How to Write an Essay About Yourself: College App Introductions

A student holding the letter H, spelling out "hello."Wondering how to write an essay about yourself? Many college-bound students are faced with this intimidating task. A college application essay is often seen by students as a chance to introduce themselves to the college admissions department. However, it’s time to start seeing it as more than just a “first impression.” While a college essay introduces you to those reading your piece, it should definitely take it a step further. Here’s why, along with some writing tips and tricks for your college admissions essay.

1. Don’t Waste Words – You Only Have So Many of Them

Many college essay requirements have word limits on them. The word count may be 500 words, or 1,000, or as little as 200. You don’t want to waste time stating information that doesn’t need to be known or doesn’t make a lasting impression. Your essay will only have so much time to stand out among the crowd.

Your essay should say something different about you, instead of a “Hi, my name is Hilary Cairns. I want to attend your school to be a writer. I graduated from Valley Central High School… etc…” Remember to spend your limited word count wisely.

2. Don’t Be Repetitive 

When going the route of introducing yourself to the college admissions department, you probably will end up being a bit redundant. It’s a good chance your college application already includes a lot of the things that would fall under the category of “introducing yourself.” 

You don’t want to repeat exactly what’s in your application and you definitely don’t want your essay to sound more like a resume or a cover letter. The admissions department already knows this information about you. Your piece should include something new about yourself. Therefore, don’t simply repeat the extracurricular activities you are involved in or the community service you did. Instead, tell a story about a personal experience that maybe isn’t already evident on your application.

3. Spend Extra Time on Your Introductory Paragraph – It’s Important

The opening paragraph of your essay might be the most important part. This is a paragraph that should peak your reader’s curiosity, while also presenting a clear and focused main idea for the rest of the essay. Instead of placing emphasis on a thesis statement like in a research paper, more focus should be spent on the first sentence of the essay. 

A few examples of an interesting hook for a strong introduction include an anecdote, a vivid description, a paradox, a confession, or anything that makes the reader ask “Why?” From the very first line, you want to present your readers with a mental image, a strong feeling, or the desire to know more. 

4. Avoid Cliches – College Admissions Officers Want To Read Something Different

Introductory essays tend to be a bit cliché for many college admissions departments. They read several of these, again and again, every year. They don’t want to read a formulaic essay. Instead, your college essay should show exactly what makes you unique. What could you bring to the school? What makes you different from the hundreds of others applying? Why are you interested in the college and particular major?

You also don’t want to come off as a robot, reading off the script, or write only in vague sentences. It’s time to put personality into your writing and make a lasting impression on the reader. It’s okay to show emotion in your piece. You want to come off as authentic and give the college real insight into who you are. This personal narrative is just that – personal. It’s okay to be a little bit vulnerable and share something about your life that makes you unique. 

A college essay is absolutely a way to introduce yourself to the college, but it shouldn’t be taken so literally. Rewriting your application in the form of an essay is a waste of valuable time, for both you and the college admissions officer. Instead, focus on a unique way to introduce yourself. How can you stand out among the crowd? It may be a story about a moment that moved you, a life-changing event, or something else that is precious or memorable to you. Remember to stay on topic with what the college is looking for in the essay as well. If you’re unsure about your approach, seek outside help, like from your high school guidance counselor.

5. Don’t Forget About Grammar!

Once you feel like you have mastered the content of your essay, don’t forget about the mechanics. Avoid grammatical errors by running your essay through a grammar checker, like Grammarly. Editing is an important step in the writing process, and online platforms can make checking for simple grammar errors an easy step in the process. 

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