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How To Write Personal Essay - A Comprehensive Guide

Personal essays, one of the prerequisites in most universities, aim to tell a story about personal experiences highlighting your skills and abilities. It might sound easy, but the challenge is to make it unique.

Here, we will take a deep dive into the concept of personal essays, know about the types and learn the best ways to write one.

Let’s get going!  

What is a Personal Essay?

Personal essays can be defined as non-fictional work with an aim to describe a significant event or a personal experience. These essays are generally written from a first-person perspective. These essays act as stepping stones in the admission process.

Personal essay writing is a skill that you need to enhance to confirm your seat at any university. The admission panel uses these pieces to understand a candidate before even calling them for an interview.

That being said, there’s no way to ignore the significance of these write-ups. Knowing the personal essay definition will not be enough. Hence, continue reading the blog to gain more knowledge about the essays.

Also read -  Expository Essay Writing Made Easy

The Characteristics of Personal Essay

What makes a personal essay interesting? Is it the story you share? While the story has a major role to play in the entire process, you need to know a few things to make your piece stand out from the crowd. On that note, here’s a look into the characteristics of personal essays:

Compelling hook

The introduction must be interesting enough to hook the readers. However, ending the section with a strong hook sentence adds value to the essay. Let's say you are writing about your experience of being called on stage for an impromptu debate.

So, end it with a sentence, ‘I was not prepared, and all I knew was I had to face an audience and share my views on a topic I have absolutely no idea.’ What happens next is something people will be eager to know.

Engaging story

Never start and end a story stating the obvious. Make sure that the story has all the elements to keep the readers glued to it till the end. So, when you have created the suspense about what happens after you take the stage, don’t jump right to the point.

Instead, make it interesting, talk about your feelings when you went on stage, how you overcame it and end it with the way you used your skill to come out as the winner.

Interesting characters

Interesting characters have always added value to stories. But when it comes to personal essays, you need to use characters you have interacted with and let them take the spotlight if necessary. Remember, these write-ups are first-person narratives, and characters must be used wisely.

Immersive setting

Personal essays rely on real-life events, and you have to be very cautious while explaining the setting. So, you need to ensure that the readers understand each aspect of the setting and get the right experience when they go through it. Use interesting details, like sights, sounds, etc., that help readers connect with your thoughts.

Meaningful point

Your personal piece must send out a strong message about your personality. There’s no point in sharing random thoughts in the text. If you are writing about being called on stage for a debate, ensure it highlights how you made your way through it and how it helped enhance your skills.

If you have all the features of a personal essay in your piece, you can be assured of getting a call from the interviewers.

Also read - How To Write An Analytical Essay With Examples And Topics

There are a few types of personal essays that you need to know. It will help you take the right stance and write one correctly.

The 6 Different Types of Personal Essays

Now that you are aware of the meaning of personal essays and their characteristics, it is time to learn about the different types. A personal essay can be written in various ways. You need not stick to a single pattern. On that note, let’s understand the various types of personal essays:

Braided Essay

A braided essay, as the name suggests, puts together various elements to craft a comprehensible essay. So, if you have many stories to share, pick a way to link each of them to a central topic. Also, explain why you are looking forward to using the different stories and how they can help readers. Braided essays are a great way to weave different stories together.

Fragmented Essay

Fragmented essays are directed towards breaking an essay into smaller fragments that might not feel connected at times. But the essay ends with the right tone and gives the entire essay a meaning at the end. Here, you can share different stories about your experiences and link them together at the end. It is one of the most difficult personal essays, and you have to be very careful while writing one.

Graphic Essay

If you want to make an impact with your essay, you might want to write a graphic essay. These essays tend to use images and graphics to describe the various experiences. Adding images and images help readers connect with the same.

Hermit Crab Essay

Hermit crabs are known to take on an existing form. These types of personal essays share similar features. Explaining your personal experiences in a set of instructions or as a social media post can be possible. Hermit crab essays are not what traditional personal essays look like. Yet, they are a nice way to share your experiences.

Lyric Essay

If you are a creative person and want to leave that touch in your essay, you can do that. Very few students know that personal essays can use poetic tools. It is crucial to make personal essays better than others, and using poetic tools can help you make them stand out from the crowd. These essays are written in prose paragraphs and switch to poetic stanzas.

Personal Reportage Essay

Did you know that you can use fiction in your non-fiction essays? While many might find that surprising, it is a way to share your personal experiences. You are allowed to use some fictional elements, like plot twists, engaging dialogues, etc., to make the essay more interesting. Personal reportage essays are a great way to keep your audience glued to your essay till the end.

Moving on, we will delve deep into the world of personal essays and understand why you are asked to write one.

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What is the Purpose of a Personal Essay?

Personal essays aim to shed light on your skills and knowledge to help you be ahead in the competition. But what is the reason for personal essay writing?

First, these pieces help you connect with readers at a personal level. Second, it helps you highlight your skills using storytelling techniques and enhances your writing skills. Third, it is the ticket to an interview at your preferred university. Finally, it is the write-up that allows readers to learn about you at a personal level.

The essay is a part of your application and helps you portray yourself as the fittest candidate for the course you are applying to.

Personal Essay Outline

One thing that does not change for essays is the structure. Personal essays follow the traditional 3-paragraph structure. However, it is crucial to learn the things you need to write in each section before you start to work on it. Here’s a look into the personal essay format:


The introduction of a personal essay must start with a hook sentence to grab readers’ attention. Also, provide a statement that you are willing to discuss and prove by the end of the essay.

For example, if you are talking about your experience of being in a place away from friends and family, use a sentence like, ‘I feel getting out of your comfort zone is important for growth.’


The body section is the one where you share the story and talk about the experiences you had. You must use proper examples and evidence to prove your point. Also, include points to justify how the experience changed your perspective and made you a better version of yourself.


This section summarizes the entire essay, revisits the main points of the essay and restates your thesis statement. It is also where you connect the dots and state the key takeaways for readers. Make the readers understand why your essay is important and the lesson learnt from the entire piece.

A personal essay outline must have all these sections. You must know the importance of each section and distribute the points accordingly.

How Can We Choose the Perfect Personal Essay Topics?

The topic is what defines the entire essay. So, while you brainstorm for a topic, ensure you are comfortable writing about it. Choosing the best topics for a personal essay can be tough. But if you follow these three tips, it will be easy for you to zero in on one:

  • Keep it specific
  • The topic should be fun to write about
  • Choose something that matters to you

It is true that we all have enough experiences. So, when we are asked to write on one, we get tired of searching for the perfect one. It is wise to understand why you are writing it and select a perfect personal essay topics accordingly.

How to Write Personal Essay – A Simple Guide

Students are often seen struggling to overcome the hurdles of writing a personal essay. So, to ease your problems, here are a few tips for writing a personal essay:

Understand the main objective

You might have a story to tell. But you have to understand if the story meets the main objective. Suppose you have applied for a computer science course and you write a personal essay on a trip with friends. Will that add value? The answer is a NO. Instead, if you write about how you learned and implemented the various aspects of computer science, it will attract the interviewers.

Start with a strong hook

It is crucial to grab readers’ attention from the first section. A strong hook is the most necessary element of a good personal essay. So, if you are writing about your leadership qualities and speaking about your captaincy skills in a football match, consider saying,

We were two goals down by the end of the first half, and I had the massive task of motivating the players for a great second half.”

Create an outline

You have to streamline your thoughts to craft a flawless essay. An essay outline helps you distribute the points uniformly throughout the essay. Hence, before you start writing the paper, create an outline with all the points for each section.

Write, proofread and edit

Once you have created a roadmap, start writing the paper. Ensure to cover all the points to justify the main objective of the essay. Also, do not forget to proofread and edit the paper before submitting it. Make sure there are no errors and add more finesse to grab the readers’ attention.


Following these tips will ease the process of writing personal essays. The next section will help you get familiar with some trending personal essay topics.

Also read - What Is ASA Format? - A Complete Guide

A List of the Most Effective Personal Essay Topics


  1. Stories from my bike learning days
  2. A moment that made me feel proud of myself
  3. A story about my happiest memory
  4. The day I moved to a new town
  5. A story about the day when I got my first pet
  6. An experience like never before: My first-ever field trip
  7. The best meal or celebration I have ever attended
  8. My first experience of getting paid for work
  9. My first experience staying away from my family
  10. The best gift I have ever received


  1. The things I can live without
  2. The various reasons I am concerned with environmental issues
  3. The amount of money I need to be happy
  4. My take on the importance of personal growth
  5. The role of males and females in a family
  6. How do I feel about the concept of feminism?
  7. The real meaning of Being a Human: My Perspective
  8. The most precious moments of my life
  9. What do I pick between wealth and happiness?
  10. My take on getting a tattoo


  1. The goal I have to achieve in life
  2. My take on the meaning of success
  3. My perception of freedom in life
  4. Would I like to come out of my comfort zone?
  5. The various things I value in my life
  6. The things I hate the most
  7. When and how I met my college roommates?
  8. My plans on the ways I want to spend my gap year
  9. The things I learned from my failures
  10. The outdoor activities I like the most

The topics will save you from the hassles of searching for one.

Let’s understand personal essays with some examples in the next section.

Personal Essay Examples

The following examples will clear the air and help you understand the correct personal essay writing method:

Personal Narrative Essay Examples

personal narrative essay example


personal narrative essay example

If you look at the example above, you will understand how the author uses a hook and goes on to narrate a story about relying on his abilities to overcome the odds. Further, if you look at the conclusion, you will see how the author revisited the main point and connected the entire story.

Personal College Essay Examples

personal college essay example

personal college essay example

Ideally, a personal essay for college must shed light on what you are looking forward to while studying in college. In the essay, the author has stated clearly what they want along with the goal. These essays grab readers' attention and pave the way for an interview.


Final Thoughts

When it comes to personal essays, you need to know what you are expected to write and approach them accordingly. There’s no better way of telling your stories other than personal essays. So, if you are willing to study at a prestigious university, learn everything about personal essays and start enhancing your essay writing skills today!


Q.1. What makes a personal essay effective?

You need to ensure that the personal essay has all the necessary elements to grab the attention of readers. Here are a few crucial elements that make a personal essay effective:

  • A compelling hook
  • An engaging story
  • Interesting characters
  • Immersive setting
  • A meaningful point

Q.2. What are the components of a personal essay?

The components of a personal essay make it worth reading. You must know how to use the right elements to craft a perfect essay. Here are the most important components of a personal essay:

  • Introduction
  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Conflict

Q.3. Does a personal essay need a thesis?

Personal essays need a thesis statement, but the way to state it might differ. In some cases, thesis statements are stated directly in the essay, while in others, the thesis is implied instead of stating it directly. You need to make sure you have the right understanding of a thesis statement before using it in your essay.

Q.4. How are personal essays formatted?

It is important to know the structure of a personal essay and use your points correctly to justify the essay. Generally, a personal essay has an introductory paragraph that carries the thesis statement, three body paragraphs and a conclusion restating the thesis. You must mention things that make you stand out from the crowd to justify the essay and make a mark.

Q.5. Is a personal essay informal?

Generally, personal essays are conversational and aim to share personal experiences. While the tone of these essays is conversational, you need not be informal while writing an essay. You have to ensure the essay is formal, as it is an important document for your admission.

Q.6. What is the genre of a personal essay?

A personal essay is an autobiographical piece, but it is not a lengthy write-up. It is mainly directed towards highlighting the author's own experience with a focus on their skills and abilities. It is an important document for admission processes and interviews, and you have to be very careful while writing one.

Q.7. How long should a personal essay be?

A personal essay is not a lengthy piece of writing. You need to keep it short and explain your views properly to make an impact. Generally, a personal essay is restricted to 400-600 words. However, colleges using the Common App personal statement require candidates to write a personal essay of 250-650 words.

Q.8. Can a personal essay be written in the third person?

It is not possible to write a personal essay from a third-person perspective. As the essays aim to highlight your experiences and focus on your skills, it is crucial to write the essay from a first-person perspective. Using a third-person perspective destroys the entire aim of the essay.

Q.9. What tense should be used in a personal essay?

As personal essays tell stories about past experiences, it is crucial to use past tense while writing the paper. You need to write it from a first-person perspective and share your experiences to connect with the readers.

Q.10. Is a personal essay a short story?

You should not mistake a personal essay with that of a short story. It is important to understand that short stories are fiction, and personal essays are based on real-life experiences. You have to be very cautious while presenting each section and ensure that you use the right hook and thesis statement to grab readers’ attention.

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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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