When we are young, when faced with a writing a reflective essay, we may feel that we really don’t have much to reflect on. This is when you have to sit back and think about your short life and pull memories out like teeth.
You may have more memories than you think, but you are so busy living life that you never really reflected on them as having any importance once those times had passed.
Remember when you would come back to school after summer vacation and the first thing your English teacher always wanted was not only my math homework help that you had from a friend, but a story about what you did this past summer, well it is much like that when writing a reflective essay for your college English Professor.
The hardest part is selecting a reflective essay topic, but once you have found a good one your words will fly from your fingers onto the page with no problem. They are your personal memories and no one else can write them like you can.
Research and Gathering Info
Finding the Perfect Reflective Topic Ideas
The use of your research skills are what you will need to begin your search for reflective essay ideas.
After gathering your own thoughts, the next step you can take is interviewing your parents, friends, and relatives for more information. They are the people that can help you with this trip down memory lane.
This is a perfect time to call your parents, you know that you should have before this but that is okay, they will be glad to hear from you.
Were you active at your church, community center, or sit on activity councils at your school? Did you do an internship while in High School, or maybe volunteer at your local hospital. Get in touch with all of the people that you have worked with over the years and before you know it you will be compiling a list of topics and gathering ideas to choose from.
Many students have kept a journal throughout their time in elementary school right through to high school. If this is your case, there is so much info in them for you to glean from now to help you with your reflective essay topic.
Get your journals out and spend an afternoon slowly reading them. As you read them think of where you were then and where you are now.
If any of your entries make you laugh, write them down into an outline, also if there are any that bring tears to your eyes, put them in the outline also.
Another great resource for memories are any greeting cards that you have received over the years from your parents, aunts/ uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. It’s amazing the feelings that come over you when taking this type of walk down memory lane.
Now that you have gathered the information you need for your reflective essay, now you need to get it all in order. This type of essay is not one that you just put down on paper, it has to have reasons for actions, and explanations of outcomes in your story.
In order to do this, you must organize your thoughts in an outline. This will put your paper in sections that are easily read. Writing an essay should always begin with research and then an outline so that you are not jumping all over the place with your ideas.
The one thing that many students fail to do when writing an essay is to reflect back on the previous paragraph while writing the next one. Cultivating this habit will give your writing the effect of seamless thought, and keep your reader engaged.
Use the following layout for organizing your research:
An Introduction- Begin with telling your audience about your topic and cultivate your thesis. Your thesis is one-two sentences introducing what your paper is about. It should include some back-story to get the reader interested.
Use a compelling incident
Use an amusing story
Express with full description a surprising or intriguing fact followed by a dramatic question.
Keep in mind that what you lead with has to be in synch with the material that follows. If you lead with a sobering statement, you cannot follow with outrageous emotion. Do not become instantly lighthearted and comical if you start off with a serious theme.
Tone in your introduction sets the stage for the rest of your paper, your audience is being set up in your introduction.
The body consist of a few paragraphs-
Paragraph I: The experience you are writing about and how it affected you
Paragraph II: Tell about how this experience made a difference to others around you
Paragraph III: What did you learn from the experience or get out of it
Your Conclusion: A conclusion is the claim that is already said in the body of your paragraphs, repeating some of the sentences here in the conclusion wraps everything up nicely. It usually goes something like this:
Summarize your points
Tie major points of the story together
Reveal your points the way they appeared in your paper
Conclusions are read last, so this is the paragraph that your readers will remember the most. If it does not tie together you will leave them confused, in this case your professor, and you will see statements on your paper like “unclear” , or, “how does this tie in to your story”
Preparing this outline first before writing your paper will help you write a cohesive set of thoughts that flows smoothly when read by your professor. Help for creating an outline can also be found by visiting online writing services.
Everyone gets behind sometimes and these services can help when the time you have to finish your paper has reached a critical point. No matter how much time you have with your urgent term paper, you should always place high attention to the conclusions page, as it might make the main impact of your paper.
Topics That Work
If you cannot find your own topics or are in a crunch for time, these may jog your memory and get you started on getting that reflective essay done.
A stormy night: The lights went out and everyone was gathered in the same room hoping that a tree would not fall through the roof, then the lights went out.
Moving away: You could not believe that your family was moving away from the only home you ever knew.
Your first love: Everyone said it was puppy love but you knew you would be with your first love the rest of your life, then you broke up. He dumped you or you dumped him?
First time speaking in public: You are up on that stage and all you see is spinning lights, what happened?
You lied to your best friend: They asked you a question about something that would hurt their feelings if you told the truth, so you lied.
A death: No matter who it was, someone close to you passed away. What happened in the ensuing days after you found out? What changed in your life due to this persons passing?
First job: You got the job, and on the first day you were nervous and made lots of mistakes. How did your coworkers act towards you/your new boss/how did you feel?
Your first road trip without your parents: Where did you go and with who? What did you see that you had not intended to see on the trip? How much convincing did it take to get your parents to let you go?
You had to write an essay to get a scholarship: Did you get help with the essay? Did you get the scholarship? How did you react/ your family react when finding out you won the scholarship?
You got drunk for the first time in your life: What led to the drinking? Were you of age? How did you feel the day after? Were you with friends and did you all drink? Did you play it safe by not driving or did you get in trouble with the law?
You got locked up: Why? Did you have to stay in jail or did your family bail you out? What happened while you were there? How did it feel to have to call your family and tell them you were in jail?
Weight loss or gain: Since growing up have you gained weight, lost weight? What about your weight is unhealthy and were you teased?
Bullying story: Were you bullied at school? Were you or a friend bullied and how did you deal with it.
Town conspiracy: Has something happened in your town that made headline news across the nation? Did a local politician cause the township shame?
Local kid makes good: Did someone from your high school make it big? Were you friends with this person? Were you jealous or happy for them?
You meet your favorite star: Did you get their autograph? Were you in a photo with them? Were you invited backstage to a concert of your favorite singer? Did you get a chance to visit a set where they were filming?
You had to admit you were wrong: How did it feel? What led up to admitting a wrong, and to whom? Do you have trouble being wrong about anything?
Your team won the championship: What sport was being played? What part did you play in getting your team to the championship? Was your team always winners/losers?
What child are you: Are you the oldest, middle or youngest child and what kind of relationship do you have with your siblings due to the place you hold in that hierarchy.
Adoption: Are you adopted and if so have you met your birth parents? How did you find out you were adopted? Do you feel you are adopted? (could be a funny story with this last one)
Only child: Were you the only child for many years and then your parents surprised you with the fact that you were going to have a brother of sister? How did it make you feel, were you excited, or you wanted to scream no, no, no!
Fistfight: Were you ever in a fistfight? Get a black-eye? What was it about and how old were you when it happened? Do you think you won the fight? Was the altercation over when the fight was over, or did it lead to hard feelings with that person up to this day?
Cooking: Do you remember the first thing you were allowed to cook? What was it and how did it turn out? Do people tend to love your cooking or run from it when you are in the kitchen.
This section was saved till last because if you try to create a title in the beginning of your paper, it will change before you are done.
Titles may not seem as important a part of organizing your reflective essay as the rest, but it can be. A proper title tells your audience what your paper is about. They can be provocative but their main goal is to let the reader know what they are about to read.
The title for your personal reflective essay will set the tone for your introduction, it can sometimes make or break your paper, so think carefully about your title and save it for last. (Remember when writing, it is okay to kill your little darlings, meaning to revise, revise, revise.
To cap it all off, this essay is about an experience that you have had in your life, only you and those that shared the story with you can enhance or downplay the experience. Go in deep, and don’t hold anything back.
It is the one type of paper that you can cut loose on the writing, but keep in mind the grammar making sure it is solid and correct. If dialog is used to describe banter between you and someone in your story, make sure you study how to write dialog within a paper.
Good luck with your reflective essay, you may even be able to sell it if done properly.
Do you remember the Mirror of Erised? You know… the one from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone–the one that shows you your deepest desire. Now imagine standing in front of that mirror. What would you see?
Photo by Rev Stan via flickr
If you wrote an essay in response to that question, it would be considered–much like a mirror–to be a reflective essay. The choices of reflective essay topics are limitless. They can relate to yourself, your surroundings, events that have happened in your life, and hypothetical questions.
To get you started thinking about what makes for good reflective essay topics, I’ll give you some tips and 15 real examples you can use for your own essay.
First of All, What Is a Reflective Essay?
I’m glad you asked!
A reflective essay prompts you to analyze and write about your life, personality, and/or experiences. Reflective essays are much less academic than argumentative or analytical essays, and the structure of these essays can vary, but don’t let that fool you. They still take a lot of effort, concentration, planning, and good writing to make it worthwhile for yourself and the reader.
So now that we have the technical definition out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff!
What to Consider When Choosing a Reflective Essay Topic
Choosing just the right reflective essay topic can be a challenge, but here are a few guidelines to help you in that process.
- Choose a topic on a subject you know.
Because reflective essay topics usually focus on some aspect of your life, it will be easier to write an essay about a topic that you have a lot of experience with. If you’ve never owned a pet, for example, don’t choose a topic relating to your favorite childhood pet. This may sound like silly advice, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t follow it.
- Pick a reflective essay topic that interests you.
You probably know a lot of information based off of both studying and personal experiences, and you could use that knowledge to write about something that completely bores you. But if you’re bored when you’re writing the essay, think about how your readers will feel. So, if possible, choose a topic that you can get excited about or emotionally attached to.
- Pick a topic that you can approach from a unique angle.
This is especially important in college admissions essays (a large portion of which are reflective essays). Whether it be the admissions board or your instructor, your readers don’t want to see the same answer that anyone else could have written. Picking a topic that allows you to write something unique will show off your personality and will be more interesting both to write and to read.
Now that you know the basics behind choosing your reflective essay topics, I’ll give you some more concrete help. I divided the topics into three categories–self, events, and relationships.
5 Reflective Essay Topics about Yourself
Image by Guy Rose via Wikimedia Commons
You are the person who knows you best, and that can make it both simple and difficult to write about yourself. When presented with these types of reflective essay topics, it’s easy to think about a lot of different answers. Try to narrow your focus to just one response–the one that will really wow your readers.
- How have you overcome adversity?
- What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
- What is your biggest fear?
- What would you consider to be your greatest weakness?
- What do you like most about yourself?
5 Reflective Essay Topics about Events
Photo by Bertrand via Wikimedia Commons
Events present a treasure trove of reflective essay topics to choose from. After all, life is just a series of events, and the ones that you remember most vividly are the ones that will make the best essays. When writing about events, vivid details can make the reader feel that he or she is right there with you. Try to include why the event is significant or what you learned from it.
- Tell about your most exciting vacation.
- What is your favorite holiday memory?
- Tell of a time when you got lost.
- What was your first date like?
- What was your first job experience?
5 Reflective Essay Topics about Relationships with Others
Photo by Rhoda Baer via Wikimedia Commons
Life is not a journey you take alone. The bonds you build with other people affect the type of person you become. When writing an essay using these types of reflective essay topics, you’ll want to show the interaction between you and the other person, and how the person has altered your life.
- Who do you admire most?
- What is the most hurtful thing someone has said to you?
- Tell of a time when you had to break off a friendship.
- What is the top quality you look for in a friend?
- Describe your relationship with a family member.
So What Are Reflective Essays Good for Anyway?
Writing a reflective essay is something you should work hard to perfect, not only to get a good grade in class, but for several other reasons:
- As stated above, most college admissions essays are reflective. They want to know about you as a person and not just you as a transcript.
- Reflective essay topics are similar to some of the questions you may be asked in a job interview, especially the topics about yourself. Writing about these topics gives you lot of practice, so when the time for interviewing comes, you’ll be prepared and confident in your answers.
- These essays let you learn more about yourself. Sometimes you may not know what your proudest moment was or what kind of influence someone has had on your life because you’ve never really thought about it before. Writing a reflective essay gives you a reason and a way to get to know yourself better.
So, you see, this is not just about academics, writing a reflective essay is one of those things you learn in school that actually has a larger purpose. And starting early will make your writing all the better.
Hopefully you are beginning to get a better grasp on how to choose from the endless types of reflective essay topics and maybe even a better idea of how to start writing your essay. If you’re stuck, unsure, or just need an extra pair of eyes to check out your writing, the Kibin editors are always here to help.
Now, take a look back in that Mirror of Erised. You see yourself totally killing it on your reflective essay, don’t you? Now it’s time to make that a reality!
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