How to Write a School Autobiography

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Writing an autobiography essay may not be as easy as you think. It’s not just about writing your life story. To write a great autobiographical essay, you need to write a story. But you should also include narrative elements like themes, symbolism and epiphany to give the story meaning beyond its literal facts. Writing this kind of higher-level personal essay is a key component of college and scholarship applications. You may also encounter the assignment in class.

Taking notes

When you’re writing your autobiography essay, don’t just tell your reader about a bunch of things that happened to you in sequential order. Decide on one or two key scenes from your life that have made you who you are. For inspiration, find an autobiography example. Research your life by talking to your parents or siblings and, as with any essay, plan, write and revise until your draft is perfect.

1 Read an Autobiography Example

Before writing your life story, enjoy an autobiography example or two. These may come in the form of books, movies and even graphic novels. Autobiographical books include "Bossypants" by Tina Fey, "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain and "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. Famous graphic memoirs include "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" by Alison Bechdel, "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood" by Marjane Satrapi and "Maus" by Art Spiegelman.

2 Planning and Research for Your Autobiography Essay

Learn about yourself before writing your life story. You might remember things that happened quite differently from other people in your family. You might not even remember some things at all. Talking to other people who have shared experiences with you will help you look at those events with a fresh perspective. They can also help you remember details that might otherwise be lost.

3 Outline Your Autobiography Essay

This essay might not be set up in the standard way you’re used to. Since you’re writing a narrative, you can use as many paragraphs as you need. Instead of outlining your memoir essay by paragraph, outline it by scenes, images and ideas. Organize each piece in the order you think it should come. (Hint: Chronological order doesn’t always work best!) Define each section by its purpose. For example, you might plan to describe your favorite toy you had as a child. Write the name of that toy and indicate in your outline what significance or symbolism it takes on in your larger narrative.

4 Write Your Autobiography Essay

Expand the ideas and images in your outline until you have a story that both flows naturally and meets the required word count. Don’t rush the scenes. Describe your images clearly, but don’t go overboard. As with any essay, have a friend read it before you revise.

  • Don't use the word "I" too often, even though you are using first-person point of view.
  • Don't list too many events. Focus on describing fewer important ones in greater detail.
  • Ask a family member to help you brainstorm important events. Your parents will remember things you don't.
  • Review your teacher's assignment sheet or grading rubric, if these were supplied. Your teacher might have more specific guidelines or expectations.

Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.