How to Write a Personal Essay That Will Make You Stand Out

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Personal essay
Table of Contents
  1. How to Write a Personal Essay That Will Make You Stand Out
  2. What is a Personal Essay
  3. Personal Essay vs. Formal Essay
  4. How to Write a Personal Essay in 5 Steps
  5. Personal Essay Topics
  6. Personal Essay Outline: Basics
  7. Personal Essay Introduction
  8. Body Paragraphs
  9. Personal Essay Conclusion
  10. Essay About Myself: Dos and Don'ts
  11. Personal Essay Examples
  12. Bottom Line

Understanding the basics of writing a personal essay is essential for any student who wants to succeed at college admission. In 99% cases, the applicants enter the colleges of their dreams thanks to a well-crafted admission paper, and a brilliant personal essay is all you need to stand out from the crowd. Read this step-by-step guide from our essay writing service to find out how to choose a worthy topic, organize your thoughts and see outstanding essay examples.

What is a Personal Essay

A personal essay is a type of writing that presents the writer's meaningful experience or thoughts on the matter shared in the form of creative nonfiction. Personal essays are generally written in the first person, however, unlike autobiographical writing, they offer a deep insight that triggers thinking. Typically, such papers have an informal or semi formal tone of voice. The use of conversational language allows a writer to build a strong connection with the target audience.

Depending on the subject of writing, personal essays can focus on different objectives. One of its most popular forms —  a personal narrative essay — discusses a valuable life situation that has changed you as a person. When writing in this style, a writer aims to share their own experience with the element of morale. For instance, it could be the obstacles that you have encountered in college. Another type of writing — a personal opinion — instead aims to provide thoughts on the subject that matters to the writer most. For example, you may share your opinion on any current event that you are interested in.

Personal Essay vs. Formal Essay

It is essential to distinguish personal essays from formal essays. In its essence, a personal narrative essay focuses on life experiences rather than an argument. All you have to do is to describe any significant life situation without supporting any point of view. To be precise, it has to emphasize the feelings and emotions. A formal essay, however, presents a thesis that needs to be further proved with the help of supporting evidence. This type of writing requires deep research of the subject.

How to Write a Personal Essay in 5 Steps

When writing a personal essay, you get a perfect chance to demonstrate your personality in a good light. The author should describe an impactful moment from their life that showcases their experience and highlights crucial skills. It is critical to prove you are the most talented candidate out of the pool of students. Basically, you need to walk a fine line between creating a lasting impression while at the same time trying to avoid overpraising.

Follow the steps below to create a personal essay that will make you stand out:

  1. Come up with a unique standpoint. Getting your reader engaged very much depends on the proper approach. Even if your experience seems trivial, it is the right angle that may work miracles. Look at things from a different perspective to discover exceptional insights worth sharing.
  2. Choose a valuable experience to share. A great personal essay focuses on challenging life situations and how you have overcome the obstacles. It may further discuss the reasons behind the struggle as well as a lesson you have learned in the end. Think of a moment, event, or a person that has significantly impacted you. No matter what experience you choose to share, be it a failure or an achievement, you need to show your self-improvement and growth.
  3. Identify the moral of a personal story. No personal essay is complete without the element of the moral. The point of your writing is to provide a valuable lesson that will also have an impact on the reader. Make sure that your personal narrative contains that meaningful takeaway. 
  4. Create an organized essay outline. Early-stage planning allows you to decide on the main points you want to cover and arrange them properly. A personal essay outline also shows whether it makes sense to develop a chosen issue at all. Remember that your paper should focus on the moment that has a profound influence on your personality. Make a list of the most significant things and turn them into separate points. Those could be the most influential people, places, memories, challenges, events, and everything else related to the chosen topic.
  5. Put your thoughts into a logical order. Make sure that your piece of writing is coherent and consistent. The sequence of events should be easy-to-follow and logically lead to a powerful climax. You definitely don't want to confuse your reader with a chaotic flow of thoughts.
  6. Format your personal essay. Formatting requirements may differ, so you need to carefully read your essay instructions and ensure that you follow them. The most common requirement is to set the font Times New Roman, use font size 12, and have 1-inch-margins on all sides.
  7. Proofread your essay. Sending a flawless personal piece may substantially increase your chances for admission. Therefore, it is highly recommended to check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes. Besides, you need to ensure that you have a clear intent to stay on the same page with the reader.

Personal Essay Topics

A personal narrative essay can be written on various topics aiming to reveal the writer's personality from different perspectives. The good idea is to focus on the concerns and challenging situations. Unlike cases with success stories, dreams, and life goals, personal essays discussing your struggles show your ability to cope with problems. However, it would be best if you avoided things that you have not experienced in real life. It's much better to consider topics that demonstrate your maturity.

Check out some of the best ideas for personal essay topics given below:

  • The moment when you felt disappointed
  • An event or a situation that has changed your life
  • Some vital insight that you have gained
  • A person who motivates you
  • An obstacle or challenge you have overcome
  • Achievements you are proud of
  • Things or situations you would like to change

Now that you have a deep understanding of compelling topics, it is time to discuss how to write a personal essay and learn the basics of paper structure.

Personal Essay Outline: Basics

When it comes to the personal essay outline, the golden rule of thumb is to create a standard 5-paragraph paper. In most cases, the essay structure requirements are similar to those of a typical school or college paper. Generally, your essay should contain the following five paragraphs:

  • An introduction with a strong thesis
  • 3 Body paragraphs explaining the matter
  • A brief conclusion that summarizes the paper.

Below we will guide you through all key elements that each paragraph should include.

Personal Essay Introduction

Begin your personal essay with an engaging introductory sentence, otherwise called a hook. Bear in mind that your target reader is a college admissions officer, so you need to make every effort to grab the reader's attention from the opening line. Remember, it takes only 7 seconds to make an impression and determine whether a personal essay is worth reading. Avoid using cliches; however, you may want to offer an extraordinary fact that will fascinate an admission officer.

Here's some of the most effective hooks to kick-start your essay:

  • Meaningful quotes
  • Surprising facts or statistics
  • Metaphors and similes
  • Funny jokes

An essay about yourself should also contain background information to inform the reader about the ongoing events. Tell more about the main characters and their impact. Explain when and where the story took place — the setting is an integral part of the paper's success.

Conclude the introduction with a compelling thesis statement. It should represent the main idea that the writer chooses to develop throughout the work.

Body Paragraphs

A body part is the core and essence of your entire personal essay intended to display your prominent values and merits. By their nature, body paragraphs offer a space where you need to reflect on the chosen matter. As a writer, you want to explain the ultimate insights that you have eventually gained.

Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that highlights one of the main points. Include supporting examples from your life experience to prove your thesis statement. Don't forget to conclude each body paragraph with a transitional sentence leading to the next point. Keep in mind that each new paragraph serves as a logical progression of the previous sentence. Ensure that you don't go into details when ending the body paragraph.

Do not just retell the story; explain what it means to you. One suggestion is to add different descriptive words to make the reader feel the same way you felt in the discussed situation. By sharing feelings and emotions, a student provokes sympathy from the reader.

Personal Essay Conclusion

A personal essay conclusion is the last couple of sentences that provide a brief summary of the main points. In the concluding part, the writer has to restate the thesis statement and give the final opinion on the topic. Remember to share some more in-depth insights and takeaways to stress the significance of your experiences. This way you will tie the concluding ideas to the opening paragraph. To end a personal essay in an intriguing manner, you may also want to include your predictions based on research.

Essay About Myself: Dos and Don'ts

Here are some valuable recommendations offered by the college admissions board officers every student should consider to succeed with a personal paper. Check out these helpful tips that will make your essay complete and effective:

  1. Remain truthful. Mention only those things that took place in real life.
  2. Stick to the structure. Dedicate some time to organize the thoughts before writing a final draft.
  3. Be concise. Briefly share your ideas in a clear manner without involving useless details.
  4. Stay positive. Stress that you are proud of the current achievements and there is always a room for improvement.
  5. Reveal both strong and weak sides. Nobody is perfect and it actually takes much courage to acknowledge your own flaws.

And here are the most common mistakes you should avoid when writing a personal essay.

  1. Do not exceed the word count limit. Including too much information often comes at the expense of quality.
  2. Avoid general things. Be specific and narrow the subject down.
  3. Do not repeat the same idea several times. Stick to the essay outline to cover main points in chronological order.
  4. Do not ignore personal anxieties. Mentioning your concerns is a good sign of self-development.
  5. Do not retell the whole story in conclusion. The concluding paragraph, however, should offer a moral of the personal story.

Personal Essay Examples

If you have any doubts regarding the structure, content, or format, feel free to view personal essay examples online. Below you can find a sample prepared by proficient writers. Read to find out how stellar personal essays should look like.

Bottom Line

A powerful reflective piece is the most influential tool when it comes to entering the college or a university of a student's dream. Make sure to follow all crucial aspects described in this guide to create an outstanding personal essay.