Writing a Personal Narrative Essay

One of the first essays I assign my college writing students is the well known personal narrative. If you’re like most college students, this may very well be one of the first “college essays” you’re asked to write – like it or not.

The reasoning behind this common first assignment is simple: college writing instructors want to help you develop critical writing skills through a simple writing assignment that requires basically zero outside research. Everyone should be able to write about him or herself on the spot!

The other reason you have to write a personal narrative is to provide your instructor with a baseline for your abilities as a writer. Chances are, the stakes are much lower for this assignment than other essays you will have to write. Still, that should not be an excuse to slack off. Remember: your instructor will also be formulating an opinion of your work at this stage of the game, so be sure to make a strong effort.

Above all else, be sure you’re absolutely sure what the terms of the writing assignment are.

Without knowing what your assignment is, I can promise you one thing with about 90% accuracy: your professor is expecting you to demonstrate lots of critical thinking in your work. Be sure to avoid these common problems:

  • Do NOT tell every single detail from your birth until now. Focus on key events targeting a specific theme.
  • Do NOT overuse the word “I” throughout the paper. This is ok in a first draft, but you need to edit it out later.
  • Do NOT wait until the last minute to complete this assignment. It is more difficult than you think.

Your essay should be simple in structure and easy to read. Don’t think for a second that this is going to be easy to do. Get started writing now, and you’ll be happy you did!