How to Write a Reflective Essay for University - College

Reflective essay meaning and how to Write a Reflective Essay for University and College. Many students, who write university or college statement of purpose (SOPs), do not know how to go about it.

Because of this, students contact college or university admission agencies or agents who offer essay writing services for a fee, and as such enriching these agencies or agents.

In order to guide students in the right way to writing essays by yourselves and save you some money, I have decided to share the following simple steps in writing a reflective essay.

But since the reflective essay that you have to write for your university / college applications make a big point in your chances of getting a university / college admission, it is of great importance to show your true authentic self in it.

Because authenticity and your personality is what the university or college admissions office is looking for.

Write a Reflective Essay for University and College
How to Write a Reflective Essay for University and College

In this article you will learn simplified step-by-step guide on how to think about what to write, and how to write any reflective essay.

When I say any reflective essay, I also mean that it includes your university, polytechnic and college application essay.

Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will feel a little less nervous about the cursor blinking on your blank white word processor page when you are face with the option of writing a reflective essay or essay on any topic.

First we need to know the meaning of reflective essay.

Reflective Essay Meaning

A reflective essay is an essay in which the writer examines his or her experiences in life. The writer then writes about those experiences, exploring how he or she has changed, developed or grown from those experiences.

You may also see: How To Write Scholarship Essay: The Perfect Guide.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Think About What To Write, And How To Write Any Reflective Essay

The steps students must take in order to write any reflective essay are list below:
  1. Think about the topic

  2. Take notes

  3. Decide who your reader is

  4. Plan a strong beginning

  5. Split the body into manageable parts

  6. Conclude strongly

  7. Read in order to write better

Let us get to understand each of the seven steps listed above.

The first on the list is;
  1. Think About The Topic

You will usually be given a topic to focus your thoughts around.

Reflective essays are about a real experience you have had, something you have imagined or envisioned for the future, a place or an object that is special to you, or something you have seen, touched, tasted, etc, that have positively or negatively impacted your life.

The first thing you should do is
  • think about the topic.

  • How did the event change you?

  • What were your feelings about the subject?

A reflective essay could be about a personal battle with low self esteem, or it could be about the pressures of college.

Or it could be about a place you went to that left a very strong impression on you.

The reflective essay will be deep. A certain level of self-awareness will make the essay more interesting to read.

You’ll be describing a process. So it is a good idea to spend some time doing other things while you think about the subject.

  1. Take notes

As and when you think of something during the imagining period, write it down.

Ideas come and go, and it is easy to forget something you have thought of earlier in the day if you do not write it or them down.

Make sure you write down all the thoughts and feelings as they come to you. You can sift through them later.

Also write down questions that come up as you think, even the ones without answers. You can add them in your essay if they look cool to be included or if they are relevant to the essay topic.

  1. Decide who your reader is

How will I decide or know my reader?

So it is advisable to ask yourself the following questions
  1. who will be reading your work?

  2. Is it your professor?

  3. The admissions officer?

  4. What are the expectations that they have from you?

The tutor or examiner who assigned the essay would have given you a set of instructions. That is what you need to think about.

At the same time, do not sideline other readers like your family, your classmates, your friends. The answers to these questions will decide the language you use.

In this day and age of political correctness, you want to make sure you are writing a gender-sensitive essay that is interesting not just to your tutor or examiner, but also to a larger audience.

  1. Plan a strong beginning

Your reflective essay will usually be organized in the classic format of having a beginning, middle and an end.

In the initial paragraphs,
  • you will or should identify what the subject is.

  • You should or will give readers a general picture of the impression the subject has made on you.

  • You will also need to write a statement in these paragraphs, a kind of thesis statement, that you will be exploring further in the essay.
Note: - A good essay will or should have a strong, clear thesis statement.

For instance, Phillip Lopate writes in the first paragraph of his essay against Joy of living,  “what rankles me is the stylization of this private condition into a bullying social ritual.” Here, He is speaking about the joy of living.

Immediately you can tell that the writer is a little hostile, a little anti-social. That is the clear-cut quality of the impression you want to make on your reader with your first paragraph and thesis statement.

  1. Split the body into manageable parts

In the first paragraph after the introduction, you do not need a distinct heading to mark the separate sections; the paragraphs should flow naturally into each other.

You should talk about the first reason the subject made an impact on you.

Talk about why and how. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer in a reflective essay, it is purely your opinions and personality that should come through.

The second paragraph should be about the second reason, and the third should be about the third reason, etc.

In this way, you can split the essay into manageable parts that flows seemly and logically.

Let us look at other ways of How to Write a Reflective Essay for University and College

You could write an essay in another way. You could introduce the event or the scene in the first paragraph and bring the event or process to life for readers.

Then in the subsequent paragraphs, you can point out the main issues or questions raised by the event.

Note: - In the final section of the body, you can talk about your opinions or thoughts on the event.

Talk about any lessons you have learnt, any ideas or insights that came to you, and what the event means to you.

  1. Conclude strongly

Your conclusion should be a summary or natural completion of your essay. It should follow from the reasoning in the previous paragraphs and convince the reader, drive home the thesis statement.

The conclusion will support the overall thesis argument and reaffirm the points you have made in the body.

There should be no new information in the conclusion. You could talk about how you have personally changed because of the subject.

In the final paragraph of his essay, Phillip Lopate calls Joy of Living “compensatory.” And he goes on to describe how he would rather express joy and gratitude – like a hunter’s awareness of the scent of the prey.

Because he cannot pretend to be joyful when he is still hungry.

  1. Read in order to write better

As a writer – or many writers – have said at various times, you only write as well as you read.

If you are curious about what a good reflective essay looks like, you may want to read up some classics. George Orwell’s Why I Write is a work you can turn to for inspiration.

Also look at Phillip Lopate’s “Against Joy of Living”, a witty and reflective essay on the writer’s dislike of ‘the knack of knowing how to live’.

Marcel Proust, the long-winded French author, is a good example of leisurely reflection, so you could read his fictional work for inspiration on how to be lyrically reflective.

But his work is also a demonstration of how not to write your college essays – don’t make them rambling or too long.

You don’t have the luxury Proust had in his novels. Be to-the-point and make sure all your ideas revolve around the question you’re trying to answer, the topic you’re exploring.

A good essay will wash over the reader like a quick and gentle wave instead of dragging them along for miles before they can see land.

Thank you for reading.  Please like, comment and share.