Developing a high quality autobiographical essay requires a lengthy period of writing and review. An autobiographical essay is your story. Eventually, as a college or scholarship applicant, you will need to distinguish yourself from the pool of applicants as to why you are deserving of being offered college admission or a scholarship. When students have comparable grades, test scores, leadership, and community service, the defining factor may be the student’s story–the obstacles they have overcome, the challenges they have experienced, and the dreams and aspirations they hold for the future.

I share my story in, “Follow Your Dreams: Lessons That I Learned in School.” The book about my life shares how I was given up for adoption before I was six months old; the encouragement I received from my adoptive parents while growing up in an urban Chicago community plagued by drugs, violence, gangs, and hopelessness; and my determination to pursue a future beyond mental and physical boundaries.

A well written autobiographical essay will not only be able to be used for applying to college and for scholarships, one or more of the experiences may provide the central theme for a personal essay, required by many colleges. Through your story, you may discover a chapter, event, or experience, which may eventually become the focal point of a college or scholarship essay, as the students whose essays are included in this activity.

While some students may find recounting their life’s story to be a painful experience, the video included in this activity provides an example of how the painful life experiences of one student were shaped into an effective college admissions essay.


Develop an autobiographical essay.

Estimated time to complete: Undetermined

Guiding Question

What are the life experiences that provide the context for telling my story?