An insight into writing a personal narrative essay

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What is a personal narrative essay?

Experiences add meaning to our life and in this meaning, we find happiness and purpose. Furthermore, different kinds of experiences that we attain, shape our personalities and choices. Besides, experiences facilitate the learning and development of individuals as long as we are receptive to learning. A personal narrative essay gives you an opportunity to share a vital personal experience of your life. A personal narrative essay is one in which you narrate an important personal story related to your life so as to engage the readers’ emotions. Moreover, the topics related to personal narrative essays may ask you to give details about the people known to you or your response to things like books or some writings.

When you write a personal narrative essay, you should not only express your story but also highlight why your story is important. In most cases, these essays are written with the purpose of recalling a recent incident, emotions, or specific events you have witnessed. Also, your essay narrating your personal story should guide the readers through the essay with clarity and enable them to draw conclusions. One more thing worth noting is that a personal narrative essay can be real as well as fictional. But some people argue that if you write a fictional essay, it is no longer a personal narrative and that is absolutely true in fact. Thus, there is a larger acceptance for non-fictional personal narrative essays as they are authentic and relate to real incidents. Moreover, it is a subjective essay that you write in the first person, unlike the persuasive essays that are objective and written in the third person. Besides, this essay is different from other academic writings in the sense that this is only narration and does not aim to persuade the reader or prove any argument. The objective is to simply inform the readers about the pertinent experiences of your life and leave it to their interpretation. You share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas with the readers in coherence with the experience you find worth sharing.

What is a personal narrative essay?

Personal narrative essay for students

It is important to note that colleges and universities during their admissions process ask students to write personal essays. Therefore, for students, it is important to know how they can write an intriguing and impressive personal narrative essay to secure admission in the college they have always aspired to study in. Although it is a common practice that universities ask students to share their stories or experiences through this essay, students often find it a dreadful task. Sharing your own story in a written form can be daunting sometimes as it is important to capture the interest of the readers and give them a clear insight into your life experiences. It happens sometimes that we find it easy to write on various aspects of the world but when it comes to writing about our own experiences, it seems like a humongous task.

But you need not worry, in this guide to write an effective personal narrative essay for college, you can find all the right suggestions and ideas to write an essay that wins the hearts of the admissions officer. Also, you should remember that when you write a personal narrative essay, you have to relate your stories and experiences to your future prospects and how they have reshaped your perspectives in life. Furthermore, in a subtle way, you need to showcase how with your experience you can add more value to the learning environment of a student community. Thus, while you talk about your past experience, you also need to talk a little about how a given experience makes you a better person in the present scenario. Besides, you need to exhibit how you can capitalize on that experience in the future and excel on the basis of skills you learned from your experiences.

Next, we look at the various steps in which you can write an attractive personal narrative essay to supplement your case for admissions. By understanding what admission officers may be looking for in your essay and by having a better insight on the right structure of this essay, you can deliver a highly engaging essay. Moreover, since this essay is about your life and your experience, everything that you narrate in this essay is going to define your personality to the admissions committee. Hence, it is vital that you have a clear outline and plan for writing this essay as it is crucial for your admission. So, by keeping in mind the following recommendations, you can achieve distinction in your task. Let us now shed light on the various steps for writing a worthy personal narrative essay.

Skillful tips to write an effective personal narrative essay

  • 1. Choose the best personal narrative to write about

    It is obvious that you would have garnered various experiences in life by the time you start applying for colleges. Hence, choosing the right narrative or the story to illustrate in your college personal narrative essay can be complex. But this choice is critical to the impression that your personal narrative essay can have on the readers or the admissions officer. So, how can you choose the best narrative to talk about in your essay?

    You should consider a few things before choosing a life experience to write on. You can first list out all the important life experiences you have to share and then compare them with the application of critical thinking. What you should prioritize while making this comparison is the emotional connectivity of every experience. Because the purpose of this essay is to build an emotional connection with the readers, you should go for a story that you feel can have the maximum emotional impact. Further, you should choose on the basis of the idea that your experience should be able to draw an attractive outline of your personality and qualities. Besides, this choice should give you an opportunity to express how you can bring new dimensions to the student community. Therefore, you should not rush into choosing a personal narrative and should give attention to detail and give yourself enough time to analyze, compare, and then choose.

  • 2. Add a perspective of learning to your essay

    Another criterion you should use while making a choice of a personal narrative is that your narration should endorse some form of learning. Experiences that are based on learning or have some learning to offer can create better relativity and readability. For instance, if there is an experience that gave you an imperative life lesson and can further inspire the same learning in readers, you should give it the highest priority. Also, such a narration linked to learning can give the admissions officer the impression that you are always open and keen to learn new things. Besides, learning can create better emotional connectivity with the readers as it is likely that may be able to relate to it.

    As stated in the beginning, experiences correlate to learning and shape our opinions and choices in life. So, the best stories from an academic perspective can be those that are driven by the notion of learning the fundamentals of life. Such stories can stand the best chance of qualifying for the shortlisted admission applications. To cite an example, if there is an experience that enabled you to learn new skills or become a more empathetic person, that experience can create a strong impact. Also, it gives you a chance to exhibit your skills through the essay which may further supplement your case for admissions.

  • 3. Empower the theme of the essay

    You should add a lot of details about the central idea of the personal narrative that you are expressing in your essay. If learning is the theme of your essay, add as much as disciplines of learning you can, related to your personal life and experiences. As cited above, if a given experience has imparted some vital learnings or skills in your personality, be elaborative about it. To exemplify, if leading the school soccer team has made you a better leader, express your leadership qualities to the fullest. Mention how this opportunity to be the captain of the team made you realize the leadership potentials that were unknown to you. Furthermore, illustrate how you were able to learn better skills of leadership and how coordinating a team from the virtue of this experience improved your critical thinking. To add more, you can even talk about how you now perceive the idea of leadership and how you feel that you are ready to take leadership opportunities in the future as well in domains other than sports.

    So, the idea is that you should be coherent to the central idea or the theme of your personal narrative essay throughout the writeup. This central idea can vary subject to personal choices or personal experiences but you should hold on to whatever theme you choose.

  • 4. Structure your essay efficiently

    The structure is a very imperative element of all academic writings as it is important for the understanding of the readers. An essay is a set of ideas wherein there should be a proper order to organize these ideas so that it makes sense to the reader. An essay is divided into various fragments such that each section talks about one notion at a time. So, all these sections should be coherent with each other and also to the central theme of the essay. Moreover, in a personal narrative essay for college, you need to follow a chronological order and the need for structuring becomes far more essential. Besides, following a format or a structure enables readers to identify the relevance and content of various sections of the essay. An academic essay’s structure can be divided into three vital sections to create better readability and understanding among readers. These sections include the following

    ("Essay Structure", 2020)
    • Introduction
    • Body
    • Conclusion
    • Introduction

      An impressive introduction with a strong thesis statement underlines the purpose of your essay. In the introduction that you write for your personal narrative essay, you can give a general overview of experiences, introduce yourself, and cite the relevance of vivid experiences in your life. Also, remember that you should not overdo the introduction because the purpose of it is only to draw an overview and explain what the subsequent sections include.

      Besides, it is very important to supplement your introduction with a thesis statement. An effective thesis statement serves the purpose of summing up the central theme of your essay and also illustrating the purpose of it. Further, a thesis statement gives the readers an insight into what they can anticipate from the body of the essay. It should highlight the main idea you wish to portray through the essay and usually, a thesis statement is only one or two sentences long. Ideally, you should follow it up with another statement that underlines the importance of the claim that you make in your thesis statement.

      (Base & statement, 2020)
    • Body

      The body of your essay is where you elaborate on your personal narrative in chronological order. In your body paragraph, there should be coherence and cohesion to ascertain an attractive flow of ideas inspiring from your story. Basically, it should flow like how storytelling is done and you should use vivid emotions and adjectives to preserve the interest of the readers. Furthermore, the body of your essay should not only tell about your experience but should also mention how that experience has changed you. So, you can draw a correlation between your story and your present outlook in life, and the skillset that you have learned through that experience.

      The body of your essay should relate to your personality before and after the experience that you are narrating. So, you can talk about the qualities that always existed in you but you could not recognize before a particular incident and also what you learned from that incident. You should always be aware of the fact that you need to build strong emotional connectivity with the reader and at the same time nothing should seem out of place. To better understand how the body of a personal narrative essay is structured, you can go through various samples before you start writing it. The key idea is to capture the anticipation of the reader and deliver on the claim that you have made in the thesis statement. Also, remember that the body is the most fundamental section of your essay and it is going to attract the maximum interest in readers.

    • Conclusion

      It is important to conclude your ideas and arguments in an effective manner and draw a summary of the topic. Also, your conclusion gives the reader an opportunity to introspect if he is on the same page as you on a given notion or opinion. Further, in academic writings, conclusions are amply imperative as it gives closure to the essay rather than introducing new ideas or stretching the argument further.

      When you sum up your essay by giving a simple yet effective concluding argument, you once again restate the central notion of the essay and the reader is able to analyze your concluding argument and build an opinion on it. Therefore, conclusions in essays are essential irrespective of the kind of essay you are writing. Even in a personal narrative essay, summaries hold great importance.

Some other essential tips to keep in mind before writing a personal narrative essay

Some other essential tips to keep in mind before writing a personal narrative essay
  • Tone

    The tone of the personal narrative essay is very important as you have to give it a lot of personalization. This essay is about your life and your experiences and hence the tone of this essay should be personal. This essay should be written in the first person and you should express your individuality and experiences through this essay so as to strengthen your case for securing admission. So, keep it as personal as possible in terms of the tone as well as your life experiences.

  • Add an anecdote

    Anecdote is a personal story that you share in your essay to attract the interest and curiosity of a reader. Anecdotes can prove beneficial while writing an academic essay as it gives a background to your story or your pursuit of learning. With a short story that supplements the core idea of the essay, you can enhance its readability. But the key to write a good anecdote is to keep it short and relatable to what you are trying to portray through your writing.

  • Relate your experience to your outlook

    Maybe the admissions officer is not only interested in your experiences but he also wants to know how you relate your experiences to your life. To get an insight into your personality, he may be keen to understand how occurrences in your life have shaped your outlook on life and how much you value your experiences. So, all that you illustrate in your personal narrative, should relate to your perspectives and opinions in life. Therefore, keep the relativity quotient as high as possible to showcase your qualities and abilities that are borne out of your experiences.

Sample essays

The following section contains two sample essays written from the viewpoint of students to attain good grades while applying to colleges or universities for admission. Based on the above-mentioned guidelines and essential tips, we have compiled two samples of personal narrative essays for you. Writing about yourself can sometimes be a complex task as compared to writing about different aspects of your surroundings. In such a scenario, if you face any difficulties in writing an essay on your personal experiences, you can have a look at the following two samples to seek guidance. Moreover, for any other assistance or guidance that may need for your assignments and academic essays, you can get in touch with Our team works with high motivation and diligence to provide services for academic writings and assignments.

Sample Essay 1: The cricket match to remember


I have often not paid much heed to my parents’ suggestions whenever they shared their life experiences and realizations with me. I always thought that their generation was different and ours is a different generation that gives more priority to dreams and ambitions than experiences. So, although I would sit next to them and act like I was listening, while most of the time I only heard them out with patience for the sake of it. But all it took to make me believe in the power of experiences strongly was one incident that changed me for the better. Thus, now I understand that what we experience in life is very crucial to our learning. Also, our experiences play a large role in determining our thoughts. In this essay, I am going to talk about a cricket match which turned out to be an experience that brought a drastic change in my personality. Furthermore, in the subsequent paragraphs, I am going to affirm how this experience added different dimensions to my mindset. Besides, I assert why all of us should grab our share of opportunities with both hands.


Since the very early days of my childhood, I had gathered a keen interest in cricket which is one of the most celebrated sports in Australia. My father found a lot of elation and joy in cricket and he used to take me along with him to watch live cricket matches. Somehow, that emphatic enthusiasm for cricket in my father radiated onto me and at a very young age, I picked up the aspiration of becoming a professional cricketer. Seeing the likes of Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist bat for Australia in the yellow jersey, I started dreaming about doing the same for my country. I still have this dream wide open in my eyes and thriving in my heart with ecstasy. So, from the second grade onwards I joined the cricket academy in my school with the fascinating dream of opening batting for Australia one day. My diligent and consistent practice continued over the years and in the 8th grade, I started opening the batting for my school team and my father used to take an off from his office whenever I had a school match. So, I have always known that my dream means a lot more to him than it means to me.

Moving forward, I clearly remember, in grade 9 we went to Perth from Melbourne to participate in an inter-school cricket tournament. We were all charged up for our first match and we were confident about our chances. But on the morning of the match, much to our displeasure, four boys of the squad picked up food poisoning and were declared unfit to play. The biggest shock was that among these four guys were our captain and vice-captain. We trembled at the thought of being left without a captain in such an important tournament and we were not sure, if there were other guys who can play equally well. Before that day, I always thought that leadership comes naturally to people and it takes something very extraordinary to become a leader. Anyway, I had never focused much on leadership because my dream was all about playing for Australia and I thought leadership was not my cup of tea. So, after the unfortunate news of our players falling ill, we sat in the locker room with subdued spirits an hour before the match. We had a lot of questions in our heads but we knew that no one had the answers. After a few minutes, our coach walked into the locker room and he told me that I will be captaining the team. I was stunned and my core shivered at the thought of doing something I have never backed myself for or have done before. Before I could say something and ask him to give this responsibility to someone else, he asked me to cheer up the boys. In addition, he asked me to plan well and be ready for the match. He left the locker room and for the next 10 minutes I was numb and I could still feel shivers down my spine. But I closed my eyes, recalled my dreams, and told myself that it is an important tournament and I do not have a choice but to lead. Besides, I recollected how much pride my father is going to take in the fact that I got to lead and I knew that I could not disappoint him. So, I gathered some courage, called the boys in a hurdle, gave a small pep talk to them, and told them that they just need to go out there and express themselves. I still remember I gave a two-minute speech in the locker room that was all spontaneous. In fact, it worked wonders to uplift the almost dead spirits of the boys. I then sat down with a notebook to plan a few things and decide the batting and bowling orders subject to the kind of conditions of the pitch and the weather.

We walked to the ground for the match and as I got down the stairs, there were a lot of apprehensions gushing inside me. I was doubting my leadership qualities for I always believed before that point in time that I had none of them. To add to the misery, I lost the toss and we were asked to bowl first as opposed to what we wanted to do. In the first few minutes, I was scared, and more than I felt privileged to be a captain, I was thinking that life was being unfair to me. But I gathered a little confidence as I was placing the field and discussing things with the bowlers. Fifteen minutes into the game as things got intense, I started setting myself free of worries and started enjoying the captaincy. Before this, I only saw myself as a good batsman who has a good understanding of the batting dynamics and what bowlers think. But as the match progressed, I was happy to realize that I have a wider understanding of the game. Further, as I rushed to my bowlers after every three or four overs to convey suggestions, I felt that I had not realized my ability to be a good communicator before this match. Whenever I felt a little low on confidence, I would just look at the heavens and pray. Further, we executed our plans well and we did a good job to restrict them for a decent total.

Then when it was our turn to bat, I dropped my batting sequence to give more stability to the middle order. Before that day, I had opened the batting for my school in most matches but as a captain, I was able to view it differently. So, I went in to bat after the fall of two wickets and saw my team to the finishing line. At first, I could not believe that I led my team to a victory and I could also give a valuable individual contribution despite the pressure of captaincy. I was excited beyond what words can ever explain. Although I usually stay calm, I went about jumping in the air a few times after we won. From this match and this unpredictable opportunity, I realized my potential as a leader and as a communicator who can bring different people together to achieve a common goal. Not only I could identify the traits of a leader in me but I could also build on them and improve the leader in me through every phase of that match. That one match changed me drastically and made me a much more flamboyant and extrovert person. Moreover, I led my team to the trophy and made my father and coach emphatically proud. More importantly, I now look for more versatile opportunities to take up leadership roles and this has only been possible because of that one match. So, now I happily volunteer to lead group projects, lead the class whenever possible, and participate in activities based on communication skills. Besides, I see myself as a capable leader now who is ready to listen to everyone and is also receptive to feedback so as to improve with each opportunity. Now, I have a natural knack for thinking like a leader in most situations and hence apply patience and rationality to my decision-making than acting in haste.


To summarize, whatever I have gained from my experiences makes me feel grateful and now I firmly opine that we should not be scared of opportunities. In fact, after this overhaul in my life that is majorly supported by the above incident, I now look for more opportunities where I can prove my abilities, make my parents proud and make a real positive difference to my surroundings. My comprehension of life and my approach towards life are now completely different from how it used to be before this incident. From being a timid and introverted individual, I now see myself adding value to a student community and inspiring others to give their best. At last, I also feel that when people share their valuable experiences with each other, they can add meaning to each other’s life.

Sample Essay 2: A visit to the old age home


In our pursuit of individual success and happiness, we often tend to forget that we are humans first who are meant to co-exist and support each other. Because I was also taught since childhood that I need to focus only on my studies to compete with the world, for many years I ignored the need to pay heed to humility. But one experience can make a lot of difference in our lives and take us closer to empathy and kindness. Maybe the challenges of life and the compulsions to excel and outshine others made me slightly selfish. But one visit to an old age home changed that in me forever. In this essay, I will talk about a very important experience of life which in a way made me a more complete human being and inspired me to indulge in community service.


Last year, a few days before Christmas, my friend asked me to accompany him for a visit to an old aged home. He told me that he wants to donate some sweets and warm clothes to the inmates of the old age home. I was reluctant at first but because he is my best friend, I could not deny him. So, we set off to an old age home which was on the outskirts of the city. On the way, I asked him what drives him to help random people that he does not even know. He smiled and did not say anything and when I asked him again, he told me that I will know when I spend some time at the old aged home.

We reached the old age home and I helped him to carry sweets and clothes to the administrative office. He further sought permission to spend some time with the people who stay in the care home. I was confused and I did not understand why he wanted to spend some time with abandoned old people. But I did not question him and we were allowed to go upstairs where some old people were seated in the hall and were having a discussion about life. We wished them and sat next to them and they were utterly happy to see us. They did not even know us but they were so elated by the fact that someone had taken out some time to care about their well-being and have a few conversations with them. We wished them Merry Christmas and told them that we have got sweets and some blankets for them. While almost all of them felt excited and joyful in response to this gesture, one old man burst into tears. I could not understand why was he crying but I felt disheartened at the sight.

My friend rushed to him and asked him if he is fine and offered him a handkerchief to wipe his tears. In that little moment, I was utterly proud of my friend and for the first time, I realized that with little deeds we can make so much difference to someone’s life. That old man who did not even know our names found a sense of comfort in our presence. He then started sharing his unfortunate story with us. Wiping his tears, with a heavy heart he shared his ordeal. He told us that his kids abandoned him 7 years back and then never cared to enquire about him again. He further added that two unknown people bringing him sweets for Christmas melted his heart and it is for the first time in the last 7 years that someone has shown such concern and love. As he shared his grief with wet eyes, my friend and I looked at each other and there were tears in the eyes of both of us. At that very moment, I found my answer to the question that I had asked my friend on the way. Yet again, my heart was pounding with pride for my friend and I wondered why I could never think beyond myself in such a selfless way.

After spending a few hours there, I came back home as a totally different person. I came back home with a lot of empathy, sensitivity, and care for others. I still wonder, how can kids be so heartless and abandon those who taught them how to walk. Since that day, I have tried to look beyond myself and have participated in various community service works for the welfare of the people especially the aged ones. I am amply thankful to my friend for taking me to the old age home that day. Now my life has a purpose wherein I want to use my education to bring a positive change in the lives of people who are needy, underprivileged, or abandoned. Further, I try to endorse the importance of humility in my family and my other friends. Also, while participating in various community service tasks, I have been able to develop a lot of vital interpersonal skills that now help me create a balance between studies and give back to society.


To encapsulate, while people keep running after money, success, or personal relationships, they should also have a knack for experiences. What we learn from our life experiences cannot be learned from textbooks. Besides, it is important to realize that as humans we have a duty towards humanity that we should discharge with diligence. Out of all qualities and skills that we learn in life, humility and modesty should be given the highest priority.

To conclude, there are a lot of elements and strategies that you need to include in the task of writing a personal narrative essay. A personal narrative essay that a college asks you to write for the admission process can be crucial for your career goals. Therefore, you should write it after planning your essay well and choose a story or an experience on the basis of the emotional appeal and learning it promises to offer. Further, by understanding the purpose and the anticipation of the reader, you can give a set direction to your essay. Moreover, it is imperative that you structure your essay well and maintain a consistency of the core theme that you wish to portray in your essay. Last but not the least, you should take care of the tone of the essay and make it highly personalized for it should speak for your personal experiences.

Further readings


  • Base, K., & statement, H. (2020). How to Write a Thesis Statement | 3 Steps & Examples. Retrieved 28 November 2020, from
  • Essay Structure. (2020). Retrieved 28 November 2020, from
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