A Complete Guide to Creating a Perfect Personal Essay

Simple Guide for Writing a Top-Notch Personal Essay

Councilexchanges.org is a dedicated partner that opens a huge world of student exchange for you. For years, we’ve been committed to helping students discover exciting opportunities for overseas study and go on this unforgettable journey.

Getting into an exchange program with us isn’t as hard as you may believe. Yet, although the major part of the process is fairly simple, there is one roadblock to success that is the hardest to overcome. It is writing a personal essay.

A personal essay is one of the core requirements for being accepted into an exchange program. So, to help you ensure success, let us give you a few hints on how to handle personal essay writing.

Personal Essay: Definition, Purpose, and Topics

A personal essay (also known as a personal experiences essay) is a concise piece of writing about you. This type of paper is always completed from a first-person perspective, describing one’s real-life experiences, but, at the same time, hinting at a universal lesson. The main distinctive characteristics of this essay are a conversational manner and a sense of intimacy.

The primary purpose of this piece is to convey an important lesson through personal experience. To do this, the author has to create a strong connection with the audience and set the right tone for his paper – either uplifting or warning.

What topics work best? The subject matter can be pretty much any as long as it communicates a certain event from your life and teaches the reader some lesson. Ideally, you should write about events that somehow changed you, initiated personal growth, and led to deep personal transformations.

Here are a few sample topics for a personal essay to help you get on the right track.

  1. A time you faced your biggest fear
  2. Who is the most special person in your life?
  3. Your happiest memory
  4. A place you love the most
  5. The biggest challenge you had to overcome
  6. Your bravest moment
  7. A time you had to make a hard choice
  8. Your biggest success
  9. Your biggest failure

Crafting a great personal essay from scratch can be challenging, especially when it is meant for admission into an exchange program, so the stakes are high. Luckily for you, it’s possible to order your personal essays online. In this case, EssayPro would be your best bet. This writing service will help you ensure success with less stress and effort!

How to Start a Personal Essay

The beginning of a personal essay is its most significant part. This is the part that sets the tone for the story, makes the first impression, and invites your readers on a journey.

So, how do you start a personal essay? With a hook, of course! A hook performs several tasks: grabbing attention, giving a sense of what the story will be about, and making the readers want to keep on reading.

Here are a few sample hooks.

  1. “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” I’ve heard this phrase too many times to remember. But I was never able to realize what it means in essence until my student exchange experience.
  2. My life’s biggest breaking point took place in summer 2020 when I lost everything and underwent a prolonged religious crisis.
  3. Did you ever happen to feel the real threat to your life but knew you can’t back down? That’s what happened to me when I faced my biggest fear.

Beginner’s Guide to Personal Essay Writing

Step 1: Define a Topic

First, you’ll need to brainstorm on your essay’s topic. A perfect personal essay should have something for everyone. Of course, since it’s about you, no one will probably have just the same story. Yet, the readers should be able to relate to it. To create this connection, consider picking a topic that your readers are most likely familiar with. For example, falling in love, making a tough decision, facing fear, overcoming a challenge, and so on.

Step 2: Narrow Your Topic

The next thing to do after defining the general topic is to narrow down the focus of your essay. Since a personal experiences essay is a rather short piece of writing, you won’t have enough space to cover a general topic.

Instead, focus on describing an event or incident that is deeply personal but also goes in line with your general topic.

Step 3: Make an Outline

An outline is the best tool for simplifying the task and saving lots of time. It allows you to organize your story and give it a natural, logical flow. It also enables you to write the paper faster as you’ll have a clear hint right in front of your eyes.

To create an outline for a personal experiences essay, consider a typical five-paragraph structure:

  • Introduction
    • Engaging hook
    • A few sentences that map out the main points or the sequence of events
    • Thesis statement (the universal lesson you will be teaching your audience)
  • Main Body
    • Paragraph 1: Inciting incident
    • Paragraph 2: Midpoint
    • Paragraph 3: Climax
  • Conclusion
    • A summary of the story
    • A logical conclusion that evokes emotions and leaves some food for thought.

Step 4: Make a Strong Intro

Start with an attention-grabbing hook. Then, provide some background info and map out how the story is going to flow for your readers. Finish with a clear but intriguing thesis statement.

Step 5: Write the Main Body

The body of a personal essay is the story itself. To get it right, you should closely follow your plan (outline) and deliver your story with all its twists and turns to the reader.

The main rule for this stage is “show, don’t tell.” Feel free to use metaphors, adjectives, and other literary techniques to engage all five senses of your readers.

Step 6: Make a Conclusion

Close your essay with a powerful conclusion that reflects on the lessons you’ve learned from the story and shows how the described events changed you.

Sample Personal Experiences Essay

Now that you know the main steps for writing a personal essay, let us give you two well-written personal experiences essay examples for inspiration.

Example 1

Big, shiny snowflakes floating through the air outside my window, the smell of cinnamon-scented candles, bright Christmas lights decorating the streets, and cheerful carols playing everywhere. It was the winter of 2018, and everything around reminded me of the upcoming holidays. Typically, it’s the time of cheer and joy, but for me, it was the first time that I realized how much I love my family.

Ever since I stepped into teenagehood, I and my parents became rather distant. Either due to their excessive care or, most probably, due to my youthful disobedience, our relationships have gotten somewhat strained. Despite all their attempts to fix things, I never wanted to make concessions. All I’ve dreamed about at that time was to get as far from them as possible.

I got as close to my “dream” as I ever could in 2018 when I became a participant in a student exchange program. A whole year abroad seemed to me as real salvation. I was truly excited about an escape from the parental home, but only until it became a reality.

Halfway through my student exchange year, during the Christmas holidays, I experienced the biggest turning point in my life. That was the first time I felt homesick. Looking at happy families gathering together to celebrate was simply unbearable. So, on the day of Christmas eve, I called my parents, and it was one of the warmest and most touching conversations we’ve had in years. Since that time, I had to rethink my values, and my family became the strongest it could ever be.

My year abroad as an exchange student has brought me many great experiences and memories. But I believe that the biggest lesson it taught me is that nothing is as important in our lives as a family.

Example 2

My obsession with the sky began many years ago and never faded. Since early childhood, I was determined to fly. My obsession is what influenced me the most and what taught me to follow my dreams no matter what.

I took my first flight at the age of 6, and this is the point when the long story of my obsession has begun. As a child, I could spend hours near the local airport watching planes take off and land. Then, I would go home and build my own planes of household items like blankets, trash bags, and wooden clothes racks. At that time, everyone found it rather amusing. But for me, it was the biggest dream I wanted to bring to life.

When I was getting older, my passion and desire to fly grew stronger. When transitioning to high school, I faced lots of criticism and complete incomprehension from my parents, who insisted I should leave childish dreams behind and grow up. Nonetheless, I resisted.

I worked hard to get closer to my dream step by step. I challenged myself, taking the most complicated STEM classes. I’ve participated in all relevant projects and even took flight lessons.

Following this goal has changed me forever. I became more confident and persistent, and I learned to overcome obstacles. Most importantly, my dream and passion have taught me that everything is possible if you stay true to yourself and follow your dreams.

Now, you have everything for success. Hopefully, this guide with expert tips and examples will help you cope with writing a personal essay quickly and easily and get the best results!