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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

How to Write a Personal Experience Essay for College: Example and Tips


Would you like high grades to be awarded for your essays? Testing agencies and instructors assign a good number of the personal experience type of essays, thus, making it crucial for you to learn how to write such essay types both effectively and easily for you to attain top scores. The main reason as to why these assignments are given frequently is so that anyone can have a platform for writing about their own experiences. It is also important to note that these essays do not require any outside research or resources because your experiences are the source of the essay’s content. However, as much as someone can narrate a tale about their own life, it does not interpret to mean that the person can write an exceptional essay concerning that experience. In a nutshell, there is a distinct disparity between telling a great story concerning yourself and writing a great personal experience type of essay. The main differences between a good and brilliant personal experience essay include:
  • A top type of essay paints a clear picture regarding the experience, hence making the reader feel as though he/she is present in that story.
  • Great personal experience essays flesh out a unique significance from that experience and can explain it vividly.
  • The best personal essay experiences always have a great organization as a common feature among them.
  • We will expound on the necessary steps that you should take to ensure that your personal experience essay radiates the features stated above.

How to Find the Importance of a Memory

Writing essays that talk about personal experiences or even relationships can be one of the most powerful ways of discovering the importance of your past as well as sharing that aspect with other people. When you write about a particular experience in your past, there are two perspectives that you’re supposed to take into consideration. The first is your perspective in the present times about that experience, and second is the prospect that you had when that experience occurred. The space that you find lying in between these two perspectives can be safely regarded as the place you will come across the importance of that relationship or event.

Choose a Great Topic

If the relationship or event that you choose took place recently, then you will find yourself being close to the “Person that you were” when you experienced that event. In case the case is more distant, it is likely that you will be transfixed by this experience in a bid to remember the details of the experience. In addition to this, the distant types of personal experiences will bring out a different type of reaction and meaning of the encounter from you. In light of this, you are required to decide whether you would like to talk about this experience according to how you perceive it now or how you perceived it in the past. Most people often choose to do all of these things in one essay or even use their present perspective for the conclusion.

Topic Ideas

All the events that took place in your past could form a great topic, as long as these events are of importance to you. You can choose to use a reoccurring event, a person, a one- time occasion or even a place. You can brainstorm ideas via thinking about things such as:
  • A relationship that you shared with important people such as a best friend or even a grandparent.
  • An encounter with a person that helped to change you.
  • An event that you regard as small but still had a significant impact in your life.
  • A major event that changed your life.
  • Something that you found meaningful and that you repeatedly did.
  • Your memories regarding a certain place that help to embody the person that you are and have a deep meaning for you.

How to Determine If You Have a Great Topic

To ensure that your topic is remarkable, there are some things that you are required to factor in. Among these, ensuring that you have determined the significance of that person or that event to you is the most important thing you should factor in. For you to acquire ideas concerning the meaning and also to come to a conclusion if a particular topic is a great choice, you should try and write down notes that seek to answers to the five questions below:
  1. What did I perceive the meaning of that experience to be at the time that it happened?
  2. In what ways have my thoughts regarding that experience changed?
  3. What are some of the important things that I came to learn?
  4. In what ways has the direction of my life been affected by the experience?
  5. Could there be something that I would end up doing differently if I could travel back in time to that particular experience? Are there any regrets?

Simple Organization

Why should you go about the uphill task of re-inventing the wheel? Incorporate the professional writing practices that are listed below to better the organization of your personal experience essays. The great thing about these strategies is that they are by no means secret and are also not hard to master. These techniques are simply what you have repeatedly seen in movies and books and now have to learn how to put them into practice for yourself.

Chronological Organization

The chronological format of writing your personal experience essay is one of the most obvious methods that anyone can use to narrate a story. All you need to do is to write this experience exactly as it came to be. Majority of the additional types of organizing techniques incorporate this way when narrating the main portion of their story. The characteristics of the Chronological Organization Strategy Include:
  1. The story is narrated in the exact order that it occurs.
  2. The story is told with suspense, with the least important scenes and events being brought first and being used to lead towards the important ones and then finally reaching the climax.
  3. The meaning is explained after the climax has taken place or the events are allowed to shed light on the meaning.

Expectations Unfulfilled Organization

Are you interested in one of the easiest ways of organizing your essay? If so, try the "Expectations Unfulfilled" method of organization. This technique tends working best whenever a contrast arises between the events that happened and your expectations concerning the event. The contrast could be horrific, disappointing or funny. Regarding this, it is also possible for you to incorporate an "Expectations Fulfilled" technique, although it is majorly a more feeble paper idea. The only time that it can be of superior quality is when the situation at hand consists of the reality superseding all the expectations that you might have. Some of The Characteristics of Expectations Unfulfilled Include:
  1. The introduction elaborates on the expectations for a specific event.
  2. It is a technique that foreshadows the problem at hand.
  3. This method tells the tale of the events as they happened, using a chronological organization.
  4. The expectations unfulfilled technique describes the contrast found between expectations and the reality of the events that took place.
  5. It is an organizational method that bases its reflection on the experience.
  6. The expectations unfulfilled method is one that concludes with irony.

Frame Organization Strategy

The art of coming up with a frame type of story for both the conclusion and introduction should be quite familiar to most people, especially given its wide range of use in movies. One of the best examples of story frames is UP. This is a movie that opens with a frame that is comprised of Carl taking a look at a scrapbook that has been made especially for him by Ellie. The scrapbook mainly talks about their life and the dreams that they share with each other. All this happens before the scenes that flash forward to Russel’s and Carl’s present tales and adventures. Towards the end of this movie, you find that the scenes return to the earlier alluded to frame as Carl takes a look at the final page of a photo book that Ellie had created for him. It then dawns on him that their relationship`s journey turned out to be the actual adventure. Another type of frame that you can use is a flashback. This is a technique which requires you to begin in the middle, or even after the action, and then have a flashback that takes you to a memory that had been formed earlier on. The Notebook incorporates the tale of a husband spending quality time with his beloved wife who is suffering from Alzheimer`s. This all blends because it acts as a suitable frame for the man to re-tell the entire story of the love that they share. One of the main advantages of making use of frames is that your work is made easier when it comes to talking about the significance of the story. This works best, especially if you intend to make use of the present times to flashback to events found in the past. Always ensure that the frame you choose is not merely random. It is best if you have an event at hand, an object, conversation or even a situation that prompts you to have a flashback in your memory.

Internal and External Conflicts Organization

This is a technique that requires you to organize one's tale around all that is happening internally within your mind versus what is going on in the event at hand. It goes without saying that, just like "Expectations Unfulfilled", this mode of organization functions the best if there exists a form of conflict between the proceedings that are going on in your mind, and the events that are happening in the actual situation. One of the best examples of this is a wedding scenario, where it seemed as though there is jubilation but is also laced with conflict within the bride who couldn`t help but wonder if she had chosen the correct path by getting married to this man. Another good example could be in the scenario of birthday celebrations in which the birthday child could seem to be enjoying herself. However, despite the outward appearance, this kid is inwardly saddened whenever her parents, who are divorced, act coldly towards each other.

Student Sample

It’s possible to combine a number of the above-stated strategies and come up with a masterpiece that will enable your essay to shine. An example of the general outline with which you can achieve this is as follows:
  1. Introduction: The beginning of a frame story.
  2. Bring on board the first conflict and its resolution.
  3. Introduce the second conflict and its resolution.
  4. Include the third conflict and its resolution.
  5. Write your essay conclusion.

Small Events Can Forge Exceptional Essays

One of the best skills that any essay writer can master, especially when it comes to personal experience essays, is converting a single and small incident into a breathtaking paper. Whenever you get to wracking your brain concerning your essay topic, ensure that you’ve thought about the moments and events in your life that were your most meaningful turning points, regardless of how small these moments were. You should also note that these moments do not have to be always dramatic. The important thing is the manner in which your defining moments affected you.

Tips For Coming Up With a Great Chronological Organization

Often, you will find that the chronological type of organization is the most popular technique that’s used in most students’ personal experience essays. This, in turn, means that competition is bound to be high, hence calling for the need to be unique to stand out from the rest of the crowd. The two main ways, in which you can stand out, are through using another type of technique, and ensuring that your skills in writing with the chronological organization technique are unrivaled. Below are some important factors to consider refining the quality of your chronological organization:
  • Always begin by asking yourself where the conflict is: As most of you have, probably learned while back in their English classes, great stories begin with some form of conflict. This can be either external (between someone else and you) or internal conflict (inside yourself). The extraordinary stories go ahead and expound on the conflict's development, the crisis which is known as the climax in other words, and finally the resolution of the events that follow later on (either bad or good). Make sure that the story you choose to write sticks to this pattern.
  • Don’t include unnecessary details: You should strive to “clip” all the memories that you would like to write about effectively. One way in which you can do this is by picturing yourself to be a movie editor. Once you've done this, go ahead and answer these questions. What are the necessary details that are needed for the story? What can be left out without a lot of repercussions?
  • Make the details both interesting and specific: Ensure that your descriptions of the characters, setting and the actions taking place are clear, concise, concrete and specific.
  • Always keep boredom away: Relay as much detail as possible to your readers, such as the setting and also the character development, in such a unique manner that the story consumes your readers. However, you should not spend too much of your time in telling excess details as this could easily cause your readers to get bored.
  • Action and dialogue are the best: If it is possible, ensure that a good portion of your story is comprised of someone talking or something happening. Both dialogue and action are tools that you should treasure and learn to use because they assist in moving the story faster as compared to the description.

Metaphor Organization

At times, it is common to find a certain object or a repeated event becoming the focus of a memory that you are writing about in your personal experience essay. Once you notice such an aspect in your paper, you could use some repetition around the event or object so that you can effectively command your essay. A great example of using metaphors is depicted in “On Being a Real Westerner” authored by Wolff Tobias. Below are some of the major characteristics of such an organization:
  • Many memories relate to one emotion, person or object: In this story, the memories are stringed to his rifle. These include; acquiring the rifle, his mum's objections, toying around with it, pretending to be a sniper, loading the rifle, the comparison-power in Vietnam, murdering squirrel, his mum's reaction to squirrel's death, his reaction to squirrel's death and his undying fascination with the rifle.
  • Memories are chronological but still climatic: In the story, you find the climax ensues when he kills the squirrel and then has to cope with the harsh reality of what using and owning a rifle means.
  • These memories tie together with the major theme of the story: Wolff wraps up his memories with power as the story's theme by depicting the rifle's power, the manner in which thirst for power ended up shaping him and how powerless he was to make changes to his past.

Organizing an Essay about Someone

Generally speaking, it is of importance that you keep your essay transfixed on one important memory to around three of them concerning that particular person. These memories could be comprised of specific events or even anecdotes regarding events that happened repeatedly. Some of the characteristics of this type of essay include:
A Clear Portrait of a Person
  • Dialogue: Your readers can picture how that person talks.
  • Describe places which reflect the person: Your readers can get to know about some of the person’s interests as well as picture them.
  • The person: Describe the physical attributes of the person.
Specific Memories
  • Pick the specific memories that depict the person`s true character or those that shed more light on your relationship.
  • Talk about some of the one-time types of incidents. Each of your essays should contain about one to three of these one-time incidents.
  • Explain some recurring activities: You can include these if you can describe them clearly and ensure that they do not come off as too general.
Indication Of The Person`s Importance
Choose two main points that you would want to make about that person. The reason behind this is that an attempt to explain all the things that make the person important to you is too bulky to accomplish within a little short essay. After you have done this, the rest of your description as well as your stories must be fixated around and should try to prove these points.

Other Types of Organizing Strategies

You can try and incorporate some of these organization strategies both for essays about people and events. Below are some of the suggestions:
Expectations/Revelation Reversed
  • Your ordinary judgment concerning the person.
  • Detailed analysis of physical description/personality/ some background history.
  • The revelation about a person (Story about a specific moment that you looked at the person from an entirely different perspective).
Resolution and Conflict Organizing
  • The tale of some conflicts which you share with the person.
  • Analysis of background history/physical description/personality.
  • The second tale of conflict, but it resolves into much closer relationships.
  • Third story which entails a conflict that leads to a well-learned lesson.
  • The fourth Story that leads to the lesson learned being conveyed to other people.
Contrast and Comparison
  • You could also start by talking about the views of a different person and then follow up by talking more concerning your views.
  • Introduction: Should entail a description of the person and bring out the contrast set-up between you two.
  • Body: Contrast and Comparison - Should talk about the manner in which other people view the person as compared to how you view the person.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion should talk about how you have come to see the person.


With this comprehensive guide on how to write a personal experience essay example, you are equipped to come up with a great paper of your own. Go through each tip and apply to your first couple of attempts in writing the essay. Keep checking each of your drafts with the guide to see where you need to improve. You can even have someone else do this for to capture details that you might overlook. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t despair. Remember, practice makes perfect!