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Reflective Essay Writing Prompts

A reflective essay calls on the writer to express your own views of an experience.

Sometimes, reflective writing will ask you to think more deeply about a book, movie, musical work, or piece of art. Other times, the topics will invite you to reflect on a personal encounter or other experience.

These four reflective essay prompts for high school students are more personal in nature. For your essay, choose a topic that speaks to you the most.

1. The Wind Beneath My Wings

A role model is a person you look up to—someone you respect or admire more than anyone else. Who is your role model?Your grandpa? Youth pastor? Coach? What have you learned from this person? Which of their character qualities or traits do you hope to one day have yourself? Write an essay explaining how this individual has influenced who you are today.

2. Can I Get a Do-Over?

By the time you reach high school, you have already experienced some of life’s ups and downs. You’ve seized some great opportunities and turned your back on others. Though you’ve made good choices, you have also made poor ones. You’ve both rejected and heeded good advice. Looking back, surely there are things you wish you had done differently. Write an essay sharing your most important piece of advice with a younger sibling or friend.

3. The Time of My Life

Have you lived or traveled overseas? Held an interesting or unusual job? Participated in a sport that challenged you physically and mentally? Think about an unusual experience or incident from your life. Write a reflective essay explaining how that experience has impacted you and caused you to grow as a person.

4. Picking Yourself Up

No one is immune to failure—scientists, authors, athletes, surgeons, and great leaders can all recount times of falling flat on their faces. Describe a time when you failed at something, and write a short essay explaining what you learned from this experience.

If you enjoyed these reflective essay topics for high school, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for teens, such as:

Compare and Contrast Essay Prompts

Persuasive Essay Prompts

Expository Essay Topics

Do you remember the Mirror of Erised? You know… the one from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone–the one that shows you your deepest desire. Now imagine standing in front of that mirror. What would you see?

Photo by Rev Stan via flickr

If you wrote an essay in response to that question, it would be considered–much like a mirror–to be a reflective essay. The choices of reflective essay topics are limitless. They can relate to yourself, your surroundings, events that have happened in your life, and hypothetical questions.

To get you started thinking about what makes for good reflective essay topics, I’ll give you some tips and 15 real examples you can use for your own essay.

First of All, What Is a Reflective Essay?

I’m glad you asked!

A reflective essay prompts you  to analyze and write about your life, personality, and/or experiences. Reflective essays are much less academic than argumentative or analytical essays, and the structure of these essays can vary, but don’t let that fool you. They still take a lot of effort, concentration, planning, and good writing to make it worthwhile for yourself and the reader.

So now that we have the technical definition out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff!

What to Consider When Choosing a Reflective Essay Topic

Choosing just the right reflective essay topic can be a challenge, but here are a few guidelines to help you in that process.

  1. Choose a topic on a subject you know.
    Because reflective essay topics usually focus on some aspect of your life, it will be easier to write an essay about a topic that you have a lot of experience with. If you’ve never owned a pet, for example, don’t choose a topic relating to your favorite childhood pet. This may sound like silly advice, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t follow it.
  2. Pick a reflective essay topic that interests you.
    You probably know a lot of information based off of both studying and personal experiences, and you could use that knowledge to write about something that completely bores you. But if you’re bored when you’re writing the essay, think about how your readers will feel. So, if possible, choose a topic that you can get excited about or emotionally attached to.
  3. Pick a topic that you can approach from a unique angle.
    This is especially important in college admissions essays (a large portion of which are reflective essays). Whether it be the admissions board or your instructor, your readers don’t want to see the same answer that anyone else could have written. Picking a topic that allows you to write something unique will show off your personality and will be more interesting both to write and to read.

Now that you know the basics behind choosing your reflective essay topics, I’ll give you some more concrete help. I divided the topics into three categories–self, events, and relationships.

5 Reflective Essay Topics about Yourself

Image by Guy Rose via Wikimedia Commons

You are the person who knows you best, and that can make it both simple and difficult to write about yourself. When presented with these types of reflective essay topics, it’s easy to think about a lot of different answers. Try to narrow your focus to just one response–the one that will really wow your readers.

  1. How have you overcome adversity?
  2. What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
  3. What is your biggest fear?
  4. What would you consider to be your greatest weakness?
  5. What do you like most about yourself?

5 Reflective Essay Topics about Events

Photo by Bertrand via Wikimedia Commons

Events present a treasure trove of reflective essay topics to choose from. After all, life is just a series of events, and the ones that you remember most vividly are the ones that will make the best essays. When writing about events, vivid details can make the reader feel that he or she is right there with you. Try to include why the event is significant or what you learned from it.

  1. Tell about your most exciting vacation.
  2. What is your favorite holiday memory?
  3. Tell of a time when you got lost.
  4. What was your first date like?
  5. What was your first job experience?

5 Reflective Essay Topics about Relationships with Others

Photo by Rhoda Baer via Wikimedia Commons

Life is not a journey you take alone. The bonds you build with other people affect the type of person you become. When writing an essay using these types of reflective essay topics, you’ll want to show the interaction between you and the other person, and how the person has altered your life.

  1. Who do you admire most?
  2. What is the most hurtful thing someone has said to you?
  3. Tell of a time when you had to break off a friendship.
  4. What is the top quality you look for in a friend?
  5. Describe your relationship with a family member.

So What Are Reflective Essays Good for Anyway?

Writing a reflective essay is something you should work hard to perfect, not only to get a good grade in class, but for several other reasons:

  • As stated above, most college admissions essays are reflective. They want to know about you as a person and not just you as a transcript.
  • Reflective essay topics are similar to some of the questions you may be asked in a job interview, especially the topics about yourself. Writing about these topics gives you lot of practice, so when the time for interviewing comes, you’ll be prepared and confident in your answers.
  • These essays let you learn more about yourself. Sometimes you may not know what your proudest moment was or what kind of influence someone has had on your life because you’ve never really thought about it before. Writing a reflective essay gives you a reason and a way to get to know yourself better.

So, you see, this is not just about academics, writing a reflective essay is one of those things you learn in school that actually has a larger purpose. And starting early will make your writing all the better.

Hopefully you are beginning to get a better grasp on how to choose from the endless types of reflective essay topics and maybe even a better idea of how to start writing your essay. If you’re stuck, unsure, or just need an extra pair of eyes to check out your writing, the Kibin editors are always here to help.

Now, take a look back in that Mirror of Erised. You see yourself totally killing it on your reflective essay, don’t you? Now it’s time to make that a reality!

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