Personal Essays: How to Write a Convincing Personal Essay

A personal essay may accompany college admission or scholarship application. It may be required to demonstrate how you meet job requirements or why you are a right for the position, admission or scholarship. Personal essays narrate an important event, person or period to explain why you are an ideal candidate.

This article will explore what a personal essay is and how to write a personal essay that inspires the reader to consider your application.

What is a personal essay?

A personal essay explores a specific experience and tells the story of the experience or event from the individual’s point of view. Personal essays illustrate how a personal conflict or event left a lasting impression or how it changed your views or perspective.

A personal essay consists of three main parts: introduction, body and conclusion.
Personal essays differ from formal essays in their length, tone and purpose. Writing a personal essay is an opportunity to showcase strengths, leadership and the ability to overcome challenges.

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Here are the steps to writing a personal essay that engages your reader and encourages them to want to know more about you:

  • Make preparations.
  • Get organized.
  • Choose your topic.
  • Consider your tone.
  • Include a lesson or moral.
  • Write the introduction.
  • Write the body.
  • Write the conclusion.

Make preparations

When preparing to write your personal essay, first consider who your audience is and what you want them to know. Ask yourself questions to determine how your story relates to your goals for writing it. It’s helpful to make a list of points you want to convey so you can write an essay that makes your story relative and engaging.

Get organized

Creating an outline is a great step to organizing your thoughts and ideas. Outlines can keep you on topic and avoid covering too many ideas, so your main points aren’t lost. Your essay should follow a sequence of events, so the story follows a direct path from start to finish.

Choose your topic

The story or experience you tell should correspond to the message you want to convey. Your personal essay may tell a story of an accomplishment or triumph, or it may talk about how your experiences shaped your worldview or changed you in a significant way. Determine what you want to accomplish in your essay and choose a story that furthers your goals.

Consider your tone

When composing a personal essay, consider the feeling you want to describe or the atmosphere you want to create that lends insight into your personality. Your essay may be about a past experience and might be written as a look back at an event and how it relates to present circumstances. If you’re writing about a current event, the essay may be written from a present point of view, and the impact felt today. Depending on the tone of your essay, focus on drawing your reader into the story.

Include a lesson or moral

Your personal essay has a central message or moral you are relating to the reader to demonstrate your abilities, qualifications, or character strength. Think about what you want the reader to remember about your essay and explain how, why, and what your experience has taught you.

Write the introduction

A good rule for the length of an introduction is to keep it to one or two paragraphs that focus on your main points without providing too much detail. The introduction highlights your story’s main points, and the opening sentence should make an impact. Use an opening sentence that engages the reader, so they will keep reading to find out more. Consider opening with an inspirational or funny quote or observation to start your introduction.

graduation ceremony

Write the body

The body of your essay contains the most information and is generally two to three paragraphs long. The body is the main text that expands on each of the points you made in the introduction and follows a chronological order. This is where you provide supporting evidence of the lesson or moral you convey in your story. Use examples in your essay to make the story vivid and readable and create an emotional connection by describing scenes or events through sight, sound and touch.

Write the conclusion

The closing is generally one or two paragraphs long and repeats your main points in the body. Try not to share new information and focus on relaying your personal message. End your essay with a sentence that sums up the lesson in your story and links the entire essay together.


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