Examples Of Autobiographies Essays For College

Identifying Themes in Your Autobiography for Your College Admission Essay

The stories of your life are an important ingredient of the admission essay, but they’re not the only ingredient. You also need to identify the themes that run through the information you present to the admissions committee. A theme is a general category or “big idea” that seems to apply to the most important memories of your past. Creative works have themes, too; in English or art class, you’ve probably had to identify the themes of novels or other artworks (poems, plays, musical compositions, paintings, and so on). How do you find the themes that are relevant to your essay? Read on.

Reviewing your life story

Your life has an objective reality: hours worked, food eaten, friends greeted, tasks accomplished, and so forth. But apart from that dry list of details, everyone also makes an internal movie, The Story of Me. In The Story of Me you are the star, the scriptwriter, and the director. You create the characters (the way you see yourself and others) and select events to film (decide which events are important to you). From time to time you project The Story of Me onto the screen of your mind, watching the events (that is, remembering them) and, in the process, weaving a set of random happenings into a plot that makes sense. To identify themes, turn yourself into a movie critic, interpreting and analyzing The Story of Me.

For example, your own personal film may revolve around compassion. When you peer into the past, you remember how you helped that little boy in kindergarten who dropped his glob of clay and how you sat for hours with an elderly neighbor as she regaled you with stories of her childhood in Hungary and her career as a cigar roller. Your inner review of The Story of Me proclaims, “This film is a moving account of a girl who never met anyone she wouldn’t help! The main character is a model of compassion and concern for others.”

Revealing significant themes

Identifying themes is crucial because you can’t write about your life coherently unless you understand why particular events are significant to you. Moreover, if you identify a theme and express it clearly, the reader (that is, the admissions office) will understand how to interpret the information you’re providing. And the more deeply the admissions or scholarship committee understands your character, the better off you are.

Here’s a selection of themes that may apply to your life:

  • Identity: How do you define yourself? Think about gender, race, ethnicity, economic level, age, and all the other factors that contribute to your identity. Then think about times when you were particularly aware of those factors. Can you match any memories to these issues? If so, you may have an essay topic.
  • Challenges: What barriers have you overcome? What difficulties have you gone through? When have you almost lost courage? Think of challenges relating to family, school (both academic and social), and community. What incidents can you relate that illustrate how you have handled tough situations?
  • Curiosity: What would you like to know about the world? Whom would you like to meet? Where would you like to visit? Have any situations sparked a hunger inside you — not the “I’ll faint if I don’t get a lunch break” sort of hunger, but the kind that moves you to explore? Check your memory bank. What situations have provoked your curiosity?
  • Future: When reporters attend your 100th birthday party, what will they hear the speakers say about you? What will you have accomplished in that long life? If your imagination stalls before the century mark, concentrate on something simpler — your life 5, 10, or 15 years from now. What memories would you like to create as you move through your future?
  • Time: How do you spend your days? When does time fly for you or drag? Are you a planner, a seize-the-moment type, a nostalgia buff? Do any of your memories show how you relate to time?
  • Passion: No, not physical passion. Rather, think about what moves you intellectually, artistically, emotionally, politically, or spiritually. When you feel with intensity, what are you doing? Or, what do you want to be doing? The issues or situations that get you going are worth writing about.
  • Learning: How do you learn best? What types of activities or teaching styles match your learning style? Which assignments do you remember? Why those? Can you illustrate your identity as a student with one particular experience?
  • Failure: This doesn’t mean that you should explain to the admissions committee why you’re a total loser, because of course you’re not a loser at all. But if you’re human, your reach has occasionally exceeded your grasp, as the poet says, and you’ve failed. What did you learn from that failure? How did you change your methods or goals as a result? A memory of failure may become a great essay topic.
  • Context: Where do you fit in? How do you fit in — in your family, school, neighborhood, country, world, and universe? Or, how don’t you fit in? See yourself as a small tile in a large mosaic. What is your role?
  • Personality: What kind of person are you? What qualities or traits are part of your personality? How do you deal with day-to-day life? Collect some descriptive terms, but don’t stop there. Look for memories that illustrate those qualities in action. For example, if courage is one of your most important qualities, hunt for moments in which you had to be brave. One of those memories may turn into an essay.
  • Career: What do you want to be now that you’re grown up? Why? How did you start on the path to your chosen job? How do you expect to spend your days? What rewards are you seeking? If you’re applying to graduate school, you’ve probably got a good idea of what your post-school life will be. Your views of the working life provide great essay material.

The preceding list contains only some of the many themes that you may apply to your life as you “mine” it for topics. If others occur to you, jot them down in a computer file or in a notebook.

What would we do without water? A question to which answers range from "drink coke" to just "die". No one mentions the part in between: the long wait, which includes making the most of the little water you get, however muddy and mucky it is, and finally giving up hope, and then dying.

I come from India, a land that is as urban as it is rural, a land that is as advanced as it is behind the times. India is a country where one part of the city gets non-stop running and drinking water, while another has to wait for water; water, that is imperative to the sustenance of all human beings. While I was lucky enough to belong to the part of the city where we were blessed with continuous water supply, it is a school assignment that took me to the other side.

Our assignment merely involved spending a day in a slum and writing about our experience. But what I had there was not a mere experience, it was the facing of a harsh reality that slum-dwellers experience every single day. As we entered the area, my eyes caught a long line of women waiting with containers at a common tap, for water which was supplied only between 1 pm and 2 pm every day. Within one hour, water was to be collected for 500 slum-dwellers, which was to suffice for drinking, eating, bathing, and cleaning. I watched in horror as women ran to the front, trying to catch every drop of water and leaving disappointed because they didn't make it in time. One of those women began weeping, because she had an ailing child at home, and she couldn't even provide him with enough water to take care of him. I offered her the bottle of water I was carrying for myself, which obviously was not enough, but could be used for temporary relief. As I followed her home, I saw her son, writhing in pain and waiting for water so he could take his medicine. The cause of his illness was the muddy water that he had consumed a couple of days ago because that day, no water was provided to the slum. She went to him and took him in her lap, and gave him a sip of water from the bottle I had given her, with the medicine. It helped, but it was not enough. It was too late. As he writhed in pain, she and I watched helplessly. He succumbed within half an hour.

On that day I decided that I would do anything it took to prevent an individual from dying because of lack of water. I would make sure that people understand the importance of preserving and utilizing water resourcefully. It is with this burning desire that I apply for the environmental studies course at your esteemed university. It is every citizen's responsibility to do their bit to help the environment and its richest resource, water. However, someone has to do more than their bit, and I aspire to be one of them. I want to ensure that first I, and then the world understands the value of every drop of water we drink, bathe with, wash our clothes with, and use to throw water balloons at others.

I request you to go through my academic profile and consider my request for admission to your prestigious course. I assure you that I will not fail your decision.

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