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Describe Yourself Essay: What’s It All About?

Whether you’re applying to a community college, a four-year college or university, or graduate school, you may be asked to write an essay describing yourself. A “Describe yourself” essay may also be required for applications to extracurricular programs, special experiences, and certain types of employment.

So, where do you begin when describing yourself in writing? Do you talk about your weaknesses, or just your strengths?

Make Preliminary Notes

Before you begin writing the essay properly, take some time to jot down a few thoughts. You don’t have to include everything you write down here in your final draft; this is merely a brainstorming exercise that will give you some material to work with.

First, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. These can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual qualities. While you’re at it, add any special talents or hobbies. If you have any personal heroes, list those names, whether they’re celebrated figures or not.

Next, write down any significant experiences you’ve had, such as witnessing the death of a pet or family member, winning an award, traveling, or becoming sick or injured. Add dates to refresh yourself, in case you plan to write a chronological account. Finally, list some adjectives that you think other people might use to describe you, as well as words you’d use to describe yourself.

Pick a Format

Some institutions will give you details on how to compose your essay. In the absence of such instructions, it’s always safe to go with a standard five-paragraph essay. This consists of an opening paragraph, three solid paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Don’t Be Too Negative

While it’s fine to mention rough times or personal weaknesses, some things are better left unsaid. A run-in with the law or a battle with a serious mental illness is generally not the kinds of things you want to talk about in your essay. Always try to use negative characteristics or events to highlight your good points.

For example, if one of your parents abandoned your family and you had to become a caretaker to your younger siblings, you can talk about how that experience made you more mature, responsible, and compassionate. But focus more on the outcome than the bad experience. The more skilled you are as a writer, the better you’ll do at turning negatives into positives.

Open Strong

Whether or not you have the option to give your composition a title, you’ll want your first sentence to reel the reader in. You could mention something that other people say about you, refer to a favorite quote, or make a joke that shows your personality.

Write a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement, which also belongs in your introduction, is different from a hook or a headline. The thesis is your overall description of what you’re writing about. Here are some examples:

  • “__________ was the most significant experience of my life.”
  • “The three values that best define me are __________, __________, and __________.”
  • “My lifelong dream has been to __________.”
  • “If there’s one thing I regret, it’s __________.”
  • “If I can accomplish these three things before I die, I will have lived a good life:”

Compose Three Distinct Paragraphs

There are several ways you can arrange your essay. You might write one paragraph about each of your most important values, memories, or goals. Or you could devote one paragraph to describing yourself physically, one to describing yourself psychologically, and one to describing yourself socially. Again, the construction of the essay may be part of the assignment, so be sure to follow any instructions you receive.

Close Memorably

In your closing paragraph, sum up the basic point or points you want the reader to remember about you. What did you strive to say in the body of the paper? Recap it here by saying something like, “Whatever happens, I know I will have my __________, __________, and __________ to guide me.”

Finally, remember that this is not a research paper or book report. Keep the tone casual, and make sure it sounds like the real you. If you’re naturally a serious intellectual, that’s fine. But if you’re a clown, it won’t serve you well to write a stuffy-sounding paper.