How to Write a Personal Essay: Instructions, Outline

Have you ever wanted to share a meaningful life experience or emotion through writing, but didn’t know where to start? Personal essays are the perfect avenue for expressing your unique perspective and connecting with readers. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of how to write a personal essay, from choosing the right topic to polishing your final draft. Get ready to embark on a journey that will not only improve your writing skills, but also provide valuable self-reflection.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn how to write a personal essay in 2023 by understanding the elements, choosing the right topic and reflecting on your experiences.
  • Use descriptive language, evoke emotion & showcase unique qualities while avoiding cliches & overused topics.
  • Enhance your essay with editing tips such as seeking feedback from others and fine tuning grammar/punctuation for clarity.

What is a Personal Essay Essay?

A personal essay is a piece of creative nonfiction where the writer shares a meaningful lesson they have learned from their life experiences. Unlike a research or descriptive essay, a personal essay focuses on the writer’s individual story and experiences, making it an ideal way to showcase who you are beyond numbers and percentages in college applications. In fact, many personal essays are submitted during the application process, highlighting the importance of this form of writing. To get a better understanding of how to craft your own story, you can refer to personal essay examples available online or learn how to write a personal essay through various resources.

The personal essay format has its unique structure, typically consisting of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. To make your essay stand out, it’s essential to use a conversational tone that builds a connection with the reader. By incorporating storytelling elements and vivid descriptions, you create an engaging narrative that captures the reader’s attention and keeps them hooked throughout the entire essay.

Choosing the Right Topic for Your Personal Essay

Selecting an appropriate and engaging topic is vital for a captivating personal essay. To choose the right topic, consider reflecting on your own personal experiences, keeping your audience in mind, and avoiding overused topics.

In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into these aspects to help you craft a personal essay that resonates with readers and showcases your unique perspective.

Reflecting on Your Experiences

To find a meaningful and engaging topic for your personal essay, start by reflecting on your personal experiences and emotions. Review, analyze, and evaluate events, ideas, and emotions from a different angle to gain insight. It’s crucial to focus on specific moments or experiences that have had a significant impact on your life and have taught you a valuable lesson.

While reflecting, think about why you did what you did and whether there’s a more effective way of doing it in the future. This introspection can help you identify a deeper truth or valuable lesson worth sharing in your essay. Your personal experiences can serve as the foundation for a captivating narrative that resonates with readers.

Considering Your Audience

When choosing a topic for your personal essay, it’s crucial to consider your audience. Think about their:

  • level of knowledge on the topic
  • interests
  • values
  • beliefs

By tailoring your essay to best connect with your readers, you can create a more engaging and relatable narrative.

For college essays, consider that admissions officers want to know what you will bring to their community and how you can make their school more valuable. Emphasize attributes like:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Perseverance
  • Direction
  • Openness
  • Original perspectives
  • The capacity to inspire others

Throughout your essay, showcase your unique qualities and experiences to make it stand out and leave a lasting impression on your readers.

Avoiding Overused Topics

To create a fresh and original personal essay, avoid cliché or overused personal essay topics. While it may be tempting to write about a sports victory or a life-changing event, these topics can make your essay seem unoriginal and uninteresting. Instead, focus on a unique aspect of your life, such as:

  • an estranged family member
  • a moral turning point during adolescence
  • a challenging experience that shaped your perspective
  • a personal passion or hobby that has had a significant impact on your life

By choosing a unique and personal topic, you can create an essay that stands out and captivates your readers.

When writing a personal essay for college applications, here are some tips to consider.

  • Steer clear of writing about Covid-19, as many applicants may choose this topic, making your essay less distinctive.
  • Instead, emphasize how specific events or experiences have impacted you personally and academically.
  • Showcase your resilience and growth through these experiences.

Structuring Your Personal Essay

A well-structured personal essay outline is crucial for guiding the reader through your narrative. It includes an engaging introduction, strong body paragraphs, and a compelling conclusion. Mastering the art of essay writing ensures that your good personal essay effectively communicates your story, much like a well-crafted personal statement.

In the next sections, we’ll provide tips on crafting each part of your personal essay, ensuring a smooth narrative flow that keeps your reader engaged.

Crafting an Engaging Introduction

The introductory paragraph of your personal essay should grab the reader’s attention and set the tone of your narrative. Start with a hook sentence, such as a quote, a vivid description, or a personal anecdote, that encourages the reader to continue reading.

Include a clear thesis statement, which provides a brief overview of your essay’s main points and establishes the direction of your narrative. Remember to keep your introduction concise and focused on your central theme.

Your opening sentence should not only capture the reader’s attention, but also provide a glimpse into your unique story. This will set the stage for the rest of your personal essay and leave a lasting impression on your readers.

Developing Strong Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of your personal essay should support your thesis statement by providing details about your experiences and how they reflect on them over time. Each new point should have its own body paragraph, maintaining a clear and logical structure throughout your essay. Use transitions and chronological order to maintain a smooth narrative flow and guide your reader through your story.

To make your body paragraphs engaging, use descriptive language to create vivid images and provide sensory details that help the reader understand your story and its characters. Also, consider incorporating personal anecdotes to illustrate a point or provide a unique perspective. This will make your personal essay more captivating and memorable for your readers.

Writing a Compelling Conclusion

Your conclusion is the final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your reader. In this section, you should:

  • Restate your thesis
  • Summarize the main points of your personal essay
  • Leave the reader with a specific emotion or life lesson
  • Connect your narrative to a broader context

When crafting your conclusion, ensure that it reinforces the main idea of your essay and ties it back to the thesis statement. This will provide a sense of closure and finality, making your personal essay a memorable and impactful read.

Enhancing Your Personal Essay

Now that you have a solid structure for your personal essay, it’s time to bring it to life by showcasing your unique voice, using descriptive language, and learning from past mistakes.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss these aspects in detail, helping you create a captivating and memorable personal essay that resonates with readers.

Showcasing Your Unique Voice

Embracing your personal writing style and voice is essential for conveying your unique perspective and genuine experiences in your personal essay. The elements of voice include:

  • Choosing the right words
  • Sentence structure
  • Tone
  • Punctuation

By selecting language that best expresses your personality and the mood you want to create, you can effectively showcase your individuality.

When telling your personal story, focus on the details that make it special to you and consider how you experienced the event and the emotions you felt. This will help you create an authentic narrative that resonates with readers and sets your personal essay apart from others.

Using Descriptive Language

Descriptive language plays a crucial role in engaging the reader and bringing your personal essay to life. It involves using words to paint a picture in the reader’s head, making them feel like they are truly experiencing the story. To achieve this, incorporate vivid descriptions, dialogue, and sensory details throughout your essay.

Metaphors, similes, personification, and imagery are great examples of descriptive language that can enhance your personal essay. By evoking emotions and creating vivid images, you can make your essay more interesting and engaging for the reader, leaving a lasting impact.

Learning from Past Mistakes

Reflecting on past writing mistakes and learning from them can significantly improve your personal essay and overall writing skills. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Be honest with yourself about what went wrong.
  2. Consider the context, effect, and potential fixes for each mistake.
  3. Use these insights to refine your writing.
  4. Avoid repeating errors in future projects.

By following these steps, you can learn from your mistakes and become a better writer.

To ensure you’re applying lessons learned, take the time to reflect on any mistakes and think about how you can use those lessons in your current personal essay. This continuous self-improvement can greatly enhance your writing, making your personal essay more engaging and impactful.

Editing and Polishing Your Personal Essay

Once you’ve written your personal essay, the final step is to edit and polish it to perfection. This involves seeking feedback from others, fine-tuning your essay, and ensuring it is free of grammar, punctuation, and clarity issues.

In the next sections, we’ll provide tips on how to effectively edit and polish your personal essay, creating a refined final product that captivates your readers.

Seeking Feedback from Others

Asking for feedback from friends, family, or teachers can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improving your personal essay. Be specific about the kind of feedback you’re looking for, such as clarity, structure, or overall impact. This will help your reviewers provide constructive criticism that you can use to refine your essay.

Ideally, have 2-4 people you trust read your personal essay, as different perspectives can offer diverse insights. Take their feedback into account and make revisions as necessary. Remember that ultimately, you have the final say on your essay, so use the feedback to improve it while staying true to your unique voice and perspective.

Fine-Tuning Your Essay

After receiving feedback, it’s time to revise and fine-tune your personal essay. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Focus on grammar, punctuation, and clarity to ensure your essay is polished and ready for submission.
  2. Check for redundancies and make sure the writing is concise and clear.
  3. Ensure the essay flows logically.

By following these steps, you can improve the quality of your personal essay and increase your chances of success.

Reading your essay aloud can help you spot mistakes that you might have missed when reading in your head. Additionally, use this opportunity to tweak your personal essay to better showcase your personality, experiences, and unique qualities. Keep refining your essay until you feel confident that it effectively conveys your message and leaves a lasting impression on your readers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 5 elements of a personal essay?

A personal essay consists of an introduction, body, conclusion, a compelling hook, engaging story, interesting characters, immersive setting and meaningful point.

It also uses components of argument, thesis and conclusion to make a larger argument.

How should I structure a personal essay?

To structure a personal essay, use the typical five paragraph structure for English papers, with an introductory paragraph containing a thesis or hook, body paragraphs that provide supporting evidence for the thesis, and a conclusion that ties everything together.

Additionally, ensure your essay has a conversational tone, tell readers something they don’t already know, and be sure to edit and proofread your work.

What is a personal essay format?

A personal essay format typically consists of an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction introduces the topic and establishes the writer’s attitude, while the body of the essay tells a story of a personal experience using descriptive language.

The conclusion ties everything together.

How do I write my own essay?

To write your own essay, create an outline that includes an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion that ties everything together.

Use conversational tone, be thoughtful and consider your audience, use evidence to support your argument, and remember to proofread for accuracy.

What is the main purpose of a personal essay?

The main purpose of a personal essay is to share a meaningful lesson the writer has learned from their life experiences, connecting with readers and allowing them to express their unique perspective.

This type of essay can be written in a variety of ways, but it should always be engaging and thought-provoking. It should also be written in a way that is easy to read and understand. Splitting the text into paragraphs is a key to understanding the text.


Writing a personal essay can be a rewarding and enlightening experience. By understanding the purpose of a personal essay, choosing the right topic, structuring your essay, enhancing it with your unique voice and descriptive language, and editing and polishing the final product, you can create a captivating narrative that resonates with readers.

Remember, the journey of self-reflection and growth that comes with writing a personal essay is just as important as the final product. So embrace the process and let your personal essay be a testament to your unique perspective and experiences.