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How To Write A Personal Essay? - A Full Guide

Personal Essay

Crafting a narrative thesis that highlights your true self is an important part of the college application process. After all, grades aren’t the only thing that matters. They also want a glimpse into your life through this creative nonfiction. Such an essay reflects your motivations and passions and gives you an opportunity to recall exciting stories that will keep the reader engaged.

In this article, you’ll cover the fundamental ideas behind such writing, its structural details, important tips to craft an engaging paper, and some good personal essay topics and examples.

What is a Personal Essay?

High school students seeking admission to colleges and universities often have to highlight a significant event in their lives as part of their applications. That’s because the committee wants to know about your life and the deeper truth behind why you want to pursue a particular course. The main idea behind writing this autobiographical piece is to introduce yourself to the committee and persuade the readers of your passion and commitment.

How to Construct the Personal Essay Structure?

Many personal essays follow the same structure that you would find in college essays. In other words, you have three main sections –

  • The introduction
  • Three body paragraphs
  • The conclusion

Before you begin writing your paper, you should come up with a rough draft so that you can arrange your ideas well. On that note, let’s take a closer look at what your personal essay outline should look like.

I. Introduction

The introductory section usually consists of one paragraph that goes over every point that you’ll cover in the body paragraphs. Sometimes, this section can have two paragraphs, but that depends entirely on the length of the task. Now, this is the section that determines whether the reader will even continue going through your entire writing. So, it’s your responsibility to draft an interesting opening that will immediately grab the attention of the reader. In order to do that, you should include the following –

Opening hook: Your opening section can be a funny quote or an anecdote that captures the reader’s interest. If you check some samples written by experts from a reliable essay writing service, you’ll notice that some papers begin in media res. You drop the reader in the middle of the action with descriptions that simulate the five senses to immerse them in the story.

Key points: Once you’re done hooking your audience, highlight the key points that your essay will cover.

Central theme: Finally, end your introduction with a thesis statement that summarizes the main theme and the hidden truth behind your personal story.

II. Body Section 

This is where you begin to describe your story and its impact on you as a person. Usually, you have to include three body paragraphs while maintaining a chronological order throughout. The first body paragraph is where your story essentially begins. Introduce the reader to a significant event in your life and emphasize your attitude towards the event.

In the second paragraph, dive into more details regarding the story. Begin with a topic sentence that gives an inkling about what you’re about to discuss, and add vivid descriptions and supporting evidence to convey the moral lesson.

Finally, the third paragraph should bring about a satisfactory conclusion to the story. Describe how this specific event impacted your life and highlight the deeper truth that lies behind it.

Your word choice matters a lot when writing the body. If you check some samples written by experts from a narrative essay writing service, you’ll notice that they choose their words carefully in order to inspire readers. So, if you want to write as well as a professional personal essay writer, go through their samples to understand their writing process.

III. Conclusion 

The conclusion of your essay should tie the main points together and make it easier for the reader to grasp the most important part – the moral lesson you’ve learned through the experience. Try to avoid introducing new ideas in this section. Instead, write about how your life has changed for the better and the permanent effect that the experience has had on your perspective.

You can use a pre-constructed personal essay template to write the first draft of your paper if you’re still confused about the structure. This should make the writing process simpler. In case you have further queries, you can also reach out to professionals at any reliable college essay writing service to lend you a helping hand.

Tips for Writing a Personal Essay 

Going through the various incidents in life to find something worth writing about how to write a personal essay, can be quite nerve-wracking for high school students. But that doesn’t mean you can’t craft an engaging piece on your own. Let’s go through some helpful suggestions by experts who have written several personal essays. Perhaps their knowledge can make things easier for you.

Choose a Meaningful Topic

When you’re trying to find good personal essay topic ideas, keep in mind that the topic you choose should highlight the point that you’re trying to make. Ideally, you should choose a significant moment in your life to write about. Your essay can be a retelling of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome or experiences that have completely changed your perspective on life. Instead of writing about something generic, choose something very meaningful so that your sincerity is evident in your essay.

Create a Strong Introduction

When working on the rough draft for the essay, think of ways how you can get the reader invested in your personal life. Don’t extend it unnecessarily. Keep it short and simple but interesting as well.  You can open your essay with a hook and then highlight the key points that your paper will cover. The thesis statement should also focus on the main theme.

For example: “Defeating a lion wasn’t a part of my New Year’s resolution, but life had something else in store for me.”

Now, in this example, the lion is a metaphor for the struggles that you have gone through. The reader will eventually learn that as they go through your writing. But you’ve already achieved your main target, and that is to capture their attention.

Develop a Clear Central Idea

If you ever go through an essay written by David Foster Wallace, you’ll notice that the renowned essayist always makes sure to hint at the central theme of his essay pretty early on. Follow his examples and introduce the central idea behind your essay in the thesis statement. Your entire essay should revolve around this theme. For example, if you want to highlight your leadership skills and resilience, everything that you include in your body paragraphs should amplify that idea.

Use First-Person Perspective

Your professors will never be caught trying to encourage you to write any type of academic content in first-person or even in the past tense – except in the case of personal essays. This type of essay is a glaring exception to the standard rule of using the third-person perspective because of its autobiographical nature. Just go through any sample, and you’ll notice this quality immediately.

Build a Strong Narrative Structure

The readability of your personal statement essay depends on the narrative structure that you choose. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to spend hours intentionally complicating your paper to impress the admission committee – only for them to stop reading your paper midway because it's so complicated.

Now, to build a strong narrative structure, consider the following suggestions – 

  • Exposition stage: Introduce the reader to the event and provide some background information.
  • Rising action stage: This is where you introduce the conflict and gradually build up the story to create tension.
  • Climax stage: This is where the tension reaches the peak and leaves the reader wondering what’s to come next.
  • Falling action stage: The stage prepares the reader to transition to the resolution of the conflict.
  • Resolution stage: The final stage where the conflict is resolved and the reader reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Include Conclusion

Your conclusion should tie up all loose ends and highlight the effects of the experience you’ve gone through in your life. Make sure to connect it to your ambitions and motivation behind applying to a particular college or a course.

Proofread Your Work

You can’t really afford to have grammatical errors sprinkled throughout your own work if your objective is to impress an admission committee. Go through your essay manually to ensure that you have –

  • Maintained a logical flow throughout
  • Followed the correct essaystructure
  • Remained consistent with the formatting
  • Eliminated punctuation mistakes

If you run out of time, consider using a proofreading tool or, for more accurate checking, delegate the proofreading to a professional.

Srutggling to Write Personal Essay- Take Experts Guidence


What are Some Personal Essay Examples? 

In order to write an outstanding paper, the best option is to go through some examples. Until now, you’ve covered the essentials behind structuring and some crucial writing tips. Now, let’s go over some examples so that you can write a moving essay and impress your audience. 

Example 1: Experiencing failure & learning from mistakes

“Self-help books always harp on and on about failure being the stepping stone to success, but they fail to mention that getting up after falling down is like trying to row a boat against the current during a raging storm.” – The descriptive nature of this introduction is bound to catch the reader’s interest.

Example 2: Exhibiting leadership skills

“If I could have a penny for the number of times that I’ve been pushed to take on a leadership role in school, I’d have three pennies. The fact that it has happened thrice when my team has lost every time is just extraordinary.” – The humor is the key point of this introduction.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand how to write your paper unless you go through some examples. Just make sure that the samples you’ve chosen have been written by professional writers.

Compare Between Personal Essay and Personal Statement 

A personal essay is a mirror. It highlights one or more events that reflect your intrinsic values, your passion, and your enthusiasm and provides the reader with a glimpse into your life. This personal essay is often used by officers in the admission departments of colleges to determine whether a student is the right fit for their institute.

On the other hand, a personal statement is specific to a particular job role. It is usually required in the professional field to list down all the skills and achievements you have so that you can make a case for yourself as a good candidate. It’s easy to understand why many students confuse the two. But their purpose is where they differ the most.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a personal essay be? arrow

Personal essays for college admissions are always less than 1000 words. But if this is for a class assignment, then the length might increase, depending on the task specifications. Your primary target is to introduce the reader to some real-life experiences that have shaped you as a person while avoiding unnecessary details just to meet the word count.

Do personal essays have a specific structure? arrow

The personal essay format is quite similar to that of a college essay. So, thankfully, you need not familiarize yourself with a new format right before the hassles of admission begin. Most colleges want you to follow a simple structure - an introductory paragraph that shouldn’t exceed 10% of the total word count, three body sections, and a conclusion at the end to wrap things up. Before you begin to craft your paper, double-check the admission requirements for any additional structural points that you have to include.

How do I choose topics for personal essays? arrow

If you don’t know where to begin your search for topics, just check out some suggestions online. Now, you’ll rarely find something that isn’t very generic. If you decide to play it safe, you can opt for such a topic – but be mentally prepared for rejection if you can’t highlight your personal experiences well in them. So, shortlist something that resonated with you, and you’re confident that it will also draw an emotional response from the reader.

What should I include in the introductory paragraph of my college essay? arrow

You can’t afford to waste precious time trying to grab the reader’s attention. After all, if you’re writing this paper for admission purposes, the admissions officers aren’t going to be patient. They’ll figure out whether your paper is worth reading after going through the first few lines. So, to make it easier for them to come to a decision, make sure to add a hook that they can’t ignore. Now that you have the reader’s attention entice them more by highlighting the main points of your story and adding the central issue in the thesis statement.

Should I include dialogues in the body paragraphs? arrow

If you want the reader to get transported to a specific moment, just use one of the most common storytelling elements – dialogue. There’s a lot of creative freedom in this type of paper. So, don’t just go through the standard route of telling the audience a particular point. Instead, you can just use dialogues to do the demonstration for you. If you go through some college essay samples, you’ll notice that they barely include one or two dialogues. So, keep in mind to use dialogues sparingly.

Can I use humor when recounting my personal story? arrow

Humor is often a great option to connect with your readers. Now, including humor doesn’t mean cracking jokes at someone else’s expense. First, determine the purpose of the humor. If used correctly, it can emphasize a significant moment in your life. However, if used incorrectly, it can be an unwelcome interruption.

Can I include personal opinions in personal essays? arrow

Usually, academic writing discourages students from relying on their personal opinions to highlight a point. After all, it’s difficult to persuade readers to see things from your perspective when you use too much emotion in your arguments but no logic. However, when recounting a personal story, you have the leeway to include some personal opinions as long as you can use logic to substantiate your points as well.

Are personal essays always autobiographical? arrow

If you go through some samples of personal essays, you’ll notice that all of them are autobiographical. This type of paper falls under creative nonfiction. Although not all works under this genre are autobiographical in nature, an essay that focuses on personal experiences is bound to be so. Just include elements that are relevant to the main theme. Focus on one or two incidents that are worth writing about.

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 Bella Phillips
Bella Phillips

Bella Phillips As a passionate blogger for Essay Help USA by #1 Writing Expert 50% Off.I am currently employed at a leading Business Law firm in White Plains. I am associated with for several years and helping the Law students with their essays.

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