Reflective essay topics

Updated April 17, 2017

A reflective essay is an exploration of your personal thoughts and perceptions of a particular event or subject. Reflective essays are different from academic essays because you are not primarily writing to demonstrate mastery of taught material; instead, you are writing to reveal something about yourself to the reader. Reflective essays often are required for college applications and scholarships, so reflective essay writing is an important skill for students to master. Often, the most difficult part of crafting these essays is selecting a topic. Professors or college admissions officers usually will not provide specific writing prompts for these assignments because they are trying to get a sense of both your creativity and what is important to you. Check out the ideas below if you're stumped for possible topics.

An Obstacle You Have Overcome

What is the most challenging obstacle or setback you ever faced? Write a reflective essay explaining the steps you took to surmount the challenge and how it changed you as a person.

A Failure You Learned From

Sometimes you don't overcome all the challenges you face. That's OK--failed attempts can make a great reflective essay. Write about what you learnt from that failure and how you will use what you learnt to ensure your success next time.

A Sacrifice You Have Made

Think of a time when you sacrificed or gave up on something that meant a lot to you. Write about what led you to make that decision and whether or not you think it was worth it.

A Person You Admire

Think of someone you admire or someone who has had an important impact on your life. He could be a public figure such as a political activist or an author. Or, he could be your religious leader or your next-door neighbour. It doesn't matter who he is--what matters is that you explain how this individual influenced who you are today.

Your Educational Background and Goals

Which class that you have taken (throughout high school or college) do you believe you learnt the most from or will best help you in achieving your career or personal goals? Analyse and explain the relationship between this class and your future plans.

The Best Advice You Ever Received

Whether it was your mother's favourite saying, a bit of wisdom shared by a favourite teacher or even a great literary quote, choose the words you want to live by and explain what they mean to you.

A Unique Experience

Everybody has some unique experience that many of their peers have not shared. Maybe you've travelled to an exotic country or worked an interesting or unusual job while your friends were clocking in at a fast food restaurant. Choose a unique experience that you have lived and explain how that experience sets you apart from your peers.

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