Research Paper Topics on Culture

The Best Personal Essay Topics (2019 Edition)


If you are trying to think of some good personal essays topics, the best place to start is with you yourself.  You are a unique individual with likes and dislikes.  This is your idea pool.  This is where you should go to think of a topic that suits you well.  A personal essay should be about you and about something you know a lot about.  It doesn’t have to be a hobby you enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be a favorite team you like to root for.  It can be about something you can’t stand.  It can be about the noisy dog across the street that keeps you up at night.  Or it could be something really, truly meaningful that you feel has made a big impact on your life.  The beauty of the personal essay is that it’s your essay.  You make it special.  To help give you an idea of how to come up with your own topic, here are a few we’ve come up with that we think might help!


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What is a Personal Essay?

A personal essay is a brief essay that is about you.  It can be conversational, informal, formal, intimate, sarcastic—whatever suits you and your topic and your audience.  Those are the things you want to keep in mind when you write a personal essay:  who is for, what is the subject, and what should the tone be?  Ask yourself:  How do I want to come across in this personal essay?  What do I want my audience to feel?  Do I want my reader to feel sorry for me?  Do I want me reader to be shocked, surprised, angry, happy, or laughing?  Answer these questions and you’ll be able to answer what your personal essay should be.  In truth, it is whatever you want it to be.  The personal essay is your personal gift to the world, so don’t feel at all constrained to stuff it into a box and make it look conventional or like some pre-fabricated piece of writing.  Your essay should be special, not generic.  So, really, no one can tell you what a personal essay is other than you.  So long as it is in some way related to you—to what you think, to how you see things, to some experience you’ve had, or to some experience you would like to have, it will work.

Personal Essay Topics

College Topics

  • Leadership
    • Leadership is a great topic for a personal essay in college. College is a time when you step up your game and start thinking about how you can lead others.  Use this opportunity to reflect on your own experiences either as a leader or as a follower of a leader you really admired.  Describe your experiences, how they shaped you, and what you learned from them.
  • Education
    • When you’re engaged in higher learning, it really is high time to think about the point of all your years of education. What has education done for you?  Has the rest of your family achieved as much education as you have?  Are you the first to go to college?  Do you hail from a long line of college grads?  What has your college experience been like?  What do you think so far?  What worries do you have going forward?  These are just a few of the questions you should think about when using education for a topic.
  • Lessons Learned in Life
    • Surely you’ve learned so significant lessons by now. Maybe they weren’t learned in the classroom, but maybe you picked them up somewhere.  Maybe you learned them on the field, or from working a job, or from being around friends.  Maybe you took a risk and got burned.  Maybe you pursued a dream that was loftier than it first seemed.  Maybe you came to a deeper understanding of your place in the world by becoming a more spiritual person after an eye-opening experience.  Think about the big lessons you’ve learned so far and share that knowledge and experience in your personal essay on this topic.
  • Where You See Yourself in Ten Years and Why
    • When you look ahead into the future, you probably have a picture of where you want to be and what you want to be doing. Maybe it’s a film director in Hollywood.  Maybe it’s a basketball player in the NBA.  Maybe it’s a rocket scientist working for SpaceX.  Maybe it’s a school teacher.  Describe where you see yourself in a decade and what steps you plan to take to get yourself there.
  • What You Want to Accomplish at School
    • Most people argue that school is a great stepping stone in life. However, a lot of students get there and don’t have a solid idea about what they want to do there.  If this is you, no worries.  Write about your various feelings and ideas and what you could be doing in school.  Sometimes writing about it helps to clarify one’s thoughts and allow one to take direction.  If you already know what you want to accomplish, write about that.  This is a great topic you can use either for exploring your own personal issues in terms of what you want to accomplish at school or for defining your ambitions and making clear your goals.
  • Why You Chose Your Major
    • If you’ve chosen a major at school, this could be a great topic for you. Tell why you selected the field or discipline you’re in, what it was that drew you to it, what you plan on doing after school with your degree, and why you feel you will be good at it.

College Application Topics

  • Experience
    • When applying for college, reviewers like to see that you have a sense of self and understand what it takes to succeed in higher education. They want to know you’ve considered the challenges that lie ahead and they want to feel confident that you’ll be able to overcome them.  The best way to show them that is to show that you have experience in overcoming obstacles, that you’ve done it before, and that you can do it again.
  • Growth
    • Reviewers also like personal essays on growth. Whenever you can identify a period in your life where you experienced some personal growth that made you into a better person and helped set the stage for the next development in your life, it’s an opportunity waiting to be used in a personal essay.
  • Opportunities You’ve Enjoyed
    • Not everyone gets the same opportunities or chances in life. Reviewers respect an applicant who is able to identify when he’s been fortunate enough to have an opportunity to succeed. Think about the opportunities you’ve been given—whether they were opportunities to learn, to lead, to develop, to grow, to contribute, to help, or to honor someone else.  Adopt a humble tone:  it takes a little humility to recognize when and where an opportunity has been given.
  • Ways You’ve Contributed to the Community
    • Another thing reviewers like to see is the way you may have contributed to a community. Community is important as a support network, a place of engagement, and a place where people can practice being inclusive.  Tell about some civic engagement in which you took part.  Maybe you helped to get out the vote for a local and national candidate.  Maybe you took part in building a new rec center or in helping a local underserved population by organization a food and clothing drive.
  • How You Have Brought Change to or Touched People’s Lives
    • You don’t have to have helped an entire community to show that you’re a good person. People touch the lives of others all the time in small ways that might not even go noticed.  Think about some of the ways that you have made a difference in someone’s life.  Don’t be shy.  Give yourself a pat on the back when writing your essay on this topic.  That’s the whole point!
  • Your Goals
    • Surely you have some goals in your life. Maybe they seem like dreams or maybe they are very practical and achievable.  The only way to know is to write about them, analyze them, and look at them objectively.  Use this topic to get to know yourself a little bit better.

Common App Topics

  • Things That Define You
    • What are the things that you choose to identify yourself by? Is it your work?  Your beliefs?  Your family?  Your culture?  Your gender?  What makes you you?  Think about what makes you special and write your personal essay on that.
  • Your Interests
    • What are the things you find interesting? Do you like to read books, learn about technology, study ancient civilizations, meet new people?  What interests you about the world?  What things would you like to explore in detail if given the opportunity and why?
  • How You Spend Your Free Time
    • When you get time away from work, what do you like to do? One of the best ways to show you’re actually a real live human being is to show that you have fun ways of spending your free time.  Maybe you enjoy skiing or bowling or fishing or singing.  Think about what you like to do—even if it is just geeking out over old episodes of Star Trek.
  • What You Do for Work
    • The other thing people like to know is what you do for a living. One’s work is another activity that can define one or tell something about the person’s character.  Think about the job you do, why you do it, why you like it, and whether there is another line of work you would like to get into.

Middle School Topics

  • Games You Enjoy
    • If you’re in middle school, no doubt you still like playing games. Whether they are board games, card games, sports games, or video games, think about the ones you enjoy most and write a personal essay about why you enjoy them, whether or not you are good at them, and whether or not your friends enjoy them too. Write about the good times you’ve had playing one of these games and why it was fun for you.
  • Movies You Like
    • Everyone likes movies. Don’t focus so much on the movies so much (because this is an essay about you, not about movies).  Focus instead on why they appeal to you and what you find interesting in them.  Write about the experience from your own personal point of view of going to see a movie or discovering a new genre of cinema.
  • Books You’ve Read More Than Once
    • Are they comic books? Serious books?  Funny books?  Which books have made you come back to read them again?  What did you learn about them the second time around?  Have you ever recommended them to others?  What is your experience in reading or sharing these books?
  • Music You Want to Hear Again and Again
    • Have you ever heard a song that you had to listen to over and over? Why?  What was it about the song that spoke to you?  Describe your experience of listening to music, what it makes you feel or think about it, and why it is important to you.
  • Your Favorite Artists
    • Do you enjoy art? Have you ever been to an art museum?  Are your favorite artists people you know?  Are you your own favorite artist?  Have you ever read Vasari’s Lives of the Artists?
  • Your Favorite Foods
    • You probably have a favorite food you could eat every day. What is it?  How did you discover it?  What is it about the food that makes you want it all the time?  How do others feel about it?  Is your favorite food unique or ordinary?
  • Your Favorite Places to Travel with Your Family
    • Does your family ever take trips together? If so where do you go?  What have you seen?  Do you enjoy these trips or is there something about them that you don’t enjoy so much?  Describe it!

High School Topics

  • Social Issues That Concern You
    • You’re growing up so now it is time to start thinking about the wider world. What social issues are you aware of that are important to you?  Have you any intention to address them as you grow?
  • Subjects You Would Like to Know More About
    • You’ve probably touched on a few subjects that interested you in your life and that you would like to spend more time learning about. What are they?  Why did they interest you?
  • Interesting Ideas You Have Learned
    • What ideas have shaped your perspective? What ideas nourish you?  What ideas do you live by?  What ideas do you find yourself constantly communicating to others?
  • What Gives You Hope for the Future
    • When you think about the future, what comes to mind? Are you hopeful?  What do you find within yourself or your life that gives you hope and support?
  • What Makes You Pessimistic about the Future
    • Are you discouraged by what you see happening in the world? Why?  What issues or events affect you negatively?  What are you going to do about it?
  • Areas of Your Life That You Think You Could Improve
    • Reflect on your own ability to achieve your goals and what obstacles are preventing you from reaching them. How could you overcome these obstacles in a practical way?

Elementary Student Topics

  • Toys or Games You Play With
    • What is your favorite toy? What game do you play all the time?  How do you play with it?  Who plays with you?
  • Your Friends
    • Who are your friends? What do you do with your friends?  How long have you been friends?
  • Your Family
    • How many people are in your family? Who are they?  How old are they?  What do you do with your family?  Do you spend time with one family member more than any others?
  • Your Home
    • What is your home like? Do you have your own room?  Do you share a room?  Do you have neighbors?  Are there noisy dogs or cars on your street?
  • Your Pets
    • Do you have any pets? What are their names?  How long have they been with you?  Who takes care of them?  What do they eat?  Where do they sleep?
  • Your Favorite Shows
    • What is your favorite show to watch? What is it about?  Why do you like it?  If you could make a show, what would it be about?  Why?

Higher English Topics

  • Literature That You Find Compelling
    • What literature motivates you? What literature do you find yourself talking about most when in the company of other educated people?
  • Subjects You Would Like to Teach
    • If you could teach, what subject would you teach? What do you know the most about?  Would you enjoy teaching?  Do you think you would be good at it?  Why?
  • Problems in Society You Would Like to Discuss
    • What problems in the world do you most enjoy discussing? What is your solution for them?  Why do these problems most concern you?  Do they personally affect you in some way?
  • Ways You Like to Debate
    • In what ways to you most like to debate? Do you argue?  Yell?  Mock?  Use satire?  Who is your favorite debater?  What tips could you pick up from this person to make your own debating technique more impressive?


The best personal essay topics are the ones you yourself come up with.  Take a moment to sit and think about who you are.  Consider how you got to where you are now.  Consider what you would like to be doing if you didn’t have to write a personal essay—then write about that!  Seriously!  Anything and everything can be put on the table to write about—so don’t be shy.  Select a topic and go for it.  And, as always, if you’d like help writing your personal essay, our writers are standing by to provide you with a 100% unique, custom-made example that you can use to guide your own writing.  Order yours today.

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