The Study Dude—Reflections on How to Write a Reflective Essay

The Study Dude—Reflections on How to Write a Reflective Essay

A friend of mine said we must listen when somebody speaks from the heart.  When someone is sincere, candid, or vulnerable, it’s time to lend a heartfelt ear.  She also said, we must put our biases aside.

When you write a reflective essay, you speak from the heart.

But what exactly is a reflective essay?

According to EssayShark (2017), “A reflective essay is a type of academic paper that reflects your personality, and describes the scene of events that influenced your knowledge and experience.  For example, a student from a medical university comes to practice in a real hospital and describes what problems he or she faced and how they were solved, what new experiences were gained, and what his or her hopes and expectations were before practicing and if they were fulfilled” (Essayshark, 2017, 61%).

Let’s look at some things to consider when writing a reflective essay:

No literature is needed. 

“In reflective writing you don’t need to use literature—the entire paper is built upon your own experience.  Also, you should express your own view instead of comparing the views of others” (ibid).

Older students have the advantage of more life experiences, more life lessons, and more time spent in the literature (if they love to read).  Therefore, they have a great deal to offer a reflective essay.

But some younger students can be wise beyond their years.  One fellow student in grade four was a deep philosopher, always questioning the meaning of life.  Everyone called her their best friend.  In grade four, she could’ve written a prize worthy reflective essay, I’m sure.

And many of us have met someone in his or her twenties who leads a moral and clean life, one rich with meditation, education, fitness, spirituality, or community service.  If you’ve led a life like that, I bet you’ve reaped many benefits that could fill books.

But even those journeys marred with hardship, or perhaps especially those, have deep, rich lessons to teach.

What it boils down to is that everyone’s story is meaningful.  Even the stories that seem insignificant are woven with profound beauty.  We all have lives worthy of endless reflective essays.

Choose a topic you know. 

“Find a topic that is closely connected with you and your experience ….  So, if you have never been to a summer camp, don’t choose it as the basis for your topic” (66%).

I couldn’t write a reflective essay on travel to Europe.  Nor would I want to.  Just the thought of the plane ride makes me ill.  I can barely stomach a Ferris wheel.  But you might love travel, or music, or science, or acting.  And those things might lead to a certain career or lifestyle.  And each career or lifestyle has its own unique ups and downs.

But there are some things you may never experience.  Perhaps you’ll never experience cocaine addiction or the trials and tribulations of being a nun.  Some people never feel love from another human, even though we are all loved in ways we may never know.

So, pick topics you know well for your reflective essays.

Choose an exciting topic. 

“Choose a topic that excites you the most.  You will be surprised how writing can be joyful and easy if you write about something interesting for you” (ibid, 66%).

What is your favorite hobby?  Your passion that keeps your heart pumping at high speed?  I love learning about relationships and personalities.  I heard of a near death experience that said, in heaven, our life stories are being written in a book of gold, inked with every one of our thoughts and deeds—in real time.  If that’s the case, I’d love to read your story, to truly empathize with your every point of view, to see how you grew from the lessons you learned, to experience your amazing journey.  Your life story would make for an A+ reflective essay.  You are fascinating to me.

Topics to consider:

So, you’ve narrowed your topic down to both what you know and what excites you.  How should you now fine tune your topic?

“Pick a reflective essay topic that you can present at an unusual point of view” (ibid, 67%).

Here are some possible reflective essay topics:

“Describe the most outstanding accomplishment you have ever done” (ibid).

“Describe how you have gained new skills (painting, cycling, hiking, swimming, etc.)” (ibid).

Describe the person you loved the most and the ways you expressed the love?

Describe a situation where you refused to judge another human being.  How did withholding judgement make you feel?  (I’ve discovered that withholding judgement not only feels terrific, but it also prevents us from judging ourselves harshly.)

Describe a moment when you discovered your most tragic news.  How did you feel the first day?  The first week?  The first month?  (I’ve realized that even the most disturbing shockers can settle down into a calm new normal after about three weeks.  It just takes patience, forgiveness, and love.)

Questions to answer:

As you write your reflective essay, you may want to answer certain questions.  These questions can include the following:

“What feelings did I experience?” (ibid, 68%).

“What could I have done differently?” (ibid).

How could I best grow from the experience?

What are the best resources to help me cope?

How can I bring unconditional love into the equation?

Now that you know some of what it takes to write a personal essay, maybe you’d like to draft one.  Try it out if you haven’t already.  Just give it a thesis statement, a structure (like a normal essay), and a level of formality.  Your prof will love you for it.

I just wish I could read it—as a soul longing to learn from another soul.  I believe your reflective essay can set free a journey for all of us to relish.

EssayShark.  (2017).  Essay Becomes Easy Part I Analysis * Persuasive * Classification * Evaluation Reflective * Narrative * Compare and Contrast Essays.  [Kindle Unlimited].  Retrieved from
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