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15 Tips to Help You Write a Stellar Essay

writing a profile essay

Essay-writing can be easier than you might think if you have a grasp of the basics and a willingness to engage with the subject matter. Here are 15 top tips for writing a stellar essay.

Do Your Research

This is one of the most important tips you’ll ever receive. Research thoroughly, even if it means you have too many notes. It’s better to have to leave stuff out than not have enough to write about.

writing a profile essay

Make an Outline

Without a properly structured outline (with an intro, a four- to five-point body and a conclusion), your essay may be hard to write and to follow.

writing a profile essay

Hook Attention

While you might just be writing your essay for a teacher or professor that is paid to read it, it still pays to grab their attention. A “hook” like a quote or surprising statistic in your intro can make your reader want to read on.

writing a profile essay

Lay Out Your Thesis

The intro isn’t all about flair and grabbing attention. It’s also about laying out your thesis. Make your main argument clear in the first few sentences, setting up a question to answer or statement to prove.

writing a profile essay

Avoid Passive Voice

If you want your writing to be persuasive, passive voice should be avoided. (That sentence was full of it, by the way. For example, “You should avoid passive voice” is a more convincing way to say “passive voice should be avoided.”)

writing a profile essay

Avoid First-Person Voice

If you’re writing an academic essay, you should almost certainly avoid first-person voice. In other words, avoid saying “I” or “my.” Also restrict your use of the second-person voice (e.g., don’t use “you” unless it’s necessary).

writing a profile essay

Start With Your Strongest Point

In general, it’s a good idea to start with your strongest argument in your first body paragraph. This sets the scene nicely. However, this might not be appropriate if you are structuring your essay points chronologically.

writing a profile essay

Relate All Points Back to Your Thesis

Make it clear to your reader how each point you make relates back to your thesis (i.e., the question or statement in your introduction, and probably your title too). This helps them to follow your argument.

writing a profile essay

Contextualize Without Losing Focus

Add contextualizing information for a richer presentation of your topic. For example, it’s fine (or even desirable) to discuss the historical background for certain events. Just don’t get bogged down by irrelevant details.

writing a profile essay

Use Transition Phrases

Transition phrases, such as “furthermore,” “by contrast” and “on the other hand,” can also help your reader to follow your argument. But don’t overuse them at the cost of clarity. Read your essay aloud to gauge how it flows.

writing a profile essay

Conclude With a Return to Your Thesis

A conclusion can do many things, but it’s useful to think of it as an answer to the question or statement in your intro. It’s sensible to summarize your key points, but always relate back to your thesis.

writing a profile essay

Make Your Conclusion Seem Obvious

Restating your thesis in your conclusion (after having made all of your points and arguments in the body) can be persuasive. Aim to make your conclusion feel irrefutable (at least if it’s a persuasive essay).

writing a profile essay

Check Spelling

If your spelling is sloppy, it’s natural for your reader to assume your approach to writing the essay was too. This could harm the strength of an otherwise persuasive essay.

writing a profile essay

Check Grammar

Grammar is also important, for the same reason. It’s usually easy to pick up on dodgy grammar if you read your essay aloud. If you’re not a native English speaker, however, you might want to ask someone who is to check your essay.

writing a profile essay

Check Vocabulary

To avoid harming your persuasiveness and authority, it’s fundamentally important to use the right words. Overly obscure language can detract from the clarity of your argument, but if you feel you have to use it, then you better know what it means.

writing a profile essay


writing a profile essay

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  • A Research Guide
  • Writing Guide
  • Essay Writing

How to Write a Profile Essay

  • Purpose of profile essay
  • How to start
  • Structure and outline

Step-by-step writing guide

  • Profile essay format

Helpful profile essay examples

What is the purpose of a profile essay, how to start a profile essay correctly, checking successful profile essays matters, choosing your profile essay subject, determine the style and tone of your writing, profile essay structure and outline, profile essay mandatory sections.

  • An Introduction. Under ideal conditions, it should contain several sentences and provide background information about the subject.
  • Body Sections. This part should discuss all the points mentioned in the introduction paragraph yet in greater detail.
  • Conclusion. It is where you provide a summary of all the key points.

1. Determining your profile


2. Choosing your profile essay subject

3. writing an introduction, 4. working on body paragraphs, 5. conclusion part, 6. final editing and proofreading, profile essay formatting tips.

  • Keep information accessible and clear to your readers.
  • Your sentences should not be overly long. Write to the point.
  • The structure of paragraphs must implement topic sentences as you write.
  • Choose your words and phrases wisely to convey the main meaning.
  • Offer details and examples along with key facts or an interview.
  • Offer a summary sentence in each paragraph to make smooth transitions.
  • Write in a focused and enjoyable manner by avoiding overexplaining things.
  • Use creative narration methods to keep things more inspiring.
  • When you are confused, approaching a cheap essay writing service with experienced writers may help you narrow things down.
  • Keep your writing balanced and offer explanations and glossary points for all the elements that may require an additional explanation.
  • 10+ Profile essay examples . These contain free expository and interview examples available free of charge.
  • Profile essay composition examples by Washtenaw Community College.
  • Purdue OWL Writing Lab formatting and writing style guides help.

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How to Write a Profile Essay With Tips and Examples

7 October 2023

last updated

Students may encounter profile essays in nearly all disciplines, which makes it essential for them to understand profile essay writing. Basically, this guide commences with a definition of a profile essay and highlights its traits. Then, the manual discusses the significance of interview or observation sessions in profile essay writing and elaborates on the differences between a profile essay and other forms of academic papers. Lastly, the guide deconstructs the structure of a profile essay and provides clear directives on the writing of each part. In turn, the manual contains a sample outline and profile essay, which exemplify the content of this guide. Hence, students need to learn how to write a profile essay to develop their academic skills and understanding of a concept.

General Guidelines for Writing a Profile Essay

How to write a profile essay

For writing your paper, these links will be helpful:

  • Buy College Essay
  • How to Write an Informative Essay
  • How to Write an Analytical Essay
  • How to Write a Definition Essay
  • How to Write an Evaluation Essay

1. Definition of a Profile Essay

A profile essay is a type of academic paper that presents a detailed description of a person, event, or place by using a well-organized structure. Basically, authors spend a significant amount of time researching a particular topic to collect the less obvious information that a reader cannot acquire through a simple web search. In this case, a profile essay contains vivid descriptions and clear explanations that students derive from various reliable sources . Therefore, a profile essay is an expository essay , which implies that authors write papers with the sole purpose of informing the audience regarding a given topic by using facts, examples, and other relevant evidence.

2. Distinct Traits of a Profile Essay

During the composition of a profile essay, students do not need to write a position or present an argument concerning a topic of interest. Basically, the authorship style that learners use in writing a profile essay should not lead the audience toward any predefined conclusion regarding a topic. Instead, authors present readers with facts or evidence and provide them with adequate ‘space’ to reach individual conclusions. Accordingly, a thesis statement of a profile essay does not announce a central claim . In turn, profile essays have a high demand for objectivity because any attempt to persuade the audience to support a perspective undermines the purpose of a paper.

3. Intrinsic Value of Interviews and Observations

Interviews and direct observations are critical to the formation of a profile essay. Mostly, interviews or observations are the main sources of information for a profile essay. In particular, students should plan to interview or observe the object, place, or event because it is the only way to write unique content for a profile essay. Also, learners must be prepared adequately for an interview or observation session to ensure that they can acquire the necessary information to complete their papers. During interviews or observation sessions, documentation is essential because it provides authors with an accurate record of the information. Specifically, the record is useful when writers need to verify some facts that they choose to include in a profile essay. In turn, video recordings, tape recordings, and notetaking are the preferred means of capturing information from interviews and observation sessions.

4. How Does a Profile Essay Differ From Other Papers

Profile essays are different from other types of essays because they have a low reliance on secondary sources . Basically, the use of secondary sources is widespread in academic writing because it is easy to locate and access such sources and establish their reliability from bibliographical information. However, authors of secondary sources may skew the meaning of information to achieve a specific purpose or exclude critical details that have no relevance to the source’s central claim. In consequence, secondary sources are rarely comprehensive sources, and writers of profile essays use them to verify facts rather than collect evidence. Moreover, primary sources are suitable for writing a profile essay, but the acquisition of credible sources is quite challenging, which causes students to conduct interviews or observe a place or event.

Structure of a Profile Essay

1. the role of an introduction.

The introduction is the first distinct section of a typical essay structure . Mostly, the introduction has only one paragraph. In this case, the primary role of the introduction is to set the context of a profile essay and provide the audience with a reason to continue reading the remaining sections of a paper. Moreover, the introduction becomes longer with the increase in the profile essay’s word count. Nonetheless, the introduction’s word count should not exceed 10% of the essay’s word count. In turn, the introductory paragraph should not contain any in-text citations except for a situation where students use a direct quotation to begin a paragraph.

2. Roles of Body Paragraphs

This section of a profile essay is the most substantial because it takes up approximately 80% of the word count. Basically, the body section consists of at least two body paragraphs with no maximum number of paragraphs. For example, the appropriate number of paragraphs is dependent on the number of distinct points that writers intend to present to the audience. Also, there is no specific length for a body paragraph, but students should strive to have no paragraphs that are longer than half a page. Also, it is an excellent practice to ensure that each paragraph has a minimum of four sentences.

3. The Role of a Conclusion

The conclusion is a one-paragraph section, which appears at the end of a profile essay. Basically, the conclusion of a profile essay is a concise overview of the content of body paragraphs. Notably, the closing paragraph focuses on revisiting a thesis statement and topic sentences as a final effort to emphasize the value of a profile essay. In turn, this paragraph should not be longer than 10% of the word count. Mostly, the conclusion paragraph does not contain any in-text citations.

Writing an Outline for a Profile Essay

A profile essay’s outline is a hierarchical layout of the main points of body paragraphs and annotations of the information that students intend to write in the introduction and conclusion sections. Primarily, an essay outline acts as a guide for the drafting stage of the writing process, which ensures that learners do not unintentionally exclude a point that is crucial to a profile. Furthermore, such an outline allows authors to document the specific evidence that they plan to use to support the main point of each paragraph. In turn, students should allocate adequate time to the writing and reviewing of an outline to ascertain the compatibility of the evidence and central point of each paragraph, which prevents false starts and reduces the likelihood of extensive revision.

Sample Outline Template for a Profile Essay

I. Introductio n

A. Hook. B. Background information. C. Thesis statement.

A. First body paragraph

  • Write the main point of the first paragraph.
  • Provide evidence supporting this paragraph’s main point.
  • Write explanations of the evidence.
  • End with a concluding statement.

B. Second body paragraph

  • Write the main point of the second paragraph.

C. Third body paragraph

  • Write the main point of the third paragraph.

III. Conclusion

A. Restatement of a thesis statement. B. Summary of the three main points in body paragraphs. C. Closing remarks emphasizing the significance of a profile essay.

Converting an Outline to a Profile Essay

1. research.

Research after interviews or observation sessions is vital to writing a profile essay. Typically, a student conducts some research before interviews or observation sessions to identify areas of interest that are worth investigating. After collecting information, authors must engage in research to develop a deeper understanding of responses or actions of a subject. In turn, this research stage ensures that the author’s unfamiliarity with specialized vocabulary and conventions of discipline-specific discourse does not result in incorrect interpretations or summaries.

2. Writing an Introduction for a Profile Essay

A hook sentence is the first statement of the introduction. Basically, it serves the purpose of triggering the audience’s interest in the subject of a review. In this case, students may use a variety of strategies to develop a hook, for instance, making a comparison, using a vivid quotation, mentioning a surprising fact, and asking a question. In turn, if learners know how to write a hook , they ensure that this sentence relates to the reader’s knowledge or experience, which allows it to be an impactful statement on its own.

B. Background Information

This segment of the introduction contains information that responds to four main questions:

  • Who or what is the subject?
  • What are the important traits of the subject?
  • Why is the subject interesting?

Responses to these three questions provide background information on the subject. Moreover, statements narrow the scope of the purpose of writing a profile essay, which sets the stage for announcing a thesis statement.

C. Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is the last element of the first paragraph. In particular, it informs readers of the purpose of interviews or observation sessions, which are the source of most information in a profile essay. Essentially, a thesis statement is a one-sentence summary of the main points that students write in each paragraph. In turn, a thesis statement should be succinct and clear.

3. Writing Body Paragraphs for a Profile Essay

A. topic sentence.

This statement informs readers of the main point that authors discuss in a particular paragraph. Basically, topic statements do not present the author’s claim in a profile essay. Instead, if students know how to write a topic sentence , they provide a brief and direct answer to an interview question or a question that motivates authors to observe the subject. In turn, topic statements contribute to the development of a thesis statement.

B. Evidence

In this segment of a body paragraph, students present specific details that support a topic statement. Basically, learners may incorporate evidence into a profile essay by using three main techniques: direct quoting, paraphrasing, and summarising. Mostly, authors acquire evidence from records of interviews or observation sessions. In turn, writers should ensure that the meaning of the evidence is not lost, especially during paraphrasing and summarising.

C. Explanation

Students elucidate the significance of the evidence to a topic statement in this section of a profile essay. In particular, learners provide necessary information for the audience to interpret the evidence correctly because a piece of evidence is merely a snapshot rather than an entire account. Also, objectivity is critical while writing an explanation segment of a paragraph with bridge sentences . In turn, the length of explanations varies with the perceived complexity of the evidence.

D. Concluding Sentence

This statement is the last element of a paragraph. Usually, it is one sentence that appears at the end of the paragraph. Moreover, a concluding statement offers a summary of the content of a paragraph. In this case, the primary role of this summary is to connect the paragraph’s content to a thesis statement. Furthermore, such a sentence contributes to a transition effect because it informs the audience that a paragraph is complete.

4. Writing a Conclusion for a Profile Essay

The concluding paragraph has three essential elements: a restatement of a thesis, a summary of the main points, and closing remarks. Basically, students begin the final paragraph with a statement that has the same meaning as a thesis statement, although it employs an entirely new set of words and different syntax. Next, authors provide an overview of the content of body paragraphs. Lastly, learners write one or two sentences that link the introduction, thesis statement, and body paragraphs to create a sense of unity between individual parts of a profile essay. In turn, students must refrain from introducing new information while writing the conclusion part.

5. Revision of a Profile Essay

Once students complete the first draft, they should revise a profile essay to eliminate any errors, which may result in the audience deriving the wrong meaning from particular statements. During revision, learners assess the suitability of the audience and voice, the correctness of a thesis statement, rationality of the arrangement of body paragraphs, and the quality of evidence. Then, authors should take a break of a few hours or a whole day before revising a profile essay because it increases their objectivity. Moreover, writers may use a checklist to guide a revision process to guarantee that they do not neglect any of the items on the assessment criteria. Besides individual revision, students may subject their profile essays to peer review, which provides them with useful feedback on the meaning-related flaws of a paper.

6. Editing of a Profile Essay

The editing stage yields the final draft of a profile essay after it eliminates surface errors and ascertains the clarity and effectiveness of sentences. Basically, surface errors are mistakes that affect the readability of a profile essay, such as spelling errors, comma splices, sentence fragments, verb errors, and pronoun errors. Then, parallelism, incomplete sentences, dangling modifiers, and unclear pronoun references are issues that students consider when evaluating the clarity of sentences. Moreover, authors examine the sentence structure and length, use of appropriate language, smoothness of transitions, and succinctness of sentences to determine its effectiveness. In turn, writers should conduct editing for surface errors, clarity, and effectiveness in three different readings of a profile essay because of the expansive nature of dimensions of editing.

Example of Writing a Profile Essay

Topic: What It Takes to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

I. Introduction Sample of a Profile Essay

At 35 years, Abraham Jake is the youngest billionaire in the tech industry. In particular, Jake is the founder, owner, and chief executive officer of Futuristic Tech, which is a company that manufactures microprocessors for Apple, Intel, Dell, and other leading electronics firms. Moreover, an interview with Jake reveals some experiences that are responsible for his exceptional character as an entrepreneur. In turn, Jake’s failures and numerous bouts with fear and optimism in decision making shape his solitary lifestyle.

II. Examples of Body Paragraphs in a Profile Essay

A. 1st body paragraph: character traits.

Failure is a dominant theme in Jake’s life, which makes perseverance one of his readily observable character traits. During the period between 2005 and 2015, Jake began five different businesses that collapsed within eight months of opening. Particularly, the fifth business crippled Jake financially, which left him with bank loans and no savings. In this case, the constant failure in setting up a business took a toll on Jake because he found himself in a vicious cycle of saving heavily only to losing everything. Furthermore, the strain of performing at work while trying to build a business left him mentally and physically exhausted. On multiple occasions, Jack was at the brink of quitting on his dream to open his own business each time he had to shut down the business after months of struggling to keep it afloat without any success.

B. 2nd Body Paragraph: Fear and Optimism

The balance between the pull of fear and optimism defines Jake’s decision making strategy. For example, Jake sarcastically laughed as he said, “fearfulness and optimism are equally dangerous but learning how and when to call upon these traits is a lifelong endeavor.” Basically, it took Jake four months after to finally shut down the first business after seeing red flags that he knew were not reversible. Conversely, it took him two weeks to decide to close down his fifth business. Moreover, Jake experienced situations where he had to make decisions that hinged on his fear of losing capital and optimistic beliefs of the business’s recovery. In turn, Jake does not claim that the decision to close a business became any more straightforward. Instead, he suggests that one becomes more comfortable when faced with these decisions, which improves an individual’s decision-making abilities.

C. 3rd Body Paragraph: Solitary Lifestyle

Jake notes that he became accustomed to a solitary lifestyle, which he believes is a consequence of the lack of time to build meaningful relationships. Jake recounts a particular six-month period where he did not attend any social gathering or event. In a voice burdened with disappointment, Jake remarked, “if there is one thing that I regret about my entrepreneurial journey is the loss of friendships and lovers.” In this case, Jake’s attempt to juggle full-time employment and the running of a company left him with very little time to spare for nurturing personal relationships. Also, he lost touch with friends and could not keep up with the time demands of an intimate relationship. Eventually, Jake’s dual-focus lifestyle left him with professional relationships, which had minimal value when he needed emotional support.

III. Conclusion Sample of a Profile Essay

Jake’s past played a critical role in the emergence of the successful businessman we see today. Basically, consistent failure at opening a business is responsible for his “never give up” attitude. In this case, understanding the complicated relationship between fear and optimism gives Jake a sense of control when making tough choices. In turn, Jake recognizes that he leads a solitary lifestyle, although he is not proud of it. Thus, Jake’s personality shows that rational and emotional aspects play equally important roles in the success of an entrepreneur.

  • Students should plan the writing process to ensure that they do not skip or rush through any step.
  • Interviews or observation sessions should rely on specific guiding questions that authors design to generate content for writing a profile essay.
  • Writers should refrain from including their opinions or steering the audience toward a particular conclusion.
  • A profile essay should contain detailed descriptions.

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How to Write a Profile Essay

A profile essay is a literary work that focuses on description of a person (people, event, or place) and its goal is, first and foremost, being informative. This type of essay should function as a work of journalism – be factual and descriptive, while retaining traits of a literary work: presenting your perspective on the subject and providing an interesting, immersive experience for the reader.

Writing a profile essay is difficult work – in just a few pages you have to establish a character, their environment, what makes them tick and your opinion on it all. But this work can be fulfilling, and, for many, a welcome chance to flex their writing muscles. So, how do you write a profile essay?

  • Step 1 - Learn From the Best The first step of writing a successful profile essay is reading other profile essays. Pick up a magazine that frequently publishes them (The New Yorker, Esquire, et al.) and read through a few. Even though the ones you're reading are likely to be about celebrities, try and see what makes reading these essays interesting other than that. Note how the subject of the essay is established early – in a ten-paragraph essay, by the second paragraph, you already kind of feel like you know the person it's about.
  • Step 2 - Choose Your Subject Carefully Next, pick the subject of your essay. It will be easier to write if the subject (in the case that it is a person) immediately seems to have had remarkable experiences (celebrity, veteran, casino robber), but essays where the subject is not immediately intriguing can be very interesting to read, and the opposite is true as well – it's all in the hands of the writer. If you're writing for a college assignment, do try and pick something achievable – no presidents or celebrities (unless you know them personally).
  • Step 3 - Prepare For the Interview Unless this is a special case, you'll need to interview the subject of your essay in person. Before you do, you should prepare questions. Aim for the questions that are broad and open-ended, starting with who, what, where, when and why. Yes or no questions should be kept to a minimum, since there's always a risk that your subject will be quiet and you'll end up burning through your questions and them just nodding or shaking their head instead of providing proper answers. Gather as much information about this person as possible – do the homework now, and you'll end up with a bevy of material to use in your essay.
  • Step 4 - Writing the Essay This is where the bulk of your work lies. When you're writing your essay, it's important to keep in mind that the entire essay should be framed by your perspective on the events. Strive to be fair, but understand that, since you can't literally transport the reader into the events, and by the very fact that you're writing an abridged version of whatever happened, you're being subjective – and that's not an issue. In fact, a clear point of view on the person and the events that transpired will make for a better essay and a figuring out a “dominant impression” is key in profile essays. Just like in essays you've written before, you have to make a statement and present arguments to back it up. “Grandma Ruth is a sweet, kind old lady […] She helps her disabled neighbors and goes to church every week.” Something you should avoid is writing out a transcript of your interview and presenting it as an essay. This is often the first inclination of students, but try and construct a narrative of the events – your essay should have a clear structure of a beginning, middle and end wherein the subject starts in one place, goes for a (figurative) journey, and ends up in another. Others might want to construct their essay topically – going from one subject to the next – which is the method most often used in profile essays written for magazines. Most will end up using a combined approach. Your goal for this essay is to engage the reader and make them feel like they're there. To achieve this, use lots of small details – something we'd have noticed if we were there. A good tip is to engage one of the five senses at a time – sound, sight, touch, smell and taste. And there you have it. Hopefully, these small tips will end up being useful in your essay writing. If all else fails, remember this: reader's perspective is key. So, when you're done writing it all up, take a step back and try to read it with fresh eyes. Do you feel like like you understand the subject at least very well? If not, consider revising.

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10+ Profile Essay Examples [ Good, Expository, Interview ]

profile essay examples

Profile Essay

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composition courses profile essay

Step 1: Get the Right Information

Step 2: validate your information, step 3: outline your essay, step 4: revise or proofread your profile essay, more design, 2+ interview writing examples, how to write an interview report with examples, leadership outline examples, research summary examples, free 30+ college essay examples, 18+ company profile examples, free 18+ organizational analysis examples, free 16+ career assessment examples, 16+ personal summary examples, free 7+ welcome note examples, free 5+ self-introduction speech examples, free 5+ introduction speech examples.


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How to write a profile essay

Deniz Akcaoglu

  • August 24, 2023

A profile essay is when you  focus your writing on a single person, location, or object.

When you need to write one of these types of essays , it’s important to keep the essay’s main objective in mind. This objective is to be enlightening. 

Choosing a profile essay topic

You first need to choose a topic for your profile essay. Then, you need to gather information about the topic.

Choosing the topic

Consider a person, a place, or an object when choosing a topic .

  • A popular person or place will usually pique the attention of readers because they are curious about them.
  • If you’re passionate about your subject, you are likely to show your passion in your writing.​
  • Ideally, you will need to interview your subject. If your subject is a person, try to choose someone that you can interview. If you are going to write about a place, try to choose one that you can visit.​

For these steps, we are going to be writing a profile essay on the former United States President Barack Obama .

Researching and gathering information

First-hand information is often preferable because it contains data that can’t be accessed somewhere else. If you are interviewing someone for information:

  • Ask detailed questions rather than yes-or-no questions that don't need in-depth detail.

If you are going to write about a famous person or a place you can’t visit, receiving first-hand information isn’t possible . In this case:

  • Use online interviews, books, and websites to find specific details about the person, place, or object.

Profile essay introduction

One of the most common characteristics of profile essays is their focus on presenting comprehensive details about the subject (Avoiding general descriptions). Therefore, in the introduction of a profile essay:

If you are writing about a person:

  • You can start with that person’s appearance.
  • You could mention the details such as name, age, race, weight, height, skin tone, and so on are crucial.​

If you are writing about a city:

  • The etymology of the city name, a description of the area, nearby locations, geographical coordinates, population, history, and so on should all be included.

Add your thesis statement to the last sentence of your introduction to explain the main argument of your essay. 

Profile essay introduction example

Writing body paragraphs.

It’s time to compose the body paragraphs now that you’ve finished your introduction. It’s important to:

  • Include sensory information such as sight, sound, and touch. When writing about an event, include information about the atmosphere and the moods of the attendees.
  • Include interview questions and facts that readers may be interested in learning more about.​
  • Connect the details in the paragraph to the thesis statement.​
  • Make your profile essay as detailed as possible, making your reader feel as if they are there with you.​

Profile essay body paragraph example

Profile essay conclusion paragraph.

Now it’s time to write our conclusion . Use the conclusion to:

  • Restate your thesis statement
  • Summarize all of the details provided in the profile essay in a concise way.​
  • Include a hook or closing sentence at the end to keep your readers intrigued about the subject.

Profile essay conclusion example

Final tips on profile essays.

  • When writing your essay, it’s important to remember that your whole essay should be framed by your viewpoint on the events. Try to be fair, but recognize that you have to be subjective.
  • While a profile essay adopts a professional tone that is anticipated in the academic community, profile essays are more flexible than various types of essays.
  • You must make a point and offer evidence to support it, just as you do in other essays.
  • You should avoid writing an interview transcript and submitting it as an essay.

5-Paragraph Profile Essay Example

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: A Profile of a Nation-Building Leader

Body Paragraphs

Key takeaways

  • A profile essay is a type of essay that describes a person, place, or event in detail, focusing on the subject's unique qualities or characteristics.
  • To write a profile essay, you must conduct research and gather information through interviews, observation, and other sources.
  • Start your essay with an engaging introduction that provides context and previews the main points of your essay.
  • Use specific details and anecdotes to bring your subject to life, and organize your essay around a clear thesis statement.
  • End your essay with a conclusion that summarizes your main points and provides a final reflection on the significance of the subject.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a profile essay.

A profile essay aims to provide a thorough description or analysis of a person, location, or event. The essay should include an in-depth examination of the subject’s history, personality, and deeds. It should also give insight into the subject’s relevance or influence.

Who should be the subject of the profile essay?

A person, location, or event might be the subject of a profile essay. An actual person, such as a prominent personality or a fictitious character, can be used. It can also refer to a location, such as a city or a monument, or an event, such as a concert or sporting event.  

How do I choose a specific topic or angle for the profile essay?

Consider the following factors when selecting a topic or viewpoint for a profile essay:

  • What distinguishing attributes or characteristics does the topic have?
  • What is the subject’s importance to a bigger audience?
  • What story or message do you wish to communicate about the topic? 

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How to Write a Stellar Profile Essay?

09 February, 2021

13 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

A profile essay, or article, is a piece of journalistic-cum-literary writing. The aim is to present factual information on a given topic (person, place, animal, or event) while writing with an individual tone and style. In this article, we will expand on the concept of a profile essay. We will also tackle what a profile is and what purpose profiles serve. Finally, we will present strategies for preparing your research and strengthening your writing technique, as well as offer tips on structure and potential topics.

Profile Essay

What Is a Profile Essay?

A profile essay can be considered a literary piece of writing, in which the writer mainly delivers a descriptive account of a person, place, or event. The goal of the profile essay is to be informative. It usually conforms to standards found in journalism – that is to say, using facts and offering impartial reportage – while conveying this information in a literary style.

profile essay

Literary style means offering more to the reader than a revised press release or stenographed interview. Offer insight and immersion to the reader, show them the layers of character and environment, and run these underlying factual happenings through your individual interpretation of it all. 

The Purpose of Profile Essays

The purpose of a profile essay is to be read and well-received by an audience. It is not an obscure technical writing piece, although it may cover obscure figures or events. In general, profile essays appear in magazines and newspapers – in either their print or digital formats. They also appear in scholarly or trade journals, usually covering rising or established people within these niches.

For the writer, a profile essay is a piece of writing aimed at joining the journalistic and literary style. As mentioned in the previous section, journalistic writing must be factual and rigorously checked for errors. Literary writing has some joy involved in its reading; in what way that joy comes out in ‘writing style’ is up to you.

Ultimately, with those two concepts in mind, the purpose of a profile essay is to get you, the writer, some more work. Profiles are highly prevalent and serve as a fantastic way of adding more pieces to your portfolio, whether you’re a new essay writer or a seasoned pro.

Prepare for your essay

Preparing for a profile depends on how close you are to starting writing. Writers coming to this article with a stretch of time ahead of them have the luxury of doing some background reading that is not directly related to the matter at hand. Finding a good profile essay example has the hidden benefit of looking like a lazy weekend afternoon; get a stack of magazines and read.

Some of the most common places to find quality profiles are The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, Esquire, or National Geographic. Another perspective is to look for writers, head to your bookshelf or local book store, and do some digging. Again, read and make some notes on the qualities you enjoy and dislike in a range of profiles.

Lastly, in terms of reading, examine the differences between an essay or article profiling a person and one that profiles an event.

That form of preparation is more akin to education. It is needed to bolster your understanding of the broad picture and what is essentially the marketplace for your piece of work. 

Preparing for your actual essay, not the skill of writing an ambiguous profile essay, is another matter. The research and reading that are highly relevant to your subject matter will make or break your profile essay. 

To begin with, you must find all profiles of your subject that are in existence and don’t require a transatlantic flight to a dusty library archive – in this instance, simply email the library and ask if they’ve considered digitizing their collection, starting with your desired piece. 

One of the most surefire organization tactics for research is timelining. Start at the beginning; be sure to go into ‘negative digits’ and look at the parent’s history or the town’s history, or anything else that emerges in your research.

After ‘time’ as a category of thinking comes ‘significance.’ What were the defining features of this person’s life, and to what sort of ‘movement’ might they belong? Add this into your timeline research and press on.

Have you selected a person or place that is feasible to contact and ask for a quote or interview? You may also want to reach out to other players in the story you’re telling and see what they have to say on things.

Preparing all this research can get messy and cluttered. The best way to solve this problem is to  follow a system from the start, as mentioned above; time is a great organizer. Also, keep a running bibliography in a separate file on your computer. Keep tabs on everything you’ve read, and be as forensic as possible with maintaining records. Who knows what might happen in the future regarding the focus of your essay? They might run for president, or they might fade into obscurity. 

Profile Essay Outline

As a profile essay combines qualities of journalism and literary writing, the ideal outline doesn’t exist. Literary writing can take the reader on a journey; in fact, the only requirement of the structure is to guide this journey as magnificently as possible.

Were we to suggest a general profile essay outline, it would contain these sections and ingredients. The order is flexible to an extent. It depends on the content of your profile. Have you got an interview to draw upon, or are you using your storytelling powers to deduct and infer from other sources?

In your introduction, if you’ve conducted an interview, use a quote for your lede. A good quote is an excellent way to set the tone and give an impression of your subject to the reader. Those without an interview might consider a bold statement; be sure that you use something here to act as a powerful lede and bring the reader on board. 

Alluring mysteries are one thing; though the crunch point for this gambit is to make the pay-off worthwhile. Else, the cliff-edge and the tension you create will be for nothing in the end. 

There will be time to provide things like background and biography in the main body of a profile essay. These tend to follow the lede as they’re a nice cool-down; they give the reader a chance to build knowledge on an obscure topic. Whereas for the writer, both the background and biography offer an opportunity to peg in some facts, figures, and breadcrumbs to draw upon later.

The body of a profile essay is tricky. You, first of all, need to engagingly tell your readers the story in it. Remember to build tension and really ‘let go’ when it comes to releasing that tension. Tell it to a friend, read it aloud. Move around the paragraphs. Remember that the profile is following an arc and in your conclusions, hook back in the initial qualities of the opening part. This technique is like cadence in music, and it will please your audience as long as it isn’t too trite. 

Profile Essay Topics

A suitable subject or topic depends on your qualities as a writer and the desired outcome of writing such a profile essay. Now, it does not have to include an interview, but many profile essays do include them. Some profile essay topics may be inanimate objects or complex emergences of human life (events). If this is the case, you can still interview 

For interviews, considering you’re likely a lowly reporter on a college paper, getting an interview with a high-flying sportsperson, politician, or musician is unlikely. In any event, the lower-flying specimens of these species could make a good target. 

The most important thing to consider when choosing the topic or subject is to work with your gut and instinct. If you’re interested in the story, you’re going to have much more to put into it, and your excitement and verve will show through in writing. It may also make it easier to stomach the long hours of tedious research that can emerge when trying to prove or disprove an obscurity of some kind. 

If you haven’t decided on the topic, there’s still room for maneuver. You can look at the subject matter and present your perspective on the case; that’s the subjective element of a profile, your view.

This perspective of yours can focus on just one specific aspect of a person or event. By removing the duller or more well-trodden elements of a character, you open up the chance to explore a new side of a topic. It’s also a fantastic skill for writers to be able to recap well-known things or facts quickly. Writing in this style for a very general audience should be a skill in any writer’s arsenal. 

Profile Essay Examples 

Properly digesting the advice and points made in this article can be aided by reading some profile essay examples. Look for examples given out in your class, or search around using the main keyword – profile essay examples. 

Here are a few examples for you to get a catch on how to write profile essays excellently:

Writing Tips for a Profile Essay

How to write a profile essay in three steps; pick a subject, do your research, and start writing. Remember that a profile essay is a literary and a journalistic piece of writing. It’s non-fiction, so your facts and figures must be accurate, and any discrepancies or controversies surrounding your data can form a part of your analysis.

Always write with your reader at the forefront of your mind. Visualize your reader, even if it’s a college essay, and think of how you could pitch your piece to a publication. The natural home of a profile is in the media, not in the college textbook. So write the essay with publication in mind. 

 Here are some essential tips for a profile essay composition:

  • Conduct thorough research on your topic, look for potential interviews or aspects not covered in previous profiles if they exist. Also, make sure you’ve read all of the profiles on or related to your subject matter; a profile is an evolving topic, and new facts can emerge.
  • Profile examples are available online, as well as those posted by educational institutes, and of course, those featured in the media. Reading these serves as excellent preparation and inspiration.
  • The structure and overall outline of a profile essay is something with a degree of flexibility. While the introduction and rounding off of the essay will look familiar, tracking a person’s profile or event can involve highly unique pieces of information. Unlike many other papers, profiles don’t have to strictly conform to the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis structure. However, this familiar form of writing still works in part when writing a profile. 

Write a Profile Essay with HandmadeWriting

HandmadeWriting can help with the development, construction, and polishing of a profile essay. As an organization, we draw on academics and writers’ expertise from across the spectrum of the written word. 

Getting started can be difficult, but consulting with HandmadeWriting offers a way to get the ball rolling. The writers at HandmadeWriting are used to working on a countless number of topics and essay styles. The staff is also familiar with working under a tight deadline, not to mention those tasks where the endpoint is less defined. 

HandmadeWriting makes composing an essay or profile piece simple. Talk with a skilled writer and editor today on your topic, and you can make a start immediately.

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Introduction to the Profile

by Kate Geiselman, Sinclair Community College

The purpose of a profile is to give the reader new insight into a particular person, place, or event. The distinction between a profile and, for example, a memoir or a biography is that a profile relies on newly acquired knowledge. It is a first-hand account of someone or something as told by the writer. You have probably read profiles of famous or interesting people in popular magazines or newspapers. Travel and science publications may profile interesting or unusual places. All of these are, in effect, observation essays. A curious writer gathers as much information as s/he can about a subject, and then presents it in an engaging way. A good profile shows the reader something new or unexpected about the subject.

Dialogue, description, specific narrative action, and vivid details are all effective means of profiling your subject. Engage your reader’s senses. Give them a sense of what it’s like to be in a particular place. Try to show your reader what’s behind the scenes of a familiar place or activity, or introduce them to someone unique.

A profile is not strictly objective. Rather than merely reporting facts, a profile works to create a dominant impression. The focus of a profile is on the subject, not on the writer’s experience. However, the writer is still “present” in a profile, as it is s/he who selects which details to reveal and decides what picture they want to paint. It is the writer’s job to use the information and writing strategies that best contribute to this dominant impression, which was a concept discussed in the narrative introduction as well.

Above all, a profile should have a clear angle. In other words, there should be an idea or purpose guiding it. Why do you think your subject is something other people will be interested in reading about? What is the impression you hope to convey? The answer to these questions will help you discover your angle.

Writing Strategies for Profiles

Conducting research.


The best way to conduct research about your subject is to observe it firsthand. Once you have decided on a topic, you should spend some time gathering information about it. If you decide to profile a place, pay a visit to it and take notes. Write down everything you can; you can decide later whether or not it’s relevant. If you have a smartphone, take pictures or make recordings to refer to later. Most people think of observing as something you do with your eyes, but try to use of all of your senses. Smells, sounds, and sensations will add texture to your descriptions. You may also spend time observing your subject at his/her work or in different contexts. Again, write everything down so you don’t forget the key details. Remember, it’s the specific details that will distinguish the great profiles from the merely proficient ones.

Interviewing If you choose to profile a person, you will want to conduct an interview with him/her. Before doing so, plan what you are going to ask. You probably have a good idea of why this person will be a good subject for a profile, so be sure your questions reflect that. Saying “tell me about yourself” is unlikely to get your subject talking. Saying, “tell me what it was like to be the first person in your family to go to college,” will get a much more specific answer.

Organizing your profile Once you have gathered all of your information, it’s time to start thinking about how to organize it. There are all different ways to write a profile, but the most common organizational strategies are chronological, spatial, and topical. Most profiles are some combination of the three.

Chronological order is presenting details as they happened in time, from start to finish. A chronological profile of a person might talk about their past, work up to their present, and maybe even go on to plans for the future. A chronological profile of an event might begin and end when the event itself does, narrating the events between in the order they happened. If you’re profiling a place, a chronological profile might begin with your first impressions arriving there and end with your departure. The advantage to writing in chronological order is that your writing will unfold naturally and transition easily from start to finish. The disadvantage, though, is that strict chronological order can get tedious. Merely recounting a conversation or experience can be dry, and can also pull focus from the subject onto the writer’s experience.

Spatial organization is presenting information as it occurs in space or by location. This is a great choice if you’re writing about a place. Think of it as taking your reader on a tour: from room to room of a house, for example. For an event, you might move your reader from place to place. If you are writing about a concert, for instance, you might describe the venue from the outside, then the seating area, then the stage. Spatial organization can even work for a person, depending on your focus. Try profiling a person at home, work, and school, for example.

Topical organization is just what it sounds like: one topic at a time. Think first of what you want to say about a person or place and organize details and information by subject. A profile of a person might talk about their home life, their work, and their hobbies. A topical profile of a place might focus on the physical space, the people who inhabit it, its historical significance, etc. Look at the information you gather from observation and/or interviewing and see if any topics stand out, and organize your paper around them. Most profiles are some combination of chronological, spatial, and topical organization. A profile might begin with a chronological narrative of a hockey game, and then flashback to provide some background information about the star player. Then it might go on to talk about that player’s philosophy of the sport, returning to the narrative about the game later on. As you read the sample essays, notice how the writers choose details and arrange them in order to create a specific impression.

Using description Vivid descriptions are key in a profile. They immerse your reader in the subject and add texture and depth to your writing. However, describing something is more than deploying as many adjectives as possible. In fact, the best descriptions may not have any adjectives at all. They rely instead on sensory detail and figurative language. Sensory detail is exactly what it sounds like: appealing to as many of the reader’s senses as possible. Adjectives can be vague, and even subjective. Think about this example:

“My grandmother always smelled good.”

What does good mean? What does good smell like? Do we even agree on what kinds of things smell good? Instead, try this:

“My grandmother always smelled good: like Shalimar, Jergen’s lotion, and menthol cigarettes.”

Now your reader knows much more. Perhaps they are even familiar enough with those scents that they can imagine what that combination would smell like. Moreover, you have delivered some emotional information here. Not every reader would agree that the smell of cigarettes is “good,” but perhaps that smell is comforting to you because you associate it so strongly with someone you care about. Of course, smell is not the only sense you can appeal to. Sights, sounds, temperatures and tastes will also enliven your writing.

Figurative language can add depth and specificity to your descriptions. Use metaphors, similes, comparisons and images creatively and purposefully. Consider the following:

“She was so beautiful.”

“Beautiful” just doesn’t tell us much. It is, like “good,” both vague and subjective. We don’t all have the same standards of beauty, nor is beauty one particular quality. Try a comparison instead:

“She was so beautiful that conversation stopped every time she entered a room.”

True, we don’t know much about what she looks like, but we do know that nearly everyone finds her striking.

Similes (comparisons using like or as) are not only efficient, but are also more vivid than adjectives. Compare these two sentences:

“He was short and muscular.” vs. “He was built like a bulldog.”

Write With Clarity

by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons

Considering point of view Because a profile is a first-hand account, you will need to consider point of view carefully. Many profiles are written entirely in third person. Others use first person. Different instructors may have different expectations, so be sure to consult your assignment guidelines to see what your options are. In a third-person profile, the writer is not “present” in the writing. S/he does not refer to his/her own actions or use first-person pronouns, but is more of an objective observer or “fly on the wall.” Most journalistic profiles are written from this point of view. The advantage of using third person is that it places your subject firmly at the center of your paper. In a first-person profile, the writer is an active participant, sharing his/her observations with the reader. First person narration closes the distance between writer and reader and makes the subject feel more personal. On the downside, it can pull focus from your subject. If you use first person, be sure you’re not intruding on your subject too much or making the piece about you.

From: The First Person By Fredrik deBoer, Writing Commons

Using appropriate verb tense Often, profiles will be written in present tense. This gives the reader the sense that s/he is “there,” experiencing the subject along with the writer. Present tense lends a sense of immediacy and intimacy that past tense may not. It may also help the writer stay focused on the “here and now,” rather than reflecting on the past, as s/he might in a memoir. Other times, writers may need to shift tenses to talk about previous events or background information. Be sure to use verb tenses carefully, shifting only purposefully, correctly, and when the subject demands it. You can read more on tense shifts here.

Finding a topic and an angle Virtually anything can be the subject of a profile. What matters is that you have something to say about it. People are an endless source of material; everyone has a story. Make a list of people you know who

– have lived through important historical events: war, the civil rights era, the Depression, etc. – have been through challenging experiences: survived a major health crisis, difficult childhood, etc. – have an unusual job or hobby, or special talent or skill. – have unique personalities: they are eccentric, funny, selfless, energetic, artistic, etc.

Places can be equally interesting. Consider a local establishment, a natural wonder, a festival or celebration, a landmark, a museum, a gathering place, etc. What makes that place interesting and worth visiting? What makes it special or noteworthy?

Don’t just think about what you want to write about; instead, think about what you want to say about it. Why is it interesting to you, and why might your audience find it worth reading about?

Student Paper Rationale

For an assignment to write a profile essay, Joshua Dawson described his purpose and audience: “This essay is about my grandmother and how she overcame the hardships of life. [. . .] The purpose of this essay is to show how a woman can be tough and can take anything life throws at her. I hope the essay reaches students who have a single parent and those who don’t know what a single parent goes through.” Joshua showed a clear idea of what he wanted his essay to do.

Sample profiles As you read the sample profiles provided or linked in this chapter, consider the following:

  • What dominant impression is the writer trying to convey?
  • How effectively does the writer use sensory detail and figurative language?
  • What is the writer’s point of view (first person, third person, or mixed)?
  • How is the profile organized (chronological, spatial, topical, or some combination thereof)?
  • What tense does the writer use, and what effect does this have?

Profile Example

The following profile was excerpted from pp. 64- 68: Girard, Rosemary, “The professional writer’s many personae: Creative nonfiction, popular writing, speechwriting, and personal narrative” (2015). Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current. 109.

Joseph Larson, who surprised everyone but himself

Sometimes in life we think we have drive. Then we hear stories like *Joseph Larson’s. *Name has been changed for privacy

If you happen to catch Joseph Larson grabbing his double shot espresso every morning, he looks much like the suit-and-tie, briefcase-in-hand worker we expect to brush elbows with some of the government’s most influential employees.

Every morning, he makes the fifteen-minute walk from his home in Northern Virginia to the metro station and commutes on the Orange and Green Lines to Washington, D.C. I’ve made a similar Arlington-to-Washington commute during rush hour, observing the hard-faced, overtired, overachieving men and women in suits whom I’d like to offer a smile and a cup of strong coffee. But something tells me Larson would catch my eye. Even if I weren’t aware of his profession, something about the quizzical, concentrated, and analytical way he was reading the newspaper might tip me off: he’s a lawyer.

But he’s not the guy with an earpiece in, swiping and tapping his iPhone screen. He’s the kind of man who—perhaps by his legal training, but more likely because of his inherent disposition—pensively absorbs information; the kind of man who, on a daily basis, makes critical legal decisions, yet is far beyond the intellectual limits of taking one’s self too seriously.

One thing I wouldn’t guess about Larson by my metro observation, though, is this: he is a high school dropout. Without a high school diploma, or even a GED, to his name, Larson climbed himself out of a broken family, an abandoned home, and a completely “adult” life thrust upon him at the shy age of ten years old.

Growing up in the Los Angeles basin, Larson spent the first ten or eleven years of his life in what he described vividly as a typical one-story, single-family house in the foothills of the San Bernadino mountains. He fondly recalled running barefoot and shirtless through the orange and lemon groves surrounding his house, basking in the 70s-and-sunny atmosphere of Southern California.

Larson described himself as a great student who enjoyed performing well and achieving good grades. “At the start of the year in second grade they gave me some tests and sent me to a third grade class,” he explained. But being a year younger and physically smaller than his classmates, Larson felt socially removed from his peers (he joked that, standing about 5’5” now, he was small to begin with). “I spent a lot of time in the library at recess instead of on the playground. I read a lot and was a bit reclusive.”

Still today, there’s something quite reserved yet so present about his demeanor—the type of person who often lets the extroverts of the world do the talking, but, when prompted, could shock any loudmouth to silence with his quick wit and unwavering knowledge on a subject of anyone’s choosing.

At about the same time that his home life became shaken, his time spent at school grew a bit rockier as well. “I remember around sixth grade being unwilling to accept authority that I felt was unjust,” he described. “I mostly got along with teachers, but there were a couple of really insecure, bullying types, and I really didn’t accept that well.”

As Larson read about and studied education, he became increasingly convinced that the school system he belonged to was flawed. “I was openly critical of some of my teachers’ methods, which landed me in the principal’s office,” he admitted. “I remember telling one poor science teacher in middle school that he was wasting our time.”

Behind the series of disagreements between Larson and his teachers, however, was a childhood falling apart at its seams. “My parents were really smart and loving people, and we had a very close family until I was about ten or eleven years old,” Larson said. “At that point, my family began to fall apart. My poor mother had a very rough time of it, and I ended up taking care of her while she went through a very difficult self-destructive stage after my father left.”

Larson revealed that while his mother did wind up marrying a nice guy, it only followed after a couple remarriages and various failed relationships. Amid these unsteady relationships, however, the men his mother kept as company were neither friendly nor accepting of having Larson around. He and his mother lost contact for quite a while. His relationship with his father wasn’t much better. “My father was mostly absent after that point in my life,” Larson said. “He tried to stay in touch, and I know he really loved me and my sister, but he was busy living his life, so we didn’t spend much time together.” His older sister, likewise, had a difficult time adjusting to the family’s new dynamic and lived with her boyfriends in the years following.

“My family house was vacant, as my father had left and my mother had moved out, and I actually lived there alone for a while, until the house was sold as a part of their divorce and I had to find another place to sleep,” Larson explained. “It was just as well, as the house kind of gave me nightmares—I’m sure just remnants of the family I had lost.”

Surprisingly, Larson remained confident, self-sufficient, and found various jobs as he tackled his newfound independence as a youngster. He didn’t get into trouble and seemed satisfied with the freedom he acquired, kept an emotional distance from others, and grew a hard shell.

Still, the combination of his battered home life and his resistance to the school system culminated in his decision to leave high school. “I gradually came to the realization when I got to high school that I had better things to do than sit in a classroom. I had really read a lot about education at that point, and became convinced that I could pretty much learn what I needed to learn in other ways,” he said.

So, he stuck out his sophomore year, got straight As to prove he could handle the work, and then dropped out.

“This was absolutely perfect for me at the time, since I really was living from one friend’s apartment floor to the next, and loved the anonymity. It was really liberating, and I was perfectly happy to move on,” Larson recalled. “It was insanely easy for a kid that age, at that time, to kind of disappear into the suburban landscape.”

Hearing Larson’s viewpoints toward formal education at the time is reminiscent of a California-bred, more put-together, Will Hunting—minus the attitude and the bitterness. It seemed clear to Larson that learning was a matter beyond the confines of structured education; no matter if he maintained enrollment at an institution, his desire to learn would naturally crop up in all aspects of his life.

After leaving high school, Larson made his living from a variety of small jobs— everything from dishwashing, bussing tables, cooking fast food, painting houses, and working as a tech in animal hospitals. He explained that he never spent money on anything other than food, so these jobs were sufficient.

Describing himself as having long hair and dressing poorly, Larson became a “hippie” and protested the Vietnam War at a young age. “I was fascinated by the counterculture, and read a lot,” Larson remembered. Still a lover of literature, Larson read everything “from Ginsburg’s poetry (‘Howl’) to Ken Kesey (‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’) to Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ and pretty much everything written by Hermann Hesse.” He often hitchhiked to get around, and made trips to the San Francisco area as it was a “Mecca” for hippies at the time.

It wasn’t until he was about seventeen that he truly acknowledged the wounds he’d never healed. After attending a self-development course, Larson was able to tap into deep seated feelings about those turbulent years. Surprised at his own grief after years of independence, he admitted, “I was shocked to find that I was heartbroken by the loss of my happy family and cried and cried about it at the training. I had a chance to grieve the loss, finally, which I think helped me move on.”

Despite his resistance to formal education in his early years, Larson was still an academic at heart. Soon, he grew bored of his life without the thrill of education in it, so he enrolled in several courses at the local community college as well as the local State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Meanwhile, Larson landed a job in a lab at the City of Hope where he assisted in lab work on animals for human disease research. “The doctors in the lab took an interest in me and encouraged me to get a degree,” he said. “I applied to the University of California at San Diego and was shocked to find I got in.”

At UCSD, Larson studied Linguistics and fell in love with it. He also enrolled in a French class, which led to him studying abroad. Describing himself as an opportunist, Larson discovered that he could get a student loan and spend a year in France during his junior year without working. After graduating from UCSD, he soon attended American University for law school.

Larson recalled a conversation he had with the registrar at American University about his lack of a high school degree or GED. “I remember the registrar looking at my transcript and noting, shocked, that I never graduated from high school. I remember asking if that was going to be a problem, but she just said, ‘No, I just haven’t ever seen this before!’”

What is perhaps most notable about Larson is the normalcy with which he treats his road to success and his forgiveness of the situation he was tossed into. “I think everyone has adversity and challenges,” Larson said. “I loved the freedom I had as a youngster. I think it gave me a great deal of confidence, and I had some amazing experiences.”

Speaking to his humility and compassion, Larson actually attributed much of his success to his family. Remembering his early childhood fondly, Larson feels grateful for the love his family showed him in his early years. Being rooted in such a solid foundation was key when Larson was forced to make difficult choices later on.

Although it may not have been the easiest path, Larson was always confident in his ability to rise out of life’s challenges. “There was the occasional reality check, those times grilling burgers with a jerk for a boss, or loading trucks late at night, which would motivate me,” he said. “I always knew I would do more than those jobs, and those tough realities are just the thing to motivate a person to move on.”

There seems to be something intrinsically laced in Larson’s character that drives him to success and is fueled by a love for learning—something beyond motivation and the often shallow push from parents to succeed, which Larson lacked anyway in his formative years. Looking at his background on paper, I’d expect to find Larson, at worst, drug addicted and alone. At best, still cooking fast food and struggling to make ends meet. But seeing the challenges he’s faced as opportunities, Larson doesn’t see that there were any other options: he had to succeed.

In his own California-roots fashion, Joseph Larson takes time to absorb and study the world around him. He has an appreciation for those who have chosen to live life differently, and he values the family and life he now has. He’s been given the opportunity to decide what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be, and so he invites others to do the same.

“What motivates us ultimately to do what we do, to me, is still a big mystery,” he said.

This speaks to Larson’s enigmatic self as well. He had every opportunity to fail, was the thought that pervasively and dogmatically prodded at my mind. And yet, with tenacity that is difficult to fathom, he picked up the pieces his family left behind and, without a blink, proved he had every tool to succeed.

When the necktie comes off, it drags with it all stereotypical assumptions we might have conjured about this metropolitan man. It’s anyone’s game as to what Larson is up to once he steps out of lawyer mode (although, if it’s trivia or crossword puzzles, I’ve been warned not to challenge him). Often, he’s tending to the various animals for which he couldn’t refuse a place in his home. He’s watching the Washington Nationals game over dinner. He’s putting that suit and tie back on for a night at The Shakespeare Theatre in DC. He’s listening to everything from Native American flute music to Neil Young. Or, he is—after multiple hip replacements on both sides—running and training for his next marathon.

Amid the surprises and the proved-everyone-wrongs, perhaps only three things are certain about Joseph Larson: his love of learning, his love of life, and that double shot espresso.

The following profile examples are under copyright but can be accessed through the links :

  • Joanna Walters: “Inside the Rehab Saving Young Men from their Internet Addiction” –
  • DeNeen Brown: “Six-Pack Abs at Age 74” –
  • Bill Laitner: “Heart and Sole: Detroiter’s Lengthy Commute Part of Life” –
  • Werner Herzog, From One Second to the Next:

Write What Matters Copyright © 2020 by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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