May 31, 2023

Find your voice by writing personal essaysIf writing a personal essay feels like too much pressure, you might be carrying memories of childhood school days. Maybe you were told you were a “good writer.” Or, maybe there’s a voice in your head saying that you need to “try harder.” As you grew up, those voices tagged along.

But now, you can exhale and relax. You’re about to meet my friendly personal essay template. It’s a tool that can help you get into an enjoyable writing zone.

Of course, you’ll still keep what you loved from the past. The only difference is that you’re going to let go of people pleasing. Forget about wondering if you sound smart enough. Only one voice really matters: Yours. Once you trust your voice, you’ll discover the excitement in embracing who you are as a unique storyteller.


What is a personal essay?

Every personal essay has a beginning, a long-ish middle, and an end. It’s a piece of writing that invites your audience to get to know you through a specific experience, issue or theme that you want to share. A personal essay can be 300 words or more than 1,000. It all depends on who you’re writing it for.

Personal essays are super-useful. They’re part of the application process for graduate school, medical school, training and career programs, internships, housing opportunities, corporate gigs and more.

Writing a speech is a type of personal essay. Journalists write “columns,” which are a form of personal essay. If you have a lot to material to explore, your essays might have the beginnings of a personal essay-ish book about your life – a memoir.  

Personal essays are a ticket to fulfilling dreams and transforming lives.  I recently coached a law school candidate through her personal essay. Even though she loved to write and expressed herself well, we had to rewrite many times.

My client was new to the Personal Essay Template that I’m about to share. It challenged her to see herself more clearly. She became more confident and clearer about her own story. The word picture she presented shifted from writing pretty to writing powerful. She landed a full scholarship. That was a $300,000 personal essay!


What should I write about?

You can write about anything. Take control of what you share with the universe. Maybe you want to explore a deeply personal topic, like your money story. Or, you might go in the opposite direction. It’s totally fine to write about a favorite food, pet, vacation or “something silly.” A political opinion piece is another option. 

Nearly any topic works because your material ends up being a mirror held up to your life. The essay is a reflection of who you are –especially if you research relevant facts and look within yourself for authentic answers. 

For instance, let’s say you have a sudden urge to write about your new toothbrush. A toothbrush is more than a toothbrush.

Your essay will have facts about toothbrushes as a consumer product. Your life is also a wide and deep collection or facts. When you take these two buckets of facts and add your personality, you’re on a creative path. 


How to structure a personal essay

A personal essay follows a basic format. The template below shows you the puzzle pieces. 

The Beginning:

  • Your opening line(s) lead us – fast – into the essay.
  • The nut graph is a journalistic tool that gives a brief summary of what we’re in for. It’s like the movie trailer. If this is a new concept, my nut graph blog post will fill you in. If it sounds too scary, you can skip it for now and go straight to giving us a brief, brief history/background about the journey. It’s usually content that you can move through smoothly by writing out the events in chronological order, as they happened.

The Middle:

  • This is where you go into the whatever was featured in the movie trailer. Create three distinct sections. Each section fleshes out a mini-story that summarizes a key piece of your journey.
  • Each section should have a purpose in illustrating what happened to you. Give us different sides, scenes and conflicts. We want to see how you handle things and who you are through different angles.

The End:

  • You only know if a movie was worth your time during the last third. Does the whole story come together in a satisfying way? This is the payoff. This is where you reflect on everything that happened, and sum up what it meant for you.
  • The takeaway is the reflection. We want to take away the point of your journey.
  • Depending on what you’re sharing, we’re ready to do something! What will you ask of us? This is your call to action. The message can be anything that makes sense for your journey – from asking us to protest an issue or take daily walks to reminding us the importance of gratitude, or bringing a smile into our lives.
  • Lastly, the kicker is a way to end the piece with one last amazing fact, observation or statement. It’s optional because, well, coming up with a kicker is a mic drop moment. It’s nice to have but hard to come by. You can still have an amazing essay without a kicker.

Personal essay template by

The color progressions in this template give you an organic, visual feel for structuring your narrative. Your lead has to stand out and grab us right away. The overview eases us into the middle. Each section you present intensifies and builds the story to a strong ending.

It might be nice to keep it on your desk, where you can look at it and soak in a little color therapy. If you’d like to download a PDF of the Personal Essay Template, click HERE.