How to Write an Essay Outline + Essay Outline Examples

Download for free.

Add to Folder
creative writing
children's book
activities
classroom tools
language arts and writing
vocabulary

How to Write an Essay Outline + Essay Outline Examples 

Writing an essay can seem like a daunting task, but one of the best ways to tackle this challenge is to organize your ideas into a well-structured essay outline. This guide will walk you through the process of creating an essay outline, complete with essay outline examples, to ensure your next essay is a masterpiece.

We’ve compiled a variety of essay outline examples to help you understand how to structure your own essay. We'll cover persuasive essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, expository essays, and even provide a sample research paper outline. Each example will provide you with an idea of how to lay out the structure and details for each type of essay.

Looking for a printable list of essay outline examples? Our printable PDF features essay outline examples and templates that your students can use as examples when writing research papers, or as a supplement for an essay-writing unit

Why write an essay outline? 

An outline serves as the skeleton of your essay, giving you a clear and organized path to articulate your thoughts. Not only does it make writing an essay significantly easier, but it also allows you to present your arguments coherently and effectively.

An essay outline will help you organize your main ideas and determine the order in which you are going to write about them.

Student receives essay feedback A+ . Essay outline examples.

Types of essay outlines

Several types of essay outlines can be used when writing an essay. The two most common types are the alphanumeric outline and the decimal outline.

An alphanumeric outline typically uses Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters, in that order. Each level provides a different level of specificity. This structure is a very effective way to think through how you will organize and present the information in your essay. It also helps you develop a strong argumentative essay.

Alternatively, a decimal outline uses only numbers, and each subsection is a decimal subdivision of the main section. This type of outline is often used in scientific papers.

Persuasive essay outline example 

In the following section, we'll explore a persuasive essay outline example on competitive swimming. The purpose of a persuasive essay is to convince the reader of a particular point of view or idea, using compelling arguments and evidence.

In this case, the argument is that competitive swimming is an ideal sport for kids. The essay will present a series of arguments to support this view, demonstrating the various benefits of competitive swimming for children.

Competitive Swimming, an Ideal Sport for Kids

Introduction

Start your argumentative essay outline by stating your point of view and/or presenting your persuasive argument.

Thesis: Competitive swimming is a great alternative to other youth sports.

Body Paragraph 1

Introduce your primary persuasive argument and provide supporting details in your argumentative essay outline.

Topic Sentence:   Competitive swimming provides the same benefits as other sports.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   It is good exercise and builds muscular strength.
  • Detail Sentence 2:   It promotes cooperation among team members, especially in relays.

Body Paragraph 2

Introduce a secondary argument and provide supporting details.

Topic Sentence:   Competitive swimming provides some unique additional benefits.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   Swimming is an important skill that can be used forever.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Swimming poses a reduced risk of injury.
  • Detail Sentence 3:   Each swimmer can easily chart his or her own progress.

Conclude your essay writing with a summary of the thesis and persuasive arguments. Brainstorming details that support your point-of-view is a great way to start before creating your outline and first draft.

Concluding Sentence:   There are many reasons why competitive swimming is a great alternative to other youth sports, including...

Narrative essay outline example

In the following section, we will examine a narrative essay outline example titled "How Losing a Swim Meet Made Me a Better Swimmer." Narrative essays aim to tell a story, often about a personal experience, to engage the reader and convey a particular point or lesson.

In this case, the narrative revolves around the author's personal journey of improvement and self-discovery through swimming. The essay will illustrate how an initial setback served as a catalyst for significant improvement and personal growth.

How Losing a Swim Meet Made Me a Better Swimmer

Introduce the subject of your narrative essay using a thesis statement and a plan of development (POD).

Thesis: The first time I participated in a competitive swim meet, I finished in last place. With more focused training and coaching, I was able to finish 2nd in the State Championship meet.

Plan of development:   I was very disappointed in my results from the first meet, so I improved my training and fitness. This helped me swim better and faster, which helped me to greatly improve my results.

Set the scene and provide supporting details. Again, start by brainstorming different ways to begin; then go ahead and craft an outline and a first draft.

Topic Sentence:   I was embarrassed at finishing last in my first competitive swim meet, so I began working on ways to improve my performance.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   I spent extra time with my coach and the team captains learning how to improve my technique.
  • Detail Sentence 2:   I started running and lifting weights to increase my overall fitness level.

Provide additional supporting details, descriptions, and experiences to develop your general idea in your essay writing.

Topic Sentence:   Over time, my results began to improve and I was able to qualify for the state championship meet.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   My technique and fitness level made me faster and able to swim longer distances.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I steadily got better, and I began winning or placing in the top 3 at most of my meets.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  My results improved to the point that I was able to qualify for the state championship meet.

Body Paragraph 3

The next step in the writing process is to provide additional supporting details, descriptions, and experiences. You can then divide them up under different headings.

Topic Sentence:   With my new confidence, techniques, and fitness level, I was able to finish 2nd at the state championship meet.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   I was able to swim well against a higher level of competition due to my training and technique.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  I was no longer embarrassed about my last-place finish, and was able to use it as motivation!

Conclude the narrative essay with a recap of the events described or a reflection on the lesson learned in the story. Briefly summarize the details you included under each heading.

Concluding Sentence:   I used my last-place finish in my first competitive swim meet as motivation to improve my performance.

Descriptive essay outline example

We will now delve into a descriptive essay outline example. Descriptive essays aim to create a vivid and detailed description of a person, place, object, or event to paint a picture for the reader. The intention is to immerse the reader in the subject matter fully.

In this case, the essay provides an in-depth description of a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The essay will use sensory and descriptive details to create a vivid and memorable experience for the reader.

Visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame

Introduce the subject of your descriptive essay with a thesis statement covering the person, place, object, etc. you are writing about.

Thesis: The Hockey Hall of Fame is full of sights, sounds, and experiences that will delight hockey fans of all ages.

Set the scene and provide factual details.

Topic Sentence:   The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Canada and features exhibits from amateur and professional hockey.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   The Hall is located in downtown Toronto and is visited by 1 million people every year.
  • Detail Sentence 2:   You can see exhibits ranging from the early beginnings of the sport to the modern NHL and Olympics.

Provide additional sensory details, descriptions, and experiences.

Topic Sentence:   There are many types of exhibits and shows, including activities you can participate in.

  • Detail Sentence 1:  Player statues, plaques, and jerseys decorate the walls in every room of the Hall.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Many of the exhibits have movies and multimedia activities that make you feel like you're part of the game.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  You can even practice shooting pucks on virtual versions of some of the game's greatest goalies!

Conclude the essay with a paragraph that restates the thesis and recaps the descriptive and sensory details.

Concluding Sentence:   The Hockey Hall of Fame is an experience that combines the best sights, sounds and history of the game in Toronto.

Expository essay outline example

In the following section, we will explore an example of an expository essay. An expository essay aims to explain or describe a topic using logic. It presents a balanced analysis of a topic based on facts—with no references to the writer’s opinions or emotions.

For this example, the topic is "Why The School Year Should be Shorter". This essay will use logic and reason to demonstrate that a shorter school year could provide various benefits for students, teachers, and school districts.

Why The School Year Should be Shorter

Introduce the primary argument or main point of an expository essay, or other types of academic writing, using a thesis statement and context.

Thesis: The school year is too long, and should be shortened to benefit students and teachers, save districts money, and improve test scores and academic results. Other countries have shorter school years, and achieve better results.

Describe the primary argument and provide supporting details and evidence.

Topic Sentence:   A shorter school year would benefit students and teachers by giving them more time off.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   Students and teachers would be able to spend more time with their families.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Teachers would be refreshed and rejuvenated and able to teach more effectively.

Provide additional supporting details and evidence, as in this essay outline example.

Topic Sentence:  A shorter school year would save school districts millions of dollars per year.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   Districts could save money on energy costs by keeping schools closed longer.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  A shorter school year means much lower supply and transportation costs.
  • Detail Sentence 3:  Well-rested and happy students would help improve test scores.

Provide additional or supplemental supporting details, evidence, and analysis, as in the essay outline example.

Topic Sentence:   Shortening the school year would also provide many benefits for parents and caregivers.

  • Detail Sentence 1:   A shorter school year would mean less stress and running around for parents.
  • Detail Sentence 2:  Caregivers would have more balance in their lives with fewer days in the school year.

Conclude the essay with an overview of the main argument, and highlight the importance of your evidence and conclusion.

Concluding Sentence:   Shortening the school year would be a great way to improve the quality of life for students, teachers, and parents while saving money for districts and improving academic results.

Sample research paper outline

Now let’s dive into a research paper outline. Unlike a typical essay, a research paper presents a thorough and detailed study on a specific topic. However, it shares the same foundation with an essay in terms of structuring the ideas logically and coherently. The outline for a research paper includes an introduction, a series of topic points that cover various aspects of the main topic, and a conclusion.

This research paper will explore the background of Mt. Everest, the major explorers who attempted its summit, and the impact of these expeditions on Mt. Everest and the local community.

The Conquest of Mt. Everest

  • Location of Mt. Everest
  • Geography of the Surrounding Area
  • Height of the mountain
  • Jomolungma (Tibetan name)
  • Sagarmatha (Nepalese name)
  • The number of people who have climbed Everest to date
  • First to reach the summit (1953)
  • Led a team of experienced mountain climbers who worked together
  • Norgay was an experienced climber and guide who accompanied Hillary
  • Sherpas still used to guide expeditions
  • Leader of the failed 1996 expedition
  • Led group of (mainly) tourists with little mountain climbing experience
  • Loss of trees due to high demand for wood for cooking and heating for tourists.
  • Piles of trash left by climbing expeditions
  • Expedition fees provide income for the country
  • Expeditions provide work for the Sherpas, contributing to the local economy.
  • Introduction of motor vehicles
  • Introduction of electricity

The Everest essay outline template is based on a research paper submitted by Alexandra Ferber, 9th grade.

Happy writing!

Writing an essay outline is a crucial step in crafting a well-structured and coherent essay. Regardless of the type of essay - be it persuasive, narrative, descriptive, expository, or a research paper - an outline serves as a roadmap that organizes your thoughts and guides your writing process. The various essay outline examples provided above serve as a guide to help you structure your own essay. Remember, the key to a great essay lies not just in the content but in its organization and flow. Happy writing!

Featured High School Resources

Poetry Packet for High School

Related Resources

sandbox logo

Home ➔ Essay Outline

How to Write an Essay Outline (Examples and Template)

Essays are used to express ideas or opinions about a particular subject matter. It’s among the first tasks introduced to students at the primary levels of education. It’s also one of the widely accepted forms of assessing students that cut across most academic disciplines, especially in college. Schools and even places of employment might also require an essay from an applicant before considering them.

essay outline writing guide

The silver lining is that many students have a working knowledge of how to write an essay and its structure composition, which usually includes an introduction, body, and a concluding paragraph. Still, the average student spends more than the necessary number of hours on a single task because they run out of ideas or lose their train of thought. Even the overall content of the paper suffers. That can be avoided by penning down a solid outline before writing the first draft. Did you know even seasoned bestseller writers do this? So, what’s an outline? How does it improve your essays, and how do you write it? We are answering all these questions in our guide.

banner logo

Essay Outline Format and Definition

An essay outline acts like a map or blueprint, guiding writers in organizing their work. It’s similar to a table of contents in research papers and dissertations. Many students actually make outlines without realizing it, which is why learning to write one is straightforward. Typically, students brainstorm and research ideas before starting to write. However, they often don’t organize these ideas properly. This step is crucial to transform their initial thoughts into a structured essay outline.

If writing an effective outline isn’t a task that you must submit for a grade, then it’s up to you how you format it. However, you should follow four main principles  when creating a plan for your academic writing:

  • Ranking — as you go from your main headings to subheadings, you move from general to more specific.
  • Parallelism — every heading on the same hierarchy level should start with the same word type (verb, adjective, noun, etc.).
  • Parity — all headings of the same hierarchy should be equally important and less important than the ones higher in rank.
  • Fragmentation — each main heading should be divided into at least two subheadings.

The image below illustrates all four principles of outlining:

four essay outlining principles with an example

The most common format is a standard alphanumeric outline template. Headlines are labeled in the following order (from the first to the most nested one):

  • (a) Lowercase letters in round brackets

For what you write in each point, you can use brief phrases or full sentences to summarize the idea.

The decimal outline structure is another format you can apply, and it looks like this:

decimal outline example

When organizing an essay, there are two primary types of outlines: topic outlines and sentence outlines .

A topic outline lists your essay’s main points and subpoints in short phrases or single words. As a result, it provides a clear, concise structure and helps you visualize the flow of the essay without getting into detailed sentences. This type of outline is mainly useful for shorter essays or when you have a strong comprehension of the subject and do not need to go into every point during this initial planning stage.

In contrast, a sentence outline has complete sentences for each main point and subpoint. This outlining approach offers a more detailed framework, allowing you to flesh out your ideas and ensure that each part of the essay is developed well. Sentence outlines are good for longer or more complex papers, where you need to clarify your thoughts and arguments in advance. By using full sentences, this outline type helps identify any gaps in logic or areas that need further analysis, making the actual writing process smoother and more efficient in the end.

Why is Outlining Important?

Reasons vary, but we usually use it to logically order all the data you collected during the brainstorming and researching stages. A good outline helps a lot in writing research papers, as you can easily keep track of all the relevant information. Even for oral presentations, it’s a great way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their speech and make it more effective. To sum up, an outline’s core functions are:

  • Guiding you during the writing phrase
  • Helping you organize your thoughts and ideas
  • Presenting material in a logical order
  • Showing how your ideas link to one another
  • Serving as an abstract for your paper

Outlines enhance thinking flow

Consider planning every next day before going to bed. You will realize that you undertake your daily activities without overthinking or second-guessing yourself because you know what to do every time. That is one of the proven life principles for most successful people. The same applies to paper writing. Your essays will feel like a walk in the park if you outline every major point beforehand.

Outlines save time

Time is a commodity that none of us have in abundance, especially considering the responsibilities students have to undertake daily. So why spend hours on essays when you have mounting academic work? You’d rather waste less time and still get good grades. That’s what essay outlines are for: saving time and improving your performance. Once you’ve planned out your essay, it takes less time to develop each idea.

Outlines improve grades

From students’ perspective, the whole point of sweating over an essay is to get the best grades, and an outline can help you do that. If you take time to brainstorm and jot down every major point you can raise in your essay, you will make fewer errors. If you arrange your ideas in an order that makes sense, your tutor will notice it and evaluate the paper accordingly.

How to Outline an Essay

Building an outline is an excellent way to ensure that every paragraph in your essay has a purpose. While outlining, you can see if a paragraph is essential or can be dropped without harm to your paper. It also checks how your argument or main idea is advancing, which will help you speed up the proofreading stage. Now that you learned how significant outlining is, let’s see how you can create one.

Before writing an outline, you should:

  • Define the goal of your essay.
  • Determine the target audience.
  • Create the thesis statement.

Step 1: Research

The quality of your research determines the quality of your outline and your essay at large. That includes finding quotes from reputable sources or indicating the main supporting points to bolster your argument. Depending on your educational background, you might have to use different sources to expedite your research.

Any websites found on Google are unsuitable sources for papers written at a college or university level. Since the Internet is full of unverified information, it’s vital to ascertain your source’s credibility before referring to it. Examples of trusted sites include Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Science.gov, Refseek, and Oxford Academic.

Step 2: Organize

After choosing a topic and researching, it’s time to write the outline using all the gathered information. It should match the layout of the essay: an introduction, a body section, and a conclusion. Have you ever written down something but couldn’t read from your handwriting later on? This usually happens if you have bad handwriting or the information is too clustered to read. You don’t want to rely on such an outline, especially when pressed for time. So, you must organize your plan to match the essay structure .

Introduction

Some ways to start your introduction paragraph are anecdotes, proverbs or idioms, definitions, statistics, quotes, or facts. You can begin your essay outline by jotting down the main ideas for the introduction, which should also include a thesis statement. The point is to equip yourself with a road map, so short sentences should suffice.

Body paragraphs

Each body paragraph provides one idea that supports your thesis statement and is backed by facts, details, and examples. There will be more or fewer paragraphs here, depending on the essay volume. But, when writing a standard essay, you would usually need three body paragraphs, each of which should be in your outline. Remember that every paragraph must start with a topic sentence supported by two or three independent ideas with a link (transition) sentence at the end.

This paragraph summarizes every major point in the essay with some broader context. For a short paper, three to five sentences should be used for the concluding section of your paper.

Below is a template of a standard five-paragraph essay outline structure template that you can download by clicking on the button under the image.

5 paragraph essay outline template

Once you’re done, remember to proofread and edit to ensure you haven’t missed something important.

Essay outline examples

Now that you know how to write an outline, analyze the samples below to better understand how to apply this theory in practice. Each sample essay outline was hand-picked to ensure it corresponds to all key principles of creating one.

CLICK OR TAP ON THE IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD IT IN PDF

Wetlands essay persuasive outline example thumbnail

Argumentative essay outline example

Similar to persuasive essays, argumentative essays are designed to persuade the reader to accept a specific point of view. They require the writer to use relevant evidence and reasoning to support their arguments while addressing and refuting opposing viewpoints.

For example, an argumentative essay outline on the topic “The Necessity of Renewable Energy” could be structured as follows:

  • A. Start with a striking statistic about current global energy consumption.
  • B. Provide background on the reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
  • C. Thesis: “In the face of escalating environmental crises and depleting non-renewable resources, transitioning to renewable energy sources emerges as an indispensable solution, not only to mitigate ecological damage but also to ensure long-term sustainability and economic viability for future generations.”
  • 1. Detail the ecological damage caused by fossil fuels.
  • 2. Highlight the contribution of non-renewable energy to global warming.
  • 1. Describe the long-term environmental benefits of renewable sources.
  • 2. Discuss technological advancements in renewable energy.
  • 1. Address concerns about the high cost and practicality.
  • 2. Provide evidence of decreasing costs and increasing efficiency.
  • A. Reiterate the thesis in light of the arguments presented.
  • B. Summarize the environmental and economic benefits.
  • C. Concluding statement: Call to action for policy changes and individual responsibility​​.

Narrative essay outline example

Narrative essays tell a story, focusing on personal experiences and emotions. For instance, a narrative essay titled “My Journey to Becoming a Volunteer” could have the following example outline:

  • A. Open with a personal anecdote about the desire to help others.
  • B. Set the scene for the volunteer journey.
  • C. Thesis: “My journey to becoming a volunteer was a transformative experience that reshaped my understanding of community and self, teaching me invaluable lessons in empathy, resilience, and the profound impact of selfless service on both personal growth and the well-being of others.”
  • 1. Describe the initial motivation and decision-making process.
  • 2. Mention key influences or events leading to the decision.
  • 1. Narrate specific experiences and interactions during volunteering.
  • 2. Reflect on challenges faced and how they were overcome.
  • 1. Discuss the skills and insights acquired.
  • 2. Illustrate how the experience changed perspectives on community and self.
  • A. Summarize the journey and its impact.
  • B. Reflect on the personal changes and growth experienced.
  • C. Closing thoughts: The ongoing importance of volunteer work​​​.

Compare and contrast essay outline example

Compare and contrast essays examine the similarities and differences between two subjects, offering a balanced view. For example, a compare and contrast essay on “Online Learning vs. Traditional Classroom” might follow this outline:

  • A. Discuss the rise of online learning platforms.
  • B. Contrast online and traditional classroom settings.
  • C. Thesis Statement: “While both online learning and traditional classroom education aim to deliver quality education, they differ significantly in terms of their learning environments and teacher-student interactions, each offering unique advantages and challenges that cater to diverse learning needs and preferences.”
  • 1. Compare the curriculum and teaching materials used in both settings.
  • 2. Illustrate with examples of course content in both formats.
  • 1. Detail the virtual setting of online learning vs. physical classrooms.
  • 2. Discuss the impact of these environments on student engagement.
  • 1. Compare the nature of interactions in online and traditional settings.
  • 2. Examine the impact on student learning and participation.
  • A. Recap the key similarities and differences.
  • B. Reflect on the effectiveness of each mode of learning.
  • C. Final thoughts: Future trends in education​​​.

Bottom line

Here are three key tips for students creating essay outlines:

  • Review Your Assignment: Start by thoroughly reading your assignment instructions. This helps you understand your essay type and any word count limits.
  • Keep Your Title and Thesis Handy: At the top of your outline, write down your essay’s title and the full thesis statement. This keeps your main idea in clear view as you work.
  • Take Notes During Research: As you research, jot down key points. These notes will be valuable when you’re building your essay outline.

Remember, essays vary widely, from argumentative and narrative to comparative and persuasive, each with its own goals and structure. Mastering the art of outlining is crucial for improving your writing skills and achieving higher grades. If you often struggle with organizing your thoughts or experience writer’s block, planning your essay before you start writing can be immensely helpful. With practice, you’ll be able to complete your assignments more quickly while maintaining high quality.

The earlier, the better. If you start researching without note-taking and creating an outline, you might do all that research in vain. You need to read a bit, find reputable sources that you will use, and analyze the evidence before planning. But, as soon as your argument starts shaping, you should start putting your thoughts on paper.

Planning is a bit individual. Some people benefit from it more than others. If you can generate ideas easily but struggle with the writing process, preparing a thorough outline will help. Conversely, if you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas, you might benefit more from writing right away. Overplanning can also be harmful when it doesn’t leave enough time to complete the paper.

  • Walden University — Outlining
  • Bow Valley College — Writing Support
  • Purdue University — Types of Outlines

Was this article helpful?

Trying to devise a structure for your essay can be one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Making a detailed outline before you begin writing is a good way to make sure your ideas come across in a clear and logical order. A good outline will also save you time in the revision process, reducing the possibility that your ideas will need to be rearranged once you've written them.

The First Steps

Before you can begin outlining, you need to have a sense of what you will argue in the essay. From your analysis and close readings of primary and/or secondary sources you should have notes, ideas, and possible quotes to cite as evidence. Let's say you are writing about the 1999 Republican Primary and you want to prove that each candidate's financial resources were the most important element in the race. At this point, your notes probably lack much coherent order. Most likely, your ideas are still in the order in which they occurred to you; your notes and possible quotes probably still adhere to the chronology of the sources you've examined. Your goal is to rearrange your ideas, notes, and quotes—the raw material of your essay—into an order that best supports your argument, not the arguments you've read in other people's works. To do this, you have to group your notes into categories and then arrange these categories in a logical order.

Generalizing

The first step is to look over each individual piece of information that you've written and assign it to a general category. Ask yourself, "If I were to file this in a database, what would I file it under?" If, using the example of the Republican Primary, you wrote down an observation about John McCain's views on health care, you might list it under the general category of  "Health care policy." As you go through your notes, try to reuse categories whenever possible. Your goal is to reduce your notes to no more than a page of category listings.

Now examine your category headings. Do any seem repetitive? Do any go together? "McCain's expenditure on ads" and "Bush's expenditure on ads," while not exactly repetitive, could easily combine into a more general category like "Candidates' expenditures on ads." Also, keep an eye out for categories that no longer seem to relate to your argument. Individual pieces of information that at first seemed important can begin to appear irrelevant when grouped into a general category.

Now it's time to generalize again. Examine all your categories and look for common themes. Go through each category and ask yourself, "If I were to place this piece of information in a file cabinet, what would I label that cabinet?" Again, try to reuse labels as often as possible: "Health Care," "Foreign Policy," and "Immigration" can all be contained under "Policy Initiatives." Make these larger categories as general as possible so that there are no more than three or four for a 7-10 page paper.

With your notes grouped into generalized categories, the process of ordering them should be easier. To begin, look at your most general categories. With your thesis in mind, try to find a way that the labels might be arranged in a sentence or two that supports your argument. Let's say your thesis is that financial resources played the most important role in the 1999 Republican Primary. Your four most general categories are "Policy Initiatives," "Financial Resources," "Voters' Concerns," and "Voters' Loyalty." You might come up with the following sentence: ÒAlthough McCain's policy initiatives were closest to the voters' concerns, Bush's financial resources won the voters' loyalty.Ó This sentence should reveal the order of your most general categories. You will begin with an examination of McCain's and Bush's views on important issues and compare them to the voters' top concerns. Then you'll look at both candidates' financial resources and show how Bush could win voters' loyalty through effective use of his resources, despite his less popular policy ideas.

With your most general categories in order, you now must order the smaller categories. To do so, arrange each smaller category into a sentence or two that will support the more general sentence you've just devised. Under the category of "Financial Resources," for instance, you might have the smaller categories of "Ad Expenditure," "Campaign Contributions" and "Fundraising." A sentence that supports your general argument might read: "Bush's early emphasis on fundraising led to greater campaign contributions, allowing him to have a greater ad expenditure than McCain."

The final step of the outlining process is to repeat this procedure on the smallest level, with the original notes that you took for your essay. To order what probably was an unwieldy and disorganized set of information at the beginning of this process, you need now only think of a sentence or two to support your general argument. Under the category "Fundraising," for example, you might have quotes about each candidate's estimation of its importance, statistics about the amount of time each candidate spent fundraising, and an idea about how the importance of fundraising never can be overestimated. Sentences to support your general argument might read: "No candidate has ever raised too much money [your idea]. While both McCain and Bush acknowledged the importance of fundraising [your quotes], the numbers clearly point to Bush as the superior fundraiser [your statistics]." The arrangement of your ideas, quotes, and statistics now should come naturally.

Putting It All Together

With these sentences, you have essentially constructed an outline for your essay. The most general ideas, which you organized in your first sentence, constitute the essay's sections. They follow the order in which you placed them in your sentence. The order of the smaller categories within each larger category (determined by your secondary sentences) indicates the order of the paragraphs within each section. Finally, your last set of sentences about your specific notes should show the order of the sentences within each paragraph. An outline for the essay about the 1999 Republican Primary (showing only the sections worked out here) would look something like this:

I. POLICY INITIATIVES

II.  VOTERS' CONCERNS

III.  FINANCIAL RESOURCES

            A.  Fundraising

                        a.  Original Idea

                        b.  McCain Quote/Bush Quote

                        c.  McCain Statistics/Bush Statistics

            B.  Campaign Contributions

            C.  Ad Expenditure

IV.  VOTERS' LOYALTY

Copyright 2000, David Kornhaber, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

We use cookies and similar technologies to improve your website experience and help us understand how you use our website. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the usage of cookies. Learn more about our Privacy Statement and Cookie Policy .

  • Our Mission
  • Code of Conduct
  • The Consultants
  • Hours and Locations
  • Apply to Become a Consultant
  • Make an Appointment
  • Face-to-Face Appointments
  • Zoom Appointments
  • Written Feedback Appointments
  • Support for Writers with Disabilities
  • Policies and Restrictions
  • Upcoming Workshops
  • Class Workshops
  • Meet the Consultants
  • Writing Guides and Tools
  • Schedule an appointment! Login or Register
  • Graduate Students
  • ESOL Students

An outline is a map of your essay. It shows what information each section or paragraph will contain, and in what order. Most outlines use numbers and/or bullet points to arrange information and convey points.

Why create an outline?

Outlining is a tool we use in the writing process to help organize our ideas, visualize our paper’s potential structure, and to further flesh out and develop points. It allows the writer to understand how he or she will connect information to support the thesis statement and the claims of the paper. An outline provides the writer with a space to consider ideas easily without needing to write complete paragraphs or sentences.

Creating your outline:

Before beginning an outline, it is useful to have a clear thesis statement or clear purpose or argument, as everything else in the outline is going to work to support the thesis. Note: the outline might help inform the thesis, and therefore your thesis might change or develop within the outlining process.

Organize your outline in whatever format fits into the structure needed for the type of paper you are writing. One common outline format uses Roman numerals, letters, and numbers. Other outlines can use bullet points or other symbols. You can use whatever organizational patterns work best for you and your paper, as long as you understand your own organizational tools. Outlines can be written using complete sentences or fragments or a mix of the two.

Remember! After creating your outline, you may decide to reorganize your ideas by putting them in a different order. Furthermore, as you are writing you might make some discoveries and can, of course, always adjust or deviate from the outline as needed.

Sample Outlines:

As you can see in the outline below, the writer chose to separate the outline by topics, but could have utilized a different structure, organizing the outline by separate paragraphs, indicating what each paragraph will do or say.

  • Introduction A. Background information B. Thesis
  • Reason 1 A. Use quotes from x B. Use evidence from y
  • Reason 2 A. Counterargument     1. They might say…     2. But…
  • Conclusion A. Connect back to thesis B. Answer the “so what” or “what now” question C. End on a memorable note

Note: The sample outline above illustrates the structure of an outline, but it is quite vague. Your outline should be as specific as possible.

Proposal Outline:

  • Summary/ Synopsis of proposed project • Rationale • Specific aims and objectives • Experimental approaches to be used • The potential significance
  • Specific Aims • X • Y • Z
  • Background and Significance • Background • Significance to current project • Significance to long-term research objectives • Critical evaluations of existing knowledge • Forward progress
  • Preliminary Data • Description of prelim data to justify the rationale • Demonstrate feasibility of the project
  • Experimental Design and Methods • Details of design and procedures • Protocols • Means of data analysis and interpretation • New methodology and its advantages • Potential technical difficulties or limitations/ alternative approaches
  • References • Citations

Note: Outlines can look quite different. You might use Roman numerals to indicate the main point or function of that section, and then letters to indicate separate sub-points, and then even bullet points or numbers to indicate specific information, like using certain quotes, sources, evidence, or examples.

Adapted From: Los Angeles Valley College Writing Center, “How to Make an Outline” 2/2/15

Northwestern University Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences, “A Basic Proposal Outline”

San Jose State University Writing Center, “Essay Planning: Outlining with a Purpose” Spring 2014

George Mason University Logo

The Writing Center

4400 University Drive, 2G8 Fairfax, VA 22030

Quick Links

  • Register with us

© Copyright 2024 George Mason University . All Rights Reserved. Privacy Statement | Accessibility

How to Outline a College Essay

When writing a college essay , some students take whatever is in their head at the moment, pour it all out on the page, and turn it in.

I'm sure you can sympathize with this method. You might even think that skipping the outline step and going straight into the essay will save time and help you finish this assignment ASAP so you can move on with your life.

All good essays begin with an outline. Once you have brainstormed a topic and some details, it

Unfortunately, there's a problem with this logic. If you skip straight to the essay and forego the planning, it's likely you'll need more time to write, edit, and make sure that your essay includes everything you need.

The best college essays require an outline to help organize your thoughts before you begin to write.

Your outline will help you develop a more organized essay that makes sense and is logical to your reader. It can also help you better develop your ideas and actually save you time in the long run.

What are the steps for creating an outline?

Good news: it's not very difficult to put together an outline for an essay . Here are the basic steps you should follow:

1. Brainstorm and Select a Topic

Start by listing all of the topics you're considering. Don't judge the topics you're writing; just get as many of your thoughts on paper as possible. Set a timer for five minutes and list every topic that pops into your head.

Once you've created a list, look for topics that seem like the best fit for you and the assignment you've been given. Maybe a few topics could even be combined to create one larger, more developed topic.

2. Brainstorm some Supporting Details

Once you've chosen your topic, it's time to see if you have enough details to support this topic. A good, old-fashioned web of ideas can help you see how your thoughts are connected to your main idea.

Write your topic in the middle of a page and circle it. Draw lines and circles out to ideas that support this main topic. Again, don't judge your thoughts; just let them flow. You can narrow them down later. For now, you want to see if this subject is meaty enough to stick with and if you can relate several ideas to the main topic.

3. Label your Ideas. Where would they go in an outline template?

A basic outline format includes an introduction, a body of supporting ideas, and a conclusion. You will eventually take your brainstorm of thoughts and organize this chaos into a neat, orderly outline. This will help you place your ideas in a logical order and help eliminate some ideas that aren't as strong or that don't quite belong in your essay.

Take a look at your thoughts on your web of ideas paper and label them "I" if you think they help introduce your idea, "S" if they are great supporting facts for your main idea, and "C" if you think they help conclude your thoughts. If an idea doesn't seem to fit anywhere, you can put an "X" on it and consider saving it for a later essay.

4. Use an Outline Example to Plot your Essay

If the above steps intimidate you, you can always take a few minutes to look at outline examples to give you a better idea of what you're aiming for.

After you have listed all of your ideas, it

You can even try plugging your thoughts into an outline template . Here's a basic one to get you started:

  • Introduction (usually one paragraph) a) Hook—get your reader's attention b) Preview the main idea c) State your thesis
  • Body of supporting ideas (Usually three paragraphs —one for each main supporting idea) a) Supporting detail #1 (with examples, stories, other details) b) Supporting detail #2 (with examples, stories, other details) c) Supporting detail #3 (with examples, stories, other details)
  • Conclusion (usually one paragraph) a) Restate and reflect on your main idea/thesis b) Tie your ideas together c) Wrap it up in a coherent fashion

5. Start Writing!

Once you've plotted out your thoughts, beginning the writing process will be much smoother and easier for you. Your order is ready, your thoughts are organized, and your details are developed. Most of your essay is already written for you now.

The art of writing a college essay can be overwhelming at first. However, using an outline can help organize your essay in a way that makes it much easier to write and much nicer to read. Taking the time to brainstorm, plot out your thoughts, and place them logically into an outline will pay off in the future as it will save you time and help you create a well-crafted essay.

How to Write Essay Titles and Headers

Don’t overlook the title and section headers when putting together your next writing assignment. Follow these pointers for keeping your writing organized and effective.

101 Standout Argumentative Essay Topic Ideas

Need a topic for your upcoming argumentative essay? We've got 100 helpful prompts to help you get kickstarted on your next writing assignment.

Writing a Standout College Admissions Essay

Your personal statement is arguably the most important part of your college application. Follow these guidelines for an exceptional admissions essay.

Academic Editing and Proofreading

  • What is Predatory Publishing?
  • Tips to Self-Edit Your Dissertation
  • Guide to Essay Editing: Methods, Tips, & Examples
  • Journal Article Proofreading: Process, Cost, & Checklist
  • The A–Z of Dissertation Editing: Standard Rates & Involved Steps
  • Research Paper Editing | Guide to a Perfect Research Paper
  • Dissertation Proofreading | Definition & Standard Rates
  • Thesis Proofreading | Definition, Importance & Standard Pricing
  • Research Paper Proofreading | Definition, Significance & Standard Rates
  • Essay Proofreading | Options, Cost & Checklist
  • Top 10 Essay Editing Services of 2023

Academic Research

  • Research Paper Outline: Templates & Examples
  • How to Write a Lab Report: Examples from Academic Editors

Academic Writing & Publishing

  • Difference Between Paper Editing and Peer Review
  • What are the different types of peer review?
  • How to deal with rejection from a journal?
  • Editing and Proofreading Academic Papers: A Short Guide
  • Primary and Secondary Sources
  • How to Carry Out Secondary Research
  • The Results Section of a Dissertation
  • Checklist: Is my Article Ready for Submitting to Journals?
  • Types of Research Articles to Boost Your Research Profile
  • The Top 5 Dos & Don’ts of Academic Writing | Useful Examples
  • 8 Types of Peer Review Processes You Should Know
  • The Ethics of Academic Research
  • How to Create In-Text Citations and Reference Page in APA 7
  • MLA 9th Edition Paper Format Guidelines
  • How To Craft Winning Admission Essays
  • How does LaTeX based proofreading work?
  • How to Improve Your Scientific Writing: A Short Guide
  • Chicago Title, Cover Page & Body | Paper Format Guidelines
  • How to Write a Thesis Statement: Examples & Tips
  • Chicago Style Citation: Quick Guide & Examples
  • Top 10 Dissertation Editing Services of 2023
  • How to Format a College Essay: Format Template & Tips
  • APA Header, Cover Page & Body – Paper Format Guidelines
  • The A-Z Of Publishing Your Article in A Journal
  • What is Journal Article Editing? 3 Reasons You Need It
  • 5 Powerful Personal Statement Examples (Template Included)
  • Additional Resources
  • Formatting Tips on MS Word for Dissertations
  • Plagiarism: How to avoid it in your thesis?
  • Final Submission Checklist | Dissertation & Thesis
  • 7 Useful MS Word formatting tips for dissertation writing
  • How to Write a MEAL Paragraph: Writing Plan Explained in Detail
  • Top 10 Free Citation Generators in 2023 | Quick & Easy
  • Citation and Referencing
  • Citing References: APA, MLA, and Chicago
  • Why is it Important to Cite Your Sources?
  • How to Cite Sources in the MLA Format
  • MLA Citation Examples: Cite Essays, Websites, Movies & More
  • APA Citation Examples: The Bible, TED Talk, PPT & More
  • 10 Best Free Plagiarism Checkers of 2023 [100% Free Tools]
  • Citations and References: What Are They and Why They Matter
  • Dissertation Writing Guide
  • Writing a Dissertation Proposal
  • Top 10 Best Academic Research Resources
  • How to Prepare for Your Dissertation Defense
  • The Acknowledgments Section of a Dissertation
  • Abstract: An Introduction
  • The Table of Contents Page of a Dissertation
  • The Introduction Chapter of a Dissertation
  • The Literature Review of a Dissertation
  • How to Choose a Topic for Your Dissertation
  • The Only Dissertation Toolkit You’ll Ever Need!
  • 5 Thesis Writing Tips for Master Procrastinators
  • How to Write a Dissertation | 5 Tips from Academic Editors
  • The Title Page of a Dissertation
  • The 5 Things to Look for in a Dissertation Editing Service
  • Top 10 Dissertation Editing & Proofreading Services
  • Why is it important to add references to your thesis?
  • The Research Methodology Section of a Dissertation
  • Thesis Editing | Definition, Scope & Standard Rates
  • Essay Writing Guide
  • How to Pick the Perfect Essay Topic
  • Essential Research Tips for Essay Writing
  • Top 10 Essay Writing Tools in 2023 | Plan, Write, Get Feedback
  • How to Write an Impactful Personal Statement (Examples Included)
  • What Is a Mind Map? Free Mind Map Templates & Examples
  • How to Structure Your Essay

How to Write an Essay Outline: 5 Examples & Free Template

  • How to Write an Essay Header: MLA and APA Essay Headers
  • What Is an Essay? Structure, Parts, and Types
  • How to Write an Essay in 8 Simple Steps (Examples Included)
  • 8 Types of Essays | Quick Summary with Examples
  • Expository Essays | Step-by-Step Manual with Examples
  • Narrative Essay | Step-by-Step Guide with Examples
  • How to Write an Argumentative Essay (Examples Included)
  • Guide to a Perfect Descriptive Essay [Examples & Outline Included]
  • How to Start an Essay: 4 Introduction Paragraph Examples
  • How to Write a Conclusion for an Essay (Examples Included!)
  • Test Post for HTML Codes

Still have questions? Leave a comment

Add Comment

examples of college essay outlines

Checklist: Dissertation Proposal

Enter your email id to get the downloadable right in your inbox!

examples of college essay outlines

Examples: Edited Papers

Need editing and proofreading services.

examples of college essay outlines

abcdefghijlk

abcdefghijlk

Editing & Proofreading for Authors

Editing & Proofreading for Authors

  • Tags: Academic Writing , Essay

Creating a clear and organized essay is not easy, but making an outline can help. By arranging your ideas in a logical and coherent way, an essay outline can guide you in effectively structuring your essay. 

Whether you’re working on a school or college assignment, take the time to create an outline. It can help you overcome the challenges of organizing your thoughts while writing. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to create an essay outline with the help of some useful examples and a downloadable template.

What is an essay outline?

An outline acts as a blueprint for your essay, presenting the structure and content of each paragraph and showing how they connect. By creating an outline, you can streamline the writing process and minimize the need for revisions. It can also help you develop strong points to support your thesis statement .

Typically, an outline is created after establishing a working thesis statement and gathering relevant information. The collected information is then organized into a logical flow that can be expanded into a structured essay.

Why is it important to create an essay outline?

An essay outline not only gives structure to your essay but also helps effectively link its parts. It helps create a logical flow for your essay and also helps identify its primary components. Let’s take a look at this in detail.

1. Sets a logical order

To create a well-structured and impactful essay, the arrangement of information is key. Creating an essay outline makes it easier to organize bits of information from general to specific. 

Start off by creating a broad thesis statement or central idea. Then move on to providing examples or pieces of information that support this statement or elaborate on it. This method also provides a comprehensive overview of your essay and helps identify any missing bits of information.

2. Generates greater impact

The primary goal of your essay is to effectively present information that supports your thesis statement. If your essay is haphazardly structured, the message of the thesis statement can get lost.

In order to present a coherent message, determine the important bits of information that best support your thesis statement and organize them logically. Then elaborate on these bits to create a flow. This not only creates a greater impact but also makes your final essay more convincing.

3. Leads to smoother transitions

Transitions are the bridges that connect your ideas and ensure that your argument flows smoothly. However, creating smooth transitions from one point to another can be quite challenging.

A college essay outline helps you identify where you need to include transitions and what type of transition you should use to connect your ideas effectively. Creating smooth, logical, and cohesive transitions is crucial in ensuring that readers can easily follow your train of thought and grasp your argument. 

How to write an essay outline

After conducting all the necessary research, it is time to narrow down the central idea of your essay. Make sure that the scope of your idea is neither too broad nor too narrow. 

Select the main bits of information that elaborate on this central idea and organize them in a logical manner. Then provide specific examples to back them up. Let’s take a detailed look at these steps. 

1. Figure out the central message or the thesis statement of your essay.

Picking out a central idea or generic point for your essay can help create a base you can elaborate upon. 

You can start with a broad idea or stance and then research the specific bits of information that support this idea and provide more information on it. 

2. Identify the main points or arguments.

After collecting the necessary information to elaborate on your central idea, identify the broad points that give it substance. 

These points will form the headings of the essay. They should be broad enough to cover major themes, but specific enough to provide a clear focus for each section.

3. Organize your headings.

Decide the logical flow of your essay and arrange your headings in an organized manner.

It is crucial to have obvious starting and ending points, but the body can be organized in a way you consider to be the most impactful. Depending on the type of essay, your headings can be arranged chronologically, on the basis of importance, or from general to specific.

4. Provide examples and evidence to support the headings.

Once the headings are created and organized, provide statistics, anecdotes, and examples to back them up. These specific pieces of information can be elaborated upon while writing your first draft.

You can use this general essay outline format to create your own 

Essay outline template

To help you write a logical, well-structured, impactful essay, we have developed this fool-proof, comprehensive essay outline template. It will help you categorize all your essential information into well-structured, organized headings and subheadings.

The template includes an introduction, three body paragraphs, an optional paragraph for a counter-argument, and a conclusion. Under each of these headings, there are relevant subheadings that are applicable to all types of essays.  

The template uses an alphanumeric format, with Roman numerals for the headings and capital letters for the subheadings.

Download Free Outline Essay Template

Essay outline examples   .

Essays are highly versatile pieces of writing. They include various types, such as persuasive essays, compare and contrast essays, analytical essays, and cause-and-effect essays. 

But most of these essay types are a combination or a derivation of these four main types of essays. They include narrative, descriptive, argumentative, and expository essays. 

Each of these essays serves a different purpose and is structured differently. Let’s understand the purpose of each of these essay types with the help of relevant essay outline examples:

1. Narrative essay outline

A narrative essay outline is a highly personalized outline that reflects your unique experiences, feelings, and observations. 

The goal of this outline is to tell an impactful story with the help of vivid descriptions and sensory details that engage the reader’s attention.

Narrative essay outline example

Let us better understand the narrative essay outline with the help of an example. The following example is a personal narrative about growing up as an immigrant child.

I. Introduction

A. A vivid description of the moment I found out I was moving to a new country.

B. Brief explanation of my background and reasons for immigrating.

C. Thesis statement: The challenges and opportunities I faced as an immigrant in a new country.

A. Struggles in adjusting to a new culture.

1. Language barriers I faced in school and everyday life.

2. Differences in cultural norms and expectations.

B. Navigating a new education system

1. Differences in teaching styles and expectations.

2. Adjusting to a new curriculum and grading system.

C. Finding a sense of belonging

1. Challenges in making friends and building relationships.

2. Coping with homesickness and missing family and friends.

III. Conclusion

A. Reflection on my journey as an immigrant

1. Lessons learned and personal growth.

2. Significance of the experience.

B. Acknowledgment of my resilience and determination.

1. Overcoming challenges and achieving success.

2. Encouragement for others facing similar challenges.

C. Memorable closing statement related to my journey.

2. Argumentative essay outline

An argumentative essay outline requires you to take a clear stance on a topic and provide strong evidence to support it. 

The goal of this outline is to convince the reader to see your point of view on a controversial topic.

Argumentative essay outline example

The following example shows us how the internet is beneficial to the mental development of school children. It establishes the internet to be a valuable resource for children.

A. A surprising statistic or fact about children and their use of the internet.

B. Brief explanation of the prevalence of the internet in modern society and its impact on children.

C. Thesis statement: Despite concerns about safety and privacy, the internet is a valuable resource for children due to its educational opportunities, communication tools, and access to diverse perspectives.

A. Education opportunities.

 1. Access to information and resources that may not be available in traditional classroom settings.

2. Interactive tools and games that can reinforce learning and engage children in new ways.

B. Communication tools

1. Social media and messaging platforms that allow children to connect with peers and mentors.

2. Online forums and discussion groups that foster collaboration and problem-solving skills.

C. Exposure to diverse perspectives

1. Access to a variety of viewpoints and perspectives from around the world.

2. Exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking can foster empathy and understanding.

III. Counterarguments and Rebuttal

A. Potential safety concerns and risks associated with internet use

1. Explanation of safety measures and precautions that can mitigate these risks.

2. Rebuttal of the idea that the risks outweigh the benefits.

B. Potential negative effects on cognitive and social development

1. Explanation of the positive effects of internet use on cognitive development and social skills.

2. Rebuttal of the idea that the internet is inherently harmful to children.

IV. Conclusion

A. Restatement of thesis statement and main points of the argument.

B. Reflection on the importance of the internet as a valuable resource for children.

C. Final thoughts and call to action for readers to embrace the benefits of internet use for children.

3. Expository essay outline

An expository essay outline requires you to provide a detailed overview of a subject from all angles. It is used to test your knowledge of a particular subject.

The purpose of this essay outline is to inform, explain, or describe a topic or idea, rather than to persuade the reader or share personal opinions. 

This type of essay is often used in academic settings, such as in writing assignments, research papers, or even textbooks.

Expository essay outline example

The following example provides us with information on SONAR technology, its uses, its impact on the environment, as well as its benefits. 

A. A brief explanation of the significance of SONAR and its impact on underwater navigation and detection.

B. A definition of SONAR and its origins, and the history of its development and uses.

C. Thesis statement: This essay will provide a detailed overview of the use of SONAR technology, its applications, and its impact on various fields.

A. Explanation of SONAR technology

  • Basic principles of SONAR.
  • Types of SONAR and how they work.

B. Applications of SONAR technology

1. Military applications, including submarine detection and mine detection.

2. Commercial applications, including underwater mapping and exploration, and marine life observation.

C. Advantages and disadvantages of SONAR technology

1. Advantages, such as accuracy and range.

2. Disadvantages, such as interference and environmental impact.

A. Safety and environmental concerns

1. Explanation of the measures taken to minimize the environmental impact of SONAR technology.

2. Rebuttal of the idea that the benefits of SONAR technology are outweighed by its environmental impact.

B. Potential misuse or abuse of SONAR technology

1. Explanation of regulations and laws governing the use of SONAR technology.

2. Rebuttal of the idea that the potential misuse of SONAR technology justifies limiting its applications.

B. Reflection on the significance of SONAR technology and its impact on various fields.

C. Final thoughts and call to action for readers to learn more about SONAR technology and its applications.

4. Descriptive essay outline

A descriptive essay outline requires you to create a detailed and sensory-rich description of a person, place, object, event, or experience. 

The goal is to provide the reader with a visceral experience that engages their senses and imagination.

Descriptive essay outline example

The following example provides a highly immersive experience and uses multiple sensory descriptors to describe the summers spent by the writer at their grandmother’s farm.

A. Description of a typical summer day at grandma’s farm.

B. Brief overview of the location and purpose of the farm.

C. Thesis statement: Summers spent at grandma’s farm were some of the most memorable and enjoyable times of my childhood, thanks to the idyllic setting and the rich sensory experiences it provided.

II. Body Paragraph 1: The Scenery

A. Topic sentence: The farm was located in a picturesque rural area surrounded by rolling hills and green pastures.

B. Sensory details:

1. Visual: Describe the lush greenery, the colorful flowers, and the endless expanse of blue sky.

2. Auditory: Mention the sound of the chirping birds, the rustling leaves, and the occasional mooing of cows.

3. Olfactory: Describe the fragrant smell of fresh hay and the earthy aroma of the soil.

4. Tactile: Describe the feeling of the warm sun on the skin and the softness of the grass underfoot.

III. Body Paragraph 2: The Activities

A. Topic sentence: The farm provided numerous activities and tasks that kept me busy and engaged throughout the day.

1. Visual: Describe the sight of the cows grazing, the chickens clucking, and the horses trotting.

2. Auditory: Mention the sound of the milking machine, the creaking of the barn doors, and the whinnying of the horses.

3. Olfactory: Describe the smell of the freshly baked pies, the wood smoke from the bonfire, and the scent of the freshly cut grass.

4. Tactile: Describe the feeling of the cow’s rough tongue licking my hand, the warmth of the freshly laid eggs, and the rough texture of the hay bales.

IV. Body Paragraph 3: The People

A. Topic sentence: The farm was a family affair, and spending time with my grandmother and other relatives was a highlight of the summer.

1. Visual: Describe the sight of my grandmother cooking in the kitchen, my cousins running through the fields, and my uncles fixing machinery.

2. Auditory: Mention the sound of laughter and conversation around the dinner table, the chatter of family members working together, and the clinking of dishes.

3. Olfactory: Describe the smell of home-cooked meals, the familiar scents of family members, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

4. Tactile: Describe the feeling of hugs from family members, the rough texture of my grandfather’s hand, and the warmth of a family embrace.

V. Conclusion

A. Restate thesis: Summers spent at grandma’s farm were truly unforgettable, filled with vivid sensory experiences and cherished memories.

B. Summarize main points: Recap the main sensory details and experiences shared in the essay.

C. Final thoughts: Reflect on the impact of the farm on the writer’s life and express gratitude for the memories made there.

Here are some related articles that you might find interesting:

  • How to Write an Essay in 8 Simple Steps

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an outline for an essay, what is the one important rule of essay outlining, what are the four main components to keep in mind while constructing an essay outline, what are the basic principles of essay outlining, what is the purpose of an outline.

Found this article helpful?

examples of college essay outlines

Leave a Comment: Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

reasons to hire technical editors

Your Organization Needs a Technical Editor: Here’s Why

examples of college essay outlines

Writing for the Web: How Your Readers Want to Read Content

Writing contests 2023 for poets & writers: poetry contests 2023, short story contests 2023, and essay contests 2023.

Writing Contests 2023: Cash Prizes, Free Entries, & More!.

B2B content and readabillity

Writing Content to Achieve a Higher Readability

examples of college essay outlines

Subscribe to our Newsletter

How to Copyright Your Book?

If you’ve thought about copyrighting your book, you’re on the right path.

PaperTrue

© 2024 All rights reserved

  • Terms of service
  • Privacy policy
  • Self Publishing Guide
  • Pre-Publishing Steps
  • Fiction Writing Tips
  • Traditional Publishing
  • Academic Writing and Publishing
  • Partner with us
  • Annual report
  • Website content
  • Marketing material
  • Job Applicant
  • Cover letter
  • Case studies

Essay Writing Guide

Essay Outline

Last updated on: Jun 10, 2023

A Complete Essay Outline - Guidelines and Format

By: Nova A.

13 min read

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Jan 15, 2019

Essay Outline

To write an effective essay, you need to create a clear and well-organized essay outline. An essay outline will shape the essay’s entire content and determine how successful the essay will be.

In this blog post, we'll be going over the basics of essay outlines and provide a template for you to follow. We will also include a few examples so that you can get an idea about how these outlines look when they are put into practice.

Essay writing is not easy, but it becomes much easier with time, practice, and a detailed essay writing guide. Once you have developed your outline, everything else will come together more smoothly.

The key to success in any area is preparation - take the time now to develop a solid outline and then write your essays!

So, let’s get started!

Essay Outline

On this Page

What is an Essay Outline?

An essay outline is your essay plan and a roadmap to essay writing. It is the structure of an essay you are about to write. It includes all the main points you have to discuss in each section along with the thesis statement.

Like every house has a map before it is constructed, the same is the importance of an essay outline. You can write an essay without crafting an outline, but you may miss essential information, and it is more time-consuming.

Once the outline is created, there is no chance of missing any important information. Also, it will help you to:

  • Organize your thoughts and ideas.
  • Understand the information flow.
  • Never miss any crucial information or reference.
  • Finish your work faster.

These are the reasons if someone asks you why an essay outline is needed. Now there are some points that must be kept in mind before proceeding to craft an essay outline.

Essay Outliner

Easily Outline Your Essays In Seconds!

Prewriting Process of Essay Outline

Your teacher may ask you to submit your essay outline before your essay. Therefore, you must know the preliminary guidelines that are necessary before writing an essay outline.

Here are the guidelines:

  • You must go through your assignments’ guidelines carefully.
  • Understand the purpose of your assignment.
  • Know your audience.
  • Mark the important point while researching your topic data.
  • Select the structure of your essay outline; whether you are going to use a decimal point bullet or a simple one.

Order Essay

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Steps

Creating an essay outline is a crucial step in crafting a well-structured and organized piece of writing. Follow these four simple steps to create an effective outline:

Step 1: Understand the Topic

To begin, thoroughly grasp the essence of your essay topic. 

Break it down into its key components and identify the main ideas you want to convey. This step ensures you have a clear direction and focus for your essay.

Step 2: Brainstorm and Gather Ideas

Let your creativity flow and brainstorm ideas related to your topic. 

Jot down key pieces of information, arguments, and supporting evidence that will strengthen your essay's overall message. Consider different perspectives and potential counterarguments to make your essay well-rounded.

Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts

Now it's time to give structure to your ideas. 

Arrange your main points in a logical order, starting with an attention-grabbing introduction, followed by body paragraphs that present your arguments. 

Finally, tie everything together with a compelling conclusion. Remember to use transitional phrases to create smooth transitions between sections.

Step 4: Add Depth with Subpoints

To add depth and clarity to your essay, incorporate subpoints under each main point. 

These subpoints provide more specific details, evidence, or examples that support your main ideas. They help to further strengthen your arguments and make your essay more convincing.

By following these four steps - you'll be well on your way to creating a clear and compelling essay outline.

Essay Outline Format

It is an easy way for you to write your thoughts in an organized manner. It may seem unnecessary and unimportant, but it is not.

It is one of the most crucial steps for essay writing as it shapes your entire essay and aids the writing process.

An essay outline consists of three main parts:

1. Introduction

The introduction body of your essay should be attention-grabbing. It should be written in such a manner that it attracts the reader’s interest. It should also provide background information about the topic for the readers.

You can use a dramatic tone to grab readers’ attention, but it should connect the audience to your thesis statement.

Here are some points without which your introduction paragraph is incomplete.

To attract the reader with the first few opening lines, we use a hook statement. It helps engage the reader and motivates them to read further. There are different types of hook sentences ranging from quotes, rhetorical questions to anecdotes and statistics, and much more.

Are you struggling to come up with an interesting hook? View these hook examples to get inspired!

A thesis statement is stated at the end of your introduction. It is the most important statement of your entire essay. It summarizes the purpose of the essay in one sentence.

The thesis statement tells the readers about the main theme of the essay, and it must be strong and clear. It holds the entire crux of your essay.

Need help creating a strong thesis statement? Check out this guide on thesis statements and learn to write a statement that perfectly captures your main argument!

2. Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of an essay are where all the details and evidence come into play. This is where you dive deep into the argument, providing explanations and supporting your ideas with solid evidence. 

If you're writing a persuasive essay, these paragraphs will be the powerhouse that convinces your readers. Similarly, in an argumentative essay, your body paragraphs will work their magic to sway your audience to your side.

Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and no more than one idea. A topic sentence is the crux of the contents of your paragraph. It is essential to keep your reader interested in the essay.

The topic sentence is followed by the supporting points and opinions, which are then justified with strong evidence.

3. Conclusion

When it comes to wrapping up your essay, never underestimate the power of a strong conclusion. Just like the introduction and body paragraphs, the conclusion plays a vital role in providing a sense of closure to your topic. 

To craft an impactful conclusion, it's crucial to summarize the key points discussed in the introduction and body paragraphs. You want to remind your readers of the important information you shared earlier. But keep it concise and to the point. Short, powerful sentences will leave a lasting impression.

Remember, your conclusion shouldn't drag on. Instead, restate your thesis statement and the supporting points you mentioned earlier. And here's a pro tip: go the extra mile and suggest a course of action. It leaves your readers with something to ponder or reflect on.

5 Paragraph Essay Outline Structure

An outline is an essential part of the writing as it helps the writer stay focused. A typical 5 paragraph essay outline example is shown here. This includes:

  • State the topic
  • Thesis statement
  • Introduction
  • Explanation
  • A conclusion that ties to the thesis
  • Summary of the essay
  • Restate the thesis statement

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

Essay Outline Template

The outline of the essay is the skeleton that you will fill out with the content. Both outline and relevant content are important for a good essay. The content you will add to flesh out the outline should be credible, relevant, and interesting.

The outline structure for the essay is not complex or difficult. No matter which type of essay you write, you either use an alphanumeric structure or a decimal structure for the outline.

Below is an outline sample that you can easily follow for your essay.


Hook/Attention Grabber
Background Information
Thesis Statement


Topic Sentence
Supporting Detail 1
Supporting Detail 2
Supporting Detail 3
Transition to the next paragraph


Topic Sentence
Supporting Detail 1
Supporting Detail 2
Supporting Detail 3
Transition to the next paragraph


Topic Sentence
Supporting Detail 1
Supporting Detail 2
Supporting Detail 3
Transition to the next paragraph


Restate Thesis Statement
Summary of Main Points
Concluding Thoughts

Essay Outline Sample

Essay Outline Examples

An essay outline template should follow when you start writing the essay. Every writer should learn how to write an outline for every type of essay and research paper.

Essay outline 4th grade

Essay outline 5th grade

Essay outline high school

Essay outline college

Given below are essay outline examples for different types of essay writing.

Argumentative Essay Outline

An  argumentative essay  is a type of essay that shows both sides of the topic that you are exploring. The argument that presents the basis of the essay should be created by providing evidence and supporting details.

Persuasive Essay Outline

A  persuasive essay  is similar to an argumentative essay. Your job is to provide facts and details to create the argument. In a persuasive essay, you convince your readers of your point of view.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

A  compare and contrast essay  explains the similarities and differences between two things. While comparing, you should focus on the differences between two seemingly similar objects. While contrasting, you should focus on the similarities between two different objects.

Narrative Essay Outline

A narrative essay is written to share a story. Normally, a narrative essay is written from a personal point of view in an essay. The basic purpose of the narrative essay is to describe something creatively.

Expository Essay Outline

An  expository essay  is a type of essay that explains, analyzes, and illustrates something for the readers. An expository essay should be unbiased and entirely based on facts. Be sure to use academic resources for your research and cite your sources.

Analytical Essay Outline

An  analytical essay  is written to analyze the topic from a critical point of view. An analytical essay breaks down the content into different parts and explains the topic bit by bit.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

A rhetorical essay is written to examine the writer or artist’s work and develop a great essay. It also includes the discussion.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

A  cause and effect essay  describes why something happens and examines the consequences of an occurrence or phenomenon. It is also a type of expository essay.

Informative Essay Outline

An  informative essay  is written to inform the audience about different objects, concepts, people, issues, etc.

The main purpose is to respond to the question with a detailed explanation and inform the target audience about the topic.

Synthesis Essay Outline

A  synthesis essay  requires the writer to describe a certain unique viewpoint about the issue or topic. Create a claim about the topic and use different sources and information to prove it.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

A  literary analysis essay  is written to analyze and examine a novel, book, play, or any other piece of literature. The writer analyzes the different devices such as the ideas, characters, plot, theme, tone, etc., to deliver his message.

Definition Essay Outline

A  definition essay  requires students to pick a particular concept, term, or idea and define it in their own words and according to their understanding.

Descriptive Essay Outline

A  descriptive essay  is a type of essay written to describe a person, place, object, or event. The writer must describe the topic so that the reader can visualize it using their five senses.

Evaluation Essay Outline

Problem Solution Essay Outline

In a problem-solution essay, you are given a problem as a topic and you have to suggest multiple solutions on it.

Scholarship Essay Outline

A  scholarship essay  is required at the time of admission when you are applying for a scholarship. Scholarship essays must be written in a way that should stand alone to help you get a scholarship.

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay  is written to express your own thoughts and point of view regarding a specific topic.

Getting started on your essay? Give this comprehensive essay writing guide a read to make sure you write an effective essay!

With this complete guide, now you understand how to create an outline for your essay successfully. However, if you still can’t write an effective essay, then the best option is to consult a professional academic writing service.

Essay writing is a dull and boring task for some people. So why not get some help instead of wasting your time and effort?  5StarEssays.com is here to help you. All your  do my essay for me  requests are managed by professional essay writers.

Place your order now, and our team of expert academic writers will help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three types of outlines.

Here are the three types of essay outline;

  • Working outline
  • Speaking outline
  • Full-sentence outline

All three types are different from each other and are used for different purposes.

What does a full-sentence outline look like?

A full sentence outline contains full sentences at each level of the essay’s outline. It is similar to an alphanumeric outline and it is a commonly used essay outline.

What is a traditional outline format?

A traditional essay outline begins with writing down all the important points in one place and listing them down and adding sub-topics to them. Besides, it will also include evidence and proof that you will use to back your arguments.

What is the benefit of using a traditional outline format and an informal outline format?

A traditional outline format helps the students in listing down all the important details in one palace while an informal outline will help you coming up with new ideas and highlighting important points

Nova A.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

Was This Blog Helpful?

Keep reading.

  • How to Write an Essay - A Complete Guide with Examples

Essay Outline

  • The Art of Effective Writing: Thesis Statements Examples and Tips

Essay Outline

  • Writing a 500 Word Essay - Easy Guide

Essay Outline

  • What is a Topic Sentence - An Easy Guide with Writing Steps & Examples

Essay Outline

  • 220 Best Transition Words for Essays

Essay Outline

  • Essay Format: Detailed Writing Tips & Examples

Essay Outline

  • How to Write a Conclusion - Examples & Tips

Essay Outline

  • Essay Topics: 100+ Best Essay Topics for your Guidance

Essay Outline

  • How to Title an Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide for Effective Titles

Essay Outline

  • How to Write a Perfect 1000 Word Essay

Essay Outline

  • How To Make An Essay Longer - Easy Guide For Beginners

Essay Outline

  • Learn How to Start an Essay Effectively with Easy Guidelines

Essay Outline

  • Types of Sentences With Examples

Essay Outline

  • Hook Examples: How to Start Your Essay Effectively

Essay Outline

  • Essay Writing Tips - Essential Do’s and Don’ts to Craft Better Essays

Essay Outline

  • How To Write A Thesis Statement - A Step by Step Guide

Essay Outline

  • Art Topics - 200+ Brilliant Ideas to Begin With

Essay Outline

  • Writing Conventions and Tips for College Students

Essay Outline

People Also Read

  • persuasive speech topics
  • book review
  • classification essay topics
  • obesity essay writing topics
  • press release distribution

Burdened With Assignments?

Bottom Slider

Advertisement

  • Homework Services: Essay Topics Generator

© 2024 - All rights reserved

Facebook Social Icon

Have a language expert improve your writing

Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes, generate your apa citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • College essay

How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples

The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

  • A unique, personal topic
  • A compelling, well-structured narrative
  • A clear, creative writing style
  • Evidence of self-reflection and insight

To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.

Table of contents

Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

What do colleges look for in an essay?

Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :

  • Demonstrated values and qualities
  • Vulnerability and authenticity
  • Self-reflection and insight
  • Creative, clear, and concise writing skills

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.

Create an essay tracker sheet

If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

  • Deadlines and number of essays needed
  • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

College essay tracker template

Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.

If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.

What makes a good topic?

  • Meaningful and personal to you
  • Uncommon or has an unusual angle
  • Reveals something different from the rest of your application

Brainstorming questions

You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:

  • What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
  • What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
  • What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
  • What makes you different from your classmates?
  • What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
  • Whom do you admire most? Why?
  • What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?

How to identify your topic

Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:

  • Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.

After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.

Vignettes structure

The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.

This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.

Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences

  • Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
  • Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
  • Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
  • Story: Broadway musical interests
  • Lesson: Finding my voice
  • Story: Smells from family dinner table
  • Lesson: Appreciating home and family
  • Story: Washing dishes
  • Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
  • Story: Biking with Ava
  • Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
  • Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.

Single story structure

The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.

Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.

Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person

  • Situation: Football injury
  • Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
  • Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
  • My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
  • Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.

Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.

Common insight Unique insight
Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying “no” to other interests
Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself
Choir tour → a chance to see a new part of the world Choir tour → a chance to serve in leading younger students
Volunteering → learning to help my community and care about others Volunteering → learning to be critical of insincere resume-building
Turning a friend in for using drugs →  choosing the moral high ground Turning a friend in for using drugs →  realizing the hypocrisy of hiding your secrets

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..

Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).

While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.

Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.

A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .

Show, don’t tell

“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”

First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.

  • What are the most prominent images?
  • Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
  • What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.

Use appropriate style and tone

Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:

  • Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
  • Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
  • Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
  • Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
  • Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).

You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:

  • Summarizing what you already wrote
  • Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
  • Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.

In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.

Option 2: Revealing your insight

You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.

Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.

It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.

Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.

Respect the word count

Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.

Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Check your content, style, and grammar

  • First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
  • Then, check for style and tone issues.
  • Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Get feedback

Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.

  • Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
  • Friends and family can check for authenticity.
  • An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.

The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.

College admissions essay checklist

I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.

I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.

I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.

I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.

Congratulations!

It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

Is this article helpful?

Other students also liked.

  • What Do Colleges Look For in an Essay? | Examples & Tips
  • College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
  • How to Revise Your College Admissions Essay | Examples

More interesting articles

  • Choosing Your College Essay Topic | Ideas & Examples
  • College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't
  • Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary
  • How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Word Count Tips
  • How to Apply for College | Timeline, Templates & Checklist
  • How to End a College Admissions Essay | 4 Winning Strategies
  • How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out | Tips & Examples
  • How to Research and Write a "Why This College?" Essay
  • How to Write a College Essay Fast | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Diversity Essay | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction | Examples
  • How to Write a Scholarship Essay | Template & Example
  • How to Write About Yourself in a College Essay | Examples
  • Style and Tone Tips for Your College Essay | Examples
  • US College Essay Tips for International Students

"I thought AI Proofreading was useless but.."

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Types of Outlines and Samples

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Alphanumeric Outlines

This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people. The formatting follows these characters, in this order:

  • Roman Numerals
  • Capitalized Letters
  • Arabic Numerals
  • Lowercase Letters

If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

The sample PDF in the Media Box above is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay. In order to organize her thoughts and make sure that she has not forgotten any key points that she wants to address, she creates the outline as a framework for her essay.

What is the assignment?

Your instructor asks the class to write an expository (explanatory) essay on the typical steps a high school student would follow in order to apply to college.

What is the purpose of this essay?

To explain the process for applying to college

Who is the intended audience for this essay?

High school students intending to apply to college and their parents

What is the essay's thesis statement?

When applying to college, a student follows a certain process which includes choosing the right schools and preparing the application materials.

Full Sentence Outlines

The full sentence outline format is essentially the same as the Alphanumeric outline. The main difference (as the title suggests) is that full sentences are required at each level of the outline. This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

Decimal Outlines

The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the outline relates to the larger whole. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

examples of college essay outlines

How to Write an Essay Outline

examples of college essay outlines

Imagine that an essay outline is like building a blueprint for a house: it lays the foundation and framework for your ideas. An outline helps you organize your thoughts, ensuring that each section of your essay supports your main argument. 

By mapping out your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion in advance, you can see the big picture and make sure all your points are connected. Let’s see why an essay outline is an important part of the writing process, as well as discover better ways to perform this task.

What Is an Outline?

An essay outline is a structured plan that organizes an essay's main ideas and supporting points before the writing process begins. It serves as a framework, breaking down the essay into key sections: the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. 

Each section includes brief notes or bullet points detailing what will be covered, helping to ensure a logical flow of ideas and coherence in the final piece. By providing a clear overview of the essay's structure, essay outlines make the writing process more efficient and help maintain focus on the central argument or thesis.

Don’t Even Have an Outline Yet?

If you feel tired and unmotivated, delegate your essay to expert writers!

Parts of an Essay to Include in the Outline

An essay structure typically includes three main parts: the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Use a coursework writing service if you’re tasked with a longer paper than a short composition.

Introduction

The introduction of an essay sets the stage for the entire piece, providing a first impression that engages the reader. It typically begins with a hook, a compelling statement or a question designed to capture the reader's interest. Following the hook, background information is provided to give context and help the reader understand the topic at hand. 

This section culminates in a thesis statement, a clear and concise summary of the main argument or purpose of the essay. The introduction not only introduces the topic but also lays out the roadmap for what will be discussed, setting the tone for the rest of the essay.

Tips for the Introduction:

  • Start with a strong hook to grab attention.
  • Provide just enough background information to set the context.
  • Craft a clear and specific thesis statement.
  • Avoid overly broad or general statements.

Body Paragraphs

The essay's body is where the main ideas and arguments are developed. Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence that clearly states the paragraph's main point. This is followed by supporting details, such as evidence, examples, and analysis, which reinforce the topic sentence.

Effective transitions between paragraphs are crucial, as they ensure the essay flows logically from one idea to the next. The body paragraphs collectively build the case for the thesis, providing depth and detail that strengthen the overall argument.

Tips for Body Paragraphs:

  • Begin each paragraph with a strong topic sentence.
  • Use specific evidence and examples to support your points.
  • Analyze the evidence to show how it supports your argument.
  • Use transition words and phrases to connect ideas smoothly.

The conclusion of an essay brings closure to the argument and reinforces the thesis. It typically begins by restating the thesis in light of the evidence presented in the body paragraphs. This is followed by a brief summary of the main points discussed in the essay, highlighting the key arguments made. 

The conclusion should end with a closing thought or call to action, leaving the reader with something to ponder or a sense of resolution. The goal is to leave a lasting impression that underscores the significance of the essay’s findings.

Tips for the Conclusion:

  • Restate the thesis in a new way to reflect the discussion.
  • Summarize the main points succinctly.
  • End with a thought-provoking final sentence or call to action.
  • Avoid introducing new information or arguments.

Are you a fan of literature? Recommended for reading: The Divine Comedy summary .

How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Simple Steps

An essay outline can simplify and enhance the writing process by organizing your ideas and ensuring a logical flow. Here’s how to write an essay outline in four steps:

How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Simple Steps

1. Identify Your Thesis and Main Points

Begin by determining the thesis of your essay—the central argument or point you intend to make. Once you have a clear thesis, identify the main points that will support this argument. 

These points will form the backbone of your essay and should be distinct, relevant, and directly related to your thesis. Write down your thesis statement and list your main supporting points, which will serve as the core sections of your outline.

  • Make sure your thesis is specific and debatable.
  • Limit your main points to three or four to maintain focus.
  • Ensure each main point clearly supports your thesis.

2. Organize Main Points into Sections

Writing an essay outline is divided into three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. Allocate each main point to a body paragraph, and decide the order in which you will present them. 

Consider the logical progression of your argument, ensuring each point builds upon the previous one. This step helps you see the overall structure of your essay and ensures a coherent flow of ideas.

  • Use a logical order, such as chronological, thematic, or order of importance.
  • Ensure each section transitions smoothly to the next.
  • Make sure each body paragraph addresses a single main point.

Are you pursuing an MBA degree? If yes, use our business essay writing services brough to you by certified experts.

3. Develop Supporting Details for Each Main Point

For each main point in the essay outline, jot down the supporting details you’ll use to explain and back up your argument. These can include facts, quotes, examples, and analysis.

Organize these details under each main point, creating subpoints that will form the content of each body paragraph. This step ensures that each paragraph has enough substance to support your argument and keeps your writing focused and detailed.

  • Use a mix of evidence types to strengthen your argument.
  • Make sure each supporting detail is relevant and directly backs up your main point.
  • Balance your paragraphs: ensure they are similar in length and depth.

4. Create a Draft Outline

Combine your thesis, main points, and supporting details into a draft outline. Start with the introduction, including your hook, background information, and thesis statement. Next, outline each body paragraph, starting with a topic sentence and followed by your supporting details. 

Finally, outline your conclusion, restating the thesis, summarizing the main points, and ending with a closing thought. Review your outline to ensure it’s logically structured and covers all necessary points.

  • Keep your outline clear and concise.
  • Use bullet points or numbering to organize your sections.
  • Review and revise your outline for coherence and completeness.

Essay Outline Example

An essay outline example can help a student by providing a clear template that demonstrates how to organize their thoughts and structure their essay effectively. If you’ve got little time left until submission, click on the pay someone to write my paper link, and our specialists will sort your problem out quickly.

Persuasive Essay Outline

Literary analysis essay outline, argumentative essay outline.

An essay outline provides structure and organization, ensuring clarity and coherence in the writing process. It helps writers focus on their main arguments and prevents them from straying off-topic. Additionally, having an outline saves time by streamlining the writing process and making it easier to fill in the details.

Struggling to Wrangle Your Thoughts into a Coherent Essay?

Let us do the heavy lifting for you! 

Should I Use Full Sentences in My Essay Outline?

How to create an outline for an essay, what is an outline for an essay.

Adam Jason

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

examples of college essay outlines

  • Updated writing tips.
  • Updated examples.
  • https://www.sjsu.edu/writingcenter/docs/handouts/Outline%20Template.pdf
  • https://www.monash.edu/student-academic-success/excel-at-writing/how-to-write/essay/example-essay-outlines
  • Structure of an Essay: Outline - Resources for Writing Different Types of Essays | Gallaudet University. (2022, November 16). Gallaudet University. https://gallaudet.edu/student-success/tutorial-center/english-center/writing/resources-for-writing-different-types-of-essays/structure-of-an-essay-outline/

Related Articles

How to Write an Essay Fast

27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

Learn how to write any college essay with these amazing examples of college essays that worked in 2019.  How was your college application journey? Let us know over at collegeessayguy.com

One of the best ways to write a successful college essay for your college application is by learning from real college essay examples that worked . I've compiled a few of my favorite essay examples here that cover a variety of college essay topics.

Need help writing your college essay? Click here for my ultimate guide .

Or, check out my complete guide for answering the most popular college essay prompts on the Common App.

Some essay samples below are by students who chose to write about a challenge, while other examples may be helpful if you’re looking to write about yourself more generally. And yes, a few of these essays did help these students get accepted into the Ivy League, (I’m not telling you which!) though these are all great essays regardless of where (or if) students were admitted to their top choice school.

Looking for more college admissions essay examples about yourself? Check out more personal statements here .

Behold, some of the best college essays of 2024 (in my humble opinion).

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Personal Statement Examples         Burying Grandma         Laptop Stickers         Punk Rock Philosopher         Grandma's Kimchi         Travel and Language         Dead Bird         I Shot My Brother         Porcelain God

UC Essay Examples

  • Supplemental Essay Examples         UChicago Supplemental Essay Examples         Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road         Rock, Paper, Scissors         U of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example         East Meets West

Common App Essay Prompts

According to the 2024/2025 Common Application , the common app essays topics are as follows:

Background Essay: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Challenge Essay: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Belief Essay: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Gratitude Essay: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Accomplishment Essay: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Topic Essay: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Create-Your-Own Essay: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

What Makes a Great College Essay?

These application essays show many sides of a person.

The key to many of these essays is that they describe a story or an aspect of the student’s life in a way that is dynamic: It reflects many of their values, strengths, interests, volunteer work, and life experiences. 

Many of these essays also demonstrate vulnerability. College admissions officers reading your college application will want to know how your values, qualities, and skills will flourish in college— and how good your writing skills are . 

Whether it’s a supplemental essay , personal statement , Common App essay , or diversity essay , the essays below can help you better understand what can result from following a college essay format or applying tips for how to write a college essay to help you get into your dream school. 

College Essay Tips

We asked dozens of experts on essay writing and test scores for their take on what makes a great college essay. Check out five of our favorite college essay tips below. 

1. Imagine how the person reading your essay will feel.

No one's idea of a good time is writing a college essay, I know. But if sitting down to write your essay feels like a chore, and you're bored by what you're saying, you can imagine how the person reading your essay will feel. On the other hand, if you're writing about something you love, something that excites you, something that you've thought deeply about, chances are I'm going to set down your application feeling excited, too—and feeling like I've gotten to know you.

This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts ‘17 graduate.

2. Write like a journalist.

"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.

This college essay tip is by Brad Schiller, MIT graduate and CEO of Prompt, which provides individualized feedback on thousands of students’ essays each year.

3. Don't read the Common Application prompts.

If you already have, erase them from memory and write the story you want colleges to hear. The truth is, admission reviewers rarely know—or care—which prompt you are responding to. They are curious to discover what you choose to show them about who you are, what you value , and why. Even the most fluid writers are often stifled by fitting their narrative neatly into a category and the essay quickly loses authentic voice. Write freely and choose a prompt later. Spoiler alert...one prompt is "Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. " So have at it.

This college essay tip is by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H. and contributor to the NYT, HuffPost, and Forbes on intentionally approaching college admissions.

4. Show your emotions.

Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements. It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness.

This college essay tip is by Charles Maynard, Oxford and Stanford University Graduate and founder of Going Merry, which is a one-stop shop for applying to college scholarships

5. Revise often and early. 

Your admissions essay should go through several stages of revision . And by revisions, we don’t mean quick proofreads. Ask your parents, teachers, high school counselors or friends for their eyes and edits. It should be people who know you best and want you to succeed. Take their constructive criticism in the spirit for which they intend—your benefit.

This college essay tip is by Dhivya Arumugham, Kaplan Test Prep's director of SAT and ACT programs.

Personal Statement Examples

The "burying grandma" example college essay.

Written for the Common App college application essays "Tell us your story" prompt. This essay could work for prompts 1 and 7 for the Common App.

They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.

When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself. They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death. However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasn’t trying to comprehend what dying was; I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.

I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance. While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals. And as I began to consider my future, I realized that what I learned in school would allow me to silence that which had silenced my grandmother. However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. I started to believe that academic perfection would be the only way to redeem myself in her eyes--to make up for what I had not done as a granddaughter.  

However, a simple walk on a hiking trail behind my house made me open my own eyes to the truth. Over the years, everything--even honoring my grandmother--had become second to school and grades. As my shoes humbly tapped against the Earth, the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky reminded me of my small though nonetheless significant part in a larger whole that is humankind and this Earth. Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.   

Volunteering at a cancer treatment center has helped me discover my path. When I see patients trapped in not only the hospital but also a moment in time by their diseases, I talk to them. For six hours a day, three times a week, Ivana is surrounded by IV stands, empty walls, and busy nurses that quietly yet constantly remind her of her breast cancer. Her face is pale and tired, yet kind--not unlike my grandmother’s. I need only to smile and say hello to see her brighten up as life returns to her face. Upon our first meeting, she opened up about her two sons, her hometown, and her knitting group--no mention of her disease. Without even standing up, the three of us—Ivana, me, and my grandmother--had taken a walk together.

Cancer, as powerful and invincible as it may seem, is a mere fraction of a person’s life. It’s easy to forget when one’s mind and body are so weak and vulnerable. I want to be there as an oncologist to remind them to take a walk once in a while, to remember that there’s so much more to life than a disease. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without burying my grandmother’s memory.

Tips + Analysis:

Make (Narrative) structure work for you. This essay uses what we call Narrative Structure, which focuses (in roughly equal word count) on a challenge + effects you’ve faced, what you did about it, and what you learned. Quick tip: one common and easy mistake is to spend most of the essay focused on the challenges + effects, but try to keep that to about a third—what your reader is generally more interested in is what you did about that challenge and what you learned/how you’ve grown. For a more complete guide to using Narrative Structure to shape your personal statement, check out that link.

Show insight and growth. This essay does so in a few different ways. One is by recognizing that they were wrong about something / had “done it wrong” (e.g. ...understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV or However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. ). We’re pointing this out because, fairly frequently, students are worried that acknowledging they were wrong in some way will be looked down upon by readers. Put those worries to rest—showing that you’re capable of reflecting, acknowledging your failings or where you were wrong, and growing through your new understanding is a sign of maturity that colleges value. (For more on insight/reflection , check out that link, which is focused on the UC PIQs but its content also applies to personal statements.)

Bring us into your world. You can do so through things like imagery (e.g., the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky ) and through illustrating (or sometimes directly naming) your values and how your experiences have shaped them (e.g., I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans ). A personal statement isn’t simply a list of accomplishments (let your Activities List and Additional Info section do that lifting for you). Instead, it’s about helping a college understand who you are through the values, interests, insights, skills, and qualities you bring to their campus and community.

THE "Laptop Stickers" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

My laptop is like a passport. It is plastered with stickers all over the outside, inside, and bottom. Each sticker is a stamp, representing a place I've been, a passion I've pursued, or community I've belonged to. These stickers make for an untraditional first impression at a meeting or presentation, but it's one I'm proud of. Let me take you on a quick tour:

" We < 3 Design ," bottom left corner. Art has been a constant for me for as long as I can remember. Today my primary engagement with art is through design. I've spent entire weekends designing websites and social media graphics for my companies. Design means more to me than just branding and marketing; it gives me the opportunity to experiment with texture, perspective, and contrast, helping me refine my professional style.

" Common Threads ," bottom right corner. A rectangular black and red sticker displaying the theme of the 2017 TEDxYouth@Austin event. For years I've been interested in the street artists and musicians in downtown Austin who are so unapologetically themselves. As a result, I've become more open-minded and appreciative of unconventional lifestyles. TED gives me the opportunity to help other youth understand new perspectives, by exposing them to the diversity of Austin where culture is created, not just consumed.

Poop emoji , middle right. My 13-year-old brother often sends his messages with the poop emoji 'echo effect,' so whenever I open a new message from him, hundreds of poops elegantly cascade across my screen. He brings out my goofy side, but also helps me think rationally when I am overwhelmed. We don't have the typical "I hate you, don't talk to me" siblinghood (although occasionally it would be nice to get away from him); we're each other's best friends. Or at least he's mine.

" Lol ur not Harry Styles ," upper left corner. Bought in seventh grade and transferred from my old laptop, this sticker is torn but persevering with layers of tape. Despite conveying my fangirl-y infatuation with Harry Styles' boyband, One Direction, for me Styles embodies an artist-activist who uses his privilege for the betterment of society. As a $42K donor to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, a hair donor to the Little Princess Trust, and promoter of LGBTQ+ equality, he has motivated me to be a more public activist instead of internalizing my beliefs.

" Catapult ," middle right. This is the logo of a startup incubator where I launched my first company, Threading Twine. I learned that business can provide others access to fundamental human needs, such as economic empowerment of minorities and education. In my career, I hope to be a corporate advocate for the empowerment of women, creating large-scale impact and deconstructing institutional boundaries that obstruct women from working in high-level positions. Working as a women's rights activist will allow me to engage in creating lasting movements for equality, rather than contributing to a cycle that elevates the stances of wealthy individuals.

" Thank God it's Monday ," sneakily nestled in the upper right corner. Although I attempt to love all my stickers equally (haha), this is one of my favorites. I always want my association with work to be positive.

And there are many others, including the horizontal, yellow stripes of the  Human Rights Campaign ; " The Team ," a sticker from the Model G20 Economics Summit where I collaborated with youth from around the globe; and stickers from " Kode with Klossy ," a community of girls working to promote women's involvement in underrepresented fields.

When my computer dies (hopefully not for another few years), it will be like my passport expiring. It'll be difficult leaving these moments and memories behind, but I probably won't want these stickers in my 20s anyways (except Harry Styles, that's never leaving). My next set of stickers will reveal my next set of aspirations. They hold the key to future paths I will navigate, knowledge I will gain, and connections I will make.

Make (Montage) structure work for you. This essay uses what we call Montage Structure, which uses a “thematic thread” (in this case, laptop stickers ) to connect different, perhaps otherwise seemingly disconnected sides of who a student is. One strength (among many) of this structural approach is that it can allow a student to demonstrate a broad range of values and experiences that have shaped them, which in turn helps a college understand who you are through the values, interests, insights, skills, and qualities you bring to their campus and community. For a more complete guide to using Montage Structure to shape your personal statement, check out that link.

Show (and probably also tell a little). “Show don’t tell” is generally solid writing advice, but for college essays, we’d recommend leaning a bit more toward the “Mostly show but than maybe also tell a little, just to be sure your reader gets it” approach (Though that’s clearly not as catchy a phrase).  So show us your experiences and values through specific moments and details, but also include some language that more directly states those values and what they mean to you, like Working as a women's rights activist will allow me to engage in creating lasting movements for equality, rather than contributing to a cycle that elevates the stances of wealthy individuals .

Get a little vulnerable. Being vulnerable in writing is a great way to help a reader feel closer to you. And it’s useful to keep in mind that there’s actually a pretty great variety of ways to be vulnerable. One nice moment of vulnerability in this essay comes with …in we're each other's best friends. Or at least he's mine —it’s a nice, soft moment in which the author offers up something that could feel a little tender, or maybe scary to share (because hey, acknowledging that you might care about someone more than they care about you can feel that way). 

Learn how to write your college essay

The "punk rock philosopher" college essay example.

This was written for the Common App college application essays, and works for prompts 1 and 7 (or none of them, because the author is that cool):

I am on Oxford Academy’s Speech and Debate Team, in both the Parliamentary Debate division and the Lincoln-Douglass debate division. I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick. I have accumulated over 300 community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile.

But I am not any of these things. I am not a test score, nor a debater, nor a writer. I am an anti-nihilist punk rockphilosopher. And I became so when I realized three things:

1) That the world is ruled by underwear. There is a variety of underwear for a variety of people. You have your ironed briefs for your businessmen, your soft cottons for the average, and hemp-based underwear for your environmental romantics. But underwear do not only tell us about who we are, they also influence our daily interactions in ways most of us don't even understand. For example, I have a specific pair of underwear that is holey, worn out but surprisingly comfortable. And despite how trivial underwear might be, when I am wearing my favorite pair, I feel as if I am on top of the world. In any case, these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort.

2) When I realized I cannot understand the world. I recently debated at the Orange County Speech League Tournament, within the Parliamentary Division. This specific branch of debate is an hour long, and consists of two parties debating either side of a current political issue. In one particular debate, I was assigned the topic: “Should Nation States eliminate nuclear arms?” It so happened that I was on the negative side and it was my job to convince the judges that countries should continue manufacturing nuclear weapons. During the debate, something strange happened: I realized that we are a special breed of species, that so much effort and resources are invested to ensure mutual destruction. And I felt that this debate in a small college classroom had elucidated something much more profound about the scale of human existence. In any case, I won 1st place at the tournament, but as the crowd cheered when my name was called to stand before an audience of hundreds of other debaters, and I flashed a victorious smile at the cameras, I couldn’t help but imagine that somewhere at that moment a nuclear bomb was being manufactured, adding to an ever-growing stockpile of doom. And that's when I realized that the world was something I will never understand.

3) When I realized I was a punk rocker philosopher. One summer night, my friend took me to an underground hardcore punk rock show. It was inside a small abandoned church. After the show, I met and became a part of this small community. Many were lost and on a constant soul-search, and to my surprise, many, like myself, did not have a blue Mohawk or a nose piercing. Many were just ordinary people discussing Nietzsche, string theory, and governmental ideologies. Many were also artists creating promotional posters and inventive slogans for stickers. They were all people my age who could not afford to be part of a record label and did something extraordinary by playing in these abandoned churches, making their own CDs and making thousands of promotional buttons by hand. I realized then that punk rock is not about music nor is it a guy with a blue Mohawk screaming protests. Punk rock is an attitude, a mindset, and very much a culture. It is an antagonist to the conventional. It means making the best with what you have to contribute to a community. This was when I realized that I was a punk rock philosopher.

The world I come from consists of underwear, nuclear bombs, and punk rockers. And I love this world. My world is inherently complex, mysterious, and anti-nihilist. I am David Phan, somebody who spends his weekends debating in a three piece suit, other days immersed within the punk rock culture, and some days writing opinionated blogs about underwear.

But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school. A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.

ARE YOU A HIGH-ACHIEVING, LOW-INCOME STUDENT LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES to receive COLLEGE ESSAY & Application guidance?

The matchlighters scholarship might be for you— apply today..

Matchlighters banner-min (1).jpg

The "Grandma's Kimchi" College Essay Example

This essay could work for prompts 1 and 7 for the Common App.

Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.

My grandma’s specialty always dominated the dinner table as kimchi filled every plate. And like my grandma who had always been living with us, it seemed as though the luscious smell of garlic would never leave our home. But even the prided recipe was defenseless against the ravages of Alzheimer’s that inflicted my grandma’s mind.

Dementia slowly fed on her memories until she became as blank as a brand-new notebook. The ritualistic rigor of Saturday mornings came to a pause, and during dinner, the artificial taste of vacuum-packaged factory kimchi only emphasized the absence of the family tradition. I would look at her and ask, “Grandma, what’s my name?” But she would stare back at me with a clueless expression. Within a year of diagnosis, she lived with us like a total stranger.

One day, my mom brought home fresh cabbages and red pepper sauce. She brought out the old silver bowl and poured out the cabbages, smothering them with garlic and salt and pepper. The familiar tangy smell tingled my nose. Gingerly, my grandma stood up from the couch in the living room, and as if lured by the smell, sat by the silver bowl and dug her hands into the spiced cabbages. As her bony hands shredded the green lips, a look of determination grew on her face. Though her withered hands no longer displayed the swiftness and precision they once did, her face showed the aged rigor of a professional. For the first time in years, the smell of garlic filled the air and the rattling of the silver bowl resonated throughout the house.

That night, we ate kimchi. It wasn’t perfect; the cabbages were clumsily cut and the garlic was a little too strong. But kimchi had never tasted better. I still remember my grandma putting a piece in my mouth and saying, “Here, Dong Jin. Try it, my boy.”

Seeing grandma again this summer, that moment of clarity seemed ephemeral. Her disheveled hair and expressionless face told of the aggressive development of her illness.

But holding her hands, looking into her eyes, I could still smell that garlic. The moments of Saturday mornings remain ingrained in my mind. Grandma was an artist who painted the cabbages with strokes of red pepper. Like the sweet taste of kimchi, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words.

A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away.

My grandma used to say: “Tigers leave furs when they die, humans leave their names.” Her legacy was the smell of garlic that lingered around my house. Mine will be these words.

The "Travel and Language" College Essay Example

When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience.

At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.

It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language.

It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. But when I pronounced it PYR–a–mides instead of pyr–A–mides, with more accent on the A, she looked at me bewildered.

In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. Baseball in Spanish, for example, is béisbol, which looks different but sounds nearly the same. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.

Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I loved how long words were formed by combining simpler characters, so Huǒ (火) meaning fire and Shān (山) meaning mountain can be joined to create Huǒshān (火山), which means volcano. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them.

Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon (learning big words), I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world.

But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I’ve connected with people in the most unlikely places, finding a Bulgarian painter to use my few Bulgarian words with in the streets of Paris, striking up a conversation in Spanish with an Indian woman who used to work at the Argentinian embassy in Mumbai, and surprising a library worker by asking her a question in her native Mandarin.

I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life. I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.

I think of my journey as best expressed through a Chinese proverb that my teacher taught me, “I am like a chicken eating at a mountain of rice.” Each grain is another word for me to learn as I strive to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Today, I still  have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.

Click here  for this student's amazing Instagram photos.

The "Dead Bird" Example College Essay Example

This was written for a Common App college application essay prompt that no longer exists, which read: Evaluate a significant experience, risk, achievement, ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

 Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive.

I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me.

The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth. But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood.

Death. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home?

Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. Band-aid? How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain.

But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed. Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet. 

Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible?

Oh. Yes. The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. Apologies. So many apologies. Finally, the body  lowered to rest. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible.

Hugging Mrs. Hsieh, I was a ghost, a statue. My brain and my body competed. Emotion wrestled with fact. Kari Hsieh, aged 17, my friend of four years, had died in the Chatsworth Metrolink Crash on Sep. 12, 2008. Kari was dead, I thought. Dead.

But I could still save the bird.

My frantic actions heightened my senses, mobilized my spirit. Cupping the bird, I ran outside, hoping the cool air outdoors would suture every wound, cause the bird to miraculously fly away. Yet there lay the bird in my hands, still gasping, still dying. Bird, human, human, bird. What was the difference? Both were the same. Mortal.

But couldn't I do something? Hold the bird longer, de-claw the cat? I wanted to go to my bedroom, confine myself to tears, replay my memories, never come out. 

The bird's warmth faded away. Its heartbeat slowed along with its breath. For a long time, I stared thoughtlessly at it, so still in my hands.

Slowly, I dug a small hole in the black earth. As it disappeared under handfuls of dirt, my own heart grew stronger, my own breath more steady.

The wind, the sky, the dampness of the soil on my hands whispered to me, “The bird is dead. Kari has passed. But you are alive.” My breath, my heartbeat, my sweat sighed back, “I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.”

The "I Shot My Brother" College Essay Example

This essay could work for prompts 1, 2 and 7 for the Common App.

From page 54 of the maroon notebook sitting on my mahogany desk:

“Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.” - Genesis 4:13

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.

The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.

“Why can’t you be more like Jon?” my grandmother used to nag, pointing at me with a carrot stick. To me, Jon was just cocky. He would scoff at me when he would beat me in basketball, and when he brought home his painting of Bambi with the teacher’s sticker “Awesome!” on top, he would make several copies of it and showcase them on the refrigerator door. But I retreated to my desk where a pile of “Please draw this again and bring it to me tomorrow” papers lay, desperate for immediate treatment. Later, I even refused to attend the same elementary school and wouldn’t even eat meals with him.

Deep down I knew I had to get the chip off my shoulder. But I didn’t know how.

That is, until March 11th, 2001.

That day around six o’clock, juvenile combatants appeared in Kyung Mountain for their weekly battle, with cheeks smeared in mud and empty BB guns in their hands. The Korean War game was simple: to kill your opponent you had to shout “pow!” before he did. Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began. My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders.

Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.

Hearing us, the alarmed captain turned around: It was my brother.

He saw Min-young’s right arm sticking out from the bush and hurled a “grenade,” (a rock), bruising his arm.

“That’s not fair!” I roared in the loudest and most unrecognizable voice I could manage.

Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. Streams of sweat ran down my face and I pursued him for several minutes until suddenly I was arrested by a small, yellow sign that read in Korean: DO NOT TRESPASS: Boar Traps Ahead. (Two summers ago, my five year old cousin, who insisted on joining the ranks, had wandered off-course during the battle; we found him at the bottom of a 20 ft deep pit with a deep gash in his forehead and shirt soaked in blood) “Hey, stop!” I shouted, heart pounding. “STOP!” My mind froze. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do?

I looked on as my shivering hand reached for the canister of BBs. The next second, I heard two shots followed by a cry. I opened my eyes just enough to see two village men carrying my brother away from the warning sign. I turned around, hurled my BB gun into the nearby Kyung Creek and ran home as fast as I could.

Days passed. My brother and I did not talk about the incident.

‘Maybe he knew it was me,’ I thought in fear as I tried to eavesdrop on his conversation with grandpa one day. When the door suddenly opened, I blurted, “Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said pushing past me, “Just a rough sleep.”

But in the next few weeks, something was happening inside me.

All the jealousy and anger I’d once felt had been replaced by a new feeling: guilt.

That night when my brother was gone I went to a local store and bought a piece of chocolate taffy, his favorite. I returned home and placed it on my brother’s bed with a note attached: “Love, Grandma.”

Several days later, I secretly went into his room and folded his unkempt pajamas.

Then, other things began to change. We began sharing clothes (something we had never done), started watching Pokémon episodes together, and then, on his ninth birthday, I did something with Jon that I hadn’t done in six years: I ate dinner with him. I even ate fishcakes, which he loved but I hated. And I didn’t complain.

Today, my brother is one of my closest friends. Every week I accompany him to Carlson Hospital where he receives treatment for his obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. While in the waiting room, we play a noisy game of Zenga, comment on the Lakers’ performance or listen to the radio on the registrar’s desk.

Then, the door to the doctor’s office opens.

“Jonathan Lee, please come in.”

I tap his shoulder and whisper, “Rock it, bro.”

After he leaves, I take out my notebook and begin writing where I left off.

Beside me, the receptionist’s fingers hover over the radio in search of a new station, eventually settling on one. I hear LeAnn Rimes singing “Amazing Grace.” Her voice slowly rises over the noise of the bustling room.

“’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved...”

Smiling, I open Jon’s Jansport backpack and neatly place this essay inside and a chocolate taffy with a note attached.

Twenty minutes have passed when the door abruptly opens.

“Guess what the doctor just said?” my brother cries, unable to hide his exhilaration.

I look up and I smile too.

For analysis of what makes this essay amazing , go here.

The "Porcelain God" College Essay Example

Essay written for the "topic of your choice" prompt for the 2012 Common Application college application essays.

Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning.

Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup. My mom had specifically asked the waitress if there were peanuts in it, because when I was two we found out that I am deathly allergic to them. When the waitress replied no, I went for it. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.

At five years old, I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. All I knew was that I felt sick, and I was waiting for my mom to give me something to make it better. I thought my parents were superheroes; surely they would be able to make well again. But I became scared when I heard the fear in their voices as they rushed me to the ER.

After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.

In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens. This past summer, I took a month-long course on human immunology at Stanford University. I learned about the different mechanisms and cells that our bodies use in order to fight off pathogens. My desire to major in biology in college has been stimulated by my fascination with the human body, its processes, and the desire to find a way to help people with allergies. I hope that one day I can find a way to stop allergic reactions or at least lessen the symptoms, so that children and adults don’t have to feel the same fear and bitterness that I felt.

To find out if your essay passes the Great College Essay Test like this one did, go here .

The "Five Families" College Essay Example

This essay could work for prompts 1, 2, 5 and 7 for the Common App.

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

ANALYSIS OF THE "FIVE FAMILIES" ESSAY

Remember that movie “The Sixth Sense”?

I won't ruin it for you, but I will tell you that there’s a moment toward the end when a crucial piece of information is revealed that triggers in the mind of the audience a series of realizations that have been leading up to this Big Revelation.

That’s kind of what this writer does: he buries a series of hints (one in each paragraph) that he “explodes” in the final paragraph. In short:

He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs (one per family).

He doesn’t tell us what they mean until the end of the essay, when he writes “I learned and was shaped by each of them.” Note that each essence image is actually a lesson--something he learned from each family.

When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. We realize this writer has been carefully constructing this piece all along; we see the underlying structure. And it’s a pretty neat one.

Each of the first five paragraphs works to SHOW . (He waits to TELL us what they mean ‘til that second to last paragraph.)

See how distinct each family is? He does this through specific images and objects.

The second to last paragraph answers the “So what?” question. (Q: Why did he just show us all these details? A: To demonstrate what each family has taught him.)

He also goes one step further. He answers the “So what?” question once more in the final paragraph. (Q: So what am I going to do with all these lessons? A: I’m going to use them to adapt to my next family--in college.)

The beauty of this is that he’s demonstrating (showing not telling) that he has an extremely valuable quality that will be useful for doing well at any college: adaptability.

TIP: And that’s one more way to write your essay . Identify your single greatest strength (in this case, it was his ability to adapt to whatever life gave him). Ask: how did I learn this? How can I SHOW that I’m good at this?

Here are all the “Show” and “Tell” moments clearly marked:

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words.  He was my first friend in the New World.

Show 1: "By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone."

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together.  On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

Show 2: "the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family" (implication: he doesn't have this with his own family)

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted.  The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor,  right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

Show 3: "the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children."

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son.  She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency.  The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest.  However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

Show 4: "Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline."

The Dirksen family had three kids.  They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games.  Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Show 5: "and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities."

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them.  By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

The "Tell" / "So What":

THE "FOOD" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “I Love/I Know” Type

I’ve spent most of my life as an anti-vegetable carboholic.  For years, processed snack foods ruled the kitchen kingdom of my household and animal products outnumbered plant-based offerings. 

My transformation began with my mom’s cancer diagnosis. My mom went on a 100% whole food plant-based diet. I fully embraced this new eating philosophy to show my support. Eager to figure out the whole “vegan” thing, the two of us started binge-watching health documentaries such as “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives”. We read all the books by the featured doctors like “The China Study” and “How Not To Die”. I became entranced by the world of nutritional science and how certain foods could help prevent cancer or boost metabolism. 

Each new food I discovered gave me an education on the role diet plays on health. I learned that, by eating sweet potatoes and brown rice, you could cure acne and heart disease. I discovered eating leafy greens with citrus fruits could boost iron absorption rates. I loved pairing my foods to create the perfect macronutrient balance. Did you know beans and rice make a complete protein? 

Food has also turned me into a sustainability nut. Living plant-based also saves the planet from the impact of animal agriculture. For the same amount of land space, a farmer can produce 200 kilograms of soybeans versus 16 kilograms of beef. I do my part to have as small of an ecological footprint as I can. I stopped using plastic snack bags and instead turned to reusable beeswax wraps. My favorite reusable appliance is my foldable straw. If I am going to nourish my body, shouldn’t I also want to nourish the earth? 

My journey toward healthy living led me to becoming co-leader of the Northern Nevada PlantPure Pod, “Biggest Little Plant Pod”, a group dedicated to spreading the message about the whole food plant-based lifestyle. We are currently working on a restaurant campaign to encourage local eateries to create a plant-based, oil-free menu option and become PlantPure certified. After discovering how many restaurants use oil in their cooking, I decided I needed to open a plant-based oil free cafe to make up for this gap. My dream is to open up my very own affordable oatmeal cafe based on my Instagram page, morning_mOATivations. And I know that oatmeal isn’t the sexiest superfood out there, so here’s my sales pitch: I’m going to make oatmeal the Beyonce of the breakfast world- sweet, sassy, and power packed. This allows me to educate people about nutritional science through the stomach. 

Finally, I am a strong proponent of hands-on experience for learning what good food looks and tastes like, so cooking is one of my favorite ways to teach the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. Using my taste buds as my textbook to learn which flavors work together and which ones don’t helps me educate, as I’ve found that information tends to stick in a person’s mind once they’ve experienced healthy, delicious foods with their own senses. Our society has taught us that delicious food has to make us feel guilty, when that is simply not the case. The best feeling in the world is falling in love with a dish and then learning all the health benefits that it provides the body.

While my classmates complain about being tired, I have more energy because my body is finally getting the right macros, vitamins, and minerals it needs. This has allowed me to push myself harder physically, excelling in running and earning my high school Cross Country team’s Most Improved award. I’m still a picky eater. But the foods I am particular about have changed. Rather than a carboholic, I choose to call myself a vegeholic.

THE "HAPPINESS SPREADSHEET" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Essence Object” Type

Meditation over a flaxen sunset with a friend and parmesan-topped spaghetti for dinner — “14.” Assignments piling up on my desk as a high fever keeps me sick at home — “3.” Taking a photo excursion through downtown Seattle for a Spanish project — “15.” For the past 700 days and counting, the Happiness Spreadsheet has been my digital collection for documenting numerical, descriptive, and graphical representations of my happiness. Its instructions are simple: Open the Google Sheet, enter a number between 1 and 20 that best represents my level of happiness, and write a short comment describing the day. But the practical aspect of the spreadsheet is only a piece of what it has represented in my life.

A “14” etched on November 15, 2018, marked the first Lakeside Cooking on the Stove Club meeting. What had started as a farcical proposition of mine transformed into a playground where high school classmates and I convene every two weeks to prepare a savory afternoon snack for ourselves. A few months later, a “16” scribbled on February 27, 2019, marked the completion of a fence my Spanish class and I constructed for the dusty soccer field at a small Colombian village. Hard-fought days of mixing cement and transporting supplies had paid off for the affectionate community we had immediately come to love. The Happiness Spreadsheet doesn’t only reflect my own thoughts and emotions; it is an illustration of the fulfillment I get from gifting happiness to others.

If happiness paves the roads of my life, my family is the city intertwined by those roads — each member a distinct neighborhood, a distinct story. In times of stress, whether it be studying for an upcoming derivatives test or presenting my research at an international conference, I dash to my father for help. Coming from the dusty, people-packed backstreets of Thiruvananthapuram, India, he guides me in looking past the chaos and noticing the hidden accomplishments that lie in the corners. When in need of confidence, I find my mother, who taps her experiences living in her tranquil and sturdy tatami-covered home in Hiroshima, Japan, helping me prepare for my first high school dance or my final match in a tennis tournament. Whenever my Happiness Spreadsheet numbers touch lows, my family is always there to level me out to “10.”

The Happiness Spreadsheet is also a battery monitor for enthusiasm. On occasion, it is on full charge, like when I touched the last chord on the piano for my composition's winner recital or when, one frosty Friday morning, I convinced a teacher to play over the school speakers a holiday medley I’d recorded with a friend. Other times, the battery is depleted, and I am frustrated by writer's block, when not a single melody, chord, or musical construct crosses my mind. The Happiness Spreadsheet can be a hall of fame, but it can likewise be a catalog of mistakes, burdens, and grueling challenges.

The spreadsheet began on a typical school day when I left my physics class following the most confusing test I’d taken. The idea was born spontaneously at lunch, and I asked two of my friends if they were interested in pursuing this exercise with me. We thought the practice would last only a couple of weeks or months at most, but after reaching 700 days, we now wonder if we’ll ever stop. To this day, I ponder its full importance in my life. With every new number I enter, I recognize that each entry is not what defines me; rather, it is the ever-growing line connecting all the data points that reflects who I am today. With every valley, I force myself onward and with every mountain's peak, I recognize the valleys I’ve crossed to reach the summit. Where will the Happiness Spreadsheet take me next?

THE "TRANSLATING" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Skill/Superpower” Type

".miK ijniM" This is how I wrote my name until I was seven . I was a left-handed kid who wrote from right to left, which made my writing comprehensible only to myself. Only after years of practice did I become an ambidextrous writer who could translate my incomprehensible writing. As I look back on my life, I realized that this was my first act of translation. 

Translation means reinterpreting my Calculus teacher’s description of L’hospital’s rule into a useful tool for solving the limits . As I deciphered complex codes into comprehensible languages like rate of change and speed of an object, I gained the ability to solve even more complicated and fascinating problems. My Calculus teacher often told me, “It’s not until you can teach math concepts to somebody that you understand them completely.” Before I discovered the joy of teaching, I often explained difficult math concepts to my friends as a tool for reviewing what I’d learned. Now, I volunteer to tutor others: as a Korean tutor for friends who love Korean culture and a golf tutor for new team members. Tutoring is how I integrate and strengthen new concepts for myself.  

My talent for translating also applies to my role as a “therapist” for my family and friends . I’m able to identify their real feelings beneath superficial words by translating hand-gestures, facial expressions, and tones. I often put myself into their situation and ask, "What emotional support would I want or need if I was in this situation?" Through these acts of translation, I’ve grown into a more reliable and perceptive friend, daughter, and sister. 

However, my translation can't accurately account for the experiences I have yet to go through . After realizing the limitations of my experience, I created a bucket list full of activities out of my comfort zone, which includes traveling abroad by myself, publishing my own book, and giving a lecture in front of a crowd. Although it is a mere list written on the front page of my diary, I found myself vividly planning and picturing myself accomplishing those moments. By widening my experiences, I’ll be a therapist who can empathize fully and give meaningful advice based on rich experiences.

My knack for translating has led me to become a real-life Korean language translator . As an English to Korean letter translator in a non-profit organization, Compassion , I serve as a communication bridge between benefactors and children in developing countries, who communicate through monthly letters. I’ve translated hundreds of letters by researching each country to provide context that considers both cultural aspects and nuances of the language. This experience has motivated me to learn languages like Spanish and Mandarin. I’ve realized that learning various languages has been a journey of self-discovery: the way I talk and interact with people changed depending on the language I used. As I get to know more about myself through different languages, I grew more confident to meet new people and build new friendships.

While translating has been a huge part of my life, a professional translator is not my dream job . I want to be an ambulatory care clinical pharmacist who manages the medication of patients with chronic diseases. In fact, translating is a huge part of the job of a clinical pharmacist. I should substitute myself into patients’ situations to respond to their needs effectively, which requires my translating skill as a “therapist.” Moreover, as a clinical pharmacist, I’ll be the patients’ private tutor who not only guides them through the right use of medication but also gives them emotional support. As my qualities as a “therapist” and a “tutor” shaped me into a great translator, I will continue to develop my future as a clinical pharmacist by enhancing and discovering my qualities. In one form or another, I've always been and will be a translator.

THE "WHY BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Career” Type

I sit, cradled by the two largest branches of the Newton Pippin Tree, watching the ether. The Green Mountains of Vermont stretch out indefinitely, and from my elevated vantage point, I feel as though we are peers, motionless in solidarity. I’ve lost my corporeal form and instead, while watching invisible currents drive white leviathans across the sky, have drifted up into the epistemological stream; completely alone with my questions, diving for answers. But a few months ago, I would have considered this an utter waste of time. 

Prior to attending Mountain School, my paradigm was substantially limited; opinions, prejudices, and ideas shaped by the testosterone-rich environment of Landon School. I was herded by result-oriented, fast-paced, technologically-reliant parameters towards psychology and neuroscience (the NIH, a mere 2.11 mile run from my school, is like a beacon on a hill). I was taught that one’s paramount accomplishment should be specialization. 

Subconsciously I knew this was not who I wanted to be and seized the chance to apply to the Mountain School. Upon my arrival, though, I immediately felt I did not belong. I found the general atmosphere of hunky-dory acceptance foreign and incredibly unnerving. 

So, rather than engage, I retreated to what was most comfortable: sports and work. In the second week, the perfect aggregate of the two, a Broomball tournament, was set to occur. Though I had never played before, I had a distinct vision for it, so decided to organize it.

That night, the glow-in-the-dark ball skittered across the ice. My opponent and I, brooms in hand, charged forward. We collided and I banana-peeled, my head taking the brunt of the impact. Stubborn as I was, even with a concussion, I wanted to remain in class and do everything my peers did, but my healing brain protested. My teachers didn’t quite know what to do with me, so, no longer confined to a classroom if I didn’t want to be, I was in limbo. I began wandering around campus with no company except my thoughts. Occasionally, Zora, my English teacher’s dog, would tag along and we’d walk for miles in each other's silent company. Other times, I found myself pruning the orchard, feeding the school’s wood furnaces, or my new favorite activity, splitting wood. Throughout those days, I created a new-found sense of home in my head.

However, thinking on my own wasn’t enough; I needed more perspectives. I organized raucous late-night discussions about everything from medieval war machines to political theory and  randomly challenged my friends to “say something outrageous and defend it.” And whether we achieve profundity or not, I find myself enjoying the act of discourse itself. As Thoreau writes, “Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves, the waves may cast up pearls.” I have always loved ideas, but now understand what it means to ride their waves, to let them breathe and become something other than just answers to immediate problems. 

I am most enamored by ideas that cultivate ingenious and practical enrichments for humanity. I enjoy picking some conundrum, large or small, and puzzling out a solution. Returning from a cross country meet recently, my friend and I, serendipitously, designed a socially responsible disposable water bottle completely on accident. Now we hope to create it.

I am still interested in psychology and neuroscience, but also desire to incorporate contemplative thought into this work, analyzing enigmas from many different perspectives. My internships at the NIH and the National Hospital for Neuroscience and Neurosurgery in London have offered me valuable exposure to research and medicine. But I have come to realize that neither of my previous intended professions allow me to expand consciousness in the way I would prefer. 

After much soul-searching, I have landed on behavioral economics as the perfect synergy of the fields I love. All it took was a knock on the head.

THE "5 FAMILY IDENTITIES" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage, “Identity” Type

“Chris, what would you like to have for Christmas Dinner? ”

Suddenly, a miniature gathering of the European Commission glares straight at me. I feel the pressure of picking one option over the other.

 What do I choose? The Roast Duck of Denmark, the Five Fish of Italy, the Turkey of Great Britain, or the Ham of the U.S.? Like the various nations of the European Union, the individual proponents of these culinary varieties are lobbying their interests to me, a miniature Jean-Claude Junker.

Now, you may be asking yourselves: why would I be so pensive over a meal choice?

See, I have been blessed to be a part of what my mother calls the “melting pot of Europe.”  While I was born in England, my brothers were born in Denmark and New York. I have a Swedish sister-in-law, Italian Aunts, an English Uncle, Romanian cousins and an Italo-Danish immigrant father. Every year, that same family gathers together in New York City to celebrate Christmas. While this wonderful kaleidoscope of cultures has caused me to be the ‘peacekeeper’ during meal arbitrations, it has fundamentally impacted my life.  

Our family’s ethnic diversity has meant that virtually each person adheres to a different position on the political spectrum. This has naturally triggered many discussions, ranging from the merits of European single-payer healthcare to those of America’s gun laws, that have often animated our meals. These exact conversations drove me to learn more about what my parents, grandparents, and other relatives were debating with a polite and considerate passion. This ongoing discourse on current events not only initiated my interests in politics and history, but also prepared me greatly for my time as a state-champion debater for Regis’s Public Forum team. In turn, participating in debate has expanded my knowledge regarding matters ranging from civil rights reparations to American redeployment in Iraq, while enriching my capacities to thoughtfully express my views on those and other issues, both during P.F. rounds and at the dinner table.

Just as I’ve learned to understand and bridge the divides between a rich tapestry of cultures in order to develop my familial relations, society’s leadership must also do the same on a grander scale. This awareness incited a passion for statecraft within me – the very art of balancing different perspectives - and therefore a desire to actively engage in government. With my experiences in mind, I felt there was no better place to start than my own neighborhood of Bay Ridge. Young hipsters, a high concentration of seniors, Italian & Irish middle class families, and a growing population of Middle-Eastern Americans help to comprise a district that I have begun serving as the first teenaged member of my local Community Board.  Within my public service capacity, I am committed to making policy judgments (for example, regarding hookah bars, zoning regulations, and park renovation expenses) that are both wise and respectful of my community’s diversity. 

Most importantly, my family has taught me an integral life lesson. As our Christmas Dinner squabbles suggest, seemingly insurmountable impasses can be resolved through respect and dialogue, even producing delicious results! On a grander scale, it has elucidated that truly inclusive discourse and toleration of diverse perspectives render tribalism, sectarianism, and the  divisive aspects of identity politics powerless over our cohesion. I fundamentally value cultural, political, and theological variety; my own microcosm reflecting our global society at large has inspired me to strive to solve the many conflicts of bitterness and sectionalism in our world today. This vocation may come in the form of political leadership that truly respects all perspectives and philosophies, or perhaps as diplomacy facilitating unity between the various nations of the world. The problems I would need to help remedy are numerous and daunting, but our annual Christmas feasts will forever remind me that they can be overcome, and that humanity’s diversity is not a weakness, but a definitive strength.

THE "Coffeeshops + Coffee" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Home” Type

Before I came to America, I drank Puer Tea with my father every morning in my bedroom, sitting cross-legged on Suzhou-silk mats beside a view of the Lakeside reservoir. Beside a dark end table, we picked up teacups as the mild aroma greeted our noses. As we faced the French window, my father would share the news he read in China Daily : the Syrian civil war, climate change, and gender equality in Hollywood. Most of the time, I only listened. With each piece of news, my curiosity piqued. Secretly, I made a decision that I wanted to be the one to discuss the news with him from my perspective. So, I decided to study in America to learn more about the world.   

After one year’s extensive research and hours of interviews, I came to America for 9th grade and moved in with a host family. But, my new room lacked stories and cups of tea. Fortunately, I found Blue House Cafe on my walk home from church, and started studying there. With white walls, comfortable sofas, and high stools, Blue House is spacious and bright. Hearing people’s stories and looking at their warm smiles when they taste various pastries as I sat by the window, I watched as a production designer scouted locations for his film, or a painter took notes while brainstorming for his freehand brushwork of Blue House. With a cup of coffee, I dig into differential and parametric equations for my upcoming AP Calculus test, learn the nuances of public speaking by watching Michael Sandel’s Justice lectures on my laptop, and plan fundraising events for my non-profit. 

I’ve also learned by watching leaders host meetings at the rectangle conference table at the back of the cafe and I learn from the leaders of meetings, watching as they hold the edge of the table and express their ideas. Similarly, as president of the International Students Club, I invited my teammates to have meetings with me at the cafe. Coordinating the schedule with other members in Blue House has become a frequent event. Consuming several cups of coffee, my team and I have planned Lunar New Year events, field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, and Chinese lunch in school to help international students feel more at home. Straightening my back and bracing my shoulders, I stood up behind the conference table and expressed my creative ideas passionately. After each meeting, we shared buttermilk coffee-cake.

In my spot next to the window, I also witnessed different kinds of people. I viewed visitors dragging their luggage, women carrying shopping bags, and people wandering in tattered clothes --the diversity of San Francisco. Two years ago I saw volunteers wearing City Impact shirts offering sandwiches and hot chocolate to homeless people outside of the cafe. I investigated more about City Impact and eventually signed up to volunteer. No longer was I a bystander. At holiday outreach events, I prepared and delivered food to homeless people. While sharing my coffee, I listened to a story from an older Chinese man who told me, in Mandarin, how he had been abandoned by his children and felt lonely.

Last summer, I returned to Xiamen, China, and taught my father how to drink coffee. Now, a Chemex and teapot are both on the end table. Instead of simply listening, I shared my experiences as a club president, a community leader, and a volunteer. I showed him my business plan and prototypes. My father raised his cup of coffee and made a toast to me, “Good girl! I am so proud of you.” Then, he patted my head as before. Together, we emptied our cups while the smell of coffee lingered.

THE "KOMBUCHA CLUB" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Uncommon Extracurricular Activity” Type

I add the critically measured sugary tea mixture to the gallon jar containing the slimy, white, disc-shaped layers of the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Now to wait.  

After exactly seven days, I pour the liquid into a fermentation-grade glass bottle with a ratio of 20% pomegranate juice and 80% fermented tea. I place it on my kitchen counter, periodically checking it to relieve the built-up CO2.

Finally, after an additional seventy-two hours, the time comes to try it. I crack the seal on the bottle, leaning over to smell what I assume will be a tangy, fruity, delicious pomegranate solution. and it smells like rotten eggs. The insufferable stench fills my nostrils and crushes my confidence. I'm momentarily taken aback, unable to understand how I went wrong when I followed the recipe perfectly. 

My issue wasn't misreading the recipe or failing to follow a rule, it was bypassing my creative instincts and forgetting the unpredictable nature of fermentation. I needed to trust the creative side of kombucha— the side that takes people's perfectionist energy and explodes it into a puddle of rotten egg smelling 'booch (my preferred name for the drink- not "fermented, effervescent liquid from a symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria and yeast"). I was too caught up in the side that requires extreme preciseness to notice when the balance between perfectionism and imperfectionism was being thrown off. The key, I have learned, is knowing when to prioritize following the recipe and when to let myself be creative. Sure, there are scientific variables such as proximity to heat sources and how many grams of sugar to add. But, there's also person-dependent variables like how long I decide to ferment it, what fruits I decide will be a fun combination, and which friend I got my first SCOBY from (taking "symbiotic" to a new level).

I often find myself feeling pressured to choose one side or the other, one extreme over the alternative. I've been told that I can either be a meticulous scientist or a messy artist, but to be both is an unacceptable contradiction. However, I choose a grey area; a place where I can channel my creativity into the sciences, as well as channel my precision into my photography.

I still have the first photo I ever took on the first camera I ever had. Or rather, the first camera I ever made. Making that pinhole camera was truly a painstaking process: take a cardboard box, tap it shut, and poke a hole in it. Okay, maybe it wasn't that hard. But learning the exact process of taking and developing a photo in its simplest form, the science of it, is what drove me to pursue photography. I remember being so unhappy with the photo I took; it was faded, underexposed, and imperfect. For years, I felt incredibly pressured to try and perfect my photography. It wasn't until I was defeated, staring at a puddle of kombucha, that I realized that there doesn't always have to be a standard of perfection in my art, and that excited me. 

So, am I a perfectionist? Or do I crave pure spontaneity and creativity? Can I be both?

Perfectionism leaves little to be missed. With a keen eye, I can quickly identify my mistakes and transform them into something with purpose and definitude. On the other hand, imperfection is the basis for change and for growth. My resistance against perfectionism is what has allowed me to learn to move forward by seeing the big picture; it has opened me to new experiences, like bacteria cross-culturing to create something new, something different, something better. I am not afraid of change or adversity, though perhaps I am afraid of conformity. To fit the mold of perfection would compromise my creativity, and I am not willing to make that sacrifice.

THE "MOMENTS WHERE THE SECONDS STAND STILL" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Montage Essay, “Other/Advanced” type

I hold onto my time as dearly as my Scottish granny holds onto her money. I’m careful about how I spend it and fearful of wasting it. Precious minutes can show someone I care and can mean the difference between accomplishing a goal or being too late to even start and my life depends on carefully budgeting my time for studying, practicing with my show choir, and hanging out with my friends. However, there are moments where the seconds stand still.

It is already dark when I park in my driveway after a long day at school and rehearsals. I can’t help but smile when I see my dog Kona bounce with excitement, then slide across the tile floor to welcome me as I open the door. I run with him into my parent’s bedroom, where my mom, dad, and sister are waiting for me. We pile onto my parents’ bed to talk about what’s going on in our lives, plan our next trip to the beach, tell jokes, and “spill tea.” They help me see challenges with a realistic perspective, grounding me in what matters. Not paying attention to the clock, I allow myself to relax for a brief moment in my busy life.

Laughter fills the show choir room as my teammates and I pass the time by telling bad jokes and breaking out in random bursts of movement. Overtired, we don’t even realize we’re entering the fourth hour of rehearsal. This same sense of camaraderie follows us onstage, where we become so invested in the story we are portraying we lose track of time. My show choir is my second family. I realize I choreograph not for recognition, but to help sixty of my best friends find their footing. At the same time, they help me find my voice.

The heavy scuba gear jerks me under the icy water, and exhilaration washes over me. Lost in the meditative rolling effect of the tide and the hum of the vast ocean, I feel present. I dive deeper to inspect a vibrant community of creatures, and we float together, carefree and synchronized. My fascination with marine life led me to volunteer as an exhibit interpreter for the Aquarium of the Pacific, where I share my love for the ocean. Most of my time is spent rescuing animals from small children and, in turn, keeping small children from drowning in the tanks. I’ll never forget the time when a visiting family and I were so involved in discussing ocean conservation that, before I knew it, an hour had passed. Finding this mutual connection over the love of marine life and the desire to conserve the ocean environment keeps me returning each summer. 

“Why don’t we have any medical supplies?” The thought screams through my mind as I carry a sobbing girl on my back across campus in search of an ice pack and ankle wrap. She had just fallen while performing, and I could relate to the pain and fear in her eyes. The chaos of the show becomes distant, and I devote my time to bringing her relief, no matter how long it may take. I find what I need to treat her injury in the sports medicine training room. I didn’t realize she would be the first of many patients I would tend to in this training room. Since then, I’ve launched a sports medicine program to provide care to the 500-person choir program.  

Saturday morning bagels with my family. Singing backup for Barry Manilow with my choir. Swimming with sea turtles in the Pacific. Making my teammate smile even though he’s in pain. These are the moments I hold onto, the ones that define who I am, and who I want to be. For me, time isn’t just seconds ticking by on a clock, it’s how I measure what matters.

THE "IDENTIFYING AS TRANS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay, “Challenges” Type

“Mommy I can’t see myself.”  

I was six when I first refused/rejected girl’s clothing, eight when I only wore boy’s clothing, and fifteen when I realized why. When gifted dresses I was told to “smile and say thank you” while Spiderman shirts took no prompting from me, I’d throw my arms around the giver and thank them. My whole life has been others invading my gender with their questions, tears signed by my body, and a war against my closet. Fifteen years and I finally realized why, this was a girl’s body, and I am a boy. 

Soon after this, I came out to my mom. I explained how lost I felt, how confused I was, how “I think I’m Transgender.” It was like all those years of being out of place had led to that moment, my truth, the realization of who I was. My mom cried and said she loved me. 

The most important factor in my transition was my mom’s support. She scheduled me an appointment with a gender therapist, let me donate my female clothes, and helped build a masculine wardrobe. With her help, I went on hormones five months after coming out and got surgery a year later. I finally found myself, and my mom fought for me, her love was endless. Even though I had friends, writing, and therapy, my strongest support was my mother.

On August 30th, 2018 my mom passed away unexpectedly. My favorite person, the one who helped me become the man I am today, ripped away from me, leaving a giant hole in my heart and in my life.

Life got dull. Learning how to wake up without my mom every morning became routine. Nothing felt right, a constant numbness to everything, and fog brain was my kryptonite. I paid attention in class, I did the work, but nothing stuck. I felt so stupid, I knew I was capable, I could solve a Rubik’s cube in 25 seconds and write poetry, but I felt broken. I was lost, I couldn’t see myself, so stuck on my mother that I fell into an ‘It will never get better’ mindset.

It took over a year to get out of my slump. 25 therapy sessions, over 40 poems, not a single one didn’t mention my mom. I shared my writing at open mics, with friends, and I cried every time. I embraced the pain, the hurt, and eventually, it became the norm. I grew used to not having my mom around.

My mom always wanted to change the world, to fix the broken parts of society. She didn’t get to. Now that I’m in a good place, mentally and physically, I’m going to make that impact. Not just for her, but for me, and all the people who need a support branch as strong as the one my mom gave me.

I’m starting with whats impacted me most of my life, what’s still in front of me, being Transgender in the school system. For my senior project, I am using my story and experience as a young Transgender man to inform local schools, specifically the staff, about the do’s and dont’s of dealing with a Transgender student. I am determined to make sure no one feels as alone as I did. I want to be able to reach people, and use motivational speaking as the platform. 

After experiencing many twists and turns in my life, I’m finally at a good spot. I know what I want to do with my life, and I know how I’m going to get there. 

Mom, I can see myself now. Thank you.

If you’d like to see more sample essays + a guide to “ Should I come out in my personal statement (and if so, how?) ” please check out that link.

THE "iTaylor" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay, Undefined Type

Are you tired of seeing an iPhone everywhere? Samsung glitchy? It’s time for a change. I present to you, the iTaylor. I am the iTaylor. On the outside, I look like any smart phone, but when you open my settings and explore my abilities, you will find I have many unique features.

The iTaylor’s best feature is its built-in optimism. Thanks to my positivity, I was chosen to give the morning announcements freshman year. Now, I am the alarm clock for the 1,428 students of Fox Lane High School. For the past three years, I have been starting everyone’s morning with a bubbly, “Good morning, foxes!” and ending with “Have a marvelous Monday,” “Terrific Tuesday” or “Phenomenal Friday!”  My adjective-a-day keeps people listening, gives me conversation starters with faculty, and solicits fun suggestions from my friends.

Next up, language settings. I’ve worked hard to be bilingual so the iTaylor can be set to either English or Spanish. Fun fact: In middle school, I set my phone to Spanish so that messages like “ Alexis te envió un mensaje en Instagram ,” would increase my fluency. I learned nuances of the language by watching Spanish sitcoms like Siete Vidas and Spanish movies like Como Agua Para Chocolate . I appreciate the emphasis Spanish culture places on relationships, the way siblings take care of each other, and how grandparents’ wisdom is valued. Inspired, I began creating family events and even making efforts to grow closer to my second cousins.

At eight years old, I was diagnosed with what some might call a glitch: epilepsy. Fortunately, a new IOS software update cured my condition by the age of 15, but through epilepsy, I gained a love of exploration. Whereas at 10, I couldn’t bathe without supervision, I now enjoy snorkeling in unknown waters. While at 11, I couldn’t be left alone with my friends, I now explore the subways, crowded streets, and Broadway shows of New York City. Overcoming epilepsy taught me to take risks and explore new places.

This brings us to the iTaylor location settings. Two summers ago, I travelled to Ecuador to live with a friend’s family and teach Spanish theater to third graders. The experience implanted a “cookie” in me, filling me with a desire to learn about different cultures. I brought this desire home to a volunteer position at a local program for immigrant children. I helped the kids make presentations about their places of origin, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Also, as resident tour guide and ambassador for exchange students at my school, I’ve discovered North African fusion music from Selima, learned German slang from Henrike, and helped Saidimar prepare his Mr.Sulu campaign, a regional pageant in the Philippines. It became clear that the English language, one I took for granted, is the central feature that brings groups together.

This past summer, I brought my talents to Scotland, playing the dual role of  Artistic Director and leading character for Geek the Musical . I worked to promote the show in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival against 53,232 shows, reinventing ways to motivate the cast and connect with strangers from all over the world. We learned the more we connected, the more our audience grew. I applied these skills to my leadership positions at home, including my High School Theater Group, Players. I’m now better at creating a marketing strategy that includes door-to-door sales, print advertising, and identifying broader target audiences to fill seats.

The rollout plan for the iTaylor is to introduce it to the theater market. My goal is to use performance and storytelling to expose audiences to different cultures, religions, and points of view. Perhaps if we all learned more about each other's lifestyles, the world would be more empathetic and integrated. 

So what do you think? Would you like an iTaylor of your own? The iTaylor College Edition is now available for pre-order. It delivers next fall.

THE "FIGURING OUT WHAT REALLY MATTERED CHALLENGE" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay

"Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air." --Ivan Pavlov 

Upon graduation, I will be able to analyze medieval Spanish poems using literary terms and cultural context, describe the electronegativity trends on the periodic table, and identify when to use logarithmic differentiation to simplify a derivative problem. Despite knowing how to execute these very particular tasks, I currently fail to understand how to change a tire, how to do my taxes efficiently, or how to obtain a good insurance policy. A factory-model school system that has been left essentially unchanged for nearly a century has been the driving force in my educational development.

I have been conditioned to complete tasks quickly, efficiently, and with an advanced understanding. I measured my self-worth as my ability to outdo my peers academically, thinking my scores were the only aspect that defined me; and they were. I was getting everything right. Then, I ran for Student Government and failed. Rejection. I didn’t even make it past the first round of cuts. How could that be? I was statistically a smart kid with a good head on my shoulders, right? Surely someone had to have made a mistake. Little did I know, this was my first exposure to meaning beyond numbers.

As I was rejected from StuGo for the second year in a row, I discovered I had been wrongfully measuring my life through numbers--my football statistics, my test scores, my age, my height (I’m short). I had the epiphany that oh wait, maybe it was my fault that I had never prioritized communication skills, or open-mindedness (qualities my fellow candidates possessed). Maybe it was me. That must be why I always had to be the one to approach people during my volunteer hours at the public library to offer help--no one ever asked me for it. I resolved to alter my mindset, taking a new approach to the way I lived. From now on I would emphasize qualitative experiences over quantitative skills. 

I had never been more uncomfortable. I forced myself to learn to be vulnerable by asking questions even if I was terrified of being wrong. My proficiency in using data evidence could not teach me how to communicate with young children at church, nor could my test scores show me how to be more open to criticism. The key to all of these skills, I was to discover, happened to be learning from those around me. Turns out, I couldn’t do everything by myself.

The process of achieving this new mindset came through the cultivation of relationships. I became fascinated by the new perspectives each person in my life could offer if I really took the time to connect. Not only did I improve my listening skills, but I began to consider the big-picture consequences my engagements could have. People interpret situations differently due to their own cultural contexts, so I had to learn to pay more attention to detail to understand every point of view. I took on the state of what I like to call collaborative independence, and to my delight, I was elected to StuGo after my third year of trying.

Not long ago, I would have fallen apart at the presence of any uncertainty. As I further accept and advance new life skills, the more I realize how much remains uncertain in the world. After all, it is quite possible my future job doesn’t exist yet, and that’s okay. I can’t conceivably plan out my entire life at the age of 17, but what I can do is prepare myself to take on the unknown, doing my best to accompany others. Hopefully, my wings continue enabling me to fly, but it is going to take more than just me and my wings; I have to continue putting my faith in the air around me.

THE "PARENTS' RELATIONSHIP" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

Narrative Essay, “Challenge” Type

My mom opened Kanishka’s Gastropub in 2013. I was ecstatic. We would become the first Mother-Son Indian duo on Food Network peeling potatoes, skinning chicken, and grinding spices, sharing our Bengali recipes with the world. 

However, the restaurant tore apart my parent’s relationship. Two years after opening, my dad started coming home late most nights, plastered from “happy hour with work colleagues.” My mom, trying to balance her day job at Kaiser and owning a restaurant, poured her stress on me,“What the hell is wrong with you! Always watching YouTube and never talking!” 

The worst time came when my parents tried to fix their relationship. Repeated date nights induced more arguments. Enduring the stress of her restaurant, my father, and her mistakes, my mom attempted to end her life. Fortunately, I found her just in time.  

Over the next two years, things were at times still hard, but gradually improved. My parents decided to start anew, took some time apart, then got back together. My mom started to pick me up from activities on time and my dad and I bonded more, watching Warriors and 49ers games. 

But at times I still had to emotionally support my mom to avoid sudden India trips, or put my siblings to bed if my parents weren’t home at night. Over time, I found it difficult being my family’s glue. I wanted back the family I had before the restaurant--the one that ate Luchi Mongsho together every Sunday night.

So I looked for comfort in creation. I began spending more time in our garage , carefully constructing planes from sheets of foam. I found purpose balancing the fuselage or leveling the ailerons to precisely 90 degrees. I loved cutting new parts and assembling them perfectly. Here , I could fix all the mistakes. 

In high school, I slowly began to forge a community of creators with my peers. Sophomore year, I started an engineering club and found that I had a talent for  managing people and encouraging them to create an idea even if it failed. I also learned how to take feedback and become more resilient. Here, I could nerd-out about warp drives and the possibility of anti-matter without being ignored. I would give a weekly report on new technology and we would have hour-long conversations about the various uses a blacker material could have. 

While building a community at school rebuilt my confidence, I still found I enjoyed being alone at times. While driving in my car, I’d let my mind wander to movies like Big Hero Six and contemplate if a zero-friction bike really was possible. I’d create ideas like an AI highway system that tells drivers exactly when to switch lanes based on timing and calculus to prevent braking from nearby cars. Or I’d blueprint a new classroom with interactive desks, allowing students to dive deep into historical events like a VR game. I found outlining complex ideas like these sometimes provide insights into something I’m researching or could one day materialize into future projects. 

Looking back (and perhaps inadvertently), the conflicts from the restaurant days have taught me valuable lessons. Helping my mom through her relationship taught me to watch out for those in emotional distress. Spending nights alone made me more independent--after all, it was then that I signed up for advanced math and programming courses and decided to apply for software internships. Most of all, seeing my mom start her restaurant from no food-industry experience inspired me to found two clubs and a Hydrogen Car Team. 

Even though we eat Luchi Monsho on a monthly basis now, I know my family will never be the way it was. My mom and I won’t become a Food Network mother-son duo. I can’t fix all the mistakes. But I can use them to improve the present.

THE "THREATENED BY ISIS" COLLEGE ESSAY EXAMPLE

In 8th grade while doing a school project I Googled my dad's name and it came up in US military documents posted on the Snowden/NSA documents on WikiLeaks. I stayed up all night reading through documents related to Army support contracts in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003. I asked my dad about it the next day and he said, "It was a mistake I made that has been resolved." Turns out it hadn't been.

Saudi Arabia in the 2000s wasn’t the most ideal place to grow up. I was always scared of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. My school was part of the US Consulate in Dhahran, and when I was in the 8th grade it was threatened by ISIS. Violence has always surrounded me and haunted me. 

After 14 years of living in a region destroyed by violence, I was sent away to boarding school in a region known for peace, Switzerland. That year my father was found guilty and imprisoned for the charges related to his Army support contract. I felt as if I was Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear and this could not get worse, but yet it did.

My parents got divorced and my childhood home was bulldozed to the ground by the Saudi government after my father was sent to prison. My mom had always been a hub of stability, but she was too overwhelmed to support me. I started eating to cope with my anxiety and gained 100 pounds in a year and a half. As I gained weight, my health started to deteriorate, and my grades started to drop. 

Things began to change at the beginning of my sophomore year, however, when I met my new roommate, Nico. He had grown up with someone whose father was also in prison, and was able to help me better understand the issues I was facing. Through my friendship with Nico, I learned how to open up and get support from my friends. 

I started to make new friends with more people at my school and was surprised to find out that 90% of their parents were divorced. Because we faced similar issues, we were able to support one and other, share tactics, and give advice. One of my friends, John, gave me advice on how to help my mother emotionally by showing her love, something I hadn’t been able to do before. My friends gave me a family and a home, when my own family was overwhelmed and my home was gone.

Slowly, I put my life back on track. I started playing basketball, began working on a CubeSAT, learned to program, changed my diet, and lost all the weight I had gained. 

 Now my friends in Switzerland come to me asking me for advice and help, and I feel as if I am a vital member of our community. My close friend Akshay recently started stressing about whether his parents were going to get divorced. With John’s advice, I started checking in on Akshay, spending more time with him, and coaching him before and after he talked to his parents. 

Leaving home in the beginning of my adolescence, I was sent out on a path of my own. While for some, high school is the best time of their lives, for me, high school has represented some of the best and, hopefully, worst times. Even with the struggles I’ve faced with my family, I am grateful for this path. It has brought me to a place that I only thought was fictional. In this new place I feel like a real person, with real emotions. This place is somewhere where I can express myself freely and be who I want to be. I am a much stronger, healthier, and more resilient person than I was two years ago. While it hasn’t been easy, I am glad to be where I am today.

For a ton of UC Essay Examples, head to my blog post here.

Supplemental essay examples, uchicago: the "why did the chicken cross the road" essay.

This essay was written for the U of Chicago "Create your own prompt" essay. The author included the following explanatory note:

I plan to double major in biochemistry and English and my main essay explains my passion for the former; here is a writing sample that illustrates my enthusiasm for the latter.

In my AP Literature class, my teacher posed a question to which students had to write a creative response. My response is framed around the ideas of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: A manicured green field of grass blades cut to perfectly matched lengths; a blue expanse ornamented with puffy cotton clouds; an immaculately painted red barn centered exactly at the top of a hill--the chicken gazes contentedly at his picturesque world. Within an area surrounded by a shiny silver fence, he looks around at his friends: roosters pecking at a feast of grains and hens lounging on luxurious cushions of hay. As the nice man in a plaid shirt and blue jeans collects the hens’ eggs, the chicken feels an overwhelming sense of indebtedness to him for providing this idyllic lifestyle.

On a day as pristine as all the others, the chicken is happily eating his lunchtime meal as the nice man carefully gathers the smooth white eggs when it notices that the man has left one behind. Strangely located at the empty end of the metal enclosure, highlighted by the bright yellow sun, the white egg appears to the chicken different from the rest. The chicken moves towards the light to tacitly inform the man of his mistake. But then the chicken notices a jagged gray line on the otherwise flawless egg. Hypnotized and appalled, the chicken watches as the line turns into a crack and a small beak attached to a fuzzy yellow head pokes out. Suddenly a shadow descends over the chicken and the nice man snatches the egg--the baby chick--and stomps off.

The chicken--confused, betrayed, disturbed--slowly lifts its eyes from the now empty ground. For the first time, it looks past the silver fence of the cage and notices an unkempt sweep of colossal brown and green grasses opposite its impeccably crafted surroundings. Cautiously, it inches closer to the barrier, farther from the unbelievable perfection of the farm, and discovers a wide sea of black gravel.  Stained with gray stones and marked with yellow lines, it separates the chicken from the opposite field.

The curious chicken quickly shuffles to Mother Hen, who has just settled on to her throne of hay and is closing her eyes. He is sure that the always composed and compassionate chicken will help him make sense of what he’s just seen.

“Mother Hen, Mother Hen! I-I just saw one of those eggs, cracking, and there was a small yellow bird inside. It was a baby. Are those eggs that the nice man takes away babies? And that black ground! What is it?” the chicken blurts out.

Her eyes flick open. “BOK BOK! Don’t you ever dare speak of what you have seen again,” Mother Hen snaps in a low and violent whisper, “or all of this will be taken away.” Closing her eyes again, she dismisses the chicken.

Frozen in disbelief, the chicken tries to make sense of her harsh words. It replays the incident in its head. “All the food, the nice soft hay, the flawless red barn--maybe all of this isn’t worth giving up. Maybe Mother Hen is right. She just wants to protect me from losing it all.” The chicken replays the incident again. “But it was a baby. What if it was hers? She still wouldn’t care. She’s being selfish; all she cares about is this perfect life.” A final replay, and the chicken realizes and accepts that Mother Hen knows, has known, that the man is doing something wrong; yet she has yielded to the cruelty for her own comfort. A fissure in the chicken’s unawareness, a plan begins to hatch. The chicken knows it must escape; it has to get to the other side.

“That man in the plaid shirt is stealing the eggs from their mothers again,” the chicken thinks the next day as he unlocks the cage. Then the man reaches into the wooden coop, his back to the entrance. “Now!” At its own cue, the chicken scurries towards the opening and exits unseen. With a backwards glance at his friends, the chicken feels a profound sadness and pity for their ignorance. It wants to urge them to open their eyes, to see what they are sacrificing for materialistic pleasures, but he knows they will not surrender the false reality. Alone, the chicken dashes away.

The chicken stands at the line between green grass and black gravel. As it prepares to take its first step into the unknown, a monstrous vehicle with 18 wheels made of metal whizzes by, leaving behind a trail of gray exhaust. Once it regains its breath, it moves a few inches onto the asphalt. Three more speeding trucks stop its chicken heart.

“I can’t do this,” it says to itself. “These monsters are a sign. They’re telling me to go back. Besides, a few lost chicks aren’t so bad. The man’s not that evil. He gives us food, and a home.”

But the chicken dismisses the cowardly voice in its head, reminding itself of the injustice back in the deceptively charming prison. Over the next several hours, it learns to strategically position itself so that it is in line with the empty space between the tires of passing trucks. It reaches the yellow dashes. A black blanket gradually pushes away the glowing sun and replaces it with diamond stars and a glowing crescent. It reaches the untouched field.

With a deep breath, the chicken steps into the swathe, a world of tall beige grass made brown by the darkness. Unsure of what it may discover, it determines to simply walk straight through the brush, out on to the other side. For what seems like forever, it continues forward, as the black sky turns to purple, then blue, then pink. Just as the chicken begins to regret its journey, the grass gives way to a vast landscape of trees, bushes, flowers--heterogeneous and variable, but nonetheless perfect. In a nearby tree, the chicken spots two adult birds tending to a nest of babies--a natural dynamic of individuals unaltered by corrupt influence.

And then it dawns on him. It has escaped from a contrived and perverted domain as well as its own unawareness; it has arrived in a place where the pure order of the world reigns.

“I know the truth now,” it thinks to himself as the sun rises. “But here, in Nature, it is of no use. Back home, I need to try to foster awareness among my friends, share this understanding with them. Otherwise, I am as cruel as the man in the plaid shirt, taking away the opportunity to overcome ignorance.”

“I must return now; I have to get to the other side.”

For more, here’s a guide to the U Chicago supplemental essays , and an in-depth guide to U Chicago’s extended essay .

We also analyze why we think this essay works in The Complete Guide , Session 6.

The "Rock, Paper, Scissors" UChicago Supplemental Essay Example

Essay written for the University of Chicago prompt, which gives you the option to create your own prompt..

Prompt: Dear Christian, the admissions staff at the University of Chicago would like to inform you that your application has been “put on the line.” We have one spot left and can’t decide if we should admit you or another equally qualified applicant. To resolve the matter, please choose one of the following:

Rock, paper, or scissors.

You will be notified of our decision shortly.

Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock.  Wait... paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors?  What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?

Maybe it’s all a metaphor for larger ideals. Perhaps paper is rooted in the symbolism of diplomacy while rock suggests coercion. But does compromise necessarily trump brute force? And where do scissors lie in this chain of symbolism?

I guess the reasoning behind this game has a lot to do with context. If we are to rationalize the logic behind this game, we have to assume some kind of narrative, an instance in which paper might beat rock. Unfortunately, I can’t argue for a convincing one.

As with rock-paper-scissors, we often cut our narratives short to make the games we play easier, ignoring the intricate assumptions that keep the game running smoothly. Like rock-paper-scissors, we tend to accept something not because it’s true, but because it’s the convenient route to getting things accomplished. We accept incomplete narratives when they serve us well, overlooking their logical gaps. Other times, we exaggerate even the smallest defects and uncertainties in narratives we don’t want to deal with. In a world where we know very little about the nature of “Truth,” it’s very easy—and tempting—to construct stories around truth claims that unfairly legitimize or delegitimize the games we play.

Or maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing...

Fine. I’ll stop with the semantics and play your game.

But who actually wants to play a game of rock-paper-scissors?  After all, isn’t it just a game of random luck, requiring zero skill and talent? That’s no way to admit someone!

Studies have shown that there are winning strategies to rock-paper-scissors by making critical assumptions about those we play against before the round has even started. Douglas Walker, host of the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships (didn’t know that existed either), conducted research indicating that males will use rock as their opening move 50% of the time, a gesture Walker believes is due to rock’s symbolic association with strength and force. In this sense, the seemingly innocuous game of rock-paper-scissors has revealed something quite discomforting about gender-related dispositions in our society. Why did so many males think that brute strength was the best option? If social standards have subliminally influenced the way males and females play rock-paper-scissors, than what is to prevent such biases from skewing more important decisions? Should your decision to go to war or to feed the hungry depend on your gender, race, creed, etc?

Perhaps the narratives I spoke of earlier, the stories I mistakenly labeled as “semantics,” carry real weight in our everyday decisions. In the case of Walker’s study, men unconsciously created an irrational narrative around an abstract rock. We all tell slightly different narratives when we independently consider notions ranging from rocks to war to existence. It is ultimately the unconscious gaps in these narratives that are responsible for many of the man-made problems this world faces. In order for the “life of the mind” to be a worthwhile endeavor, we must challenge the unconscious narratives we attach to the larger games we play—the truths we tell (or don’t tell), the lessons we learn (or haven’t really learned), the people we meet (or haven’t truly met).

But even after all of this, we still don’t completely understand the narrative behind rock-paper-scissors.  

I guess it all comes down to who actually made this silly game in the first place... I’d like to think it was some snotty 3rd grader, but then again, that’s just another incomplete narrative.

U of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example

The "east meets west" example essay.

This was written for the U. of Michigan supplemental "community" essay prompt, then adapted for a (no longer existent) essay for Brown. The Michigan prompt reads:

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.

Here's the essay:

I look around my room, dimly lit by an orange light. On a desk in the left corner, a framed picture of an Asian family is beaming their smiles, buried among US history textbooks and The Great Gatsby. A Korean ballad streams from a pair of tiny computer speakers. Pamphlets of American colleges are scattered about on the floor. A cold December wind wafts a strange infusion of ramen and leftover pizza. On the wall in the far back, a Korean flag hangs besides a Led Zeppelin poster.

Do I consider myself Korean or American?

A few years back, I would have replied: “Neither.” The frustrating moments of miscommunication, the stifling homesickness, and the impossible dilemma of deciding between the Korean or American table in the dining hall, all fueled my identity crisis.

Standing in the “Foreign Passports” section at JFK, I have always felt out of place. Sure, I held a Korean passport in my hands, and I loved kimchi and Yuna Kim and knew the Korean Anthem by heart. But I also loved macaroni and cheese and LeBron and knew all the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs by heart. Deep inside, I feared that I would simply be labeled as what I am categorized at airport customs: a foreigner in all places.

This ambiguity of existence, however, has granted me the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds. Take a look at my dorm room. This mélange of cultures in my East-meets-West room embodies the diversity that characterizes my international student life.

I have learned to accept my “ambiguity” as “diversity,” as a third-culture student embracing both identities in this diverse community that I am blessed to be a part of.

Now, I can proudly answer: “Both.”

examples of college essay outlines

Want help on your college essays?

The CEG mission is to bring more ease, purpose, and joy to the college application process via our library of free resources (much like this blog post).

CEG also offers one-on-one essay help to students who need a little extra support. Learn more about our comprehensive one-on-one essay coaching right here . And we’re proud to be a one-for-one company, which means that for every student who pays, we provide free support to a low-income student. If you identify as low-income, click here .

examples of college essay outlines

PrepScholar

Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 177 college essay examples for 11 schools + expert analysis.

author image

College Admissions , College Essays

body-typewriter-writing-desk-cc0

The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.

body-frog-cc0

Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018

body-library-cc0-2

Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.

body-writing-notebook-student-cc0

Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.

body_coathangers

Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.

body-oil-spill

An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

Want to build the best possible college application?   We can help.   PrepScholar Admissions combines world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've guided thousands of students to get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit and are driven to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in:

Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.

body_fixers

An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.

body-crying-upset-cc0

Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.

body-gears-cogs-puzzle-cc0

#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

body_next_step_drawing_blackboard

What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

author image

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

Follow us on Facebook (icon)

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
  • TemplateLab

Essay Outline Templates

37 outstanding essay outline templates (argumentative, narrative, persuasive).

Writing an essay can seem like an overwhelming task, and planning beforehand is essential to success. An essay outline will help you to structure and organize your essay so that it flows coherently. Essay outlines work for all kinds of essays and will save you time and stress.

There are various different ways to structure an essay, and using an essay outline template allows you to decide on the best structure for your essay. Whether you want a balanced argument, or if you’re trying to persuade someone of your idea, then there will be an essay outline that works for you.

Table of Contents

  • 1 Essay Outline Templates
  • 2 What is an Essay Outline Template?
  • 3 Essay Outline Examples
  • 4 What Different Types of Essay Outline Templates Are Available?
  • 5 Why are Essay Outlines important?
  • 6 How Do You Structure an Outline for an Essay?
  • 7 Essay Outline Samples
  • 8 What is the Format of a Five-Paragraph Essay Outline? 
  • 9 How to Write an Effective Essay Outline
  • 10 Free Essay Outlines
  • 11 Create an Effective Outline Using an Essay Outline Template

You can download and print one of our free essay outline templates to help you plan the perfect essay.

Free Essay Outline Template 01

What is an Essay Outline Template?

An essay outline template is essentially the essay plan. It provides students with a clear structure before they write their essay, including all of the main points that are necessary for their writing.

Planning an essay outline beforehand makes the process of essay writing a lot less daunting, providing students with a guideline to follow whilst writing their essays in detail. In the world of academic writing , an essay outline serves as a tool to organize and structure thoughts before delving into the actual writing process. Many students underestimate the significance of creating an essay outline, often resulting in disorganized and incomprehensible essays.

Essay Outline Examples

Free Essay Outline Template 11

What Different Types of Essay Outline Templates Are Available?

Essay outlines can be used for any college essay, research papers, a contrast essay, speech writing, or an expository essay. There are a range of essay outline templates to use, and they vary depending on the style of essay you are writing. These include:

  • Argumentative essay outline
  • Narrative essay outline
  • Contrast essay outline
  • Literary analysis essay outline
  • Persuasive essay outline
  • Expository essay outline
  • College essay outline
  • Descriptive essay outline
  • Reflective essay outline

Depending on the purpose of your essay, there will be a different structure to suit your writing and your writing process. For example, an argumentative essay outline may follow a more traditional five-paragraph essay outline, while a literary analysis essay may follow a more detailed essay outline template.

Why are Essay Outlines important?

Of course, you can write an essay without planning. However, it will likely read as unstructured and lacking in coherence. Essays that follow an essay outline template present as more well-researched, clearer, and with a thoughtful structure throughout.

  • Planning makes perfect If you are writing to argue a point or explore a range of viewpoints, essay outlines are crucial to prepare before you begin writing in detail. Writing should not be an immediate, quick process; the best essays are drafted, re-drafted, edited, and finalized. If you use an essay outline, this will be reflected in the quality of your work. As a teacher, it is clear to me when students have not taken the time to plan their work. Their writing seems messy and rushed. Essay outlines provide structure and balance to any long piece of writing.
  • Save time during the writing process Planning is the hard part of essay writing. During the planning process, you will be brainstorming your ideas and cultivating your overall viewpoint or argument. This means that when you come to write the essay, those ideas are already there. All you need to do is formulate them into sentences and paragraphs. An essay outline makes the process of writing the essay itself so much simpler. With the essay outline template, you will have the bulk of your ideas and the structure of your essay there to follow. It will save you time when it comes to writing the essay out in full.

How Do You Structure an Outline for an Essay?

Depending on the assignment, essays can follow a range of structures, and there are many different ways to structure an essay outline.

Before you begin to structure your essay outline, there are a few things to consider:

  • Check your assignment guidelines . Your teacher or professor may have specified a certain number of words or pages for the essay, which can affect how you structure it.
  • Consider the purpose of the essay. Is it to argue, is it a persuasive essay, or is it to reflect upon something? This will greatly help you to form and structure your essay, as you may need to compare and contrast ideas throughout your writing.
  • Who is your audience? If this essay is purely for academic purposes, then your essay may follow a more traditional structure. However, if your essay is for a speech or a college application, then the structure may be more unconventional and include more of your own thoughts and experiences.

While there may be variations in essay outline structures depending on the specific requirements of the assignment, some general guidelines can be followed. You should edit and adjust your essay structure depending on the tone, audience, and purpose of your essay.

Typically, an effective essay outline comprises three primary sections: the introduction, the body paragraphs, and the conclusion. Each of these sections serves a unique purpose and contributes to the overall coherence of the essay.

  • Introduction The introduction section of an essay outline introduces the topic and provides relevant background information to engage the reader. It also includes the thesis statement, which presents the main argument or claim of the essay. To structure the introduction in the outline effectively, writers can utilize a hook to grab the reader’s attention, provide context, and end with a strong thesis statement.
  • Body Paragraphs The body paragraphs section of the essay outline supports the thesis statement with relevant evidence and arguments. The number of body paragraphs may vary depending on the required length of the essay. However, it is common to have three body paragraphs, each focused on a specific supporting point. In the outline, writers can include subpoints, evidence, and examples for each body paragraph to ensure a coherent and logical flow of ideas.
  • Conclusion The conclusion section of the essay outline summarises the main points discussed in the body paragraphs and restates the thesis statement. The conclusion should not be an afterthought in the essay writing process. This part of the essay helps to tie all of your ideas together and is reflective of a well-structured essay. It is crucial to end the essay on a strong note, leaving a lasting impression on the reader. To structure the conclusion in the outline, writers can briefly restate the thesis, review the main points, and provide a final thought or call to action.

Essay Outline Samples

Free Essay Outline Template 21

What is the Format of a Five-Paragraph Essay Outline? 

A five-paragraph essay outline is a common essay structure used for academic essays. It is particularly useful for shorter essays or beginners who are just starting to develop their writing skills. Many high school students or first-year college students benefit from following this structure.

The format consists of five paragraphs, as the name suggests – an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

  • Introduction In the introduction of a five-paragraph essay outline, writers should begin with an attention-grabbing hook to capture the reader’s interest. This can be achieved through a relevant anecdote, a rhetorical question, or a shocking statistic. This helps to immediately capture the reader’s attention and begin the essay strong. Next, provide some background information on the topic and end the introduction with a clear thesis statement that encapsulates the main argument of the essay.
  • Body Paragraphs The three body paragraphs of a five-paragraph essay outline each focus on a specific supporting point, which aids in the development of the thesis statement. Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea of the paragraph. Following the topic sentence, writers should provide evidence, examples, or arguments to support the main point. It is essential to ensure a logical flow between paragraphs and maintain coherence throughout the essay. This can be done through the use of connectives at the start of each body paragraph, such as ‘Firstly,’ ‘Secondly,’ and ‘Furthermore.’
  • Conclusion The conclusion of a five-paragraph essay outline restates the thesis statement and summarizes the main points discussed in the body paragraphs. However, it is vital to avoid introducing new information in the conclusion. Instead, writers should provide a thought-provoking final statement or reinforce the significance of the essay topic.

How to Write an Effective Essay Outline

Each writer will have their own unique approach to essay writing, but preparing an essay outline does not require you to reinvent the wheel. You can follow these simple steps to craft an effective, useful, solid outline.

  • Read and Understand the Assignment Before beginning the outline, thoroughly read and understand the essay assignment, including any specific guidelines or requirements from the instructor. This will help in determining the length, topic, and structure of the essay. Understanding the assignment in detail also enables you to plan how you will carry out your preliminary research for the essay. Adaquete reading and preparation also helps you to establish the purpose of your essay, which will determine which essay outline template will work best for you.
  • Brainstorm and Organize Ideas Start with brainstorming ideas related to the topic. Here, you should establish the key points of the essay based on your research. Once ideas are generated, you can organize them into meaningful categories or subtopics. In an argumentative essay outline, for example, you will need to compare and contrast ideas. By placing all the main points into categories in an organized manner, you can create a logical flow within the essay, making it more engaging for the reader.
  • Choose an Appropriate Outline Format Decide on the outline format that best suits the specific essay requirements. Depending on the complexity of the topic, your essay may be formatted differently. An expository essay will differ from a research paper, for example, so be clear on which outline will work for you. It is also essential to decide on the number of main points to be included based on the required length of the essay. Sometimes it is best to discuss fewer points in greater detail, particularly for a literary analysis or narrative essay.
  • Develop Thesis Statement and Main Arguments Craft a strong and clear thesis statement that encapsulates the main argument or claim of the essay. Then, determine the main arguments or supporting points that will be discussed in the body paragraphs.
  • Organize Supporting Points and Supporting Evidence Arrange the main arguments in a logical order, keeping in mind the flow of ideas. Ensure that each supporting point is backed up by sufficient evidence or reasoning to strengthen the overall argument. This will also help you to write a strong conclusion to complete your essay.
  • Review and Revise After creating the initial essay outline, review and revise it to ensure coherence, logical flow, and adherence to the assignment requirements. Make necessary adjustments and rearrange the outline if needed. Then, you can start writing your essay by following the outline.

Free Essay Outlines

Free Essay Outline Template 31

Create an Effective Outline Using an Essay Outline Template

Creating an essay outline is a crucial step in the writing process that should not be overlooked. Whether it’s an argumentative essay outline, a literary analysis essay outline, or a persuasive essay outline, an essay outline template can help you to structure and organize your points in a thoughtful and clear way.

By structuring an essay outline effectively, using the appropriate format for a five-paragraph essay, and following the steps to write an essay outline, writers can ensure a well-organized, coherent, and compelling essay. Utilizing an essay outline template not only enhances the writing quality but also saves time and effort in the long run.

Eleanor Griffiths

More Templates

Spelling Test Templates

Spelling Test Templates

All About Me Templates

All About Me Templates

Frayer Model Templates

Frayer Model Templates

Attendance Sheet Templates

Attendance Sheet Templates

Table of Contents Templates

Table of Contents Templates

Literature Review Templates

Literature Review Templates

  • Essay Topics
  • Homework Help
  • Essay Types
  • Essay Examples
  • Become a Tutor

How to Deal with College Essay Outline? 5 Templates for Better Writing

examples of college essay outlines

Practice shows that outlining an essay often seems difficult for students. Do you also have problems with the outline for an essay? Let’s figure it out together! From this article you will understand why you need to make a good outline, take a look at good and bad outline examples and find 5 prewritten college essay outline templates. Enjoy!

Why Do I Need to Create an Outline For My College Essay?

Many students don’t know how to produce a well-structured essay outline and, moreover, they often don’t understand why they should do it. We will try to explain it. To begin with, what is the definition of essay outline? It is a framework that presents main and minor ideas of your essay in a structured way. There are many benefits for those students, who want to learn how to produce a good essay outline:

  • It adds value to your essay as your readers will be able to understand more quickly what your main ideas are, which arguments you will use and how they are connected in your essay.
  • Outlining an essay will make a writing process much easier for you. You will always be able to remember which things you need to mention in your essay and how to make transitions between arguments.

How Essay Outline Should Look Like? Good Essay Outline Templates and Examples

essay outline templates

Good outline should be complete and include all the main ideas of your essay, but at the same time you should keep it to the point. Long outlines will not bring value for you and for your readers. Outlines presented below can give you an idea of how good and bad outlines should look like. As you see, the outline on the left is well-planned and it is clear which arguments the author will use to support the position and how he will terminate the essay. The outline on the right is general and does not give an idea of what will be covered in the paper.

good and bad outline examples

Argumentative Essay Outline Template

Introduction

  • Attract attention to your topic (make sure that the topic is relevant, doubt a well-known fact, provide quotation relevant to the theme)
  • State different points of view
  • Explain why you are interested in the topic (optional)
  • State your position clearly
  • Provide general information on your topic (optional)
  • State figures, facts, trustworthy opinion, personal experience that could justify your point
  • Elaborate it, explain how fact/figure/opinion you provided help to prove your position stated in introduction
  • Elaborate it, explain how facts/figures/opinions you provided help to prove your position stated in introduction
  • Restate your position in other words
  • Summarize arguments
  • Final statement – quotation, show which particular aspect of essay topic should be analyzed

examples of college essay outlines

5 Paragraph Essay Template Printable

First Paragraph (Introduction)

  • Overview of the topic
  • Explain which opinions exist
  • Express your position clearly

Second Paragraph (Background)

  • Review existing articles and reading materials on the question,

Third Paragraph (Support)

  • Provide a claim in favor of your position
  • Explain how it supports your position
  • Summarize it briefly

Fourth Paragraph (Opponents arguments)

Opposing Argument 1

  • Provide a claim that contradicts your position
  • Explain why it is a weak statement
  • Make a conclusion in favor of your position

Opposing Argument 2

  • Explain why it is a weak argument

Fifth Paragraph (Conclusion)

  • Briefly summarize all the arguments in third paragraph
  • Explain why the issue covered is important

College essay outline template

Introductory Paragraph

  • Make a statement that reflect the topic main idea
  • State subtopic 1 (one sentence)
  • State subtopic 2 (one sentence)
  • State subtopic 3 (one sentence)

Supporting fact, opinion or detail

  • Synthesis of all mentioned facts
  • Underline the progression of evidences on the topic
  • Explain how topic could be elaborated

Research paper outline template

  • Way of attracting readers’ attention
  • Thesis statement
  • Main aspect of your theme
  • Restate main statement
  • Summarize main aspects of the topic
  • Underline relevance of a research
  • State how topic could be researched further

Methods used (optional)

examples of college essay outlines

Template for an informative essay

  • General facts about the topic/Relevant definition/Relevance of the issue
  • State the position on the question you will cover

Paragraph 1

  • Explain how the paragraph will help to elaborate the main idea
  • Provide the complete analysis
  • Connection to the next paragraph

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 3

  • Connection to the conclusion
  • Review main ideas
  • Call to further develop the question

Good luck with your studies and never ignore the importance of the outline!

Related articles

College Research Paper Outline

Popular articles

problem and solution essay topics

  • Top Courses
  • Online Degrees
  • Find your New Career
  • Join for Free

19 College Essay Topics and Prompts

Not sure what to write for your college essay? We've got you covered with a number of topics and prompts to help shape your unique story.

[Featured image] A woman works on her college essay with a pen, notebook, and laptop computer.

As part of your college application materials, you'll likely be asked to submit a college essay. These tend to be between 250 and 650 words , and are a unique opportunity to showcase your personality. Admissions panels are typically looking for students who will positively represent the school as a whole. In the end, your goal is to show them that you and the college are a good match. 

When drafting your college essay, you may be expected to answer a prompt or come up with a topic on your own. In this article, we've rounded up several ideas to get you thinking—and writing.

19 college essay topics

Each school sets different requirements around the college essay, so it's important to review the expectations around every application you intend to submit. Some give you creative freedom, while others expect you to respond to a pre-developed prompt. Either way, a strong college essay conveys to the admissions team who you are, why you want to attend that particular school, and what matters to you. It's a way to personalize an application that often focuses on quantitative data, such as GPA and SAT scores.

If you're given the creative freedom to write about whatever you want, consider a college essay topic that allows you to be honest and original. We've compiled the following ideas to help you brainstorm:

What's an important issue you care about? How have you gotten involved?

Have you changed your mind about something in recent years? What was it and why?

What's a situation that caused you to grow?

Explain a time when you failed. What did you learn from that moment?

Share a surprising pastime or hobby and what interested you about it.

What extracurricular activity are you involved in that speaks to your personality?

Detail a meaningful volunteer experience.

Dive into a meaningful travel experience.

Who do you most admire and why?

If you have a unique background, share a bit about it. How did you get where you are?

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Was there ever a time when you had to stand up for something—or someone?

What's something you might change about the world to make it better?

What do you hope to accomplish by attending college?

Is there something you want to do after graduating college?

Have you ever made or created something? Talk about it.

Do you have a big idea that could potentially impact your community?

What is most valuable to you? Dive into your values and share an example.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

Pre-developed college essay prompts

Some colleges and universities will give you a series of prompts to choose from. These will vary from school to school, and can either be questions or statements. Here are a few examples of both.

Sample question prompts:

What excites your intellectual curiosity?

How has your upbringing shaped the person you are today?

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Sample statement prompts:

Talk about an unusual circumstance in your life

Share how you hope to use your college education

Discuss a list of books you have read in the last year

Common App essay prompts

Common App is an online platform designed to simplify the college application process. Over 900 colleges use Common App, making it possible for you to fill out one application that's then submitted to multiple schools.

If you choose to complete the Common App, you'll have a choice of several distinctive prompts that change every academic year. Here's a sample of the 2022-2023 essay prompts [ 1 ]:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Stick to the prompt.

No matter what type of prompt you receive, it's your job to stick to it. The admissions team has a lot of essays to read, so you'll have a better chance of standing out if you develop a cohesive response that stays on topic.

Start by identifying the prompt's main topic, then spend some time brainstorming to find the idea that resonates most with you. For many people, it's the topic that makes them feel some sort of emotion or reminds them of an entertaining story. Understanding what you're being asked to write about should make staying on topic throughout the entire composition easier.

5 additional college essay tips

Once you decide what you'd like to write, follow the tips below to craft a standout essay. You can also find more advice about college essays in our article College Essay Format: Writing and Editing Tips .

1. Be considerate with humor.

Showing off your sense of humor lets your personality show through your words and can make reading the essay more entertaining. Try including a few sentences that you think will bring a smile to the reader's face, or use adjectives to insert some colorful comedy.

2. Offer insight.

Beyond recounting an event, experience, or memory, a great essay shows insight aka an ability to highlight meaningful takeaways. For example, if you choose to write about your unique hobby, try to discuss what you've learned from that pastime—or how you've grown as a result of it.

3. Add details

Great essays also invite the reader to connect with the story on an emotional level. With that in mind, it can help to recount a specific memory rather than answer a prompt without those colorful details. More than discussing something on a surface level—or vaguely—you want to provide enough particulars to keep your readers engaged. For example, if you choose to write about the best advice you ever received, set the scene and take the reader back to that moment.

4. Have an editor.

Your essay should ideally be error-free. Ask a trusted friend or family member to review your essay and suggest edits. An editor can help you catch grammatical errors or points out ways to better develop your response.

Avoid passing your paper along to too many people, though, so you don't lose your own voice amid all of the edits and suggestions. The admissions team wants to get to know you through your writing and not your sister or best friend who edited your paper.

5. Revise your essay.

Your first draft is just that: a draft. Give yourself plenty of time to read and revise your first pass and make sure you fully developed your response, stayed on topic, and shared your personality.

When revising your essay, you may find it helpful to read it aloud so you hear the words as you're saying them. Some people prefer to print a copy on paper and write notes by hand. Both options give your brain a new way to process the information to catch details you may miss if you keep everything in your head and on the computer.

Watch to find out why the essay many admission counselor's favorite part of the application:

Next steps: Apply with confidence

Earn your bachelor's degree online from prestigious global universities on Coursera. Many even offer performance-based admission, meaning you can complete a course or two online and earn admittance with a passing score.

Article sources

Common App. " First-year essay prompts , https://www.commonapp.org/apply/essay-prompts." Accessed February 8, 2023.

Keep reading

Coursera staff.

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

IMAGES

  1. 37 Outstanding Essay Outline Templates (Argumentative, Narrative

    examples of college essay outlines

  2. 32 College Essay Format Templates & Examples

    examples of college essay outlines

  3. 30+ Essay Outline Templates

    examples of college essay outlines

  4. 25+ Essay Outline Templates

    examples of college essay outlines

  5. 37 Outstanding Essay Outline Templates (Argumentative, Narrative

    examples of college essay outlines

  6. 37 Outstanding Essay Outline Templates (Argumentative, Narrative

    examples of college essay outlines

VIDEO

  1. 6 college essay ideas #collegeprep

  2. How to Structure Your College Essay

  3. How to use AI for Essay Writing #college #texteroai

  4. How to Write a Professional Email : How to Ask for an Extension on a Paper #texteroai

  5. From 'C' Grades To 'A' Grades

  6. College Essay Mastery: The Tip You Wish You Knew Sooner😲📄

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Examples of essay outlines. Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay. Argumentative essay outline. This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet's impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

  2. How to Format a College Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    Again, we'd recommend sticking with standard fonts and sizes—Times New Roman, 12-point is a standard workhorse. You can probably go with 1.5 or double spacing. Standard margins. Basically, show them you're ready to write in college by using the formatting you'll normally use in college.

  3. How to Write an Essay Outline + Essay Outline Examples

    Provide additional or supplemental supporting details, evidence, and analysis, as in the essay outline example. Topic Sentence: Shortening the school year would also provide many benefits for parents and caregivers. Detail Sentence 1: A shorter school year would mean less stress and running around for parents.

  4. PDF Essay Outline Template

    Offer some more specific background information (as needed). 3. Provide the title of the piece and the author's name if the essay is about a specific book/poem/article/passage. C. Thesis Statement 1. State your topic and position. Remember that a thesis = claim + reasons. 2. Outline your main points and ideas.

  5. College Essay Format & Structure

    There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but you should carefully plan and outline to make sure your essay flows smoothly and logically. Typical structural choices include. a series of vignettes with a common theme. a single story that demonstrates your positive qualities. Although many structures can work, there ...

  6. How to Write an Essay Outline (Examples and Template)

    Compare and contrast essays examine the similarities and differences between two subjects, offering a balanced view. For example, a compare and contrast essay on "Online Learning vs. Traditional Classroom" might follow this outline: I. Introduction. A. Discuss the rise of online learning platforms.

  7. How to Create a Clearly Structured Essay Outline

    An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. In just 3 minutes, this video will show you how to organize your ...

  8. Example of a Great Essay

    This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people's social and cultural lives.

  9. Outlining

    Making a detailed outline before you begin writing is a good way to make sure your ideas come across in a clear and logical order. A good outline will also save you time in the revision process, reducing the possibility that your ideas will need to be rearranged once you've written them. The First Steps. Before you can begin outlining, you need ...

  10. How to Outline an Essay: Basic Essay Outline Template

    How to Outline an Essay: Basic Essay Outline Template. Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Jun 7, 2021 • 3 min read. Essay outlines are excellent tools for organizing your writing. A strong outline can turn a meandering essay into a focused, persuasive piece of writing. Essay outlines are excellent tools for organizing your writing.

  11. The Writing Center

    Sample Outlines: As you can see in the outline below, the writer chose to separate the outline by topics, but could have utilized a different structure, organizing the outline by separate paragraphs, indicating what each paragraph will do or say. Example 1: Introduction A. Background information B. Thesis; Reason 1 A. Use quotes from x

  12. College Essay Format: Top Writing and Editing Tips for 2024

    1. Be authentic. One of the most essential parts of how to format a college application essay is to be authentic. The college wants to know who you are, and they will be reading dozens of essays a day. The best way to make yours stand out is to just be yourself instead of focusing on what you think they want to hear.

  13. How to Outline a College Essay

    Good news: it's not very difficult to put together an outline for an essay. Here are the basic steps you should follow: 1. Brainstorm and Select a Topic. Start by listing all of the topics you're considering. Don't judge the topics you're writing; just get as many of your thoughts on paper as possible.

  14. How to Write an Essay Outline: 5 Examples & Free Template

    Start off by creating a broad thesis statement or central idea. Then move on to providing examples or pieces of information that support this statement or elaborate on it. This method also provides a comprehensive overview of your essay and helps identify any missing bits of information. 2. Generates greater impact.

  15. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Essay outline college. Given below are essay outline examples for different types of essay writing. Argumentative Essay Outline. An argumentative essay is a type of essay that shows both sides of the topic that you are exploring. The argument that presents the basis of the essay should be created by providing evidence and supporting details.

  16. How to Write a College Essay

    Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement. Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying "no" to other interests. Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness. Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself.

  17. Types of Outlines and Samples

    This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline. Decimal Outlines. The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the ...

  18. Essay Outline: Definition, Structure, Examples

    An essay outline provides structure and organization, ensuring clarity and coherence in the writing process. It helps writers focus on their main arguments and prevents them from straying off-topic. Additionally, having an outline saves time by streamlining the writing process and making it easier to fill in the details.

  19. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts '17 graduate. 2. Write like a journalist. "Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading.

  20. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other). My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

  21. 37 Outstanding Essay Outline Templates (Argumentative, Narrative

    Essay outlines can be used for any college essay, research papers, a contrast essay, speech writing, or an expository essay. There are a range of essay outline templates to use, and they vary depending on the style of essay you are writing. ... Essay Outline Samples. Download 12 KB #21. Download 12 KB #22. Download 13 KB #23. Download 13 KB #24 ...

  22. 5 College Essay Outline Templates For Better Writing

    5 Paragraph Essay Template Printable. First Paragraph (Introduction) Overview of the topic. Explain which opinions exist. Express your position clearly. Second Paragraph (Background) Review existing articles and reading materials on the question, Third Paragraph (Support) Argument 1.

  23. 19 College Essay Topics and Prompts

    1. Be considerate with humor. Showing off your sense of humor lets your personality show through your words and can make reading the essay more entertaining. Try including a few sentences that you think will bring a smile to the reader's face, or use adjectives to insert some colorful comedy. 2.