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Tips for Writing a Personal Essay

Need help writing a personal essay?

Chances are that each of you will face the need to write this type of essay at some point in your life. Thus, we can confidently say that knowing how to write a compelling personal essay is a must-have skill for every person.

If you don’t know how to write a personal essay yet, you’ve come to the right place! Read on to find a step-by-step guide with pro tips.

Writing a personal essay is confusing but this broke it down into steps I can actually DO!

Tips for Writing a Personal Essay

Personal Essay: Definition

If you want to learn how to handle this type of paper with ease, the main question to answer is, “what a personal essay is?” As the name suggests, it is a short written piece about yourself. The core purpose of this task is to communicate a life lesson using the author’s experience.

As a rule, when writing this type of work, students need to use the first-person perspective. Also, it requires using examples from their own lives as evidence to support their arguments, ideas, or statements. Thus, unlike, let’s say, a gun control argumentative essay, a personal essay won’t rely on generally known facts or examples from history or literature. Instead, you will be operating with your own experiences.


Writing a Personal Essay Step by Step

Now that you know what this type of assignment stands for, let’s move on to the main point – a guide for writing a compelling personal essay.

The first thing you need to know before you get straight to writing is that a personal essay follows the same standard structure as any other paper.

The writing process for this type of essay is not at all different from any other essay. Basically, to handle the task, students only need to take five steps:

  1. Study the provided requirements, guidelines, and prompts;
  2. Pick a relevant and interesting topic;
  3. Make a detailed outline;
  4. Write the first draft;
  5. Proofread and edit the final piece to make it flawless.

Looks pretty straightforward, right? So, what’s so hard about it? There are two core issues that make writing a personal essay a real challenge. First of all, the biggest challenge is the unusual nature of this paper – students often find it uncomfortable and hard to write about themselves. Another issue is that, despite a rather simple writing process, there are too many additional nuances to keep in mind in order to create a high-quality paper.

In the guide presented below, we will walk you through every stage of the process and tell you everything you need to know to write a top-notch essay.

Study the Requirements, Guidelines, and Prompts

The first step is very easy, though students often neglect it. As a rule, personal essays (especially when intended to use as a part of an application) come with well-defined requirements, guidelines, and prompts.

We don’t mean to sound obvious, but you have to take your time to carefully read and study all the requirements in order to ensure that you will handle the task well. Some key points you want to pay the most attention to include formatting, questions to answer, word limit, and deadline.

Pick a Relevant and Interesting Topic

Once you familiarize yourself with the general requirements, your next task is to choose a topic that would engage the readers and benefit you.

This is the first point where most students are facing issues. The thing is that choosing a topic related to your personal life can feel much harder than looking for causal analysis essay topics or a compelling topic for any other type of essay.

This type of essay can be written on a wide variety of topics. But, the most important thing is that you write about some big and important experience, event, person, or stage of your life. The topic you choose can cover both positive and negative events, but it has to show your transformation and explain a lesson that you’ve learned.

Make a Detailed Outline

Once you have your topic, be sure to take your time and make an outline because both the simplicity and effectiveness of the writing process will depend a lot on whether you have a solid outline or not.

Personal essays use the same standard structure that consists of three main parts (intro, body, and conclusion) and around five paragraphs. Use this template to make a detailed outline:

  1. Introduction
  1. A hook to drive attention
  2. Background info (setting, main characters, explanation, etc.)
  3. Thesis statement
  1. Body paragraphs
  1. Topic sentence
  2. Examples
  3. Conclusion
  4. Transition
  1. Conclusion
  1. A short summary of the main points
  2. An explanation of the lesson learned

Pro Tip: If you are writing a personal essay as a part of your college application process, be sure to keep in mind the appropriate college application essay format when making an outline. If you can create an outline that hints at the correct format, the writing stage will be much simpler and faster.

Write the First Draft

After you’ve written your outline, all you need is to organize all the key points from it in the form of an essay. Here are a few key tips to help you handle this stage:

  • Keep it personal;
  • Don’t go over the word limit;
  • Use vivid details;
  • Add examples;
  • Stick to a logical and smooth flow of information.

Proofread and Edit the Final Piece to Make It Flawless

The next, final stage should include proofreading and editing. Ideally, you should leave your essay rest for at least a day or two and then come back to it rested and refreshed to polish it. Once you do this, you are all set and ready to submit your essay!