Personal Essays

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Now on to our final common college essay type which is the personal essay The purpose of a personal

essay is to use a personal experience as a way to explore a certain theme or question.

OK so the purpose of a person I say is not to write an autobiography or to or to gush about how great

you are as an individual rather than to use a specific experience from your life to explore a certain

theme or question and new and the personal way the first key to a good personal essay is to choose a

specific experience that you can examine in order to draw meaning from it.


So don’t just choose an experience you thought was really fun or you liked and thought people might

think it’s interesting rather choose one that you can examine and draw meaning from to do that.

You ask so what.

So what about this experience.

Why is this experience significant to me personally.

What other past experiences have I had that gives significance and meaning to this specific experience.

How does this experience answer deeper philosophical questions that need to be explored what can this

experience be compared to in order to add significance to it.

And how does my own personality or feeling affect the experience.

So you can’t come up with good answers to some of these questions.

It’s not all of these questions then it’s time to reconsider the experience that you’re choosing to

write on the personal essay as with lots of our writing actually need to answer to things the what and

so what the what are the details of the experience itself.

And so what is that after each of these details you provide.

You ask yourself so what who cares.

Why does this matter.

And you answer this question by exploring different aspects with each of these each detail that you

provide about the experience.

So you explore explore things like your thoughts and feelings during that experience or during that

detail the experience the inner dialogue that you had flashbacks parallel stories and interpretations.

In other words when you’re assigned to write a personal essay The goal is not for you to tell about

an experience just to tell about and experience it to dig into deeper critical meaning of that experience.


And that’s what the so what is.

I’m not going to talk about how to write a personal essay specifically.

You fall the same type of format as most of the writing we’ve done.

So basic introduction and thesis the body and conclusion with topic sentences relate back to your thesis.

So believe it or not personal essays does still need to have a thesis and that’s where you answer the

so what.


This is my experience and through this experience I learned this.

That’s a thesis right a claim this experience provides deeper insight into this topic.

That’s a thesis.


So does soonly thesis and does soonly topic census that refer back to this.

So rather than rehashing how to write an introduction a thesis a body and a conclusion.

I’m just going to give you some warnings today.

I’m just going to give you some things to do and some things to avoid when writing a personal essay

and then you can send me any questions you might have.

First never use general statements or cliches.

For some reason when we give students the assignment of writing personal essay students pick from a

big assortment of cliches and use the same general statements.

Don’t do this.

Instead allow yourself to be creative and speak concretely and concisely.

In other words avoid being ambiguous so don’t guess that your reader knows what happened in experience

or automatically understand the deeper meanings of the details of your experience.

Instead like all your writing whenever you give examples or details provide lots of personal analysis.

Something else is to avoid being preachy and to avoid always trying to divide.

And the moral of the story is this is another very common mistake in student writing of personal essays

that we feel like it’s a time to preach or to provide morals.

That’s not the goal of a personal essay The goal of a personal essay again is to use a personal experience

to dig deeper into a certain idea.

OK so I hope this helps.

In preparation for your next personal essay you’ll have to write as always let me know if you have any


And as this is the final lecture of our commonwealth college essay types series let me know if you have

any questions about any of the college essay types or if you’re struggling to prepare for one you’ve

recently been assigned let me know and I’ll see if I can give you a couple of tips on the spot and help

you on your way.

All right thanks guys.

We will see you next time for the beginning of our final section.

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