How to Write a Narrative for Your College Admissions Essay


In writing a personal narrative as the primary basis of your college admissions essay or personal statement, your goal should be to construct a coherent story from the facts of a situation or series of events. Ideally, this narrative consists of a beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning of your essay should draw the reader in with an exciting start which introduces the story or narrative you’re telling. Here are some strategies to help you plan the opening:

  • Write in chronological order, starting at the beginning of the situation or series of events

  • Start in the middle of the action filling in gaps later using dialogue or recollections

  • Start with a quote or interesting fact that will take on a larger meaning as you piece together the narrative

Next, you should give details about the story or event. The middle of your story can detail a series of events or facts that occur in the narrative you’re telling. This is also the place where the characters in your story change or grow and you begin to resolve any the prevailing issue(s). Be careful not to lose your reader at this stage of your narrative by following these guidelines:

  • Be descriptive by using sensory details to better convey feelings and help the reader visualize your story

  • Show, don’t tell as means of avoiding sounding preachy or moralistic

  • Build to the main point tying together everything that has happened

Lastly, you want to write the ending of your essay. Ideally, this coincides with the final part of your narrative which should:

  • Reveal what lessons you learned in living through the experience you related

  • Describe how the events or situations changed you

  • Relate a revelation about the situation or event that speaks more broadly about your beliefs and motivations

  • Include a statement that looks ahead towards the future especially as they relate to your personal goals

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