How Do I Choose the Best Personal Essay Topics?

Dan Cavallari

If you are lucky, you will be given some guidelines for choosing personal essay topics when writing college essays or even school assignments. Within those guidelines, you will often be able to choose a more specific topic, which means you will have to come up with the ideas yourself. A personal essay allows you to lend your insights, thoughts, and opinions to the essay, so in order to choose the best personal essay topics, you will need to think about what you have so say regarding a specific issue.

A personal essay allows a writer to lend his insights, thoughts, and opinions to the essay.
A personal essay allows a writer to lend his insights, thoughts, and opinions to the essay.

You will be able to talk about your own personal experiences, so choose personal essay topics that are relevant to you. If you are given a broad topic, think about how that topic applies more specifically to your life or the people around you. While you will be able to talk about your personal opinions, making this type of essay different from other, more objective formats, you will need to be just as organized and clear. Start by brainstorming ideas that will help you come up with personal essay topics relevant to the broader topic, and then organize those thoughts into an outline. This will help prevent you from straying or rambling during the writing of your essay.

Some writers who have never written a personal essay before may want to practice at home. This will help you develop personal essay topics more concisely as well. Start by choosing a broad category — food production, for example — and then narrowing down that broad category to a more specific topic. You can write about antibiotics in meat sold in supermarkets, or about the production of corn in the United States. Once you have narrowed down your focus, you will need to formulate an opinion. Ask yourself how you feel about these practices, and begin to write down why you feel the way you do. This may mean doing a bit of research on the topic so you can formulate more accurate arguments.

If you are given freedom to choose any topic you please, try to choose personal essay topics that are personal and close to you. This will help you write more candidly about the topic, though it may encourage you to ramble. You will still need to do an outline and proofread carefully to make sure you have not strayed from the topic. Be sure to choose a topic that is not only close to you, but also relevant to the readers of your essay. You will want to engage them in the topic, so be sure the topic is compelling both for you and your readers.

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