University Writing Center Blog

Posted on April 24th, 2019 in Thematics, Writing Strategies by University Writing Center

Written by: Anna K.

Of all types of writing, reflective writing is by far my favorite. So frequently I can be overwhelmed by projects and a busy schedule that I don’t slow down and really consider how a certain experience impacted me or what I really learned from it. Reflection essays are a time for me to do that! It can also be a time to process a really unpleasant experience in a healthy way. Whether it be a required project for a class or simply a personal exercise, reflective essays can be beneficial. So often however, it can be a challenge to know what to put into a reflective essay or even where to start.

There are so many options and aspects of an experience that one can write about an experience. The following are some general ideas to get you started on writing a reflective essay. Each is followed by a handful of questions to help get your thoughts flowing.

–Emotional impact

Consider writing about how your experience impacted you emotionally and be specific about what made you feel that way.

Prompting Questions:

  1. How did you feel about the experience or project when it first began? Why?
  2. How did you feel about the experience while it was on-going? Why?
  3. Did you notice any shifts in your feelings about the project as time went on?
  4. What caused those changes? How do you feel about the project now that it is over?

–Cognitive changes

Consider writing how your thoughts or opinions about X changed (or were backed-up) as a result of your experience. This is especially helpful if you were asked how the experience addressed any stereotypes or biases towards something.

Prompting Questions:

  1. What did you think about X before the experience? Why did you think this?
  2. What did you learn about X? Was anything surprising or different from what you had expected?
  3. How did this experience change what you thought about X? What caused the change?
  4.   How did this experience compare to similar experiences you’ve had?


Consider writing about what skills you gained as a result of this project/ class/ experience.

Prompting Questions:

  1. Did you learn something new?
  2. If not, did you have a chance to refine your skills or review past knowledge?
  3. How do the skills you learned from X apply to your life immediately?
  4. How do the skills you learned from X apply to your life in the future- potentially in a job or career?

–What would you do different or the same if you could re-do X

Consider writing about what you would change if you could re-do X.

Prompting Questions:

  1. What worked well in your project? Why?  
  2. What did not work well? Why?
  3. How did you problem solve during the project?
  4. What turned out how you expected? / What didn’t? Why?

If you know you have a reflective essay coming up (or you plan to start writing them regularly), it can be helpful to grab a notebook or your phone and take notes during an experience. This can help prompt your memory when you sit down to actually write.

Remember, reflection essays are meant to be personal. There are no wrong answers in reflective essays because, unlike a lot of other college essays, they are meant to be full of opinions and personal thoughts. Use I, me, mine, and be honest about your experiences! Happy writing!