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Good Titles for Essays about yourself: 31 Personal Essay Topics

Good Titles for Essays about yourself: 31 Personal Essay Topics

Titles for Essay about Yourself

Titles for Essay about Yourself

What is a Personal Essay?

 There are quite a number of essays used by writers to communicate ideas out there. One of these essays is the personal essay which is written to capture a person’s ideas, emotions and feelings towards something.

This essay is a non-fictional piece that provides the reader with an interesting, humorous and thought provoking narrative drawn from either the personal experiences of the writer or information from another party.

best titles for personal essays

It is a non-fiction story in which you as the author share your lessons, incidents and predicaments faced in life with your audience, the readers.

about me

The personal essay is an essay written about one’s life, experiences and thoughts in turn providing readers with an insight about life lessons and experiences about yourself. It captures your memorable moments like you can ever imagine.

Therefore it ought to describe you positively to your audience by highlighting your inspirations and motivation but at the same time leave your audience with a wide understanding of what you are, what you stand for and importantly your tick boxes.

In other quarters it is also known as the narrative essay and somewhat it appears different from the other essays because it shares a story with the readers.

The story in a personal essay needs to be non-fictional otherwise it will lose the meaning intended in it.

A personal essay can appear as a class assignment or a college application depending on the circumstances. In case it appears as a college application, it should stimulate the readers in acting in a particular way.

The author is expected to provide an account of their roles and provide an insight in their subjects.

Also Read: Essay Writing Topics with Answers:21 Examples in English

How to Write a Good Title for an Essay about yourself?

Normally news titles tend to have a story title distilled into five to ten words in order to accurately summarize the intended information to an audience.

For instance, a title may appear like ‘Plane Crashes Minutes After Takeoff’. Magazines on the other hand will have catchier titles to the readers’ delight such as ‘Ten Ways to Improve your Body Fitness’ or rather ‘Destinations You Do Not Want to Miss on a Cruise Ship’.

Newspapers will scream their titles with catchy phrases or words like ‘Lockdown in Miami’ or simply ‘Betrayed’. In these three settings, the audience is already aware of what to look out for from the story from the advent.

catchy titles

A blog post title will probably begin with a playful or catchy question in order to draw the readers’ attention but at the same time inform the readers’ on what is about to follow.

Contrary to the above, personal essays possess unique and finessed titles that make the readers’ wonder about what is there in the essays.

These titles require readers to insert themselves into your essay in order to reveal your personality, beliefs, thoughts, hopes, experiences, dreams and even your sense of humor.

Personal essay topics usually include your own opinions, experiences and even real stories.

Also Read: Technical Plagiarism: Definition, Examples and How to Avoid

Two types of Personal Essay Topics

Personal essay topics exist in two types: Defining moment and Secret lives.

Titles on secret lives will concentrate on mysterious but important experiences where the writer provides stories on infrequent life and to some extent unusual exploits in life. Defining moment’s titles on the other hand will focus on a person’s life during a critical moment.

When you consider these two types of themes, the essay you write will definitely be outstanding to your readers.

The titles of personal essays if done well will challenge the writer and audience on what the essay is about because they will provide hints rather than summarize, they will add as opposed to mirroring and infer instead of summing up the essays ideas. How is this done? Simply by engaging similar skills harbored in a catchy personal essay.

know my secret

The essay title undoubtedly sets the tone and the flow of the essay and so it has to be as catchy as possible. You can start by giving a description of yourself using a key word in the title.

Words like determined, optimistic or thoughtful can suit your title well. For example, your title can read like ‘An essay about Sam, the resilient optimist’.

Your audience will therefore be introduced to the main trait that you desire to reinforce in your essay thereby setting a good tone for the essay.

It is important to follow up the essay by using the same term a number of times throughout the essay in order to emphasize it as a vivid motif.

Since the title of your essay is the first thing your readers will see, it has to fully grab their attention. It would be better if the title is short with about four words or less though there are exceptions. The title and your essay ought to connect but not to fulfill the expectations of the readers immediately.

In order to spice up your title, you can use punctuation marks as options. Exclamation marks, the colon and the semicolon can serve you good in coming up with a good and catchy topic. Moreover, you should capitalize all words with the exception of articles, pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions.

This implies that titles should be flexible to the liking of the readers.

31 Personal Essays Topics

The hardest breaking news I had to deliver

How I spent a fortune on travel

The things I can do that robots can never do

The animal I would like to be

The one thing I would change at my school

What I have learnt about conquering poverty

A disappointment I will never forget

My most embarrassing moment

The moment I realized I needed help

Why I had to succeed

My bravest moment

Nowhere I can run to

The distance between us

The memories I desired but I lost

When did I stop?

My best summer ever

Strange beliefs

My peculiar flowers

Dress your family in silk

Let our children accomplish their dreams in their own way

In 40 years’ time…

My adulthood memories

What I would like to change most about my life

My favorite animal

The wall is not listening

That cake was not for you

How I understand death

How did my parent’s choices influence my spending?

My no pleasant experience in high school

Impacts of workout on my stress levels

The moment my life took a turn for the worse

Also Read: Is it Plagiarism if you Cite? Incorrect or Paraphrase yourself

Personal essays ought to portray a writers writing skills and take the reader to the writer’s personal journey. It is so because it demonstrates who you are as a person and as a writer and so you have to be as coherent as possible in providing your personal statement.

It also reveals a number of qualities about the writer such as the writer’s persona, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and maturity, teaching and personal skills.

This essay can act as an inspiration to your audience if well written and in essence allows the writer to provide a description about their personal or significant life events and experiences.

A number of employers, graduates and various schools will ask you to provide a personal essay before they consider you for an interview and therefore it shows that this essay is not just limited to composition courses in schools.

The question now is: Can you actualize your desire to write a good personal essay?

Jessica Kasen

Jessica Kasen is experienced in academic writing and academic assistance. She is well versed in academia and has a master’s degree in education. Kasen consults with us in helping students improve their grades. She also oversights the quality of work done by our writers.

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110 Personal Essay Topics

Though written from a lived experience, personal essay topics can be tricky to come up with because they have to be universal enough for other people to relate to.

Since the skill of writing a good essay is being able to paint an image with words, students must choose a topic that will get others interested in the story and what it has to say about life, society, or themselves.

In essence, personal essays are written from a personal point of view and express a writer’s own insights, opinions, and feelings on a particular topic. Additionally, these types of essays lead to an overall point, lesson, realization, or revelation.

Most commonly, personal essays are written by high school students as part of their college applications. However, there are many other reasons that a personal essay may be assigned or written, including:

  • Scholarship applications
  • Job interview
  • Writing contest
  • Grad school admission

Students and others struggling with a valuable personal essay topic can choose from any of the 110 personal essay topics on this list to help them get started.

How to Write a Personal Essay

Writing a personal essay will require you to follow a traditional essay’s guidelines, structure, and format. However, you will also need to ensure that your essay is personal or tells a story about yourself rather than being entirely academic.

For example, you might want to explain an experience that changed how you saw the world or share an opinion on something important to you – even if the rest of the world doesn’t agree with it.

It often helps to make a list of experiences that you may want to share before starting with the writing aspect of the personal essay.

Introduction

The introduction to your personal essay will set the scene for the reader. Therefore, your personal essay needs to start with a compelling hook that will draw the reader in and make them want to read more.

This hook statement could be a humorous or poignant anecdote related to your topic or a line of questioning that the reader will be interested in following. For example, some possible opening lines for a personal essay could start with:

  • “I remember exactly where I was when I first realized …”
  • “What would you do if you knew the world was going to end tomorrow?
  • “So, I once had this problem …”

These beginning lines will often create questions in the reader’s mind, which is an excellent way to capture their interest and keep them reading. Following this initial opening sentence, you can introduce other details as you build up the main point of the story.

Your introduction should end with a thesis statement that verbalizes the general direction the story will go.

Body Paragraphs

Generally, a personal essay will have no less than three body paragraphs that detail your experience in chronological order. Each section should discuss one part of the story, including the events leading up to it, what happened during the experience, and what you learned from it.

Body paragraphs may also include examples of feelings, emotions, or arguments that support your experience. The goal of a personal essay is to share a compelling story and teach the reader something about life or themselves by using specific details and language.

Consider this formatting when creating the body paragraphs of your personal essay:

1st Paragraph

  • Beginning of the story that answers questions related to “Who?” and “Where?”
  • Initial attitudes, moods, feelings, and assumptions about the event or experience about to take place

2nd Paragraph

  • Middle of the story
  • Details that show how the situation evolved over time, including any changes in mood or assumption on your part

3rd Paragraph

  • Ending of the story/resolution
  • The final analysis on overall feelings, emotions, and mood

By sticking to this formatting for the body paragraphs, students can ensure that they are telling the story correctly and including every key detail as it happens.

Conclusion Paragraph

The conclusion of a personal essay is optional and depends on what you want to accomplish with the telling of your story. If you want to leave the reader feeling inspired or emotionally moved, then focus on summarizing the main points in a short paragraph that ends on a positive note.

However, if this was a darker story, you may want to use the concluding paragraph to sum up your feelings after the experience has ended or explore any unanswered questions that remain.

In any event, your conclusion does need to include an overall moral or lesson of how the writer:

  • overcame hardship
  • rose to the occasion
  • identified new traits or abilities that they never realized existed
  • turned defeat into success
  • followed their instincts and made the right choice
  • came to appreciate something about life after the experience took place

Any of these statements can stand alone as a powerful lesson learned. However, when combined in one concluding paragraph, you will leave your reader with a profound impression.

Using any of these 110 personal essay topics will ensure that you have a strong and interesting story to tell.

Personal Essay Topics About Relationships

  • What was a time when you made a friend?
  • What would your worst enemy say about you?
  • Talk about the death of a friend.
  • How did it feel to be bullied in school?
  • The time when you had to get along with a sibling despite being different ages
  • What you learned from your first relationship
  • Why marriage isn’t important to you
  • How you discovered polyamory, and how it changed your view of relationships
  • How your best friend made you a better person
  • The lesson you learned from being catfished
  • The first time you experienced heartbreak
  • A funny story about how technology ruined a relationship.
  • How did you learn to recognize love?
  • Who would you consider your soulmate? What makes them that person specifically for you?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment as a boyfriend or girlfriend, and what did you learn from it?

Personal Essay Topics About Hardships

  • The worst thing that ever happened to me
  • The roughest time in my family’s life
  • The hardest challenge I’ve ever had to overcome
  • How did you deal with the stress of moving?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment as a kid?
  • What are some reasons that I am grateful for my disability/illness/condition?
  • When have you had an “Aha!” moment in life?
  • What’s something terrible that happened to you that turned into something good?
  • What’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my failures?
  • The time when it almost felt like the world was against me
  • How did I handle/recover from a severe illness/injury/accident?
  • When was the first time I realized that life isn’t fair?
  • What was the biggest struggle I went through in my teens?
  • The most challenging situation I faced in high school
  • When was a time when I made a negative impact on someone else?
  • The first time I got caught stealing
  • The most embarrassing mistake I ever made with money
  • What was the most challenging thing about getting sober/clean/overcoming addiction?
  • When did I realize that life is short and that nobody is promised tomorrow?
  • How did you learn to persevere through tough times?

Personal Essay Topics About Success & Achievements

  • Best moment in my sports career
  • My greatest success story
  • The time I overcame my fear and found strength I didn’t know I had.
  • What’s the happiest day of my life?
  • How did I learn to overcome failure?
  • The time I knew that dreams really do come true
  • My greatest triumph over adversity – and what it taught me about myself.
  • What made you realize that you have to work hard in order to achieve something meaningful in life?
  • When did I know that I had made it in life?
  • When was the first time you were acknowledged for your achievements?
  • The night when my hard work truly paid off
  • My most powerful moment after overcoming a setback
  • How did I become successful?
  • What are some defining moments in my career?
  • How did I make it through a difficult time in college/university?
  • What motivated me to become the person I am today?

Personal Essay Topics About Personal Growth & Self-Reflection

  • Whose lifelong encouragement helped make me who I am today
  • The first time I took responsibility for my own actions
  • What gave me the courage to be myself?
  • The most valuable life lesson I’ve ever received. Who taught it to me, and what was the context?
  • How did I get through a difficult childhood/adolescence/teenage years?
  • What did I learn from becoming a yoga master?
  • How has meditation helped me overcome anger issues?
  • How did I recover from using drugs and alcohol?
  • What’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from quitting my job?
  • When did I realize that life is too short to hate someone?
  • The moment when I knew it was time for a change
  • I made a mistake – and this is how I bounced back
  • How did I overcome depression/anxiety/mental illness?

Personal Essay Topics About Passions & Hobbies

  • How did learning a skill change my life?
  • Why exercise makes me a better person
  • My passion for writing
  • What’s the best advice I’ve ever received? Who gave it to me, and in what situation?
  • The moment when I realized my true calling in life
  • The importance of keeping a journal and how it has helped me become a better person
  • My biggest bucket list dream and why it’s so important to me
  • What is my vision for the future?
  • How did I find peace, contentment, and happiness?
  • The time when I truly lived outside of my comfort zone
  • When was the moment when I felt like I “got” meditation?
  • My journey towards becoming vegan. What inspired me to make this change, and what were the challenges I faced?
  • What lessons have been easy for me to learn, and which ones have been harder?
  • The time when travel changed my life

Personal Essay Topics About Challenges & Failures

  • The low point of my life and how I got through it
  • How did an illness/injury/death in the family affect me?
  • Why did I decide to stop going on blind dates?
  • What were the consequences of losing my temper, and how did I make amends?
  • The time when I was broken. What happened, who got hurt, and how did it affect me? How did I overcome this experience?
  • When was the moment when I realized that my words carry weight?

Personal Essay Topics About Family & Childhood Memories

  • The time when my family showed me what unconditional love means
  • My most vivid childhood memory and how it has affected me as an adult
  • How did I learn to be patient and kind?
  • What was the moment that sparked a change in my life? What caused this change, and what happened after the changes took place?
  • The moment when I realized the true meaning of friendship
  • What lessons did growing up teach me about life?
  • My childhood dream and what it taught me about myself
  • How do I feel about my hometown after living in three different places?
  • Why is it important to visit your birthplace/hometown during holidays/vacations?
  • My family’s most influential life lesson and how it has affected me
  • What was the moment when I realized that my parents had their own struggles?
  • The time when I learned about my family history. What happened, why did this happen, and how did it affect me? How did things change after this event?
  • What do I know about family traditions now that I didn’t understand as a child?
  • Why are your family memories vital to you?

Personal Essay Topics About Cultural Heritage & Identity

  • What does being bilingual/multilingual mean to me? Why is it unique?
  • My first interaction with someone from another culture
  • What’s wrong with cultural appropriation, and how did I learn to stop?
  • The moment when I became aware of my race/ethnicity
  • My culture’s most influential life lesson and how it has affected me
  • How I learned to not be afraid of my cultural differences
  • Why is diversity important in my community? In what ways do I contribute?
  • The moment I realized that I am proud of my culture
  • How has the immigrant/refugee experience shaped who you are today?
  • How traditions have changed the way I view my family

Personal Essay Topics About Childhood Dreams & Aspirations

  • What were my childhood dreams, and how have they changed over the years?
  • How did I make peace with the fear of growing up?

Any of these 110 personal essay topics are perfect for students struggling to find a topic that will impress a college admission officer or any other person with whom you’re trying to connect with on a personal level through storytelling.

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100+ Personal Essay Topics For College And Writing Tips

Jared Houdi

Table of Contents

70 Great Personal Essay Topics for College

Looking for interesting personal essay writing ideas? We’ve got a bunch…

A personal essay is a typical assignment for high-school and college students. It’s a type of non-fiction that incorporates a variety of writing styles. Personal essay topics usually include real stories, experiences, and opinions of people.

Writers need to give an account of their own experience and express their thoughts on the subject of a paper. The key to success is to make an attempt to combine narration and opinion together. In this article, you will find a short writing guide and 100+ engaging personal essay topic ideas.

How to write personal essays?

Keep in mind that personal writing is always subjective. It is based on the writer’s observation, feelings, opinion, and experience. You are the speaker, so it’s quite natural to use such pronouns as I, my, me, we, and our.

First of all, most essay writing websites will say that you need to find a compelling topic. College personal essay topics include a lot of things.

Students may be asked to

  • state their opinion about an issue
  • document what they observed
  • share a story
  • give a description of an object, event, place, person
  • relate a specific subject to their own life

Whatever theme you choose, it’s crucial to start an introduction of your paper with a strong hook to capture the audience’s attention. Introduce the subject in the first paragraph. Think about the main idea you want to communicate.

In the body of your paper, inform readers about the subject. It’s better to create an outline before to start writing. It will help you organize your thoughts, stay focused, and write clearly and concisely. Start each paragraph with a new idea. Show, don’t tell. Use strong verbs and include a lot of sensory details.

End with a thought-provoking conclusion. You need to explain what lesson you have learned, how your experience contributed to your development as a person and shaped your personality.

Why choose personal persuasive essay topics for writing

When writing on personal persuasive essay topics, writers must state their position or opinion on an issue and try to persuade people to accept their point of view, telling stories and appealing to their feelings and emotions.

That differs from elaborating on personal argumentative essay topics, when students have to support their point of view with strong arguments, reasons, relevant examples, appropriate illustrations, etc.

These types of papers are not easy to write as well as papers on personal cause and effect essay topics.

But there are important reasons why you may want to do that.

  • You’ll improve communication and critical thinking skills .
  • Challenging themes can help you stand out from the crowd.
  • You will be able to demonstrate your creativity and ability to apply persuasive techniques.

… Can’t decide what idea to choose?

Here we have gathered a wide variety of moving ideas for your inspiration. Whether you need personal experience essay topics or personal narrative essay topics, we’ve got you covered.

Personal essay topics: what are they about?

You may write on any subject. Popular themes include hobbies, nature, childhood, illness, travel, making a difficult choice, learning something new, friends, family, and relationships.

You may use some personal challenge essay ideas and tell about overcoming an obstacle. Or you can buy argumentative essay if you don’t have time to work on college tasks tonight.

Actually, the subject is not as important as you think. Readers want to see your point of view that reveals your unique personality.

  • How you met a special person in your life?
  • A person you admire most.
  • The best place in the local area.
  • A place where you would like to live your whole life.
  • Works of art you admire.
  • The job of your dream.
  • Your biggest disappointment.
  • Books that made a great impression on you.
  • What annoys you?
  • Your family traditions.
  • Are you addicted to technology?
  • What modern songs inspire you?
  • Could you live without money?
  • Do you like commercials?
  • What is your best method of studying?

Personal narrative essay topics

  • Tell about your first trip abroad.
  • The most unfortunate event ever happened to you.
  • What happened during your first day at school?
  • What is your first childhood memory?
  • What is your most memorable family event?
  • Did you experience failure?
  • What games did you play when you were a child?
  • The biggest challenge you have overcome.
  • Do you remember your first birthday party?
  • Tell how you learn something new.
  • Have you ever encountered a wild animal?
  • Tell about the first time you were home alone.
  • How you cooked a meal for the first time?
  • Tell how you helped someone.
  • How you overcame fear?

Personal experience essay topics

  • What things make you feel happy?
  • How you came to healthy eating habits?
  • How did you celebrate Christmas?
  • Did you bring a stray animal home?
  • How did you learn to drive?
  • How you met a famous person?
  • How did you learn something from enemies?
  • Describe the accidents you witnessed.
  • How you got hurt?
  • Describe disastrous trips or vacations.
  • Fantastic concerts you attended.
  • Describe terrifying nightmares.
  • Your reaction when provoked.
  • Experience of being a leader.
  • A friendship breakup experience.

Personal argumentative essay topics

  • What could you live without?
  • Why are you concerned about environmental issues?
  • How much money do you need for happiness?
  • What does your ethnic identity mean to you?
  • Significance of personal growth.
  • Male and female roles in your family.
  • Your attitude to feminism.
  • Explain what does it mean to be a Human.
  • Most precious moments of your life.
  • What is more critical: wealth or happiness?
  • Your attitude to getting a tattoo.
  • Is it important to be crazy about fashion?
  • Your opinion on cosmetics surgery.
  • Significance of healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Your favourite holiday destinations.

College personal essay topics

  • Have you been in love with someone?
  • What is your life’s goal?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • How freedom matters in your life?
  • How you leave the comfort zone?
  • Things you appreciate in life.
  • What things do you hate?
  • How you met college roommates?
  • Your plans on spending a gap year.
  • How you got your first job?
  • Describe intellectual challenges you would like to solve.
  • What did you learn from failures?
  • Outdoor activities you like most.
  • Explain your commitments.
  • What motivates you?

Personal persuasive essay topics

  • Your opinion of distant learning and online education.
  • Can listening to music help complete your homework faster?
  • Can hobbies help in a future career?
  • Is it ethical to buy products tested on animals?
  • Why is volunteering important?
  • Should drugs be banned?
  • Your favourite restaurant everyone should visit.
  • Things to do to help our world survive.
  • How can we make the world a better place?
  • Is it possible to avoid stress?
  • Should zoos be forbidden?
  • How online shopping makes me spend more money?
  • Why I don’t smoke.
  • Things I want to be doing when I become 85.
  • Why do I recommend students to study abroad?

Personal cause and effect essay topics

  • Why I don’t watch TV.
  • Reasons I go in for sports.
  • Effects of social media on the daily routine.
  • How my failures make me stronger?
  • Books that changed my world view.
  • Reasons why I study computer science.
  • Influence of my parents on my life choices.
  • Importance of learning math for my future career.
  • Effect of being a single child.
  • How my pets make me a better person?
  • Influence of regular exercise on my health and wellbeing.
  • What makes me rebel against my parents?
  • How did my parents help me to study?
  • Why going to college made me an independent person?
  • What caused my burn out?

Feel free to use our good personal essay topics for creating amazing pieces that will make a powerful impression on your readers and get you high grades.

Can’t grab your thoughts together and come up with a perfect personal essay? No worries! Our writers will do all the writing, while you enjoy your free time. Psst, it takes a few clicks only…

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Personal Essay Topics

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  • Writing Essays
  • Writing Research Papers
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

A personal essay is an essay about your life, thoughts, or experiences. This type of essay will give readers a glimpse into your most intimate life experiences and life lessons. There are many reasons you may need to write a personal essay , from a simple class assignment to a college application requirement . You can use the list below for inspiration. Consider each statement a starting point, and write about a memorable moment that the prompt brings to mind.

  • Your bravest moment
  • How you met your best friend
  • What makes your mom or dad special
  • How you overcame a fear
  • Why you will succeed
  • Why you made a difficult choice
  • A special place
  • A place you try to avoid
  • When a friend let you down
  • An event that changed your life
  • A special encounter with an animal
  • A time when you felt out of place
  • An odd experience that didn't make sense at the time
  • Words of wisdom that hit home and changed your way of thinking
  • A person that you do not like
  • A time when you disappointed someone
  • Your fondest memory
  • A time when you saw your parent cry
  • The moment when you knew you were grown up
  • Your earliest memory of holiday celebrations in your home
  • Times when you should have made a better choice
  • A time when you dodged a dangerous situation
  • A person you will think about at the end of your life
  • Your favorite time period
  • A failure you've experienced
  • A disappointment you've experienced
  • A surprising turn of events
  • What you would do with power
  • What superpower you would choose
  • If you could switch lives with someone
  • How money matters in your life
  • Your biggest loss
  • A time when you felt you did the wrong thing
  • A proud moment when you did the right thing
  • An experience that you've never shared with another person
  • A special place that you shared with a childhood friend
  • A first encounter with a stranger
  • Your first handshake
  • Where you go to hide
  • If you had a do-over
  • A book that changed your life
  • Words that stung
  • When you had the desire to run
  • When you had the urge to crawl into a hole
  • Words that prompted hope
  • When a child taught you a lesson
  • Your proudest moment
  • If your dog could talk
  • Your favorite time with family
  • If you could live in another country
  • If you could invent something
  • The world a hundred years from now
  • If you had lived a hundred years earlier
  • The animal you'd like to be
  • One thing you'd change at your school
  • The greatest movie moment
  • The type of teacher you would be
  • If you could be a building
  • A statue you'd like to see
  • If you could live anywhere
  • The greatest discovery
  • If you could change one thing about yourself
  • An animal that could be in charge
  • Something you can do that robots could never do
  • Your most unfortunate day
  • Your secret talent
  • Your secret love
  • The most beautiful thing you've ever seen
  • The ugliest thing you've seen
  • Something you've witnessed
  • An accident that changed everything
  • A wrong choice
  • A right choice
  • If you were a food
  • How you'd spend a million dollars
  • If you could start a charity
  • The meaning of color
  • A close call
  • Your favorite gift
  • A chore you'd do away with
  • A secret place
  • Something you can't resist
  • A hard lesson
  • A visitor you'll never forget
  • An unexplained event
  • Your longest minute
  • An awkward social moment
  • An experience with death
  • Why you'll never tell a lie
  • If your mom knew, she'd kill you
  • A kiss that meant a lot
  • When you needed a hug
  • The hardest news you've had to deliver
  • A special morning
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 53 stellar college essay topics to inspire you.

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College Essays

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Most colleges and universities in the United States require applicants to submit at least one essay as part of their application. But trying to figure out what college essay topics you should choose is a tricky process. There are so many potential things you could write about!

In this guide, we go over the essential qualities that make for a great college essay topic and give you 50+ college essay topics you can use for your own statement . In addition, we provide you with helpful tips for turning your college essay topic into a stellar college essay.

What Qualities Make for a Good College Essay Topic?

Regardless of what you write about in your personal statement for college , there are key features that will always make for a stand-out college essay topic.

#1: It’s Specific

First off, good college essay topics are extremely specific : you should know all the pertinent facts that have to do with the topic and be able to see how the entire essay comes together.

Specificity is essential because it’ll not only make your essay stand out from other statements, but it'll also recreate the experience for admissions officers through its realism, detail, and raw power. You want to tell a story after all, and specificity is the way to do so. Nobody wants to read a vague, bland, or boring story — not even admissions officers!

For example, an OK topic would be your experience volunteering at a cat shelter over the summer. But a better, more specific college essay topic would be how you deeply connected with an elderly cat there named Marty, and how your bond with him made you realize that you want to work with animals in the future.

Remember that specificity in your topic is what will make your essay unique and memorable . It truly is the key to making a strong statement (pun intended)!

#2: It Shows Who You Are

In addition to being specific, good college essay topics reveal to admissions officers who you are: your passions and interests, what is important to you, your best (or possibly even worst) qualities, what drives you, and so on.

The personal statement is critical because it gives schools more insight into who you are as a person and not just who you are as a student in terms of grades and classes.

By coming up with a real, honest topic, you’ll leave an unforgettable mark on admissions officers.

#3: It’s Meaningful to You

The very best college essay topics are those that hold deep meaning to their writers and have truly influenced them in some significant way.

For instance, maybe you plan to write about the first time you played Skyrim to explain how this video game revealed to you the potentially limitless worlds you could create, thereby furthering your interest in game design.

Even if the topic seems trivial, it’s OK to use it — just as long as you can effectively go into detail about why this experience or idea had such an impact on you .

Don’t give in to the temptation to choose a topic that sounds impressive but doesn’t actually hold any deep meaning for you. Admissions officers will see right through this!

Similarly, don’t try to exaggerate some event or experience from your life if it’s not all that important to you or didn’t have a substantial influence on your sense of self.

#4: It’s Unique

College essay topics that are unique are also typically the most memorable, and if there’s anything you want to be during the college application process, it’s that! Admissions officers have to sift through thousands of applications, and the essay is one of the only parts that allows them to really get a sense of who you are and what you value in life.

If your essay is trite or boring, it won’t leave much of an impression , and your application will likely get immediately tossed to the side with little chance of seeing admission.

But if your essay topic is very original and different, you’re more likely to earn that coveted second glance at your application.

What does being unique mean exactly, though? Many students assume that they must choose an extremely rare or crazy experience to talk about in their essays —but that's not necessarily what I mean by "unique." Good college essay topics can be unusual and different, yes, but they can also be unique takes on more mundane or common activities and experiences .

For instance, say you want to write an essay about the first time you went snowboarding. Instead of just describing the details of the experience and how you felt during it, you could juxtapose your emotions with a creative and humorous perspective from the snowboard itself. Or you could compare your first attempt at snowboarding with your most recent experience in a snowboarding competition. The possibilities are endless!

#5: It Clearly Answers the Question

Finally, good college essay topics will clearly and fully answer the question(s) in the prompt.

You might fail to directly answer a prompt by misinterpreting what it’s asking you to do, or by answering only part of it (e.g., answering just one out of three questions).

Therefore, make sure you take the time to come up with an essay topic that is in direct response to every question in the prompt .

Take this Coalition Application prompt as an example:

What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?

For this prompt, you’d need to answer all three questions (though it’s totally fine to focus more on one or two of them) to write a compelling and appropriate essay.

This is why we recommend reading and rereading the essay prompt ; you should know exactly what it’s asking you to do, well before you start brainstorming possible college application essay topics.

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53 College Essay Topics to Get Your Brain Moving

In this section, we give you a list of 53 examples of college essay topics. Use these as jumping-off points to help you get started on your college essay and to ensure that you’re on track to coming up with a relevant and effective topic.

All college application essay topics below are categorized by essay prompt type. We’ve identified six general types of college essay prompts:

Why This College?

Change and personal growth, passions, interests, and goals, overcoming a challenge, diversity and community, solving a problem.

Note that these prompt types could overlap with one another, so you’re not necessarily limited to just one college essay topic in a single personal statement.

  • How a particular major or program will help you achieve your academic or professional goals
  • A memorable and positive interaction you had with a professor or student at the school
  • Something good that happened to you while visiting the campus or while on a campus tour
  • A certain class you want to take or a certain professor you’re excited to work with
  • Some piece of on-campus equipment or facility that you’re looking forward to using
  • Your plans to start a club at the school, possibly to raise awareness of a major issue
  • A study abroad or other unique program that you can’t wait to participate in
  • How and where you plan to volunteer in the community around the school
  • An incredible teacher you studied under and the positive impact they had on you
  • How you went from really liking something, such as a particular movie star or TV show, to not liking it at all (or vice versa)
  • How yours or someone else’s (change in) socioeconomic status made you more aware of poverty
  • A time someone said something to you that made you realize you were wrong
  • How your opinion on a controversial topic, such as gay marriage or DACA, has shifted over time
  • A documentary that made you aware of a particular social, economic, or political issue going on in the country or world
  • Advice you would give to your younger self about friendship, motivation, school, etc.
  • The steps you took in order to kick a bad or self-sabotaging habit
  • A juxtaposition of the first and most recent time you did something, such as dance onstage
  • A book you read that you credit with sparking your love of literature and/or writing
  • A school assignment or project that introduced you to your chosen major
  • A glimpse of your everyday routine and how your biggest hobby or interest fits into it
  • The career and (positive) impact you envision yourself having as a college graduate
  • A teacher or mentor who encouraged you to pursue a specific interest you had
  • How moving around a lot helped you develop a love of international exchange or learning languages
  • A special skill or talent you’ve had since you were young and that relates to your chosen major in some way, such as designing buildings with LEGO bricks
  • Where you see yourself in 10 or 20 years
  • Your biggest accomplishment so far relating to your passion (e.g., winning a gold medal for your invention at a national science competition)
  • A time you lost a game or competition that was really important to you
  • How you dealt with the loss or death of someone close to you
  • A time you did poorly in a class that you expected to do well in
  • How moving to a new school impacted your self-esteem and social life
  • A chronic illness you battled or are still battling
  • Your healing process after having your heart broken for the first time
  • A time you caved under peer pressure and the steps you took so that it won't happen again
  • How you almost gave up on learning a foreign language but stuck with it
  • Why you decided to become a vegetarian or vegan, and how you navigate living with a meat-eating family
  • What you did to overcome a particular anxiety or phobia you had (e.g., stage fright)
  • A history of a failed experiment you did over and over, and how you finally found a way to make it work successfully
  • Someone within your community whom you aspire to emulate
  • A family tradition you used to be embarrassed about but are now proud of
  • Your experience with learning English upon moving to the United States
  • A close friend in the LGBTQ+ community who supported you when you came out
  • A time you were discriminated against, how you reacted, and what you would do differently if faced with the same situation again
  • How you navigate your identity as a multiracial, multiethnic, and/or multilingual person
  • A project or volunteer effort you led to help or improve your community
  • A particular celebrity or role model who inspired you to come out as LGBTQ+
  • Your biggest challenge (and how you plan to tackle it) as a female in a male-dominated field
  • How you used to discriminate against your own community, and what made you change your mind and eventually take pride in who you are and/or where you come from
  • A program you implemented at your school in response to a known problem, such as a lack of recycling cans in the cafeteria
  • A time you stepped in to mediate an argument or fight between two people
  • An app or other tool you developed to make people’s lives easier in some way
  • A time you proposed a solution that worked to an ongoing problem at school, an internship, or a part-time job
  • The steps you took to identify and fix an error in coding for a website or program
  • An important social or political issue that you would fix if you had the means

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How to Build a College Essay in 6 Easy Steps

Once you’ve decided on a college essay topic you want to use, it’s time to buckle down and start fleshing out your essay. These six steps will help you transform a simple college essay topic into a full-fledged personal statement.

Step 1: Write Down All the Details

Once you’ve chosen a general topic to write about, get out a piece of paper and get to work on creating a list of all the key details you could include in your essay . These could be things such as the following:

  • Emotions you felt at the time
  • Names, places, and/or numbers
  • Dialogue, or what you or someone else said
  • A specific anecdote, example, or experience
  • Descriptions of how things looked, felt, or seemed

If you can only come up with a few details, then it’s probably best to revisit the list of college essay topics above and choose a different one that you can write more extensively on.

Good college essay topics are typically those that:

  • You remember well (so nothing that happened when you were really young)
  • You're excited to write about
  • You're not embarrassed or uncomfortable to share with others
  • You believe will make you positively stand out from other applicants

Step 2: Figure Out Your Focus and Approach

Once you have all your major details laid out, start to figure out how you could arrange them in a way that makes sense and will be most effective.

It’s important here to really narrow your focus: you don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) discuss every single aspect of your trip to visit family in Indonesia when you were 16. Rather, zero in on a particular anecdote or experience and explain why and how it impacted you.

Alternatively, you could write about multiple experiences while weaving them together with a clear, meaningful theme or concept , such as how your math teacher helped you overcome your struggle with geometry over the course of an entire school year. In this case, you could mention a few specific times she tutored you and most strongly supported you in your studies.

There’s no one right way to approach your college essay, so play around to see what approaches might work well for the topic you’ve chosen.

If you’re really unsure about how to approach your essay, think about what part of your topic was or is most meaningful and memorable to you, and go from there.

Step 3: Structure Your Narrative

  • Beginning: Don’t just spout off a ton of background information here—you want to hook your reader, so try to start in the middle of the action , such as with a meaningful conversation you had or a strong emotion you felt. It could also be a single anecdote if you plan to center your essay around a specific theme or idea.
  • Middle: Here’s where you start to flesh out what you’ve established in the opening. Provide more details about the experience (if a single anecdote) or delve into the various times your theme or idea became most important to you. Use imagery and sensory details to put the reader in your shoes.
  • End: It’s time to bring it all together. Finish describing the anecdote or theme your essay centers around and explain how it relates to you now , what you’ve learned or gained from it, and how it has influenced your goals.

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Step 4: Write a Rough Draft

By now you should have all your major details and an outline for your essay written down; these two things will make it easy for you to convert your notes into a rough draft.

At this stage of the writing process, don’t worry too much about vocabulary or grammar and just focus on getting out all your ideas so that they form the general shape of an essay . It’s OK if you’re a little over the essay's word limit — as you edit, you’ll most likely make some cuts to irrelevant and ineffective parts anyway.

If at any point you get stuck and have no idea what to write, revisit steps 1-3 to see whether there are any important details or ideas you might be omitting or not elaborating on enough to get your overall point across to admissions officers.

Step 5: Edit, Revise, and Proofread

  • Sections that are too wordy and don’t say anything important
  • Irrelevant details that don’t enhance your essay or the point you're trying to make
  • Parts that seem to drag or that feel incredibly boring or redundant
  • Areas that are vague and unclear and would benefit from more detail
  • Phrases or sections that are awkwardly placed and should be moved around
  • Areas that feel unconvincing, inauthentic, or exaggerated

Start paying closer attention to your word choice/vocabulary and grammar at this time, too. It’s perfectly normal to edit and revise your college essay several times before asking for feedback, so keep working with it until you feel it’s pretty close to its final iteration.

This step will likely take the longest amount of time — at least several weeks, if not months — so really put effort into fixing up your essay. Once you’re satisfied, do a final proofread to ensure that it’s technically correct.

Step 6: Get Feedback and Tweak as Needed

After you’ve overhauled your rough draft and made it into a near-final draft, give your essay to somebody you trust , such as a teacher or parent, and have them look it over for technical errors and offer you feedback on its content and overall structure.

Use this feedback to make any last-minute changes or edits. If necessary, repeat steps 5 and 6. You want to be extra sure that your essay is perfect before you submit it to colleges!

Recap: From College Essay Topics to Great College Essays

Many different kinds of college application essay topics can get you into a great college. But this doesn’t make it any easier to choose the best topic for you .

In general, the best college essay topics have the following qualities :

  • They’re specific
  • They show who you are
  • They’re meaningful to you
  • They’re unique
  • They clearly answer the question

If you ever need help coming up with an idea of what to write for your essay, just refer to the list of 53 examples of college essay topics above to get your brain juices flowing.

Once you’ve got an essay topic picked out, follow these six steps for turning your topic into an unforgettable personal statement :

  • Write down all the details
  • Figure out your focus and approach
  • Structure your narrative
  • Write a rough draft
  • Edit, revise, and proofread
  • Get feedback and tweak as needed

And with that, I wish you the best of luck on your college essays!

What’s Next?

Writing a college essay is no simple task. Get expert college essay tips with our guides on how to come up with great college essay ideas and how to write a college essay, step by step .

You can also check out this huge list of college essay prompts  to get a feel for what types of questions you'll be expected to answer on your applications.

Want to see examples of college essays that absolutely rocked? You're in luck because we've got a collection of 100+ real college essay examples right here on our blog!

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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best titles for personal essays

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Personal Essay Topics

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best titles for personal essays

Personal essay is considered to be one of the most interesting academic assignments. Writing such an essay, you are not just creating a regular text about some person but also have a great opportunity to demonstrate your views, feelings, or opinion on a given topic. In a good paper, you can influence the readers and present some new ideas to them.

Students often think that a personal essay is difficult to write. Moreover, they often get scared when they realize that they may need to prepare for this assignment longer than usual. Well, in fact, there is nothing complicated in this task. All you need to do is express the main idea clearly, discuss it, and be honest with your readers.

However, sometimes the situation gets worse when a teacher gives quite specific college personal essay topics, and you have no opportunity to touch upon some important issues that you might want to discuss. Relax and do not think of the topic as a limitation! Instead, try to provide a deeper comprehension of the issues and concepts related to the theme of your paper.

The next challenge of creating such a text is that you will need to combine a lot of writing styles. But do not panic! Look at this struggle from a different perspective, and it will become an advantage which allows you to express your thoughts more vividly. After all, it’s a fact that your writing style reflects your personality.

Of course, the success of your essay mostly depends on the topic, so you are welcome to choose one of the interesting personal essay topics presented by our essay writing service in this article. Then, working on the task, make sure that it is not a monotonous piece that will be difficult to read. Well-structured papers on relevant common personal essay topics provide an excellent opportunity to show your point of view and express your feelings regarding the subject.

How to write personal essays?

How-to-write-personal-essays

This question is pertinent among the new writers who struggle to create a whole text about a person. But there is nothing to worry about! First of all, try to collect as much information as possible. For example, look for some interviews with the individual you want to write about. If you have one of the top personal essay topics, it will be quite easy to find this kind of info.

The next aspect of a good essay is the formatting of the text. This is not the easiest part of writing, but it is definitely not the thing you should be concerned about. Make sure that you have a writing guide to refer to or just ask your professor about formatting rules at your college. By the way, mind that we are talking mostly about personal essay topics for college, so if you have to write such text for school or university, you will need to adapt it to the requirements of that educational institution.

Finally, let’s consider the structure of a good personal essay. In the first paragraph, you have to provide a brief biography of the person you are writing about. It should contain some information about their life, achievements, and some interesting facts. After that, try to find some info about the childhood years of this individual. Using this technique, you can create an interesting intro which will prompt your audience to read the text to the very end. If you have troubles with that, you can just pick one of the personal essay topics for high school students, as they should be easier to find info on. After you are done with the first section, it is time to move on to the most challenging part of writing. Here, you have to describe the outstanding years of a person’s life and analyze the most important experiences or events during that time . Do not get scared if you are assigned to write a text about yourself or someone you do not know. You may have excellent writing skills, but it is always difficult to tell personal stories or share memories. So don’t lose heart if you won’t succeed with your first personal essay.

Why choose to write on the personal persuasive essay topics

While reading the information above, you may get the following question, “Why would a novice writer pick such a complex topic to write on?” First of all, people need to do something new and challenging all the time in order to become well-versed in particular spheres. Secondly, students learn how to work on several types of texts, which not only helps them to become better writers but also reach a totally new level of proficiency. Another great thing is that if you pick one of the personal essay topics for college applications, you will be able to stand out from the crowd of those who are going to choose the easier topics.

So, now it’s time to start writing the actual essay. Do not worry if you still have no ideas what to write about. In this article, we will provide the list of personal essay topic options which will definitely help you to write a perfect paper and get an excellent mark.

College level personal essay topics

college-level-personal-essay-topics

College-level personal experience essay topics are more challenging to cope with than school ones because you have to search and analyze a lot. Moreover, writing college-level essays presupposes the development of analytical and critical thinking skills. Just like writing a personal essay for college application, it requires a more in-depth evaluation of the issue under consideration. If you struggle to find a proper topic for your essay, here is a list of interesting themes for college students:

  • The biggest fear in your life
  • A difficult decision you have made
  • When did you have the biggest argument with your sibling?
  • The most interesting dream you have ever had
  • Music that inspires you and makes you feel good
  • Perfect family vacation
  • The day you met your best college friend
  • The most awkward moment in college
  • Your phobias
  • Things your parents have taught you
  • The time you spoke out about something important to you
  • How would you spend your gap year?
  • What is the bravest moment of your life?
  • What did you do when a close person betrayed you?
  • The most important lesson in your life
  • Describe the biggest failure in your life and what you have learned from it

Personal essay topics for education

These topics are slightly different from the previous ones. Educational themes are usually a bit more school-based, which means that you need to have some basic knowledge to complete them. A lot of things can be described in this essay, but it is important to include only relevant information and clearly state your opinion. By the way, these themes are considered the best personal essay topics among all. The reason is that writing this kind of essay, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your views, goals, and aspirations so that your teacher can determine your ambitions and potential in the study area. Therefore, let us move on to the actual examples:

  • How can a professor motivate you to become a better person?
  • What are the best methods to deliver a speech?
  • Do you like doing homework, or is it a waste of time for you?
  • The best lesson you have learned studying in college or high school
  • Is it hard for you to prepare for school exams? How do you handle stress during that period?
  • What second language did you learn and how?
  • What motivates you to study hard and pursue your dreams?
  • The right and wrong choices you made regarding study and education

Easy topics for personal essay

Students choose easy topics quite often because they are not willing to spend a lot of time on writing. Selecting such a theme is not a bad idea at all because these topics are usually quite broad. Make sure you know how to write the best pieces using these great personal essay topics:

  • How to relax after a hard day?
  • The greatest fear you have
  • The best place in your house
  • The best period of the history of your country
  • Your favorite movie
  • What would you buy right now if you had a lot of money?
  • The work of art that you adore the most
  • The best period of your life
  • Who is your favorite singer?
  • Secret talent you have
  • The unexplained event that happened to you
  • Your favorite season
  • Your best birthday party
  • Your favorite type of food
  • The best childhood memory
  • What would you do if you won the lottery
  • Your favorite holiday

Some other good personal essay topics

other-good-personal-essay-topics

If you are still out of ideas for personal essay topics, you can consider the themes listed below:

  • The last act of kindness that you have made
  • The job of your dream
  • The most beautiful place in the world you have ever seen
  • The best music band that helps you to fall asleep
  • The most annoying things in your life
  • A thing that reminds you of your childhood
  • The role of money in your life
  • The best words you have heard in your life
  • Have you ever witnessed something that you will remember for the rest of your life?
  • The best morning in your life
  • Something that makes you feel guilty
  • Your shopping habits
  • A place you would go if you could travel back in time  

best titles for personal essays

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Today’s list compiles our editors’ picks for personal essays. While our team is small, we have a wide range of interests and are drawn to very different types of personal writing. It’s often hard for each of us to select a single “favorite” for these lists, but we enjoy coming together each December to look back on all the stories we’ve picked to create these year-end lists.

Similar to last year , we asked our writers, featured authors, and readers to share their favorite stories across categories. You’ll see their recommendations alongside ours in this list and others to come this month . Enjoy!

Does My Son Know You?

Jonathan Tjarks | The Ringer | March 3, 2022 | 2,738 words

Jonathan Tjarks was 33 years old when he learned he had cancer. Thirty-three. He had a wife and a baby son and a sportswriting career that was humming along, and then he had cancer. What he didn’t have was the willingness to go gently into that good night. So he wrote about his fear, and he wrote about his faith and his friendships; how difficult those things were, how important they were. He’d lost his own father when he was young, and he wanted more than anything for his son to avoid the slow erosion of community that he had known in the wake of his dad’s death. “I don’t want Jackson to have the same childhood that I did,” he wrote. “I want him to wonder why his dad’s friends always come over and shoot hoops with him. Why they always invite him to their houses. Why there are so many of them at his games. I hope that he gets sick of them.” Jonathan Tjarks was 34 years old when he died of cancer just a few short months after this essay was published. He’d done what he could to fight, and he’d done what he could to make sure that the friends he’d made would help his son navigate the world. To the rest of us, he left this spare, frank, moving essay. — Peter Rubin

On Metaphors and Snow Boots

Annie Sand | Guernica | May 23, 2022 | 2,821 words

“Only sometimes will the ice hold my weight,” writes Annie Sand in this powerful essay at  Guernica , in which she considers the meteorological metaphors she uses to understand and cope with mental illness. “Metaphor rushes in to fill gaps, to make meaning, and to conceal,” she says, as she attempts to assess the cost of a bout of anxiety in “hours of writing lost, hours of grading lost, hours of exercise lost, hours of sleep lost, hours of joy lost.” While metaphor can be a convenient way for us to attempt to understand the pain of others, language in all its power often comes up short, diminishing the complexities of human perception and experience with inadequate comparisons. “When we use metaphor to conceal the unknowable, we make symbols out of human beings and allegory out of experience. We reduce our own pain to a precursor, a line item, a weather report,” she says. The key, Sand suggests, is to define pain and suffering for yourself: “I wonder instead if the answer is not to abstain from metaphor, but rather, each time society tries to wheat-paste an ill-fitting metaphor over our lives, to offer one of our own.” If you’ve ever tried to explain how you really feel — mentally or physically — to someone, you’ll appreciate Sand’s thinking. — Krista Stevens

Annie Sand on the most impactful longform story she read this year:

For me it has to be “ Final Girl, Terrible Place ” by Lesley Finn. She talks about the concept of the final girl in horror: the young woman who makes it to the end of the movie, but is nonetheless objectified within the story. Her body is put on the line so the male psyche can experience threat from a distance. Reading the essay, I felt a flash of desperate recognition I hadn’t experienced since Leslie Jamison’s “ Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain .” Finn captures so much of the uncertainty of being a teenage (and even preteen) girl: the way you feel the noose of culture and power closing in on you but have no name for it. Now in my early 30s, I’m helping to raise a teenage girl who is obsessed with horror, I suspect for similar reasons as Finn. I think she sees herself in the final girl. Maybe over Christmas break we’ll read it together.

20 Days in Mariupol

Mstyslav Chernov | Associated Press | March 21, 2022 | 2,400 words

We tend to think of personal essays as marathons rather than sprints, feats of the written word that require time, training, and endurance to complete. But sometimes a brilliant essay is a mad dash because it has to be. Case in point, this harrowing piece that begins, “The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in.” Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov’s account of witnessing and escaping the siege of Mariupol, Ukraine, is an essential first draft of history, penned in collaboration with Lori Hinnant, an AP colleague, and punctuated by photographer Evgeniy Maloletka’s chilling images. In spare, unflinching language, Chernov describes Russia’s campaign to suppress the truth about its brutal assault on civilians. What lingers most vividly in my memory, though, are the essay’s interior parts, where Chernov conveys a raw mix of shock, fear, anger, and guilt about what, as a journalist, he saw, did, and couldn’t do. These moments are what make such an otherwise immediate piece timeless: Chernov captures the essence of both conflict reporting and what it means to be the person doing it. — Seyward Darby

To Live in the Ending

Alyssa Harad | Kenyon Review | July 29, 2022 | 6,113 words

When it was time to select an essay for this category, I immediately knew the type of piece I wanted to highlight. Week after week, it’s so easy to get lost in #sadreads, especially about the state of the planet. I’ve found some comfort in writing about the Earth and the climate crisis that, while urgent and often dismal, ultimately challenges me to think in new ways — and which helps me see a path toward a better future. I count Alyssa Harad’s gorgeous braided essay about the end of the world and the language of the apocalypse as one of this kind of piece — I’ve kept thinking about it for months. Instead of relying on catastrophe narratives or thinking of the end as a singular event, Harad considers life as a series of “nested crises,” and explains that “worlds end all the time.” I love the way she artfully weaves her observations about the world with musings that trace her own thinking since she was a child, and reflects on how she’s come to make sense of the uncertain times in which we live. It’s an essay, but it’s also a journey, and it deeply inspired me, as both a writer and a human. — Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Alyssa Harad recommends a piece that made her smile this year:

“ Unconditional Death Is a Good Title ,” a selection in The Paris Review from the pandemic journal kept by the late-but-always-and-forever-great poet Bernadette Mayer, surges with the life and joy typical of Mayer’s work: “not growing old gracefully,” Mayer writes, “i’ve chosen to grow old awkwardly, like a teenager.”

14 Hours in the Queue to See Queen Elizabeth’s Coffin

Laurie Penny | British GQ | September 18, 2022 | 3,415 words

The Queue to see Queen Elizabeth’s coffin seems particularly bizarre now that the moment has passed. Looking back at it is akin to waking up after too many beers and analyzing the deep connection you thought you shared with the bartender. Laurie Penny found it awkward even at the emotional height of the time, and she approaches the Queue with a healthy amount of cynicism (and snacks). However, within the Queue, she finds incredible camaraderie and a shared sense of loss, not just for the Queen, for, as Penny states, “almost everyone I speak to turns out to have recently lost someone, or something important.” The loss from COVID-19 is also apparent as the Queue shuffles past the National COVID Memorial, naming the people who succumbed to the pandemic, and Penny realizes, “about as many people queued past that wall as there are names on it.” The passing of Elizabeth II created something that, for a brief moment, allowed people to come together and mourn and grieve in solidarity. Mourn and grieve for many things after some difficult years. With barriers down — for whatever reason — there can be tremendous release in shared emotion. This essay made me think about many things beyond the Queen: community, loss, and loneliness, to name a few. It also made me laugh, which is the splendid thing about Laurie Penny’s writing — she can make you ponder through a chuckle. — Carolyn Wells

You can also browse all of our year-end collections since 2011  in one place .

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Top 50 Personal Essay Topics

You might be set a personal essay as a criterion for your admission to college or it might be set at any time during your academic career. A personal essay is essentially a form of self-expression. It draws on other essay formats – like a narrative essay – but of all academic assignments it is the loosest and least dogmatic. It can be more prosaic than other more technical formats demand. Whatever form, at its core is the presentation of your experience or emotions. It is a time when you can find your muse and really express yourself in the written word.

  • I went to college to say thank you to my parents
  • How being bullied made me the person I am today
  • William Blake is the poet I most admire
  • My spirit of adventure
  • How I propose to spend the long vacation
  • Why I am taking a gap year
  • What the “art of conversation” means to me
  • Why I left Facebook
  • I want to be able to drink legally before I’m 21
  • How being in a band helped my leadership skills
  • Why I chose a career in the medical field (or any other field)
  • My first experience as a babysitter
  • Becoming an older sister (or brother)
  • I will be a lifelong learner
  • My father (mother) is my hero
  • Life skills I learned in college
  • Why I love the Golden Age of Hollywood
  • Chocolate is my comfort food
  • The reasons I keep a food diary
  • The bravest thing I have ever done
  • The one thing I would change about the world
  • I will never forget the day that …
  • The advice I would give to a new high school student
  • My siblings and childhood
  • How I would spend $1 million
  • The place I would most like to live
  • The proudest moment of my life so far
  • Did I feel pressured into going to college?
  • Why I joined an online dating site
  • I wish I had looked after my teeth
  • The things I learned from my grandmother (father)
  • I’m proud to be a Millennial
  • The way I deal with my allergies
  • Why opera moves me so much
  • My love of Shakespeare
  • I will never prefer eBooks over printed books
  • Why pole dancing is my favorite form of exercise
  • I wasn’t allowed a pet as a child. Today I have 5 pets.
  • Why marine pollution breaks my heart
  • I took a gap year but wish I had traveled more
  • Why I plant a new tree every year
  • I do not use social media
  • I wish my mother had taught me to cook
  • Visiting museums has taught me a great deal
  • Monet and Van Gogh are my favorite artists
  • An eclectic music taste makes me interesting
  • I want to enter local politics in my 40s
  • It’s time I learned to appreciate my Irish roots
  • There was a time when …
  • If I ruled the world …

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How to Write a Personal Essay: Topics, Structure, & Examples

Even though a personal essay seems like something you might need to write only for your college application, people who graduated a while ago are asked to write it. Therefore, if you are a student, you might even want to save this article for later!

A personal essay is a first-person narrative that describes a writer’s life experience and its influence . You may think that writing such an essay is easy-peasy. There is so much freedom regarding the topic, isn’t it? However, soon enough, you realize that it’s more of a curse than a blessing. Custom-writing.org experts understand it’s super confusing as you don’t know where to start. But this simple yet comprehensive guide on how to write a personal essay is here to help you out!

❔ What Is a Personal Essay?

🚦 how do you start a personal essay.

  • 🙋 Essay Topics
  • 📑 Personal Essay Types

🔗 References

A personal essay is just what you think it is: a piece of writing that presents some experience from your perspective . It doesn’t need to be extraordinary, but it has to show how you changed thanks to the experience you got. Such an essay also creates a feeling of intimacy.

A typical personal essay consists of a 1-paragraph introduction, a 3-paragraph body, and a 1-paragraph conclusion.

Long story short, it is a first-person narrative that describes a writer’s life experience and its influence. This type of essay allows you to use any writing style you want and usually has an informal tone. It helps the reader to gain a connection with you.

There is a wide variety of topic options: you may want your writing to be inspiring or, on the contrary, warning so that others could avoid your mistakes. However, the most important thing is sticking to the general guidelines.

The most popular personal essay outline would consist of three parts:

  • Start with an introduction . It should include only one paragraph
  • Continue with the main body . It should be at least three paragraphs long
  • Write a conclusion . Don’t make it too long, one paragraph is enough

Let’s also note that typically you would write a personal essay as a part of the college application process. However, it’s not rare that this type of writing can help employers understand if the candidate meets the job requirements.

👀 Personal Essay Examples

To give you some inspiration, we included a list of excellent examples ranked as the most successful personal essays by The New York Times , The New Yorker , and America’s top universities.

🥇 by Jeniffer KimA heart-breaking short story about parents’ love: a girl was ashamed of how scruffy her mom always looks, but it suddenly changed. She realized that her mother was sacrificing a lot to provide for her daughter, which made her seem tired and shabby.
🥇 by JessIt’s another excellent example of a personal essay rated by the admissions committee. Such a simple thing as a cooking experience allowed the readers to see that Jess is not afraid of failure and loves trying something new.
🥇 by James MarcusIt is a personal story revealing the author’s point of view on divorces and marriages. His story is so unique that it got distinguished by The New Yorker.

The first and the most important thing you need to do when you are about to write a personal essay is to determine its purpose . When you know your audience, it becomes easier to find an appropriate topic for your writing. After that, you can draft an outline, which is the foundation of your future essay!

✔️ Do that several times. Your complete writing depends on it! for college admissions are different from the ones you would write for a job application. Moreover, some writers even use this format to share their stories with readers.
✔️ Next, think about how long your essay should be. Again, it would depend on its purpose. Now, you are free to pick the topic! There are a lot of techniques that can help you come up with some brilliant ideas, such as brainstorming and free writing.
✔️ Generally speaking, there are not many limitations on what you can write about. However, keep in mind that if your personal statement is intended for your potential employer, try to avoid topics that might harm your reputation. If your objective is getting a scholarship, don’t be afraid of asking your supervisor for help.

🙋 Personal Essay Topics

By now, you might have understood the idea of the personal statement. Your goal is to show off your personality from the good side. However, there is an endless amount of options on how to do it. The most popular way is to tell the story from the past. It can be either something you achieved or an obstacle you managed to overcome. Either way, it needs to highlight the lesson you learned.

Next, you can make your writing even more inspirational by revealing your future goals, showing that you have potential and determination. But remember to focus on things that the whole community can benefit from because just getting rich is a lame objective!

Last but not least, be yourself and use creativity! Show your potential employers and college administration how much you can contribute to their development. You should convince them that it can be a mutually beneficial experience.

Here, we prepared some of the best personal essay topics for you:

  • How did the most significant loss of your life make you stronger?
  • Who would you like to switch live with, and why?
  • The time when you think you made the wrong choice.
  • How would you spend a million dollars?
  • Is there anything you have never shared with anyone?
  • A special friend that influenced your life.
  • One morning that has changed your life forever.
  • The time when you had to deliver devastating news.
  • A near-death experience and how it felt.
  • Describe the longest minute of your life.
  • Something you can’t resist and keep doing.
  • A meaningful event that is hard to explain.
  • Would you start a charity foundation if you could?
  • The most precious gift you ever received.
  • The wrong choice you never regret making.
  • A secret place that gives you peace of mind.
  • Something you’ve seen and wish you could forget.
  • A hidden talent no one knows you have.
  • A day when you felt like the unluckiest person in the world.
  • The most beautiful thing you’ve seen.
  • A skill you have that robots will never learn to do.
  • What is the one thing you want to change about yourself?
  • Where would you like to live?
  • The most important discovery you made.
  • What if you were a teacher?
  • The most fantastic movie scene that changed the world.
  • What would you like to change in schools?
  • Describe something you love about yourself and why.
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  • Time with your family that you cherish the most.
  • The achievement you’re proud of.
  • Describe the time when you learned something from a child.
  • The words that made you hopeful again.
  • Write about the time when you were at the bottom.
  • A stranger that had an influence on you.
  • What would you do if you could go back in time?
  • Would you like to redo something in your life, would you?
  • The superpower you wish you had.
  • The person you would be grateful to at the end of your life.
  • The time when you avoided danger.
  • Family celebrations, and what do they mean to you?
  • Write about the time when you saw your mother crying.
  • Did you disappoint anyone?
  • Is there anyone you are not fond of?
  • A place that you try to keep away from.
  • How did you overcome your fear?
  • The most challenging choice you had to make.
  • The time you felt like an outsider.
  • When did you realize you’re not a child anymore?
  • Why does your hobby interest you?

📑 Personal Essay about Yourself: Main Types

Personal essays on hobbies.

Writing an essay on a hobby is not as easy as it seems. Take a look at any hobbies essay sample, and you will be likely to see a widespread thing: these essays can be boring, which is an easy way to get a low grade.

Below are some common problems with hobby essays (and their solutions).

❌ Problem✔️ Solution
The writer didn’t explain the hobby well enough for the reader to understand it.Try to determine if a random reader would understand your hobby. If not, include more detail. If your hobby is a rare one, you will need to have more information.
The reader does not see why you enjoy the hobby.The purpose of a hobby essay is not to describe the things you love to do with every detail. The task is to show yourself by explaining your interest. Most importantly, you should explain why you love your hobby. Do that emotionally.
Your hobby essay does not stand out from other papers.Focus on a unique hobby or a unique reason you became interested in a standard hobby. Perhaps your teacher has already read 15 . If you think the story of your love for your top hobby is generic, think of another personal essay topic to write about.

No matter what, make sure the focus is on you. When you are writing about a personal hobby, you should aim to make yourself the star by essentially telling your reader about yourself through an interest of yours.

Life-changing Experience Essays

The purpose of a life-changing experience essay is obvious: simply put, you need to tell the reader about a specific event that changed your life . Note that it also works for a closely related type of essay, the personal narrative essay .

Three essential elements should be clear to readers of any life-changing experience writing:

  • The reader should understand the event — both what happened and how it made you feel at the time.
  • The reader should understand what the event changed about you. It is best to tell the reader about your condition before the event and after it. However, this depends on the essay’s length.
  • The reader should understand how you feel about the event now.

If you need personal experience essay ideas, focus on events that you can write about to meet the three above criteria. If your assignment is very free form, take a look at a list of prompts for personal writing.

Education Essays

As a student, you will be asked to write an education essay eventually. It is important to remember that personal writing is about setting yourself apart. Tell the reader what made your educational experience unique.

How can you make your educational essay stand out? First, go beyond generic stories of overcoming an academic weakness by avoiding essays that take the following form: “I was terrible at subject X, but through hard work, I became quite excellent at subject X!”

Instead, focus on an assignment or subject that captured your attention — the more unusual the situation, the better. Use storytelling to enhance your essay. The best education essays can be essays about life-changing education experiences; for example, many great educational stories focus on the teacher or class that changed the author’s life.

Biographies

Writing a short biography is easy. All you need to do is to use a very basic biography template. But first: remember that you need to keep the attention of your reader. Tell a good story about yourself ! Learning how to write a biography is about learning how to tell a good story .

A Biography Template

A solid biography is a solid story. For this reason, the biography template is essentially the template of a well-crafted story, which is typically divided into three specific parts:

  • Establish the characters. In this case, these are people that play important roles in your life. For example, if your autobiographical essay includes family members, you need to describe them briefly before anything exciting happens.
  • Build tension. If you write about your family, you can describe a problem that exists there.
  • Describe a resolution. Not that it is not the same thing as a problem being solved. For example, when a loved one dies, there is no solution to that problem. Instead, you grieve and learn to live without that person in your life.

If your biography manages to achieve all three of these elements, you will indeed have one of the class’s strongest essays.

Personal Statements

The last type of personal writing is probably the most important. When faced with their first college application, most students go to the web to find a personal statement format.

If you learn from examples, the best thing to do is check out several strong personal statement examples. As mentioned in the second section, many universities post essays from accepted students. Or perhaps you should read a breakdown of portions of a personal statement. The point is, read what others have done for inspiration.

Sometimes colleges offer personal statement templates. However, they often use freeform personal statements to identify focused, articulate students. Thus, the top tip for these is to write a clear thesis statement . A thesis statement for an essay without a prompt should be so clear that it sounds like it addresses a writing prompt. When there is no prompt, this is the time you should specifically use the standard 5-paragraph essay . Your discipline will impress your readers, which is exactly what you want.

However, an open-ended essay prompt is sometimes just too much to handle in time, but that is alright. It happens to everyone, and our writing experts can help, luckily. You can work with one of their expert writers or editors to create the perfect personal essay.

  • Personal Essays – Georgia Tech Admissions
  • The Personal Statement // Purdue Writing Lab
  • Application Essays – UNC Writing Center
  • How To: Write Your Personal Essay
  • Essays | Penn Admissions
  • Writing the Personal Statement | Berkeley Graduate Division
  • Personal Insight Questions – UCLA Undergraduate Admission
  • Essay Topics | Yale College Undergraduate Admissions
  • Complete Your Application: Indiana University Bloomington
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Some people know which profession to choose from childhood, while others decide much later in life. However, and whenever you come to it, you may have to elaborate on it in your personal statement or cover letter. This is widely known as “Why I Want to Be a Teacher” essay.

At 82, I am assuredly a ‘mature student.’ However, I wanted to thank you for being the most helpful resource I have discovered on ‘google’ to look at how I can consider writing an autobiography to perhaps leave my children.

Leigh Shulman

10 personal essays that will teach you how to write

Mar 9, 2017 | Writing

“How do you learn to write?”

It’s a question I ask myself often, particularly when teaching writing classes. Hanif Kureishi, author of Buddha in Suburbia and a creative writing instructor, says you can’t. Does he think the same when it comes to writing personal essays?

I disagree with Kureishi. Obviously.

How could I spend the last 20 years of my life teaching writing — personal writing, fiction, non-fiction, composition — if I believed such a thing?

But the classroom alone will not teach you to write. You need to practice and you NEED TO READ!

Every month in The Workshop — my online writing academy to build writing skills, find a community and make money with your works —  I bring in a guest speaker to teach one aspect of the business of writing.  Anjali Enjeti , a writer, editor and also a creative writing instructor, joined us to teach The Art of Writing Compelling Personal Essays.

Over the course of an incredible hour, Anjali gave us tips on how to focus your essay. She offered advice on what to do when your emotions are still raw, and she shared her favorite personal essays!

Reading is the very best way to improve your writing!

You nod your head in vigorous agreement. You catch your breath. At times, you clench your fists because you know something awful is coming, but you can’t help but continue reading.

Your favorite books and personal essays are your writer’s toolbox. When you read them, you see new ways to structure your story, uncover creative ideas for dialogue and uncover ways to strengthen your message and reach your reader more powerfully.

“Good writers borrow. Great writers steal,” said TS Eliot.

Or perhaps it was Pablo Picasso who said that. Or maybe it was Aaron Sorkin. I dunno.

But the sentiment remains. We writers take what we see, hear, taste, touch, and experience and transpose them to the pages on which we write.

The essays below span a wide breadth of topics and represent different styles of writing. At the heart of each, though, lies a truth, a concise mirror held up to reflect a common lived experience.

We may be left breathless, moved, laughing, devastated or anything else on the emotional spectrum. Most of all, they leave us inspired to write.

Reading one essay is a lesson learned, the ten pieces of writing below offer you a comprehensive course in personal writing. You’ll learn dialogue, structure and character development. They’ll teach you how to build tension and what questions you should ask yourself as you write.

For each, I’ve included a brief excerpt from the piece as well as a link so you can read it yourself. And finally at the end, an added gift. I’ve included a recent piece from Anjali, so you can not only revel in her favorite essays but see how her own reading creates the narrative and beauty of her writing.

1. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen

You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there. You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.

2. Karrie Higgins’ Strange Flowers

image_2_being_truthful

I love you like xo. Ever since my brother died, I have dialed his disconnected telephone numbers, tracking where they terminate over time, hoping to cross his ghost voice in the wires. He is finally returning my call. We have a downlink .

3. Jo Ann Beard’s The Fourth State of Matter

I have an ex-beauty queen coming over to get rid of the squirrels for me. She has long red hair and a smile that can stop trucks. I’ve seen her wrestle goats, scare off a giant snake, and express a dog’s anal glands, all in one afternoon. I told her on the phone that a family of squirrels is living in the upstairs of my house. “They’re making a monkey out of me,” I said.

4. Lydia Yuknavitch’s Woven

It was a night I wanted never to end. Or, I wish with all my heart that the story ended there. Mythic youth. But that’s not where the story ended.

5. Roger Rosenblatt’s Making Toast

Bubbies has been attending to his own education—proceeding from one word, to several, to two-word sentences, to three and more. Some say that children learn to speak in order to tell the stories already in them. An early word of his was “back.” He wanted reassurance that when any of us left the house, or even a room, we were coming back.

6. Eula Biss’ Time and Distance Overcome Content warning on this one. It is a difficult read. Lynchings and racism.

The poles, of course, were not to blame. It was only coincidence that they became convenient as gallows, because they were tall and straight, with a crossbar, and because they stood in public places. And it was only coincidence that the telephone poles so closely resembled crucifixes.

7. Mariama Lockington’s What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew

I know that my hair is curly and thick, that my mother wants me to love it natural. I know that when she drops me off at Jasmine’s to get my hair braided I feel safe. That even though it hurts when she untangles my kinks I don’t mind because she smells so good. I learn that I love the smell of black women. Of grease, flat irons, and cocoa butter. I know I am black and that my parents love me, but I know I am different.

8. Tim Bascom’s Picturing the Personal Essay: A Visual Guide

Contrary to the high school teacher’s oft-repeated maxim—“Show, don’t tell!”—the essayist is free both to show and tell. In fact, I once heard the nonfiction writer Adam Hochschild scold a group of MFA students for being so subtle in their writing that they left out critical signposts that readers needed. “Don’t be so afraid to say what you mean,” he counseled.

9. Laurie Herzel’s But Will They Love Me When I’m Done

Late in her mother’s life, Hampl asked her why she eventually allowed the poem to be published, hoping her mother would say that it was because the poem was so good. Instead, her mother said, “Because I loved you. I’ve always hated it.”

10. Anjali Enjeti’s Drinking Chai to Savannah

I survey the tourists poring over guidebooks, tapping their phones. I worry one of them will mutter something derogatory about this group of seven brown women whose mere presence seems to have doubled the minority population of this historic district.

About Leigh

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I'm a writer and mentor currently living in Argentina. Want to know how I created my ideal writing life?

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Key Tips for Making Personal Essay Titles

Table of Contents

What are essays without a good title? Well, they’ll probably be just pieces of writing that nobody notices or reads. And we don’t want that! You can catch your reader’s attention with good personal essay titles and engage with them. A good title can help you stand out from the crowd and make your essay much more effective.

Making a good title isn’t always easy. There are so many things you’ll need to consider. It needs to be catchy, informative, yet brief and easy to read at the same time.

A person writing something on a notebook using an orange pen.

To help you write a good title , we’ve gathered some of the most effective tips. We’ve also listed some great examples that you can check out and use as inspiration.

What Is a Personal Essay?

Personal essays are often used by students to explore the struggles and developments in their life with great depth and detail. It’s a very common writing exercise for most school curriculums.

The focus of personal essays is on you. It can chronicle significant experiences that have shaped your beliefs and values. Or it can showcase your artistic talents and provide an introduction to the kind of person you are.

Other personal essays can include diary entries and reflections on life lessons and personal feelings. Personal essays can cover a variety of topics, including:

  • A peculiar experience that didn’t make sense to you at the time
  • Advice that changed your life
  • Someone who bullied you and made you stronger
  • Your failures and low points
  • Feelings that evoke your most fond memories
  • The time when your parents cried
  • Holiday celebrations when you were a child
  • Your regrets and what you would have done differently
  • A time when you dodged danger
  • The moment you realized you weren’t a kid anymore
  • Someone very dear to you

Characteristics of a Good Essay Titles

  • Interesting –  This is an essential characteristic. Nobody will want to read an essay with a boring title.
  • Believable  – Don’t overdo your title. Stay away from using exaggerated statements. You might get a low grade for your essay if your title is too far-fetched from the content.
  • Easy to read  – The title of an essay should be easy to read and understand. Avoid strange phrases, jargon, or complicated structures.
  • Active voice –  Using the active voice makes your title more clear and concise.
  • Short  – This goes for most titles: the shorter, the better. The length of essay titles should lie between 5 and 15 words. ‍
  • Relevant –  The purpose of your title is to give the reader a glimpse into what your essay is about. This is why relevance is essential. 
  • Optimized  – This is only applicable if you want to post your articles online. A title that’s optimized will rank higher in searches. This is important to get more people to read your essay.

Key Tips for Writing Good Personal Essay Titles

Here are some tips to consider when writings good personal essay titles.

Pick a Topic

The essay title is usually the last thing people write down. This is because it has to encapsulate the essay you’ve written . Think of it as the icing on top of an excellent essay. 

So to make a good essay title, you should also pick a good personal topic. It would be best if you chose something you think will bring the most impact on your readers.

Keep It Concise

As mentioned earlier, essay titles should only be around 5-15 words. With the limited number of words you can use, you must choose your words wisely. Think of words that will clearly elicit curiosity and accurately embody your essay.

Get Creative

Titles need to be catchy, so don’t be afraid to let your creativity flow freely. Come up with a title that evokes a feeling and also spurs the reader to want to read the essay.

This is often best done through metaphors and short, punchy phrases. For example, “A Freaky Abode” can cause a person to want to read about a stranger’s house during the summer. Just be careful not to overdo it!

A good title can make your essay much more enticing and pleasant to read . This is why  good personal essay titles  are a MUST if you want to make a great overall essay. Remember to apply what you’ve learned in this article when thinking of your next essay title. Keep it short, engaging, and relevant.

Key Tips for Making Personal Essay Titles

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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Choose Good Titles for Essays and Make Them Sound Great

good-titles-for-essays

Good titles for essays act like an attractive factor that draws readers to have an interest. The first step to enjoying the luxury of being the best selling author is the ability to develop attention-capturing and curiosity-arousing titles. People have desisted from reading reviews or summaries written on books and essays when buying them.

Instead, they closely examine the creative titles that will make it to their reading list. Books are also subjected to the same style of choosing when scouting for the next read. Writing an essay can be challenging but assigning a title should not be as difficult. A poorly written paper with a good title will attract more attention than a well written one with a boring title.

Why Are Titles Important in Essays?

The functionality and importance of good essay titles are synonymous to that of a door. Its attractiveness is what will motivate you to find out what lies inside the house. It also gives a sneak peek on what you are more likely to interact with when reading that particular essay. Great essays usually have creative titles that do not allow you to stop your reading at the cover page.

The title of an essay is the single most crucial factor that determines the impression of the reader towards an essay. Much thought should be given when coming up with one. There are many instances when great titles have been shoved aside falling victim to morale killing variants. Sometimes the little time you have only allowed you to glance at the heading.

It is during these times that the significance of a heading is clearly portrayed. The next time you are making a good title remember it is of utmost importance and should be given enough thought. This is because it greatly determines the reception the essay will receive based on it foreshadows what is in the essay.

How to Format the Title of An Essay?

After getting the heading for essays, you need to know how to format them to look catchy and in place. Read on to get an insight into what to consider.

Exactly how long should an essay title be?

The length of essay titles is a topic that has been largely contested by authors. Though a consensus on the exact number of words has never been reached, proposals have been put forward on the approximate number. It is proposed that a typical essay title should contain between 3-15 words. This largely depends on the niche the essay is addressing.

With college essays, for instance, paper titles should give sufficient information about the research paper without revealing too much information. It should also not be too short and ambiguous. Its length should be long enough to capture the reader’s attention while preparing what awaits in the essay.

Can A Title Be A Question For Essays?

There are many styles employed in the structuring of essay titles. Different authors will use whichever style that befits their article and is conversational. They prefer to remain in their comfort zones and use conventional statement titles. In fact, the format is left for you to determine.

The heading could be expressed in numbers, questions or even alphanumeric order, depending on the written  types of essay . In rare instances, it will be pictorial. When using a question as your title, then the essay should be engineered such that it answers or attempts to answer it. Questions are effective and form good catchy titles to trigger curiosity.

What Are the Main Components of Good Titles for Essay?

  • Catchy hook

A paper name is an ambassador to readers. It should communicate or cast a positive picture of the essay. This is best achieved by capturing the reader’s attention through its creativity. The first thing an essay wants is to get noticed.

Catchy headings for an essay will make a composition stand out and compel the readers to read it to completion.

  • Topic keyword

This is the “what” of your essay. It identifies the component your dissertation will be exploring. Topic keywords should be captured in good paper titles to shed more light and introduce the reader into the essay.

Usually, it should be a general term that best describes what the author is putting across in the essay. This will ensure readers have an idea of what the essay is all about just by a glance at the title.

  • Active voice  

If your title contains verbs, consider putting them in active rather than passive voice. Active voice tends to relate with the readers directly engaging them on what they want to know. The best combination is expressing your title in an active voice in a question form. This makes the readers identify more with the essay and aspire to explore your opinions on the same.

  • Focus keyword

Unlike the topic keyword which describes the center of focus of your paper, the focus keyword describes the extent to which the topic keyword will be addressed. It predicts the limits and boundaries how the essay addresses the topic.

A perfect example of a good title for an essay is “the effects of global warming.” In this label, the topic keyword is global warming, but the essay will be limited to its effects.

What Are the Steps for Making Good Titles for Essays?

There are is no logical, sequential order authors should follow to arrive to the most creative and captivating title. However, there are some guidelines that could make sure you end up with the best one. The steps below describe  how to write analytical essays  titles effectively.

  • Reversed law order

The first step to writing an effective title is writing it last. Write your essay draft first then revise it before deciding on the label. This is because essays often change in the course of revision. Therefore, your heading may not necessarily reflect what is in the essay. The best thing is to name it last to avoid tilting your essay.

When you are out of creativity when making a title, consider seeking external motivation through the work of other authors. Reading the labels of other essays written in your niche will inspire thoughts leading to the conception of a perfect title for your essay.

  • Identify your target audience

Knowing your audience is instrumental in coming up with a title that will net a huge demographic of readers. If you are writing a formal paper like a college essay, titles have to be as formal as the setting in which they will be reviewed. But for fiction and story-telling compositions, the heading can have a pun or slang included to relate with the target audience.

Some Personal Statement Essay Examples

Personal statement essays are written to describe a person, and yes, they too need to be labeled. Some of the best examples of titles written for personal statements have been outlined below.

  • Excellent Marriage Life
  • Battling Depression
  • Healthy Living
  • Career Trajectory

Compare and Contrast Essay Title Examples

This type of paper seeks to bring out the comparisons between two aspects mostly in a bid to identify the superior one. It is synonymous to argumentative where the contrasting view of a subject is discussed.  Most  argumentative essay topics  tend to have a similar naming style as compare and contrast titles shown below.

  • Using Online Writing Against Traditional Writing Services
  • Facebook or Myspace: Which Social Media Network Is More User-Friendly?
  • Books Against Movies: Why Reading Is Preferred

Reflective Essays Title Examples

A reflective essay is an academic paper that describes the personal experiences the author has had. Some interesting titles for essays of this type include:

  • Smelling a Rare Flower
  • Unwinding the Spring
  • Staring at tThe Morning Sunrise

Final Thoughts

Considering the importance of the heading in an essay, its construction has to be given utmost attention. It is the creativity channeled into coming up with a heading that will rank a well-written article among the best. Authors should identify the right title styles for their essays.

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40 Best Essays of All Time (Including Links & Writing Tips)

I had little money (buying forty collections of essays was out of the question) so I’ve found them online instead. I’ve hacked through piles of them, and finally, I’ve found the great ones. Now I want to share the whole list with you (with the addition of my notes about writing). Each item on the list has a direct link to the essay, so please click away and indulge yourself. Also, next to each essay, there’s an image of the book that contains the original work.

About this essay list:

40 best essays of all time (with links and writing tips), 1. david sedaris – laugh, kookaburra.

A great family drama takes place against the backdrop of the Australian wilderness. And the Kookaburra laughs… This is one of the top essays of the lot. It’s a great mixture of family reminiscences, travel writing, and advice on what’s most important in life. You’ll also learn an awful lot about the curious culture of the Aussies.

Writing tips from the essay:

2. charles d’ambrosio – documents.

Do you think your life punches you in the face all too often? After reading this essay, you will change your mind. Reading about loss and hardships often makes us sad at first, but then enables us to feel grateful for our lives . D’Ambrosio shares his documents (poems, letters) that had a major impact on his life, and brilliantly shows how not to let go of the past.

3. E. B. White – Once more to the lake

What does it mean to be a father? Can you see your younger self, reflected in your child? This beautiful essay tells the story of the author, his son, and their traditional stay at a placid lake hidden within the forests of Maine. This place of nature is filled with sunshine and childhood memories. It also provides for one of the greatest meditations on nature and the passing of time.

4. Zadie Smith – Fail Better

Aspiring writers feel tremendous pressure to perform. The daily quota of words often turns out to be nothing more than gibberish. What then? Also, should the writer please the reader or should she be fully independent? What does it mean to be a writer, anyway? This essay is an attempt to answer these questions, but its contents are not only meant for scribblers. Within it, you’ll find some great notes about literary criticism, how we treat art , and the responsibility of the reader.

5. Virginia Woolf – Death of the Moth

6. meghan daum – my misspent youth.

Many of us, at some point or another, dream about living in New York. Meghan Daum’s take on the subject differs slightly from what you might expect. There’s no glamour, no Broadway shows, and no fancy restaurants. Instead, there’s the sullen reality of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You’ll get all the juicy details about credit cards, overdue payments, and scrambling for survival. It’s a word of warning. But it’s also a great story about shattered fantasies of living in a big city. Word on the street is: “You ain’t promised mañana in the rotten manzana.”

7. Roger Ebert – Go Gentle Into That Good Night

8. george orwell – shooting an elephant.

Even after one reading, you’ll remember this one for years. The story, set in British Burma, is about shooting an elephant (it’s not for the squeamish). It’s also the most powerful denunciation of colonialism ever put into writing. Orwell, apparently a free representative of British rule, feels to be nothing more than a puppet succumbing to the whim of the mob.

9. George Orwell – A Hanging

10. christopher hitchens – assassins of the mind.

In one of the greatest essays written in defense of free speech, Christopher Hitchens shares many examples of how modern media kneel to the explicit threats of violence posed by Islamic extremists. He recounts the story of his friend, Salman Rushdie, author of Satanic Verses who, for many years, had to watch over his shoulder because of the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini. With his usual wit, Hitchens shares various examples of people who died because of their opinions and of editors who refuse to publish anything related to Islam because of fear (and it was written long before the Charlie Hebdo massacre). After reading the essay, you realize that freedom of expression is one of the most precious things we have and that we have to fight for it. I highly recommend all essay collections penned by Hitchens, especially the ones written for Vanity Fair.

11. Christopher Hitchens – The New Commandments

12. phillip lopate – against joie de vivre.

While reading this fantastic essay, this quote from Slavoj Žižek kept coming back to me: “I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves”. I can bear the onus of happiness or joie de vivre for some time. But this force enables me to get free and wallow in the sweet feelings of melancholy and nostalgia. By reading this work of Lopate, you’ll enter into the world of an intelligent man who finds most social rituals a drag. It’s worth exploring.

13. Philip Larkin – The Pleasure Principle

14. sigmund freud – thoughts for the times on war and death.

This essay reveals Freud’s disillusionment with the whole project of Western civilization. How the peaceful European countries could engage in a war that would eventually cost over 17 million lives? What stirs people to kill each other? Is it their nature, or are they puppets of imperial forces with agendas of their own? From the perspective of time, this work by Freud doesn’t seem to be fully accurate. Even so, it’s well worth your time.

15. Zadie Smith – Some Notes on Attunement

“You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing” – Francis Dolarhyde. This one is about the elusiveness of change occurring within you. For Zadie, it was hard to attune to the vibes of Joni Mitchell – especially her Blue album. But eventually, she grew up to appreciate her genius, and all the other things changed as well. This top essay is all about the relationship between humans, and art. We shouldn’t like art because we’re supposed to. We should like it because it has an instantaneous, emotional effect on us. Although, according to Stansfield (Gary Oldman) in Léon, liking Beethoven is rather mandatory.

16. Annie Dillard – Total Eclipse

My imagination was always stirred by the scene of the solar eclipse in Pharaoh, by Boleslaw Prus. I wondered about the shock of the disoriented crowd when they saw how their ruler could switch off the light. Getting immersed in this essay by Annie Dillard has a similar effect. It produces amazement and some kind of primeval fear. It’s not only the environment that changes; it’s your mind and the perception of the world. After the eclipse, nothing is going to be the same again.

17. Édouard Levé – When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue

This suicidally beautiful essay will teach you a lot about the appreciation of life and the struggle with mental illness. It’s a collection of personal, apparently unrelated thoughts that show us the rich interior of the author. You look at the real-time thoughts of another person, and then recognize the same patterns within yourself… It sounds like a confession of a person who’s about to take their life, and it’s striking in its originality.

18. Gloria E. Anzaldúa – How to Tame a Wild Tongue

19. kurt vonnegut – dispatch from a man without a country.

In terms of style, this essay is flawless. It’s simple, conversational, humorous, and yet, full of wisdom. And when Vonnegut becomes a teacher and draws an axis of “beginning – end”, and, “good fortune – bad fortune” to explain literature, it becomes outright hilarious. It’s hard to find an author with such a down-to-earth approach. He doesn’t need to get intellectual to prove a point. And the point could be summed up by the quote from Great Expectations – “On the Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip – such is Life!”

20. Mary Ruefle – On Fear

Most psychologists and gurus agree that fear is the greatest enemy of success or any creative activity. It’s programmed into our minds to keep us away from imaginary harm. Mary Ruefle takes on this basic human emotion with flair. She explores fear from so many angles (especially in the world of poetry-writing) that at the end of this personal essay, you will look at it, dissect it, untangle it, and hopefully be able to say “f**k you” the next time your brain is trying to stop you.

21. Susan Sontag – Against Interpretation

In this highly intellectual essay, Sontag fights for art and its interpretation. It’s a great lesson, especially for critics and interpreters who endlessly chew on works that simply defy interpretation. Why don’t we just leave the art alone? I always hated it when at school they asked me: “What did the author have in mind when he did X or Y?” Iēsous Pantocrator! Hell if I know! I will judge it through my subjective experience!

22. Nora Ephron – A Few Words About Breasts

This is a heartwarming, coming-of-age story about a young girl who waits in vain for her breasts to grow. It’s simply a humorous and pleasurable read. The size of breasts is a big deal for women. If you’re a man, you may peek into the mind of a woman and learn many interesting things. If you’re a woman, maybe you’ll be able to relate and at last, be at peace with your bosom.

23. Carl Sagan – Does Truth Matter – Science, Pseudoscience, and Civilization

24. paul graham – how to do what you love.

How To Do What You Love should be read by every college student and young adult. The Internet is flooded with a large number of articles and videos that are supposed to tell you what to do with your life. Most of them are worthless, but this one is different. It’s sincere, and there’s no hidden agenda behind it. There’s so much we take for granted – what we study, where we work, what we do in our free time… Surely we have another two hundred years to figure it out, right? Life’s too short to be so naïve. Please, read the essay and let it help you gain fulfillment from your work.

25. John Jeremiah Sullivan – Mister Lytle

A young, aspiring writer is about to become a nurse of a fading writer – Mister Lytle (Andrew Nelson Lytle), and there will be trouble. This essay by Sullivan is probably my favorite one from the whole list. The amount of beautiful sentences it contains is just overwhelming. But that’s just a part of its charm. It also takes you to the Old South which has an incredible atmosphere. It’s grim and tawny but you want to stay there for a while.

26. Joan Didion – On Self Respect

Normally, with that title, you would expect some straightforward advice about how to improve your character and get on with your goddamn life – but not from Joan Didion. From the very beginning, you can feel the depth of her thinking, and the unmistakable style of a true woman who’s been hurt. You can learn more from this essay than from whole books about self-improvement . It reminds me of the scene from True Detective, where Frank Semyon tells Ray Velcoro to “own it” after he realizes he killed the wrong man all these years ago. I guess we all have to “own it”, recognize our mistakes, and move forward sometimes.

27. Susan Sontag – Notes on Camp

I’ve never read anything so thorough and lucid about an artistic current. After reading this essay, you will know what camp is. But not only that – you will learn about so many artists you’ve never heard of. You will follow their traces and go to places where you’ve never been before. You will vastly increase your appreciation of art. It’s interesting how something written as a list could be so amazing. All the listicles we usually see on the web simply cannot compare with it.

28. Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance

29. david foster wallace – consider the lobster.

When you want simple field notes about a food festival, you needn’t send there the formidable David Foster Wallace. He sees right through the hypocrisy and cruelty behind killing hundreds of thousands of innocent lobsters – by boiling them alive. This essay uncovers some of the worst traits of modern American people. There are no apologies or hedging one’s bets. There’s just plain truth that stabs you in the eye like a lobster claw. After reading this essay, you may reconsider the whole animal-eating business.

30. David Foster Wallace – The Nature of the Fun

The famous novelist and author of the most powerful commencement speech ever done is going to tell you about the joys and sorrows of writing a work of fiction. It’s like taking care of a mutant child that constantly oozes smelly liquids. But you love that child and you want others to love it too. It’s a very humorous account of what it means to be an author. If you ever plan to write a novel, you should read that one. And the story about the Chinese farmer is just priceless.

31. Margaret Atwood – Attitude

This is not an essay per se, but I included it on the list for the sake of variety. It was delivered as a commencement speech at The University of Toronto, and it’s about keeping the right attitude. Soon after leaving university, most graduates have to forget about safety, parties, and travel and start a new life – one filled with a painful routine that will last until they drop. Atwood says that you don’t have to accept that. You can choose how you react to everything that happens to you (and you don’t have to stay in that dead-end job for the rest of your days).

32. Jo Ann Beard – The Fourth State of Matter

Read that one as soon as possible. It’s one of the most masterful and impactful essays you’ll ever read. It’s like a good horror – a slow build-up, and then your jaw drops to the ground. To summarize the story would be to spoil it, so I recommend that you just dig in and devour this essay in one sitting. It’s a perfect example of “show, don’t tell” writing, where the actions of characters are enough to create the right effect. No need for flowery adjectives here.

33. Terence McKenna – Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness

34. eudora welty – the little store.

By reading this little-known essay, you will be transported into the world of the old American South. It’s a remembrance of trips to the little store in a little town. It’s warm and straightforward, and when you read it, you feel like a child once more. All these beautiful memories live inside of us. They lay somewhere deep in our minds, hidden from sight. The work by Eudora Welty is an attempt to uncover some of them and let you get reacquainted with some smells and tastes of the past.

35. John McPhee – The Search for Marvin Gardens

The Search for Marvin Gardens contains many layers of meaning. It’s a story about a Monopoly championship, but also, it’s the author’s search for the lost streets visible on the board of the famous board game. It also presents a historical perspective on the rise and fall of civilizations, and on Atlantic City, which once was a lively place, and then, slowly declined, the streets filled with dirt and broken windows.

36. Maxine Hong Kingston – No Name Woman

A dead body at the bottom of the well makes for a beautiful literary device. The first line of Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red delivers it perfectly: “I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well”. There’s something creepy about the idea of the well. Just think about the “It puts the lotion in the basket” scene from The Silence of the Lambs. In the first paragraph of Kingston’s essay, we learn about a suicide committed by uncommon means of jumping into the well. But this time it’s a real story. Who was this woman? Why did she do it? Read the essay.

37. Joan Didion – On Keeping A Notebook

38. joan didion – goodbye to all that, 39. george orwell – reflections on gandhi, 40. george orwell – politics and the english language, other essays you may find interesting, oliver sacks – on libraries.

One of the greatest contributors to the knowledge about the human mind, Oliver Sacks meditates on the value of libraries and his love of books.

Noam Chomsky – The Responsibility of Intellectuals

Sam harris – the riddle of the gun.

Sam Harris, now a famous philosopher and neuroscientist, takes on the problem of gun control in the United States. His thoughts are clear of prejudice. After reading this, you’ll appreciate the value of logical discourse overheated, irrational debate that more often than not has real implications on policy.

Tim Ferriss – Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide

Edward said – reflections on exile.

The life of Edward Said was a truly fascinating one. Born in Jerusalem, he lived between Palestine and Egypt and finally settled down in the United States, where he completed his most famous work – Orientalism. In this essay, he shares his thoughts about what it means to be in exile.

Richard Feynman – It’s as Simple as One, Two, Three…

Rabindranath tagore – the religion of the forest, richard dawkins – letter to his 10-year-old daughter.

Every father should be able to articulate his philosophy of life to his children. With this letter that’s similar to what you find in the Paris Review essays , the famed atheist and defender of reason, Richard Dawkins, does exactly that. It’s beautifully written and stresses the importance of looking at evidence when we’re trying to make sense of the world.

Albert Camus – The Minotaur (or, The Stop In Oran)

Koty neelis – 21 incredible life lessons from anthony bourdain.

I included it as the last one because it’s not really an essay, but I just had to put it somewhere. In this listicle, you’ll find the 21 most original thoughts of the high-profile cook, writer, and TV host, Anthony Bourdain. Some of them are shocking, others are funny, but they’re all worth checking out.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca – On the Shortness of Life

Bertrand russell – in praise of idleness, james baldwin – stranger in the village.

It’s an essay on the author’s experiences as an African-American in a Swiss village, exploring race, identity, and alienation while highlighting the complexities of racial dynamics and the quest for belonging.

Bonus – More writing tips from two great books

The sense of style – by steven pinker, on writing well – by william zinsser, now immerse yourself in the world of essays, rafal reyzer.

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time entrepreneur building two companies, a digital marketer, and a content creator with 10+ years of experience. I started RafalReyzer.com to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient digital marketer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Explore my journey here , and don't miss out on my AI Marketing Mastery online course.

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10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked

What’s covered:, what is a personal statement.

  • Essay 1: Summer Program
  • Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American
  • Essay 3: Why Medicine
  • Essay 4: Love of Writing
  • Essay 5: Starting a Fire
  • Essay 6: Dedicating a Track
  • Essay 7: Body Image and Eating Disorders
  • Essay 8: Becoming a Coach
  • Essay 9: Eritrea
  • Essay 10: Journaling
  • Is Your Personal Statement Strong Enough?

Your personal statement is any essay that you must write for your main application, such as the Common App Essay , University of California Essays , or Coalition Application Essay . This type of essay focuses on your unique experiences, ideas, or beliefs that may not be discussed throughout the rest of your application. This essay should be an opportunity for the admissions officers to get to know you better and give them a glimpse into who you really are.

In this post, we will share 10 different personal statements that were all written by real students. We will also provide commentary on what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement, so you can make your personal statement as strong as possible!

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Personal Statement Examples

Essay example #1: exchange program.

The twisting roads, ornate mosaics, and fragrant scent of freshly ground spices had been so foreign at first. Now in my fifth week of the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco, I felt more comfortable in the city. With a bag full of pastries from the market, I navigated to a bus stop, paid the fare, and began the trip back to my host family’s house. It was hard to believe that only a few years earlier my mom was worried about letting me travel around my home city on my own, let alone a place that I had only lived in for a few weeks. While I had been on a journey towards self-sufficiency and independence for a few years now, it was Morocco that pushed me to become the confident, self-reflective person that I am today.

As a child, my parents pressured me to achieve perfect grades, master my swim strokes, and discover interesting hobbies like playing the oboe and learning to pick locks. I felt compelled to live my life according to their wishes. Of course, this pressure was not a wholly negative factor in my life –– you might even call it support. However, the constant presence of my parents’ hopes for me overcame my own sense of desire and led me to become quite dependent on them. I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school. Despite all these achievements, I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success. I had always been expected to succeed on the path they had defined. However, this path was interrupted seven years after my parents’ divorce when my dad moved across the country to Oregon.

I missed my dad’s close presence, but I loved my new sense of freedom. My parents’ separation allowed me the space to explore my own strengths and interests as each of them became individually busier. As early as middle school, I was riding the light rail train by myself, reading maps to get myself home, and applying to special academic programs without urging from my parents. Even as I took more initiatives on my own, my parents both continued to see me as somewhat immature. All of that changed three years ago, when I applied and was accepted to the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco. I would be studying Arabic and learning my way around the city of Marrakesh. Although I think my parents were a little surprised when I told them my news, the addition of a fully-funded scholarship convinced them to let me go.

I lived with a host family in Marrakesh and learned that they, too, had high expectations for me. I didn’t know a word of Arabic, and although my host parents and one brother spoke good English, they knew I was there to learn. If I messed up, they patiently corrected me but refused to let me fall into the easy pattern of speaking English just as I did at home. Just as I had when I was younger, I felt pressured and stressed about meeting their expectations. However, one day, as I strolled through the bustling market square after successfully bargaining with one of the street vendors, I realized my mistake. My host family wasn’t being unfair by making me fumble through Arabic. I had applied for this trip, and I had committed to the intensive language study. My host family’s rules about speaking Arabic at home had not been to fulfill their expectations for me, but to help me fulfill my expectations for myself. Similarly, the pressure my parents had put on me as a child had come out of love and their hopes for me, not out of a desire to crush my individuality.

As my bus drove through the still-bustling market square and past the medieval Ben-Youssef madrasa, I realized that becoming independent was a process, not an event. I thought that my parents’ separation when I was ten had been the one experience that would transform me into a self-motivated and autonomous person. It did, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t still have room to grow. Now, although I am even more self-sufficient than I was three years ago, I try to approach every experience with the expectation that it will change me. It’s still difficult, but I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important.

What the Essay Did Well

This is a nice essay because it delves into particular character trait of the student and how it has been shaped and matured over time. Although it doesn’t focus the essay around a specific anecdote, the essay is still successful because it is centered around this student’s independence. This is a nice approach for a personal statement: highlight a particular trait of yours and explore how it has grown with you.

The ideas in this essay are universal to growing up—living up to parents’ expectations, yearning for freedom, and coming to terms with reality—but it feels unique to the student because of the inclusion of details specific to them. Including their oboe lessons, the experience of riding the light rail by themselves, and the negotiations with a street vendor helps show the reader what these common tropes of growing up looked like for them personally. 

Another strength of the essay is the level of self-reflection included throughout the piece. Since there is no central anecdote tying everything together, an essay about a character trait is only successful when you deeply reflect on how you felt, where you made mistakes, and how that trait impacts your life. The author includes reflection in sentences like “ I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success, ” and “ I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important. ” These sentences help us see how the student was impacted and what their point of view is.

What Could Be Improved

The largest change this essay would benefit from is to show not tell. The platitude you have heard a million times no doubt, but for good reason. This essay heavily relies on telling the reader what occurred, making us less engaged as the entire reading experience feels more passive. If the student had shown us what happens though, it keeps the reader tied to the action and makes them feel like they are there with the student, making it much more enjoyable to read. 

For example, they tell us about the pressure to succeed their parents placed on them: “ I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school.”  They could have shown us what that pressure looked like with a sentence like this: “ My stomach turned somersaults as my rattling knee thumped against the desk before every test, scared to get anything less than a 95. For five years the painful squawk of the oboe only reminded me of my parents’ claps and whistles at my concerts. I mastered the butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle, fighting against the anchor of their expectations threatening to pull me down.”

If the student had gone through their essay and applied this exercise of bringing more detail and colorful language to sentences that tell the reader what happened, the essay would be really great. 

Table of Contents

Essay Example #2: Being Bangladeshi-American

Life before was good: verdant forests, sumptuous curries, and a devoted family.

Then, my family abandoned our comfortable life in Bangladesh for a chance at the American dream in Los Angeles. Within our first year, my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He lost his battle three weeks before my sixth birthday. Facing a new country without the steady presence of my father, we were vulnerable — prisoners of hardship in the land of the free. We resettled in the Bronx, in my uncle’s renovated basement. It was meant to be our refuge, but I felt more displaced than ever. Gone were the high-rise condos of West L.A.; instead, government projects towered over the neighborhood. Pedestrians no longer smiled and greeted me; the atmosphere was hostile, even toxic. Schoolkids were quick to pick on those they saw as weak or foreign, hurling harsh words I’d never heard before.

Meanwhile, my family began integrating into the local Bangladeshi community. I struggled to understand those who shared my heritage. Bangladeshi mothers stayed home while fathers drove cabs and sold fruit by the roadside — painful societal positions. Riding on crosstown buses or walking home from school, I began to internalize these disparities. During my fleeting encounters with affluent Upper East Siders, I saw kids my age with nannies, parents who wore suits to work, and luxurious apartments with spectacular views. Most took cabs to their destinations: cabs that Bangladeshis drove. I watched the mundane moments of their lives with longing, aching to plant myself in their shoes. Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

As I grappled with my relationship with the Bangladeshi community, I turned my attention to helping my Bronx community by pursuing an internship with Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda. I handled desk work and took calls, spending the bulk of my time actively listening to the hardships constituents faced — everything from a veteran stripped of his benefits to a grandmother unable to support her bedridden grandchild.

I’d never exposed myself to stories like these, and now I was the first to hear them. As an intern, I could only assist in what felt like the small ways — pointing out local job offerings, printing information on free ESL classes, reaching out to non-profits. But to a community facing an onslaught of intense struggles, I realized that something as small as these actions could have vast impacts. Seeing the immediate consequences of my actions inspired me. Throughout that summer, I internalized my community’s daily challenges in a new light. I began to stop seeing the prevalent underemployment and cramped living quarters less as sources of shame. Instead, I saw them as realities that had to be acknowledged, but could ultimately be remedied. I also realized the benefits of the Bangladeshi culture I had been so ashamed of. My Bangla language skills were an asset to the office, and my understanding of Bangladeshi etiquette allowed for smooth communication between office staff and its constituents. As I helped my neighbors navigate city services, I saw my heritage with pride — a perspective I never expected to have.

I can now appreciate the value of my unique culture and background, and of living with less. This perspective offers room for progress, community integration, and a future worth fighting for. My time with Assemblyman Sepulveda’s office taught me that I can be a change agent in enabling this progression. Far from being ashamed of my community, I want to someday return to local politics in the Bronx to continue helping others access the American Dream. I hope to help my community appreciate the opportunity to make progress together. By embracing reality, I learned to live it. Along the way, I discovered one thing: life is good, but we can make it better.

This student’s passion for social justice and civic duty shines through in this essay because of how honest it is. Sharing their personal experience with immigrating, moving around, being an outsider, and finding a community allows us to see the hardships this student has faced and builds empathy towards their situation. However, what really makes it strong is that they go beyond describing the difficulties they faced and explain the mental impact it had on them as a child: Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

The rejection of their culture presented at the beginning of the essay creates a nice juxtaposition with the student’s view in the latter half of the essay and helps demonstrate how they have matured. They use their experience interning as a way to delve into a change in their thought process about their culture and show how their passion for social justice began. Using this experience as a mechanism to explore their thoughts and feelings is an excellent example of how items that are included elsewhere on your application should be incorporated into your essay.

This essay prioritizes emotions and personal views over specific anecdotes. Although there are details and certain moments incorporated throughout to emphasize the author’s points, the main focus remains on the student and how they grapple with their culture and identity.  

One area for improvement is the conclusion. Although the forward-looking approach is a nice way to end an essay focused on social justice, it would be nice to include more details and imagery in the conclusion. How does the student want to help their community? What government position do they see themselves holding one day? 

A more impactful ending might look like the student walking into their office at the New York City Housing Authority in 15 years and looking at the plans to build a new development in the Bronx just blocks away from where the grew up that would provide quality housing to people in their Bangladeshi community. They would smile while thinking about how far they have come from that young kid who used to be ashamed of their culture. 

Essay Example #3: Why Medicine

I took my first trip to China to visit my cousin Anna in July of 2014. Distance had kept us apart, but when we were together, we fell into all of our old inside jokes and caught up on each other’s lives. Her sparkling personality and optimistic attitude always brought a smile to my face. This time, however, my heart broke when I saw the effects of her brain cancer; she had suffered from a stroke that paralyzed her left side. She was still herself in many ways, but I could see that the damage to her brain made things difficult for her. I stayed by her every day, providing the support she needed, whether assisting her with eating and drinking, reading to her, or just watching “Friends.” During my flight back home, sorrow and helplessness overwhelmed me. Would I ever see Anna again? Could I have done more to make Anna comfortable? I wished I could stay in China longer to care for her. As I deplaned, I wondered if I could transform my grief to help other children and teenagers in the US who suffered as Anna did.

The day after I got home, as jet lag dragged me awake a few minutes after midnight, I remembered hearing about the Family Reach Foundation (FRF) and its work with children going through treatments at the local hospital and their families. I began volunteering in the FRF’s Children’s Activity Room, where I play with children battling cancer. Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up. When they take on the roles of firefighters or fairies, we all get caught up in the game; for that time, they forget the sanitized, stark, impersonal walls of the pediatric oncology ward. Building close relationships with them and seeing them giggle and laugh is so rewarding — I love watching them grow and get better throughout their course of treatment.

Hearing from the parents about their children’s condition and seeing the children recover inspired me to consider medical research. To get started, I enrolled in a summer collegelevel course in Abnormal Psychology. There I worked with Catelyn, a rising college senior, on a data analysis project regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Together, we examined the neurological etiology of DID by studying four fMRI and PET cases. I fell in love with gathering data and analyzing the results and was amazed by our final product: several stunning brain images showcasing the areas of hyper and hypoactivity in brains affected by DID. Desire quickly followed my amazement — I want to continue this project and study more brains. Their complexity, delicacy, and importance to every aspect of life fascinate me. Successfully completing this research project gave me a sense of hope; I know I am capable of participating in a large scale research project and potentially making a difference in someone else’s life through my research.

Anna’s diagnosis inspired me to begin volunteering at FRF; from there, I discovered my desire to help people further by contributing to medical research. As my research interest blossomed, I realized that it’s no coincidence that I want to study brains—after all, Anna suffered from brain cancer. Reflecting on these experiences this past year and a half, I see that everything I’ve done is connected. Sadly, a few months after I returned from China, Anna passed away. I am still sad, but as I run a toy truck across the floor and watch one of the little patients’ eyes light up, I imagine that she would be proud of my commitment to pursue medicine and study the brain.

This essay has a very strong emotional core that tugs at the heart strings and makes the reader feel invested. Writing about sickness can be difficult and doesn’t always belong in a personal statement, but in this case it works well because the focus is on how this student cared for her cousin and dealt with the grief and emotions surrounding her condition. Writing about the compassion she showed and the doubts and concerns that filled her mind keeps the focus on the author and her personality. 

This continues when she again discusses the activities she did with the kids at FRF and the personal reflection this experience allowed her to have. For example, she writes: Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up.

Concluding the essay with the sad story of her cousin’s passing brings the essay full circle and returns to the emotional heart of the piece to once again build a connection with the reader. However, it finishes on a hopeful note and demonstrates how this student has been able to turn a tragic experience into a source of lifelong inspiration. 

One thing this essay should be cognizant of is that personal statements should not read as summaries of your extracurricular resume. Although this essay doesn’t fully fall into that trap, it does describe two key extracurriculars the student participated in. However, the inclusion of such a strong emotional core running throughout the essay helps keep the focus on the student and her thoughts and feelings during these activities.

To avoid making this mistake, make sure you have a common thread running through your essay and the extracurriculars provide support to the story you are trying to tell, rather than crafting a story around your activities. And, as this essay does, make sure there is lots of personal reflection and feelings weaved throughout to focus attention to you rather than your extracurriculars. 

Essay Example #4: Love of Writing

“I want to be a writer.” This had been my answer to every youthful discussion with the adults in my life about what I would do when I grew up. As early as elementary school, I remember reading my writing pieces aloud to an audience at “Author of the Month” ceremonies. Bearing this goal in mind, and hoping to gain some valuable experience, I signed up for a journalism class during my freshman year. Despite my love for writing, I initially found myself uninterested in the subject and I struggled to enjoy the class. When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines. Journalism required a laconic style and orderly structure, and I found my teacher’s assignments formulaic and dull. That class shook my confidence as a writer. I was uncertain if I should continue in it for the rest of my high school career.

Despite my misgivings, I decided that I couldn’t make a final decision on whether to quit journalism until I had some experience working for a paper outside of the classroom. The following year, I applied to be a staff reporter on our school newspaper. I hoped this would help me become more self-driven and creative, rather than merely writing articles that my teacher assigned. To my surprise, my time on staff was worlds away from what I experienced in the journalism class. Although I was unaccustomed to working in a fast-paced environment and initially found it burdensome to research and complete high-quality stories in a relatively short amount of time, I also found it exciting. I enjoyed learning more about topics and events on campus that I did not know much about; some of my stories that I covered in my first semester concerned a chess tournament, a food drive, and a Spanish immersion party. I relished in the freedom I had to explore and learn, and to write more independently than I could in a classroom.

Although I enjoyed many aspects of working for the paper immediately, reporting also pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I am a shy person, and speaking with people I did not know intimidated me. During my first interview, I met with the basketball coach to prepare for a story about the team’s winning streak. As I approached his office, I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block, and I could hardly get out my opening questions. Fortunately, the coach was very kind and helped me through the conversation. Encouraged, I prepared for my next interview with more confidence. After a few weeks of practice, I even started to look forward to interviewing people on campus. That first journalism class may have bored me, but even if journalism in practice was challenging, it was anything but tedious.

Over the course of that year, I grew to love writing for our school newspaper. Reporting made me aware of my surroundings, and made me want to know more about current events on campus and in the town where I grew up. By interacting with people all over campus, I came to understand the breadth of individuals and communities that make up my high school. I felt far more connected to diverse parts of my school through my work as a journalist, and I realized that journalism gave me a window into seeing beyond my own experiences. The style of news writing may be different from what I used to think “writing” meant, but I learned that I can still derive exciting plots from events that may have gone unnoticed if not for my stories. I no longer struggle to approach others, and truly enjoy getting to know people and recognizing their accomplishments through my writing. Becoming a writer may be a difficult path, but it is as rewarding as I hoped when I was young.

This essay is clearly structured in a manner that makes it flow very nicely and contributes to its success. It starts with a quote to draw in the reader and show this student’s life-long passion for writing. Then it addresses the challenges of facing new, unfamiliar territory and how this student overcame it. Finally, it concludes by reflecting on this eye-opening experience and a nod to their younger self from the introduction. Having a well-thought out and sequential structure with clear transitions makes it extremely easy for the reader to follow along and take away the main idea.

Another positive aspect of the essay is the use of strong and expressive language. Sentences like “ When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines ” stand out because of the intentional use of words like “lyrical”, “profound”, and “thrilling” to convey the student’s love of writing. The author also uses an active voice to capture the readers’ attention and keep us engaged. They rely on their language and diction to reveal details to the reader, for instance saying “ I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block ” to describe feeling nervous.

This essay is already very strong, so there isn’t much that needs to be changed. One thing that could take the essay from great to outstanding would be to throw in more quotes, internal dialogue, and sensory descriptors.

It would be nice to see the nerves they felt interviewing the coach by including dialogue like “ Um…I want to interview you about…uh…”.  They could have shown their original distaste for journalism by narrating the thoughts running through their head. The fast-paced environment of their newspaper could have come to life with descriptions about the clacking of keyboards and the whirl of people running around laying out articles.

Essay Example #5: Starting a Fire

Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire. 

Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family. 

Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt. 

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him. 

Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses. 

That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.

This student is an excellent writer, which allows a simple story to be outstandingly compelling. The author articulates her points beautifully and creatively through her immense use of details and figurative language. Lines like “a rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees,” and “rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers,” create vivid images that draw the reader in. 

The flowery and descriptive prose also contributes to the nice juxtaposition between the old Clara and the new Clara. The latter half of the essay contrasts elements of nature with music and writing to demonstrate how natural these interests are for her now. This sentence perfectly encapsulates the contrast she is trying to build: “It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive.”

In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.

There is very little this essay should change, however one thing to be cautious about is having an essay that is overly-descriptive. We know from the essay that this student likes to read and write, and depending on other elements of her application, it might make total sense to have such a flowery and ornate writing style. However, your personal statement needs to reflect your voice as well as your personality. If you would never use language like this in conversation or your writing, don’t put it in your personal statement. Make sure there is a balance between eloquence and your personal voice.

Essay Example #6: Dedicating a Track

“Getting beat is one thing – it’s part of competing – but I want no part in losing.” Coach Rob Stark’s motto never fails to remind me of his encouragement on early-morning bus rides to track meets around the state. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, but an experience last June helped me understand its more profound, universal meaning.

Stark, as we affectionately call him, has coached track at my high school for 25 years. His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running. When I learned a neighboring high school had dedicated their track to a longtime coach, I felt that Stark deserved similar honors.

Our school district’s board of education indicated they would only dedicate our track to Stark if I could demonstrate that he was extraordinary. I took charge and mobilized my teammates to distribute petitions, reach out to alumni, and compile statistics on the many team and individual champions Stark had coached over the years. We received astounding support, collecting almost 3,000 signatures and pages of endorsements from across the community. With help from my teammates, I presented this evidence to the board.

They didn’t bite. 

Most members argued that dedicating the track was a low priority. Knowing that we had to act quickly to convince them of its importance, I called a team meeting where we drafted a rebuttal for the next board meeting. To my surprise, they chose me to deliver it. I was far from the best public speaker in the group, and I felt nervous about going before the unsympathetic board again. However, at that second meeting, I discovered that I enjoy articulating and arguing for something that I’m passionate about.

Public speaking resembles a cross country race. Walking to the starting line, you have to trust your training and quell your last minute doubts. When the gun fires, you can’t think too hard about anything; your performance has to be instinctual, natural, even relaxed. At the next board meeting, the podium was my starting line. As I walked up to it, familiar butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Instead of the track stretching out in front of me, I faced the vast audience of teachers, board members, and my teammates. I felt my adrenaline build, and reassured myself: I’ve put in the work, my argument is powerful and sound. As the board president told me to introduce myself, I heard, “runners set” in the back of my mind. She finished speaking, and Bang! The brief silence was the gunshot for me to begin. 

The next few minutes blurred together, but when the dust settled, I knew from the board members’ expressions and the audience’s thunderous approval that I had run quite a race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; the board voted down our proposal. I was disappointed, but proud of myself, my team, and our collaboration off the track. We stood up for a cause we believed in, and I overcame my worries about being a leader. Although I discovered that changing the status quo through an elected body can be a painstakingly difficult process and requires perseverance, I learned that I enjoy the challenges this effort offers. Last month, one of the school board members joked that I had become a “regular” – I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.

Just as Stark taught me, I worked passionately to achieve my goal. I may have been beaten when I appealed to the board, but I certainly didn’t lose, and that would have made Stark proud.

This essay effectively conveys this student’s compassion for others, initiative, and determination—all great qualities to exemplify in a personal statement!

Although they rely on telling us a lot of what happened up until the board meeting, the use of running a race (their passion) as a metaphor for public speaking provides a lot of insight into the fear that this student overcame to work towards something bigger than themself. Comparing a podium to the starting line, the audience to the track, and silence to the gunshot is a nice way of demonstrating this student’s passion for cross country running without making that the focus of the story.

The essay does a nice job of coming full circle at the end by explaining what the quote from the beginning meant to them after this experience. Without explicitly saying “ I now know that what Stark actually meant is…” they rely on the strength of their argument above to make it obvious to the reader what it means to get beat but not lose. 

One of the biggest areas of improvement in the intro, however, is how the essay tells us Stark’s impact rather than showing us: His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

The writer could’ve helped us feel a stronger emotional connection to Stark if they had included examples of Stark’s qualities, rather than explicitly stating them. For example, they could’ve written something like: Stark was the kind of person who would give you gas money if you told him your parents couldn’t afford to pick you up from practice. And he actually did that—several times. At track meets, alumni regularly would come talk to him and tell him how he’d changed their lives. Before Stark, I was ambivalent about running and was on the JV team, but his encouragement motivated me to run longer and harder and eventually make varsity. Because of him, I approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

Essay Example #7: Body Image and Eating Disorders

I press the “discover” button on my Instagram app, hoping to find enticing pictures to satisfy my boredom. Scrolling through, I see funny videos and mouth-watering pictures of food. However, one image stops me immediately. A fit teenage girl with a “perfect body” relaxes in a bikini on a beach. Beneath it, I see a slew of flattering comments. I shake with disapproval over the image’s unrealistic quality. However, part of me still wants to have a body like hers so that others will make similar comments to me.

I would like to resolve a silent issue that harms many teenagers and adults: negative self image and low self-esteem in a world where social media shapes how people view each other. When people see the façades others wear to create an “ideal” image, they can develop poor thought patterns rooted in negative self-talk. The constant comparisons to “perfect” others make people feel small. In this new digital age, it is hard to distinguish authentic from artificial representations.

When I was 11, I developed anorexia nervosa. Though I was already thin, I wanted to be skinny like the models that I saw on the magazine covers on the grocery store stands. Little did I know that those models probably also suffered from disorders, and that photoshop erased their flaws. I preferred being underweight to being healthy. No matter how little I ate or how thin I was, I always thought that I was too fat. I became obsessed with the number on the scale and would try to eat the least that I could without my parents urging me to take more. Fortunately, I stopped engaging in anorexic behaviors before middle school. However, my underlying mental habits did not change. The images that had provoked my disorder in the first place were still a constant presence in my life.

By age 15, I was in recovery from anorexia, but suffered from depression. While I used to only compare myself to models, the growth of social media meant I also compared myself to my friends and acquaintances. I felt left out when I saw my friends’ excitement about lake trips they had taken without me. As I scrolled past endless photos of my flawless, thin classmates with hundreds of likes and affirming comments, I felt my jealousy spiral. I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.” When that didn’t work, I started to feel too anxious to post anything at all.  

Body image insecurities and social media comparisons affect thousands of people – men, women, children, and adults – every day. I am lucky – after a few months of my destructive social media habits, I came across a video that pointed out the illusory nature of social media; many Instagram posts only show off good things while people hide their flaws. I began going to therapy, and recovered from my depression. To address the problem of self-image and social media, we can all focus on what matters on the inside and not what is on the surface. As an effort to become healthy internally, I started a club at my school to promote clean eating and radiating beauty from within. It has helped me grow in my confidence, and today I’m not afraid to show others my struggles by sharing my experience with eating disorders. Someday, I hope to make this club a national organization to help teenagers and adults across the country. I support the idea of body positivity and embracing difference, not “perfection.” After all, how can we be ourselves if we all look the same?

This essay covers the difficult topics of eating disorders and mental health. If you’re thinking about covering similar topics in your essay, we recommend reading our post Should You Talk About Mental Health in College Essays?

The short answer is that, yes, you can talk about mental health, but it can be risky. If you do go that route, it’s important to focus on what you learned from the experience.

The strength of this essay is the student’s vulnerability, in excerpts such as this: I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.”

The student goes on to share how they recovered from their depression through an eye-opening video and therapy sessions, and they’re now helping others find their self-worth as well. It’s great that this essay looks towards the future and shares the writer’s goals of making their club a national organization; we can see their ambition and compassion.

The main weakness of this essay is that it doesn’t focus enough on their recovery process, which is arguably the most important part. They could’ve told us more about the video they watched or the process of starting their club and the interactions they’ve had with other members. Especially when sharing such a vulnerable topic, there should be vulnerability in the recovery process too. That way, the reader can fully appreciate all that this student has overcome.

Essay Example #8: Becoming a Coach

”Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.

Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.

Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.

I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.

At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.

Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.

Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.

Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.

Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.

This essay begins with an in-the-moment narrative that really illustrates the chaos of looking for a coach last-minute. We feel the writer’s emotions, particularly her dejectedness, at not being able to compete. Starting an essay in media res  is a great way to capture the attention of your readers and build anticipation for what comes next.

Through this essay, we can see how gutsy and determined the student is in deciding to become a coach themselves. She shows us these characteristics through their actions, rather than explicitly telling us: To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side.  Also, by discussing the opposition she faced and how it affected her, the student is open and vulnerable about the reality of the situation.

The essay comes full circle as the author recalls the frantic situations in seeking out a coach, but this is no longer a concern for them and their team. Overall, this essay is extremely effective in painting this student as mature, bold, and compassionate.

The biggest thing this essay needs to work on is showing not telling. Throughout the essay, the student tells us that she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence,” she “grew unsure of her own abilities,” and she “refused to give up”. What we really want to know is what this looks like.

Instead of saying she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence” she should have shared how she taught a new move to a fellow team-member without hesitation. Rather than telling us she “grew unsure of her own abilities” she should have shown what that looked like by including her internal dialogue and rhetorical questions that ran through her mind. She could have demonstrated what “refusing to give up” looks like by explaining how she kept learning coaching techniques on her own, turned to a mentor for advice, or devised a plan to win over the trust of parents. 

Essay Example #9: Eritrea

No one knows where Eritrea is.

On the first day of school, for the past nine years, I would pensively stand in front of a class, a teacher, a stranger  waiting for the inevitable question: Where are you from?

I smile politely, my dimples accentuating my ambiguous features. “Eritrea,” I answer promptly and proudly. But I  am always prepared. Before their expression can deepen into confusion, ready to ask “where is that,” I elaborate,  perhaps with a fleeting hint of exasperation, “East Africa, near Ethiopia.”

Sometimes, I single out the key-shaped hermit nation on a map, stunning teachers who have “never had a student  from there!” Grinning, I resist the urge to remark, “You didn’t even know it existed until two minutes ago!”

Eritrea is to the East of Ethiopia, its arid coastline clutches the lucrative Red Sea. Battle scars litter the ancient  streets – the colonial Italian architecture lathered with bullet holes, the mosques mangled with mortar shells.  Originally part of the world’s first Christian kingdom, Eritrea passed through the hands of colonial Italy, Britain, and  Ethiopia for over a century, until a bloody thirty year war of Independence liberated us.

But these are facts that anyone can know with a quick Google search. These are facts that I have memorised and compounded, first from my Grandmother and now from pristine books  borrowed from the library.

No historical narrative, however, can adequately capture what Eritrea is.  No one knows the aroma of bushels of potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic – still covered in dirt – that leads you to the open-air market. No one knows the poignant scent of spices, arranged in orange piles reminiscent of compacted  dunes.  No one knows how to haggle stubborn herders for sheep and roosters for Christmas celebrations as deliberately as my mother. No one can replicate the perfect balance of spices in dorho and tsebhi as well as my grandmother,  her gnarly hands stirring the pot with ancient precision (chastising my clumsy knife work with the potatoes).  It’s impossible to learn when the injera is ready – the exact moment you have to lift the lid of the mogogo. Do it too  early (or too late) and the flatbread becomes mangled and gross. It is a sixth sense passed through matriarchal  lineages.

There are no sources that catalogue the scent of incense that wafts through the sunlit porch on St. Michael’s; no  films that can capture the luminescence of hundreds of flaming bonfires that fluoresce the sidewalks on Kudus  Yohannes, as excited children chant Ge’ez proverbs whose origin has been lost to time.  You cannot learn the familiarity of walking beneath the towering Gothic figure of the Enda Mariam Cathedral, the  crowds undulating to the ringing of the archaic bells.  I have memorized the sound of the rains hounding the metal roof during kiremti , the heat of the sun pounding  against the Toyota’s window as we sped down towards Ghinda , the opulent brilliance of the stars twinkling in a  sky untainted by light pollution, the scent of warm rolls of bani wafting through the streets at precisely 6 o’clock each day…

I fill my flimsy sketchbook with pictures from my memory. My hand remembers the shapes of the hibiscus drifting  in the wind, the outline of my grandmother (affectionately nicknamed a’abaye ) leaning over the garden, the bizarre architecture of the Fiat Tagliero .  I dice the vegetables with movements handed down from generations. My nose remembers the scent of frying garlic, the sourness of the warm tayta , the sharpness of the mit’mt’a …

This knowledge is intrinsic.  “I am Eritrean,” I repeat. “I am proud.”  Within me is an encyclopedia of history, culture, and idealism.

Eritrea is the coffee made from scratch, the spices drying in the sun, the priests and nuns. Eritrea is wise, filled with ambition, and unseen potential.  Eritrea isn’t a place, it’s an identity.

This is an exceptional essay that provides a window into this student’s culture that really makes their love for their country and heritage leap off the page. The sheer level of details and sensory descriptors this student is able to fit in this space makes the essay stand out. From the smells, to the traditions, sounds, and sights, the author encapsulates all the glory of Eritrea for the reader. 

The vivid images this student is able to create for the reader, whether it is having the tedious conversation with every teacher or cooking in their grandmother’s kitchen, transports us into the story and makes us feel like we are there in the moment with the student. This is a prime example of an essay that shows , not tells.

Besides the amazing imagery, the use of shorter paragraphs also contributes to how engaging this essay is. Employing this tactic helps break up the text to make it more readable and it isolates ideas so they stick out more than if they were enveloped in a large paragraph.

Overall, this is a really strong essay that brings to life this student’s heritage through its use of vivid imagery. This essay exemplifies what it means to show not tell in your writing, and it is a great example of how you can write an intimate personal statement without making yourself the primary focus of your essay. 

There is very little this essay should improve upon, but one thing the student might consider would be to inject more personal reflection into their response. Although we can clearly take away their deep love and passion for their homeland and culture, the essay would be a bit more personal if they included the emotions and feelings they associate with the various aspects of Eritrea. For example, the way their heart swells with pride when their grandmother praises their ability to cook a flatbread or the feeling of serenity when they hear the bells ring out from the cathedral. Including personal details as well as sensory ones would create a wonderful balance of imagery and reflection.

Essay Example #10: Journaling

Flipping past dozens of colorful entries in my journal, I arrive at the final blank sheet. I press my pen lightly to the page, barely scratching its surface to create a series of loops stringing together into sentences. Emotions spill out, and with their release, I feel lightness in my chest. The stream of thoughts slows as I reach the bottom of the page, and I gently close the cover of the worn book: another journal finished.

I add the journal to the stack of eleven books on my nightstand. Struck by the bittersweet sensation of closing a chapter of my life, I grab the notebook at the bottom of the pile to reminisce.

“I want to make a flying mushen to fly in space and your in it” – October 2008

Pulling back the cover of my first Tinkerbell-themed diary, the prompt “My Hopes and Dreams” captures my attention. Though “machine” is misspelled in my scribbled response, I see the beginnings of my past obsession with outer space. At the age of five, I tore through novels about the solar system, experimented with rockets built from plastic straws, and rented Space Shuttle films from Blockbuster to satisfy my curiosities. While I chased down answers to questions as limitless as the universe, I fell in love with learning. Eight journals later, the same relentless curiosity brought me to an airplane descending on San Francisco Bay.

“I wish I had infinite sunsets” – July 2019

I reach for the charcoal notepad near the top of the pile and open to the first page: my flight to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. While I was excited to explore bioengineering, anxiety twisted in my stomach as I imagined my destination, unsure of whether I could overcome my shyness and connect with others.

With each new conversation, the sweat on my palms became less noticeable, and I met students from 23 different countries. Many of the moments where I challenged myself socially revolved around the third story deck of the Jerry house. A strange medley of English, Arabic, and Mandarin filled the summer air as my friends and I gathered there every evening, and dialogues at sunset soon became moments of bliss. In our conversations about cultural differences, the possibility of an afterlife, and the plausibility of far-fetched conspiracy theories, I learned to voice my opinion. As I was introduced to different viewpoints, these moments challenged my understanding of the world around me. In my final entries from California, I find excitement to learn from others and increased confidence, a tool that would later allow me to impact my community.

“The beauty in a tower of cans” – June 2020

Returning my gaze to the stack of journals, I stretch to take the floral-patterned book sitting on top. I flip through, eventually finding the beginnings of the organization I created during the outbreak of COVID-19. Since then, Door-to-Door Deliveries has woven its way through my entries and into reality, allowing me to aid high-risk populations through free grocery delivery.

With the confidence I gained the summer before, I took action when seeing others in need rather than letting my shyness hold me back. I reached out to local churches and senior centers to spread word of our services and interacted with customers through our website and social media pages. To further expand our impact, we held two food drives, and I mustered the courage to ask for donations door-to-door. In a tower of canned donations, I saw the value of reaching out to help others and realized my own potential to impact the world around me.

I delicately close the journal in my hands, smiling softly as the memories reappear, one after another. Reaching under my bed, I pull out a fresh notebook and open to its first sheet. I lightly press my pen to the page, “And so begins the next chapter…”

The structuring of this essay makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The student effectively organizes their various life experiences around their tower of journals, which centers the reader and makes the different stories easy to follow. Additionally, the student engages quotes from their journals—and unique formatting of the quotes—to signal that they are moving in time and show us which memory we should follow them to.

Thematically, the student uses the idea of shyness to connect the different memories they draw out of their journals. As the student describes their experiences overcoming shyness at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes and Door-to-Door Deliveries, this essay can be read as an Overcoming Obstacles essay.

At the end of this essay, readers are fully convinced that this student is dedicated (they have committed to journaling every day), thoughtful (journaling is a thoughtful process and, in the essay, the student reflects thoughtfully on the past), and motivated (they flew across the country for a summer program and started a business). These are definitely qualities admissions officers are looking for in applicants!

Although this essay is already exceptionally strong as it’s written, the first journal entry feels out of place compared to the other two entries that discuss the author’s shyness and determination. It works well for the essay to have an entry from when the student was younger to add some humor (with misspelled words) and nostalgia, but if the student had either connected the quote they chose to the idea of overcoming a fear present in the other two anecdotes or if they had picked a different quote all together related to their shyness, it would have made the entire essay feel more cohesive.

Where to Get Your Personal Statement Edited

Do you want feedback on your personal statement? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Next Step: Supplemental Essays

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How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity College Essay

4 Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay

How to Write the “Why This College” Essay

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Blog • Perfecting your Craft

Last updated on Oct 31, 2022

10 Personal Narrative Examples to Inspire Your Writing

Personal narratives are short pieces of creative nonfiction that recount a story from someone’s own experiences. They can be a memoir, a thinkpiece, or even a polemic — so long as the piece is grounded in the writer's beliefs and experiences, it can be considered a personal narrative.

Despite the nonfiction element, there’s no single way to approach this topic, and you can be as creative as you would be writing fiction. To inspire your writing and reveal the sheer diversity of this type of essay, here are ten great examples personal narratives from recent years: 

1. “Only Disconnect” by Gary Shteyngart

best titles for personal essays

Personal narratives don’t have to be long to be effective, as this thousand-word gem from the NYT book review proves. Published in 2010, just as smartphones were becoming a ubiquitous part of modern life, this piece echoes many of our fears surrounding technology and how it often distances us from reality.

In this narrative, Shteyngart navigates Manhattan using his new iPhone—or more accurately, is led by his iPhone, completely oblivious to the world around him. He’s completely lost to the magical happenstance of the city as he “follow[s] the arrow taco-ward”. But once he leaves for the country, and abandons the convenience of a cell phone connection, the real world comes rushing back in and he remembers what he’s been missing out on. 

The downfalls of technology is hardly a new topic, but Shteyngart’s story remains evergreen because of how our culture has only spiraled further down the rabbit hole of technology addiction in the intervening years.

What can you learn from this piece?

Just because a piece of writing is technically nonfiction, that doesn’t mean that the narrative needs to be literal. Shteyngart imagines a Manhattan that physically changes around him when he’s using his iPhone, becoming an almost unrecognizable world. From this, we can see how a certain amount of dramatization can increase the impact of your message—even if that wasn’t exactly the way something happened. 

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2. “Why I Hate Mother's Day” by Anne Lamott

The author of the classic writing text Bird by Bird digs into her views on motherhood in this piece from Salon. At once a personal narrative and a cultural commentary, Lamott explores the harmful effects that Mother’s Day may have on society —how its blind reverence to the concept of motherhood erases women’s agency and freedom to be flawed human beings. 

Lamott points out that not all mothers are good, not everyone has a living mother to celebrate, and some mothers have lost their children, so have no one to celebrate with them. More importantly, she notes how this Hallmark holiday erases all the people who helped raise a woman, a long chain of mothers and fathers, friends and found family, who enable her to become a mother. While it isn’t anchored to a single story or event (like many classic personal narratives), Lamott’s exploration of her opinions creates a story about a culture that puts mothers on an impossible pedestal. 

In a personal narrative essay, lived experience can be almost as valid as peer-reviewed research—so long as you avoid making unfounded assumptions. While some might point out that this is merely an opinion piece, Lamott cannily starts the essay by grounding it in the personal, revealing how she did not raise her son to celebrate Mother’s Day. This detail, however small, invites the reader into her private life and frames this essay as a story about her —and not just an exercise in being contrary.

3. “The Crane Wife” by CJ Hauser 

Days after breaking off her engagement with her fiance, CJ Hauser joins a scientific expedition on the Texas coast r esearching whooping cranes . In this new environment, she reflects on the toxic relationship she left and how she found herself in this situation. She pulls together many seemingly disparate threads, using the expedition and the Japanese myth of the crane wife as a metaphor for her struggles. 

Hauser’s interactions with the other volunteer researchers expand the scope of the narrative from her own mind, reminding her of the compassion she lacked in her relationship. In her attempts to make herself smaller, less needy, to please her fiance, she lost sight of herself and almost signed up to live someone else’s life, but among the whooping cranes of Texas, she takes the first step in reconnecting with herself.

With short personal narratives, there isn’t as much room to develop characters as you might have in a memoir so the details you do provide need to be clear and specific. Each of the volunteer researchers on Hauser’s expedition are distinct and recognizable though Hauser is economical in her descriptions. 

For example, Hauser describes one researcher as “an eighty-four-year-old bachelor from Minnesota. He could not do most of the physical activities required by the trip, but had been on ninety-five Earthwatch expeditions, including this one once before. Warren liked birds okay. What Warren really loved was cocktail hour.” 

In a few sentences, we get a clear picture of Warren's fun-loving, gregarious personality and how he fits in with the rest of the group.

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4. “The Trash Heap Has Spoken” by Carmen Maria Machado

The films and TV shows of the 80s and 90s—cultural touchstones that practically raised a generation—hardly ever featured larger women on screen. And if they did, it was either as a villain or a literal trash heap. Carmen Maria Machado grew up watching these cartoons, and the absence of fat women didn’t faze her. Not until puberty hit and she went from a skinny kid to a fuller-figured teen. Suddenly uncomfortable in her skin, she struggled to find any positive representation in her favorite media.

As she gets older and more comfortable in her own body, Machado finds inspiration in Marjory the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock and Ursula, everyone’s favorite sea witch from The Little Mermaid —characters with endless power in the unapologetic ways they inhabit their bodies. As Machado considers her own body through the years, it’s these characters she returns to as she faces society’s unkind, dismissive attitudes towards fat women.

Stories shape the world, even if they’re fictional. Some writers strive for realism, reflecting the world back on itself in all its ugliness, but Carmen Maria Machado makes a different point. There is power in being imaginative and writing the world as it could be, imagining something bigger, better, and more beautiful. So, write the story you want to see, change the narrative, look at it sideways, and show your readers how the world could look. 

5. “Am I Disabled?” by Joanne Limburg 

The titular question frames the narrative of Joanne Limburg’s essay as she considers the implications of disclosing her autism. What to some might seem a mundane occurrence—ticking ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘prefer not to say’ on a bureaucratic form—elicits both philosophical and practical questions for Limburg about what it means to be disabled and how disability is viewed by the majority of society. 

Is the labor of disclosing her autism worth the insensitive questions she has to answer? What definition are people seeking, exactly? Will anyone believe her if she says yes? As she dissects the question of what disability is, she explores the very real personal effects this has on her life and those of other disabled people. 

Limburg’s essay is written in a style known as the hermit crab essay , when an author uses an existing document form to contain their story. You can format your writing as a recipe, a job application, a resume, an email, or a to-do list – the possibilities are as endless as your creativity. The format you choose is important, though. It should connect in some way to the story you’re telling and add something to the reader’s experience as well as your overall theme. 

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6. “Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard

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While out on a walk in the woods behind her house, Annie Dillard encounters a wild weasel. In the short moment when they make eye contact, Dillard takes an imaginary journey through the weasel’s mind and wonders if the weasel’s approach to life is better than her own. 

The weasel, as Dillard sees it, is a wild creature with jaws so powerful that when it clamps on to something, it won’t let go, even into death. Necessity drives it to be like this, and humanity, obsessed with choice, might think this kind of life is limiting, but the writer believes otherwise. The weasel’s necessity is the ultimate freedom, as long as you can find the right sort, the kind that will have you holding on for dear life and refusing to let go. 

Make yourself the National Geographic explorer of your backyard or neighborhood and see what you can learn about yourself from what you discover. Annie Dillard, queen of the natural personal essay, discovers a lot about herself and her beliefs when meeting a weasel.

What insight can you glean from a blade of grass, for example? Does it remind you that despite how similar people might be, we are all unique? Do the flights of migrating birds give you perspective on the changes in your own life? Nature is a potent and never-ending spring of inspiration if you only think to look. 

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7. “Love In Our Seventies” by Ellery Akers

“ And sometimes, when I lift the gray hair at the back of your neck and kiss your shoulder, I think, This is it.”

In under 400 words, poet Ellery Akers captures the joy she has found in discovering romance as a 75-year-old . The language is romantic, but her imagery is far from saccharine as she describes their daily life and the various states in which they’ve seen each other: in their pajamas, after cataract surgeries, while meditating. In each singular moment, Akers sees something she loves, underscoring an oft-forgotten truth. Love is most potent in its smallest gestures.  

Personal narrative isn’t a defined genre with rigid rules, so your essay doesn’t have to be an essay. It can be a poem, as Akers’ is. The limitations of this form can lead to greater creativity as you’re trying to find a short yet evocative way to tell a story. It allows you to focus deeply on the emotions behind an idea and create an intimate connection with your reader. 

8. “What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew” by Mariama Lockington

best titles for personal essays

Mariama Lockington was adopted by her white parents in the early 80s, long before it was “trendy” for white people to adopt black children. Starting with a family photograph, the writer explores her complex feelings about her upbringing , the many ways her parents ignored her race for their own comfort, and how she came to feel like an outsider in her own home. In describing her childhood snapshots, she takes the reader from infancy to adulthood as she navigates trying to live as a black woman in a white family. 

Lockington takes us on a journey through her life through a series of vignettes. These small, important moments serve as a framing device, intertwining to create a larger narrative about race, family, and belonging. 

With this framing device, it’s easy to imagine Lockington poring over a photo album, each picture conjuring a different memory and infusing her story with equal parts sadness, regret, and nostalgia. You can create a similar effect by separating your narrative into different songs to create an album or episodes in a TV show. A unique structure can add an extra layer to your narrative and enhance the overall story.

9. “Drinking Chai to Savannah” by Anjali Enjeti

On a trip to Savannah with her friends, Anjali Enjeti is reminded of a racist incident she experienced as a teenager . The memory is prompted by her discomfort of traveling in Georgia as a South Asian woman and her friends’ seeming obliviousness to how others view them. As she recalls the tense and traumatic encounter she had in line at a Wendy’s and the worry she experiences in Savannah, Enjeti reflects on her understanding of otherness and race in America. 

Enjeti paints the scene in Wendy’s with a deft hand. Using descriptive language, she invokes the five senses to capture the stress and fear she felt when the men in line behind her were hurling racist sentiments. 

She writes, “He moves closer. His shadow eclipses mine. His hot, tobacco-tinged breath seeps over the collar of my dress.” The strong, evocative language she uses brings the reader into the scene and has them experience the same anxiety she does, understanding why this incident deeply impacted her. 

10. “Siri Tells A Joke” by Debra Gwartney

One day, Debra Gwartney asks Siri—her iPhone’s digital assistant—to tell her a joke. In reply, Siri recites a joke with a familiar setup about three men stuck on a desert island. When the punchline comes, Gwartney reacts not with laughter, but with a memory of her husband , who had died less than six months prior.

In a short period, Gwartney goes through a series of losses—first, her house and her husband’s writing archives to a wildfire, and only a month after, her husband. As she reflects on death and the grief of those left behind in the wake of it, she recounts the months leading up to her husband’s passing and the interminable stretch after as she tries to find a way to live without him even as she longs for him. 

A joke about three men on a deserted island seems like an odd setup for an essay about grief. However, Gwartney uses it to great effect, coming back to it later in the story and giving it greater meaning. By the end of her piece, she recontextualizes the joke, the original punchline suddenly becoming deeply sad. In taking something seemingly unrelated and calling back to it later, the essay’s message about grief and love becomes even more powerful.

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Shiny Essays Blog

Creative titles for essays: examples & advice.

A title is indeed the “Why” of your essay. It is a phrase that determines whether a reader will pass by or get interested in the story. These words set a tone of your piece and establish borders for the narrative.

creative essay title

Our writing agency Shinyessays.com specializes in all types of texts for high schools and colleges. We have seen thousands of essays, reports, case studies, etc. They all had headlines: catchy or boring, bold or standard, awesome or so-so. Thus, our authors know firsthand what a good title for an academic article or any other paper is.

We are willing to share our experience on this blog post. And we would be even more glad to come up with a title for your text. Send it to our support agents and get the best name for your opus.

Creativity is what you need most when it deals with headlines. One needs to compose a unique expression reflecting the overriding message of the whole project. Our professionals have enough experience and talent to make it captivating and informative.

A title tells a lot about the author, revealing his/her imagination, analytical abilities, a level of intelligence, etc. We want you to show the best version of your skills to professors, so our services are at your disposal.

How to come up with a good title? Ultimate guide

A title for the essay is the first phrase that is noticed by a reader. Yet, it is not the first wording that an author comes up with.

Experienced authors of Shinyessays.com often create a headline after they have finished the whole paper. Why so? It is mainly because they need to tie this heading to the text of the essay. Meantime, one of the following goals must be achieved.

Types of titles according to purposes:

  • intriguing and promising,
  • eye-catching,
  • informative.

Your headline can contain one or even more aspects. However, the key thing is to make people read the text below the title. It is obviously worth your time and attention.

Things that work good for your titles:

  • relevance to the topic of the argumentative essay,
  • symbols: figures and abbreviations.

Do essays always have titles?

We suppose that every essay should have a unique headline. It is like a name for a book. People need this phrase to associate your piece with it.

Cool titles for essays are the first step to your successful essay.

Obviously, a headline must be composed correctly. You might have found numerous methods to do it, yet beware of the dubious ones.

Misconceptions concerning interesting titles for essays

  • It is enough to copy the title from a given assignment

In doing so, you simply show a lack of creativeness. If you want to demonstrate a writing talent, you’d better come up with your variant.

  • One is free to rewrite a title from another essay

Do not forget about the plagiarism check. In addition, your professors have already read hundreds of catchy title names for essays, and they definitely do not expect to stumble upon a duplicate.

  • Why not use a creative paper title generator ?

Seriously, have you ever tried to do it? It is our understanding that such online tools can be used for inspiration only.

Professional help is the most reliable way to get a brilliant title for the text. Still, we have prepared guideline in case you want to try your hand at this stuff.

Practical tips

  • Learn the requirements of your educational institution. There might be rigorous standards on its length and content.
  • Study the titles of similar essays. You can look through academic papers on your subject. Thus, you will feel the style and the manner of composing headers. Trust your feelings. Try to evaluate what title is catchy and which one is boring. The best title is the one that grabs attention and “invites” to read the whole text.
  • Do not write a title until the whole text is ready. It could double your efforts. Yes, you could have particular thoughts before writing a report. It is not the reason to rush to invent a heading. The thing is that a written text can be different from your intentions and images.

Short cheatsheet

  • Finish your essay and revise it with fresh eyes.
  • Determine the core message of your opus.
  • Think about people who made you write this piece. It is not always a muse who inspires authors to create essays. Many literary works are born under the impression of some real personalities. You might devote the text to someone or address an important message to a particular audience.
  • Try to compose several titles. A good heading is a matter of degree.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the readers. Would you read this text if you were a teacher?

Hints for those who are bold enough to go against rules

If your professors do not mind, use the following elements:

  • provocative questions,
  • brave suggestions, etc.

A secret of an intriguing title

Add a moment of surprise to your headline. Use words and phrases that highlight it:

  • “unexpected,”
  • “you didn’t know,”
  • “dispelled myths,” etc.

example of a title for essay

The title of your essay: what should it be?

A well-considered title is half the battle. It is not only about a beautiful phrase. The thing is your headline reveals the essence of the whole research paper. It can be called “an idea” of your project, while other parts of the text are “implementation”.

Honestly, we could barely find any lessons or articles on how to write good titles for gender inequality essays. They don’t teach this stuff in detail at colleges and universities. That is why our authors have gathered materials on the Internet and from personal notes. We hope this post will be informative and helpful for you.

There exist different views on titles for essays. We consider, above all, a title as a hook for attention.

How to title an essay? 4 ways from our experts

Here is a classification based on the experience and individual feelings of our writers. It is a helpful instrument to come up with a headline fast.

1) Direct (traditional) title

We would rather call it “boring.” However, such headlines can be justified in terms of educational or academic standards.

There is nothing special in this phrase. It is concise and informative enough. That’s it. If you have strict requirements concerning academic writing, do not overdo with creativeness. No questions, games of words, citations, etc. A clear, direct title is precisely what you need in this situation. This neutral approach highlights seriousness and allegiance to rules.

Good examples:

  • Documents (Charles D’Ambrosio)
  • Death of the Moth (Virginia Woolf)
  • Thoughts for the Times on War and Death (Sigmund Freud)
  • How To Do What You Love (Paul Graham)
  • Self-Reliance (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Do not be afraid to seem banal using such wordings. Brevity is evidence for good analytical skills.

2) Titles with exaggerations

An exaggeration makes your title bright. The only thing is to stay honest while using it. One can add words: “secrets,” “dire predictions,” “terrifying mystery,” “unbelievable,” etc. Such titles will definitely make your essay stand out among others.

3) Bold titles presenting fresh views

It is a good idea to show your original insight right in the title.

  • Is Pedantry the Mother of the Essay? (Ken Chen)
  • The Hottest Water in Chicago: On Family, Race, Time and American Culture (Gayle Pemberton)
  • Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through (T. Fleischmann)

4) Manipulations with common phrases, a game of words and  paradoxes

Take a famous expression and change some words in it.

  • The Mother Of All Questions (Rebecca Solnit,2016)

You could use something like:

  • Knowledge and nothing else matters...
  • Intellectual progress must go on...
  • Keep calm and develop the mind...

Apparently, an academic sphere has strict rules and requirements on composing clever argumentative persuasive essay titles. Yet, if you are lucky to have some freedom, use creativeness. In case of a writer’s block, go to our live chat and order professional services from our authors .

So, a perfect title for an essay...

What is a secret formula for it? Actually, we cannot give you one right universal answer. The thing is that one should consider various factors.

  • sphere (essay for blogs, for education, for science magazine),
  • style of writing,
  • a discipline,
  • a level of seriousness,
  • a target audience (reader).

We cannot judge whether a title is good or bad until we know the text below and its purpose. The rules are relative. What is good for an academic essay may be dull for a college essay on a free topic. Thus, do not forget to attach detailed instructions when ordering our writing services https://shinyessays.com/blog/online-essay-writing-at-shinyessayscom .

Creative ideas for essay titles

It happens that you have enough knowledge on how to compose a headline. You have read our tips, learned the rules that a professor gave you, and still feel a writer’s block. Indeed, it is not easy to say everything you want in one phrase.

Here are some hints to develop your imagination.

Read headlines from blogs

Some of them can inspire you to create an essay for a college paper. Check out our captivating articles , for instance.

Take this one, for example.

essay title example

This title is intriguing since it tells about an outlook on students in the nearest future. Sounds curious, does it? In addition, it is rather compelling due to mentioning “experts.”

Social advertisement

As a rule, such projects are aimed to cause feelings. They are awesome sources of inspiration if  you need an emotional title. Striving to convey the main idea fully, its creators come up with “spot-on” slogans.

  • This one is from the anti-anorexia advertisement:

title from social ad

( Source is here )

  • For the homeless, every day is a struggle

(Source: https://www.treedom.net/en/blog/post/the-campaign-of-clemenger-bbdo-every-day-is-a-struggle-for-the-homeless-339 )

What do professional essayists write?

Famous authors are definitely good at titles for their literary works. Here are some popular essays:

  • Why I Write (George Orwell,1946)
  • A Modest Proposal (Jonathan Swift, 1729)
  • Courage (JM Barrie,1922)
  • Advice To Youth (Mark Twain, 1882)
  • Eichmann and the Private Conscience (Martha Gellhorn, 1962)

Modern writers also often choose an essay as a preferred manner of writing. Interestingly, you can read most of their pieces online. For instance, The New Yorker has a column for essays. It can spark a thought too.

Here are the latest titles for essays from this portal:

  • Love and Anger (Keith Gessen, December 23, 2019)
  • Darryl Pinckney’s Intimate Study of Black History (Zadie Smith, November 26, 2019)
  • Fred Moten’s Radical Critique of the Present (By David Wallace, April 30, 2018)
  • What Makes an Essay American (Vinson Cunningham, May 13, 2016)
  • Vivian Gornick Is Rereading Everyone, Including Herself (Alexandra Schwartz, February 3, 2020)

Helpful tip: You know, it is not even compulsory to read all these stories. You can simply review their titles and come up with a new idea.

Titles from celebrities

Do you have an idol or a hero among stars? Maybe, he/she is a good essayist too.

  • The Meanings of the Selfie (James Franco)
  • Matt Damon’s Marathon (Matt Damon)
  • Confessions of a Juggler (Tina Fey)
  • The Death of My Father (Steve Martin)
  • My Medical Choice (Angelina Jolie)

​ Statuses from social media

Social media is often criticized for low-quality content and too much advertisement. This statement is quite dubious. We strongly believe that it is a matter of an individual choice. For example, their headlines and statuses can inspire you to formulate a title for a college essay.

  • #Not all classrooms have 4 walls
  • #Retain female talent in science

Essay title generator online or human talents?

This age of fantastic technological opportunities offers numerous online tools. A free creative scholarship essay titles generator is among them. What does it actually do? As a rule, its algorithm chooses words and phrases relevant to the topic. Probably, it has a database of catchy phrases and, thus, it combines them with your keyword.

We, on our part, believe that a manual way is still better than the automatic one. The thing is that artificial intelligence still cannot fully understand the sense of your essay, feel the mood, and reflect the tone in one phrase. Therefore, do not rely on such programs too much.

Read at your leisure:

  • Best Ideas for Research Paper Topics in 2019: 100+ variants
  • College Essay Writing Workshop
  • Professional Essay Writing

Striving to find the best headline

The most suitable title for an essay implies one main phrase. It must focus attention on the sense of your paper, as well as engage people to keep reading the further text. In fact, it will be found somewhere at the intersection of college standards and your imagination. Enthusiastic writers of Shinyessays.com are willing to pick the best words for your headline. We can provide several options so that you could choose the finest one. Send us your draft, and we will find a superb title, or order writing services and get a ready-made paper. Give it a go today.

You might also like:

  • How to Write a Great Motivation Essay Paper
  • Why are Veterans Important Essay Example
  • Do Video Games Cause Violence" Essay

Place your order — make the first step to your hassle-free life!

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IMAGES

  1. 💄 Essay title ideas. Interesting Essay Title Guide With 40+ Topics

    best titles for personal essays

  2. How to write the best Essay Titles?

    best titles for personal essays

  3. How to Title an Essay: Guide with Creative Examples [2023]

    best titles for personal essays

  4. Good Titles for Essays about yourself: 31 Personal Essay Topics

    best titles for personal essays

  5. How to Title an Essay: Guide with Creative Examples [2023]

    best titles for personal essays

  6. ⚡ How to make a catchy title for an essay. How To Make Catchy Titles

    best titles for personal essays

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COMMENTS

  1. Good Titles for Essays about yourself: 31 Personal Essay Topics

    31 Personal Essays Topics. The hardest breaking news I had to deliver. How I spent a fortune on travel. The things I can do that robots can never do. The animal I would like to be. The one thing I would change at my school. What I have learnt about conquering poverty. A disappointment I will never forget.

  2. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts '17 graduate. 2. Write like a journalist. "Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading.

  3. 110 Personal Essay Topics

    Generally, a personal essay will have no less than three body paragraphs that detail your experience in chronological order. Each section should discuss one part of the story, including the events leading up to it, what happened during the experience, and what you learned from it. Body paragraphs may also include examples of feelings, emotions ...

  4. 100+ Personal Essay Topics For College And Writing Tips

    Personal essay topics usually include real stories, experiences, and opinions of people. Writers need to give an account of their own experience and express their thoughts on the subject of a paper. The key to success is to make an attempt to combine narration and opinion together. In this article, you will find a short writing guide and 100 ...

  5. Personal Essay Topics and Prompts

    A personal essay is an essay about your life, thoughts, or experiences. This type of essay will give readers a glimpse into your most intimate life experiences and life lessons. There are many reasons you may need to write a personal essay, from a simple class assignment to a college application requirement.You can use the list below for inspiration. Consider each statement a starting point ...

  6. 53 Stellar College Essay Topics to Inspire You

    Once you've chosen a general topic to write about, get out a piece of paper and get to work on creating a list of all the key details you could include in your essay. These could be things such as the following: Emotions you felt at the time. Names, places, and/or numbers. Dialogue, or what you or someone else said.

  7. Top 75 Personal Essay Topics For Every Student 2022

    If you are still out of ideas for personal essay topics, you can consider the themes listed below: The last act of kindness that you have made. The job of your dream. The most beautiful place in the world you have ever seen. The best music band that helps you to fall asleep. The most annoying things in your life.

  8. Best of 2023: Personal Essays

    Our favorite personal essays published this year include stories on loss, Indigenous community, video games, caring for aging relatives, and the fear of missing love. by Longreads December 5, 2023. This story was funded by our members. Join Longreads and help us to support more writers. Personal essays are as much about the readers as the writers.

  9. Best of 2022: Personal Essays

    Our list of notable personal essays published this year, including reads on friendship, loss, war, endings, and metaphors. by Longreads December 8, 2022. Graphic by Cheri Lucas Rowlands. Background image by lechatnoir/Getty Images. Today's list compiles our editors' picks for personal essays. While our team is small, we have a wide range of ...

  10. Top 50 Personal Essay Topics

    Best educational portal - worldwide students help. ↑ Return to Writing guide. Top 50 Personal Essay Topics You might be set a personal essay as a criterion for your admission to college or it might be set at any time during your academic career. A personal essay is essentially a form of self-expression. It draws on other essay formats ...

  11. How to Write a Personal Essay: Topics, Structure, & Examples

    The first and the most important thing you need to do when you are about to write a personal essay is to determine its purpose. When you know your audience, it becomes easier to find an appropriate topic for your writing. After that, you can draft an outline, which is the foundation of your future essay! ️.

  12. 10 personal essays that will teach you how to write

    I've seen her wrestle goats, scare off a giant snake, and express a dog's anal glands, all in one afternoon. I told her on the phone that a family of squirrels is living in the upstairs of my house. "They're making a monkey out of me," I said. 4. Lydia Yuknavitch's Woven. It was a night I wanted never to end.

  13. How to Write a Personal Essay: 6 Tips for Writing Personal Essays

    Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Sep 9, 2021 • 3 min read. People write personal essays for a number of reasons. High school students write them for college admissions and writers use them to share personal stories with others. A personal narrative essay can enlighten and inspire an audience with information gained from real life ...

  14. Key Tips for Making Personal Essay Titles

    Active voice - Using the active voice makes your title more clear and concise. Short - This goes for most titles: the shorter, the better. The length of essay titles should lie between 5 and 15 words. ‍. Relevant - The purpose of your title is to give the reader a glimpse into what your essay is about. This is why relevance is essential.

  15. Choose Good Titles for Essays and Make Them Sound Great

    Some Personal Statement Essay Examples. Personal statement essays are written to describe a person, and yes, they too need to be labeled. Some of the best examples of titles written for personal statements have been outlined below. Excellent Marriage Life; Battling Depression; Healthy Living; Career Trajectory; Compare and Contrast Essay Title ...

  16. 40 Best Essays of All Time (Including Links & Writing Tips)

    1. David Sedaris - Laugh, Kookaburra. A great family drama takes place against the backdrop of the Australian wilderness. And the Kookaburra laughs…. This is one of the top essays of the lot. It's a great mixture of family reminiscences, travel writing, and advice on what's most important in life.

  17. 10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked

    Personal Statement Examples. Essay 1: Summer Program. Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American. Essay 3: Why Medicine. Essay 4: Love of Writing. Essay 5: Starting a Fire. Essay 6: Dedicating a Track. Essay 7: Body Image and Eating Disorders. Essay 8: Becoming a Coach.

  18. 10 Personal Narrative Examples to Inspire Your Writing

    2. "Why I Hate Mother's Day" by Anne Lamott. The author of the classic writing text Bird by Bird digs into her views on motherhood in this piece from Salon. At once a personal narrative and a cultural commentary, Lamott explores the harmful effects that Mother's Day may have on society—how its blind reverence to the concept of motherhood erases women's agency and freedom to be flawed ...

  19. 10 Amazing Personal Essays

    6. Melissa Febos: " The Wild, Sublime Body ". This essay appeared in Best American Essays 2022 after being published in The Yale Review, and showcases the best of Febos, in that it is intensely corporeal. Febos's personal essay has a very clear subject—her body and her relationship with her body.

  20. Narrative Title Ideas for Personal Essays

    This narrative title idea is focused on them writing all about their favourite hobby. They could write about how they got into it in the first place, or a particular occasion that they did really well in the hobby. For example, if the hobby is a sport, they could write about a match day, and make it into a really dramatic narrative. This is a ...

  21. Creative Titles For Essays: Examples & Advice

    An exaggeration makes your title bright. The only thing is to stay honest while using it. One can add words: "secrets," "dire predictions," "terrifying mystery," "unbelievable," etc. Such titles will definitely make your essay stand out among others. 3) Bold titles presenting fresh views.