College Admission Essay Outline

Want to learn how to write a college application essay? Writing a college admissions essay is one of the more challenging aspects of the college application process. Unfortunately, writing a great college essay is not like writing a term paper. If you want to submit an effective essay, you need to make an effort to breathe life and personality into your writing. Below are 8 steps you can take to ensure that your college essay is the best it can be.

1.) Take the Time to Understand the Question

Most college application essays are written based on a question or prompt. Colleges typically provide essay questions that suggest one or two topics to focus on. One of the most important aspects of writing a college application essay is to make sure that you truly understand the question and properly address it in your essay. Read the question carefully and let it sink in. Think deeply about what is being asked before you start brainstorming and consider how the question applies to you, personally.

2.) Brainstorm Ideas

Brainstorm all of your ideas, so you know exactly what you are going to be writing about. There are many experiences and events in your life that you can draw from when writing. Reflect on those experiences and jot down any and every idea that comes up. It is important to take good notes when brainstorming, so you can come back to thoughts that you would forget about otherwise.

3.) Pick a Topic

Once you are done brainstorming, comb through all of your ideas and narrow them down to three options that you think are the best fit for the essay prompt. Pick an option that demonstrates your abilities, perseverance, beliefs, and other redeeming qualities.

4.) Write an Essay Outline

The next step to writing your essay is to create an outline. A college essay should have an introduction, body, and conclusion, so it progresses naturally and is easy to read. An outline will help to give your essay structure and allow you to determine where each idea should be placed.

5.) Start Writing

After you have created an outline, start writing your essay. At this point, you should already know what you are going to write and how you are going to write it. Write in your own voice and keep the focus of your essay personal. Be specific and avoid clichés. You should strive to maintain focus on the main idea of your essay by supporting it with vivid details, facts, quotes, and events.

6.) Proofread Your Work

The last thing you want is to submit an essay riddled with typos and grammatical errors. You should let your writing sit for a while before proofreading it in order to approach it with a fresh perspective. It is best to read your essay out loud, because it increases your chances of finding errors.

7.) Get a Second Opinion

Once you have finished editing your essay, you should ask another person, such as a parent, teacher or essay editing service to read over your essay. This second party will be able to ensure that your writing is clear to an outsider. He or she might be able to provide suggestions on how you can make certain parts better, and they may pick up on grammar mistakes that you originally overlooked.

8.) Make Revisions

After you have gotten feedback, go back to your essay and apply all of the corrections that you received. Give it another review to make sure that you are satisfied with your work. You might also want to pass it back to your parent or a friend for a second once-over just to make sure that your changes are on point before you go on to submit it.

If you want to learn how to write a good college essay that sets you apart from the crowd, follow the above steps. Writing a college application essay requires significant time and effort, but when you are done, you will feel extremely accomplished. Good luck, and good writing!

How do you take a generic application essay prompt and turn it into a personal statement that brings tears of joy to admission counselors' eyes? Well, you can start by following the steps in the example below! And don't forget to check out our complete guide: How to Write the College Application Essay!

Step One: The Prompt

Ease yourself into the process. Take time to understand the question being asked.

At XYZ University, we believe in the power of diversity across all fields of study, beyond racial and ethnic quotas. Based on your background and personal experiences, describe a situation where you fostered diversity. 

Step Two: Brainstorming

Get your creative juices flowing by brainstorming all the possible ideas you can think of to address your essay question.

Possible Topics for XYZ University Application Essay:
- Habitat for Humanity volunteering experience
- Love of science as a girl with microscope story. Make it funny?
- Week at marine biology summer camp in Maine
- Person who taught me about diversity: Teacher? Fictional character?
- How the TV show “Lost” changed my perception of diversity (and reality)

Step Three: The Outline

Map out what you’re going to write by making an outline.

I. Intro: Childhood science experiment scene
    a. Dialogue with mom
    b. MUST GRAB ATTENTION

II. Love of science, exploration, and experiments
    a. Beauty of micro world, fascination

III. High school
    a. Classes, uncovering love of other subjects
    b. Lack of other girls in classes and clubs

IV. College search
    a. Dive into college studies
    b. Campus visit and trip to lab
    c. Student-faculty research?

V. Conclusion
    a. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields and women in the future
    b. Tie back into being a little girl

Step Four: The Essay

Once you are satisfied with your essay in outline format, begin writing!

My mother entered my bedroom and immediately scrunched up her face in disgust. “Oh my Lord. What is that smell?”
    I froze, panicked. I had been discovered.
    Twelve-year-old me was sitting at my desk when she came in. Before me was a small, red, plastic microscope, surrounded by glass slides and “organic” samples. One such sample just happened to be a chicken liver (or maybe it was a kidney) I plucked out of the giblet packet when Mom was making dinner . . . a week before.
    I had been keeping the sample in a Petri dish with my other scientific materials on my desk, shaving off a few thin slices every day to examine using my microscope—the best Christmas present I ever received. (It definitely beat all the Barbie dolls my grandma kept sending to compensate for what she called a “boy’s toy.”)  
    “What is that?” Mom demanded. “Is that meat? Is that raw meat?” With the microscope in front of me, my mother immediately understood what was going on, but as pleased as she was with my passion for science, there were some things she would not tolerate—or so I thought.
    I braced myself for the punishment and the tragic loss of an excellent tissue sample. But when my mother told me I could continue my research until my materials were gone (it was a small liver, after all), I was overjoyed. I would’ve hugged her, but I had work to do.  
    That microscope was my battery-powered window to a fascinating world no one else could see. Who could’ve imagined that the maple leaves scattered on our driveway held a patchwork of perfect green? Or that the microscope’s light could illuminate such a complex collection of purple and pink cells in a (admittedly, pretty gross) piece of chicken liver? Ten times the magnifying power of my naked eye was just okay, but once I cranked the scope up to 200x, each individual cell suddenly gained definition, its own shape and size in a sea of thousands.  
    I would stay up hours past my bedtime with my eye pressed to the eyepiece, keeping detailed records and sketches of everything I found in a notebook. My parents eventually bought me a more powerful scope in high school; this one plugged into the wall.
    As my days filled up with after-school jobs, extracurricular meetings, and choral rehearsals, I missed exploring the minutiae of the world around me. I relished every class period spent in biology and organic chemistry. When I encountered elective science courses with more focus, my interest grew, even as my classmates dwindled—especially those with two X chromosomes. Whenever I considered joining a science club, I felt isolated. Every time, without fail, I was the only girl. And, with time, I would lose my nerve and stop showing up to meetings.  
    During a campus visit last year, I visited one of XYZ University’s undergraduate labs. The sight of all the equipment sent a rush of excitement through me like that Christmas morning I opened my first microscope. Today, I imagine spending hours in the lab (probably way past my bedtime) and seeing my name published in a research journal, perhaps alongside an XYZ University faculty member. Unlike high school, I’m now hoping to enter a place where even if we’re still outnumbered, women will be important, contributing members of the program.     
    I know I’m one of the lucky ones to enter the application process knowing what I want to study, and I finally do not feel disadvantaged as a member of a female minority. Instead, I’m excited and rather proud to represent women in a STEM field. Our numbers are growing, and my future classmates and I will lead the next generation of scientists. I hope we inspire other little girls with their own secret science experiments. Then again, maybe those girls won’t feel compelled to hide them.

P.S. We have tons more college application essay help here, including lots of real-world example essays!

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