Reflective Essay: Outline, Structure, Meaning, and Topics

Reflective Essay: Outline, Structure, Meaning, and Topics

Let's say you are a first-year student and are just starting your journey to gain important knowledge. The first thing you need to know is the types of assignments you have to do. The point is that the educational process is closely related to paper writing. This is the best way to boost your writing skills, critical thinking, and ability to search for relevant information. One of the most common papers is a reflective essay. What is it, and where should a beginner start? Let's start with some basics. It’s quite simple.

Reflective Essay Definition and Meaning

First of all, let's define a basic reflective essay definition. It is a paper that allows students to share their experiences in life. For example, let's say you took part in Hackathon and were able to take first place by creating a useful mobile application. Then, you need to describe this experience in more detail, indicating how your participation in this forum has affected you.

How has your life changed, and what experience did you get thanks to the Hackathon? Do you plan to continue developing applications, or do you realize that you want to prove yourself in some other area? Any reflective essay means the process of reflecting your inner thoughts and organizing experiences that have influenced your attitude towards a particular life situation or general goals.

What Can Students Write About?

So now you know the basic definition and are ready for the next step. It's time to decide what you are going to write about. As a rule, this type of assignment will not cause a headache, but you need to know a few important nuances. This is what you can write about in college or university.

  1. Your real experience.
  2. Something you imagined.
  3. A specific object, location, or country.
  4. Something you read, seen, or heard about.

As you can see, you are not limited to certain boundaries. The format of your essay even allows you to write about what you ate for breakfast, how delicious your dish was, and what emotions you experienced while eating. However, you should not forget about the academic level and that this paper should not be too personal.

How Do You Structure Such a Paper?

Now let's focus on one of the most important aspects. What are the reflective essay structure requirements? Well, you have nothing to worry about since such an assignment is practically indistinguishable from a classic 500-word essay. Here are the key points you need to know about.

  1. Intro. Typically, your first paragraph is the place to identify your subject. Also, you should make a general overview and describe the emotions that you experienced. Remember to include your thesis statement as the starting point for your entire assignment.
  2. Example Thesis: "Why was I feeling such a strong adrenaline rush and enthusiasm when my application allowed me to take first place in the Hackathon? I realized it was because my skills were much better than my opponents."
  3. Body paragraphs. Here you should indicate the reason why some subject impressed you. Do not be afraid to make a mistake because this paper does not imply right and wrong answers. Typically, you will need to state one reflective reason in each paragraph and explain the source for your emotions.
  4. Conclusion. This is the final part of your paper, which should be the logical conclusion of your thoughts. Summarize all of the above and write your final sentence.

As you can see, such an assignment is not very different from a classic essay, so you have nothing to worry about. All you need to do is adhere to the basic structure and follow all parts of your assignment so that your paper matches your professor's requirements.

Writing a Solid Reflective Essay Outline

Sometimes it is difficult for beginners to cope with such an assignment, even despite the classic structure. This is why you should always pay attention to a good sample outline. Then you will not have any questions about where to start and how to comply with your professor's requirements.

Topic: Influence of Hackathon on My Personality


Use a hook or catchy statement, and also don't forget your thesis statement.

Body Section 1

My impressions of the first day at Hackathon and the mobile app development process.

Body Section 2

Completion of application development and testing process.

Body Section 3

My emotions during the award ceremony and the presentation of my mobile app.



This is the place to re-mentioning your thesis statement, ideas, and a closing sentence.

This is a rough sample that you can take as an example for your paper. Of course, depending on your professor's requirements, the total number of paragraphs and individual sub-paragraphs may vary. But even this sample will be enough to understand the general specifics and basic requirements.

How Do You Write Such a Paper?

Pick a Topic Idea

Generally, most professors don't mind students getting creative and finding an original topic. Think about something that delighted, surprised, or made you think about certain subjects, life moments, or people. For example, you can describe your reunion with your partner and the moment you realize that the person you truly love reciprocates.

Study Your Subject

Since such a paper is based on your thoughts, emotions, and impressions, your main task is to immerse yourself in your memories. So, first, think about your topic and what exactly sparked your emotions. Typically, it may take you 5 to 10 minutes to remember some details and get started.


This is exactly the stage when you need to activate all your memories and identify the entire palette of emotions. What if your experience is with a visit to the beach? Then you should remember the warm sand, the cool sea, the cries of seagulls, and the light breeze that oxygenates your lungs. Remember all those aspects that will help you write your essay.

Pick The Main Questions

Such an assignment involves forming 3-4 key questions that will help you convey the entire palette of emotions and impressions. Think about what questions will be most relevant and will help you reveal your topic. Here's a shortlist with generic examples.

  1. What made me feel delighted and admired?
  2. What situations have influenced my character and attitude towards the people around me?
  3. What allowed me to look at life from a different angle?
  4. What is the subtext of an incident that happened to me recently?
  5. Can I use this experience to make my life better?

As you can see, all these questions are quite simple, and you do not have to spend a lot of time to reveal the essence of your topic. Therefore, as a rule, such a paper will not take much time. First, however, you need to think carefully about each question and make a perfect list for your assignment.

Answer Those Questions

Now it's time to answer the questions you have chosen. Do not worry. This task does not involve correct and incorrect answers. Your job is to broadcast your emotions and describe your experience. You are free to choose any words to describe your condition and actions. Here are some examples to help you.

  1. What did I notice? "I heard a thunderclap and a bright flash over my head. Lightning hit a pine tree and broke the trunk in half at its bottom. I smelled burning wood and thought that I was very lucky."
  2. What does this event mean to me? "It seems to me that luck has smiled at me, since I did not die from an electric shock. For me, this means an opportunity to rethink my whole life and be more careful. Usually, I really like to walk during a thunderstorm and do not worry about my own safety."
  3. How did the lightning shape my life? "I have become a more careful and rational person. Of course, I still love extreme mountain travel. However, I no longer risk my life as there are people who are very dear to me and I don't want to let them down."

It usually doesn't take you too long to come up with answers. You don't even need to look for reliable sources, especially if you describe your experiences and emotions. All you need is direct answers and strict adherence to the structure of your paper.

Identify the Meaning of Your Experience

Think about what was the key feature of the event that affected you. This will be a good springboard for your thesis. Take some time to identify the most important aspects. This will make it easier for you to focus on the key events and outcomes of your experience.

Example: "I realized that my family is my most important achievement and I want to spend every minute with them. My parents, brothers, and sisters are the most valuable people I have, and every minute of my life I thank God for this invaluable experience."

50 Interesting Topics for Good Reflective Essays

Reflective Essay Topics on the Relationship

Almost every person has ever faced emotions and had tender feelings for someone. There is nothing easier and more interesting than describing what you have ever experienced. However, you need to understand that you must adhere to an academic framework and not write about extremely personal aspects.

  1. The Person Who Influenced My Worldview
  2. My First Relationship and Emotional Attachment
  3. The Person Who Changed My Whole Life
  4. The Story of Meeting My Best Friend
  5. My Emotions and Experiences During Parting With My Partner
  6. The Time When I Was Responsible for Someone Close to Me
  7. My Experience of Communicating With Foreigners and Finding New Friends
  8. The Day I Met Someone Special
  9. The Story of My Trip With Friends Abroad
  10. The Time When I Thought That True Love Does Not Exist

The choice of such topics does not have to be related to love or affection for any person. You can also describe your emotions from socializing and spending time with another person. For example, your paper might be about a story or an interesting incident that impressed you.

Topics on Personality and Character Features

Since you already know the reflective essay meaning, you can concentrate on your character and personality traits. Let's say your professor wants to know something about your life or deeds. Here are ten options for making good paper. These topics will help you find the right vector to reveal your character.

  1. My Deepest Desires
  2. Actions That Characterize Me as a Person
  3. My Vision of Fairness and Justice
  4. Actions That I Consider the Most Correct in My Life
  5. My Innermost Dreams and Goals for the Next Five Years
  6. Things That Help Me Stay Confident
  7. Skills Characterize Me as a Hardworking Person
  8. Why Do I Love the Truth and Hate the Lie?
  9. My Phobias and Things That I Want to Change in My Life
  10. Actions That I Am Not Proud of and Condemn

Don't be afraid to describe any situations where you made mistakes or acted spontaneously. Your essay aims to show the personal growth, emotions, and experiences that you have received due to any event. Your task is to show what you have learned and whether you can avoid any negative aspects in the future.

Topics on Entertainment and Place-Visiting

Such topics are related to your emotions from visiting a place or country. Feel free to describe your childhood feelings or recent experiences. For example, let's say you have long dreamed of getting to Disneyland, but your parents did not have time. What if you visited this amazing place as a student? Describe the palette of emotions and satisfaction that came to you in the first minute. Pay attention to those aspects that were characteristic of the place that you saw.

  1. The Day I First Visited Disneyland
  2. My First Experience of Climbing to the Top of the Mountain
  3. My History of Dating With Facebook and Creating an Account
  4. My Favorite Secret Place for Relaxation and Seclusion
  5. A Place That Allows Me to Regain My Strength and Abstract From Reality
  6. My Memories of a Country House and Communication With Friends
  7. The Day I Went on a Trip Around the World
  8. The Coffee Shop Where I Spend All My Free Time
  9. The Shops Made an Indelible Impression on Me
  10. Locations That Make Me Feel Happy

Since this paper aims to broadcast your experience and emotions, you can describe the delight or surprise you felt while visiting a certain location. For example, point out how your sense of self has changed after your trip abroad, visiting a nature reserve or an underground bunker.

Topics on Everyday Life Moments

Any insignificant moments in life can have a strong impact on your perception of reality and the people around you. Describe your brightest emotions associated with certain events and a chain of actions. For example, you can concentrate on your day of going to college or meeting friends. Feel free to choose personal topics, but remember that your assignment is subject to certain academic constraints.

  1. The Day I Met My Best Friends
  2. My Emotions After Watching a Movie or Reading a Book
  3. A Chance Acquaintance That Changed My Perception of the World
  4. People Who Help to Feel Happy Every Day
  5. The Best Picnic in the Mountains With My Best Friends
  6. The Song Made Me Think About the Meaning of My Existence
  7. A Letter From an Old Friend That Helped Me Cope With Depression
  8. A Dessert That Made a Positive Impression on Me
  9. My Morning Walk in the Park Alone
  10. My Experience of Survival in the Rainforest Without Outside Help

The main advantage of these topics is that you can concentrate on even the smallest points. You don't have to try to describe a big event or make a cautionary tale. Instead, your emotions and experiences are paramount, even if you're describing going to the cinema or your daily shopping.

Topics on First Experience and Significant Events

The first experience and your emotions from any event is a great option for your topic. For example, you can focus on your achievements as a student or mention the days when you first made significant progress in your endeavors. In any case, these ten options will be useful to you to understand the direction in which you need to move.

  1. My First Experience of Piloting an Airplane
  2. The Day I Bought My First Car and Motorcycle
  3. My Emotions and Impressions After Meeting International Students
  4. The Day I Got My Dream Job
  5. My First Trip to a Deserted Island
  6. My Prom and Goodbye to My Friends
  7. My First Success as a Speaker Was During a Scientific Conference
  8. The Day I Finished My Student Project for the First Time
  9. First Date and Impressions of Communicating With Someone Special
  10. The Day I Created My First Mobile Application

Since the focus is shifted to your experience and initial emotions, you don't have to worry about choosing significant events. What if you heard a rock song for the first time, and it made a lasting impression on you? Perhaps you experienced positive emotions during your first river cruise. Don't be afraid to show your emotions, experiences, and general impressions, because your essay is designed just for this purpose.