How to Write a Personal Essay: Your Easy Guide

personal essay
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The power of a well-written personal essay should never be underestimated. Inspiring readers with your experiences, lessons learned from past mistakes, or simply describing the joy you felt from doing a fun activity can literally change people's lives. Take a moment to reflect upon this. How much influence you can have on your audience with just a pen and paper in your hand and thoughts flowing through your head is insane.

To take the reins of your floating thoughts and put them into perspective, you need to know how to write a personal essay. Otherwise defined as a nonfiction narrative story, the personal essay format differs slightly from other kinds of writing with its implicit structure. Once we touch upon those, we will also explore some personal essay topics with our online essay writing service. After reading this article, we promise you'll be so confident writing your personal statement that you might want to craft many personal essays in one go!

What is a Personal Essay?

A personal essay is a type of autobiographical writing where the author shares a meaningful personal experience. Typically assigned in high school and college courses, these essays are also required for college applications, graduate programs, or job applications.

The main goal of a personal essay is to reveal aspects of the author's life and personality through storytelling. By recounting a pivotal event or experience, the writer aims to connect with the reader and convey a deeper understanding of who they are. For applicants, these essays serve as a way to showcase their unique qualities and persuade admissions officers or employers of their suitability.

Personal essays vary widely in content and style, reflecting the diversity of human experiences. They can explore a range of topics, from reflections on personal growth to poignant moments of realization. What distinguishes a personal essay is its emphasis on the author's subjective perspective and the significance of the story being told.

Notable examples of personal essays include Robert Louis Stevenson's "An Apology for Idlers," where he muses on the value of leisure; Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," which explores identity and race; and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "What I Think and Feel at 25," a reflective piece on youth and aspirations.

In crafting a personal essay, it's key for the writer to stay focused on the intended purpose: to reveal something meaningful about themselves through a compelling narrative. Whether for academic assignments or application processes, these essays offer a unique opportunity to share personal stories that resonate with readers and leave a lasting impression.

What Do You Write in a Personal Essay?

In a personal essay, the content revolves around sharing a significant personal experience that has had a profound impact on the writer's life. Here's a breakdown of what to consider when writing a personal essay:

  1. Choose a Compelling Topic: Select an experience or event that is meaningful and memorable. This could be a moment of personal growth, a challenge overcome, a cultural experience, or a significant relationship.
  2. Craft a Narrative: Create a personal essay structure like a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Introduce the situation or event, develop the narrative with details and reflections, and conclude with insights gained or lessons learned.
  3. Reflect and Analyze: Beyond recounting the events, reflect on why this experience is significant to you. What did you learn about yourself or others? How did this experience shape your beliefs, values, or future goals?
  4. Be Honest and Authentic: Personal essays thrive on authenticity. Write openly about your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the experience. Avoid exaggeration or embellishment; instead, focus on conveying genuine emotions and insights.
  5. Showcase Your Voice: Personal essays are an opportunity to showcase your unique perspective and voice. Use descriptive language, anecdotes, and personal observations to engage the reader and convey the impact of the experience on your life.
  6. Consider the Audience: Whether you're writing for a class assignment, college application, or job application, consider the expectations and interests of your audience. Tailor your essay to resonate with them while staying true to your own story.
  7. Edit and Revise: After drafting your essay, revise it for clarity, coherence, and impact. Check for grammar and punctuation errors, and ensure that your essay flows smoothly from start to finish.

Proper Format

Now that you know what is a personal essay, let’s start with the formatting specifics. The format for personal essay can be similar to most academic tasks with just a few distinct aspects. Let's examine the details from our paper writer:

🖋️Font Use any readable fonts - Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri in size 12.
📏Margins Just like in most writings, set your margins to one inch on all sides.
📄Spacing This is a classic! Use double-spacing throughout the essay, including between paragraphs.
📎Indentation Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches or use the tab key.
🔢Page numbers Include page numbers in the top right corner of each page.
📚Title Include a title that reflects the theme or subject of your essay. Center the title on the page.
📰Header Include a header with your last name and the page number in the top right corner of each page.
📏Length The length of a personal essay can vary but typically ranges from 500 to 2,000 words.
😇Tone The tone of a personal essay should be conversational, reflective, and sincere.
🧍Personal pronouns Use first-person pronouns such as 'I,' 'me,' and 'my.' Remember, the spotlight is directed at you as you're the true hero of the story.

If you’re required to write an essay using Harvard essay format, check out our detailed guide for an easy understanding. 

Personal Essay Topics

If you have got a lot of exciting stories to tell, your personal essay can shine brightly by interactively engaging the reader. Put in a little extra effort and dig deeper to find a unique or interesting experience or an unusual moment in your life.

Looking at a life lesson from another angle can turn into deep and purposeful subject matter. If you decide to pick a topic from a huge list of personal essay topics that you found on the internet, be precise and careful because not all of them can meet the requirements of your professor.

Personal Narrative Essay Topics

In this type of writing, try to explore a unique experience that creates a sense of conflict in your life. Explore how and why you were confused, annoyed, or hurt by the experience. Imagine your piece of paper as a place where you can freely express your emotions, discuss significant moments, & reflect on their impact on your life. This tip can help you create many really good essay topics, but if you need motivation, you can find some examples below.


  1. 'One small step that helped me skyrocket in my career!'
  2. 'Why controlling urges teaches you to master self-control.'
  3. 'People only learn from their own mistakes.'
  4. 'Life is not a one-dimensional path: it is curvier than a snake!'
  5. 'What I learned about conquering my fears.'
  6. 'The moment when I should have made a better choice.'
  7. 'The moment I overcame my public speaking fear.'
  8. 'How I conquered adversity with strength.'
  9. 'The impact of mentorship: valuable lessons learned from my mentor.'
  10. 'My journey to finding a place to belong.'

Personal Essay Topics on Specific Emotions

You may also talk about a specific event in your life that left a long-lasting impression on you. Usually, this type of essay reflects an incident that took place in your life and shifted it in some way. Dive deeper into your mind and find an event that is unique and personal to you. The weirder the occurrence, the more likely the essay will be engaging to read.

  1. 'How I ran away from fear: the power of exercising.'
  2. 'How I overcame the trauma through painting.'
  3. 'My quest to reclaim my cultural identity
  4. 'How I tackled cultural shock while studying abroad.'
  5. 'The year I went from being an amateur to a professional artist.'
  6. 'The best solo hike of my life
  7. 'The moment I beat my eating disorder and learned to love my true self.'
  8. 'How practicing gratitude helped me find beauty in the ordinary.'
  9. 'The power of letting go of toxic relationships
  10. 'How I lived up to my family's legacy.'

If you have not noticed, each of these titles can bring a fascinating vibe to the table. The names grab your attention, but you can only honestly know what they are about when reading them. That is the secret to a provocative title!

Cultural Identity and Heritage

  1. How family traditions shaped my cultural identity.
  2. My experience celebrating a traditional festival from my culture.
  3. Challenges and benefits of growing up in a multicultural household.
  4. How learning my native language has influenced my identity.
  5. Exploring my ancestral roots through genealogy research.
  6. Cultural stereotypes I've encountered and how they've affected me.
  7. Attending cultural events or ceremonies that are important to my heritage.
  8. How studying abroad influenced my understanding of my own culture.
  9. The influence of art or literature from my culture on my personal beliefs.
  10. Navigating the intersection of different cultural identities (e.g., biracial, bicultural).

Relationships and Connections

  1. A memorable romantic proposal or gesture that impacted our relationship.
  2. Lessons learned from a mentor or role model in my life.
  3. Dealing with cultural differences in relationships with friends or partners.
  4. A significant friendship that has shaped who I am today.
  5. Reconnecting with a family member after a long period of estrangement.
  6. How a long-distance relationship challenged and strengthened my connection with someone.
  7. The dynamics of sibling relationships in my family.
  8. How volunteering or community involvement has deepened my relationships.
  9. A falling-out with a friend and the lessons learned from the experience.
  10. The impact of a teacher or coach who believed in me during a challenging time.

Challenges and Resilience

  1. How I overcame a significant health crisis or injury.
  2. Ways I coped with the loss of a loved one and how it changed my perspective on life.
  3. Moving to a new country or city and adapting to a different culture.
  4. How I survived a natural disaster or traumatic event and rebuilt my life.
  5. Balancing academic or career challenges with personal goals and well-being.
  6. Overcoming a fear or phobia that held me back for a long time.
  7. Dealing with financial hardship and how it shaped my priorities.
  8. How I advocated for myself or others in the face of injustice or discrimination.
  9. Learning a new skill or achieving a personal goal despite initial setbacks.
  10. How I overcame a period of self-doubt and found strength in resilience strategies.

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Crafting an Outline for Personal Essay

Like most academic tasks, the personal essay can be easily structured into 5 paragraphs. This is one of the most important steps of personal narrative essay writing at any level. Your outline for personal essay will serve as a navigator, so you don't want to get off track. Understanding how to start personal essay, what to write in body paragraphs, and how to conclude it appropriately will be important.

Personal Essay Introduction

Start your writing with an introductory paragraph. As it gives your reader a clear understanding of what the story will be about. Employ a hook sentence to catch their attention and motivate them to read the rest of the paper with a whimsical thesis statement. It can be a narrative thesis, for example. But it must be written in one concise sentence that will bring the reader to the starting point of your essay.

Don't leave your readers in the dark in the introduction by explaining the important things such as:

  • Who are the major characters?
  • When and where is it taking place?
  • What kind of story is it?

Here are some how to start a personal essay examples:

Example 1:

In the heart of bustling Tokyo, amidst the neon lights and throngs of commuters, I found myself unexpectedly lost in a labyrinth of narrow streets and unfamiliar faces. It was here, in the chaotic vibrancy of Shinjuku, that I discovered a deeper connection to my Japanese heritage, navigating not only the city's geography but also my own cultural identity.

Example 2:

Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, the vast expanse of ancient rock and winding Colorado River below, I felt a surge of exhilaration and fear mingle within me. This monumental landscape not only challenged my fear of heights but also invited me to contemplate the sheer scale of nature's beauty and my place within it.

Personal Essay Body 

After creating an introduction, you must formulate three body paragraphs supporting your thesis statement. Each new point should contain its own body paragraph. Don't forget to make transitions from one paragraph to another to make sure that everything flows smoothly.

Usually, the body section is presented in the form of your experiences and your reflections on these events. You should also note the passage of time in your body sections, so make sure that the reader is aware of when and how each specific chapter took place.

How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph for Personal Essay?

Ultimately, it will be essential to wrap everything up and give your audience a sense of completeness by writing a proper conclusion. Restate your thesis, summarize the main points you have stated in body paragraphs, and leave your reader with a specific emotion, depending on the subject of your paper.

Readers should also discover a life lesson by going through the story. It is a moment where you show what you have learned from your experiences or how previous events have changed your life.

Tips for Personal Essay Writing Process

If you think you already possess sufficient knowledge of personal essays, we've yet to supply you with more information. Now let's explore the various stages of personal essay writing. Follow the list of valuable tips and advice without skipping a beat from our service where you can buy personal statement too.

Start with an Engaging Opening Sentence

Open your personal essay with an introductory section that will be engaging and interesting for your reader. In the opening section, introduce the principal characters of the story as well as the central theme or themes. It should also present the fundamental question of the essay.

Write from Your Unique Point of View

You are free to write from your point of view or in your own unique style. In contrast to other types of essays, writing from your perspective or in your personal manner is welcomed. For instance, if you are writing about a trip adventure, you might express your individual writing style by describing the sights and sounds that captured your attention. As a result, your writing will be more interesting and genuine and will better convey your experiences and feelings.

Take the Characters into Account

Be sure to describe your characters from all angles. Even though it is your real-life experience, you should still consider storytelling elements like the plot and characters. Using these ingredients in your writing will keep your reader engaged and help your essay flow smoothly.

Shed Light on a Deep Truth

Discuss your background experience with honesty and curiosity. Don't be afraid to uncover a hidden truth or a truth you didn't know was there at the time. Expose a thing that is uncomfortable or difficult for you to discuss. No matter who will read your essay. Whether it will be a teacher or somebody else, they will definitely appreciate your honesty and strive to share your experience.

Write a Rough Draft & Submit

After you have completed all the previous steps, it's time to write a rough draft. Writing a rough draft lets you get new ideas for a personal essay. Moreover, it's a great place to polish your essay and correct small grammar, spelling, and other types of mistakes. Get a second pair of eyes: No one can rate your writing as well as a neutral party. Once you have checked everything, you can start writing the final paper.

Before submitting your personal essay, double-check everything once again and make sure to present the central theme. After it, go through it and proofread your entire piece. Reading an essay full of grammatical mistakes is somewhat frustrating, which can be easily avoided. You can ask your classmate for help, so in that way, you will save each other. Don't forget to meet the deadline - and you're officially finished!

Personal Essay Examples

In our time it’s much more easier to find things on the Internet, and examples are not an exception. Remember one simple thing: not everything that you can find on the Internet is done correctly. If you need some inspiration to get started, you can find several examples of personal essays below, or you can use our free essay samples to sharpen your skills on any type of writing.

Grandma’s Influence
Grandma’s Influence
Grandpa Was Having a Conversation with God
Grandpa Was Having a Conversation with God

To Sum Up

As we scratched the surface of the personal essay writing process and delved deep into the specific stages of creating a flawless paper, we hope you gained some valuable insights. These tips are all you'll ever need to inspire readers or even WOW the admissions officers!

If you want our experienced writers to help you with any writing assignment, whether a persuasive essay, creative nonfiction, or any type of college essay, hit us up with your 'do my homework for me' request and consider it done with the highest caliber!


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How Do I Write a Personal Essay?

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What are the Elements of a Good Personal Essay?

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

What was changed:
  • Added FAQs
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