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What should I do if I find it very hard to write about myself for my college apps and scholarship essays?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Lindsey’s Answer

Hi Randi! The best thing you can do to overcome your inability to write about yourself or anything for that matter is to start small with what you know and then make a plan. The same thing was true for me in college. When I was having a hard time writing about a particular subject that overwhelmed me I would take a deep breath, write down what I knew and then made a plan for what had to be done. When I started small and broke the content up into sections it became more bearable and before I knew it I had an entire essay I just needed to consolidate and fine tune. When writing about yourself, especially for a scholarship entry or college application, your main objective is to get the reader to understand who you are and want to champion you. Here's what I would recommend you do:

  1. I always like to start with what I like to call a "brain dump". Open up a blank word document, ask yourself "what makes me me?". Start writing down everything in your brain in bullet points (e.g. events, experiences, traits, attributes, stories, significant people in your life, and the list goes on). You can write as much or as little about one thing as you'd like. The more you write the better! Do this for 10-15 minutes or until you can't possibly come up with anything else.
  2. Categorize your list. Put each bullet point into a category or theme (e.g. "high school", "attributes", "hobbies/passions" and "family".. you get the idea).
  3. Go through the list and highlight the 3-5 categories you feel like you could write A LOT more about. Pick the ones that stand out as being the most important to you. Things that, if not on that list, would significantly impact how you/your life were being described on that piece of paper. These are the best theme options for your essay(s). I suggest picking one of them to write about. If you have two many themes in one essay the storyline and purpose gets unclear making the reader easily confused. Best to pick one and go all in.
  4. Once you've picked a theme repeat what you did in step 1. You'll end up word vomiting your way to a story outline, or you might not even need it.. you may just want to skip this and start in on writing!
  5. Create an outline (you'll need an intro, body and conclusion of course!) and the rest becomes easy.
  6. Depending on the word limit requirements you just need to fill in the gaps in the outline with more detailed content. ProTip: Always best to show, not tell when storytelling!

I hope this helps. At the end of the day, if you're confident in your story and proud of what makes you unique writing about yourself will be easy to do.

Lindsey recommends the following next steps:

Read this article about how to be a better storyteller:
Read this article to learn more about how to create a good essay outline:
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Toby’s Answer

Hi Randi,

I know it's been a while since you posted this question, but I really wanted to answer because being able to write about yourself is going to be in important skill to develop. You'll need to do it throughout your career in a few different incarnations:

  • Your resume and cover letters.
  • Your self-reviews in your workplace.
  • Your career discussions with your managers.

The better you are at accurately writing about yourself and your accomplishments, the better your career will grow and develop.

So here's my best trick:

Pretend you're not writing about yourself at all. Pretend you're writing about someone you love and want to help succeed. This can help take away the self-consciousness that holds us back when we try to talk about ourselves.

Remember, this is your chance to get into a great school, get a great job, or take an important new step in your career. Don't let the fear of tooting your own horn keep you from achieving your goals. Separate yourself from those feelings, and be honest about the good things you've done.