Personal Essay Assignment

The form for the first unit is a personal essay. A typed rough draft is due on September 28. A revised and edited best draft will be due on October 6. Submit the rough draft to and bring four copies that day for sharing in small groups. We will read a variety of essays in class and experiment with developing essay ideas and revision techniques. The more essays starts you have, the better your chances of ending up with an effective essay. Remember to collect all your starts and drafts in your journal. (PEAssign)

A personal essay is an essay that reflects upon an event or experience and in that reflection attempts to make sense of it. A college essay is a type of personal essay. The job of the college essay is to supplement all the numbers, letters and recommendations of others in your application with a view of yourself as a unique person.

When a personal essay works well, it pulls a reader in by telling a good story and then reflects on or analyzes the story to show the writer’s ability to think and learn from experience. The skills exhibited are the ability to communicate, to entertain and to learn and apply that knowledge. These are all skills desired by any college.

The personal essay is often built around a personal narrative, a story about a specific event, person or place in your life. After telling the story of the event, the writer reflects on event’s significance, meaning, influence on the writer or how the writer has changed as a result of the experience. The writer may even say how the lesson learned will impact her behavior in the future. In a college essay the writer may show how this event or person discussed led to a particular major or school.

An introduction might hint at this conclusion, but an essay can work well without a traditional introduction. It is often easier to write the personal narrative first (in fact write a few of them) whether or not you know why the story is important. Often the reflection is done well after the event.

Below are three basic formats for the college essay. The first option with a clearly stated introduction and conclusion is the safest. The other two are riskier but may be more interesting.








Personal Narrative





Reflective Conclusion

Reflective Conclusion


The best way to get started on a personal essay is to brainstorm or make a list of memorable events and people from your life, choose the one with the most potential or interest and write a draft of the story to see what you have. The best way to get started on a college essay is to get the questions for the colleges you are interested. Then brainstorm a list of possible significant experiences, people, places or things that might illustrate your answer to the question. Pick one and begin a very rough draft of an answer. You are more likely to come up with an essay that you like if you start three or four different topics. Share your drafts with friends, teachers, counselors, etc. Pick the one you like best and revise it. Think of the following factors as you revise.

  • Purpose/Task: Communicate clearly, sound intelligent and entertain.       Provoke thought or self-recognition. Demonstrate uniqueness. (You are. Don’t fake it.)
  • Audience: Personal essay: others interested in the event, experience or issues raised. College essay: College/Technical School Admissions Officer – If you don’t know one, think of a guidance counselor or teacher that is a sympathetic but careful reader.
  • Form: Personal story mixed with essaying that makes sense or points to the significance of the experience
  • Voice: Educated/personal.
  • Point of view: – Observant I

After you are satisfied with what the essay says, have someone who is good at finding errors proofread it. (Don’t show it to an error finder before it’s ready unless your application is due that day.)