The Personal Essay: Experience and Wisdom

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In a personal essay, a writer draws from their life experiences to explore or communicate an idea to their reader. You will be writing a personal essay as our first out-of-class writing assignment.

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Imagine that we are having coffee and I ask you to tell the story of an experience you had that made you a wiser person.


Think of your reader as a friend or an acquaintance who has asked you this question. You are not writing for a formal, academic audience, but for a general reader who is genuinely interested in your life. (This audience has no problem, of course, with you using “I” in your essay, for example — they want to be addressed as in a manner appropriate in a “personal,” friendly context.)


You will likely build this essay around the story of a single event. And a personal essay should be just that: personal. You are using your life to support the claims that you make about the connection between experience and wisdom.

Refer to our class essays for examples of the ways that professional writers have used a story to communicate an idea in a personal essay.

To receive full credit, the final draft must be at least three pages long, following MLA and class formatting requirements.

You aren’t required to quote our readings or to do any outside research for this assignment.

When writing your assignment, we aim to help you get an A, not just beat the deadline.

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