Breaking the blank page: How to get started with reflective writing in college
What is reflection?
A personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information. There is no right or wrong way to respond.
Reflection is not:
- A summary of course notes
- Only information about descriptions of events/experiences
- A simple decision about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong
Why should I care?
You will find reflective writing in:
- Service learning courses and internships
- Classroom assignments
- Cover letters for jobs
- And more!
Where do I start?
Well, that depends on your prompt! Here is an example prompt that you may need to answer for a personal essay, or as part of an assignment for a service learning position or internship:
Describe a major challenge that you have had to face and the steps you took to overcome the challenge. How has confronting the challenge made you a better person, student, or employee?
In a reflective writing prompt, certain phrases will tell you to provide a personal response. These phrase are bolded because they ask for a description about what has changed or what has been learned.
Questions to think about
Once you have decided which challenge you would like to talk about in your paper, you have some important questions to think about.
- What did I learn?
- How did my views change?
- Is this important to me? Why or why not?
- Did anything surprise me? Why or why not?
Once you have reflected on the experience or information requested by the prompt, you can start to create sentences for your essay!
Reflective sentence templates and examples
Reflective Essay Introduction
Your introduction is a chance to share a key idea and something about yourself.
- Before ____, I had never ____. = Before my internship, I had never worked in an office.
- ____ provided me with valuable experiences in ____ = An internship with Capital One provided me with valuable experiences in an office setting.
Reflective Essay Body
Here are some examples of how you might build reflect phrases in the body of your reflective essay.
- I have + improved + my ability to ______ = I have improved my ability to communicate.
- Having + learned _____, + I now + realize _______ = Having learned how to organize files, I now realize I enjoy it.
- I have + developed + my knowledge of _______ = I have developed my knowledge of how an office runs.
- This knowledge + is + important + to me in the workplace because ______ = This knowledge is important to me in the workplace because I will know what to expect.
Reflective Essay Conclusion
Your conclusion is a chance to sum up your reflective essay.
- Now that I have completed _____, I have new _____ skills. = Now that I have completed my internship at VCU, I have new office skills.
- I am grateful for _____ and for my experiences in _____. = I am grateful for my internship with Capital One and for my experiences in an office setting.