When she was 18 years old and a freshman at Syracuse, she was attacked, beaten and brutally raped in a nearby park. Following the incident, Sebold went back to her dorm where a security guard called an ambulance. After some months at home Sebold returned to Syracuse to finish her bachelor's degree and study writing. Months later, while walking down a street near the Syracuse campus, she recognized her rapist and secured his arrest.
After graduating from Syracuse University, Sebold went to the University of Houston in Texas, where she studied poetry.
At age 33, Sebold moved to California to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts at the University of California in Irvine.