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How to Write a Personal Essay

You may find yourself writing a personal essay for a couple of reasons. For example, high school students may be required to write them as part of their college application while professional writers wonder how to write a good personal essay because of the need to share personal stories with an audience. It is by means of this piece of writing that you can inspire and draw in your audience with information that you have gained from your own unique experience.

What is a personal essay?

A personal essay is a piece of academic writing that students use to communicate about a particular event, experience, or some aspect of their past. It is also used as a vessel to link past and present, for example, to describe a lasting impression left by some personal event in one’s history. The personal essay also often looks toward the future. In it, one might talk about one’s hopes and aspirations, for instance. A lot of reps from college admission boards ask potential candidates to craft a personal essay in order to get more info on students’ personalities, experiences, motivations, outlooks, and how their special circumstances have affected them. Typically, a personal essay comprises three core parts: intro, body, and conclusion. The paper differs from formal essays in tone, length, and purpose. 

Reasons to write a personal essay

Knowing how to start a personal essay, cover the topic, and end it victoriously is a must since the paper can offer a lot of benefits, both personal and academic. Below are some of the key reasons why students may need to craft a personal essay:  

  • To stand out in a college application. When applying for a scholarship, college, university, or internship, a well-composed personal essay can help you stand out against the background of other applicants. Whether written with the help of a trusted custom essay writing service or independently, a personal paper is something that can help you prove you’re the right candidate. By using it, you can showcase your unique talents, experiences, qualifications, and even discuss the character traits that are not reflected by your academic achievement. 
  • To write a job application. When applying for a part- or full-time job, your employer may ask you to provide a personal essay to get to know more about your career goals. It helps them to see whether you’re the right match for the team and the overall corporate mission.
  • To self-reflect. When wondering how to write a personal essay, students are encouraged to reflect on their values, beliefs, and experiences. This process of introspection can help young adults better understand themselves and foster personal growth.  
  • To communicate with others. Writing a personal essay is not only about articulating your experiences or ideas on paper. It can be part of your personal correspondence when you have to communicate your thoughts and experiences to an audience.

How to write a personal essay: the prompts

To have a better idea about the personal essay before you rush over to the dissertation writing service for help, check out some of these prompts for inspiration:

  1. Reflect on an extra-important event or experience in your life that has shaped who you are today. In what way did this event impact your values, beliefs, or outlook on life?
  2. Describe one of the biggest challenges that you have successfully overcome. It can be a personal, academic, or professional obstacle. 
  3. Discuss some person in your life who has had a huge influence on you. What kind of life lessons or insights have you gained from this special relationship?
  4. Recall and reflect on the most memorable journey that you ever had. What life lessons did you learn from it? Did you learn something by exploring a new culture? 

The prompts mentioned above are designed to inspire students who wonder how to write a personal essay and to encourage them to reflect on their unique experiences, relationships, and beliefs, providing them with a starting point in the creative writing process.

Tips to pick an interesting topic for your personal essay

When browsing potential personal essay ideas, go for something that is easy to write about. If thoughts on how to write a personal essay on a particular topic don’t seem to come to you easily, check out some of these quick tips on selecting a topic:

  • Reflect on personal experiences. Ponder over events, obstacles, challenges, failures, or successes in your life that have had a great impact on you. Thinking about your past can serve as a solid cornerstone for a winning personal essay.
  • Pick a meaningful topic. Focus on the topics that are relevant to you and meaningful. You will see how the process of writing becomes more authentic and engaging when you write about something that touches you deeply.
  • Know your audience. Who will be reading? What is it that you want them to learn or understand about you? Pick a topic that will enable you to connect with your target readers and convey all the aspects about yourself that you wish to convey in the best possible manner.  
  • Look for feedback. If you wonder how to write a personal essay on a topic that will be engaging for the target audience, discuss it with your friends, family members, teachers, mentors, or members of the online community. 
  • Browse themes or values. Make a list of themes and/or values that are important for you, like empathy, compassion, creativity, resilience, etc. Picking a topic that aligns with your values can help you infuse authenticity and depth into your personal essay.

Personal essay structure

While these kinds of papers tend to vary in style and content, they typically follow a particular personal essay structure used to effectively convey your message and engage the reader. Below, we offer some tips on how to structure a personal essay successfully:

Traditional personal essay structure


Objective: the introductory paragraph serves to hook your reader’s attention and provide some context for the whole paper.

Hint: start with an attention-grabbing hook like a quote, stats, anecdote, etc. Give a brief overview of the theme and end your intro with a clear and powerful thesis statement. Keep in mind that a thesis statement is not a compulsory part of a personal essay.

Background or exposition

Objective: give all important background info or context to help your audience understand why exactly your experience is important.

Hint: share relevant details about yourself like your beliefs, background, or interests. Set a solid stage for the moments/events you’ll reflect on in the next segment.

Body paragraphs

Objective: the heart of the essay, that is, the body, must be logically organized with each paragraph focused on a specific aspect of your experience. Include concrete examples, personal insights, descriptions, and dialogues (if needed) to bring your story to life.

Hint: use transitions to connect ideas between different paragraphs and be honest when sharing your thoughts.  

Reflection and analysis

Objective: reflect on the importance of your experiences and their (possible) broader implications. Think about how exactly your experience shaped you as a person and your values. Focus on the lessons that you have learned and changes that may be the results of the experience that you discuss.

Hint: provide critical self-reflection and do not hesitate to check out alternative (opposing) viewpoints.


Objective: use your conclusion to sum up the key points and provide a sense of closure.

Hint: end with a memorable statement that will leave an impression. Do not include new facts or arguments in the final part. Instead, leave the readers with a thought-provoking takeaway based on the essay’s central message.

Tips on how to structure a personal essay and write it properly

The process of writing a personal essay is not in itself tough if you make sure to follow the plan offered below:

1. Pick an intriguing topic. Go for the topic that is meaningful to you and offers some space for self-reflection and introspection. It can be a life-changing event, personal experience, or one of your unique character traits.

2. Create an engaging intro. Avoid exaggeration but begin with an opening paragraph to hook your reader’s attention. This is also where you establish the tone for your essay.

3. Organize your ideas. structure your personal essay with a clear intro, a body, and a conclusion. Make sure your ideas are organized logically and use transitions to link different parts of your narrative.

4. Give vivid descriptions. Since you’re working on a personal paper, don’t forget to use descriptive language and sensory details to create a vivid picture in your reader’s mind.

5. Start with an intro. Provide a hook, a thesis statement, and attempt to establish an emotional connection with your target audience. Give them something special to expect.

6. Write the body of the essay. Use your body paragraphs to build your unique story and lead your target readers to the main points of the essay. Employ all the sensory details surrounding the relevant events and people in your story to help propel them forward.

7.  Conclude. Sum up what you want your readers to learn about your unique life experiences and let your readers know what your special message is to them. It is highly recommended to end your personal essay on a hopeful and positive note.

How to Write a Personal Essay: Final Recommendations

  • Stay focused. You know the central message or theme of your essay so stick with it. Avoid unrelated jokes or inappropriate jargon that may confuse your readers.
  • Edit and revise. Don’t skip this part. Put your work aside for a while when it’s done, and let your brain reload. Get back to it with a fresh pair of eyes to scan it for grammar, punctuation, and other errors.
  • Seek feedback. Approach a trusted family member or friend with the message, “I need to write my coursework, could you please take a look?” Fresh perspectives will definitely help you identify areas for improvement and make your prose stronger.
  • Be open to revision. Even if you have to do it multiple times, it’s OK. After all, writing is a process. It’s an art. And each revision gets you closer to perfection.

Photo by Unseen Studio from Unsplash

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