7. Narrative Essay

Prompt: Recall an event in your educational history* that has changed you in some way. Explain the event and the impact it had on you.

*******************Your essay will be a minimum of 800 words.*******************


Step 1. Choose the event. You want to write about something that you can remember, since you have to describe it. It should also be something that was important in some way.

Step 2. Write down what you remember about the event. What do you remember most clearly? Why? List the most important parts of the event, and put them in chronological order. Read through them, and decide what MUST be included in your essay and what can be deleted.

Step 3. After you have decided what should be included in your essay, write down the details and descriptions. If you were nervous about watching an autopsy, for example, describe what you were thinking and doing, and how being nervous affected you. Describe how you felt. Explain how this incident has changed or affected you.


Step 1. Introduction — put your thesis in context. You want to use this paragraph to set the stage for your thesis, since it will be the last sentence of this paragraph. You are writing about an important moment in your educational life, so you can take multiple paths — explain your former attitude to education, your struggles/comfort level with school, your family’s attitudes towards education. Does this paragraph prepare the reader to understand the rest of the essay? This is what you want to do in your introduction. Your last sentence, the thesis, will direct the process of your essay: “When I observed a live autopsy in my biology class, it made me realize that I wanted to be a forensic pathologist.”

Step 2. Body — the body of the essay will be the logical narration of the event and the explanation of why it was important. You will NOT say, “The day I watched a live autopsy was important and changed my life.” That is boring, and it does not tell the reader much at all. In the body of your essay, you will elaborate on your thesis. What details of that event on that day were most memorable? Why were they memorable? Why were they important? What was most important about them? You will spend the body of the essay (at least 3 paragraphs) telling your readers 1. what happened up until the event and how you felt about it, 2. the event itself and the immediate aftermath and how you felt about it, and 3. the was that this event affected or changed you, which includes what you are doing now and what you might do in the future. Remember that these readers do not know you. You need to include information that will help them know you and why this event is important to you.

Step 3. Conclusion — revisit your thesis. “Watching an autopsy was a pivotal moment in my life, and it directed my academic focus towards a career in forensic science.” Remind your readers of your event, and remind them of its importance. Do not use the same words that you used in the introduction — remember that a narrative is a way of telling a story, and do not use the same words over and over again. Because it is boring.


1. Use slang and informal language. Yes, you are telling a story. You are NOT using conversational English to do it, however. You are not sitting in your dorm room telling your friends this story. You are writing it down for other people to read. Formal English provokes the reader to think and sounds professional and adult. You do not want your essay to sound like people who are just sitting around and talking.

2. Use any form of the word “you.” You are telling your story to a wide variety of unknown readers, and you do not know them well enough to say something like, “When you take a major test, you always find it hard to eat beforehand.” Not everyone feels that way, and you do not want your essay to make assumptions about your readers.

3. Use any contractions. They are considered informal language. These include can’t, won’t, isn’t, it’s, I’ll, I’d, I’ve, they’re, don’t, weren’t….if it has an apostrophe, it may be a contraction and needs to be broken down — cannot, will not, is not, it is, I will, I would, I have, they are, do not, were not. If it has an apostrophe and it is a possessive word (mother’s car, student’s book, school’s policy) then it is fine.

4. Use any dialogue in your essay. Instead of trying to quote someone (The test proctor said, “Everyone put away your notes.”), paraphrase it — The test proctor told us to put away our notes.

*this could be something like having a teacher who sparked your interest in a particular subject, writing a paper that went well for you, taking the ACT, etc. It must have some element connected to learning, however. It cannot be sports-related.