Personal Essay

Personal Essay - Step By Step Guide

Everyone in this whole wide world has a story to tell. The struggle lies in getting that story out of your head and on paper in such an exceptional way that it resonates with your readers.

More than often, students face personal essay writing tasks and become quite perplexed, as they genuinely consider that every essay they deliver is a personal essay. But, everything is not that simple, and one needs to distinguish a research or a descriptive essay from a personal one to even expect a high GPA.

As a matter of fact, one can get the whole point of the paper from the personal essay definition itself. It is an academic paper that aims to render your personal story to the readers. It can also be a spectacular tool to influence and impress readers. However, it can be both inspiring and depressing simultaneously, so it is significant to take complete responsibility for the things you write.

If you are also one of those million students baffled by 'how to craft the perfect personal essay structure and format’, then you're in luck. For in this comprehensive guide, we aim to walk you through certain effective guidelines along with unique personal narrative essay examples that will help you nail your future tasks like a champion.

Let’s dive right in!

“For more than four hundred years, the personal essay has been one of the richest and most vibrant of all literary forms.” (The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate)


What is a Personal Essay?

Before you delve deep to comprehend how to write a remarkable personal essay, developing an in-depth idea of personal essay writing and what exactly it denotes is significant. Here's a molecular look at the personal essay definition –

  • A personal essay is a form of writing which is based on the personal experiences of a writer.
  • It speaks of remarkable life experiences that proved to be a point of turning in the life of the writer or led to certain major incredible lessons and growth.
  • Not only that, but personal essays also help in addressing a significant issue that's close to your heart and the ways you tend to feel about it.
  • As such, this type of essay often tends to explain an important event from the perspective of first-person. These essays can be hugely uplifting and motivating, or they can also serve as a remarkable lesson to others and help them in refraining from the mistakes committed by the author.
  • The key objective of personal essay writing isn't the need to prove a certain point. However, it is to convey the feelings, experiences, and personal opinions of a writer. Hence, it is basically a creative nonfiction autobiography explained in such a remarkable way that the readers feel as if they experienced the scenario themselves.

Getting the hang of it? We are sure you are. Now, let's move on to the next section to determine the significance of crafting the perfect personal essay format!


What is the Purpose of a Personal Essay?

Now you may be wondering – ‘Why do you need to write personal essays? Or What is the purpose of personal essay writing?’  Why don’t you take a look below?

To put it in simple words, every individual has a story to tell about themselves. This story should always –

personal essay

  1. Offer crucial insights into your experiences, thoughts and beliefs to offer an impeccable sketch of you as a human.
  2. Portray personal experience to investigate greater universal truths.
  3. Exhibits your writing abilities
  4. Demonstrate your idea of the worldview, critical thinking skills and communication skills.
  5. Establish a strong connection with the readers.

What Makes a Strong Personal Essay? 

A strong personal essay format successfully hooks the readers' attention, describess the key challenge or difficulties faced by the writer and leads them to the turning point of a story. It should always be brief, which implies that every word must have a definite goal.  

Typically, impeccable personal essays must always –

  1. Lay emphasis on the center point, which should exhibit an important and meaningful life-altering experience.
  2. Since it is a brilliant narration, it should incorporate excellent elements of a tale, like a plot, characters, story, dialogues, imagery, setting, and more.
  3. Be written from a first-person perspective.
  4. Be subjective and incorporate facts.
  5. Honest as it shares real-life incidents or situations
  6. Use compelling and persuasive language to convince the readers to keep on reading.
  7. Be entertaining, informing, motivational, disclosing, and contrarian.
  8. Lastly, it must drive the essay and emphasize a specific point, which makes personal essays much more powerful and effective.

What are the Personal Essay Examples?

As you must have known by now, personal essays summarize incidents or remarkable situations that have occurred at one point or another in the life of the writer. Certain remarkable instances of personal essays are –

personal essay examples

  • Personal Statement –A personal statement implies a detailed account of the accomplishments, skills, interests and objectives often incorporated in university applications or on resumes.
  • College Essay –It is basically the same as the personal statement demonstrating to the admission committee who you are and why you should get a cherished spot in their college.
  • Personal Story – The aim of a personal story is to summarize something that occurred in the life of a writer without any specific purpose of securing a job or getting a coveted position in a dream college.

These subtle differences between different types of personal essays shape how you approach your personal essay writing. Hence, before you even go knee-deep into the time-consuming and excruciating process of crafting a personal essay, take note of the specifications diligently to determine the remarkable ways to go about crafting a personal essay structure.

The Crucial Elements of Personal Essay

Remember, personal essays are generally based on personal experience through which you demonstrate that you have changed or evolved. Unlike formal writing, a personal essay never requires proving anything.

Have a look at certain essential elements you need to keep in mind to ace your personal essays like an academic champion –

personal essay elements

Central Theme

The central theme denotes the key point or idea behind a narration. However, your personal essays should incorporate a central theme that is a universal truth. Anyone should be able to relate to it, which informs the narrative.


Your personal essays should always incorporate an 'Aha!' moment or an awareness of the truth. In fact, a personal essay can comprise countless epiphanies to different degrees.


Akin to fiction, a personal essay should incorporate a turning point, a climatic event or an action moment on which the narrative should be built upon. Basically, it should lay emphasis on the highest point of tension.


Strong personal essays should always seek to unveil weak or vulnerable moments. But it is also crucial to note that you're in complete charge of how much you aim to disclose. You must never infringe on the privacy of another individual by giving away sensitive information about him/her.

Exclusive Description

Remarkable narrative essays must always incorporate sensory images and remarkable emotions of your experiences so readers can easily envision what you felt, believed, and saw. It is always wise to stay rooted in factual evidence to achieve this in the best possible ways.

Chronological Organization

Lastly, when narrating a scenario or occurrence in a personal essay, the organization of facts must always be chronological. Often, innumerable writers tend to play with time by beginning at the end of a narrative and then backtracking, but maintaining some form of time is generally the principle of organization.

Clear till now? All right then! Let’s proceed to comprehend how to craft the perfect personal essay outline effectively!

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Perfect Personal Essay Outline

Unlike other forms of essays, the personal essay structure outline doesn't always need a set format. Undeniably, you can begin drafting with an intro, body, and conclusion. However, it is wise not to expect the format to be always exactly the same, i.e. a five-paragraph personal essay structure.

If it becomes easy for you, try to consider your personal essay in terms of a beginning, middle, and end, similar to a story. So, a personal essay outline can include –

personal essay outline

Beginning (Introduction)

  1. A ‘hook’ to captivate the attention of the reader
  2. Potential theme or moral of the narrative
  3. Narrative thesis
  4. A starting point of the story

Middle (Body Paragraphs)

  1. The flesh of the story
  2. Intricate details, dialogue and remarkable plot aspects that develop the story and characters
  3. Transitions

End (Concluding Paragraphs)

  1. An in-depth reflection on the essential themes or morals
  2. Call to action (CTA)
  3. A larger picture of how the themes connect to other characters and the world at large
  4. A specific emotion, based on the title of your essay

But it is wise not to get too gaga over the length of the paragraphs, either. The introduction of your personal essays could be a single statement. Again, one of your body paragraphs can be a page long. As long you can narrate your stories effectively, it's worth working on.

How to Write a Personal Essay - A Step-by-Step Guide 

Know a personal essay can move and inspire the readers, if written correctly. Also, it can leave the readers unsettled, in uncertainty, and full of questions than answers. So, how should you draft memorable personal essays that will win the heart of your readers?

To help you craft the best personal essays possible, we have provided certain effective guidelines that surely would help you answer the question ‘How to craft the perfect personal essay structure?' effectively.

Let’s take a look!

Look for a Compelling Topic

Know the best personal essay topics are generally deeply relatable. Though the story itself is unique to the experience of the author, there will always be certain universal truths that tend to speak to us from just below the surface. Your personal essays may speak about an accomplishment or triumph, or they may narrate the ways your experiences shaped your perspectives of the world. Also, ensure what you aim to accomplish in your personal essays and choose to tell a story that furthers your objectives.

To brainstorm outstanding personal essay ideas from your life, you can choose to speak on –

  1. A scenario or an incident you consider to be a turning point in your life, like a birth, death, or a turning point.
  2. Ways you took lessons from your error, mistakes, or any personal setback.
  3. Influence of a certain personality, like a member of a family or a mentor who taught you significant lessons
  4. Ways you made a huge life improvement or a major change in personality traits that were leading to negativity in your life.
  5. A crucial life moment like addiction, crisis, accident or near-death experience

Start with an Engaging Opening Scene

Remember to always open your personal essays with an introduction that is both engaging and intriguing for your readers. The introduction should also comprise the key characters of the essay along with the central theme(s) of the paper. It should also include a central question or concern in the essay. You can consider opening the personal essay with a funny or inspirational quote or a specific observation.

You can also introduce the characters as well as yourself here. This will make it incredibly easier for the readers to comprehend the plot.

Example –

“There’s a popular saying that “hindsight is always 20*20”, and as an experienced investment banker, my career  and experiences have led me to accept that this is absolutely true.”

“In my life of 40 years, there’s one thing I know for sure, some are your friends, and some pretend to be. How to distinguish them? Just sit back, watch the circus, and always trust your instincts”.

Craft Informative Body Paragraphs

The body of a personal essay typically comprises three paragraphs, but it can hugely vary based on the requirements of your educator. When writing the body paragraphs, make sure to explain the life events chronologically and the ways they influenced your personality and notions. This is where you need to offer supporting evidence of the moral or lesson you’re expressing in the story.

When you’re composing the body paragraphs, the focus must be to always show and never tell. Offer descriptive details about the circumstances and situations so that the readers can envision them with ease. Also, make sure to use sensory details so that readers can immerse their five senses to conjure up your story.

Also, remember not to simply focus on narrating the story. Avoid forgetting the key objective –the ways the incident influenced and transformed your life.

Example –

“Through the smoky filled afternoon after the fire, it was challenging to understand how the assistance of others will help me in the remaining years of my life. With the smoke clearing up, my abilities to see what is truly significant in my life also improved."

Wrap Up with a Strong Concluding Note

A close look at the personal essay format will help you understand that the conclusion is just as crucial as the opening of your personal essays. It should be one or two paragraphs long and repeat the key points in the body. Make use of it to provide your readers with a remarkable sense of closure and reflect on the incidents of your life.

Never try to share any kind of new information, and emphasize relaying your personal message. Additionally, make sure to sum up the lesson of your personal essay and connect the entire paper together.

Example –

 “In the initial days of my life, I did not completely trust my abilities. However, in the present date, I am sure the lessons I got will enable me to ace every challenge in my life.”

“If it wasn’t for that crucial year when I got lessons finally whom to believe and who to not, it won’t be possible for me to acquire the incredible courage to craft this essay today.”

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7 Winning Personal Essay Writing Tips to Ace Your Next Papers

Are you still not sure how to write a personal essay? Is the deadline knocking on your door, and you still have no clue how to nail your challenging personal essay writing tasks like a pro?

Crafting a perfect personal essay is no hard nut to crack. Simply implement these foolproof tips and techniques to sail through your next personal essays like an academic champion and never look back –

Craft the Essay from A Unique Perspective

You can craft your personal essays from a unique perspective or in your own style. In comparison to other kinds of essays, crafting the paper from your own point of view or in your own manner is always embraced here.

Consider the Characters

When you are drafting the personal essay structure, ensure to explain each of your characters from all angles. Though the experiences are from your life, you must still take into account crucial storytelling elements like characters and plots. When you use these incredible ingredients in your essays, you are keeping your readers engaged and making the paper flow seamlessly.

Unveil a Deep Truth

Make sure to describe your background experience honestly. Do not shy away from disclosing a hidden truth. Try to reveal anything that is challenging or painful for you to express in words. Regardless of who will go through your essay, they will surely appreciate your honesty and challenges to convey your experiences.

Specificity is the Key

A personal essay narrates a crucial moment in your life. Hence, it should be more appealing than a general recapitulation of something that occurred. Also, make sure to offer the necessary details about any real-life character or any specific feelings you underwent.

Don’t Tell, Instead Show

First, close your eyes. Imagine the scene you aim to craft in your personal essays. Now, try to figure out what you were experiencing when you utilized your five senses. Think about how you feel.

The challenge lies in summoning those feelings and five senses in your readers without describing them flatly.

  • Don't simply say, ‘I was feeling hot’.
  • Say, "I exhaled, and my breath made the air even warmer around me. Baked and scorched, I threw off the blanket and started fanning myself with the newspaper lying beside me in a vain attempt to get moments of relief.”

Your narration must make the readers experience flaming and searing hotness with you.

Be Inventive and Creative

Try to be emotional, funny, or ingenious – this is what personal essay writing demands. When you do this, your essays will turn out to be more intriguing and engaging. Hence, try to be more creative with your experiences. Concentrate on your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you stick to them till the end.

Sum Up With a Thought-Provoking Ending

The key idea of personal essays is to demonstrate what lessons you have acquired and the ways you have transformed. However, if the readers found a resemblance with your situations and made a long journey through the circumstances you narrated, they might have transformed a tad bit too. Inform them about your transformations, conclusions, and experiences, but try to leave ample room for their own reflections.

Know your personal essays will be remembered much more if the readers can close them with beliefs about themselves, their identical experiences, and their transformations. Give your readers the opportunity to do this successfully. After narrating your conclusions, let them inform you about their own. You can do this indirectly; however, try to ensure they relate to your words.

Unique Personal Essay Examples 

Now that you are well-versed with certain mind-blowing personal essay writing tips and techniques, let’s check out some exceptional personal narrative essay examples. They will enable you to have a visual understanding of the personal essay format as well as the writing style.

Here you go!

Personal essay on development

Personal essay on financial planning


50+ Personal Essay Topics to Explore in 2023

As you see, a personal essay is definitely an innovative and creative way of conveying your feelings. If you come across perfect personal essay ideas, they are an exceptional way for mastering to develop a narrative.

To offer you a head-start and set the ball rolling, check out the spectacular list of remarkable personal essay topics we have curated below –

Personal Essays  Topics on Experiences

  1. Explain your first international journey.
  2. Narrate about the most terrible experiences that have happened to you
  3. Describe your dream job
  4. Explain the things or type of persons that annoys you
  5. Do you think you can live without a penny?
  6. Explain your go-to methods for studying.
  7. Discuss where you went and what you did for the holidays
  8. Narrate the most challenging situation that you have experienced in life
  9. Describe the remarkable books that left an ineradicable impression on your life
  10. Explain the lessons you acquired from your contenders
  11. Describe some of the best concerts of your life
  12. Narrate the methods you implemented to get over your nervousness and anxiety.
  13. Describe how you react when you get triggered
  14. Discuss the ways you helped someone in their moment of emergencies
  15. Describe the day when you first met a famous person

Personal Persuasive Essay Ideas

  1. Do you think it is possible to keep stress at bay?
  2. Online education and distance learning – Discuss your views
  3. Describe the things you can do to survive in the modern era
  4. Explain the ways online shopping can make you spend more
  5. Describe your favorite restaurant and explain  why everyone should go there
  6. Discuss why you think it's unethical to purchase products that are tested on animals
  7. Explain the reasons you don’t smoke
  8. Discuss the things you desire to  do when you turn 80
  9. Explain the crucial reasons why students must go abroad to study
  10. Do you think drugs must be banned everywhere in the world?


Personal-Argument Narrative Essay Idea Examples

  1. Describe why it is essential to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle
  2. Discuss your beliefs and notions on cosmetic surgery
  3. Explain your POV on tattoo
  4. What do you think is more crucial in life – happiness, peace or wealth?
  5. Discuss your  notions about feminism
  6. Discuss the aspects that inspired you to explore environmental issues
  7. Explain the male and female roles in your family and the society
  8. Discuss what it  means to be a human being
  9. Explain ethnic identity
  10. Discuss your  beliefs on cosmetic surgery


Personal Cause-and-Effect Essay Ideas

  1. Discuss the crucial aspects that  motivated you to learn to play the drums
  2. Discuss the reasons you love watching cartoons
  3. Explain how going to university made you more confident and independent
  4. Explain if your parents agree with your life plans. If not so, why?
  5. Discuss how strict scheduling impact the life of  a child negatively
  6. Explain the  reasons you look up to your  mother as a role model
  7. Discuss the ways your pets make you a remarkable human
  8. Discuss how your failures and the challenges you faced made you stronger
  9. Explain the impact  of social media on your everyday routine
  10. Discuss the impacts of frequent traveling on your personality traits and personal qualities


Personal Essay Topics on Relationships

  1. Describe the day on which you ever made your first friend. Explain how your values for selecting your friends changed.
  2. Explain the things you would take with you on a dream vacation
  3. Is there someone in your life who was a stranger but then became a close friend? Discuss
  4. Describe someone in your life whom you have lost in an accident or in any way. Discuss the ways your life has transformed since they've gone
  5. Describe the moments when you had a houseguest but didn't somehow enjoy their company.


Personal Essay Ideas on Dreams

  1. Discuss who or where you desire to be in six months or a year
  2. Explain your dream pet
  3. Discuss the places you always dreamed of visiting as a child but never could
  4. State about the celebrity you would love to meet. Explain the words of advice you would require seeking from them.
  5. Do you dream of living with your favorite character in a movie or a book? If yes, who would you love to choose?

Final Thoughts

The personal essay is perhaps one of the most liberal forms of writing in the academic world. The most spectacular aspect of it is that each one of us has a story to share and the ways it shapes our thoughts and beliefs. Go through this guide, take note of the crucial aspects, implement the guidelines, and draw inspiration from the examples to share an experience in a way that can be used and appreciated by others. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1. How to write a personal essay for college?

  1. Write about anything that’s vital for you
  2. Do not simply recount, but reflect
  3. Maintain the ‘personal’ stand in the personal essay
  4. Be funny or creative
  5. Say something the readers don’t already know
  6. Do not repeat
  7. Answer the question being asked

Q.2. What are the 5 elements of a personal essay?

  1. A strong opening hook
  2. An introduction that’s attention captivating
  3. An intriguing story
  4. Remarkable characters
  5. A setting that’s absorbing
  6. An ultimate conclusion or point

Q.3. Can I start my personal essay with a question?

Yes. It is wise to begin your personal essay with a compelling statement about your story while at the same time managing to captivate the attention of your readers through a hook sentence. This hook can be in the form of an appropriate quotation, definition, interesting question or even a startling fact.

Q.4. How do you write a good introduction for a personal essay?

To begin a personal essay, you should incorporate a remarkable that effectively captivate the attention of the readers. Ensure to offer a personal statement that you aim to prove in the body paragraphs. Also, refrain from the usage of common clichés like opening with a popular quote. Instead, make efforts to develop a unique connection with the readers.

Q.5. How long is a personal essay?

The length of an ideal personal essay should be somewhere between 400 to 600 words.

Q.6. Is a personal essay a short story?

A personal essay is not essentially a short story. The most important difference between them is that a short story is generally fiction, while an essay that's personal is autobiographical in nature. Again short stories have a type of genre. But personal essays never fit into different genres. However, they will comprise a theme that is explored throughout the essay.

Q.7. How do you end a personal essay?

While wrapping up your personal essays, it is crucial to provide a comprehensive summary of the lessons you've learned from the experience and the type of message that you desire to pass on to the reader. Try to end the paper on a generally hopeful or positive note, as it can enable you to feel uplifted and ambitious.

Q.8. How many paragraphs are in a personal statement?

A personal statement should comprise somewhere between 4 to 7 paragraphs. Each paragraph aims to explore countless values through distinct experiences and moments.

Q.9. Should I write my name on my personal statement?

Neither is it mandatory nor essential to incorporate your name in the SOP as you are turning in the SOP as a part of an application under your name.

Q.10. Can a personal statement be a story?

A personal statement doesn’t simply imply a condensed version of your biography. Rather, it must offer a detailed yet concise account of your professional or academic story.

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