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The Key to Writing a Great Essay About a Grandparent

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So you are settling into your desk chair and flexing your fingers, ready to dive headfirst into your essay and you just can’t shake the voice in your head telling you to write your essay about your grandparent. We get it, grandparents are awesome! They know so much about you! And you’ve gained so much wisdom from your relationship with them! Writing a great essay about them, however, is tricky.    

When you finally turn off your throwback binge of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and begin the brainstorming stage of the process, make sure to do these things to write an effective essay about your grandmama or papa:

Your essay should first and foremost be about you.

Make sure your grandma doesn’t take over your college essay. An anecdote about an experience or conversation you had with a grandparent can be a great way to illustrate something about your background or values, but your essay should always feature you as the main character. If you need help coming up with a specific story, go mining for mementos like photos and birthday cards. Or better yet, have a conversation if you can! Whether it’s a phone call, an afterschool visit, or a letter of everything you would want to say to a grandparent who has passed away, speaking directly to that person will help you uncover cherished memories that you both participated in. The more specific and detailed your story, the easier it will be to tell it from your perspective. After all, your granny doesn’t need to get accepted to college – and she is probably too old for ramen dinners night after night anyway.

Write about their impact on you…

Once you have homed in on a memory or experience, think about what you learned from it. What does it say about you? Does/did knowing your grandparent make you more understanding? Kind? Curious? Empathetic? What kind of attributes does grandma bring out in you and how does she do that? Maybe your grandmother is known for her elaborate Thanksgiving dinners, and over time, you have become her sous chef. What did this experience teach you about discipline and organization? About secret ingredients and family tradition? About what it really means to be a homemaker? Or perhaps you have been the teacher: showing your Meemaw and Pawpaw how to play Words With Friends so you can feel connected from afar. Whatever the story, remember that it should lead to a bigger lesson about who you are or who you have become as a result of knowing your amazing grandparents.

…and then prove it

Finally, you have to show, not tell. Remember that conversation we mentioned earlier? Here’s where your notes, photos, and scrapbooks will come in handy. Concrete details and bits of dialogue are the final key ingredient to any college essay — but especially the kind built around a relationship. Don’t just say that your grandparent makes you more adventurous – tell admissions about the time you risked all of your team’s points in Jeopardy because you were confident in your answer and remembered your grandpa telling you that you have to take great risks to see great rewards. Show admissions how you’ve applied what your grandparent taught you to your everyday life.  


If your essay reads as a eulogy to your grandparent, think about how you can turn the essay around. One way to do this would be to try to only include your grandparent in the first and last paragraph of your essay: introduce your relationship and its’ impact, tell your own story, and bring that story full circle back to your grandparent. This, of course, isn’t the only way to structure your essay.

Any way you write it, we wish you luck, and if you’re looking for the best prompt to match your essay to – check out our guide!

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