How to Write a Self-Reflective Essay
A self-reflective essay is a brief paper where you describe an experience and how it has changed you or helped you to grow. Self-reflective essays often require students to reflect on their academic growth from specific projects or assignments, though others might require you to think about the impact of a specific event in your life. By describing your overall experience for readers, discussing your current strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the experience you wrote about and sharing your future plans for using this new information, you can paint a vivid picture of how you have grown and changed.
An introduction to a self-reflective essay is a preview of what you'll be discussing. Developing a thesis statement that illustrates the major points of your reflection can give readers a preview of the content without giving too many of the details away in the beginning. A student writing an essay on her academic growth, for example, might write as a thesis, "Through my work on my final research paper, I've learned how to do stronger research and use an objective voice, but I still need to work on structure and transitions."
Many instructors may provide you with questions to consider in your reflection. You might be asked to talk about a specific way an experience changed your attitudes or actions, a significant challenge you faced or things you would do differently if given a second chance. If the assignment does not include a prescribed list of questions, you might start by considered what your experience taught you and how it has changed you as a student or person. Specific details and anecdotes from the experience will help to clearly demonstrate your areas of growth.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Self-reflective essays may challenge you to think critically about what you are doing well and what needs to be changed as a result of the experience you're writing about. You can begin by talking about skills, responses and actions that have been strengthened by this experience, then move into a discussion of areas that need work. A student writing about being a camp counselor or doing community volunteer work might write about his strength in finding ways to relate to different kinds of people, and then discuss his need to work on his tendency to prejudge them when they first meet.
Throughout your reflection, you should make a case for how the experience has stimulated your personal growth. By the conclusion, readers should have a clear, specific idea of how the experience affected you and particular ways you have made progress. In a reflective essay, you can approach the conclusion by talking about how you plan to use what you learned from this experience in the future. For example, you can talk about how the knowledge and experiences you gained will be useful in future classes, jobs, relationships and other aspects of your life.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.