Writing a Personal Essay

Criteria for a good personal essay:

  • Specific: Describes events, thoughts, and feelings in detail. Avoids general language.
  • Unique: Describes events that are unique to you. Avoids clichés and overused topics.
  • Personal: Describes events and opinions that are important to you personally. Exhibits introspection and enthusiasm for the topics described. Is an accurate portrayal of you.
  • Mechanics: Displays correct grammar, spelling, and mechanism. Proofread for typos.
  1. What are the major points you are trying to convey in your essay? What do you want the admissions or applications committee to learn about you?
  2. What points are you able to successfully and clearly convey and what components of your essay contributed to this? What points were lost/unclear and how could you better convey them?
  3. Specific: Is the topic overused or cliché? Is the writing overly vague? Is the organization of the essay difficult to follow?
  4. Personal: Is there too much or too little description used when discussing events? Are you displaying introspection about your life and learning from the events described? Are you conveying your feelings through your writing? Does your personality come through the writing? Do you discuss positive actions you took in response to events?
  5. Mechanics: Is the language/diction appropriate? Are there substantial spelling, grammar, or other mechanics issues? Should you consider seeking help from a copy editor (a friend, teacher, tutor, counselor, or family member who can read your writing for language errors? (See below for resources)

Essay customization: Why do you have to make sure to customize this essay for each application? How can you tell what admissions officers/the application committee are looking for based on the questions in the application? Does your essay address or directly respond to all the questions or parts of the essay prompt?

Personal Essay Checklist

Language Aid Resources