How to Write a Personal Narrative Essay for College: Amaze Your Professors


A narrative essay is a type of assignment in which you write a story about a real-life experience. When doing this kind of assignment it’s important you remember that everyone wants to read a good story, especially one that is imaginative and compelling. But there’s more to this kind of assignment: the writer usually needs to place a personal experience within the context of a much larger theme. You’re not only telling a great story, but also conveying why your story has meaning.

Here are five steps for writing a personal narrative essay that will amaze your professors:

  • Prewriting your essay. Start thinking about your life experiences in the context of the homework assignment’s specific theme. Even the smallest incidents can make for a great narrative essay if it is related to the theme and has some significance to you. If you feel an emotional connection to the topic your essay will be a lot better. Create an outline of the story, focusing on flow and detail.

  • Drafting your essay. Use your outline to guide you through your first draft, but be sure you focus on making sure the story comes alive through detail. Try engaging the reader from the start by writing in the first person and also make sure to use vivid descriptions of places and people. The reader will have no prior knowledge of your descriptions so be sure not to simply gloss over the details.

  • Revising your essay. When you revise your narrative essay, you should review, modify and look for ways to reorganize your essay with the intent of making it better. You should reread your work critically and ask yourself a series of questions, including: Is the essay easy to understand? Do the transitions make sense? Could there be more detail or are there too many extraneous details? Are your word choices descriptive or merely informative?

  • Editing your essay. At this point of the assignment you should focus on correcting grammar and spelling errors, as well as editing to improve the essay’s clarity and style. It’s a good idea to have a friend read your narrative essay so that you can receive comments and feedback from an entirely fresh perspective.

  • Presenting your essay. This last step isn’t always a requirement, but some college professors will ask a few students to read their narrative essays aloud. This can be both exciting and terrifying. Just remember that there isn’t a writer around who isn’t somewhat sensitive about his or her work. Learn from the feedback you receive and take the experience to propel you into writing an even better essay the next time around.

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