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500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

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Updated, March 2, 2017 | We published an updated version of this list, “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing,” as well as a companion piece, “401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing.”

Every school day since 2009 we’ve asked students a question based on an article in The New York Times. Now, five years later, we’ve collected 500 of them that invite narrative and personal writing and pulled them all together in one place (available here as a PDF ).

The categorized list below touches on everything from sports to travel, education, gender roles, video games, fashion, family, pop culture, social media and more, and, like all our Student Opinion questions , each links to a related Times article and includes a series of follow-up questions. What’s more, all these questions are still open for comment by any student 13 or older.

So dive into this admittedly overwhelming list and pick the questions that most inspire you to tell an interesting story, describe a memorable event, observe the details in your world, imagine a possibility, or reflect on who you are and what you believe.

Childhood Memories

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  • What Was Your Most Precious Childhood Possession?
  • What Were Your Favorite Childhood Shows and Characters?
  • What Were Your Favorite Picture Books When You Were Little?
  • What Things Did You Create When You Were a Child?
  • What Places Do You Remember Fondly From Childhood?
  • Have You Ever Felt Embarrassed by Things You Used to Like?
  • Do You Wish You Could Return to Moments From Your Past?
  • Was There a Toy You Wanted as a Child but Never Got?
  • What Objects Tell the Story of Your Life?
  • What Are Your Best Sleepover Memories?
  • What’s the Best Gift You’ve Ever Given or Received?
  • What’s the Most Memorable Thing You Ever Got in the Mail?
  • What Nicknames Have You Ever Gotten or Given?

Coming of Age

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  • What Have You Learned in Your Teens?
  • What Personal Achievements Make You Proud?
  • What Are Some Recent Moments of Happiness in Your Life?
  • What Are You Grateful For?
  • What Rites of Passage Have You Participated In?
  • What Advice Would You Give Younger Kids About Middle or High School?
  • What Can Older People Learn From Your Generation?
  • What Do Older Generations Misunderstand About Yours?

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  • Who Is Your Family?
  • What Have You and Your Family Accomplished Together?
  • What Events Have Brought You Closer to Your Family?
  • What’s Your Role in Your Family?
  • Have You Ever Changed a Family Member’s Mind?
  • How Do You Define ‘Family’?
  • What Are Your Family Stories of Sacrifice?
  • What Possessions Does Your Family Treasure?
  • What Hobbies Have Been Passed Down in Your Family?
  • How Much Do You Know About Your Family’s History?
  • Did Your Parents Have a Life Before They Had Kids?
  • How Close Are You to Your Parents?
  • How Are You and Your Parents Alike and Different?
  • Do Your Parents Support Your Learning?
  • What Have Your Parents Taught You About Money?
  • Do You Expect Your Parents to Give You Money?
  • How Permissive Are Your Parents?
  • Do You Have Helicopter Parents?
  • How Do Your Parents Teach You to Behave?
  • How Do You Make Parenting Difficult for Your Parents?
  • If You Drink or Use Drugs, Do Your Parents Know?
  • Do You Talk About Report Cards With Your Parents?
  • Would You Mind if Your Parents Blogged About You?
  • How Well Do You Get Along With Your Siblings?
  • How Well Do You Know Your Pet?
  • What Role Do Pets Play in Your Family?
  • What Is Your Racial and Ethnic Identity?
  • Have You Ever Tried to Hide Your Racial or Ethnic Identity?
  • How Do You Feel About Your Last Name?
  • What’s the Story Behind Your Name?
  • What Are Your Favorite Names?
  • How Have You Paid Tribute to Loved Ones?

Community and Home

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  • Would You Most Want to Live in a City, a Suburb or the Country?
  • How Much Does Your Neighborhood Define Who You Are?
  • What’s Special About Your Hometown?
  • What Would You Name Your Neighborhood?
  • Who Is the ‘Mayor’ of Your School or Neighborhood?
  • Who Are the ‘Characters’ That Make Your Town Interesting?
  • What Would a TV Show About Your Town Spoof?
  • What ‘Urban Legends’ Are There About Places in Your Area?
  • What Local Problems Do You Think Your Mayor Should Try to Solve?
  • Do You Know Your Way Around Your City or Town?
  • Have You Ever Interacted With the Police?
  • How Often Do You Interact With People of Another Race or Ethnicity?
  • Who Would Be the Ideal Celebrity Neighbor?
  • What Is Your Favorite Place?
  • How Much Time Do You Spend in Nature?
  • What Small Things Have You Seen and Taken Note Of Today?
  • What Would Your Dream Home Be Like?
  • What is Your Favorite Place in Your House?
  • How Important Is Keeping a Clean House?
  • Is Your Bedroom a Nightmare?
  • Do You Plan on Saving Any of Your Belongings for the Future?
  • With Your Home in Danger, What Would You Try to Save?
  • What Would You Put in Your Emergency ‘Go-Bag’?
  • Have You Ever Lost (or Found) Something Valuable?


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  • What Is Your Personal Credo?
  • What Motivates You?
  • What Makes You Happy?
  • What Are You Good At?
  • How Much Self-Control Do You Have?
  • How Good Are You at Waiting for What You Really Want?
  • What Role Does Procrastination Play in Your Life?
  • When in Your Life Have You Been a Leader?
  • How Well Do You Perform Under Pressure?
  • How Well Do You Take Criticism?
  • Are You Hard or Easy on Yourself?
  • How Full Is Your Glass?
  • Do You Have a Hard Time Making Decisions?
  • How Good Are You at Time Management?
  • How Productive and Organized Are You?
  • How Would Your Life Be Different if You Had Better Listening Skills?
  • How Competitive Are You?
  • Do You Perform Better When You’re Competing or When You’re Collaborating?
  • Do You Take More Risks When You Are Around Your Friends?
  • Do You Unknowingly Submit to Peer Pressure?
  • How Much of a Daredevil Are You?
  • What Pranks, Jokes, Hoaxes or Tricks Have You Ever Fallen For or Perpetrated?
  • How Do You React When Provoked?
  • How Often Do You Cry?
  • Do You Think You’re Brave?
  • What Are You Afraid Of?
  • What Are Your Fears and Phobias?
  • What Are Your Personal Superstitions?
  • Do You Like Being Alone?
  • How Impulsive Are You?
  • Are You a Novelty-Seeker?
  • What Annoys You?
  • Do You Apologize Too Much?
  • Do You Have Good Manners?
  • Are You a Saver or a Tosser?
  • Are You More Introvert or Extrovert?
  • Are You Popular, Quirky or Conformist?
  • Are You a Nerd or a Geek?
  • What Would Your Personal Mascot Be?
  • What Assumptions Do People Make About You?

Overcoming Adversity

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  • What Challenges Have You Overcome?
  • What Do You Do When You Encounter Obstacles to Success?
  • What Are Your Secret Survival Strategies?
  • How Do You Find Peace in Your Life?
  • How Have You Handled Being the ‘New Kid’?
  • Do You Ever Feel Overlooked and Underappreciated?
  • How Stressed Are You?
  • How Do You Relieve Stress?
  • Does Stress Affect Your Ability to Make Good Decisions?
  • What Challenges Have You Set for Yourself?
  • How Often Do You Leave Your ‘Comfort Zone’?
  • What Did You Once Hate but Now Like?
  • Does Your Life Leave You Enough Time to Relax?
  • Do You Set Rules for Yourself About How You Use Your Time?
  • Is ‘Doing Nothing’ a Good Use of Your Time?
  • What’s Cluttering Up Your Life?
  • What Work Went Into Reaching Your Most Difficult Goals?
  • When Have You Ever Failed at Something? What Happened as a Result?
  • When Have You Ever Succeeded When You Thought You Might Fail?
  • What Life Lessons Has Adversity Taught You?
  • What’s the Most Challenging Assignment You’ve Ever Had?
  • What Kind of Feedback Helps You Improve?
  • Is Trying Too Hard to Be Happy Making You Sad?
  • Do Adults Who Are ‘Only Trying to Help’ Sometimes Make Things Worse?
  • What Are Five Everyday Problems That Bother You, and What Can You Do About Them?

Gender and Sexuality

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  • How Do Male and Female Roles Differ in Your Family?
  • Do Parents Have Different Hopes and Standards for Their Sons Than for Their Daughters?
  • Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have ‘Perfect’ Bodies?
  • How Much Pressure Do Boys Face to Have the Perfect Body?
  • How Did You Learn About Sex?
  • How Should Parents Address Internet Pornography?
  • What Experiences Have You Had With Gender Bias in School?
  • What Have Been Your Experiences With Catcalling or Other Kinds of Street Harassment?
  • Do You Know Boys Who Regard Girls as ‘Prey’?
  • Do You Consider Yourself a Feminist?

Morality and Religion

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  • How Do You Help?
  • What Ethical Dilemmas Have You Faced?
  • Would You Help an Injured Stranger?
  • When Is the Last Time You Did Something Nice for a Stranger?
  • Have You Ever ‘Paid It Forward’?
  • How Much Do You Gossip?
  • How Comfortable Are You With Lying?
  • Have You Ever Taken Something You Weren’t Supposed To?
  • What Could You Live Without?
  • Do You Ever Feel Guilty About What, or How Much, You Throw Away?
  • Do You Ever Eavesdrop?
  • How Important Is Your Spiritual Life?
  • Do You Believe That Everything Happens for a Reason?
  • Can You Be Good Without God?
  • Are You Less Religious Than Your Parents?
  • Can You Pass a Basic Religion Test?
  • What Can You Learn From Other Religions?

Role Models

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  • Who Is Your Role Model?
  • Who Are Your Heroes?
  • Who Inspires You?
  • What’s the Best Advice You’ve Gotten?
  • Who Outside Your Family Has Made a Difference in Your Life?
  • If You Had Your Own Talk Show, Whom Would You Want to Interview?
  • To Whom, or What, Would You Like to Write a Thank-You Note?
  • What Leader Would You Invite to Speak at Your School?
  • What Six People, Living or Dead, Would You Invite to Dinner?

Technology and Video Games

writing prompts for personal essays

  • Are You Distracted by Technology?
  • Do You Always Have Your Phone or Tablet at Your Side?
  • What Tech Tools Play the Biggest Role in Your Life?
  • What New Technologies or Tech Toys Are You Most Excited About?
  • To What Piece of Technology Would You Write a ‘Love Letter’?
  • Does Your Digital Life Have Side Effects?
  • Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
  • Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
  • When Do You Choose Making a Phone Call Over Sending a Text?
  • Do You Know How to Code? Would You Like to Learn?
  • Whom Would You Share Your Passwords With?
  • What Are Your Favorite Video Games?
  • What Have You Learned Playing Video Games?
  • Do You Play Violent Video Games?
  • When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  • Who Are Your Opponents in Online Gaming?
  • Do You Like Watching Other People Play Video Games?

The Internet

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  • How Careful Are You Online?
  • Do You Ever Seek Advice on the Internet?
  • How Do You Know if What You Read Online Is True?
  • How Much Do You Trust Online Reviews?
  • How Do You Use Wikipedia?
  • What Are Your Favorite Internet Spoofs?
  • What Are Your Favorite Viral Videos?
  • What Would You Teach the World in an Online Video?
  • What Are Your Experiences With Internet-Based Urban Legends?
  • What Story Does Your Personal Data Tell?
  • Do You Worry About the Lack of Anonymity in the Digital Age?
  • Do You Wish You Had More Privacy Online?
  • California Notice
  • Have You Ever Been Scammed?

Social Media

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  • How Do You Use Facebook?
  • What Is Your Facebook Persona?
  • What Memorable Experiences Have You Had on Facebook?
  • Does Facebook Ever Make You Feel Bad?
  • Would You Consider Deleting Your Facebook Account?
  • Do You Have ‘Instagram Envy’?
  • Do You Use Twitter?
  • Why Do You Share Photos?
  • How Do You Archive Your Life?
  • Have You Ever Posted, Emailed or Texted Something You Wish You Could Take Back?
  • Have You Ever Sent an Odd Message Because of Auto-Correct?
  • Would You Want Your Photo or Video to Go Viral?
  • Do You Worry Colleges or Employers Might Read Your Social Media Posts Someday?

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  • What Are You Listening To?
  • Who in Your Life Introduces You to New Music?
  • How Much Is Your Taste in Music Based on What Your Friends Like?
  • What Music Inspires You?
  • How Closely Do You Listen to Lyrics?
  • Which Pop Music Stars Fascinate You?
  • Who Is Your Favorite Pop Diva?
  • What’s Your Karaoke Song?
  • What Song/Artist Pairings Would You Like to Hear?

Movies, Theater and Television

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  • What Were the Best Movies You Saw in the Past Year?
  • What Movies Do You Watch, or Reference, Over and Over?
  • What Movies, Shows or Books Do You Wish Had Sequels, Spinoffs or New Episodes?
  • Do You Like Horror Movies?
  • Who Are Your Favorite Movie Stars?
  • Would You Pay Extra for a 3-D Movie?
  • What Is Your Favorite Comedy?
  • What Are the Best Live Theatrical Performances You’ve Ever Seen?
  • Have You Ever Stumbled Upon a Cool Public Performance?
  • What Role Does Television Play in Your Life and the Life of Your Family?
  • What Television Shows Have Mattered to You?
  • Do Your Television Viewing Habits Include ‘Binge-Watching’?
  • How Often Do You Watch a Television Show When It Originally Airs?
  • What Old Television Shows Would You Bring Back?
  • Why Do We Like Reality Shows So Much?
  • What Ideas Do You Have for a Reality Show?
  • What Are Your Favorite Commercials?
  • How Much Are You Influenced by Advertising?

Reading, Writing and Fine Arts

writing prompts for personal essays

  • Read Any Good Books Lately?
  • Do You Read for Pleasure?
  • What Are Your Favorite Books and Authors?
  • What Are the Best Things You’ve Read, Watched, Heard or Played This Year?
  • What Are Your Favorite Young Adult Novels?
  • What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
  • What Memorable Poetry Have You Ever Read or Heard?
  • What Are Your Favorite Cartoons?
  • What Magazines Do You Read, and How Do You Read Them?
  • Do You Enjoy Reading Tabloid Gossip?
  • When Have You Seen Yourself and Your Life Reflected in a Book or Other Media?
  • Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
  • Do You Read E-Books?
  • Would You Trade Your Paper Books for Digital Versions?
  • To What Writer Would You Award a Prize?
  • Why Do You Write?
  • Do You Keep a Diary or Journal?
  • Do You Have a Blog?
  • Do You Want to Write a Book?
  • When Do You Write by Hand?
  • Do You Write in Cursive?
  • Do You Write in Your Books?
  • What ‘Mundane Moments’ From Your Life Might Make Great Essay Material?
  • What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in a Museum?
  • What Are the Most Memorable Works of Visual Art You Have Seen?
  • What Are Your Favorite Works of Art?

Language and Speech

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  • What Are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Words?
  • What Words or Phrases Do You Think Are Overused?
  • How Much Slang Do You Use? What Are Your Favorite (Printable) Words?
  • How Much Do You Curse? Why?
  • Why Do So Many People Say ‘Like’ and ‘Totally’ All the Time?
  • Do You Sometimes ‘Hide’ Behind Irony?
  • How Good Is Your Grammar?
  • What New Emoticons Does the World Need?
  • Are You Fluent in Vocal Fry, Creaky Voice or Uptalk?
  • How Much Information Is ‘Too Much Information’?
  • When Did You Last Have a Great Conversation?
  • Do You Speak a Second, or Third, Language?
  • When Do You Remember Learning a New Word?

School and Teachers

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  • Do You Like School?
  • What Are You Really Learning at School?
  • What Are You Looking Forward To, or Dreading, This School Year?
  • Would You Want to Be Home-Schooled?
  • Would You Like to Take a Class Online?
  • Would You Rather Attend a Public or a Private High School?
  • How Would You Grade Your School?
  • What Can Other Schools Learn — and Copy — From Your School?
  • Is Your School Day Too Short?
  • What Do You Hope to Get Out of High School?
  • Do You Have Too Much Homework?
  • Does Your Homework Help You Learn?
  • What Is Your Best Subject?
  • What Memorable Experiences Have You Had in Learning Science or Math?
  • Are You Afraid of Math?
  • Do We Need a New Way to Teach Math?
  • What Are the Best Ways to Learn About History?
  • How Would You Do on a Civics Test?
  • How Important Is Arts Education?
  • What Is Your Most Memorable Writing Assignment?
  • What Would You Like to Have Memorized?
  • Does Your School Value Students’ Digital Skills?
  • What Was Your Favorite Field Trip?
  • Do You Participate in Class?
  • What Are Your Best Tips for Studying?
  • Do You Use Study Guides?
  • Is Everything You’ve Been Taught About Study Habits Wrong?
  • How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  • Do You Have a Tutor?
  • Are Your Grades Inflated?
  • When Has a Teacher Inspired You?
  • What Teacher Do You Appreciate?
  • What Teacher Would You Like to Thank?
  • What Do You Wish Your Teachers Knew About You?
  • Do Your Test Scores Reflect How Good Your Teachers Are?
  • Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?

School Social Environment

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  • What Role Do School Clubs and Teams Play in Your Life?
  • Who Has the Power in School Social Life?
  • How Big a Problem Is Bullying or Cyberbullying in Your School or Community?
  • Does Your School Seem Integrated?
  • What’s the Racial Makeup of Your School?
  • Do You Ever ‘Mix It Up’ and Socialize With Different People at School?
  • Can Students at Your School Talk Openly About Their Mental Health Issues?
  • Is Your School a ‘Party School’?
  • How Common Is Drug Use in Your School?
  • Do You Know People Who Cheat on High-Stakes Tests?
  • How Does Your School Deal With Students Who Misbehave?
  • How Much Does Your Life in School Intersect With Your Life Outside School?
  • Would You Ever Go Through Hazing to Be Part of a Group?

Senior Year, College and Applications

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  • Where Do You Want to Go to College?
  • What Are Your Sources for Information About Colleges and Universities?
  • Is College Overrated?
  • How Much Does the SAT or ACT Matter in Your Life?
  • What Personal Essay Topic Would You Assign to College Applicants?
  • What Qualities Would You Look For in a College Roommate?
  • What Would You Do With a Gap Year?
  • What Makes a Graduation Ceremony Memorable?
  • How Do You Feel About Proms?

Work and Careers

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  • What Are Your Longtime Interests or Passions?
  • Do You Have a Life Calling?
  • What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?
  • Do You Think You Will Have a Career That You Love?
  • What Investment Are You Willing to Make to Get Your Dream Job?
  • Would You Consider a Nontraditional Occupation?
  • Would You Want to Be a Teacher?
  • What Hidden Talents Might You Have?
  • What Do You Hope to Be Doing the Year After You Graduate From College?
  • Would You Rather Work From Home or in an Office?
  • What Career or Technical Classes Do You Wish Your School Offered?
  • What ‘Back-to-the-Land’ Skills Do You Have, or Wish You Had?
  • What Have You Made Yourself?
  • What Would You Create if You Had Funding?
  • How Did You Start Doing Something You Love?
  • Did You Ever Take a Break From Doing Something You Love?
  • What Have You Done to Earn Money?
  • Do You Have a Job?
  • Would You Quit if Your Values Did Not Match Your Employer’s?
  • What Are Your Attitudes Toward Money?
  • Can Money Buy You Happiness?
  • Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?
  • What Do You Want to Be Doing When You’re 80?
  • Do You Want to Live to 100?
  • What Do You Want Your Obituary to Say?

Dating and Friendship

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  • Have You Ever Been in Love?
  • What Are the Most Meaningful Relationships in Your Life?
  • What Advice Would You Give to Somebody Who Just Started Dating?
  • What Are the Basic ‘Rules’ for Handling Breakups?
  • What Are Your Beliefs About Marriage?
  • Are You Allowed to Date?
  • Is Dating a Thing of the Past?
  • Do You Have a Best Friend?
  • How Do You Feel About Introducing Friends from Different Parts of Your Life?
  • How Should You Handle the End of a Friendship?
  • How Often Do You Have ‘Deep Discussions’?

Sports, Exercise and Games

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  • Do You Like to Exercise?
  • How Has Exercise Changed Your Health, Your Body or Your Life?
  • Why Do You Play Sports?
  • What Is the Most Memorable Sporting Event You’ve Ever Watched or Played In?
  • What’s the Most Impressive Sports Moment You’ve Seen?
  • When Has a Sports Team Most Disappointed You?
  • What Sports Teams Do You Root For?
  • Does Being a Fan Help Define Who You Are?
  • How Far Would You Go to Express Loyalty to Your Favorite Teams?
  • What Fan Memorabilia Would You Pay Big Bucks For?
  • What Rules Would You Like to See Changed in Your Favorite Sports?
  • What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
  • What Are Your Favorite Games?

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  • Where in the World Would You Travel if You Could?
  • What Is Your Fantasy Vacation?
  • What Would Your Fantasy Road Trip Be Like?
  • What Crazy Adventure Would You Want to Take?
  • How Has Travel Affected You?
  • What Famous Landmarks Have You Visited?
  • What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in Nature?
  • What Are the Best Souvenirs You’ve Ever Collected While Traveling?
  • Would You Like to Live in Another Country?
  • Would You Want to Be a Space Tourist?

Looks, Fashion and Health

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  • What Does Your Hairstyle Say About You?
  • How Far Would You Go for Fashion?
  • What Are the Hot Fashion Trends at Your School Right Now?
  • Do You Have a Signature Clothing Item?
  • Has Anyone Ever Said That You Look Like Someone Famous?
  • Would You Ever Consider Getting a Tattoo?
  • What Are Your Opinions on Cosmetic Surgery?
  • Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks?
  • What Are Your Sleep Habits?
  • How Much of a Priority Do You Make Sleep?
  • Do You Get Enough Sleep?
  • What Health Tips Have Worked for You?

Shopping and Driving

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  • What’s Your Favorite Store? Why?
  • To What Company Would You Write a Letter of Complaint or Admiration?
  • To What Business Would You Like to Give Advice?
  • How Would You Make Over Your Mall?
  • Do You Shop at Locally Owned Businesses?
  • What Are the Best Things You’ve Acquired Secondhand?
  • How Important Is It to Have a Driver’s License?
  • Are You a Good Driver?

Food and Eating

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  • What Are the Most Memorable Meals You’ve Ever Had?
  • What’s Your Favorite Holiday Food Memory?
  • What’s Your Comfort Food?
  • What Are Your Favorite Junk Foods?
  • What Food Would You Like to Judge in a Taste-Off?
  • Do You Prefer Your Tacos ‘Authentic’ or ‘Appropriated’?
  • Do You Pay Attention to Nutrition Labels on Food?
  • How Concerned Are You About Where Your Food Comes From?
  • Are Your Eating Habits Healthy?
  • What Are Your ‘Food Rules’?
  • Do You Eat Too Quickly?
  • What Do You Eat During the School Day?
  • Do You Eat Cafeteria Food?
  • How Much Food Does Your Family Waste?
  • What Messages About Food and Eating Have You Learned From Your Family?
  • What’s Your Favorite Restaurant?
  • What Restaurant Would You Most Like to Review?
  • Do You Cook?
  • What Would You Most Like to Learn to Cook or Bake?

Holidays, Seasons, Weather and Weekends

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  • How Can People Make the Most of Long Holiday Weekends?
  • What’s Your Sunday Routine?
  • What’s on Your Fall Fashion Shopping List?
  • Will You Be Wearing a Halloween Costume This Year?
  • Do You Like Scary Movies and Books?
  • Do You Believe in Ghosts?
  • What Are Your Thanksgiving Traditions?
  • What Are Your Tips for Enjoying the Holiday Season?
  • How Will You Spend the Holiday Break?
  • Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions?
  • How Do You Fight the Winter Blues?
  • What Are Your Experiences With Severe Weather?
  • How Do You Feel About Valentine’s Day?
  • How Do You Celebrate Spring?
  • What Would Your Fantasy Spring Break Be Like?
  • How Careful Are You in the Sun?
  • What Are You Looking Forward to This Summer?
  • What Would Your Ideal Summer Camp Be Like?
  • What Are Your Favorite Summer Hangouts?
  • What’s Your Favorite Summer Food?
  • What Is Your Favorite Summer Movie?
  • Do You Have a Summer Job?
  • Do You Choose Summer Activities to Look Good on Applications?
  • What Are the Best Things You Did This Summer?
  • How Do You Prepare to Go Back to School?

Beliefs, Politics and Current Events

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  • How Would You Like to Help Our World?
  • What Cause Would Get You Into the Streets?
  • What Would You Risk Your Life For?
  • When Have You Spoken Out About Something You Felt Had to Change?
  • What Would You Invent to Make the World a Better Place?
  • How Do You Feel About Zoos?
  • What Is Your Relationship With Guns?
  • Do You Trust Your Government?
  • Do You Know Your First Amendment Rights?
  • Do You Worry About Terrorism?
  • Do You Believe in Intelligent Alien Life?
  • Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
  • What Would You Do if You Were President?
  • Would You Vote This Year if You Could?
  • Do You Consider Yourself a Republican, Democrat or Independent?
  • What Event in the Past Do You Wish You Could Have Witnessed?
  • What Are the Most Important Changes, in Your Life and in the World, in the Last Decade?
  • What Do You Remember About Sept. 11, 2001?
  • What News Stories Are You Following?
  • How Do You Get Your News?
  • Why Should We Care About Events in Other Parts of the World?
  • What Questions Do You Have About How the World Works?
  • What Big Questions Do You Have?

If Only…

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  • What Would You Do if You Won the Lottery?
  • What Superpower Do You Wish You Had?
  • What Era Do You Wish You Had Lived In?
  • Would You Want to Be a Tween or Teen Star?
  • Would You Want to Grow Up in the Public Eye?
  • What Kind of Robot Would You Want?
  • What Would You Outsource if You Could?
  • What Would You Like to Learn on Your Own?
  • What Would You Wait in Line For?

This resource may be used to address the academic standards listed below.

Common Core E.L.A. Anchor Standards

3   Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

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This is such a fabulous resource for inspiration! Thank you so much for putting this list together. I’ll refer to it often and share it with my readers on my poetry and writing blog.

These are great writing prompts. These remind me of the questions on It’s nice to write there and have all your personal stories in one place where you can share them with friends or post anonymously. Anyone who does narrative or personal writing will find it really useful.

For example, this is how a bunch of people answered the question: “What would you do if you won the lottery?”

Cool, right?

Wonderful list! The topics are thought-provoking and exciting to write. I can go writing on and on, on these topics.

How much do you know about your family history?

I know a little bit about my family history. My grandma talks about our religion sometimes, not every day. So I get to hear some facts about my religion. For example what we do on New Year’s or what happened when I wasn’t born yet. My family history is very interesting.

My mom she is Cambodian and my dad is Thai so I’m mixed Asian. Everybody say that I mostly look like my dad than my mom, and that’s interesting to me.

My dad side of the family, my great great grandma, grandpa and aunts and uncles. They are living in Thailand. I want to go to Thailand really bad. My mom side of the family, my great great grandpa, grandma and my grandma siblings. They are living in Cambodia. My grandma took some pictures in Asia. It looks so different than the United States of America.

So first off, my dad he was born in Thailand and my mom I think she was born in Cambodia. She said that she didn’t went to Cambodia so I really don’t know. So my family (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncle immigrated to the United States of America and became citizens. That time they lived in Stockton, California. I could of live there still. But my dad he went to school in New Hampshire and got a job here and the job over here paid a lot more money than California. So Then my mom side of the family came with my parents, and my dad side of the family stayed in California that was in the 1990s when they moved to New Hampshire. Then they separated, so now we don’t live together anymore.

Now my aunt lives in Massachusetts and my other aunt lives in Rhode Island. So when my parents lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I wasn’t born yet. But I wish that we still lived in California. So we

My life is interesting to me. I have families in Cambodia and Thailand, and I haven’t met them yet. Also the things we do on New Year’s and other occasions. So that’s what I know about my family history.

Very interesting

OMG!! Where have you been all my life I am very excited about this!!

I wish I was more of a journaler. These are some fantastic prompts for writing personal stories. With 500 listed here, there’s no way you wouldn’t find an inspiring prompt.

I’m more of a fiction writer, and I’ve chosen to write prompts that help fiction writers expand their imagination.

What's Next

Inner Explorations: Top Personal Writing Prompts to Discover Yourself

By: Author Valerie Forgeard

Posted on August 17, 2023

Categories Writing

The journey of self-discovery is both intricate and deeply personal, weaving through the tapestry of our experiences, hopes, fears, and dreams.

Yet, often, the most profound revelations lie just beneath the surface, waiting for the right nudge to emerge.

These prompts are more than just questions; they are doorways into your innermost corridors, inviting you to traverse the landscapes of your mind and heart.

Whether you’re an avid journaler or a curious soul seeking clarity, this article aims to guide you deeper into the realm of self-awareness and personal growth. Embrace the adventure, for within these pages lies the map to your own hidden treasures.

Key Takeaways

  • Personal writing prompts serve as catalysts for self-discovery and reflection.
  • They unlock hidden parts of oneself and allow thoughts and feelings to pour onto the paper.
  • Personal writing prompts stimulate creativity and help overcome writer’s block.
  • They lead to self-understanding, transformation, and a deeper understanding of one’s persona.

Personal Writing Prompts

The journey of self-discovery often starts with a single question, a moment of introspection, or a spark of curiosity. Personal writing prompts act as mirrors, reflecting aspects of ourselves that might remain hidden or unexplored in our daily lives.

Whether you’re seeking clarity, hoping to unearth forgotten memories, or simply looking to add depth to your journaling practice, these prompts are your companions. Embark on this intimate exploration and let the stories of your soul come to the fore.

January – New Beginnings:

  • Reflect on the most impactful lesson you learned last year.
  • What is a new hobby or skill you want to pick up this year?
  • Write about a place you want to visit.
  • Your favorite winter memory.
  • A habit you want to break.

February – Love & Relationships:

  • Describe a tradition you have with a loved one.
  • What does unconditional love mean to you?
  • A time when love challenged you.

March – Growth & Renewal:

  • A mistake you learned from.
  • Describe something you outgrew.
  • Your biggest achievement in the last year.

April – Dreams & Aspirations:

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • A goal you’re working towards.
  • What’s on your bucket list?

May – Memories & Reflections:

  • A family tradition you cherish.
  • Write about a time you felt truly free.
  • Describe a turning point in your life.

June – Adventures & Travels:

  • A local spot you love to visit.
  • The most exotic place you’ve been.
  • A travel mishap story.

July – Freedom & Independence:

  • A time when you felt completely independent.
  • Reflect on a major decision you made.
  • How do you celebrate your personal victories?

August – Creativity & Inspiration:

  • An artwork that speaks to you.
  • A book or movie that changed your perspective.
  • Write about someone who inspires you.

September – Changes & Transformations:

  • Reflect on a moment that reshaped your beliefs.
  • Describe a time you faced your fears.
  • The person you were 10 years ago vs. now.

October – Mysteries & The Unknown:

  • Describe a time when something inexplicable happened to you.
  • Your favorite Halloween memory.
  • What scares you the most?

November – Gratitude & Giving:

  • Write about a time someone showed you unexpected kindness.
  • Your favorite Thanksgiving memory.
  • Describe a tradition of giving in your family.

December – Reflection & Celebration:

  • The best gift you’ve ever received.
  • A tradition you want to start.
  • Reflect on the year as a whole.

Understanding Personal Writing Prompts

 Diary With A Feather Quill Resting On Blank Pages, Surrounded By Scattered, Colorful Sticky Notes In Various Shapes, Each With A Unique Symbol Representing Different Personal Writing Prompts

Let’s dive into understanding personal writing prompts and how they can boost our creativity.

Imagine an invisible spark, a prompt inspiration that ignites your thoughts, guiding them onto the blank canvas of a page. They’re not just questions or statements; they’re catalysts for emotional articulation, unique to your experiences.

As you respond to these prompts, you’ll find yourself exploring uncharted territories of your mind. You’ll unearth memories long-forgotten, insights never before considered, emotions yet to be articulated. Your pen dances on the paper as words pour out like liquid gold from within you.

In essence, personal writing prompts are more than mere tools; they’re keys that unlock your creative potential and open doors to self-discovery. So pick up your pen and let it guide you through this journey of storytelling.

The Importance of Personal Writing Prompts

-Up Of A Hand Holding A Golden Pen, Poised Above An Open Leather-Bound Journal, With A Soft Glow Emanating From The Blank Pages

They’re essential for sparking creativity and overcoming writer’s block. Personal writing prompts, they’re like a compass guiding you through the labyrinth of your mind. They stimulate prompt personalization serving as a catalyst to ignite your imagination.

You know, it’s like having a conversation with yourself; you ask questions, dig deeper, and unveil layers of thoughts that were hitherto unexplored.

But there’s more – it’s not just about stoking the fires of creativity. It also involves emotional exploration, peeling back layers of your experiences to reveal raw emotions. Don’t be afraid to dive into those depths!

Let these prompts open floodgates of sentiments that can color your writing with authenticity and depth. So grab those prompts and let them steer you towards undiscovered territories within yourself!

How to Use Personal Writing Prompts Effectively

 Of Colorful, Hand-Drawn Notecards With Varied Prompts, A Vibrant Ink Pen, A Lit Lightbulb Above The Cards Symbolizing Inspiration, And A Serene, Clutter-Free Writing Desk

It’s crucial to understand how to effectively utilize these creative cues in your literary journey. Prompt personalization is key, tailoring each one to your unique experiences and perspective. This approach evokes emotion not just for you but also for your readers.

Consider the following tips:

  • Use specific memories or moments that stir strong feelings.
  • Delve into personal challenges; they often yield compelling narratives.
  • Explore varied emotional states—joy, sadness, fear—for a rich tapestry of human experience.
  • Draw from real-life personalities who’ve impacted you deeply.
  • Blend reality with imagination to expand the bounds of possible stories.

Emotion evocation breathes life into your words, captivating audiences with shared empathy and connection. Harness this power diligently for a transformative writing experience.

Unleashing Creativity Through Personal Writing Prompts

 Exploding With Vibrant Colors, A Hand Clutching A Quill Pen, And Scattered Blank Papers Transforming Into Butterflies, All On A Backdrop Of An Antique, Wooden Writing Desk

Unleashing one’s creativity can be achieved effectively through tailored cues that evoke memories, emotions, and experiences. Think of personal writing prompts as your secret gateway to self-expression. They’re not just questions or statements; they’re catalysts for stimulating imagination.

Imagine this: you pick a prompt, it’s something simple yet intriguing. As you start to write, the words begin to flow like never before. It’s as if you’ve unlocked a hidden part of yourself – thoughts and feelings pour onto the paper. You find connections where you didn’t think any existed – between your past and present, dreams and realities.

Prompts for self-expression don’t just stimulate your mind; they awaken your soul. So go ahead, let these prompts guide you into uncharted territories of your creativity.

The Role of Personal Writing Prompts in Self-Reflection

E Of A Person Gazing At Their Reflection In A Still Pond, Surrounded By Floating Inkwells And Quills, Under A Tree With Parchment Paper Leaves

In self-reflection, these tailored cues play a pivotal role by aiding us in delving deeper into our thoughts and emotions. They are the whispered prompts that guide you down uncharted paths of your psyche, igniting sparks of inspiration and ensuring consistency in your introspective journey.

  • Feel how personalized writing prompts stir up dormant emotions.
  • Experience the joy of uncovering forgotten memories.
  • Marvel at the rich tapestry of your inner world.
  • Rejoice in the newfound depths of self-understanding.
  • Relish the transformative power that comes with it.

These are not just words on a page; they’re keys to unlock the deepest chambers of your heart. Embrace this prompt inspiration, maintain prompt consistency, and watch as you become both author and protagonist in your unique narrative.

Exploring Different Types of Personal Writing Prompts

Ge Of Diverse Individuals Deep In Thought, Surrounded By Symbolic Icons: A Diary, A Pen, A Typewriter, A Laptop, A Scroll, And A Quill

Imagine diving into the depths of your memories, surfacing with gems previously overlooked or forgotten. That’s the exciting journey personal narrative prompts, reflective journal prompts, and memoir writing prompts can take you on.

These tools are your key to unlock a treasure trove of introspection and self-discovery, each one meticulously designed to guide you through past experiences and onto the path of deeper understanding.

Personal Narrative Prompts

Personal narrative prompts aren’t just about recounting events; they’re about sharing personal feelings and experiences. They’re the catalyst for your emotional expression and narrative construction, the foundation of a story that’s uniquely yours.

Consider these potential prompts:

  • Think of a time when you faced an unexpected challenge. How did it change you?
  • Recall a joyful moment from childhood. Can you still taste the sweetness?
  • Describe an encounter that left you speechless.
  • Imagine having a conversation with your younger self. What advice would you give?
  • Revisit a heartbreak that shaped your perspective on love.

These are not mere topics; they’re gateways to introspection, designed to unearth hidden layers of your persona. So grab your pen, let emotions flow, construct narratives – it’s time to share stories only you can tell.

Reflective Journal Prompts

Reflective journal prompts aren’t just about recording daily events; they’re tools for deep self-reflection and personal growth. You dive into the sea of your thoughts, navigating through waves of emotions and currents of ideas. It’s a journey that’ll lead you to unexplored shores of self-awareness.

Through these reflective practices, you can confront your fears or celebrate victories. They help you pause, ponder, and appreciate life’s intricacies. Journaling benefits are vast – it sharpens your focus, cultivates gratitude, fosters creativity, and bolsters emotional health.

Imagine yourself as an archaeologist unearthing ancient artifacts – those forgotten memories or hidden feelings. Each prompt is like a brush that gently removes the dust from your past experiences, revealing beautiful patterns underneath. So grab that pen! Your expedition awaits!

Memoir Writing Prompts

Memoir-related exercises offer a gateway into your past. They allow you to relive moments and experiences that’ve shaped who you are today. Unearthing these hidden gems is like stitching together the patchwork of your life’s chapters. Each piece contributes to the overall memoir structure.

Consider these prompts:

  • Recall a cherished memory from your childhood. How does it shape who you are now?
  • Describe a time when you faced an insurmountable challenge. What did it teach you?
  • Picture a special person in your life. Why do they matter so much?
  • Think about an event that changed your perspective. What was the turning point?
  • Remember one of the happiest days of your life. Can you still feel its warmth?

Personal Writing Prompts for Journaling

 Journal With An Antique Quill Pen, Ink Bottle, And A Softly Glowing Hourglass, All Placed On A Rustic Wooden Table With A Serene Sunrise View In The Background

It’s essential to choose interesting prompts for journaling that’ll inspire you to write daily. Imagine this, every word you pen down is a step towards emotional catharsis, shedding the weight of unexpressed feelings.

Delve into your mind’s deepest corners, exploring your fears, hopes or the most mundane details of life.

Your journal becomes a canvas of introspection where soul-baring honesty meets therapeutic benefits. You’ll discover tranquility in expressing yourself without judgment and find healing in raw authenticity.

The act transcends mere writing; it evolves into a ritual that nurtures self-awareness and growth.

Personal Writing Prompts for Personal Essays

Ize A Serene Desk Space With An Open, Vintage Leather-Bound Journal, A Brass Quill Pen Poised Above, Surrounded By Various Personal Mementos And A Softly Glowing Candle

Imagine standing on the precipice of a world rich with emotion and experience, your heart pulsing as you prepare to dive into the art of crafting personal essays.

You’re not alone in this journey; we’ll navigate together through different prompt selection techniques, unmasking secrets that will help make your writing process more intuitive and less daunting.

Don’t let writing blocks intimidate you; they’re merely bumps on this creative road we’re embarking upon – obstacles that can be overcome with a few clever strategies up our sleeves.

Prompt Selection Techniques

Choosing the right prompt isn’t always easy, but there’re techniques that can help guide your decision.

When it comes to Prompt Personalization and Selecting Inspiration, remember:

  • Explore your passions – What sets your heart aflame?
  • Use personal experiences – What stories are only yours to tell?
  • Consider challenges you’ve overcome – How have they shaped you?
  • Think about people who inspire you – Why do they move you?
  • Ponder on dreams or goals – How can they drive your narrative?

Now, don’t just stare at the blank page! Let these sparks ignite a firestorm of creativity within.

Remember, it’s not simply penning words; it’s capturing fragments of your soul set alight by inspiration.

Crafting Personal Essays

So, you’ve selected your perfect prompt. Now, it’s time to dive into crafting personal essays.

You must learn how to structure them effectively. Think of personal essay structures like a house – each section has its own purpose but still connects seamlessly with the others.

Begin with an engaging introduction that invites readers in, then build up with body paragraphs filled with compelling details and insights about your experiences or thoughts, and finally tie everything together in a succinct conclusion that leaves an impact.

But your work doesn’t stop there! Essay revision techniques are the spices that enrich your story’s flavor. Scrutinize every word choice, refine your tone, clarify vague ideas – revise until it feels right.

Overcoming Writing Blocks

Overcoming writer’s block can often feel like an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible! You’re capable of creating stunning narratives and memorable characters. All you need are the right motivational strategies and procrastination solutions to get those creative juices flowing again.

Consider these tips:

  • Create a writing schedule: Consistency is key. The more you write, the easier it becomes.
  • Use prompts: They’re excellent for sparking ideas.
  • Take breaks: After all, even your brain needs rest.
  • Embrace imperfections: Not every sentence has to be a masterpiece.
  • Find inspiration outside of writing: Read books, watch movies or simply take a walk.

Overcoming Writer’s Block With Personal Writing Prompts

Ize A Frustrated Writer'S Hand Gripping A Pen, Paper Strewn Around, A Broken Chain Symbolizing Block, And A Lightbulb Illuminating A Bunch Of Unique, Personalized Prompts

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, personal writing prompts can be a useful tool to spark your creativity. Imagine an artistic locksmith unlocking your mind’s door, releasing a river of pent-up words and ideas. That’s the power of Block Busting Strategies.

With a simple yet effective prompt, like ‘describe your childhood home’, or ‘write about a time when you felt truly alive’, you’ll find yourself diving into memories and experiences that fuel inspiration.

A single thought may ignite an explosion of imagination; this is Prompt Inspired Productivity. The pen becomes lighter in your hand as words flow freely onto the page. You’ve overcome the obstacle before you even realized it was there!

Give yourself permission to explore through personal prompts and watch as your creativity soars.

Incorporating Personal Writing Prompts in Daily Writing Practice

E Of A Desk With A Lit Lamp, An Open Diary, A Fountain Pen, A Coffee Mug, And A Scattered Deck Of Illustrated Cards Each Symbolizing Unique Writing Prompts

Incorporating these cues into your daily writing practice can provide a constant source of inspiration and keep the creative juices flowing. Prompt personalization is your secret weapon against writer’s block, transforming blank pages into canvases brimming with potential.

It’s all about daily discipline, making it a habit to dig deep within yourself for unique prompts.

Imagine this:

  • Waking up each morning with an eagerness to explore your inner world.
  • Turning everyday observations into riveting stories.
  • Discovering new dimensions of your creativity you didn’t know existed.
  • Feeling the satisfaction as you conquer one page after another.
  • Ending each day with a sense of accomplishment, knowing you’ve broken new ground in your craft.

Empower yourself. Unleash the writer within through personalized prompts and daily commitment.

Personal Writing Prompts for Self-Discovery

N Vintage Diary With An Ink Pen On A Rustic Wooden Table, Illuminated By A Soft, Warm Sunrise Light, Overlaid With Transparent Symbols Of A Compass, Magnifying Glass, And A Human Silhouette

Dive headfirst into the thrilling journey of exploring self-discovery prompts. You’ll unearth hidden parts of your personality and get to know yourself on a deeper level.

You’re about to embark on an intriguing adventure within your own psyche, using personal writing as your guide.

The benefits are manifold. Not only does this practice enhance your writing skills, but it also opens up avenues for introspection and self-improvement in a way you’ve never experienced before.

Exploring Self-Discovery Prompts

You’re about to embark on a journey of self-discovery with these new writing prompts. Each prompt is a stepping-stone towards understanding deeper layers of your persona, encouraging emotional catharsis. Your task is not just mere response but an interpretation that helps in your personal growth.

  • Imagine you’ve lost everything. What would you miss the most?
  • Describe your happiest childhood memory.
  • Write about a fear that holds you back.
  • How has a failure shaped who you are today?
  • If life was a book, what would this chapter be named?

As you grapple with these questions, remember it’s more than penning down words – it’s peeling back layers of yourself, uncovering truths hidden beneath daily routines.

This exercise isn’t just prompt interpretation; it’s finding empathy and understanding within yourself.

Benefits of Personal Writing

Through your own narratives, you’ll discover the immense benefits of expressing yourself on paper. Your pen will become more than just an instrument; it’ll transform into a powerful catalyst for emotional catharsis. Each stroke will unfurl feelings you’ve tucked away, releasing them in a raw, poignant dance across the page.

Dive deeper and you’ll unearth therapeutic benefits hidden within this personal odyssey. Writing becomes your confidante, absorbing your deepest fears and highest hopes without judgment. It’s here where healing begins to bloom, nestled within each letter inked onto the parchment.

As clarity emerges from chaos, you’ll feel lighter; freer. So get lost in the labyrinth of words – it’s not about finding an exit but understanding yourself better along the way.

Tips for Generating Your Own Personal Writing Prompts

Ize A Light Bulb Radiating Creative Energy Over An Open Blank Journal, With A Quill Pen Poised Above It, Surrounded By Various Objects Like A Coffee Cup, Potted Plant, And Personal Trinkets

In creating your own personal writing prompts, it’s crucial to consider topics that you’re passionate about. This is the first step towards prompt customization and fueling your prompt inspiration. Your passion ignites a unique perspective, sparking creativity in every word you pen.

To evoke emotion in the audience, consider these tips:

  • Write about what makes you tick
  • Explore anecdotes from your life
  • Discuss lessons learned or wisdom gained
  • Delve into your dreams and aspirations
  • Share stories of triumph or loss

Your voice is unique, let it shine through your words. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to create prompts—it’s all part of the creative journey. Allow curiosity to lead and watch as profound ideas unfold onto paper.

So, you’ve discovered the power of personal writing prompts. They aren’t just tools for overcoming writer’s block, but windows into self-discovery and reflection.

Make them a part of your daily writing routine to unleash creativity like never before.

Remember, it’s always an exciting journey to generate your own prompts!

Happy writing!

Academic Writing Success

13 Thought-Provoking Personal Narrative Prompts

by Suzanne Davis | Sep 12, 2019 | Writing Essays and Papers | 2 comments

To be a person is to have a story to tell. –Isak Dinesen

What stories are within you?  A personal narrative is a story from your life. So, it is simple to write.  Maybe.  If you come up with an experience you’re dying to share–it is easy to get started. But, it isn’t always easy to think of an idea for a personal narrative.  So, I put together a list of 13 personal narrative prompts to help you find a compelling story you long to write about.

The idea of longing to write it is important because personal narratives need to show readers what your experience was like.  Desire to write inspires you to put more effort into your narrative’s description, character development, and plot.  Sounds a lot like writing a fictional story doesn’t it? Both are narratives, they need to engage your readers and show them something unique.

Personal narrative writing shows settings, people, actions, and feelings. When you write a personal narrative, you describe a story so that your reader sees, feels, and understands what you experienced.    When you write a personal narrative, you describe a story so that your reader sees, feels and understands what you experienced. Click To Tweet

You show (don’t tell) readers a personal story .  Check out the post “How to Master Writing a Compelling Personal Narrative Essay”   to see how to use the show don’t tell approach in writing personal narratives.

Finding an engaging personal narrative prompt will help you discover a memorable essay.  Let’s find the right topic for you.

13 Personal Narrative Prompts

One of the best ways to show a personal story is to select a small episode or anecdote from your life and dig deep into it.  These 13 personal narrative prompts help you find a great essay topic.

#1 Favorite School Memory

Write a story about your favorite school memory.  Who was there? Where was it?  How did it happen?  How does it end?  Focus on one single event.  For example, if you played the violin in school you could tell a story about playing the violin in a concert.  Or if you played on a soccer team, you could tell the story of your tryout.

# 2 Worst School Memory

This is the opposite of #1.  Select a memory that is focused on a terrible situation.  What triggered that situation and what happened?  What was the result?  For example, this could be a situation where you were bullied.  Describe what happened, and how it ended for you.  Did anyone defend you, or help you?  Or did the bullying continue?

#3 Frightening Story

Write a story about a scary or frightening moment in your life.  What happened?  How was it scary?  Are you still frightened?  Fear is a strong emotion and it motivates people to keep reading and find out what followed.  Some examples of frightening moments are being trapped in a cave, lost in the woods or inside an old house with strange noises, or a traumatic event.  A frightening experience could also be any personal event where you didn’t feel safe and were afraid something terrible was going to happen.

# 4 “Just Between Friends” 

Write a story about something that happened between you and a friend.  Is it something important you experienced together?  Did your friend do something to help you?  Did that person hurt you?  Or did you do something to help your friend?  Did you hurt a friend?  Some ideas for this topic are an activity or event you both participated in, something you both started, a great act of kindness, a sacrifice one of you made to help the other.  It could also be something where you betrayed your friend, or your friend betrayed you.

#5 Family Story

This is similar to the topic of friendship except in this case it’s something that happened within your family.  What occurred, who was there, and what did you do? Is there an important funny, sad, or happy event in your family?  Did you do something important or special with your family?   Some examples of this topic are the birth of someone in your family, the death of a loved one, or something fun you did with your parents, siblings or grandparents, etc.

Personal Narrative Prompt--The Journey

Write a story of the best, strangest, or worst thing that happened to you on a vacation or trip to another place.  Focus on one event or experience. One mistake writers make with this essay idea is they describe an entire travel experience, and that isn’t interesting to your readers.  Some ideas for this writing prompt are getting lost in a city, being pickpocketed on a trip, or visiting a historical site.

#7 First Love

First loves are powerful and vivid stories.  Consider a story about how you met that person or a significant memory between you. This could be something wonderful, funny, or even terrible,  If the relationship is over how did it end?  Were you heartbroken?  These stories, or a story about any important relationship, leave an imprint on us.

#8 Success Story

Write a story about something you accomplished.  Describe what you did to achieve success, and how you reached your goal.  Were there obstacles you had to overcome? This is a tricky essay topic because sometimes people focus on the feelings of success or the final achievement rather than the story of how they succeeded.  Some ideas for this topic are to write about winning an event, earning an honor, confronting a personal challenge, or getting over a phobia.

#9 Personal Failure

Write about how you failed to do or failed to achieve something.  Describe what you tried to do, how you failed, and what you gained/learned from it.  Everyone fails at something.  Your readers understand the feeling of failure.  Some people connect with these personal narratives more than stories of success because they empathize with you. People learn a lot through failure, so when you write this type of story, hint or convey what you learned from failing.

#10 Accident

Write a story about an accident you caused or an accident that happened to you.  This could be negative as in a car accident or maybe it’s an accident of good fortune.  Describe how the accident occurred, who was involved, and how it ended.  Was it a bicycle accident?  How did it happen?  Did someone get hurt?

#11 Unresolved Experience

Personal Narrative Prompt--The Unresolved Experience

Describe something that happened to you, but where there’s no resolution.  What was the experience and how did it occur? What don’t you understand or know about the experience? Then, instead of having a resolution to the story, convey how you feel about not knowing what happened.

#12 An International or National Event or Incident

Write a personal story describing how you acted, witnessed, or responded to a significant national or international event or incident.  Did you play in the Olympics, or join a protest?  Did you survive a natural disaster?  What was your role in this circumstance?  What did you do?  For example, if you were in a hurricane describe what happened, who you were with, and how you survived.

#13 Change the World Experience

One of the best experiences I had in my life was creating and organizing a family literacy program for public schools. There are several stories within that experience I could write. If you were a volunteer for an organization or participated in a service project, think about what happened.  Was there a moment that changed everything? What occurred? Did any of those stories change you, your community, or another person?  These stories can be very moving because they have impacted you, what you believe, and how you see or view others. 

Choose a Personal Narrative Prompt and Write

The most important factor to consider in a personal narrative is yourself.  Choose an idea for a personal narrative that intrigues you.  If your narrative bores you, it’ll bore readers.  You want to write a descriptive personal story with vivid characters, actions, and emotions.

Also, select a story you want to share with others.  You’re revealing not just what happened to you, but also a piece of yourself.  Is your personal story something you want people to know?

It’s your story .  You decide what to write and who reads it.  Then write it well.

What is your favorite personal narrative topic?  Please share it below! 

Great prompts, Suzanne! I especially liked #10 the unresolved experience. Very thought provoking. These prompts would also be great for personal journaling.

Terri, thank you. You’re right. These writing prompts would work well with personal journaling. I’m glad you liked #10. It’s one of my favorites!

[…] So which descriptive essay prompt inspires you?  And if you want more creative writing prompts, check out my blog post, “13 Thought-Provoking Personal Narrative Prompts” . […]

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50 Quick Writing Prompts for Journals, Blogs, Fiction, and Essays

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Are you stuck for something to write about? Maybe you're scratching your head trying to come up with a fresh idea for a personal essay —a narrative or an extended description. Perhaps you're in the habit of keeping a journal or a blog, but today, for some reason, you can't think of a blessed thing to say. Maybe you need exercise to start a short story or need to do some prewriting for plot or character development for a longer fiction piece.

Here's something that may help: a list of 50 brief writing prompts . The items on the list are not full-blown essay topics , just hints, snippets, cues, and clues to prod your memory, kick  writer's block , and get you started.

50 Writing Prompts

Take a minute or two to look over the list. Then pick one prompt that brings to mind a particular image, experience, or idea. Start writing (or freewriting ) and see where it takes you. If after a few minutes you hit a dead end, don't panic. Simply return to the list, pick another prompt, and try again. Inspiration can truly come from anywhere. It's just a matter of freeing your mind from distraction and letting your imagination lead you where it may. When you discover something that intrigues or surprises you, that's the idea to develop further. 

  • Everyone else was laughing.
  • On the other side of that door
  • What I've always wanted
  • A sound I'd never heard before
  • The last time I saw him
  • At that moment I should have left.
  • Just a brief encounter
  • I knew how it felt to be an outsider.
  • Hidden away in the back of a drawer
  • What I should have said
  • Waking up in a strange room
  • There were signs of trouble.
  • Keeping a secret
  • All I have left is this photo.
  • It wasn't really stealing.
  • A place I pass by every day
  • Nobody can explain what happened next.
  • Staring at my reflection
  • I should have lied.
  • Then the lights went out.
  • Some might say it's a weakness.
  • Where I'd go to hide out from everyone
  • But that's not my real name.
  • Her side of the story
  • Nobody believed us.
  • It was time to change schools again.
  • We climbed to the top.
  • The one thing I'll never forget
  • Follow these rules, and we'll get along fine.
  • It may not be worth anything.
  • Never again
  • On the other side of the street
  • My father used to tell me
  • When nobody was looking
  • If I could do it over again
  • Of course it was illegal.
  • It wasn't my idea.
  • Everyone was staring at me.
  • It was a stupid thing to say.
  • Hiding under my bed
  • If I tell you the truth
  • My secret collection
  • Footsteps in the dark
  • The first cut is the deepest.
  • Trouble, big trouble
  • Laughing uncontrollably
  • It was just a game to them.
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Shakespeare, set your story during rehearsals for a production of a shakespeare play..

LIVE – High School

Write a story about a tragic hero.

LIVE – Dramatic

Write a story in which a case of mistaken identity plays a pivotal role.

LIVE – Funny

Write your story in the form of a script, complete with stage directions.

LIVE – Narrative

Write a story named after, and inspired by, one of Shakespeare's plays. Think modern retellings, metanarratives, subversions, etc.

writing prompts for personal essays

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Write a story about someone finding acceptance.

Start your story with a character in despair., center your story around a character bargaining for something that's important to them., write a story about anger., write a story about a someone who's in denial., write a story in the format of a gossip column., write a story where an important conversation takes place during a dance., write a story about two characters who start as mortal enemies but learn to embrace their differences., write a story where a rumor starts to spread. your protagonist is either the topic or the source., set your story at a regency-themed fair., win $250 in our short story competition 🏆.

We'll send you 5 prompts each week. Respond with your short story and you could win $250!

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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Creative Writing Prompts

When the idea to start a weekly newsletter with writing inspiration first came to us, we decided that we wanted to do more than provide people with topics to write about. We wanted to try and help authors form a regular writing habit and also give them a place to proudly display their work. So we started the weekly Creative Writing Prompts newsletter. Since then, Prompts has grown to a community of more than 450,000 authors, complete with its own literary magazine, Prompted .  

Here's how our contest works: every Friday, we send out a newsletter containing five creative writing prompts. Each week, the story ideas center around a different theme. Authors then have one week — until the following Friday — to submit a short story based on one of our prompts. A winner is picked each week to win $250 and is highlighted on our Reedsy Prompts page.

Interested in participating in our short story contest? Sign up here for more information! Or you can check out our full Terms of Use and our FAQ page .

Why we love creative writing prompts

If you've ever sat in front of a computer or notebook and felt the urge to start creating worlds, characters, and storylines — all the while finding yourself unable to do so — then you've met the author's age-old foe: writer's block. There's nothing more frustrating than finding the time but not the words to be creative. Enter our directory! If you're ready to kick writer's block to the curb and finally get started on your short story or novel, these unique story ideas might just be your ticket.

This list of 1800+ creative writing prompts has been created by the Reedsy team to help you develop a rock-solid writing routine. As all aspiring authors know, this is the #1 challenge — and solution! — for reaching your literary goals. Feel free to filter through different genres, which include...

Dramatic — If you want to make people laugh and cry within the same story, this might be your genre.

Funny — Whether satire or slapstick, this is an opportunity to write with your funny bone.

Romance — One of the most popular commercial genres out there. Check out these story ideas out if you love writing about love.

Fantasy — The beauty of this genre is that the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Dystopian – Explore the shadowy side of human nature and contemporary technology in dark speculative fiction.

Mystery — From whodunnits to cozy mysteries, it's time to bring out your inner detective.

Thriller and Suspense — There's nothing like a page-turner that elicits a gasp of surprise at the end.

High School — Encourage teens to let their imaginations run free.

Want to submit your own story ideas to help inspire fellow writers? Send them to us here.

After you find the perfect story idea

Finding inspiration is just one piece of the puzzle. Next, you need to refine your craft skills — and then display them to the world. We've worked hard to create resources that help you do just that! Check them out:

  • How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten-day course by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.
  • Best Literary Magazines of 2023 — a directory of 100+ reputable magazines that accept unsolicited submissions.
  • Writing Contests in 2023 — the finest contests of 2021 for fiction and non-fiction authors of short stories, poetry, essays, and more.

Beyond creative writing prompts: how to build a writing routine

While writing prompts are a great tactic to spark your creative sessions, a writer generally needs a couple more tools in their toolbelt when it comes to developing a rock-solid writing routine . To that end, here are a few more additional tips for incorporating your craft into your everyday life.

  • NNWT. Or, as book coach Kevin Johns calls it , “Non-Negotiable Writing Time.” This time should be scheduled into your routine, whether that’s once a day or once a week. Treat it as a serious commitment, and don’t schedule anything else during your NNWT unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Set word count goals. And make them realistic! Don’t start out with lofty goals you’re unlikely to achieve. Give some thought to how many words you think you can write a week, and start there. If you find you’re hitting your weekly or daily goals easily, keep upping the stakes as your craft time becomes more ingrained in your routine.
  • Talk to friends and family about the project you’re working on. Doing so means that those close to you are likely to check in about the status of your piece — which in turn keeps you more accountable.

Arm yourself against writer’s block. Writer’s block will inevitably come, no matter how much story ideas initially inspire you. So it’s best to be prepared with tips and tricks you can use to keep yourself on track before the block hits. You can find 20 solid tips here — including how to establish a relationship with your inner critic and apps that can help you defeat procrastination or lack of motivation.


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Essay Papers Writing Online

Unlock your creativity with these inspiring college essay writing prompts.

College essay writing prompts

As a college student, you may find yourself facing the daunting task of writing essays for your classes. While some essay prompts may seem dull and uninspiring, there are plenty of creative writing prompts that can spark your imagination and help you produce engaging and unique essays.

From personal experiences to imaginative scenarios, these creative college essay writing prompts will encourage you to think outside the box and showcase your storytelling skills. Whether you’re writing an admissions essay or a class assignment, these prompts will challenge you to explore new ideas and perspectives.

So, if you’re looking for a fresh approach to your college essays, take a look at these 15 creative writing prompts that will inspire you to craft compelling and memorable essays that stand out from the crowd.

Spark Your Imagination with College Essay Writing

Writing college essays can be a challenging but rewarding experience. As you start brainstorming ideas for your essay, it’s important to let your imagination run wild. Try to think outside the box and come up with unique angles and perspectives that will make your essay stand out.

One way to spark your imagination is to think about your personal experiences and how they have shaped you as a person. Consider writing about a moment that changed your life or a challenge you overcame. These personal stories can make your essay more compelling and give the admissions committee a glimpse into who you are as an individual.

Another way to get creative with your essay is to experiment with different writing styles and formats. You could try writing in the form of a letter, a diary entry, or even a poem. Mixing things up can help you find your voice and make your essay more interesting to read.

Ultimately, the key to sparking your imagination with college essay writing is to be open-minded and willing to take risks. Don’t be afraid to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of traditional essay writing. By letting your imagination run wild, you can create an essay that truly reflects who you are and what you have to offer.

Unleash Your Creativity with These Inspiring Prompts

Unleash Your Creativity with These Inspiring Prompts

Ready to take your college essay writing to the next level? These inspiring prompts will help you unleash your creativity and showcase your unique voice in your writing:

  • Imagine you have the ability to travel to any place, real or fictional. Where would you go and why?
  • If you could have a conversation with any historical figure, who would it be and what would you talk about?
  • Write a story where you are the protagonist in a world where all your wildest dreams come true.
  • Reflect on a personal experience that shaped your perspective or worldview.
  • Describe a challenge you faced and how you overcame it, showcasing your resilience.

These prompts are designed to ignite your imagination and help you craft a compelling college essay that stands out. Get creative, be authentic, and let your voice shine through!

Explore Unique Topics to Stand Out in Your Admission Essay

When it comes to writing your college admission essay, choosing a unique and engaging topic can make all the difference. Admissions officers read through countless essays, so standing out with a fresh and creative topic is crucial.

Consider exploring topics that showcase your personality, experiences, and aspirations in a unique and compelling way. Instead of rehashing common themes like your volunteer work or a sports achievement, think outside the box and delve into topics that truly reflect who you are.

  • Share a meaningful encounter you had with a stranger that changed your perspective.
  • Discuss a book, movie, or piece of art that greatly influenced your worldview.
  • Reflect on a personal failure or setback and how it ultimately shaped your character.
  • Describe a unique hobby or passion that sets you apart from your peers.
  • Explore a cultural tradition or heritage that has shaped your values and beliefs.

By choosing a unique and compelling topic for your admission essay, you can capture the attention of admissions officers and leave a lasting impression. Use this opportunity to showcase your creativity, thoughtfulness, and uniqueness to stand out in a sea of applicants.

Get Inspired by 15 Innovative College Essay Writing Ideas

College application essays are a great opportunity for students to showcase their creativity, personality, and unique perspectives. Here are 15 creative prompts to help you get started on your college essay:

  • Write about a time when you faced a challenge and how you overcame it.
  • Describe a person who has had a significant influence on your life and why.
  • Imagine you could have dinner with any historical figure–who would it be and why?
  • Discuss a book, movie, or artwork that has had a profound impact on you.
  • Share a personal story that illustrates your passion for a particular hobby or interest.
  • Reflect on a moment when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea.
  • Discuss a problem in your community and propose a creative solution.
  • Describe an experience that changed your perspective on life.
  • Write about a time when you had to make a difficult decision and how it shaped you.
  • Discuss a quote that resonates with you and explain its significance.
  • Share a piece of advice that has stuck with you and influenced your actions.
  • Imagine yourself ten years in the future–what do you hope to have accomplished?
  • Reflect on a moment of failure or setback and how you grew from the experience.
  • Describe a place that holds special meaning for you and why.
  • Write about a topic that you are passionate about and why it matters to you.

These prompts are designed to inspire your imagination and help you craft a compelling and unique college essay that showcases your personality and accomplishments. Use them as a starting point to brainstorm ideas and stories that will captivate admissions officers and set you apart from other applicants.

Ignite Your Passion for Writing with Creative Essay Topics

Writing essays can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be boring! With the right topic, you can unleash your creativity and passion for writing. Creative essay topics not only challenge your critical thinking skills but also allow you to express your unique perspective in an engaging way.

Whether you’re exploring a personal experience, analyzing a thought-provoking question, or delving into a fictional world, creative essay topics offer endless possibilities for exploration. By choosing topics that resonate with you, you can truly ignite your passion for writing and produce compelling essays that captivate your audience.

So, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and embrace unconventional ideas. Let your creativity flourish and discover the joy of writing with these creative essay topics!

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 105 creative writing prompts to try out.

General Education


The most common advice out there for being a writer is, "if you want to write, write." While this is true (and good advice), it's not always that easy, particularly if you're not writing regularly.

Whether you're looking for help getting started on your next project, or just want to spend 20 minutes being creative, writing prompts are great ways to rev up your imagination. Read on for our list of over 100 creative writing prompts!

feature image credit: r. nial bradshaw /Flickr

10 Short Writing Prompts

If you're looking for a quick boost to get yourself going, these 10 short writing prompts will do the trick.

#1 : Write a scene starting with a regular family ritual that goes awry.

#2 : Describe exactly what you see/smell/hear/etc, right now. Include objects, people, and anything else in your immediate environment.

#3 : Suggest eight possible ways to get a ping pong ball out of a vertical pipe.

#4 : A shoe falls out of the sky. Justify why.

#5 : If your brain were a tangible, physical place, what would it be like?

#6 : Begin your writing with the phrase, "The stage was set."

#7 : You have been asked to write a history of "The Summer of [this past year]." Your publisher wants a table of contents. What events will you submit?

#8 : Write a sympathetic story from the point of view of the "bad guy." (Think fractured fairy tales like Wicked or The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! , although the story doesn't have to be a fairy tale.)

#9 : Look at everyday objects in a new way and write about the stories one of these objects contains.

#10 : One person meets a stranger on a mode of transportation. Write the story that ensues.


11 Writing Prompts for Kids

Any of these prompts can be used by writers of any age, but we chose the following 11 prompts as ones that would be particularly fun for kids to write about. (Most of them I used myself as a young writer, so I can vouch for their working!)

#1 : Include something falling in your writing.

#2 : Write a short poem (or story) with the title, "We don't know when it will be fixed."

#3 : Write from the perspective of someone of a different gender than you.

#4 : Write a dumb internet quiz.

#5 : Finish this thought: "A perfect day in my imagination begins like this:"

#6 : Write a character's inner monologue (what they are thinking as they go about their day).

#7 : Think of a character. Write a paragraph each about:

  • An important childhood experience that character had.
  • The character's living situation.
  • Two hobbies or things the character likes to do.
  • The room where the character sleeps.
  • An ambition of the character.
  • Two physical characteristics of the character.
  • What happens when a second person and this character meet.
  • Two important defining personal traits of this character.

#8 : Start a story with a quote from a song.

#9 : Begin a story with, "It was the summer of ______ when ______"

#10 : Pretend everyday objects have no names. Think about what you would name them based on what they do, what you can use them for, and what they look like.

#11 : Start a story with the phrases "My grandparents are/were," "My parents are/were," or "My mother/father/parent is/was."


15 Cool Writing Prompts

#1 : List five issues that you're passionate about. Write about them from the opposite point of view (or from the perspective of a character with the opposite point of view).

#2 : Walk around and write down a phrase you hear (or read). Make a story out of it.

#3 : Write using no adjectives or adverbs.

#4 : Write a character's inner dialogue between different aspects of a character's self (rather than an inner monologue).

#5 : Write a true story from your past that involves light or darkness in some way.

#6 : "Saying goodbye awakens us to the true nature of things." Write something in which someone has to say goodbye and has a realization.

#7 : Begin by writing the end of the story.

#8 : Write a recipe for an intangible thing.

#9 : Write a horror story about an ordinary situation (e.g., buying groceries, going to the bank, listening to music).

#10 : Write a story from within a bubble.

#11 : Write down 2-3 short character descriptions and then write the characters in conversation with one another.

#12 : Write a story in second person.

#13 : Write a story that keeps contradicting itself.

#14 : Write about a character with at least three big problems.

#15 : Write something that takes place on a Friday, the 13th (of any month).


15 Funny Writing Prompts

#1 : Write a story which starts with someone eating a pickle and potato sandwich.

#2 : Write a short script where the plot has to do with evil dolls trying to take over something.

#3 : Write about writers' block.

#4 : List five election issues that would be ridiculous to includes as part of your election platform (e.g. outlawing mechanical pencils and clicky pens, mandating every person over the age of 30 must own an emergency last rites kit). Choose one of the ridiculous issues and write a speech in favor of it.

#5 : Write a children's story that is insanely inappropriate but can't use graphic language, curses, or violence.

#6 : List five careers. Write about someone with one of those careers who wants to quit it.

#7 : Write down a list of murder methods. Choose one at random from the list to use in a story.

#8 : Write a romance story in which the hero must have a last name corresponding with a physical characteristic (e.g. Jacques Hairyback or Flora Dimple).

#9 : Come up with 10 different ways to:

  • order a pizza
  • congratulate someone on a job well done
  • return to the store something that's broken

#10 : Search for "random Renaissance painting" (or any other inspirational image search text you can think of) on any online internet image search engine. Picking one image, write half a page each of:

  • Statements about this image (e.g. "I meant bring me the BREAD of John the Baptist").
  • Questions about this image (e.g. "How many of those cherubs look like their necks are broken?").
  • Explanations of this image (e.g. "The painter ran out of blue paint halfway through and had to improvise for the color of the sky").
  • Commands said by people in this image or about this image (e.g. "Stop telling me to smile!" or "Bring me some gasoline!").

#11 : Write starting with a word that sounds like "chute" (e.g. "chute," "shoot," "shooed").

#12 : Write about a character named X "The [article of clothing]" Y (e.g. Julie "The Yellow Darted Skirt" Whyte) or simply referred to by their clothing (e.g. "the man in the brown suit" or "the woman in black").

#13 : Write down a paragraph each describing two wildly different settings. Write a story involving both settings.

#14 : Think of a fictional holiday based around some natural event (e.g. the Earth being at its farthest point from the sun, in memory of a volcanic eruption, that time a cloud looked like a rabbit riding a bicycle). Write about how this holiday is celebrated.

#15 : Write a "Just-So" type story about a fictional creature (e.g. "how the dragon got its firebreath" or "how the mudkip got its cheek gills").


54 Other Writing Prompt Ideas

#1 : Borrow a character from some other form of media (or create your own). Write from that character's perspective.

#2 : Write for and against a non-consequential controversy (e.g., salt vs. pepper, Mac vs. PC, best kind of door).

#3 : Choose an ancestor or a person from the past to write about or to.

#4 : Write a pirate story with a twist.

#5 : Have a character talk about another character and their feelings about that other character.

#6 : Pick a season and think about an event in your life that occurred in that season. Write a creative nonfiction piece about that event and that season.

#7 : Think of something very complicated and long. Write a page about it using short sentences.

#8 : Write a story as a dream.

#9 : Describe around a food without ever directly naming it.

#10 : Write a monologue (one character, talking to the audience/reader) (*not* an inner monologue).

#11 : Begin a story with the phrase, "It only took five seconds to..."

#12 : List five strong emotions. Choosing one, write about a character experiencing that emotion, but only use the character's actions to convey how they are feeling (no outright statements).

#13 : Write a chapter of the memoir of your life.

#14 : Look through the (physical) things you're currently carrying with you or wearing. Write about the memories or emotions tied with each of them.

#15 : Go be in nature. Write drawing your story from your surroundings (both physical, social, and mental/emotional).


#16 : Write from the perspective of a bubble (or bubble-like creature).

#17 : A person is jogging along an asphalt road. Write a story.

#18 : Title your story (or poem, or play, etc) "Anti-_____". Fill in the blank and write the story.

#19 : Write something that must include an animal, a mineral, and a vegetable.

#20 : Begin your writing with the phrase, "6 weeks later..."

#21 : List 5-10 office jobs. Pick one of them and describe a person working in that job as if you were a commentator on an Olympic sporting event.

#22 : Practice your poetic imagery: overwrite a description of a character's breakfast routine.

#23 : Write about a character (or group of characters) trying to convince another character to try something they're scared of.

#24 : Keep an eye out in your environment for examples of greengrocer's apostrophes and rogue quotation marks. Pick an example and write about what the misplaced punctuation implies (e.g., we have the "best" meat or we have the best "meat" ).

#25 : Fill in the blank with the first word that comes to mind: "_______ Riot!" Write a newspaper-style article describing the events that that took place.

#26 : Write from the point of view of your most-loved possession. What does it think of you?

#27 : Think of five common sayings (e.g., "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"). Write a horror story whose plot is one of those common sayings.

#28 : Write a scene in which two characters are finally hashing out a long-standing misunderstanding or disagreement.

#29 : You start receiving text messages from an unknown number. Tell the story of what happens next.

#30 : Write one character bragging to another about the story behind their new tattoo.

#31 : Superheroes save the world...but they also leave a lot of destruction in their wake. Write about a normal person in a superhero's world.

#32 : Sometimes, family is who we are related to; sometimes, family is a group of people we gather around ourselves. Write a story about (some of) a character's found family and relatives meeting for the first time.

#33 : Write a story that begins in the middle of the plot's action ( en media res ).

#34 : Everyone says you can never have too much of a good thing. Write a story where that isn't true.

#35 : What do ghosts do when they're not creating mischief? Write about the secret lives of ghosts.


#36 : Every year, you dread the last week of April. Write a story about why.

#37 : Write a story about what it would be like to have an animal sidekick in real life.

#38 : Heists don't just have to be black-clad thieves stealing into vaults to steal rare art or money. Write about a group of people (adults or children) who commit a heist for something of seemingly little monetary value.

#39 : "Life is like a chooseable-path adventure, except you don't get to see what would have happened if you chose differently." Think of a choice you've made and write about a world where you made a different choice.

#40 : Write a story about a secret room.

#41 : You find a message in a bottle with very specific directions. Write a story about the adventure you embark upon.

#42 : "You'll always be okay as long as you know where your _______ is." Fill in the blank and write a story (either fictional or from your life) illustrating this statement.

#43 : Forcing people into prolonged proximity can change and deepen relationships. Write about characters on a road trip together.

#44 : In music, sonata form includes three main parts: exposition, development, and recapitulation. Write a short story that follows this format.

#45 : Begin writing with a character saying, "I'm afraid this simply can't wait."

#46 : Write a story with a happy ending (either happily-ever-after or happy-for-now).

#47 : Write about a character before and after a tragedy in that character's life.

#48 : Choose an object or concept you encounter in everyday life (e.g. tables, the feeling of hot or cold, oxygen) and write an infomercial about it.

#49 : "Life is a series of quests, whether important or mundane." Write about a quest you've gone on (or would like to go on, or will have to go on).

#50 : List 10 different ways to learn. Choose one (or more) and write a story where a character learns something using that one (or more) method.

#51 : You've been called to the principal's office for bad behavior. You know what you did. Explain and justify yourself.

#52 : A character discovers their sibling owns a cursed object. Write about what happens next.

#53 : Write a character description by writing a list of items that would be on a scavenger hunt about them.

#54 : The slogan for a product or service you're advertising is, "Kid-tested, _____." Fill in the blank and write the copy for a radio or podcast advertisement for your product.


How to Use Creative Writing Prompts

There's no wrong way to use a creative writing prompt (unless it's to harass and hurt someone)—the point of them is to get you writing and your imagination flowing.

To help you get the most out of these writing prompts, however, we've come up with the six tips below. Try them out!

#1: DON'T Limit Yourself to Prose

Unless you're writing for a particular assignment, there's no reason everything you write in response to a writing prompt has to be prose fiction . Instead of writing your response to a prompt as a story, try writing a poem, nonfiction essay, play, screenplay, or some other format entirely.

#2: DON'T Edit as You Write

The purposes of writing prompts is to get you writing, typos and weird grammar and all. Editing comes later, once you've finished writing and have some space from it to come back to what you wrote.

It's OK to fix things that will make it difficult to read what you've written (e.g., a weird autocorrect that changes the meaning of a sentence), but don't worry too much about typos or perfect grammar when you're writing; those are easy enough to fix in edits . You also can always insert asterisks or a short note as you're writing to remind yourself to go back to fix something (for instance, if as you're writing it seems like you want to move around the order of your paragraphs or insert something earlier).

#3: DO Interpret the Prompt Broadly

The point of using a writing prompt is not to write something that best exemplifies the prompt, but something that sparks your own creativity. Again, unless you're writing in response to an assignment with specific directions, feel free to interpret writing prompts as broadly or as narrowly as you want.

For instance, if your prompt is to write a story that begins with "The stage was set," you could write about anything from someone preparing to put a plan into motion to a literal theatre stage constructed out of pieces of old sets (or something else entirely).

If you're using a writing prompt, it doesn't have to be the first sentence of your story or poem, either; you can also use the prompt as a goal to work towards in your writing.

#4: DO Try Switching Up Your Writing Methods

If it's a possibility for you, see if you write differently in different media. Do you write the same kind of stories by hand as you would typing at a computer? What about if you dictate a story and then transcribe it? Or text it to a friend? Varying the method you use to write can affect the stories you're able to tell.

For example, you may find that it's easier for you to tell stories about your life to a voice recorder than to try to write out a personal essay. Or maybe you have trouble writing poetry, but can easily text yourself or a friend a poem. You might even find you like a writing method you've not tried before better than what you've been doing!


#5: DO Mix and Match Prompt Ideas

If you need more inspiration, feel free to combine multiple prompts (but don't overwhelm yourself with too much to write about).

You can also try switching genres from what might be suggested in the prompt. For instance, try writing a prompt that seems funny in a serious and sad way, or finding the humor in something that otherwise seems humorless. The categories we've organized the prompts into are by no means limiters on what you're allowed to write about.

#6: DO Try to Write Regularly

The more regularly you write, the easier it will be to write (with or without writing prompts).

For some people, this means writing daily; for others, it means setting aside time to write each weekend or each month. Set yourself an achievable goal (write 2x a week, write 1000 words a month) and stick to it. You can always start small and then ramp your wordcount or frequency up.

If you do better when you have something outside yourself prompting to write, you may also want to try something like morning pages , which encourages you to write at least 750 words every day, in any format (story, diary entry, social media postings, etc).


What's Next?

Thinking about attending college or grad school for creative writing? Our articles on whether or not you should major in creative writing and the best creative writing programs are there for you! Plus, if you're a high schooler, you should check out these top writing contests .

Creative writing doesn't necessarily have to be fiction. Check out these three examples of narrative writing and our tips for how to write your own narrative stories and essays .

Just as writing prompts can help give form to amorphous creative energy, using specific writing structures or devices can be great starting points for your next story. Read through our discussion of the top 20 poetic devices to know and see if you can work at least one new one into your next writing session.

Still looking for more writing ideas? Try repurposing our 100+ easy drawing ideas for characters, settings, or plot points in your writing.

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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Personal Essay and Short Answer Prompts

Personal essay prompts.

To help us get to know you in the application review process, you are required to submit a personal essay. For insight and advice about how to approach writing your personal essay, see our Expert Advice page. 

  • Common Application first-year essay prompts
  • Common App transfer essay prompt: Please provide a personal essay that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve.
  • Coalition, powered by Scoir first-year and transfer essay prompts

Short Answer Question

For both first-year and transfer applicants, we ask you to complete a short answer essay (approximately 250 words) based on one of two prompts. 

  • Vanderbilt University values learning through contrasting points of view. We understand that our differences, and our respect for alternative views and voices, are our greatest source of strength. Please reflect on conversations you’ve had with people who have expressed viewpoints different from your own. How did these conversations/experiences influence you?
  • Vanderbilt offers a community where students find balance between their academic and social experiences. Please briefly elaborate on how one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences has influenced you.

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Exceptional Personal Essay Examples

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Personal Statement Examples

When you’re applying to college, all of the different steps can feel overwhelming. One of the things students dread most is writing their personal statement. But, by reading personal statement examples and examples of college essays that worked, students can learn what makes a great college essay. Likewise, reading personal essay examples can help you get inspired to write your own!

Personal statement examples show the wide variety of essays that students write. All personal statement examples are unique to each student. However, there is a prevailing theme among them all. In each, the student tells a story that communicates something about themselves, their background, and/or their values. 

In this guide to personal statement examples, we’ll discuss:

  • The meaning of a personal statement essay and personal statement examples.
  • Different personal statement essay prompts.
  • How our personal statement examples vary.
  • How to write a personal statement using these personal essay examples.

What makes a personal statement stand out?

  • Tips for writing your best personal essay.

Before we get into the personal statement examples, let’s start by further defining the subject at hand. 

What is a Personal Statement?

To understand personal statement essay examples, you need to answer the question, “what is a personal statement?”

As you’ll see in these personal statement essay examples, the personal statement is an essay of around 500-650 words. This essay serves as the main point of communication between you and the admissions committee. It’s sometimes referred to as a college essay, personal essay, or Common App essay. 

But, beyond its word count and nicknames, what is a personal statement? The personal statement is the cover letter to your college application. It’s your chance to speak to the admissions committee in your own voice. The personal statement lets you show who you are outside of or in addition to your grades, recommendation letters, and extracurriculars. 

Since personal essays are so unique to the individual, there’s no one way to write them. As you’ll see in the personal statement examples, students approach personal essays in many different manners. 

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is a personal statement?”, let’s go over when you’ll need to write a personal statement. 

Do college applications require a Personal Statement?

personal essay examples

We promise the personal statement examples we’ve compiled in this article will be useful. In fact, almost all colleges require you to write a personal statement. However, depending on what application you’re submitting, the personal statement might show up in a different context. That’s why we’re including multiple personal statement essay examples in this guide. 

If you’re applying with the Common Application, you’ll be writing a personal statement essay as part of your application. The personal statement format of the Common App is a 500-650 word essay that answers one of 6 prompts–or it is an essay on “any topic of your choice.” This personal statement format is relatively common. Indeed, many other personal statement examples will be of a similar length, answering similar prompts. 

Of course, different types of applications technically have different essay prompts. But, as you’ll see in the personal statement examples, most of the prompts ask similar things of you as an applicant. In order to write a strong personal essay, you’ll need to spend some time introspecting. 

In this guide, we’ll go over personal statement essay examples from the Common App as well as personal statement essay examples of the Questbridge essay.

Personal Statement vs. Common App Essay

When reading these personal statement examples, you might wonder: what’s the difference between personal statement examples and Common App essay examples?

A personal statement is a broader category of essay that does not have to be affiliated with the Common Application . As you’ll see in the personal essay examples, a personal statement is just an essay that says something about you. The Common App essay is a specific essay that answers one of the Common App prompts. It is submitted to every college you apply to using the Common App. 

Since the Common App is so, well, common, it may be the only personal statement you have to write. However, there are other application portals, like the Coalition Application and Questbridge program. Some schools also have their own application portal, such as ApplyTexas or the UC application. Depending on each application platform, the personal statement formats will vary. Therefore, it’s good to look at personal statement examples from different application types so you can get a feel for how the personal statement formats differ. But, you’ll notice similarities that exist among the personal statement examples, no matter the application platform. 

As we continue this guide on personal statement examples, let’s dive into some personal statement examples prompts. 

Examples of Personal Statement Prompts

personal essay examples

In personal statement examples prompts, you may notice some themes. In general, all personal statement examples will provide students with an opportunity to explain a significant aspect of their personality or upbringing. 

Let’s look at some personal statement examples prompts, starting with one from the Common App: 

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

And here’s one of the personal statement examples prompts from the UC application:

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Pretty similar, right? Both of these personal statement examples prompts ask you to think about an academic subject that you’re interested in and how you’ve interacted with that subject. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time participating in academic or research-based extracurriculars, these personal statement examples prompts might be good for you. Alternately, if all of your extracurriculars are NOT academic—sports, theater, artistic pursuits, a job—this could be a great opportunity for you to elaborate on whatever academic area you’re passionate about. 

These personal statement examples prompts are similar. However, that doesn’t mean that you can re-use different personal statements to answer them. For one, that UC prompt has a word limit of 350 words, whereas the Common App prompt is between 500-650 words. 

Here’s another of the UC personal statement examples prompts that is more unique and specific to the UC application:

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

Now let’s look to this prompt from the Common App personal statement examples prompts which is pretty singular to the Common App:

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Both of these personal statement examples prompts encourage you to reflect on yourself and your life. However, they are very different questions that would result in different personal essay formats. 

Now, let’s look more closely at the Common App essay prompts before we look at Common App personal statement examples. 

Common App Essay Prompts 

The Common App essay prompts are the most frequently used personal statement format. As such, many of our personal statement examples are answers to Common App questions. Though schools often have additional short supplemental essays, most accept the Common App personal statement.

There are 7 Common App essay prompts and each should be answered in 500-650 words:

7 Common App Essay Prompts

1. some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. if this sounds like you, then please share your story., 2. the lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. how did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience, 3. reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. what prompted your thinking what was the outcome, 4. reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. how has this gratitude affected or motivated you, 5. discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others., 6. describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. why does it captivate you what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more, 7. share an essay on any topic of your choice. it can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design..

According to Forbes , the most popular of the Common App essay prompts (at least in 2016) is the first one. This prompt inquires about an important aspect of a student’s background, identity, interest, or talent. It is very open-ended. Likewise, you’ll find a lot of personal statement examples that talk about an important aspect of a student’s background. 

One of the least popular of the Common App essay prompts is the third, where you’re asked to reflect on a belief that’s been challenged. This prompt gives you the opportunity to talk about something that has caused you to change, which is a really great subject for an essay. This prompt gives students the opportunity to weave in a lot of strong essay writing tactics: anecdotes (the moment that caused your perspective to change), an easy beginning-middle-end structure, and a window into your beliefs and why you believe them. Plus, if you answer this one of the Common App essay prompts, you’ll be among a minority of students doing so, which is always good when doing college applications! 

The fifth of the Common App essay prompts is quite similar to the third in that it wants you to think about something that caused you to change. In general, all of the Common App personal essay examples will be very open-ended and focused on telling a personal story. Self-reflection and personal growth will be a theme among the prompts. 

Tips for getting started

When writing the Common App personal essay, many people get bogged down in choosing which of the Common App essay prompts to write about. If you feel like you don’t have any college essay ideas, try brainstorming potential answers for each question. Is there a topic that speaks to you, or one answer that came especially easy when you were brainstorming? No one prompt is better than another. Simply put, the best of your college essay ideas is the one you’re passionate about writing and tells something about who you are as a person.

There are lots of places where you can find personal essay examples of Common App essays that worked. There are guides that point out the best personal statement essay examples and why they worked , personal essay examples that feature a student’s “ voice and personality, ” and personal essay examples that got students into universities like Johns Hopkins and UConn . If you’re looking for more college essay ideas and college essay tips, these personal statement sample essays are a great place to start.

Next, let’s look at the prompts for the Coalition Application personal essay examples.

Coalition Application Essay Prompts

The Coalition Application essay prompts are similar to the Common App essay prompts. Therefore, the personal essay examples that answer those prompts will follow a similar personal statement format. Both types of essays are also 500-650 words.

These are the Coalition Application prompts for this year: 

2024-2025 Coalition Application Prompts

1. tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it., 2. what interests or excites you how does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future, 3. describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. what were the challenges what were the rewards, 4. has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned how did you respond what did you learn, 5. what success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced what advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience, 6. submit an essay on a topic of your choice..

Seems pretty familiar, right? If you read Common App personal essay examples and Coalition App personal essay examples, you may not be able to tell the difference. Remember, when you’re writing an essay, you want to make sure to answer the specific prompt. Don’t submit something that doesn’t answer the question! But, all of the personal essay prompts are intentionally open-ended so that you can speak to yourself and your experiences without too much constraint. 

If you read our personal essay examples, you may not be able to tell from the personal statement format whether they’re from the Common App or the Coalition App. This is normal! If it fits—for example, if you answer the prompt about a challenge you faced for both the Common App and the Coalition App—you could even use the same essay, with a few tweaks, to apply with both applications. However, applying to college isn’t the time to cut corners. Whatever college essay ideas you write about, make sure that you’ve put your heart into them. 

Next, let’s look at a slightly different personal statement format for our personal essay examples: the UC personal insight questions. 

UC Personal Insight Questions

personal essay examples

Unlike the previous two personal statement formats, the UC personal insight questions are shorter personal essay examples, and you answer more than one. The UC system does not take the Common App. So, you’ll have to answer these prompts if you want to apply to any of the University of California schools. 

These are the UC personal insight questions:

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

2. every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. describe how you express your creative side., 3. what would you say is your greatest talent or skill how have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time, 4. describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced., 5. describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. how has this challenge affected your academic achievement, 6. think about an academic subject that inspires you. describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom., 7. what have you done to make your school or your community a better place, 8. beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the university of california.

The UC personal statement format is different from the Common App and the Coalition App. Since these questions are only answered in 350 words, you’ll need to be more narrow in the scope of your essay. Pick a specific anecdote or topic, and write concisely about it. 

For this personal statement format, you also get to answer four different questions. This means that each question can showcase a different part of who you are. This can relieve some pressure that students face. Instead of feeling like you have to encapsulate your most important values and stories in one long essay, you get four chances to talk about different parts of your life. 

We don’t have any specific UC personal essay examples in this guide. But, we do have more resources specific to UC schools—read our “resources” section at the end of the article for more. 

Questbridge Personal Essay

The Questbridge personal essay is also a different personal statement format than the other personal essay examples. For one, it’s 800 words instead of the Common and Coalition Apps’ 500-650, and there’s only one prompt. 

The Questbridge Prompt

We are interested in learning more about the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations, and accomplished your successes. please describe how the most influential factors and challenges in your life have shaped you into the person you are today..

This prompt is open-ended. It allows you to talk about whatever aspects of your life that you feel are the most meaningful and relevant to who you are. 

Questbridge is also different from other applications because it’s not just an application portal, it’s a scholarship. The Questbridge College Match program matches low-income students with top colleges for a full ride scholarship. It’s very competitive and as such you shouldn’t shy away from telling meaningful, personal stories in your application. Think deeply: what has shaped you into the person you are today? 

Questbridge provides its own resources to help students with these essays. This worksheet for brainstorming helps you narrow down a topic and themes, and they also provide personal essay examples. 

Additionally, we’ve included Questbridge personal essay examples in this guide—keep reading to find out why they worked. 

How to write a personal statement?

personal essay examples

So while reading great personal essay examples is important, you’re probably wondering how to write a personal statement.

The first step of how to write a personal statement is brainstorming. Think about parts of your life and identity that have influenced you. What is your favorite subject in school, and why? How do you feel about your family’s religion or traditions? Have you ever had a job that taught you something—about budgeting, politics, growing up? Write about something you’re passionate about as this will allow the admissions committee to get to know you better. 

The second step of how to write a personal statement is to free write. Don’t edit and don’t overthink. Just set a timer and try to answer a Common App prompt. Or simply write a story about your life that you care about. Any and all pre-writing is going to be helpful. 

Outlining Your Ideas

The third step of how to write a personal statement is actually outlining your essay. What’s the hook at the beginning that grabs the reader? What anecdotes or details will you include in the middle? What do you want the reader to know about you by the end? If you know where you want to end up, you’ll have an easier time getting there. 

Begin Writing

The fourth step of how to write a personal statement is to actually write! Again, don’t worry about editing (or length) too much at this stage. Just work on getting an essay written. Most importantly, do this long before the application deadline. You’ll want sufficient time for the next step of how to write a personal statement…

Revise! Wait a week, and then read your essay again. Are any parts clunky? Is there anything that doesn’t seem clear? Send your essay to a friend, family member, or college counselor for an outside look. We can guarantee that all of our personal essay examples underwent some revision. Remember, writing is rewriting. 

Let’s look at another important aspect of how to write a personal statement: planning. 

Planning your personal essay for college

One big step of planning your personal essay is reading personal essay examples! Before you start writing your personal essay, read personal essay examples. This will allow you to get a feel for the personal statement format and what makes these essays persuasive. You can also get a good sense of common themes of personal essays from personal essay examples.

Other than reading personal essay examples, an important step of planning how to write a personal statement is introspection. As this Forbes writer put it, “Whatever you write, it’s about you .” Even if you’re answering a short question about your intended major or favorite movie, those things still tell college admissions who you are. In a longer personal statement, you’ll want to make sure to connect your experiences and anecdotes back to what they have taught you or how you’ve grown because of them. 

But make no mistake: rather than Googling “what is an example of a good personal statement,” it’s far better to read our already-vetted personal essay examples. 

Personal Statement Format

personal essay examples

When reading our personal essay examples, keep in mind the personal statement format. For longer essays, this format will be pretty similar each time. For shorter essays, you have a little bit more leeway because you have less space, but keep the format in mind.

Open with a hook to draw in your reader. This could be an anecdote, quote, song lyric, or just a really engaging statement. The hook should hint to what the rest of the essay will be about.

Central claim

This should come at some point in your first paragraph. What is your essay about? You don’t need to be super detailed, but you should give the reader an idea of what this personal essay will be about. Is it about what your extracurriculars taught you about community? Is it the moment you realized you didn’t want to be a doctor like your mom? Or is it how your upbringing in a desert area influenced your desire to work in sustainability? Whatever your main claim is, state it from the beginning. 

The next 2-3 paragraphs are the body of your essay. In the body, work on showing, not telling. For example, don’t just say, “Now, sustainability was the most important thing in my life.” Instead, “Now, instead of driving to school every day, I rode my bike, or took a bus. And every pizza box was painstakingly scraped and placed in the recycling bin.”

A good personal essay format is often chronological: it provides a clear way to structure your work that moves from beginning to end. If the hook is one influential conversation with your teacher that changed what you believed, the next two paragraphs could describe what happened next with your thoughts. 

Most importantly, describe some kind of change or progression. 

Your conclusion should restate the main thesis or topic of your essay and look towards the future. What did what you talked about in your essay teach you? How will it affect you as a soon-to-be college student? 

The personal statement format will be truncated with shorter essays, like the UC personal essay examples. Worry less about including whole anecdotes and more about using vivid descriptions for the points you want to get across. You should still try to hook your reader at the beginning, but do so with one line rather than a whole story.

Now that we’ve gone over the personal statement format, let’s take a closer look at how you start a personal statement before we dive into our personal essay examples. 

How to start a personal statement?

As we’ve mentioned, for the standard personal statement format, you want to start with a hook. 

A hook can be many different things. It can just be an engaging phrase, something that makes the reader want to keep reading, such as the following:  

  • “I never knew that last Thanksgiving would be the last time I saw my childhood home.”
  • “After 10 years of animosity, I can finally say that I understand my mother.” 
  • “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen was on an old chalkboard in a dingy 10th grade classroom.” 

A hook can also be an anecdote. Put the reader right in the middle of a scene, and tell the story from there.

Remember, this part of the personal statement format is one of the most important. If you start and end your essay in a strong and memorable way, that’s what your reader will take with them. Keep this in mind as you’re reading the personal essay examples. All of these personal essay examples have compelling hooks—take note of each one and think about what makes it successful.

Personal Essay Examples #1

personal essay examples

The first of our personal statement examples for college is about how the student’s upbringing influenced their desire to study politics and human rights. The student showcases their outstanding academic work and demonstrates the values that matter to them. 

Hundreds of thousands were fleeing the country, its endless violence, and its senseless injustices. I was born in the midst of a war-torn Colombia in 1993. My mother and I were caught up in this cascade of refugee emigrants. In this way, failed political and legal human rights systems served as a foundation for my upbringing — an upbringing that has shaped my motivations, academic pursuits, and aspirations for a future in public service. I had experienced many obstacles from the outset, but none as impactful as growing up as an undocumented refugee in Florida, U.S. Having left both family and nation behind, from an early age, I witnessed the sufferings that come as a result of failed human rights protection systems. These pains began to catalyze an eager desire within me to prepare myself to be able to protect the most vulnerable and underrepresented.  

In the U.S., my mother always instilled in me the belief that I could do anything if I worked hard enough. She would always tell me, “todo es possible, si te esfuerzas.” Her words motivated me to keep overcoming and nourished within me a zeal for learning. I applied her words in my academics and on the football field, and I began to see the fruits of that labor. During those moments I felt grateful for how life was molding me, but I felt an even stronger gratitude for my Christian upbringing. It was this spirituality, imparted unto me by my mother, that grounded me in what I  consider to be the most important quality of all: Integrity. With time, I understood the importance of this project. My aim for social service and social justice, if not intertwined with integrity, would be, in my opinion, for naught.  

My life experiences brought about my interest in political theory. Notably, in analyzing how the philosophical interwove into the pragmatic fabric of the defenseless, using the case of the vulnerable populations that I belonged to as a lens. Research that, due to my desire to have my IB  Independent Essay embody that of undergraduate-level work, I had begun even before arriving on campus. For two years, I dedicated a significant amount of time to construct ideological models that would allow for political institutions to practice their vocation with integrity and virtue, devoid of corruption. The intent of working on what my advisor called “one of the thorniest dilemmas in political theory and the history of political thought,” was no accident.

I knew that the work was difficult. Yet, I have realized that nothing worth its merit is ever easy. In culminating my essay, I  was elated by its success. My approach and philosophy on politics, law, human rights, and what I  wish to continue studying, reflects this very work. It is about helping others, the right way.  Because, ultimately, I believe that sustainable political and legal practices arise from axiomatic virtue in action.  

What I wish to be, and whom I want to protect and serve, has everything to do with what my family and I had lacked. Someone that would have stood up for us. As a victim, refugee, and survivor,  my tribulations are my sense of purpose. They fuel me to stand up for others. Though I still believe that I can do all things, I also understand my limits and that, as much as I desire to, I cannot change the whole world. Notwithstanding, I feel an obligation to make the most significant difference that  I can for those in need. I believe that in acquiring the knowledge that a bachelor’s degree in politics can offer, I will be better equipped to address the social injustices prevalent around the world and do my part to construct, alongside my colleagues, a better tomorrow.

Personal Statement Sample Essay #2

personal essay examples

Next in our personal statement examples for college is an essay about a belief that a student is questioning: Catholicism. The student has to wrestle with their family’s staunch belief to figure out what they truly care about, and then muster the courage to tell their family. This essay follows this student’s struggle, and reflects on the challenge of having an unorthodox belief. 

Personal Statement #2

My journey of questioning the Catholic beliefs that my family members hold close to their hearts has been incredibly intimate and thought-provoking. For many years, I felt as if I had to manifest into the religious person I was not, merely to keep my parents content, and this demoralized me for a large portion of my life. Having to hear Bible verses in a church I was forced to sit in every Sunday and trying to find the validity in these stories is what my time in mass truly consisted of. Why can’t I bring myself to believe that these stories are true, when everyone sitting here is able to? 

Growing up in a hispanic household in which the statement “Gracias a Dios que…” (translation: “Thank God that…”) is expressed everyday, even in the most simplest occurrences, caused me to continue contemplating the veracity of these beliefs as I matured. Thoughts would course through my mind about the reasons why we were thanking God when he did not hand anything to us himself and my parents were working hard for everything that we had. Even when it came to our health, this statement would be reiterated. Trips to medical offices and recovering from illnesses were filled with this statement, and it aggravated me to witness this spiritual being getting the credit for a doctor’s knowledge and actions. Even more questions that I wouldn’t dare to ask kept consuming my thoughts, the biggest one being, “Am I wrong for believing that my family should not be thanking God?” 

One of the most significant aspects of my journey is the day I discovered that my grandfather is also an atheist, as it brought relief upon seeing that I was not alone in doubting the beliefs that my family members hold. However, once the conversation turned to speak about how wrong he was, this feeling of relief quickly brought out my underlying fear that my parents would view me negatively if they knew that I was not the dutiful and religious daughter they believed I was. I also didn’t remember the last time I had spoken to my grandfather, and a feeling of solitude washed over me once again. 

The denouement of my journey arrived when I determined that I did not believe in a god and was no longer afraid of not being accepted by my parents for this. I built the courage to inform them that I do not share the beliefs they hold dear to their hearts. When I realized that I did not have to believe in a god in order to be a good person, my fear of not being accepted went away, as I began to accept myself. 

The most ironic aspect of this journey is the amount of times my family has told me that I am wrong for being an atheist, when I have never told them that they are wrong for being Catholics. I may not partake in their beliefs, but I will always respect the fact that they have them. This journey has been crucial to my personal growth and has shaped me into a very accepting person. One of the biggest factors that has diverted me from having a desire to be part of a religious community is how exclusive they tend to be. It is not only the conceptual aspect of religion that I do not believe in, but also the way many humans have interpreted it and used it to justify discriminatory acts throughout history. 

Everyone in this world should be accepted for who they are, as long as they do not harm others. Being an atheist and dealing with the backlash of my family telling me that I am wrong has only led me to be even more passionate about the things I stand for. I implore that no one should put others down for being their true selves.

Examples of Personal Essays #3

The last of our personal statement examples for college is a Questbridge essay. As mentioned above, the Questbridge essay is for a full-ride scholarship, and so this personal statement format has only one prompt and an 800-word limit. This essay uses vivid description and metaphor to show how something that seems very casual—Costco pizza night—came to represent the sacrifices the student’s parents made to support their family. Questbridge essays often discuss challenges and adversity. Read this last essay of our personal statement examples for college for an example of what makes a great college essay.

Essay #3: Questbridge Essay

I love Costco pizza. 

While I now know that this cheesy, greasy gift from God isn’t good for my arteries, that’s not why I feel so strongly about a Costco staple. 

My fondness stems from the lessons learned in between bites of tangy tomato sauce. 

Sprinting through the towers of bulk foods and between sample carts of Kirkland Signature pizza rolls, Costco was my Garden of Eden. While my parents stocked up on toilet paper and excessive amounts of Madeline Petites, my brother and I raced to the food court and secured our rightful spot in line among the sea of families. The enormous signs towered over us as we scanned the menu for our manna: a ten dollar, eighteen-inch pizza. 

We made our pilgrimage to Costco every Sunday as a family, and it was the only day we were all together. Gathered around the classic red table, we sat on the benches and feasted as if it were the Last Supper. In my eight-year-old eyes, it felt like it was. The recession of 2008 crashed down on us. Papi spent every waking moment in Atlanta, working as a sous chef at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead. Mami worked a regular nine to five Monday through Friday, but with school over at three pm, she was rarely home by then. 

Every weekday after school was the same routine. I wrestled with the front door, attempting to pry it open as my little brother sat on the ground, entranced by the wiggling worms. Together, we tackled our work, keeping each other company in the otherwise empty house. Friday came, and so did excitement at seeing my parents for more than eight hours. Romeo Santos crooned as my mother cleaned on Saturday mornings, and cartoons blared from the television. I was one day closer to entering the promised land: Costco. 

Before she even let go, I flung myself from my mother’s arms and onto the grey linoleum floors. My father slid ten dollars into my hand and winked at me, already aware of my intentions. I raced to the endless line while my brother secured our side table. Pressed up against the smudged glass, we watched, transfixed as gloved hands twirled the dough. My family had front row seats to the greatest show every Sunday. 

Surrounding the 18-inch masterpiece, we dug in immediately, burning our tongues on the scorching cheese. We laughed about the ‘locos’ that visited Mami’s job, and Papi recounted stories about famous people who dined at the hotel. Being able to finally spend time with my entire family brought me the greatest joy. Yet, while these memories are plentiful and endearing, they didn’t shape me into who I am today. It was the difficult conversations. It was over pizza that my father told us he had gotten a second job at Belk because one wasn’t enough. As tomato sauce rolled down my chin, my parents spoke in hushed voices about ‘mortgage’ and ‘loans’: words I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Yet, it was at those glossy, red tables where my parents reminded me of their endless love and sacrifice. 

My parents gave up their dream home and countless hours of sleep so that I could attend a reputable high school. My home was empty after school because they worked overtime. As we chewed the last bites and headed out the door, my father would always tell me, “Mija, I don’t want you to be like me, working like a donkey for nothing. I hope you aren’t embarrassed of me.” It was then that, I wish I had the courage to tell him that he made me proud. I wish I had the courage now to thank them for everything. 

Pizza Sundays at Costco were more than a simple meal. They created the person I am today. I learned about the sacrifices my parents made, and the obstacles they faced that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around. They were like the crust, sturdy and unfailing: the foundation and support system that I still rely on. Like the cheese, they were flexible and durable; they never collapsed under pressure and kept us together. They were essential like sauce is to a pizza; without them, there would be no family. Just like every pie, they too had been tossed around and molded, beaten but not destroyed. 

I love my parents. 

While they raised me and gave me weekly pizza dinners, that’s not why I feel so strongly about who they are. 

It’s the lessons they taught me that propel me to serve my community and lift others up. They embody true passion, sacrifice, and love and influence me to strive for greatness in my academic endeavors and relationships. They are the ultimate example to me.

personal essay examples

What makes a great college essay? As you probably noticed in those personal statement examples, self-reflection is vital when it comes to writing a standout personal essay. Most importantly, be yourself ! Reading personal statement sample essays for college is important to getting started, however, it’s not everything. You’ll need to consider your unique experiences, perspectives, and future goals in order to write your most meaningful personal essay. Write about a subject you are genuinely passionate about. 

Don’t be afraid to take some risks

The personal statement format we provided is just a guideline—there is no perfect personal statement format that will always work. However, don’t do anything too crazy—like rhyming the whole time or submitting 100 words for a 500 word essay. But, remember that we learn the rules of the personal statement format so that we can break them. As long as the essay is grammatically correct, interesting, and true to who you are, you can get creative. Look for creative personal statement sample essays for inspiration. 

Add your why

Don’t just make statements—explain why those statements matter. You can see this in all of the personal essay examples we shared. If something was meaningful to you, explain why. If you want to study a specific subject, explain why . When in doubt, answer why . You can see this demonstrated in the personal statement sample essays above: all of these personal essay examples explain why a student has a specific value or career goal.

Spelling and grammar

Make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. Nothing kills an essay faster than a typo, and with all of the various spell-check tools available today, there is no excuse. To catch any typos or confusing phrases, read your essay out loud. Anything you stumble on or can’t say in one breath is probably worth revisiting. Look to the personal statement sample essays for guidance.

Additional Personal Statement Tips

personal essay examples

There are never too many college essay tips to make applying to college less overwhelming. So, to write an essay that impresses college admissions, in addition to reading college essays that worked and strong examples of college essays, here are some things that you can do: 

Additional Personal Statement Essay Tips

  • Check if the schools you’re applying to have a different personal statement format, or look for any other personal statement requirements besides the Common App. 
  • Start working in advance—reading guides like this one on personal statement sample essays is a great start. But, reading other materials on college essay tips and applying to college will help you feel more confident when the college admissions process actually begins. 
  • Don’t just stop at these personal statement sample essays—read more examples of college essays that aren’t necessarily personal statement sample essays. Learning how to write a great supplemental essay, an essay focused on career or academics , or a personal statement sample essay in the UK are all valuable lessons. These New York Times -recognized personal statement sample essays about money and class are also exceptional—keep reading personal statement sample essays to help you craft your own!
  • We’ve got a whole tab on different types of essay guides and Common App essay prompts, like the transfer essay . For more college essay ideas and college essay tips, check out those resources. 

And, speaking of CollegeAdvisor resources and college essay tips… 

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore 

Here are more resources from CollegeAdvisor on how to ace your essays when applying to college: 

CollegeAdvisor Essay-Writing Resources

  • Check out this webinar on how to write about your extracurriculars in your college essays. It can be hard to write about extracurriculars without falling into cliches or overdone sports metaphors—watch this webinar to learn more!
  • This webinar explains how to translate your personal interests into a future major. Thinking about how to connect your interests to your future major is very helpful for essay writing, especially for the many “why major” supplemental essays you may have to write! 
  • Looking at college-specific personal statement sample essays and supplemental essays can be very helpful—especially with an analysis of why they worked . UChicago’s essays are notorious for being unique and outlandish—read some of these personal statement sample essays to spark your creativity ! 

Personal Statement Examples – Final Takeaways

We hope that after reading this guide on personal essay examples you feel more prepared to write great college essays. Our personal statement examples for college span many different topics and represent great storytelling across the board.

This guide on personal statement examples showcased college essays that worked, and answered questions like, “what is a personal statement?” “what are the differences between personal statements on different application platforms?” and “how do I structure my personal statement?”

By reading examples of college essays that worked, we hope that you have a better understanding of the personal statement format, as well as how to impress college admissions with stellar storytelling, structure, and grammar. 

Remember: the biggest thing that college admissions officers are looking for is to learn more about you . So, consider what makes you unique, and start writing!

personal essay examples

This article about personal essay examples was written by advisor, Rachel Kahn . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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Student Opinion

100-Plus Writing Prompts to Explore Common Themes in Literature and Life

writing prompts for personal essays

By The Learning Network

  • Jan. 31, 2019

Update, Feb. 15, 2019: Learn more about how to use our 1000s of writing prompts by watching our free on-demand webinar: “ Give Them Something to Write About: Teach Across the Curriculum With New York Times-Inspired Daily Prompts. ”

Every day since 2009 we’ve been asking students a question inspired by an article, essay, video or feature in The New York Times.

Periodically, we sort those questions into lists to make finding what you need easier, like these previous lists of prompts for personal or narrative writing and for argumentative writing , or like this monster list of more than 1,000 prompts , all categorized by subject.

This time, however, we’re making a list to help your students more easily connect the literature they’re reading to the world around them — and to help teachers find great works of nonfiction that can echo common literary themes.

Below, we’ve chosen the best prompts — those that ask the most relevant questions and link to the richest Times materials — from our Student Opinion collection that address every stage of life, from coming-of-age and wrestling with one’s identity to understanding one’s role in a family; making friends; getting an education; falling in love; working; and experiencing old age. We hope they can provide jumping-off points for discussion and writing, and inspiration for further reading.

Most teachers know that our Student Opinion questions are free and outside The Times’s digital subscription service, but what you may not realize is that if you access the Times articles we link to from those questions via our site, the articles are also free. So in this list we hope we’re not just suggesting 100-plus interesting questions, we hope we’ve also helped you find 100-plus great works of nonfiction that can speak to the literature your students are reading.

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Spring 2025 Semester

Undergraduate courses.

Composition courses that offer many sections (ENGL 101, 201, 277 and 379) are not listed on this schedule unless they are tailored to specific thematic content or particularly appropriate for specific programs and majors.

  • 100-200 level

ENGL 201.ST2 Composition II: The Mind/Body Connection

Dr. sharon smith.

In this online section of English 201, students will use research and writing to learn more about problems that are important to them and articulate ways to address those problems. The course will focus specifically on issues related to the body, the mind, and the relationship between them. The topics we will discuss during the course will include the correlation between social media and body image; the psychological effects of self-objectification; and the unique mental and physical challenges faced by college students today, including food insecurity and stress.

English 201 S06 and S11: Composition II with an emphasis in Environmental Writing

S06: MWF at 10–10:50 a.m. in Yeager Hall Addition 231

S11: MWF at 12–12:50 p.m. in Crothers Engineering Hall 217

Gwen Horsley

English 201 will help students develop skills to write effectively for other university courses, careers, and themselves. This course will provide opportunities to further develop research skills, to write vividly, and to share their own stories and ideas. Specifically, in this class, students will (1) focus on the relationships between world environments, land, animals and humankind; (2) read various essays by environmental, conservational, and regional authors; and (3) produce student writings. Students will improve their writing skills by reading essays and applying techniques they witness in others’ work and those learned in class. This class is also a course in logical and creative thought. Students will write about humankind’s place in the world and our influence on the land and animals, places that hold special meaning to them or have influenced their lives, and stories of their own families and their places and passions in the world. Students will practice writing in an informed and persuasive manner, in language that engages and enlivens readers by using vivid verbs and avoiding unnecessary passives, nominalizations, and expletive constructions.

Students will prepare writing assignments based on readings and discussions of essays included in Literature and the Environment and other sources. They will use The St. Martin’s Handbook to review grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and usage as needed.

Required Text: Literature and the Environment: A Reader On Nature and Culture. 2nd ed., edited by Lorraine Anderson, Scott Slovic, and John P. O’Grady.

LING 203.S01 English Grammar

TuTh 12:30-1:45 p.m.

Dr. Nathan Serfling

The South Dakota State University 2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog describes LING 203 as consisting of “[i]nstruction in the theory and practice of traditional grammar including the study of parts of speech, parsing, and practical problems in usage.”

“Grammar” is a mercurial term, though. Typically, we think of it to mean “correct” sentence structure, and, indeed, that is one of its meanings. But Merriam-Webster reminds us “grammar” also refers to “the principles or rules of an art, science, or technique,” taking it beyond the confines of syntactic structures. Grammar also evolves in practice through application (and social, historical, economic changes, among others). Furthermore, grammar evolves as a concept as scholars and educators in the various fields of English studies debate the definition and nature of grammar, including how well its explicit instruction improves students’ writing. In this course, we will use the differing sensibilities, definitions, and fluctuations regarding grammar to guide our work. We will examine the parts of speech, address syntactic structures and functions, and parse and diagram sentences. We will also explore definitions of and debates about grammar. All of this will occur in units about the rules and structures of grammar; the application of grammar rhetorically and stylistically; and the debates surrounding various aspects of grammar, including, but not limited to, its instruction.

ENGL 210 Introduction to Literature

Jodi andrews.

Readings in fiction, drama and poetry to acquaint students with literature and aesthetic form. Prerequisites: ENGL 101. Notes: Course meets SGR #4 or IGR #3.

ENGL 222 British Literature II

TuTh 9:30-10:45 a.m.

This course serves as a chronological survey of the second half of British literature. Students will read a variety of texts from the Romantic period, the Victorian period, and the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, placing these texts within their historical and literary contexts and identifying the major characteristics of the literary periods and movements that produced them.

ENGL 240.ST1 Juvenile Literature

Randi l. anderson.

A survey of the history of literature written for children and adolescents, and a consideration of the various types of juvenile literature.

ENGL 240.ST1 Juvenile Literature: 5-12 Grade

In English 240 students will develop the skills to interpret and evaluate various genres of literature for juvenile readers. This particular section will focus on various works of literature at approximately the 5th-12th grade level.

Readings for this course include works such as Night, Brown Girl Dreaming, All American Boys, Esperanza Rising, Anne Frank’s Diary: A Graphic Adaptation, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, The Hobbit, Little Women, and Lord of the Flies . These readings will be paired with chapters from Reading Children’s Literature: A Critical Introduction to help develop understanding of various genres, themes, and concepts that are both related to juvenile literature, and also present in our readings.

In addition to exploring various genres of writing (poetry, non-fiction, fantasy, historical, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc.) this course will also allow students to engage in a discussion of larger themes present in these works such as censorship, race, rebellion and dissent, power and oppression, gender, knowledge, and the power of language and the written word. Students’ understanding of these works and concepts will be developed through readings, discussion posts, quizzes and exams.

ENGL 240.ST2 Juvenile Literature Elementary-5th Grade

April myrick.

A survey of the history of literature written for children and adolescents, and a consideration of the various genres of juvenile literature. Text selection will focus on the themes of imagination and breaking boundaries.

ENGL 242.S01 American Literature II

TuTh 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Dr. Paul Baggett

This course surveys a range of U.S. literatures from about 1865 to the present, writings that treat the end of slavery and the development of a segregated America, increasingly urbanized and industrialized U.S. landscapes, waves of immigration, and the fulfilled promise of “America” as imperial nation. The class will explore the diversity of identities represented during that time, and the problems/potentials writers imagined in response to the century’s changes—especially literature’s critical power in a time of nation-building. Required texts for the course are The Norton Anthology of American Literature: 1865 to the Present and Toni Morrison’s A Mercy.

WMST 247.S01: Introduction to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

As an introduction to Women, Gender and Sexuality studies, this course considers the experiences of women and provides an overview of the history of feminist thought and activism, particularly within the United States. Students will also consider the concepts of gender and sexuality more broadly to encompass a diversity of gender identifications and sexualities and will explore the degree to which mainstream feminism has—and has not—accommodated this diversity. The course will focus in particular on the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with race, class, ethnicity, and disability. Topics and concepts covered will include: movements for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights; gender, sexuality and the body; intersectionality; rape culture; domestic and gender violence; reproductive rights; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW); and more.

ENGL 283.S01 Introduction to Creative Writing

MWF 1-1:50 p.m.

Prof. Steven Wingate

Students will explore the various forms of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction and poetry) not one at a time in a survey format—as if there were decisive walls of separation between then—but as intensely related genres that share much of their creative DNA. Through close reading and work on personal texts, students will address the decisions that writers in any genre must face on voice, rhetorical position, relationship to audience, etc. Students will produce and revise portfolios of original creative work developed from prompts and research. This course fulfills the same SGR #2 requirements ENGL 201; note that the course will involve creative research projects. Successful completion of ENGL 101 (including by test or dual credit) is a prerequisite.

English 284: Introduction to Criticism

This course introduces students to selected traditions of literary and cultural theory and to some of the key issues that animate discussion among literary scholars today. These include questions about the production of cultural value, about ideology and hegemony, about the patriarchal and colonial bases of Western culture, and about the status of the cultural object, of the cultural critic, and of cultural theory itself.

To address these and other questions, we will survey the history of literary theory and criticism (a history spanning 2500 years) by focusing upon a number of key periods and -isms: Greek and Roman Classicism, The Middle Ages and Renaissance, The Enlightenment, Romanticism, Realism, Formalism, Historicism, Political Criticism (Marxism, Post-Colonialism, Feminism, et al.), and Psychological Criticism. We also will “test” various theories we discuss by examining how well they account for and help us to understand various works of poetry and fiction.

  • 300-400 level

ENGL 330.S01 Shakespeare

TuTh 8-9:15 a.m.

Dr. Michael S. Nagy

This course will focus on William Shakespeare’s poetic and dramatic works and on the cultural and social contexts in which he wrote them. In this way, we will gain a greater appreciation of the fact that literature does not exist in a vacuum, for it both reflects and influences contemporary and subsequent cultures. Text: The Riverside Shakespeare: Complete Works. Ed. Evans, G. Blakemore and J. J. M. Tobin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

ENGL 363 Science Fiction

MWF 11-11:50 a.m.

This course explores one of the most significant literary genres of the past century in fiction and in film. We will focus in particular on the relationship between science fiction works and technological and social developments, with considerable attention paid to the role of artificial intelligence in the human imagination. Why does science fiction seem to predict the future? What do readers and writers of the genre hope to find in it? Through readings and viewings of original work, as well as selected criticism in the field, we will address these and other questions. Our reading and viewing selections will include such artists as Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Stanley Kubrick and Phillip K. Dick. Students will also have ample opportunity to introduce the rest of the class to their own favorite science fiction works.

ENGL 383.S01 Creative Writing I

MWF 2-2:50 p.m.

Amber Jensen

Creative Writing I encourages students to strengthen poetry, creative nonfiction, and/or fiction writing skills through sustained focus on creative projects throughout the course (for example, collections of shorter works focused on a particular form/style/theme, longer prose pieces, hybrid works, etc.). Students will engage in small- and large-group writing workshops as well as individual conferences with the instructor throughout the course to develop a portfolio of creative work. The class allows students to explore multiple genres through the processes of writing and revising their own creative texts and through writing workshop, emphasizing the application of craft concepts across genre, but also allows students to choose one genre of emphasis, which they will explore through analysis of self-select texts, which they will use to deepen their understanding of the genre and to contextualize their own creative work.

ENGL 475.S01 Creative Nonfiction

Mondays 3-5:50 p.m.

In this course, students will explore the expansive and exciting genre of creative nonfiction, including a variety of forms such as personal essay, braided essay, flash nonfiction, hermit crab essays, profiles and more. Through rhetorical reading, discussion, and workshop, students will engage published works, their own writing process, and peer work as they expand their understanding of the possibilities presented in this genre and the craft elements that can be used to shape readers’ experience of a text. Students will compile a portfolio of polished work that demonstrates their engagement with course concepts and the writing process.

ENGL 485.S01 Writing Center Tutoring

MW 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Since their beginnings in the 1920s and 30s, writing centers have come to serve numerous functions: as hubs for writing across the curriculum initiatives, sites to develop and deliver workshops, and resource centers for faculty as well as students, among other functions. But the primary function of writing centers has necessarily and rightfully remained the tutoring of student writers. This course will immerse you in that function in two parts. During the first four weeks, you will explore writing center praxis—that is, the dialogic interplay of theory and practice related to writing center work. This part of the course will orient you to writing center history, key theoretical tenets and practical aspects of writing center tutoring. Once we have developed and practiced this foundation, you will begin work in the writing center as a tutor, responsible for assisting a wide variety of student clients with numerous writing tasks. Through this work, you will learn to actively engage with student clients in the revision of a text, respond to different student needs and abilities, work with a variety of writing tasks and rhetorical situations and develop a richer sense of writing as a complex and negotiated social process.

ENGL 492.S01 The Vietnam War in Literature and Film

Tuesdays 3-5:50 p.m.

Dr. Jason McEntee

In 1975, the United States officially included its involvement in the Vietnam War, thus marking 2025 as the 50th anniversary of the conclusion (in name only) of one of the most chaotic, confusing, and complex periods in American history. In this course, we will consider how literature and film attempt to chronicle the Vietnam War and, perhaps more important, its aftermath. I have designed this course for those looking to extend their understanding of literature and film to include the ideas of art, experience, commercial products, and cultural documents. Learning how to interpret literature and movies remains the highest priority of the course, including, for movies, the study of such things as genre, mise-en-scene (camera movement, lighting, etc.), editing, sound and so forth.

We will read Dispatches , A Rumor of War , The Things They Carried , A Piece of My Heart , and Bloods , among others. Some of the movies that we will screen are: Apocalypse Now (the original version), Full Metal Jacket , Platoon , Coming Home , Born on the Fourth of July , Dead Presidents , and Hearts and Minds . Because we must do so, we will also look at some of the more fascinatingly outrageous yet culturally significant fantasies about the war, such as The Green Berets and Rambo: First Blood, Part II .

ENGL 492.S02 Classical Mythology

TuTh 3:30-4:45 p.m.

Drs. Michael S. Nagy and Graham Wrightson

Modern society’s fascination with mythology manifests itself in the continued success of novels, films and television programs about mythological or quasi-mythological characters such as Hercules, the Fisher King, and Gandalf the Grey, all of whom are celebrated for their perseverance or their daring deeds in the face of adversity. This preoccupation with mythological figures necessarily extends back to the cultures which first propagated these myths in early folk tales and poems about such figures as Oðin, King Arthur, Rhiannon, Gilgamesh, and Odysseus, to name just a few. English 492, a reading-intensive course cross-listed with History 492, primarily aims to expose students to the rich tradition of mythological literature written in languages as varied as French, Gaelic, Welsh, Old Icelandic, Greek, and Sumerian; to explore the historical, social, political, religious, and literary contexts in which these works flourished (if indeed they did); and to grapple with the deceptively simple question of what makes these myths continue to resonate with modern audiences. Likely topics and themes of this course will include: Theories of myth; Mythological Beginnings: Creation myths and the fall of man; Male and Female Gods in Myth; Foundation myths; Nature Myths; The Heroic Personality; the mythological portrayal of (evil/disruptive) women in myth; and Monsters in myth.

Likely Texts:

  • Dalley, Stephanie, trans. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford World’s Classics, 2009
  • Faulkes, Anthony, trans. Edda. Everyman, 1995
  • Gregory, Lady Augusta. Cuchulain of Muirthemne: The Story of the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster. Forgotten Books, 2007
  • Jones, Gwyn, Thomas Jones, and Mair Jones. The Mabinogion. Everyman Paperback Classics, 1993
  • Larrington, Carolyne, trans. The Poetic Edda . Oxford World’s Classics, 2009
  • Matarasso, Pauline M., trans. The Quest of the Holy Grail. Penguin Classics, 1969
  • Apollodorus, Hesiod’s Theogony
  • Hesiod’s Works and Days
  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Homeric Hymns
  • Virgil’s Aeneid
  • Iliad, Odyssey
  • Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica
  • Ovid’s Heroides
  • Greek tragedies: Orestaia, Oedipus trilogy, Trojan Women, Medea, Hippoolytus, Frogs, Seneca's Thyestes, Dyskolos, Amphitryon
  • Clash of the Titans, Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, Troy (and recent miniseries), Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

ENGL 492.ST1 Science Writing

Erica summerfield.

This course aims to teach the fundamentals of effective scientific writing and presentation. The course examines opportunities for covering science, the skills required to produce clear and understandable text about technical subjects, and important ethical and practical constraints that govern the reporting of scientific information. Students will learn to present technical and scientific issues to various audiences. Particular emphasis will be placed on conveying the significance of research, outlining the aims, and discussing the results for scientific papers and grant proposals. Students will learn to write effectively, concisely, and clearly while preparing a media post, fact sheet, and scientific manuscript or grant.

Graduate Courses

Engl 575.s01 creative nonfiction.

In this course, students will explore the expansive and exciting genre of creative nonfiction, including a variety of forms such as personal essay, braided essay, flash nonfiction, hermit crab essays, profiles, and more. Through rhetorical reading, discussion, and workshop, students will engage published works, their own writing process, and peer work as they expand their understanding of the possibilities presented in this genre and the craft elements that can be used to shape readers’ experience of a text. Students will compile a portfolio of polished work that demonstrates their engagement with course concepts and the writing process.

ENGL 592.S01: The Vietnam War in Literature and Film

Engl 704.s01 introduction to graduate studies.

Thursdays 3-5:50 p.m.

Introduction to Graduate Studies is required of all first-year graduate students. The primary purpose of this course is to introduce students to modern and contemporary literary theory and its applications. Students will write short response papers and will engage at least one theoretical approach in their own fifteen- to twenty-page scholarly research project. In addition, this course will further introduce students to the M.A. program in English at South Dakota State University and provide insight into issues related to the profession of English studies.

ENGL 792.ST1 Grant Writing

This online course will familiarize students with the language, rhetorical situation, and components of writing grant proposals. Students will explore various funding sources, learn to read an RFP, and develop an understanding of different professional contexts and the rhetorical and structural elements that suit those distinct contexts. Students will write a sample proposal throughout the course and offer feedback to their peers, who may be writing in different contexts, which will enhance their understanding of the varied applications of course content. Through their work in the course, students will gain confidence in their ability to find, apply for, and receive grant funding to support their communities and organizations.


  1. 650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

    Here is a PDF of all 650 prompts, and we also have a related lesson plan, From 'Lives' to 'Modern Love': Writing Personal Essays With Help From The New York Times.. Below, a list that ...

  2. Personal Essay Topics and Prompts

    A personal essay is an essay about your life, thoughts, or experiences. This type of essay will give readers a glimpse into your most intimate life experiences and life lessons. There are many reasons you may need to write a personal essay, from a simple class assignment to a college application requirement.You can use the list below for inspiration. Consider each statement a starting point ...

  3. 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

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    525 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing. Questions that invite students to write about themselves, their lives and their beliefs. Updated with 80 new prompts from the 2022-23 school year ...

  5. 30 Personal Essay Prompts

    Personal Essay Prompts 1-10. 1. ABC Segments. Write the alphabet on a sheet of paper. Pick one letter. Make a list of all the things you can think of that start with that letter - ideas, concepts, emotions, objects. Choose one word from that list and write a paragraph. Repeat. Three times works well.

  6. Writing Prompts: 52 Places to Find Them When You Need Inspiration

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  7. 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

    Now, five years later, we've collected 500 of them that invite narrative and personal writing and pulled them all together in one place (available here as a PDF ). The categorized list below touches on everything from sports to travel, education, gender roles, video games, fashion, family, pop culture, social media and more, and, like all our ...

  8. PDF 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

    hings did you create when you were a child?5. Wha. p. aces do you remember fondly from childhood?6. Have you ev. r. elt embarrassed by things you used to like?7. Do you w. sh. you could return to moments from your past?8. Was t. er. a toy you wanted as a child but never go.

  9. Inner Explorations: Top Personal Writing Prompts to ...

    Personal Writing Prompts for Personal Essays. Imagine standing on the precipice of a world rich with emotion and experience, your heart pulsing as you prepare to dive into the art of crafting personal essays. You're not alone in this journey; we'll navigate together through different prompt selection techniques, unmasking secrets that will ...

  10. 13 Thought-Provoking Personal Narrative Prompts

    So, I put together a list of 13 personal narrative prompts to help you find a compelling story you long to write about. The idea of longing to write it is important because personal narratives need to show readers what your experience was like. Desire to write inspires you to put more effort into your narrative's description, character ...

  11. 50 Inspiring Writing Prompts to Kick Writer's Block

    50 Writing Prompts. Take a minute or two to look over the list. Then pick one prompt that brings to mind a particular image, experience, or idea. Start writing (or freewriting) and see where it takes you. If after a few minutes you hit a dead end, don't panic. Simply return to the list, pick another prompt, and try again.

  12. Meaningful Personal Essay Topics

    Help your reader get to know you better with these personal essay prompts. Write about your experiences, your relationships, your dreams, and yourself. Dictionary ... Writing a personal essay is a wonderful way to express yourself. It's also great narrative writing practice - if you've got the right topic. ...

  13. 1800+ Creative Writing Prompts To Inspire You Right Now

    Here's how our contest works: every Friday, we send out a newsletter containing five creative writing prompts. Each week, the story ideas center around a different theme. Authors then have one week — until the following Friday — to submit a short story based on one of our prompts. A winner is picked each week to win $250 and is highlighted ...

  14. Over 1,000 Writing Prompts for Students

    Of all the resources we publish on The Learning Network, perhaps it's our vast collection of writing prompts that is our most widely used resource for teaching and learning with The Times. We ...

  15. 44 Essay Prompts for College That Will Get You Inspired

    Oh, and if a prompt isn't working for you, then pick a different prompt. This is not the time for self-created obstacles. Use your creativity and you may just come up with a surprising way to create the best personal essay you can to ensure your college dreams come true. Ok, now for some… Closing Thoughts on Essay Prompts for College Writing

  16. 15 Creative College Essay Writing Prompts to Spark Your Imagination

    College application essays are a great opportunity for students to showcase their creativity, personality, and unique perspectives. Here are 15 creative prompts to help you get started on your college essay: Write about a time when you faced a challenge and how you overcame it. Describe a person who has had a significant influence on your life ...

  17. 101 Narrative Ideas To Beat Your Writer's Block

    Narrative ideas. 1. Your First Love Story: Write a narrative essay about the first time you fell in love. 2. High School Hero: Personal narrative about standing up to a bully in high school. 3. Lost and Found: Narrative essay topic about losing and finding something precious. 4.

  18. 105 Creative Writing Prompts to Try Out

    Make a story out of it. #3: Write using no adjectives or adverbs. #4: Write a character's inner dialogue between different aspects of a character's self (rather than an inner monologue). #5: Write a true story from your past that involves light or darkness in some way. #6: "Saying goodbye awakens us to the true nature of things."

  19. Personal Essay and Short Answer Prompts

    Personal Essay Prompts To help us get to know you in the application review process, you are required to submit a personal essay. For insight and advice about how to approach writing your personal essay, see our Expert Advice page. Common Application first-year essay prompts Common App transfer essay prompt: Please provide a personal essay […]

  20. Personal Essay Examples

    The Coalition Application essay prompts are similar to the Common App essay prompts, and so the personal essay examples that answer those prompts will follow a similar personal statement format. Both types of essays are also 500-650 words. ... Before you start writing your personal essay, read personal essay examples so you can get a feel for ...

  21. Over 170 Prompts to Inspire Writing and Discussion

    Want more writing prompts? You can find even more Student Opinion questions in our 300 Questions and Images to Inspire Argument Writing , 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing and 130 New ...

  22. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Polish your writing skills on Coursera. A stellar personal statement starts with stellar writing skills. Enhance your writing ability with a writing course from a top university, like Good with Words: Writing and Editing from the University of Michigan or Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Get started for free to level up your ...

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    Identity. We ask students, " Are You Being Raised to Pursue Your Dreams? " Our prompt is based on the article "How to Raise a Feminist Son.". Illustration by Agnes Lee. 1. Are You the Same ...

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    Robert Lee Brewer. Jun 24, 2024. Here we go: It's time for the first day of the 2024 Personal Essay Writing Challenge! Each day, I'll provide a writing prompt and a personal essay to get things started. You can secretly write along at home, or you can share your own personal essay (s) in the comments below. Check out the guidelines here.

  26. Spring 2025 Semester

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