Personal Experience Essay Ideas and Topics
Like many academic essays, the Personal Experience Essay is drawn from the student-writer’s own personal, lived experience, one which they feel carries an important meaning when reflected upon and shared intimately with the reader.
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The Personal Experience Essay may even be very similar to the kind of essays students have to write when applying for college. It gives them an opportunity to reveal something about themselves – something becoming, of course – that maybe could not have been reflected in their SAT scores and list of extracurricular activities. Those working in a college’s admission office can read these essays and determine which students have the best character, and therefore should be admitted over others.
Like the college application essays, the Personal Experience Essay requires the student-writer to share and expound on a significant experience in their life – which can, of course, center around anything important to them. The essay should reveal the strength or uniqueness of their character and stand as an example of their ability to write and think introspectively and critically about themselves, and make sense of what the experience taught them or ultimately revealed to them.
List of Potential Topics for a Personal Experience Essay
The student who must complete this kind of essay may want to write about:
- The time when they had to overcome an obstacle, a challenge or had to face adversity
- If they experienced an immense personal loss
- If (and how) they had to deal with a personal flaw, a health problem, a bad reputation
- An experience that made them realize the path in life they wanted to take, and if the experience now has an impact on how they are planning for a career in a specific field of study; in this case, they may also want to highlight the steps they plan to take (or are taking) to make this happen
- A very interesting experience, such as when they studied abroad, and the effect it had on them; for example: perhaps how a visit to Paris, France, led them to understand that they wanted to pursue a career in marketing for fashion brands
- What taking on a project, a goal, a craft or a sport ultimately taught them about growing up, being an adult, or taking responsibility
- A specific story from their childhood, maybe one they feel that is unique, humorous or helpful to share
- A person who had a profound influence on them, whether a mentor, a family member, a friend – and what they taught them, even if inadvertently or without knowing
- An experience that revealed something very important about who they were and were meant to be
- A personal achievement and why it is worth remembering and sharing
- When they discovered a personal weakness and, instead of letting it serve as a crutch, how they replaced it with a better quality or a better habit, etc.
- The first time – or any other time, for that matter – when they experienced failure and what they learned from the experience
- How one experience helped them grow as a person
- A time when they performed a very selfless, loving act for someone else
- A time when they felt like a hero, or did a heroic deed, or did something that was beyond themselves
- A pivotal moment when they felt that adulthood had arrived, or at least when they felt a loss of innocence, good or bad
- A journey where they faced the odds to achieve what they wanted or what was important at the time to them at the time
- A time when a preconceived notion about something, someone or an issue was disregarded, changed or altered
- A change in perspective, as well as the experience or series of experiences that caused it
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