100 Reflective Essay Topic Ideas

Updated on September 2, 2019
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Reflective Essays

Describe an experience, event, conversation, or moment in time.

Explain the meaning of that experience or what you learned.

6 Writing Tips for Reflective Essays

  1. Look at the list of topics and pick one that brings up a vivid memory.
  2. Start by describing that experience so that someone else feels they were there.
  3. Your thesis will be the meaning of that experience.
  4. Answer one or more of the "Questions to Help You Develop Your Essay" (scroll down towards the end of this article to find that list) to write the body of your paper.

  5. Conclude by stating what you have learned or what you think the main meaning of this experience is, or by using an analogy.
  6. See my other article, How to Write a Reflective Essay, for step-by-step instructions as well as sample essays.

Relationship Essays: Write about finding a photo you had not seen before which gave you a new viewpoint on a person or situation.
Relationship Essays: Write about finding a photo you had not seen before which gave you a new viewpoint on a person or situation. | Source


Relationships are where we often feel the strongest emotions, which make this topic easy to write about and describe. Moreover, reflective writing about relationships can help us understand and sometimes resolve our feelings.

  1. A conversation when you became very angry.
  2. A time when you were disappointed or discouraged by something someone said.
  3. When someone showed you that they were proud of you.
  4. A moment when you knew you were in love.
  5. When you first met a new family member.
  6. The birth of a child, or the adoption of a child or sibling.
  7. Watching an elderly loved one lose memory through dementia.
  8. When you told someone that you were sorry.
  9. A time you were embarrassed.
  10. When you lied and tried to hide your lie, or were confronted with it.
  11. A time you wanted something that belonged to someone else.
  12. A confrontation with a teacher, boss, or another person in authority.
  13. When your parents punished you unfairly.
  14. A time when you cried and someone comforted you, or you comforted someone else.
  15. Playing with friends when you were a child.
  16. A time you most felt like you were a sister or a brother.
  17. When you helped someone else or you were helped.
  18. A family reunion, or when you met relatives you did not know.
  19. A special trip you shared with someone else.
  20. A moment when you laughed with someone and couldn't stop.
  21. When you knew your parent (or grandparent, or coach) was not perfect.
  22. When you spoke in front of a group of people, or read something you wrote out loud.
  23. A time you spent with friends without parental supervision.
  24. When you shared a secret with someone, or when someone told you a secret.
  25. When someone made you scared.

Nature Memories: Write about spending time in your garden or out in a field of wildflowers.
Nature Memories: Write about spending time in your garden or out in a field of wildflowers. | Source

Nature Topics

Often, moments in nature startle us into an experience of life as something deeper and more meaningful. An experience in nature can be an actual memory, or it can be an imaginary placing of yourself in a setting you have only dreamed about or seen in pictures.

  1. Watching the ocean with your feet buried in the sand.
  2. Looking at a sunset.
  3. Sitting at the top of a hill, looking down over a valley.
  4. Watching a bird flying in the sky.
  5. Smelling a flower.
  6. Picking berries.
  7. Walking in a forest.
  8. Climbing up a mountain.
  9. Playing in the sand at the seashore.
  10. Swimming in a lake.
  11. Crossing a bridge and looking out over the water.
  12. Skiing down a hill with the wind blowing in your face.
  13. Running outdoors.
  14. Hiking along a trail.
  15. Playing in mud.
  16. Walking in the rain.
  17. Walking through sand dunes.
  18. Hiking through a desert.
  19. Backpacking in the mountains.
  20. Rock climbing.
  21. Hunting.
  22. Walking through an historic battlefield.
  23. Sitting or walking through a field of wildflowers.
  24. Watching birds build a nest.
  25. Seeing a snake, spider, or other insect.
  26. Encountering a deer or other wild animal.
  27. Watching animals at a zoo.
  28. Playing with your dog, cat, or other pet.
  29. Watching a coming storm, hurricane, or tornado.
  30. Experiencing an earthquake or another natural disaster.

Place Experiences: Write about spending time at your favorite coffee shop or other cafe.
Place Experiences: Write about spending time at your favorite coffee shop or other cafe. | Source

Significant Places

Sometimes a place evokes strong emotions and memories. Here are some places that can make good topics:

  1. Your room growing up, or your bedroom now.
  2. The town where you grew up.
  3. A school you attended or a particular classroom, lunch spot, or place you hung out with friends.
  4. The mall or your favorite store.
  5. A place that you have worked, or work now.
  6. Your grandparents' house or the house of a neighbor or friend.
  7. A bookstore or coffee shop.
  8. Your car, a bus, subway, ferry, or train. Or maybe your bike or skateboard.
  9. An amusement park.
  10. A playground, ballpark, or another place you've played sports.
  11. A skating or ice skating rink.
  12. Your favorite restaurant, or a restaurant where you had a memorable experience.
  13. A vacation spot that you remember in particular.
  14. Where you work or a place where you do work at home, like an office or garage.
  15. Your online spaces like social media sites, web pages, or blogs.

Reflective Essay Poll

What type of experiences are most meaningful to you?

See results
Reflecting Events Essay: Father and son choir performance.
Reflecting Events Essay: Father and son choir performance. | Source

Important Events

Both ordinary and special events can make good reflection paper topics. Sometimes, it can be very helpful to reflect on an event that happens regularly (like a birthday) to think about that event's meaning in your life. On the other hand, once-in-a-lifetime events (like a special vacation or a wedding) can also be turning points which make good essays.

  1. Holidays like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentines, 4th of July, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, or St. Patrick's Day.
  2. Visiting a museum or zoo.
  3. Ordinary daily events like getting ready in the morning, doing laundry, studying with friends, walking the dog, or making dinner.
  4. A birthday party for you or someone else.
  5. Remodeling of your house, apartment, or street.
  6. When the electricity or water was not working.
  7. A bad snowstorm, flood, or other bad weather event.
  8. A neighborhood party or a time you spent time talking with neighbors.
  9. An award ceremony, a concert, or a play.
  10. Taking food or offering help to someone who is sick or who has lost a relative.
  11. Going to church or other place of worship.
  12. Going on a trip or vacation.
  13. Moving to a new city.
  14. Starting a new job, or going to a new school.
  15. Getting your first car, your first paycheck, or your first job.
  16. Getting engaged or married.
  17. A time when you were lost.
  18. Something you made that you were proud of.
  19. A sporting event you took part in or watched.
  20. Going out on a special date.
  21. A surprise that you gave to someone else or that other people gave to you.
  22. A gift that was not what you expected.
  23. Eating something that you did not like.
  24. Being sick, going to the hospital, or a doctor's or dentist's visit that was unpleasant.
  25. A memorable dream or nightmare you had.
  26. When your computer crashed or you lost something you valued.
  27. A time when you were robbed, or when you were victimized in some way.
  28. A time when you stood up for the rights of someone else.
  29. When you had a day off from school or work, or when you played "hooky" and didn't do your regular responsibilities.
  30. A time that you ran for an office, or when you voted the first time.

How to Write Reflection Essay

Questions to Help You Develop Your Essay

Develop the reflective aspects of your essay by answering one or more of the following questions. The answer can be your thesis. Use the follow-up questions to help you give details to fill out your paragraph.

  1. What emotions did I feel? Why?
  2. What did I especially notice? What made me see that?
  3. What is the meaning of this experience? How do I know this?
  4. Was there something that surprised me? What caused this?
  5. What did I learn from this? Are there some changes I need to make?
  6. What past experiences are similar to this one? How is this experience the same or different from previous times?
  7. How does this make me think about the future?
  8. Have I changed because of this? How? Is this good or bad?
  9. In what way was this a turning point for me?
  10. What could I have done differently?
  11. Is this an analogy for something else? What metaphors or similes occur to me?
  12. How can I use this experience to help someone else?
  13. What really happened? Is that different from what I thought was happening at the time?
  14. How can I apply what I've learned to my life or career?
  15. What skills did I learn through this?
  16. What questions did this make me ask?
  17. In what way was I challenged to think differently about social class, race, gender, or faith?
  18. How has this changed the way I think?

How is Reflective Writing Used?

Reflections essays can be written about real experiences or imaginary ones. They help you to learn and apply experiences to your life. Here are some examples:

  1. In English class, you may be asked to write a reflection essay about a novel, poem, or movie so that you will understand how that piece of literature interacts with your own experiences, or to show what you've learned from it.
  2. In a history class, you may be asked to write reflectively about the meaning of a historical event.
  3. Medical students and nursing students may write about their experiences with patients so that they can learn how to be more sensitive to the needs of the people they treat.
  4. In a psychology or religion class, you may write a reflective essay to help you grow personally in your understanding of yourself and your beliefs.
  5. Journal writing, whether it is done in a class or on your own, is often a kind of reflective writing if it both records what has happened along with what you think about those events.

Questions & Answers

  • How do I write a reflective essay on the topic "What many old people don't understand?"

    Start with a story about a situation when you were misunderstood by an older person. Then your thesis will be "What many people don't understand is...." The rest of your reflection will explain why the older people don't understand and your meaning will be to explain how your generation is different or how it is actually the same as the older generation but acting in different circumstances. For example, perhaps your story is about a grandmother criticising your use of texting and social media to contact friends. You can then talk about how this use of technology has helped or hurt one or more of your friendships. You could even include a comparison with how your friendships and your grandmother's friendships with people at your age are either the same or different (or talk about both similarities and differences). Then your conclusion could be what you learned about yourself and your friendships by thinking about these similarities and differences. You might conclude that your grandmother and her friends had better friendships, or perhaps you will conclude that your friendships are similar but just use a different method of communication.

  • How do I write a reflective essay about the topic of going to church or other places of worship?

    In any reflective essay, you are going to be comparing your previous knowledge (gained through reading, personal experiences or general knowledge) of the topic (usually a person, place or experience) with the current experience. Often the easiest way to organize this is to use the introduction to tell about your expectations based on your previous knowledge. Your thesis statement will be the main impression you have of this church or place of worship after attending. That thesis will usually either confirm your previous experience or contrast with that experience. Here are some samples:

    Contrast: Although I generally had thought of a church as a boring place to go, this church service was interesting, lively and left me with a feeling of peace and contentment.

    Confirmation: My previous experiences in church had made me think of worship as something that calmed my soul and this experience confirmed that feeling.

    The body of your paper will explain what happened when you attended and use rich sensory images to describe what you see, hear, feel, smell and think about this moment. The second part of the body section will explain the meaning of this experience in your life. A good conclusion would be to tell whether this experience makes you want to go back.

  • Is this a good reflective essay topic: is there a time when you wanted something that belonged to someone else?

    You have a good idea for a reflective essay because lots of times we envy other people for their things, their personality traits, their talents, or their looks.

  • How do I write an essay about my wife's heart attack?

    Get the reader's attention by starting in the middle of the moment she has a heart attack and what you are thinking and feeling. Then go back and talk about your relationship with your wife and how this moment helped you to understand something new, or renew your feelings for one another.

  • Can you write a reflective essay about reading experience?

    Absolutely, although most of the time this is called a summary response essay. If you are doing this assignment for a class, you should probably talk to your instructor about whether they would allow this kind of experience to count. I have several articles which explain how to do that kind of essay. You can look at my profile or search for Summary Response with my name and find them.


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    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 weeks ago from United States

      Sure, you can write a reflective essay about many life events that mandy other people experienced, such as 911, or the birth of a child.

    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      Can you write a reflective essay about what covid 19 means to you

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      You are awesome, you help me a lot to understand how i can write my reflective story. Thank you.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      hi virginia thank you for these this was really helpful when it came to doing my essay

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      2 years ago from United States

      Hi Jared--I taught 6th grade for five years and I'm glad to know this helps you in your writing!

    • profile image

      Jared Self 

      2 years ago

      These are really helpfull for me and the whole 6 grade

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks for the heads up I'll keep this in mind

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Had to reread this again. Amazing work. Thanks again.


    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Virginia,

      This is a wonderful hub. A great read. Very helpful and informative. I voted up and away. I admimre your writing style and know that only good things will happen to you with works like this.

      I am following you and left you some fan mail. I cordially invite you to check out my hubs and be a follower of mine. That would make my day.



    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks simondixie! I'm glad to know that my articles are helpful to you. I've spend a lot of time tweaking the format and I'm always trying to remember to make sure I give practical ideas which hopefully spur a writer's or student's thoughts.

    • simondixie profile image

      Nancy McLendon Scott 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Wonderful ideas! Although I'm now retired from teaching college English (and reading) classes, I occasionally teach on a part-time basis. Finding good topics that work well for college freshmen is not easy! Your hubs are easy to understand, practical, and quite helpful. Thank you!


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