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how to write a reflective essay for college

A complete guide to writing a reflective essay

(Last updated: 11 November 2021)

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“The overwhelming burden of writing my first ever reflective essay loomed over me as I sat as still as a statue, as my fingers nervously poised over the intimidating buttons on my laptop keyboard. Where would I begin? Where would I end? Nerve wracking thoughts filled my mind as I fretted over the seemingly impossible journey on which I was about to embark.”

Reflective essays may seem simple on the surface, but they can be a real stumbling block if you're not quite sure how to go about them. In simple terms, reflective essays constitute a critical examination of a life experience and, with the right guidance, they're not too challenging to put together. A reflective essay is similar to other essays in that it needs to be easily understood and well structured, but the content is more akin to something personal like a diary entry.

In this guide, we explore in detail how to write a great reflective essay , including what makes a good structure and some advice on the writing process. We’ve even thrown in an example reflective essay to inspire you too, making this the ultimate guide for anyone needing reflective essay help.

In a reflective essay, a writer primarily examines his or her life experiences, hence the term ‘reflective’. The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to provide a platform for the author to not only recount a particular life experience, but to also explore how he or she has changed or learned from those experiences. Reflective writing can be presented in various formats, but you’ll most often see it in a learning log format or diary entry. Diary entries in particular are used to convey how the author’s thoughts have developed and evolved over the course of a particular period.

The format of a reflective essay may change depending on the target audience. Reflective essays can be academic, or may feature more broadly as a part of a general piece of writing for a magazine, for instance. For class assignments, while the presentation format can vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors aim to inspire students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience or set of experiences. Here are some typical examples of reflective essay formats that you may have to write:

A focus on personal growth: A type of reflective essay often used by tutors as a strategy for helping students to learn how to analyse their personal life experiences to promote emotional growth and development. The essay gives the student a better understanding of both themselves and their behaviours.

A focus on the literature: This kind of essay requires students to provide a summary of the literature, after which it is applied to the student’s own life experiences.

What do I write about?

As you go about deciding on the content of your essay, you need to keep in mind that a reflective essay is highly personal and aimed at engaging the reader or target audience. And there’s much more to a reflective essay than just recounting a story. You need to be able to reflect (more on this later) on your experience by showing how it influenced your subsequent behaviours and how your life has been particularly changed as a result.

As a starting point, you might want to think about some important experiences in your life that have really impacted you, either positively, negatively, or both. Some typical reflection essay topics include: a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a special object or place, a person who had an influence on you, or something you have watched or read. If you are writing a reflective essay as part of an academic exercise, chances are your tutor will ask you to focus on a particular episode – such as a time when you had to make an important decision – and reflect on what the outcomes were. Note also, that the aftermath of the experience is especially important in a reflective essay; miss this out and you will simply be storytelling.

how to write a reflective essay for college

It sounds obvious, but the reflective process forms the core of writing this type of essay, so it’s important you get it right from the outset. You need to really think about how the personal experience you have chosen to focus on impacted or changed you. Use your memories and feelings of the experience to determine the implications for you on a personal level.

Once you’ve chosen the topic of your essay, it’s really important you study it thoroughly and spend a lot of time trying to think about it vividly. Write down everything you can remember about it, describing it as clearly and fully as you can. Keep your five senses in mind as you do this, and be sure to use adjectives to describe your experience. At this stage, you can simply make notes using short phrases, but you need to ensure that you’re recording your responses, perceptions, and your experience of the event(s).

Once you’ve successfully emptied the contents of your memory, you need to start reflecting. A great way to do this is to pick out some reflection questions which will help you think deeper about the impact and lasting effects of your experience. Here are some useful questions that you can consider:

– What have you learned about yourself as a result of the experience?

– Have you developed because of it? How?

– Did it have any positive or negative bearing on your life?

– Looking back, what would you have done differently?

– Why do you think you made the particular choices that you did? Do you think these were the right choices?

– What are your thoughts on the experience in general? Was it a useful learning experience? What specific skills or perspectives did you acquire as a result?

These signpost questions should help kick-start your reflective process. Remember, asking yourself lots of questions is key to ensuring that you think deeply and critically about your experiences – a skill that is at the heart of writing a great reflective essay.

Consider using models of reflection (like the Gibbs or Kolb cycles) before, during, and after the learning process to ensure that you maintain a high standard of analysis. For example, before you really get stuck into the process, consider questions such as: what might happen (regarding the experience)? Are there any possible challenges to keep in mind? What knowledge is needed to be best prepared to approach the experience? Then, as you’re planning and writing, these questions may be useful: what is happening within the learning process? Is the process working out as expected? Am I dealing with the accompanying challenges successfully? Is there anything that needs to be done additionally to ensure that the learning process is successful? What am I learning from this? By adopting such a framework, you’ll be ensuring that you are keeping tabs on the reflective process that should underpin your work.

Here’s a very useful tip: although you may feel well prepared with all that time spent reflecting in your arsenal, do not, start writing your essay until you have worked out a comprehensive, well-rounded plan . Your writing will be so much more coherent, your ideas conveyed with structure and clarity, and your essay will likely achieve higher marks.

This is an especially important step when you’re tackling a reflective essay – there can be a tendency for people to get a little ‘lost’ or disorganised as they recount their life experiences in an erratic and often unsystematic manner as it is a topic so close to their hearts. But if you develop a thorough outline (this is the same as a ‘plan’) and ensure you stick to it like Christopher Columbus to a map, you should do just fine as you embark on the ultimate step of writing your essay. If you need further convincing on how important planning is, we’ve summarised the key benefits of creating a detailed essay outline below:

Now you’re familiar with the benefits of using an outline for your reflective essay, it is essential that you know how to craft one. It can be considerably different from other typical essay outlines, mostly because of the varying subjects. But what remains the same, is that you need to start your outline by drafting the introduction, body and conclusion. More on this below.

Introduction As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin within an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a ‘hook’ is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning. You must portray the exciting aspects of your story in the initial paragraph so that you stand the best chances of holding your reader’s interest. Refer back to the opening quote of this article – did it grab your attention and encourage you to read more? The thesis statement is a brief summary of the focus of the essay, which in this case is a particular experience that influenced you significantly. Remember to give a quick overview of your experience – don’t give too much information away or you risk your reader becoming disinterested.

Body Next up is planning the body of your essay. This can be the hardest part of the entire paper; it’s easy to waffle and repeat yourself both in the plan and in the actual writing. Have you ever tried recounting a story to a friend only for them to tell you to ‘cut the long story short’? They key here is to put plenty of time and effort into planning the body, and you can draw on the following tips to help you do this well:

Try adopting a chronological approach. This means working through everything you want to touch upon as it happened in time. This kind of approach will ensure that your work is systematic and coherent. Keep in mind that a reflective essay doesn’t necessarily have to be linear, but working chronologically will prevent you from providing a haphazard recollection of your experience. Lay out the important elements of your experience in a timeline – this will then help you clearly see how to piece your narrative together.

Ensure the body of your reflective essay is well focused and contains appropriate critique and reflection. The body should not only summarise your experience, it should explore the impact that the experience has had on your life, as well as the lessons that you have learned as a result. The emphasis should generally be on reflection as opposed to summation. A reflective posture will not only provide readers with insight on your experience, it’ll highlight your personality and your ability to deal with or adapt to particular situations.

Conclusion In the conclusion of your reflective essay, you should focus on bringing your piece together by providing a summary of both the points made throughout, and what you have learned as a result. Try to include a few points on why and how your attitudes and behaviours have been changed. Consider also how your character and skills have been affected, for example: what conclusions can be drawn about your problem-solving skills? What can be concluded about your approach to specific situations? What might you do differently in similar situations in the future? What steps have you taken to consolidate everything that you have learned from your experience? Keep in mind that your tutor will be looking out for evidence of reflection at a very high standard.

Congratulations – you now have the tools to create a thorough and accurate plan which should put you in good stead for the ultimate phase indeed of any essay, the writing process.

how to write a reflective essay for college

Writing your essay

As with all written assignments, sitting down to put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) can be daunting. But if you have put in the time and effort fleshing out a thorough plan, you should be well prepared, which will make the writing process as smooth as possible. The following points should also help ease the writing process:

– To get a feel for the tone and format in which your writing should be, read other typically reflective pieces in magazines and newspapers, for instance.

– Don’t think too much about how to start your first sentence or paragraph; just start writing and you can always come back later to edit anything you’re not keen on. Your first draft won’t necessarily be your best essay writing work but it’s important to remember that the earlier you start writing, the more time you will have to keep reworking your paper until it’s perfect. Don’t shy away from using a free-flow method, writing and recording your thoughts and feelings on your experiences as and when they come to mind. But make sure you stick to your plan. Your plan is your roadmap which will ensure your writing doesn’t meander too far off course.

– For every point you make about an experience or event, support it by describing how you were directly impacted, using specific as opposed to vague words to convey exactly how you felt.

– Write using the first-person narrative, ensuring that the tone of your essay is very personal and reflective of your character.

– If you need to, refer back to our notes earlier on creating an outline. As you work through your essay, present your thoughts systematically, remembering to focus on your key learning outcomes.

– Consider starting your introduction with a short anecdote or quote to grasp your readers’ attention, or other engaging techniques such as flashbacks.

– Choose your vocabulary carefully to properly convey your feelings and emotions. Remember that reflective writing has a descriptive component and so must have a wide range of adjectives to draw from. Avoid vague adjectives such as ‘okay’ or ‘nice’ as they don’t really offer much insight into your feelings and personality. Be more specific – this will make your writing more engaging.

– Be honest with your feelings and opinions. Remember that this is a reflective task, and is the one place you can freely admit – without any repercussions – that you failed at a particular task. When assessing your essay, your tutor will expect a deep level of reflection, not a simple review of your experiences and emotion. Showing deep reflection requires you to move beyond the descriptive. Be extremely critical about your experience and your response to it. In your evaluation and analysis, ensure that you make value judgements, incorporating ideas from outside the experience you had to guide your analysis. Remember that you can be honest about your feelings without writing in a direct way. Use words that work for you and are aligned with your personality.

– Once you’ve finished learning about and reflecting on your experience, consider asking yourself these questions: what did I particularly value from the experience and why? Looking back, how successful has the process been? Think about your opinions immediately after the experience and how they differ now, so that you can evaluate the difference between your immediate and current perceptions. Asking yourself such questions will help you achieve reflective writing effectively and efficiently.

– Don’t shy away from using a variety of punctuation. It helps keeps your writing dynamic! Doesn’t it?

– If you really want to awaken your reader’s imagination, you can use imagery to create a vivid picture of your experiences.

– Ensure that you highlight your turning point, or what we like to call your “Aha!” moment. Without this moment, your resulting feelings and thoughts aren’t as valid and your argument not as strong.

– Don’t forget to keep reiterating the lessons you have learned from your experience.

A further tip – using wider sources

Although a reflective piece of writing is focused on personal experience, it’s important you draw on other sources to demonstrate your understanding of your experience from a theoretical perspective. It’ll show a level of analysis – and a standard of reliability in what you’re claiming – if you’re also able to validate your work against other perspectives that you find. Think about possible sources, like newspapers, surveys, books and even journal articles. Generally, the additional sources you decide to include in your work are highly dependent on your field of study. Analysing a wide range of sources, will show that you have read widely on your subject area, that you have nuanced insight into the available literature on the subject of your essay, and that you have considered the broader implications of the literature for your essay. The incorporation of other sources into your essay also helps to show that you are aware of the multi-dimensional nature of both the learning and problem-solving process.

Example reflective essay

If you want some inspiration for writing, take a look at our example of a short reflective essay , which can serve as a useful starting point for you when you set out to write your own.

Some final notes to remember

To recap, the key to writing a reflective essay is demonstrating what lessons you have taken away from your experiences, and why and how you have been shaped by these lessons.

The reflective thinking process begins with you – you must consciously make an effort to identify and examine your own thoughts in relation to a particular experience. Don’t hesitate to explore any prior knowledge or experience of the topic, which will help you identify why you have formed certain opinions on the subject. Remember that central to reflective essay writing is the examination of your attitudes, assumptions and values, so be upfront about how you feel. Reflective writing can be quite therapeutic, helping you identify and clarify your strengths and weaknesses, particularly in terms of any knowledge gaps that you may have. It’s a pretty good way of improving your critical thinking skills, too. It enables you to adopt an introspective posture in analysing your experiences and how you learn/make sense of them.

If you are still having difficulties with starting the writing process, why not try mind-mapping which will help you to structure your thinking and ideas, enabling you to produce a coherent piece. Creating a mind map will ensure that your argument is written in a very systematic way that will be easy for your tutor to follow. Here’s a recap of the contents of this article, which also serves as a way to create a mind map:

1. Identify the topic you will be writing on.

2. Note down any ideas that are related to the topic and if you want to, try drawing a diagram to link together any topics, theories, and ideas.

3. Allow your ideas to flow freely, knowing that you will always have time to edit your work.

4. Consider how your ideas are connected to each other, then begin the writing process.

And finally, keep in mind that although there are descriptive elements in a reflective essay, we can’t emphasise enough how crucial it is that your work is critical, analytical, and adopts a reflective posture in terms of your experience and the lessons you have learned from it.

how to write a reflective essay for college

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Graham Jones

Jul 9, 2021


How to write a reflective essay for university or college

Writing a reflective essay for university or college is a common requirement. Indeed, university lecturers are increasingly using reflective essays as a means of assessment. That’s because done properly, a reflective essay is an excellent way of demonstrating the extent of your learning and understanding.

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How to write a reflective essay.

"The immense burden of writing my first reflective essay overtook me." My fingers were ready over the unsettling buttons on my laptop keyboard as I sat motionlessly. How would I react? What would be the place I would go? My mind was filled with nerve-wracking thoughts as I pondered the seemingly impossible journey I was about to embark on.

Although reflective essays seem straightforward on the surface, they can prove to be quite tricky if you do not know how to approach them. Reflective essays are critical analyses of a person's life experiences. They can be easy to put together if you have the proper guidance. While reflective essays are similar to other essays in the way they need to be understood and well-structured, their content is more personal than a diary entry.

This guide will help you write great reflective essays. It will also explain how to structure your essay and give advice about the writing process. This guide is the perfect resource for anyone seeking help with reflective essays.

A reflective essay is a piece that examines a person's life experiences. This is why it's called reflective. A reflective essay allows the writer to share a personal story and reflect on what he or she has learned.

Even though reflective writing can take many forms, it is most often found in a learning log or diary. Especially, diary entries are a good way to show how the author's thoughts change and grow over time.

The target audience may alter the format of a reflective article. The format of reflective essays may be academic or more general, such as in a piece of writing for a magazine. Although the presentation format may vary for class assignments, the goal is similar: The goal of tutors is to help students to think critically and in-depth about a learning experience or set of learning experiences. These are samples of possible reflective essay prompts.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT:  Tutors often use reflective essays to help students learn to analyse their lives and develop emotional intelligence. This essay will help students understand themselves better and how they behave.

AN EMPHASIS ON LITERARY WORKS: This type of essay asks students to summarise the book and then relate it to their own lives.  


When deciding on the content for your essay, remember that it is personal and meant to engage the reader. Reflective essays are more than simply telling a story. Reflection is key. You might start by thinking about important life experiences that have had a positive or negative impact on you. A reflection essay topic could be based on a real-life or imagined experience. It might include an object, place, person, or thing you have seen or read about. As an academic exercise, you might be asked to write a reflective essay.

You may be asked by your tutor to focus on one episode. For example, when you make an important decision. Then you will need to reflect on those outcomes. You should also remember that the aftereffects of an experience are crucial in a reflective essay. If you do not include this, it will be just storytelling.


Although it may seem obvious, reflective writing is at the heart of this type of essay. It's crucial that you do it correctly from the beginning. It is important to reflect on how the personal experience that you are focusing on has impacted you. You can use your memories and emotions to determine the personal implications of the experience.

After you have chosen the topic for your essay, you need to thoroughly study it and spend time trying to visualise it. You should write down all you remember and then describe it as fully and clearly as possible. When you write, keep your five senses in mind. Use adjectives to describe the experience. You can make short notes at this stage, but it is important to record your reactions, perceptions, and experiences of the event.

After you have successfully cleared your memory, it is time to reflect. You can do this by choosing reflection questions that will allow you to think more deeply about the lasting impact of your experience. These are some questions you might want to consider:

What has the experience taught you about yourself?

It has helped you develop. How?

Was it a positive or negative influence on your life?

What would you change if you could go back in time?

What prompted you to make the choices you made? Is it safe to say that these were the best choices?

In general, what are your reflections on the experience as a whole? Were you able to gain anything from this experience? What specific talents or perspectives did you develop as a result?

Such points or questions will help you get started with your reflective process. Asking yourself many questions will help you think deeply about your experiences and create a reflective essay.

To ensure that your analysis is high-quality, you might consider using models of reflection, such as the Kolb or Gibbs cycles, before, during, after, and after learning. Before you get into the learning process, ask yourself questions like: "What might happen to the experience?" What are the possible obstacles to be aware of? How can you best prepare for the experience?

These questions can be helpful as you plan and write: What exactly is the learning process? Are things going as planned? Am I able to deal with the challenges? Are there any additional steps I can take to make the learning process more successful? What can I learn from this? This framework will help you make sure you're following the process of reflection that should be the basis of your work.


This is a helpful suggestion: even though you think you are prepared after the time you have spent reflecting in your toolbox, do not begin creating your paper until you have developed a thorough plan that is well-rounded and well-thought-out. Your essay will be better organised; your thoughts will be presented with clarity and structure, and your essay will be more likely to get better marks.

This is a particularly important aspect to consider when writing a reflective essay. People who write about their own lives tend to be confused or disorganised because the subject is so close to them. If you create an elaborate outline (this is similar to an outline) and make sure you adhere to it, much like Christopher Columbus did to a map and stuck to it, you will do right when you start the final process of writing your paper. If you need more proof that planning is important, we've listed the main benefits of a well-thought-out outline for your essay below.

An outline lets you define the essential details you will incorporate into your essay—this can help you eliminate unnecessary details that could be eliminated entirely to keep your essay concise and clear.

Imagine your outline in the same way as maps, so you have a plan of the elements you would like to cover and then discuss them when writing. Your writing will likely be organised in thought, making it simpler for readers to comprehend. It will also make sure you do not miss any important information and have to go back to it at the end to try to fit it in.

It is a time-saver! The outline is the basis of your essay. This will allow you to save a lot of time writing. This will allow you to spend more time editing and ensuring that the document is of high quality.

You are now aware of the benefits of outlining your reflective essay. It is essential that you acquire the necessary skills. Due to the range of topics, it can change significantly from typical essay plans. The primary principle behind outlining is, to begin with, the introduction, body, and conclusion. You can find additional details below.


As is the norm for any essay, the reflective essay should start with an introduction hook as well as a thesis assertion. The reason you need hooks is to catch your reader's attention or readers from the very start.

To ensure your readers' attention, you should emphasise the most exciting aspects of your story in the first paragraph. Recall the beginning quote in this piece—did the quote grab your attention? Does that entice you to keep reading?

The thesis statement should be a concise summary of the topic of your essay, which is an event that has influenced you in a significant way. Make sure you give a concise outline of your experience. Make sure you do not give too much to the point of your reader becoming bored.

The next step is to plan how you will structure your argument. It can be the most challenging aspect of the assignment, as it is simple to bumble and repeat oneself in the outline and essay. Have you ever attempted to recount an experience to a person only to have them suggest that you cut the story down? The trick is to spend a lot of effort and time preparing the body, and you could use these tips to do this successfully:

Consider adopting a chronological method. This means that you go through everything you wish to discuss by the time it happens. This approach can ensure your efforts are organised and consistent.

Remember that reflective essays do not necessarily need to be linear. However, using chronological order will stop you from giving a vague recall of your experiences. Write down the most important aspects of your story in the form of a timeline. This will allow you to clearly discern how to put your story together.

Be sure the reflective piece is concentrated and includes proper criticism and analysis. The essay should not just provide a summary of your experience but also explore how it has affected your life and the lessons you have gained from it.

 The emphasis should always be on reflection, as opposed to a summary. A posture of reflection cannot just provide readers with an understanding of your experiences. However, you should also emphasise your individuality and adaptability to various scenarios.

In the final paragraph, the reflective piece, you must emphasis on taking the essay collected by giving a brief outline of arguments that you have made throughout the essay and what you've learned from them. Make sure to include a few reasons for why you feel your attitudes and behaviour have altered. Think about the way your character and abilities are affected. For instance, what are the implications to be drawn from your problem-solving abilities?

What can we learn regarding your approach to certain circumstances? What can you do to have different strategies for similar circumstances in the future? What actions were you able to take in order to consolidate the lessons you gained from your experiences? You should be aware of the fact that teachers will look to see evidence of your work at the highest levels.

Congratulations! You have got the ability to create a precise and complete plan that will put you in a great situation to take on the critical aspect of writing an essay: the process of writing.


Like any writing assignment, putting pen to paper (or perhaps the fingers on keyboards) can be a challenging task. If you have invested the time and effort to develop a complete plan, then you're well-prepared to ensure that your writing experience is as simple as it gets. The following tips can aid in writing:

If you want to get a feel for the style and tone that your writing needs to have, you can read similar reflective articles in newspapers and magazines, for instance.

Do not be overly concerned about how you will begin your first paragraph or sentence. Just write. You can always revisit later to revise anything you do not like. The initial version of the essay may not be the best piece of writing. However, it's crucial to be aware that the earlier you begin writing, the more time you'll need to revise until you're satisfied with your work.

Do not be afraid to employ an open-flow approach, taking notes and writing down any thoughts or feelings about your experiences whenever they pop up in your mind. However, you must adhere to the plan you have created. Your plan is your guideline, which will make sure your writing doesn't wander in a direction that is too off-course.

For each point, you mention an experience or an event. Make sure you explain how you were directly affected by it and use specific words rather than vague phrases to describe the exact feelings you experienced.

Write in the first-person narrative. Ensure that your essay is personal and reflects your personality.

Suppose you are required to go to our notes from earlier in the process of creating an outline. When you are working on your essay, write your thoughts in a structured manner, making sure to pay attention to your main learning results.

You could start your introduction with a short story or quote, or you could use flashbacks or other interesting techniques to hook your readers.

Choose your vocabulary carefully in order to communicate your emotions and feelings. Be aware that reflective writing includes descriptive elements and should have a broad range of adjectives from which you can take inspiration. Avoid using vague adjectives like "nice" or "okay" because they do not provide any insight into your emotions and character. Make sure you are specific. This can make your writing more interesting.

Be sincere with your thoughts and feelings. Be aware that this is a reflective process, and it is the only time you are able to freely acknowledge without fear of repercussions that you did not do well on a specific task. When evaluating your essay, your teacher will look for an intense degree of reflection, not merely a brief overview of your feelings and experiences. Reflection requires you to consider the details that you have given. Be extremely sceptical of the experience you had and the reaction you had to it. As you analyse and assess the experience, ensure that you make values, drawing upon the experiences of others that you've had to assist you analyse your experience. Keep in mind that you are able to be truthful about your feelings even without writing them out in a formal manner. Make use of words that suit your personality and align with your character.

When you have finished reviewing and thinking about your experience, you should ask yourself the following questions: What did I take away from my experience, and what was the reason? In the past, how effective was the process? Consider your thoughts immediately following the event and what they are like now, and then assess the differences between your current and immediate views. By asking yourself these kinds of questions, you can help yourself develop the art of reflective writing efficiently and effectively.

Do not be afraid of using different punctuation styles. It keeps your writing fresh! Does it not

If you are really looking to spark the reader's imagination, you are able to make use of mages to paint an enthralling picture of your experience.

Be sure to highlight the turning point or what we refer to as "your" Aha! moment." If you do not do this, the resultant feelings and thoughts won't be as convincing, and your argument will not be as convincing.

Do not forget to continue to recite the lessons you've gained from your experiences.


While reflective writing is written to reflect on your personal experiences, it's crucial to draw from other sources to show your understanding of your experiences from a theoretical point of view.

It will show the level of analysis and a degree of credibility in your claims when you can verify them against the other viewpoints you can find. Consider possible sources, such as surveys, newspapers, journal articles, and books. The sources you include in your paper depend on the topic of your research. A thorough analysis of various sources will demonstrate that you've read extensively about your topic, you have accumulated knowledge about the literature on the subject of your essay, and have thought about the greater significance of literature for your essay. If you are using additional source materials in your writing. It shows that you understand that learning and solving problems are not just one thing.


For some ideas on writing, you can look at our example of an essay that is reflective. This will give you a good starting point when you start to write your own.


The most important thing to do when writing an essay that is reflective is to highlight the lessons you have taken from your experiences, as well as how these experiences have changed yours.

Reflective thinking starts by observing yourself. You must take the time to examine your thoughts and determine what they're about. You should explore your prior knowledge and experience of the topic to help you understand why you are forming certain opinions. Reflective essay writing requires you to examine your beliefs, assumptions, and values. Be honest about what you think. Reflective writing can be very therapeutic. It helps you to identify and clarify your strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge gaps. You can also improve your critical thinking skills by using it. This allows you to be introspective in your analysis of your experiences and how they shape or help you.

 It is possible that you are having difficulty beginning the process of writing. Mind mapping can help you organise your thoughts and ideas to write a coherent piece. A mind map will help you organise your arguments in a way that is easy to understand for your tutor. This article provides a summary of the content as well as a method for creating a mindmap.

Choose the topic that you want to write about.

Make a list of all the thoughts you have about the subject. Drawing a diagram is a great bonding experience for any theory or subject.

Let your thoughts flow, and know that you'll always have time for editing.

Start thinking about how your ideas relate to one another and start the writing process.

Lastly, remember that even though a reflective essay has descriptive parts, it is very important that your work be critical, analytical, and reflective of what you have learned and what you have experienced.

how to write a reflective essay for college


Which oxford college.

Guide on How to Write a Reflection Paper with Free Tips and Example

how to write a reflective essay for college

A reflection paper is a very common type of paper among college students. Almost any subject you enroll in requires you to express your opinion on certain matters. In this article, we will explain how to write a reflection paper and provide examples and useful tips to make the essay writing process easier.

Reflection papers should have an academic tone yet be personal and subjective. In this paper, you should analyze and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, article, or lecture shaped your perception and thoughts on a subject.

Here is what you need to know about writing an effective critical reflection paper. Stick around until the end of our guide to get some useful writing tips from the writing team at EssayPro — a research paper writing service

What Is a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper is a type of paper that requires you to write your opinion on a topic, supporting it with your observations and personal experiences. As opposed to presenting your reader with the views of other academics and writers, in this essay, you get an opportunity to write your point of view—and the best part is that there is no wrong answer. It is YOUR opinion, and it is your job to express your thoughts in a manner that will be understandable and clear for all readers that will read your paper. The topic range is endless. Here are some examples: whether or not you think aliens exist, your favorite TV show, or your opinion on the outcome of WWII. You can write about pretty much anything.

There are three types of reflection paper; depending on which one you end up with, the tone you write with can be slightly different. The first type is the educational reflective paper. Here your job is to write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended—in a manner that teaches the reader about it. The second is the professional paper. Usually, it is written by people who study or work in education or psychology. For example, it can be a reflection of someone’s behavior. And the last is the personal type, which explores your thoughts and feelings about an individual subject.

However, reflection paper writing will stop eventually with one very important final paper to write - your resume. This is where you will need to reflect on your entire life leading up to that moment. To learn how to list education on resume perfectly, follow the link on our dissertation writing services .

Reflection Paper Format

Reflection papers typically do not follow any specific format. Since it is your opinion, professors usually let you handle them in any comfortable way. It is best to write your thoughts freely, without guideline constraints. If a personal reflection paper was assigned to you, the format of your paper might depend on the criteria set by your professor. College reflection papers (also known as reflection essays) can typically range from about 400-800 words in length.

Here’s how we can suggest you format your reflection paper:

how to write a reflective essay for college

How to Start a Reflection Paper

The first thing to do when beginning to work on a reflection essay is to read your article thoroughly while taking notes. Whether you are reflecting on, for example, an activity, book/newspaper, or academic essay, you want to highlight key ideas and concepts.

You can start writing your reflection paper by summarizing the main concept of your notes to see if your essay includes all the information needed for your readers. It is helpful to add charts, diagrams, and lists to deliver your ideas to the audience in a better fashion.

After you have finished reading your article, it’s time to brainstorm. We’ve got a simple brainstorming technique for writing reflection papers. Just answer some of the basic questions below:

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Here are some reflection paper topic examples for you to keep in mind before preparing to write your own:

The result of your brainstorming should be a written outline of the contents of your future paper. Do not skip this step, as it will ensure that your essay will have a proper flow and appropriate organization.

Another good way to organize your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.

how to write a reflective essay for college

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If you would like your reflection paper to look professional, feel free to check out one of our articles on how to format MLA, APA or Chicago style

Writing a Reflection Paper Outline

Reflection paper should contain few key elements:


Your introduction should specify what you’re reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject.

One way you can start your thesis is to write:

Example: “After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained the knowledge of…”

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs should examine your ideas and experiences in context to your topic. Make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.

Your reflection may include quotes and passages if you are writing about a book or an academic paper. They give your reader a point of reference to fully understand your feedback. Feel free to describe what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt.

Example: “I saw many people participating in our weight experiment. The atmosphere felt nervous yet inspiring. I was amazed by the excitement of the event.”

As with any conclusion, you should summarize what you’ve learned from the experience. Next, tell the reader how your newfound knowledge has affected your understanding of the subject in general. Finally, describe the feeling and overall lesson you had from the reading or experience.

There are a few good ways to conclude a reflection paper:

We have a separate blog post dedicated to writing a great conclusion. Be sure to check it out for an in-depth look at how to make a good final impression on your reader.

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How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

how to write a reflective essay for college

Step 1: Create a Main Theme

After you choose your topic, write a short summary about what you have learned about your experience with that topic. Then, let readers know how you feel about your case — and be honest. Chances are that your readers will likely be able to relate to your opinion or at least the way you form your perspective, which will help them better understand your reflection.

For example: After watching a TEDx episode on Wim Hof, I was able to reevaluate my preconceived notions about the negative effects of cold exposure.

Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You’ve Had Related to Your Topic

You can write down specific quotes, predispositions you have, things that influenced you, or anything memorable. Be personal and explain, in simple words, how you felt.

For example: • A lot of people think that even a small amount of carbohydrates will make people gain weight • A specific moment when I struggled with an excess weight where I avoided carbohydrates entirely • The consequences of my actions that gave rise to my research • The evidence and studies of nutritional science that claim carbohydrates alone are to blame for making people obese • My new experience with having a healthy diet with a well-balanced intake of nutrients • The influence of other people’s perceptions on the harm of carbohydrates, and the role their influence has had on me • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in perspective

Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme

Pick an idea or experience you had from the last step, and analyze it further. Then, write your reasoning for agreeing or disagreeing with it.

For example, Idea: I was raised to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight.

Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of research to overcome my beliefs finally. Afterward, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key to a healthy lifestyle.

For example: Idea: I was brought up to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight. Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of my own research to finally overcome my beliefs. After, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key for having a healthy lifestyle.

Step 4: Make Connections Between Your Observations, Experiences, and Opinions

Try to connect your ideas and insights to form a cohesive picture for your theme. You can also try to recognize and break down your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.

There are some subjects for reflection papers that are most commonly written about. They include:

Writing Tips

Everyone has their style of writing a reflective essay – and that's the beauty of it; you have plenty of leeway with this type of paper – but there are still a few tips everyone should incorporate.

Before you start your piece, read some examples of other papers; they will likely help you better understand what they are and how to approach yours. When picking your subject, try to write about something unusual and memorable — it is more likely to capture your readers' attention. Never write the whole essay at once. Space out the time slots when you work on your reflection paper to at least a day apart. This will allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections.

'If only someone could write my essay !' you may think. Ask for help our professional writers in case you need it.

Free Reflection Paper Example

Now that we went over all of the essentials about a reflection paper and how to approach it, we would like to show you some examples that will definitely help you with getting started on your paper.

The lecture started off with a quote: “If we can conquer space, we can conquer world hunger” — Buzz Aldrin. This quote had already got me thinking about how incredible of a feat it is that we’ve sent humans and animals into space. If it’s possible to survive in the infinite vacuum we know as Space, how are there billions of people who have a hard time surviving on Earth? This relatively simple idea reached out to get my attention and make me feel sympathy for all of the starving children and families in the world. On a morning like any other, our guest professor gave a lecture that truly impacted me to my core.

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Reflective Essay: What I Learned In My Writing Class

Based on my previous English classes in high school, I expected this course to be an easy A class and a GPA booster with not a lot of work. In turn, this class challenged me to branch out from the basic five-paragraph-paper set up and to explore more of my major. Throughout high school, the bulk of my paper writing consisted of AP exam preparation in the structure of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. I always believed this was how every paper for the rest of my life would be written and I was only prepared for that type of writing. The first semester of college I did not have to take an English course, so English 1120 with Dr. Crowell is my first experience of real college writing. I was taken aback by the discovery

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Reflective Essay: My Writing Experience

My writing experience about the career paper was more informative than I was expecting. By reading the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), I quickly realized that there was so much information about a career in medicine, I was not aware of especially with regards to employment and predicted employment rates. However, the most difficult part of the writing process was trying to incorporate personal information into the narrative while using statistics and descriptions from OOH to come up with a coherent essay. For example, with a plethora of personal information and details about factors that has motivated me to pursue a career in medicine, it was difficult to summarize and incorporate information from OOH into my

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I received an acceptance from a US MD school during the 2013-2014 cycle. However, as an international student, I was required to deposit all four years’ worth of tuition in an escrow account prior to matriculation, which I was unable to do. While I was aware of the escrow requirement prior to application, I was on track to obtain permanent residency during the application year per my immigration attorney, which would excuse me from this requirement. However, given the uncertain nature of the residency process, this did not, and is yet to, happen. My family and I had recently immigrated from India, and coming up with the escrow amount was impossible at that time. Loans were also only available on a yearly cadence, not for all four years at once.

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Reflective Essay Topics

Barbara P

Best Reflective Essay Topics & Ideas for Students

Published on: Sep 27, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 3, 2023

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A reflective essay is a piece of writing in which the writer shares their life experiences. The writer writes about those experiences and thoughts that they observe, examine, and perceive. In a reflective essay, it is essential to focus on yourself and your inner emotions rather than the event.

The format of the reflective essay depends on the type of readers. For example, writing an essay for a college course and an academic audience will have some changes in their writing. The reflective essay is easy to write and does not need extensive research skills.

In a reflective essay, you describe your personal memories, and no one else can write to them as you can. A reflective essay is sometimes known as a reading reflection essay.

The selection of an interesting topic is the first step in writing the perfect reflective essay. The reflective essay topics are personal and would come from your personal experience. With your personal experience, you can offer something unique to your readers.

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How to Choose a Topic for Reflective Essay?

Choosing the right topic for a reflective essay can be a difficult task for many students. Writing a good reflective essay needs creativity and strong skills to express your emotions or feelings in the essay.

The topic of the reflective essay can be derived from nature, places, relationships, and events. Below you will find some tips that will help you to pick the right essay topic.

Choose the reflective essay topic on a subject that you know. It will be easier to write an essay about a topic that you find interesting. Never choose a topic that is new to you; it makes your writing phase difficult and hard.

Try to recollect minor details about your topic. Remember all the things that link to your topic, and you will have to add to your essay. Note down the ideas about your topic.

Choose a topic that you can explain it from a different angle. It is a good technique to write something unique that will show off your personality in an interesting way. Write about your personal experience that you find meaningful and significant.

Reflective Essay Topics for Middle School Students

Some students find difficulty in choosing the topic for essays. Here are some good topics that can be categorized according to different grades. Pick from them and makes your topic selection phase easier.

Reflective Essay Topics for Grade 7

Reflective Essay Topics for Grade 8

Reflective Essay Topics for Grade 9

Reflective Essay Topics for Grade 10

Reflective Essay Topics for College Students

For college students, choosing the topic for a reflective essay is the most difficult task. Some students are best at picking the essay topic, but some will be stuck in this phase.

For your convenience, here is a list of some excellent reflective essay topics for college students. Choose from them and create a well-written essay.

Reflective Essay Topics for High School Students

High school students are confused when they choose a topic for a reflective essay. Make sure the topic is engaging, and you will easily explain your personal experience. Here is a list of topics for high school students; pick something good from the list for your essay.

Reflective Essay Topics about Places

The reflective essay topics should link to strong emotions and memories. For example, you can write an essay about a day at your favorite cafe, favorite place to eat, etc.

Write a reflective essay about a place that you have really good and strong memories are easy to write. Here are some topic ideas that you can use and write an essay on it.

Reflective Essay Topics about Events

Writing about any event is a good way to grab the reader’s attention. You can write about a birthday party, a farewell, or any event that you attend or have enough information about.

When choosing a topic for a reflective essay about an event, include vivid details. Below are some interesting reflective essay topics, choose from them and create a good essay.

Reflective Essay Topics about Nature

In a reflective essay, it is better to give a deeper and meaningful experience to the reader. Write about nature also makes your writing process interesting and takes you to the imagination world.

Here are some good reflective essay topics about nature are:

Reflective Essay Topics about Relationships

Relationships are linked with strong emotions, and write a reflective essay about relationships means expressing the emotions and feelings you had. Some good reflective essay topics related to the relationship are:

Some reflective essay topics are the same as some of the questions you may ask in a job interview.

Write on these essay topics needs proper planning and practice. So if you need help with your  college essay , consult  CollegeEssay.org . Our professional writers assist you 24/7.

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Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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How to write a reflective essay-tips, format, and structure.


Students, in their academic journey, get introduced to different types of essays. Among other things, it is common to worry about how to write a reflective essay. A reflective essay is written in various subject areas. Some of the potential areas include psychology, law, English, sociology, nursing, medicine, and health. When engaging in reflective writing, students have to refer to their experience when learning. Besides, it means noting down the significant events during the learning process.

All students undertaking an internship must understand how to write an internship reflection essay. In this, the students will always make conclusions on their experience with the organization.

Our detailed guide will make you understand what a reflective essay is and how to start and end a reflection essay.

Our professional essay writers will always recommend choosing the best reflective essay title . However, there comes a time when you are so pressed. In this case, we can advise that you seek the best essay writing service to write a reflective essay for you. Mostly, our writers understand how to fit in the students’ shoes and write the best essays. So, you need to present an essay prompt or rubric to guide the reflective essay writing process.

What is a Reflection Essay?

Most students get confused between a reflection essay and a reflective essay. However, these words are synonymous. Let us demystify the confusion by first defining what a reflective essay is.

A reflection essay, also known as a reflective essay, is a type of essay where the writer (student) examines their experiences in life and different encounters. The writer/author writes on the experiences, how they changed their perspective, and how it has developed or grown them. In short, it is a reflection of yourself.

Undeniably, depending on the audience, the format of a reflection/reflective essay always changes.  Mainly, a reflection essay means choosing a definite topic, which concentrates on the writer.

A reflective essay is a sample personal essay type. In this sense, you are bound to consider many parameters, explain, and reflect. When writing a reflective essay, it is always important to demonstrate how your feelings have changed.

Besides, you are also expected to use vivid examples and citations where necessary. As it is a personal essay, you are allowed to use first-person pronouns when writing reflection essays. However, this should be very sparingly.

If writing a reflective essay is already proving hard, we recommend you get a reliable pay for essay service . In the case of allwriting.net, you will provide the assignment details, and our professional writers will respond by writing high-quality reflective essays.

How do you start a Reflective Essay?

Most students worry about how to start a reflective essay correctly. When you are ready to write a reflection essay, you should first understand some things. First, you must know how to write an effective reflective analysis essay.

Another potential place would be a reflective essay introduction example.

Here is how to start writing a good reflective essay:

Things to Consider Before Writing a Reflective Narrative Essay

Undeniably, through understanding, you will know how to connect the reflective paragraphs using transition words. A good place to start would be the personal reflective essay examples online. However, be sure only to choose the English reflective essay examples. That way, you will understand better how to write a reflective essay for university. If you are focusing on life, get reflective essay examples about life. Furthermore, high school students should only focus on reflective essay examples for high school.

Here are some of the things to remember:

Writing a Reflective Essay Outline

Before writing a reflection essay, it is always important to understand the reflective writing structure. Here are some of the things to include in your reflective essay to write it fast and easy.

Another critical thing to consider is the structure of the reflective essay. Here are some of the things:

Are you wondering how to make an introduction to a reflective essay? Well, make the introduction catchy, informative, and as brief as possible. When writing, please explain what is to be described and the essay’s main idea through the thesis.

Here is how to write a thesis statement for a reflection essay:

The Format of a Reflection Essay

Undeniably, unlike conventional essays or research papers, the format differs here. Reflective essays have a structured story and are based on a journal or diary.

Your professor or instructor will mostly recommend using the APA format or the MLA format for your papers. Also, a standard reflection essay length should be between 300 and 1000 words. However, it is good to consult with the instructor or professor before beginning to write.

Note that it is always great to follow the academic essays writing style. Remember, the essay is always about yourself. Nevertheless, always avoid using informal language or slang; make it official.

These notes can guide you in formatting your reflective essay.

Mostly, personal reflective essays should be a formal essay type.

Body Paragraph Ideas for Personal Essays

The body paragraph of your reflective essay should:

Whenever you are writing a reflective essay, always remember that:

Choosing Reflective Essay Topics

Here are some good reflective essay topics:

When choosing essay topics, you can consider these personal reflective essay ideas:

Concluding a Reflective Essay

Now that you know how to write a reflective essay let us focus on how to conclude it. Well, you might be tempted to use automatic conclusion generators. However, always use the best essay writing service to get your reflective essay done.

We have professional essay writers who can work on your urgent reflection essays. Here is how to conclude your reflective essay:

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The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay for University

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Reflective essay? How difficult can it be to reflect on your own experiences and write about them? You wonder until you sit down to write the essay. You are in for a rude shock because it is not as easy as it seems.

From describing your thoughts and feelings regarding a specific life event to analyzing its impact and examining what you learned from it - the primary purpose of writing a reflective essay is to push students to think deeply and learn from their experiences.

How to Submit a Well-Written Reflective Essay for a University

Though writing a reflective essay can seem difficult at first, but once you have a clear idea of what you want to write and, more importantly, how to write, it often gets easier as you progress. Here are five key writing tips to remember while writing a reflective essay.

Choosing a Topic of Reflection

As a super busy student, when was the last time you drowned yourself in thoughts and reflected on your past experiences? Well, here is an assignment that deliberately puts you in that space.

Think about all the life experiences which have had an impact on you - it can be a life-changing event, your interaction with someone you admire, a movie character that appealed to you, a book that gave you perspective or anything else which helped in shaping your personality and thought process.

The end goal is to write on a topic that will help you reflect on your growth as an individual. So, start brainstorming and jot down every idea that comes to your mind.

Create a Mind Map

Once you have a rough but definite idea about what you want to write, the next step is to create a mind map to make sure you approach the essay in an organized manner.

While creating your mind map, quiz yourself by asking questions of relevance which will help put together perspectives for the essay. Some questions you can consider are:

This exercise will give you an idea of what you want your essay to be centered around. The idea is to keep pushing yourself to think deeper and find meaning in your experiences to create a successful reflective essay.

Here’s some practical advice from Become a Writer Today on how you can use mind maps to write better and faster

Start Freewriting

Sometimes all you need to do to write is started. That’s what freewriting is essentially about.

After brainstorming, creating a mind map, and organizing your thoughts, just open a blank document and start writing with the flow. Don’t stop to think or edit - just write as your thoughts come to you.

The best part about freewriting is that it results in a steady stream of ideas you might have missed out on if you hadn’t resorted to writing with the flow.

So, whether you’re not motivated to write or are just second-guessing your ideas at every stage, it helps to let your thoughts guide you and put them out on paper for starters.

Structure the Essay

Now, it’s time to put your ideas and thoughts into words and structure them appropriately. A reflective essay is ideally divided into the following parts:

Introduction – start your essay with a hook to capture the reader’s interest. Your thesis statement should introduce the experience you will be reflecting upon while setting the tone for the rest of the essay;

Body – this is where you will elaborate on the experience and its significance, followed by analyzing the impact it had on your life. Make sure you don’t rant on. It’s essential to put your storytelling skills to use and keep the essay engaging for people to want to read more. Use examples wherever possible as it strengthens your narrative;

Conclusion – the concluding paragraph is a summation of your reflections. You need to mention how the experience shaped your life and how you intend to carry forward your learnings and apply them in the real world.

Proofread, Proofread and Proofread

Don’t make the grave mistake of turning in your reflective essay without proofreading. In fact, you must give thorough rounds of proofreading before finalizing it. You will be surprised to see the number of silly mistakes that are made in the first round of writing.

So, watch out for grammatical, spelling, and sentence formation errors. You must also ensure the essay flows well and steers clear of plagiarism . It’s a good idea to get a family member or friend to read your essay, too, to get a fresh set of eyes on it.

What Makes a Successful Reflective Essay?

While writing a reflective essay might sound like journal writing, it’s certainly way more than that.

Here are the nine critical components of a successful reflective essay.

Demonstrate Personal Experience

Reflective essays need to be derived from your personal experiences, and believe it or not - it shows when students half-heartedly speak about their experiences just for the sake of the assignment.

So, write with a clear line of thought while describing your personal experience because that will set the foundation for the paper. The reader has to understand the context before you go on to analyze and share your perspective.

Be Detailed and Descriptive

One of the essential parts of writing a reflective essay is finding the right balance between giving away too much and not being detailed enough.

A generic reflective essay is sure not to get you the grades you want. Instructors want to see how deep your analysis is which is reflected in your descriptive writing. Don’t hesitate to paint a vivid picture because it alleviates your essay.

It is recommended to write in the first person as it conveys a more personal tone and is more reflective of your personality. So, stay away from vague ideas and concepts and deepen your analysis.

Be Honest About Your Feelings

The best reflective essays are a product of utmost honesty. The ability to be vulnerable and be completely open about your experiences is what gets you to contemplate the experience/event and examine the consequences with greater precision.

So, don’t scratch the surface and shy away from describing your true feelings and emotions - be honest, and you’re sure to write a compelling reflective essay that sounds genuine and appeals to the reader.

Analyze and Evaluate the Event

The biggest mistake students make while writing reflective essays is that they end up summarizing their experiences instead of analyzing and evaluating the situation.

While you must describe the event clearly and concisely, you are also expected to evaluate and analyze your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to that experience.

What’s the difference between evaluation and analysis, you ask?

Evaluation involves judging the merit or significance of something, while analysis is about interpreting its meaning.

Here’s a snapshot of Gibbs’ reflective cycle which aptly encapsulates the approach you can take while writing this paper.

Remember - the idea of a reflective essay is to derive and demonstrate what you achieved from the experience/event and its influence on your life. So, don’t stop at merely summarizing the experience.

Include Examples to Illustrate your Points

Nothing accentuates a piece of writing more than weaving credible evidence and examples to illustrate your thoughts and feelings while writing a reflective essay.

Examples help justify the points you’re trying to make and help the reader relate better to your writing. This technique keeps misinterpretations at bay and paves the way for clearer understanding.

State a Plan of Action

You described the event, addressed your feelings, evaluated the experience, and analyzed the situation, but it feels incomplete.

That’s because any kind of reflection needs to end with a course of action that involves writing about how it changed your life and what you learned from the experience.

Look at it this way - if you were to go through that experience again, what would you do differently? That’s what you have to address as an action plan.

Stick to the Main Theme

The length of a reflective essay varies from 300 to 700 words. Considering that you have a word limit to abide by, you need to ensure you don’t digress and deviate from your essay's central purpose/theme.

This is a point worth mentioning because students tend to go off-topic while writing about their personal experiences. Not only does this result in ineffective utilization of space, but going off the trail also projects you in a bad light and can hurt your score.

So, be sure to stick to the central theme - this is something you must check for in the editing stage.

Use Imagery

A kind of literary device , imagery is used to bring one’s writing to life and make it more appealing to the reader.

As reflective essays are about reflecting on personal experiences, it’s a good idea to incorporate imagery and weave a picture in the reader’s mind. This strengthens your writing and lets you enhance your descriptions.

Here’s a video by Reedsy on how you can write stronger descriptions and use interesting imagery in your writing

Maintain a Formal and Professional Tone

A reflective essay might be a personal account, but it still is a literary form of writing.

This means that you need to maintain a formal and professional tone, stay away from slang, avoid contractions (can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, etc.), and abide by the general grammar and sentence formation rules.

As you reflect on your experiences, writing in first-person (I, me, us, we, our, etc.) is alright.

The exciting thing about writing reflective essays is that nothing is right or wrong. It all boils down to your interpretation of your life events and the insight the reader can get into your personality.

Struggling to put your thoughts together and start writing? Don’t stress - let our team of experts write your reflective essay for you . Writers Per Hour’s competent and professional essay writers know what it takes to submit a compelling reflective essay.

Once you reach out to us, we will allocate the perfect writer for the job who will work with you to understand your experiences and create an impressive custom essay that your instructor can’t help but appreciate.

Last edit at Dec 24 2022

Stefani Holloway

Stefani is a professional writer and blogger at Writers Per Hour . She primarily contributes articles about careers, leadership, business, and writing. Her educational background in family science and journalism has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. She especially enjoys preparing resumes for individuals who are changing careers.

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Forget the all-nighters and find some writing inspiration with our free essay samples on any topic. It's time for you to nail your grades!

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How To Write A Reflective Essay That Earns Top Grades?

Writing a reflective essay is the surest way of sharpening your critical thinking skills as well as developing and expressing your opinions on a given topic. More often than not, a reflection essay will be assigned by your instructor to assess your descriptive and analytical skills. This is why it is important to put on your thinking cap and know how to write a reflective essay.

A reflective piece includes writing about or describing an event or experience and then analyzing its significance. An essay is reflective when the writer analyzes a past event in the present. These require you to open up regarding your thoughts and emotions and paint a vivid picture by describing the experience. Like any essay, they should also include explanations for all mentioned reactions, thoughts, and feelings. It helps to take a look at a few reflective essay examples to start with.

Now that you are done knowing what is a reflective essay, it is time to know how to go about writing one.

Strategies For Writing A Reflective Essay

Once you’ve been assigned a topic, it is important to go through a few checkpoints to ensure that your essay is thoroughly structured.

Writing Tips For A Reflective Essay

Here are a few tips for the writing an effective reflection essay:

Things To Avoid In A Reflective Essay

Once you know how to write a reflection paper, it can seem like it is no different than writing a formalized diary entry. Though it is not far from it, it is still an academic essay and requires you to remain formal. Avoid the following when writing a reflective essay.

Reflective pieces can be deceptively simple to write. It is no surprise that people look for reflective paper sample to aid them in their writing. If you are having trouble with this format, feel free to reach out to MyCustomEssay – our vast database of essay samples is always at your disposal!


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how to write a reflective essay for college

How to Write a Reflective Essay Outline: Tips And Example

09 Dec 2021

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❓What is a Reflective Essay Outline?

📑Reflective Essay Outline Structure

✍️Reflective Essay Format and Style

📄Outline Example for an Essay

When you are asked to write a reflective essay, it might feel like an unusual task. After all, what do they normally reflect? Well, your own beliefs and ideas! However, the difficulty of such an assignment lies in the fact that you need to explore your own ideas on a topic so thoroughly that you can then write about them at length.

Even though it can be challenging, especially when writing specific reflective essay topics for university students , they are also a great opportunity to showcase your best writing skills. Such papers require you as the writer to go beyond just stating your ideas and providing evidence for them. 

In order to create a truly exceptional piece of work, you will need to put in some additional effort and planning. So, here’s how you can write a reflection essay template and knock it out of the park.

What is a Reflective Essay Outline?

Writing a reflective essay can be a difficult and challenging process, but it's also a very rewarding one. In order to write a successful one, you need to be able to articulate your thoughts and feelings about your experiences. The best way to do this is to use a reflective essay outline template.

An outline for a reflective essay is a plan for your academic paper, where you structure and break down the main points into logically ordered paragraphs in order to write it more efficiently. This is like a skeleton for your future work, which makes it easier and faster to write.

It helps to prevent writer’s block and organize your ideas. Whether you’re a beginner needing to write college admission essay or a seasoned essayist, having an outline is always a solid starting point.

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What is the Best Reflective Essay Outline Structure?

A reflective essay template is like a roadmap. It helps you organize your thoughts and plan what you're going to say in advance. It also makes it easier to write your paper because you know exactly what you're going to include in each section.

A typical reflective essay format includes three parts:

What Should be Included in the Introduction?

The introduction should begin with a hook that grabs the reader's attention. This can be a rhetorical question, a quote, or a shocking statistic. The goal is to get the reader engaged and interested in the material.

After the hook, the introduction should give some background information on the topic. This can help to provide context for the reader. The introduction should also include a strong thesis statement. This will be the main idea of your essay, and it should be clear and concise.

The introduction should not include any unnecessary details. The goal is to give the reader a general idea of what the paper will be about. Ensure that the introduction is engaging and makes the reader want to continue reading.

What Should be in the Body Paragraphs of a Self Reflective Essay?

In general, the body paragraphs should contain supporting evidence that backs up your thesis statement. This evidence can come in the form of quotes, statistics, real-life examples, or anything else that supports your claim. In addition to proof, your body paragraphs should also include analysis. 

This is where you discuss how the evidence supports your thesis in the introduction and explain what it all means. Finally, each body paragraph should have a concluding sentence that sums up everything you've discussed and drives home your main point. By following this reflection paragraph template, you can ensure that your writing is well-organized and your argument is clear and convincing.

How to Write a Reflective Essay Conclusion?

When it comes to writing a conclusion, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First and foremost, you need to make sure that your conclusion is reflective of the rest of your essay. This means that it should maintain the same tone and style. 

Secondly, your conclusion should be concise and to the point. You don't want to ramble on or include any new information. And finally, your final paragraph should leave the reader with something to think about. An excellent way to do this is to end with a question or a call to action.

If you are struggling with writing a reflective essay, one great solution would be to use an essay writing company . They can provide you with great support and guidance in developing your outline and structure for your reflective essay. PapersOwl is a reliable and trustworthy essay writing company that can help you with all your reflective essay needs.

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How Should One Choose a Reflective Essay Format and Style?

If you are working on or looking for process analysis essay ideas and are struggling to decide which referencing style to use, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and most important is to get to know what your professor or institution requires. 

If no style is specified, you can ask your professor for guidance. The second thing that you need to check is what format is most commonly used in your field of study. For example, if you are studying sciences, you will likely use the APA style. If you are studying humanities, you will likely use the MLA style. 

Third, what style is most comfortable for you to use? This is a personal preference, and you should choose the style that you feel most comfortable with. Remember, whichever style you choose, you must be consistent throughout your writing.

How to Write a Reflective Essay Template: Example

A self reflection essay outline will help you better understand the purpose of what you're writing. If you're struggling, it is even possible to find a template in many academic writing textbooks or online, where you can pay someone to write an essay for you .

A compelling reflection essay format can be challenging and difficult to write, which is why there is a university essay writing service available anytime you need help. But it's also a very rewarding one, in which you are free to articulate your thoughts and feelings about your experiences. The best way to do this is to use a reflection paper outline template.

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how to write a reflective essay for college

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Course reflection essay

how to write a reflective essay for college

Course reflection essays are customarily assigned by instructors in higher education institutions such as colleges and universities. In order for students to achieve success, it is essential for them to develop reflective skills since this will help them engage more actively in academic learning. Reflective writings are significant because they encourage learners to analyze what they have learned from each class and how they can apply the knowledge gained in future courses. Students should be able to write a convincing reflection paper which has a purpose built structure.

Let us first define a course reflection essay and what it entails:

What is a course reflection essay?

A course reflection essay is a type of writing published by the students to analyze their academic experiences such as educational placement, exams results, and personal thoughts when studying a particular course. This kind of writing is similar to the course evaluation essay, except that a course reflection essay gives students an opportunity to reflect on their overall experience of studying the subject.

How to write a movie reflection paper

Self reflection essay, reflection paper conclusion, internship reflection essay, reflection paper outline, reflection paper topics.

Usually, in order to write good a course reflection essay, there is a need to walk back at the way you have studied.

Basic requirements for it are as follows:

Check out the following issues that you may face while writing a course reflection essay:

Course reflection essay example

This is a one paragraph example of a course reflection essay written by a college student. Use the simple example to start/write a good college course reflection essay.

This course helped me to develop my ability of debating since it forced me to look at the applications and limits of technologies in an existing market. This was further achieved by exploring new ways of understanding human-technology interactions as well as reading some primary research articles. Through this, I have gained a deeper insight into how I would apply technologies for a client. Additionally, the assessment task has taught me how to plan and conduct interviews and questionnaires through which I can gather valuable information on how customers behave in an actual situation. In addition to that, it provides me with techniques in collecting all sources of information needed for research purposes. Overall, this module has not only expanded my skills but also gave me confidence that I am able to handle projects that involve technology.

The main point of this type of essay is that the process has taught you something valuable. If there are any new skills or techniques, if you learned something new about the subject or the software (which can be included within a more general reflection, should it not be related to anything specific), then write about those first and in greater detail. These points will come up first when your reader skims through what you wrote (so make sure they’re relevant!) – they form a good foundation for your whole piece and give it meaning beyond “this is how I did”. You might have also had an experience that made you grow as a person – include that part in the conclusion as well.

Structure of a course reflection essay

Here is one way to structure such a course reflection paper:

Example of a course reflection essay conclusion

Here is an example for such a simple course reflection paper conclusion:

This module has helped me gain basic research skills which I will certainly be able to apply once working within the industry. I hope to be able to apply these skills in the future and not just within the IT sector but also in a more general way, helping me develop professionally . This course has also allowed me to think out of the box when it comes down to problem-solving which will definitely come in handy once working as well. Overall, this module has given me various new opportunities that would not have been available otherwise and I am prepared for what’s yet to come!

Can I end a course reflection essay with a question?

Sure! You can end a course reflection essay with a question: how you can benefit from your experience? If you were applying for a job, a company/employer might ask for an essay answering this very thing – include it here as well, if you’d like!

Keep in mind though that you should not write about the positives only: if there were any things you didn’t like, anything that could be improved, include those as well. You may also want to go into greater detail as where you would change certain elements – your reader might ask for it and a negative comment can always turn into an overall positive one!

Course reflection essay writing help

Need help writing a course reflection essay, course reflection paper ? Don’t have time to write it yourself? No problem! Our writers can help you with that! Just fill out the order form and let us worry about writing your course reflection essay for you. The sooner you place an order, the sooner we’ll be able to start working on it:

Our writers can also share more sample course reflection papers for your review before you hire them. You will get custom papers – 100% plagiarism-free course reflection essays. Contact us now for more information about ordering custom course reflection essays at affordable prices.

Click here to find someone to write a course reflection essay for you or explore other course reflection paper examples listed below.

Class Reflection Essay

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The Reflective Essay

The reflective essay serves two key purposes in your portfolio:

These three purposes mean that the reflective essay is perhaps the most important single component of your portfolio. Since it’s the only item you will write exclusively for the portfolio, it’s the only opportunity you will have to connect directly with your reviewers and draw their attention to the most important qualities of your writing. Furthermore, the reflective essay provides you an opportunity to take stock of your own writing and draw your own conclusions about its strengths and weaknesses, rather than relying on the assessments of your professors. Thus, the amount of time and effort you put into your reflective essay will often determine whether you find the portfolio process to be a valuable experience or just another hurdle on the way to graduation.

The questions below should serve as a guide for your reflective essay. You do not have to address the questions in any particular order, nor do you have to give them all equal time and attention (though you should try to address them all in some way).    Furthermore, if any of the questions simply do not apply to your experience, feel free to skip them or reframe them. In the end, your reflective essay as a whole should read as just that—a single essay with a clear flow of ideas throughout, not a series of short responses to each of the questions below. The primary goal here is to provide your readers with useful context for your writing, not to answer these particular questions in this particular order.

Your reflective essay should also explain how each of the essays you selected from your Carleton classes fits into the overall narrative of your development as a writer. You can address this over the course of the essay, as part of the overall narrative or argument, or you can include a series of paragraphs at the end of the essay that addresses each piece in turn. Either way, some questions you might address here are:

You should write at least a sentence or two about each essay in the portfolio, but you can certainly write more if you have more to say about a given piece. Regardless of how much you write about each essay, though, it is extremely important that you address what each piece brings to the portfolio, because this allows your readers understand what  you  want them to see when they review your work.

Length and Format

There is no minimum or maximum length for the reflective essay, but as a general guideline, it should be roughly 500-1200 words (~2-3 standard, double-spaced pages). Anything less than 500 words and you are unlikely to address the key ideas in enough depth to engage your readers. Anything more than 1200 words and readers are likely to begin “skimming” fairly heavily as they read.

Regardless of length, your reflective essay should be double-spaced and written in an easily readable 12-point font.

Titles are encouraged, but not required, though you should at the very least clearly label the document “Reflective Essay” at the top.

Additional Guidelines

Your reflective essay should:.

Your Reflective essay should NOT:

Your Reflective Essay CAN:

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How to Write a Reflection Essay for College

Reflection is a way to look back on and process your experiences, knowledge you have received, or new ideas you have encountered, and see how they shape your views and your thinking. This process, on par with critical thinking ability, is crucial for university and college students, because it’s key to directed and mindful learning.

You will probably be tasked with writing short reflective essays on a class you’ve competed, on a book you’ve read, on research you’ve conducted, or some of the past experiences that in your opinion left a deep imprint on how you perceive the world. Despite being deeply personal, such papers are different from journal entries and must adhere to academic standards with regard to language and structure.

In this post, we will look in detail into how to write a good reflective essay on any topic.

What Is a Reflective Essay and Its Purpose

The first thing you should understand about reflective essays is that they are not standard college essays with a clear destination to arrive at. You don’t argue a point, you don’t summarize a course, you don’t try to solve a problem. You explore your response to information or experience. However, it is not an opinion piece either, where you just share your judgment on whether something is good or bad. The closest we can get to a reflective essay definition is through exploring its goals.

So, what is the purpose of reflective writing? It is a way to make meaning out of what you study, explore your learning, and understand it better. It is also a way to explore and document your response to new information, ideas, events, and experiences and through this gain self-knowledge.

To see some examples of reflective writing and compare them to other kinds, visit our database of essays , and look under relevant sections.

General Recommendations for Writing a Reflective Essay

First, let us zoom in on how to do reflective writing, what themes you can explore, and which stylistic features this type of writing endorses.

Since writing reflective paper is a formal college assignment, you must follow certain rules and principles of academic papers. For example, such good practices as:

However, it also allows you to combine different modes of writing and language: descriptive, analytical, and expressive. That is complex, but it also gives you the freedom you need to convey your feelings, describe events and people in your life, and explain their influence on you.

Reflective Essay Structure

Since the content of the reflective essay can be very diverse, and the format skews more expressive and creative than other types of academic essays, it is difficult to provide one plan that will fit every essay. However, the high-level structure still applies. Your reflective essay should have:

Reflection Papers Format

Reflection papers tend to be more conversational in tone but they still must adhere to the standards of academic writing, so you should avoid slang, abbreviations (IDK, LOL, OMG), and use correct spelling and grammar. Reflective essay format allows you, however, to use personal pronouns (I, me) and you can get away with contractions as well (I’ve, don’t, we’ll).

As to whether your essay should be in APA or MLA, it depends on the recommendations given by your instructor. If there were none, use recommendations for other papers in this course as a guideline.

Things to write about in a course reflection essay

If you haven’t been given a clear prompt, for example, “How this course has helped me to understand my goals in life better” or “Why I think Freud’s works are relevant today”, here is what you can discuss if you’ve been asked to write a course reflection essay:

How Do You Write a Self-Reflective Essay

In your English class at school, you must have written essays about yourself: your hobbies, your favorite things, inspiring people in your life. However, it doesn’t mean that you know how to write a self-reflection essay.

College-level self-reflective essays involve metacognition. That means you should describe how you think about things, how you learn, why you believe what you believe. If you write about any personal experiences, you should focus on how they have reflected on your way of thinking and shaped your perception.

If your instructor hasn’t given you a detailed task, you can brainstorm topics for personal self-reflection with the help of these prompts:

Read essay examples from our vast collection to get a clearer idea of how this kind of essays look and the themes they explore.

How to Start a Reflective Essay

You should begin with being clear about your task. Since reflective assignments can vary widely depending on the course and subject, you should read the task guidelines very carefully. If there is anything you aren’t sure about, ask your instructor to clarify those aspects.

Now let us assume you have dealt with the basic stuff: you have read the article you must reflect upon, you have gone through your course notes if you need to write a course reflection, you have singled out an important event that had a profound effect on you. Now, how do you start a reflective writing assignment?

The good way to start pulling all your ideas and thoughts together is by using the mind mapping technique. It is a great way to arrange the ideas into some semblance of a structure, arrange them, and create a workable writing plan – whether it’s a personal or a course reflection.

If you have never tried mind mapping before, here is a quick introduction:

Now you are ready to process your mind map into a first draft.

How to Do a Reflective Essay Outline

It’s difficult to come up with one recipe for how to write an outline since reflective papers take so many forms. However, an approximate template would look like this:

How to Write a Reflective Paper: Dos and Don’ts

Apart from some minor slacks mentioned at the beginning of this post, reflective papers should adhere to the general guidelines for academic essays. If you need a quick refresher, look no further than how to write an essay infographic – a full guide is easy to understand and remember.

However, there are some specific mistakes that students can make primarily (of not only) in reflective writing. Here is quick summary:

…include only relevant feelings and experiences. A reflective paper is not a diary entry or a social media rant. Remember, you are analyzing your feelings, not dumping them. For example, instead of recounting all of your miseries to justify your overreaction you can say simply “I was going through a difficult time, so I got very upset over this seemingly minor setback.”

…draw lessons from your reflections. You should always put your experience into perspective. Was it successful? Why? Would you do something differently? How this experience can be useful for you in the future?


…overshare. If you feel that maybe particular details are too intimate, if you are uncomfortable with sharing the information, or you suspect it might make your readers uncomfortable, there are two ways of dealing with it. You can either leave it out if it has little bearing on the case, or you can write about it in more general terms if the information is crucial.

…tear other people down in your writing. You must maintain a certain professional detachment. Describe your difficult or unpleasant experiences instead of concentrating on people who caused them.

A bonus tip on how to write a reflection paragraph. Since it is just a shorter form of reflective writing, all of the above rules apply. Structure it the following way:

That’s it. Hopefully now you have a clear idea on how to approach your reflective writing assignments. If you need further advice, don’t hesitate to contact our support team or order your customized example!

Jana Rooheart

Jana Rooheart

Jana Rooheart came to WowEssays.com with a mission to put together and then slice and dice our vast practical experience in crafting all kinds of academic papers. Jana is an aspired blogger with rich expertise in psychology, digital learning tools, and creative writing. In this blog, she willingly shares tricks of pencraft and mind-altering ideas about academic writing any student will find utterly beneficial.

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How to Write a Reflective Essay?

07 August, 2020

17 minutes read

Author:  Elizabeth Brown

A reflective essay is a personal perspective on an issue or topic. This article will look at how to write an excellent reflexive account of your experience, provide you with reflexive essay framework to help you plan and organize your essay and give you a good grounding of what good reflective writing looks like.

Reflective Essay

What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay requires the writer to examine his experiences and explore how these experiences have helped him develop and shaped him as a person.  It is essentially an analysis of your own experience focusing on what you’ve learned.

Don’t confuse reflexive analysis with the rhetorical one. If you need assistance figuring out how to write a rhetorical analysis , give our guide a read!

Based on the reflective essay definition, this paper will follow a logical and thought-through plan . It will be a discussion that centers around a topic or issue. The essay should strive to achieve a balance between description and personal feelings.

It requires a clear line of thought, evidence, and examples to help you discuss your reflections. Moreover, a proper paper requires an analytical approach . There are three main types of a reflective essay: theory-based, a case study or an essay based on one’s personal experience.

How to choose reflective essay topics

Unlike most academic forms of writing, this writing is based on personal experiences and thoughts. As such, first-person writing position where the writer can refer to his own thoughts and feelings is essential. If the writer talks about psychology or medicine, it is best to use the first-person reference as little as possible to keep the tone objective and science-backed.

To write this paper, you need to recollect and share personal experience . However, there is still a chance that you’ll be asked to talk about a more complex topic.

By the way, if you are looking for good ideas on how to choose a good argumentative essay topic , check out our latest guide to help you out!

The Criteria for a Good Reflective Essay

The convention of an academic reflective essay writing will vary slightly depending on your area of study. A good reflective essay will be written geared towards its intended audience. These are the general criteria that form the core of a well-written piece:

These seven criteria form the principles of writing an excellent reflective essay.

Still need help with your essay? Handmade Writing is here to assist you!

What is the Purpose of Writing a Reflective Essay?

The purpose of a reflective essay is for a writer to reflect upon experience and learn from it . Reflection is a useful process that helps you make sense of things and gain valuable lessons from your experience. Reflective essay writing allows you to demonstrate that you can think critically about your own skills or practice strategies implementations to learn and improve without outside guidance.

Another purpose is to analyze the event or topic you are describing and emphasize how you’ll apply what you’ve learned.

How to Create a Reflective Essay Outline

Don’t forget to adjust the formatting of your essay. There are four main format styles of any academic piece. Discover all of them from our essay format guide!

Related Posts: Essay outline | Essay format Guide

Using Reflective Frameworks

Reflective writing frameworks

A good way to develop a reflective essay plan is by using a framework that exists. A framework will let help you break the experience down logical and make the answer easier to organize. Popular frameworks include: Schon’s (1983) Reflection in action and reflection on action .

Schon wrote ‘The Reflective Practitioner’ in 1983 in which he describes reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action as tools for learning how to meet challenges that do not conform to formulas learned in school through improvisation.  He mentioned two types of reflection : one during and one after. By being aware of these processes while on a work-experience trail or clinical assignment you have to write a reflective account for, you get to understand the process better. So good questions to ask in a reflective journal could be:

<td “200”>Reflection-pre-action <td “200”>Reflection-in-action <td “200”>Reflection-on-Action<td “200”>What might happen? <td “200”>What is happening in the situation? <td “200”>What were your insights after?<td “200”>What possible challenges will you face? <td “200”>Is it working out as you expected? <td “200”>How did it go in retrospect?<td “200”>How will you prepare for the situation? <td “200”>What are the challenges you are dealing with? <td “200”>What did you value and why?<td “200”>  <td “200”>What can you do to make the experience a successful one? <td “200”>What would you do differently before or during a similar situation?<td “200”>  <td “200”>What are you learning? <td “200”>What have you learned?

This will give you a good frame for your paper and help you analyze your experience.

Kolb’s (1984) Learning Cycle

Kolb’s reflective framework works in four stages:

Gibb’s (1988) Reflection Cycle

Gibbs model is an extension of Kolb’s. Gibb’s reflection cycle is a popular model used in reflective writing. There are six stages in the cycle.

Driscoll’s Method (1994) and Rolfe et al (2001) Reflexive Learning

The Driscoll Method break the process down into three questions. What (Description), So What (Analysis) and Now What (Proposed action). Rolf et al 2001 extended the model further by giving more in-depth and reflexive questions.

This model is mostly used for clinical experiences in degrees related to medicine such as nursing or genetic counseling. It helps to get students comfortable thinking over each experience and adapting to situations.

This is just a selection of basic models of this type of writing. And there are more in-depth models out there if you’re writing a very advanced reflective essay. These models are good for beginner level essays. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses. So, it is best to use one that allows you to answer the set question fully.

This written piece can follow many different structures depending on the subject area . So, check your assignment to make sure you don’t have a specifically assigned structural breakdown. For example, an essay that follows Gibbs plan directly with six labeled paragraphs is typical in nursing assignments. A more typical piece will follow a standard structure of an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Now, let’s look into details on how to craft each of these essay parts.

How to Write an Introduction?

There are several good ways to start a reflective essay . Remember that an introduction to a reflective essay differs depending on upon what kind of reflection is involved. A science-based introduction should be brief and direct introducing the issue you plan on discussing and its context.

Related post: How to write an Essay Introduction

For example, a nursing student might want to discuss the overreliance on medical journals in the industry and why peer-reviewed journals led to mistaken information. In this case, one good way how to start a reflective essay introduction is by introducing a thesis statement. Help the reader see the real value of your work.

Do you need help with your thesis statement? Take a look at our recent guide explaining what is a thesis statement .

Let’s look at some reflective essay examples.

‘During my first month working at Hospital X, I became aware just how many doctors treated peer-views journal articles as a gospel act. This is a dangerous practice that because of (a), (b) and (c) could impact patients negatively.’

The reflective essay on English class would begin differently. In fact, it should be more personal and sound less bookish .

How to Write the Main Body Paragraphs?

The main body of the essay should focus on specific examples of the issue in question. A short description should be used for the opener. Each paragraph of this piece should begin with an argument supporting the thesis statement.

The most part of each paragraph should be a reflexive analysis of the situation and evaluation . Each paragraph should end with a concluding sentence that caps the argument. In a science-based essay, it is important to use theories, other studies from journals and source-based material to argue and support your position in an objective manner.

How to Write the Conclusion?

A conclusion should provide a summary of the issues explored, remind the reader of the purpose of the essay and suggest an appropriate course of action in relation to the needs identified in the body of the essay.

This is mostly an action plan for the future. However, if appropriate a writer can call readers to action or ask questions. Make sure that the conclusion is powerful enough for readers to remember it. In most cases, an introduction and a conclusion is the only thing your audience will remember.

Reflective Essay Topics

Here are some good topics for a reflective essay. We’ve decided to categorize them to help you find good titles for reflective essays that fit your requirement.

Medicine-related topics:

Topics on teamwork:

Topics on personal experiences:

Academic topics:

Related Posts: Research Paper topics | Compare&Contrast Essay topics

Reflective Essay Example

Tips on writing a good reflective essay.

Some good general tips include the following:

Do's and don'ts of reflective essay writing

As long as you use tips by HandMade Writing, you’ll end up having a great piece. Just stick to our recommendations. And should you need the help of a pro essay writer service, remember that we’re here to help!

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Frequently asked questions

What kind of self-reflection should i do for my college essay.

First, spend time reflecting on your core values and character . You can start with these questions:

However, you should do a comprehensive brainstorming session to fully understand your values. Also consider how your values and goals match your prospective university’s program and culture. Then, brainstorm stories that illustrate the fit between the two.

Frequently asked questions: College admissions essays

When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.

No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.

The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.

Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding your message and content. Then, check for flow, tone, style , and clarity. Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors .

If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

If you’ve got to write your college essay fast , don’t panic. First, set yourself deadlines: you should spend about 10% of your remaining time on brainstorming, 10% on outlining, 40% writing, 30% revising, and 10% taking breaks in between stages.

Second, brainstorm stories and values based on your essay prompt.

Third, outline your essay based on the montage or narrative essay structure .

Fourth, write specific, personal, and unique stories that would be hard for other students to replicate.

Fifth, revise your essay and make sure it’s clearly written.

Last, if possible, get feedback from an essay coach . Scribbr essay editors can help you revise your essay in 12 hours or less.

Avoid swearing in a college essay , since admissions officers’ opinions of profanity will vary. In some cases, it might be okay to use a vulgar word, such as in dialogue or quotes that make an important point in your essay. However, it’s safest to try to make the same point without swearing.

If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may want to use your college admissions essay to explain the challenging circumstances that led to them. Make sure to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects and highlight how you overcame the situation or learned an important lesson.

However, some college applications offer an additional information section where you can explain your bad grades, allowing you to choose another meaningful topic for your college essay.

Here’s a brief list of college essay topics that may be considered cliché:

It’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic. However, it’s possible to make a common topic compelling with interesting story arcs, uncommon connections, and an advanced writing style.

Yes. The college application essay is less formal than other academic writing —though of course it’s not mandatory to use contractions in your essay.

In a college essay , you can be creative with your language . When writing about the past, you can use the present tense to make the reader feel as if they were there in the moment with you. But make sure to maintain consistency and when in doubt, default to the correct verb tense according to the time you’re writing about.

The college admissions essay gives admissions officers a different perspective on you beyond your academic achievements, test scores, and extracurriculars. It’s your chance to stand out from other applicants with similar academic profiles by telling a unique, personal, and specific story.

Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial to avoid distracting the reader from your college essay’s content.

A college application essay is less formal than most academic writing . Instead of citing sources formally with in-text citations and a reference list, you can cite them informally in your text.

For example, “In her research paper on genetics, Quinn Roberts explores …”

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .

Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are:

To write an effective diversity essay , include vulnerable, authentic stories about your unique identity, background, or perspective. Provide insight into how your lived experience has influenced your outlook, activities, and goals. If relevant, you should also mention how your background has led you to apply for this university and why you’re a good fit.

Many universities believe a student body composed of different perspectives, beliefs, identities, and backgrounds will enhance the campus learning and community experience.

Admissions officers are interested in hearing about how your unique background, identity, beliefs, culture, or characteristics will enrich the campus community, which is why they assign a diversity essay .

In addition to your main college essay , some schools and scholarships may ask for a supplementary essay focused on an aspect of your identity or background. This is sometimes called a diversity essay .

You can use humor in a college essay , but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn’t be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling.

Get a second opinion from a teacher, counselor, or essay coach on whether your essay’s humor is appropriate.

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

Yes—admissions officers don’t expect everyone to have a totally unique college essay topic . But you must differentiate your essay from others by having a surprising story arc, an interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style .

There are no foolproof college essay topics —whatever your topic, the key is to write about it effectively. However, a good topic

Unlike a five-paragraph essay, your admissions essay should not end by summarizing the points you’ve already made. It’s better to be creative and aim for a strong final impression.

You should also avoid stating the obvious (for example, saying that you hope to be accepted).

There are a few strategies you can use for a memorable ending to your college essay :

The best technique will depend on your topic choice, essay outline, and writing style. You can write several endings using different techniques to see which works best.

College deadlines vary depending on the schools you’re applying to and your application plan:

Depending on your prospective schools’ requirements, you may need to submit scores for the SAT or ACT as part of your college application .

Some schools now no longer require students to submit test scores; however, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Aim to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it in the fall of your senior year if necessary.

Apply early for federal student aid and application fee waivers. You can also look for scholarships from schools, corporations, and charitable foundations.

To maximize your options, you should aim to apply to about eight schools:

The college admissions essay accounts for roughly 25% of the weight of your application .

At highly selective schools, there are four qualified candidates for every spot. While your academic achievements are important, your college admissions essay can help you stand out from other applicants with similar profiles.

In general, for your college application you will need to submit all of the following:

Different colleges may have specific requirements, so make sure you check exactly what’s expected in the application guidance.

You should start thinking about your college applications the summer before your junior year to give you sufficient time for college visits, taking standardized tests, applying for financial aid , writing essays, and collecting application material.

Yes, but make sure your essay directly addresses the prompt, respects the word count , and demonstrates the organization’s values.

If you plan ahead, you can save time by writing one scholarship essay for multiple prompts with similar questions. In a scholarship tracker spreadsheet, you can group or color-code overlapping essay prompts; then, write a single essay for multiple scholarships. Sometimes, you can even reuse or adapt your main college essay .

You can start applying for scholarships as early as your junior year. Continue applying throughout your senior year.

Invest time in applying for various scholarships , especially local ones with small dollar amounts, which are likely easier to win and more reflective of your background and interests. It will be easier for you to write an authentic and compelling essay if the scholarship topic is meaningful to you.

You can find scholarships through your school counselor, community network, or an internet search.

A scholarship essay requires you to demonstrate your values and qualities while answering the prompt’s specific question.

After researching the scholarship organization, identify a personal experience that embodies its values and exemplifies how you will be a successful student.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.

Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.

The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

In your application essay , admissions officers are looking for particular features : they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Campus visits are always helpful, but if you can’t make it in person, the college website will have plenty of information for you to explore. You should look through the course catalog and even reach out to current faculty with any questions about the school.

Colleges set a “Why this college?” essay because they want to see that you’ve done your research. You must prove that you know what makes the school unique and can connect that to your own personal goals and academic interests.

Depending on your writing, you may go through several rounds of revision . Make sure to put aside your essay for a little while after each editing stage to return with a fresh perspective.

Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your language, tone, and content . Ask for their help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help.

Friends and family are a good resource to check for authenticity. It’s best to seek help from family members with a strong writing or English educational background, or from older siblings and cousins who have been through the college admissions process.

If possible, get help from an essay coach or editor ; they’ll have specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and be able to give objective expert feedback.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Include specific, personal details and use your authentic voice to shed a new perspective on a common human experience.

Through specific stories, you can weave your achievements and qualities into your essay so that it doesn’t seem like you’re bragging from a resume.

When writing about yourself , including difficult experiences or failures can be a great way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but be careful not to overshare, and focus on showing how you matured from the experience.

In a college application essay , you can occasionally bend grammatical rules if doing so adds value to the storytelling process and the essay maintains clarity.

However, use standard language rules if your stylistic choices would otherwise distract the reader from your overall narrative or could be easily interpreted as unintentional errors.

Write concisely and use the active voice to maintain a quick pace throughout your essay and make sure it’s the right length . Avoid adding definitions unless they provide necessary explanation.

Use first-person “I” statements to speak from your perspective . Use appropriate word choices that show off your vocabulary but don’t sound like you used a thesaurus. Avoid using idioms or cliché expressions by rewriting them in a creative, original way.

If you’re an international student applying to a US college and you’re comfortable using American idioms or cultural references , you can. But instead of potentially using them incorrectly, don’t be afraid to write in detail about yourself within your own culture.

Provide context for any words, customs, or places that an American admissions officer might be unfamiliar with.

College application essays are less formal than other kinds of academic writing . Use a conversational yet respectful tone , as if speaking with a teacher or mentor. Be vulnerable about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences to connect with the reader.

Aim to write in your authentic voice , with a style that sounds natural and genuine. You can be creative with your word choice, but don’t use elaborate vocabulary to impress admissions officers.

Admissions officers use college admissions essays to evaluate your character, writing skills , and ability to self-reflect . The essay is your chance to show what you will add to the academic community.

The college essay may be the deciding factor in your application , especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

Some colleges also require supplemental essays about specific topics, such as why you chose that specific college . Scholarship essays are often required to obtain financial aid .

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How to Write a Reflective Essay: A Quick Guide + Examples


Table of contents

In this article, students who wish to learn how to write a reflective essay, and how to highlight their personality will discover effective writing tips. A reflection essay as a diagnostic essay  or an opinion essay seems easy as you don’t have to defend one’s point of view or convince the reader of something. It has its challenges, so we recommend to keep on reading and find out everything you need to know about this type of essay. More complex examples are available down below.  

What Is a Reflective Essay: Definition

A good question to start with is, “What is a reflective essay?” A reflective essay is a type of academic writing, in which the student has to test personal life experience/position towards a particular topic. Unlike in argumentative writing, the student does not have to defend the personal position. It does not require a complicated, professional language with some terminology. Do not define something - focus on sharing personal life experience, skills, development, and the most vivid examples to illustrate the topic.

Reflective Essay Format

A reflection essay student writes to meet the college writing standards has a different format from the one a magazine writer should present to reach the issue’s audience. However, each reflective paper has a similar outline. Reflective essay format depends on the general requirements your teacher provides. Some of them can ask for a specific format for your essay. APA writing style , MLA, and Chicago are the basic formats you can use. But if you don’t know exactly which formatting to use, you can use reflective essay apa format. This is the most common college essay format, so knowing its requirements is critical: Font:  Times New Roman, 12 points Interval:  Double interval Margins:  1 inch all round Page Numbers:  Insert a title in the upper left corner of each page.  

Reflective Essay Outline and Structure

Knowing how to write a reflective essay is essential. Even if you feel confident about your thoughts and knowledge, don’t start your writing without a clear and well-designed plan. Without logical essay structure , your essay will likely achieve lower marks. To avoid this situation, follow 10 easy steps we provided below. The first thing every student needs to understand how to write a good reflective essay is an effective, detailed outline. It has 3 typical sections: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Writing a reflective essay does not require any references – the only person to refer is the student who decides to share his thoughts & ideas. Let’s look at 4 main reasons to include an outline of reflective essays.  

Reflective essay outline is not much different from other types of essays. Use this reflective essay template in creating your perfect reflective essay:

how to write a reflective essay for college

How to Start a Reflective Essay: Creating an Introduction

Let’s figure out how to write a reflective essay introduction. Start with stating the primary focus of the personal reflection. Avoid being indirect and covering a range of topics; stay direct and concise by underlining the basic purpose of sharing a life experience. Professional Opinion:

“Giving a preview of the most exciting part of the story is a clue. The target reader may lack time to read the full piece from cover to cover. “There are many things I have learned from Marketing class. The most valuable lesson I have obtained is checking the effectiveness of 2 different approaches or services through utilizing so-called A/B testing.” It will make the reader think about what is special about this specific method. The reader will go on reading the body paragraphs to find out!” Professor Hemsworth, History & Anthropology teacher and academic writer at StudyCrumb

Another way to attract attention in the introductory paragraph is to come up with the intriguing hook for essay sentences like statistics, fact, quote, metaphor, rhetorical question, or joke. It depends on the mood of your reflective narrative.

Working on Reflective Essay Thesis

Some people may say that a reflective essay does not need a thesis. However, the example shared in the previous section talking about introduction is an example of the inspiring thesis statement. Include at least a reflective summary of the primary idea. The best idea would be to focus on previewing the peak of the plot development or highlighting the most valuable lesson learned. Let’s take a look at this little reflective essay thesis sample.

how to write a reflective essay for college

If you find it challenging, rely on our  professional essay writing service  and have your reflective essay done with academic standards in mind. 

Writing a Reflection Essay Body Paragraph

What is the purpose of a body paragraph ? The body paragraphs of the reflective analysis interpret the way the author evolved or what he/she has absorbed from a particular life lesson (mention 3 different lessons). When writing your reflective essay you should mention the circumstances that forced you to pass a certain way. If you study a subject like English Literature or Arts, the paper’s prompt may ask you to describe how you changed as a field professional during the course of study. It is important to choose a specific interval of time to list the improvements. Compare & contrast the initial skills to the knowledge you have today. It is a great idea to tell the audience the ways various tasks, challenges, and lessons made the author grow since the beginning of his education. There is no need to conduct research to collect the supporting evidence. The author alone is responsible for defending every stated claim with the help of vivid samples that describe the topic the best. Example: In case the student has become more professional in the field of writing, he should list the causes of those changes (new English teacher, more practice at home, part-time job related to the field of writing). Who knows – some of the ideas may be used by other students to succeed!  

How to Write a Reflective Essay Conclusion

The question of how to end a reflection paper is not less important. The last challenge is to prepare an impressive, inspiring, and powerful conclusion, which will make the target readers want to develop the same positive way. Write a reflective summary regarding the way you have changed over a given period of time. Share some forecast by looking ahead: how the experiences listed in the essay would influence further personal development. By looking at the past events, decide which of them was the most important. The good idea is to compare & contrast past and future events to stress the gaps between the obtained skills and experience, possibly gained in the future. Don't want to bother with writing any conclusions? Use a summary maker to generate e reflective essay conlusion in seconds.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: 10 Easy Steps

Writing personal reflection helps students to stress their individuality by highlighting various skills, knowledge, behavior, feelings, and even mood. The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to show how the person changed over time and what factors played an important role in those metamorphoses. Keep on reading this section to learn steps that will make your reflective writing perfect. Step 1:  Think of the questions that interest you the most. It may be your experience, feelings, or an event in life. Make sure you analyzed the question well. Check credible sources and collect relevant information. Step 2:  Decide what you want to write about. Make sure you know how to title an essay . Identify the topic. Step 3:  After you decided on a topic, create an appealing title that will entice readers. Make sure your title is clear and to the point. Step 4:  Create an outline of your essay. Step 5:  Create an attention-grabbing hook for reflective essay. It should be some intriguing sentence or phrase that will arouse the interest of your readers. Step 6:  Create an introduction of your reflection paper. Step 7:  Think what you will include in the main body of your text. Start writing your body paragraphs. Step 8:  Diversify your text with all the necessary details to make your readers see a clear picture of the environment in your story. It can be some place, people, atmosphere, etc. Step 9:  After the reader is already familiar with the setting and characters, you should tell about yourself. What were your feelings? How has the situation affected you? What did you learn from this situation? Step 10:  Conclude your reflective essay. Briefly summarize all the points that were mentioned in your text and provide a short moral with recommendations. You can use these steps as a checklist for your writing process. In case you need another step-by-step guide on response essays  or any other type of writing, we've got you covered.

Reflective Essays Sample From Successful College Students

No recommendations, tips & tricks help the students to understand the way a particular assignment should look like in the end as effectively as the examples. The article contains one of the up-to-date reflective essay examples from a college student.

Writing a Reflective Essay: Bottom Line

Congratulations, we have learned how to write a reflective essay. We really do hope that our guidelines, tips, and examples were useful to you. Now, you can definitely work on your reflection assignment with a clear understanding of its structure and main points. So start your writing, and the sky's the limit! Consider buying essay papers in case you've got other plans for the evening. 

Submit your reflective essay details to StudyCrumb and get an astounding paper written in line with your requirements. Your assigned writer will handle any assignment with a blink of an eye!  

Frequently Asked Questions about Writing a Reflective Essay

1. what is a common mistake when writing a reflective essay.

A common mistake when writing a reflective essay is to drift away from the subject you're writing about. It usually happens when you don’t stick to your initial plan. So plan your writing well and if you feel that you go a bit off topic, be sure that you return to the same topic you originally discussed.

2. What is the purpose of writing a reflective essay?

The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to make a student write about their personal experience, explore it, reflect on it and find positive and negative aspects. The goal is to analyze how a student changed due to this experience and what made them change. What lesson a student learned is an essential point in persuasive writing.

3. How to write a reflective essay on a book?

If you are writing a reflective essay on a book, the main task is to show your teacher how you reflect on a chosen book, how you understand the problem presented by an author. To create a good essay, start with brief information about the author. Then, without spoilers, briefly summarize the main points of a book. After that explain the main conflicts, share your impressions. Ask questions like: “What are the peculiarities of the main characters?”, “What did an author want to say by indicating the main issues?”


Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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