How to Write an Autobiography for a PhD Program

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Many Ph.D. programs require an autobiographical essay as part of the application process. An autobiography should be written in a different manner than a personal statement, which may also be required, by focusing on your entire life, not just your academic experience. Many schools, especially business schools, place much emphasis on this part of the application, so it's in your best interest to formulate a good plan before writing.

1 Begin this task early

Begin this task early. Because the autobiography is one of the most important parts of your application, start early enough to avoid feeling rushed. This also will allow time for multiple revisions, if needed.

2 Review the university's

Review the university's requirements for your autobiography, which may include certain topics or a limit on word count. To ensure you've followed all the guidelines, list the requirements and plan your essay with these in mind.

3 Write an outline

Write an outline. Each section of the essay should say something significant about who you are. For example, move from birth circumstances to school years, to college and work experience or master’s program (if any), and finally to future plans and why you want to enter a doctoral program.

4 Write your essay

Write your essay, using the ideas and points from the outline. Your writing should demonstrate your ability to properly use the three Cs: conciseness, clarity and coherency.

5 Revise your essay

Revise your essay. Read it in a critical manner, looking for flaws or portions that violate the three Cs. If anything need revising, return to your draft and correct it.

6 Repeat the revision process

Repeat the revision process until you find nothing more to amend.

  • Ask a friend who is skilled at writing to read your essay before you send it in with your application.
  • 1 “The Grad School Handbook: An Insider’s Guide to Getting In and Succeeding"; Jerrard and Jerrard; 1998
  • 2 Art Woodward, Ph.D.; National Taiwan University; Taipei
  • 3 “Real Essays for College & Grad School"; Anne McKinney; 2000

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.