reader want to read more. Then, using first-person narrative, show rather than tell your story. And, as you wrap up the essay, connect what you are writing about to who you are now and who you want to be. Show your core values.

3.  Admissions readers want to read about your growth from an experience. Write not only about the “what” of that experience, but also about how you grew from this experience and what you learned.

4.  Sometimes writing about something ordinary can be extraordinary if you show through details why it is important to you.

5.  More than anything, be yourself and don’t concern yourself with trying to present a perfect person.

For more advice on writing the Personal Essay, check out this section of Dunbar’s Handbook.