Personal narrative essays are all about telling stories. Engage your reader with lots of descriptive language, and ensure you have a beginning, middle, and end. (Get more tips about teaching narrative writing here.) Try these personal narrative ideas to inspire kids and teens to tell meaningful stories from their own lives, no matter what they’ve experienced.
“Describe a Time When You …” Personal Narrative Ideas
These personal narrative ideas urge students to dig into their past experiences and share them with their audience. Be sure to share the details, including what took place and how it made you feel, and anything you learned from the experience.
Describe a time when you:
- Were scared
- Overcame a big challenge
- Learned an important life lesson
- Had to make a difficult decision
- Were proud of a friend or family member
- Did something you didn’t want to and ended up liking it
- Met a celebrity or someone you really admire
- Tried something new
- Made a mistake and had to apologize and/or fix the mistake
- Were in danger
- Helped someone in need
- Had a dream come true
- Got lost
- Felt inspired
- Felt sad
- Had a really terrible day
- Were a leader
- Made someone else laugh
- Did something you later regretted
- Set a goal and achieved it
Firsts and Bests Personal Narrative Ideas
These essay topics explore the times you did something for the first time ever, or when you were the best version of yourself.
- Write about meeting your best friend for the first time and how your relationship developed.
- Tell about learning to ride a bike or drive a car.
- Tell about your proudest moment.
- What is your happiest memory?
- What is your earliest memory?
- Explain what it’s like to move to a new town or start a new school.
- What’s the best (or worst!) vacation you’ve ever taken?
- Tell the story of the time you got your first pet.
- Describe your favorite field trip of all time.
- Tell the story of your first day of kindergarten.
- What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
- Describe the best party or celebration you’ve ever attended.
- Tell about the first time someone ever paid you for work (first job, chores for a neighbor, babysitting, etc.) and how it made you feel.
- Describe the first time you spent a night away from home without your family.
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given?
General Personal Narrative Essay Ideas
Here are more personal narrative topics to inspire young writers.
- Describe a performance or sporting event you took part in.
- Explain the process of cooking and eating your favorite meal.
- Write about a time when you or someone you know displayed courage.
- Share the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you.
- Describe a time when you or someone you know experienced prejudice or oppression.
- Explain a family tradition, how it developed, and its importance today.
- What is your favorite holiday? How does your family celebrate it?
- Describe your morning routine from the time you wake up until the moment the school bell rings to start the day.
- Share what you do on a typical non-school day.
- Tell about a time when you were injured. How did it happen?
- Describe an argument you and a friend had and how you resolved it.
- Tell about what you think your life will be like when you’re 25 years old.
- Explore a time when you felt you were treated unfairly.
- What makes your family different from everyone else’s family?
- If you could relive any day in your life, what would it be? Would you want it to be the same or different?
College Essay Personal Narrative Ideas
These personal narrative essay topics all come from real 2022–2023 college applications. (See more college essay prompts here.)
- Discuss a time when reflection or introspection led to clarity or understanding of an issue that is important to you.
- Share an example of how you have used your own critical-thinking skills on a specific subject, project, idea, or interest.
- Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you.
- Reflect on a personal experience where you intentionally expanded your cultural awareness.
- When was the last time you questioned something you had thought to be true?
- Reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
- Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
- Describe a time when you were challenged by a perspective that differed from your own. How did you respond?
- Elaborate on an activity or experience you have had that made an impact on a community that is important to you.
- Describe any meaningful travel experiences you’ve had.
- Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.
- What is the greatest compliment you have ever been given? Why was it meaningful to you?
- What has been your best academic experience in the last two years, and what made it so good?
- Describe a time when you’ve felt empowered or represented by an educator.
- Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.