1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Compose Yourself

By March 11, 2011

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The personal essay is one of the most common types of writing assignment--and not just in freshman composition courses. Many employers as well as graduate and professional schools will ask you to submit a personal essay (sometimes called a personal statement) before even considering you for an interview. So being able to compose a coherent version of yourself in words is clearly a valuable skill.

What qualities does a personal essay reveal about you? Here are just a few:

  • Communication Skills
    How effective are your communication skills? Do you write clearly, concisely, and correctly? Can you adapt a message to fit the needs and requirements of your audience? (Note that many employers put communication skills at the top of the list of essential qualifications.)

  • Critical Thinking Skills
    How fresh and imaginative are your ideas and your ways of expressing them? Is your writing cluttered with clichés, or is it obvious that you're able to think for yourself? (A compelling narrative that makes a clear point is usually far more persuasive than a series of corporate or educational buzzwords.)

  • Maturity
    What specific lessons have you learned from experience, and are you ready to apply those lessons to the job or academic program you're considering? (Keep in mind that it's not enough to be able to recount an experience; you should be prepared to interpret it as well.)

By reviewing the guidelines, examples, composing strategies, and topic suggestions at our Narrative Essay assignment, you should feel more comfortable about composing yourself when the opportunity arises.

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