We love personal stories, and we’re always on the lookout for great ones. We’ve noticed that really great essays share these qualities:

1. They’re focused.

Keep the spotlight on one time in your life. If you’re writing about falling in love, don’t mention all your relationships in this essay; stick to one. And keep it on the shorter side: MEW essays are 800 words or fewer.

2. They include a perspective shift.

Great essays illuminate how you’ve grown in one area of your life. Usually this requires some change in how you view the world, so let us see that transformation! If you begin at Point A, your essay should wind up at Point B.

3. They don’t leave us wondering about your motivations.

Your choices are what make you interesting, so show us your choices! Let us into your thought process.

4. They’re really specific.

It’s ironic, but the more specific you are about your life, the more your story will resonate with others. It makes you seem more real! Being specific about details like who, what, and where will take your writing to another level. For example, it’s stronger to say “the first yoga class of my life, taught by Elena Brower” than “a class.”

5. They’re, well … personal.

The more honest and vulnerable you can be about your struggles and victories, the more readers will be inspired by and empathetic to your story!