How To Write A Personal Essay, With Examples

personal essay

Content of this article

  1. Writing a personal essay
  2. List of topics for writing
  3. Structure
  4. Reference
  5. Tips for good writing
  6. Do/don`t for writing
  7. Examples of writing

1. Writing a personal essay

Colleges and universities require personal essays that reveal more about an individual, their thoughts, experiences, perspective, and personality. Ideally, one should include examples and specific details in the personal essay that relate to who a person is. Through highlighting elements of individuality and creativity, a writer is able to show things that have significantly influenced their life. In writing a personal essay it is necessary to be oneself rather than trying too much to impress by creating too many falsehoods as one will appear inauthentic. At the same time, one has to address the topic if it has been identified while considering the requirements.  This paper will highlight the top topics for personal essays, the personal essay structure, how to reference them, and tips for an effective personal essay.

2. Topics for personal essay writing

When selecting a personal essay topic it is necessary to consider the topics that are personal and not impersonal, as the readers seek to know more about the author/writer. The supporting evidence provided what strengthens the claims made and ideas, without repeating the information.  There are also personal essay prompts providing general topics to choose from, while they also encourage self-reflection. The personal essay titles are included as they include relevant information. Good personal essay topics are easy to follow, and choosing a bad topic is potentially problematic as such writing is less likely to be reader-friendly. Additionally, the choice of a topic influences the writing and when the writers choose an interesting topic that they are comfortable with, they are more likely to use creativity to highlight their personal strengths.

  • What have you learned from failure?
  • Describe an event that has changed you?
  • An experience that has shaped your life.
  • How have you overcome fear in your life?
  • How has your transition from childhood to adulthood been?
  • What memories do you cherish from your early childhood?
  • Does power change people, or reveal who they are?
  • What is your most memorable holiday?
  • What animal best represents you?
  • Who do you think is the greatest person to have ever lived?
  • A lesson to remember.
  • What have you done to succeed?
  • How have you changed compared to 5 years ago?
  • What is the place of ethics and morality?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • What experience has changed your perspective on life?
  • Does your bedroom represent your personality?
  • What would you like to change about your neighborhood?
  • How do you relate with neighbors?
  • Which famous person would you like to meet and why?
  • What is your motivation in life?

3. Personal essay structure

There are various strategies on how to start a personal essay, but the key is to make the opening paragraph memorable with vivid descriptions. Readers have expectations based on the introduction and how the essay unfolds, as this part frames the story. When deciding how to end a personal essay, it is necessary to consider what has already been highlighted and link the conclusion with the introduction.  Even when the last paragraph has many related points and material in other sections, little or no information is introduced unless it addressed what had already been discussed.

Like other essays, the personal essay structure contains the personal essay introduction, body, and conclusion.  The personal essay definition is one in which the writer uses creativity to focus on a personal experience, opinion event, or perspective in a way that the reader can understand.  In the introduction section, the writer sets the stage for the personal essay with emphasis on a hook that gets the attention of the readers.  This is closely tied to the scene, where the writer highlights the important information that connects the introduction to the body and conclusion.  The personal essay thesis statement in the introduction section ties the main ideas of the essay and guides the writing as the statement summarizes the main points, and the readers then understand what the writing is about.

In the body paragraphs, the writer should emphasize more including details and descriptions rather than simply telling. Writers are best understood when their writing can connect with the readers, and adding details is one such strategy to engage the readers. Additionally, the narrative is supported with evidence that supports the main ideas and thesis of the personal essay. The body contains the biggest portion of the writing, and the writer then needs to highlight the significance of the events, experiences, or perspectives of the essay.  The body paragraph also has the beginning, middle, and end action, with details and proper transition.

3.1 Writing a thesis statement

  • Important to note that the thesis statement should be framed in such a way that it is an argument or rather in a manner that suggests that it is debatable;
  • It should be framed in such a way that it is clear to readers;
  • A thesis statement should be placed in a place where it is visible, at the end of the introduction;
  • It should be relevant to what the essay is discussing;
  • Thesis statements should always be interesting;
  • It should be specific;
  • It should be brief.

After deciding or choosing the topic, it’s necessary to write a rough draft. The case for this is to address the main ideas and general theme, where the principal points and supporting evidence are made. In the first draft of the personal essay, the concluding paragraph also summarizes the main ideas.  After this is the need for reviewing the rough draft, there are corrections and revisions to rewrite the first draft, and submitting the reading to another person helps improves the writing when they provide unbiased opinions. In the second draft, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are all considered when reviewing and writing a personal essay.

Like other articles and writing texts, the writer focuses on one subject, while the events and story are written chronologically if the personal essay is to make sense. Even in cases when there is no time element, organization and order are considered through the use of transition words is a top priority to support the logical flow of information.  When the paragraph change to focus on the subtopics of the main ideas, the transition words are used to connect the paragraphs.  Similar to other essays, the main points are first covered and other points are then highlighted in each of the paragraphs.

In the personal essay conclusion, the personal essay summarizes the ideas covered and may also highlight the way forward. Since the conclusion sums up the overall ideas, the last paragraph ought to reinforce the thesis. Other than reiterating the main ideas, the conclusion highlights the value of the ideas discussed in the personal essay. Ideally, the conclusion should not include new ideas, but the section may connect the essay to a larger context.

4. How to reference

When citing a source either through using the APA or MLA format there are few differences in the in-text citation and referencing. The general format of the APA referencing style is Author, First Initial, Middle Name initial (Year). Title of article/ website/book.

Gonchar, M. (2014, Nov 13). 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing. The Learning Network- The New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2016, from

Moore, D. W. (2010). Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction. Cincinnati: F+W Media.

In the case of MLA referencing a book this is Last name, First name. Title. City: Publisher, Year, and for a   website it is Last name, First name.  Title page. Web. Date Accessed.

Gonchar, Michael. “500 Prompts for Narrative And Personal Writing”. The Learning Network.- The New York Times N.p., 2014. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.

5. Tips for effective personal essay

One of the most important aspects of personal essay writing is choosing the topic since the essay reflects the topic. Even when the topics have already been picked, it is necessary to focus on the unique features or the writer’s own perspectives. Even as people may have similar experiences they hold different perspectives, and when there are unexpected perspectives this sets a writer apart from the others. On the other hand, if one were to choose a boring topic, the essay will also be boring and any attempt to reveal oneself will not be fascinating to the readers.

After picking the topic it is necessary to prepare a personal essay outline that maps out the ideas to be covered in the personal essay. The case for this is that it allows the writer to connect the ideas, linking those that support these ideas with evidence, and preparing the outline is also necessary to organize the essays without repeating the ideas. Even as brainstorming can yield useful results, it may be necessary to seek personal essay help to identify and connect the ideas. Additionally, outlining the ideas focuses on the overall picture making it easier to eliminate the irrelevant parts as the personal essay will then flow more smoothly.

Providing details in personal writing is necessary to remove vague and abstract references and makes it easier for the readers to pay attention to the essay as they can easily understand the anecdotes and their relations to the essay. The anecdotes illustrate the meaning of the details in the personal essay.  In shaping the experiences that identify the unique writing, concrete details are necessary to achieve this.  Nonetheless, care is exercised when using descriptive material and concrete material to avoid melodrama, since the aim is to present the essay in a way that is easily understood by the readers.

Connecting the personal essay within the context and larger meaning helps in developing the writing and connecting with the readers. Even as writing a personal essay focuses on the personal elements in life, the written essay has meaning within certain contexts. The theme of the personal essay goes beyond the essay’s specific details, where the author gives meaning. When the readers come across a personal essay they are left thinking about the meaning of such essays. Since the personal essay reveals and highlights more details about the other, the ability to use anecdotes is necessary to make the connection between the ideas.

6. Things “to do” and “not do” during personal essay writing

  • Do focus on personal aspects and not the impersonal ones;
  • Do tell the truth to be authentic;
  • Do focus on the positives;
  • Do pick topics that interest the readers;
  • Be specific and detailed;
  • Do not repeat the same information;
  • Do not choose topics simply because other people have picked this;
  • Do not use outside sources without acknowledging this.

7. Examples of a personal essay

7.1 Common personal essay

7.2 Personal essay on leadership

7.3 Personal essay on education

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