How to Outline Your College Essay Effectively

Your college essay says a lot about you, so take the time to hammer out a great outline before you start writing.

Writing an outline for your college essay can set you up for success. Outlining before you write helps you get your creative juices going, allowing you to come up with new ideas and fragmented thoughts without restricting you to a single, one-dimensional line of writing. It’s an almost essential part of the process, and it can give you a strong foundation on which to build.

So how do you get started?

·         Begin with a core idea. What is the main message you want to get across in your essay? Try writing it in as little as one sentence, and be as concise as possible.

·         Support that core idea. Whether you use a “traditional” outline format, a visual idea web, or some other medium, branch out and expand your core idea with supporting thoughts. These can be examples that illustrate your point, personal experiences, or other facts and anecdotes that strengthen your main position.

·         Jot down ideas for a conclusion. How are you going to settle this core idea at the end of your paper? How are you going to close?

·         Build out an introduction. It’s counterintuitive, but many people find it easier to outline the introduction as the last part of the process. By then, you know the entire direction of your essay and can build into it accordingly.

It’s also important to consider the fact that no two college essays are alike. Different colleges look for different criteria, so make sure you’re following their individual instructions and expectations closely and accurately.

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