What Is A Personal Essay? A Quick Guide With Examples

What Is A Personal Essay

Throughout life, we go through events that teach us lessons and give insights. This experience shapes our worldview and personality. It can turn into wonderful stories that show who we are and where we come from. Such personal essays are full of reflection and introspection. They offer a chance to share your story with the world.

What Is A Personal Essay?

A personal essay is a piece of writing that requires its creator to share a certain story or experience that has changed his or her life or way of thinking. It is a personal and even intimate paper that allows you to analyze a certain moment of your life. You can use it to accentuate your interests and capabilities. By writing personal essays, you have a chance to express your personality in addition to demonstrating good writing skills.

Personal essays are more flexible in terms of writing style and format. Most people tell their stories, using the first-person narrative as it helps to establish a close connection with the reader. Besides, personal essays contain the elements of autobiography. They should reflect your actual experience in combination with the insights and reflections you want to share. Usually, such papers are not long and take up to 600 words.

As for topics, a personal essay may address a range of different themes and questions. It reflects the slice of your life that enriched you as a person. Only you can decide what this moment is. Some people choose to present their triumphs. Others, in contrast, examine traumas or misfortunes that they have experienced. Think about your childhood, friends, places where you study or work, travel destinations, etc. Maybe you have specialized knowledge in a specific area or an unusual hobby. Find a story that speaks to you and build a clear narrative around it.

- Advertisement -

6 Tips On How To Improve Your Personal Essay

  1. Grab your audience from the first line. A compelling introduction helps you to build a deep connection with the reader. Use the opening paragraph to outline your perspective.
  2. Use specific examples. Personal essays require you to share and analyze a specific story from your life. Refrain from generalizations and vague expressions. The success of the work lies in truth and concrete examples.
  3. Organize your paper. Divide your essay into meaningful paragraphs, separating an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  4. Edit, edit, edit. Do not forget to edit your personal essay to make sure it has a flawless structure and a smooth flow of ideas. You can delegate this task to experienced writers and editors on essayservice.com. This is the easiest way to get a top-notch paper.
  5. Convey emotions. The emotional impact is an important part of a good personal essay. Make sure your piece transmits your mood and feelings to the audience. Imagery and literary devices can help you accomplish this.
  6. Find an interesting angle. The experience you discuss might not be one of a kind. Yet, you can always find a fresh and unique perspective to present it.

Examples Of Personal Essays

Now let’s look at some samples. Below you will find the excerpts from the successful Harvard application essays and selected examples from Johns Hopkins University.


As usual, we will begin with an introduction. The opening line will help you to get the reader’s attention. What makes your story special and distinctive? Answer this question, and you will be able to create a strong hook. As personal essays are usually short, try to put the reader right in the middle of the action from the first paragraph. Then, set context for the audience to understand your perspective. Here are a few examples:

Having explored the myths from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, my curiosity was piqued in eighth grade by a simple legend from Japanese lore. If you fold one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant you one wish. I took it as a challenge. My previous forays into origami had ended poorly, but I was so excited to begin my quest that this detail seemed inconsequential. My art teacher loaned me a piece of origami paper and, armed with an online tutorial, my quest began.

“Just Keep Folding”


Two hundred and two Hot Wheels cars, each two by five inches long, adorned with flames and spoilers, lined the edges of my room. My mother would urge me to put them away and go play outside, but I never wanted to. I drove those cars all around the house. They intrigued my six-year-old self. I loved my collection that I had hand picked on my own. Every single one of those 99-cent cars was mine. I never fathomed, however, that it would not take nearly as long for that collection to disappear as it took to grow. After July 6, 2006, I never saw my collection again.




The body of your personal essay should discuss your story with all its details. Usually, it includes 2-3 paragraphs. Here you can describe the mood and your attitude towards the events. Make sure there is a beginning, development, climax, and result. This structure will make your narration vivid and more emotional. For example:

Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic, tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence.


Do not forget that you need to explain your reaction to the events and reflect on the learned lesson. Make sure that the paper has certain dynamics and development of your point of view. Your personal essay will benefit from a lesson or moral. Explain in what way the experience has changed you and what others can take from the discussed story.

After several years of intense self-reflection, I realized college would be the platform where I could passionately grow and find out who I want to be in this world. I could go to an amazing school that has some of the world’s best professors and push me to consider every side of a complex issue. I can picture myself starting the day studying the decay patterns of radioactive elements and finishing the day by debating the success of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.



A concluding paragraph should summarize your insights. Try to emphasize the impact of the discussed events on your life. Let the audience understand that you can make conclusions and learn from your mistakes. Consider the following example:

Life shouldn’t have to be a dreary winter day; it should be the satisfaction of a good saxophone solo or the joy of seeing one’s friends every day at school. It is the enthusiasm of a biology teacher, the joy of a sports victory, and even the warm messages of a disembodied voice on the intercom. I use that message to help freshman feel less nervous at their first race or to encourage my friend to continue taking solos in jazz band. And in the most dismal time of year, I use that message in the daily announcements.

“Intercom Enthusiast”

To Sum Up

Writing a personal essay is not the easiest assignment as you need to open up and be ready to share a special story. Besides, it requires you to examine your life and reflect on the events that have shaped your character and made you the person you are today. When you introduce readers to the turning events in your life, they can understand you better and see your values.

Examples were taken from: