Neal Kaplan I'm a director of technical communications working for a data analysis startup in Redwood City. I started as a technical writer, and since then I've also been learning about information architecture, training, content strategy, and even something about customer support. I'm also passionate about cross-team collaboration and user communities.

How do you organize a college essay?

12 min read

  • An outline can be created.
  • Your ideas should flow from one to the next.
  • You should be willing to make cuts as needed.
  • The highest priority should be organization.
  • Don’t skimp after the conclusion.

Although it can be interesting to read a novel or watch a film that is presented out of sequence, your application essay needs to have a strong organization that is easy for the reader to follow. College essays that try to stand out by being too literary are likely to lose the reader’s attention.

An outline will help guide the writing process and keep you focused on the purpose of your college essay. It can seem like there is nothing left to say after the hard work of creating a great introduction and strong supporting body paragraphs. It’s an opportunity to make your main point and draw the essay to a close. A quick and clear presentation is needed for your college admissions essay.

What are the 3 most common steps for organizing a college essay?

  • Start in the middle of the action
  • Explain what is going on.
  • The story should be finished.
  • Tell us what you learned.

I’m going to follow an imaginary student named Eva as she plans and writes her college essay, from her initial organization to her final edits. Understanding what the prompt is asking for and taking the time to come up with a variety of options is what starts the process. To hone your structure and language, you’ll need to create an interesting essay that shows off your unique perspective and write multiple drafts.

For Common App schools, you may need to write a supplemental essay or provide short answers to questions. You don’t want to end up with a low-quality essay because you didn’t have enough time to finish it. If you’re only using the Common App, you can view the requirements for each school under the “My Colleges” tab. If a college asks you to write about why you’re excited to go, they want to see evidence that you’re interested.

Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helps to shape it. Our families and communities define us and our individual worlds. Give an example of how your leadership experience has influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically.

It makes you lose track of time if you describe a topic, idea, or concept that is so engaging. What academic areas are you interested in? What book, character, song, monologue, or piece of work seems right for you?

Those types of essays tend to be boring and uninspired and don’t feel obligated to write about something. Your college essay will be written by a PrepScholar Admissions counselor. You can discuss the effects of your family life or your Jewish faith on your personal history.

Readers want to hear about your educational goals, and how they’re related to your personal experience, no matter what. Think about what you would say if you were asked a question by a friend or during a get-to-know-you meeting. hobbies, extracurriculars, intellectual interests, jobs, significant one-time events, pieces of family history, or anything else that has shaped your perspective on life are possibilities. Your passion for Korean dramas or your yearly family road trip to an important historical site are examples of unexpected topics. If you feel comfortable sharing details of your experience with the admissions committee, you can separate yourself from the feedback you get on your essay.

Eva thought it would be nice to write about her love of literature for the first Common App prompt, which asks about something “so meaningful your application would be incomplete without it.” She liked the specificity of the failure prompt and thought she might write about a bad job interview. Eva’s parents got divorced when she was three and she’s been going back and forth between their houses for as long as she can remember, that’s a big part of her personal story.

Eva is proud of her curiosity, if she doesn’t know something, she immediately looks it up, and often ends up discovering new topics she’s interested in. There’s no single answer to the question of what makes a great college essay topic, but there are some key factors you should keep in mind.

A lot of students feel like they have to write about a major life event. The purpose of a personal statement isn’t to serve as a resume or a brag sheet, there are plenty of other places in the application to list that information. Your approach to a common experience generally reveals a lot about your perspective on the world, so many of the best essays are about something small. It’s important that your topic has had a genuine effect on your outlook, whether it taught you something about yourself or shifted your view on something else.

The purpose of the essay is to reveal something more personal that isn’t clear just from numbers and lists. If you try to take on a very broad topic, you’ll end up with a bunch of general statements and boring lists of accomplishments. If I tell my friend that I had a great dessert yesterday, she probably won’t be interested.

Some students are excited to write essays about very personal topics, like their mother’s bipolar disorder or their family’s financial struggles, but others don’t like sharing details about these kinds of experiences. If you’re applying to a school with its own specific prompt, or working on supplemental essays, making sure to address the question will be a greater concern. The PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you with your college essay.

Hopefully, it’s gotten you started thinking about how you can best approach that topic, but we’ll cover how to plan your essay more fully in the next step. On the way to school or studying for a history test, you may have a genius idea in the car. She decided not to write about splitting time between her parents because she wasn’t comfortable sharing her feelings with the admissions committee. She realized that she could address the problem prompt by talking about a time she was researching a story about the closing of a local movie theater, so she decided to go with that topic.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to copy someone else’s approach, as it can be helpful to understand how other personal statements are structured to get ideas for your own. The easier it will be to write a unique, engaging personal statement the narrower your focus will be.

The simplest way to limit the scope of your essay is to recount an anecdote. She decided to focus on the failed attempt to climb Half Dome as the epitome of what mattered to her.

She described the moment she decided to turn back without reaching the top in detail, while touching on other parts of the climb. It might be better to build your essay around a meaningful object, relationship, or idea. In response to Common App prompt 4, our example student could write about the generosity of fellow hikers. She could tell the story of her trip through times when she was supported by other hikers, such as when they gave her tips on the trails, shared snacks, and encouraged her when she was tired.

Without a clear structure your essay will end up as gibberish that doesn’t tell the reader anything meaningful about your personality, even if you have the most exciting topic of all time. There are a lot of different essay structures, but a simple and effective one is the compressed narrative, which builds on a specific anecdote and brings the main point of your story home: how this experience affected you. The second approach is based on returning to a key idea or object again and again, so make sure to use sensory details to bring the reader into those points in time and keep her engaged in the essay.

You want to tie everything together by showing how your relationship to the object has shaped you. If you structure your essay the way you want it to be, you want to make sure that it clearly lays out both the events or ideas you’re describing and establishes the stakes. Many students forget to explain what they meant to them when they tell a story or recount details.

Eva decided to use the compressed narrative structure to tell the story of how she tried and failed to report on the closing of a historic movie theater: open with part of her story where she finally gave up after calling the theater and city hall a dozen times. Explain that although she started researching the story out of journalistic curiosity, it was important to her because she’d grown up going to the theater. She felt defeated when she couldn’t get ahold of anyone and when she saw a story about the theater’s closing in the paper. She learned that the emotional angle can be just as interesting as the investigative one when she explained that she wasn’t able to get the story or stop the destruction of the theater.

It’s okay to have sections you know won’t work or to skip over things you think you’ll need to include later. You don’t have to worry about them as you write because they can easily be fixed. Since these aspects are vital to a compelling essay, focus on including lots of specific details and emphasizing how your topic has affected you. Your college essay will be written by a PrepScholar Admissions counselor.

If you studied The Odyssey, you’ll know that this term means the story starts in the middle of the action rather than at the beginning. The openers give a solid start to narrative essays. If you’re not sure where that is, try writing out the entire story and then crossing out each sentence in order until you get to one that grabs your attention.

“I strode in front of 400 frenzied eighth graders with my arm slung over my guitar and launched into the first few lines of ‘Lithium’.” In elementary school, sweeping statements do not make very strong hooks. The general topic of the essay is set up in an intriguing way by the first and second introductory paragraphs. Specific descriptions are mixed with more general commentary in the first intro.

The second draws the reader in with its irreverent tone and references to “if you ask me” and “This may or may not be a coincidence.” I was hoping to ask you some questions, but I heard a click on the other end of the line.

I had been trying to find out if the Atlas Theater was closing to make way for AMC or if it was just a rumor, but no one would return my calls. If you fix those, ask for feedback from other readers, because they’ll often notice gaps in logic that don’t appear to you. At this point, you’re focused on the major issues since those require the most extensive rewrites if you see sentences that don’t make sense.

You need to remove the entire paragraph in order to get your sentences nicely structured. As you read through your essay, think about whether it draws the reader along, engages him with specific details, and shows why the topic matters to you. If they are not adding to your essay, they need to be cut or altered. If the topic is not working or there is a big structural problem, you may have to throw out the draft and start over.

Once you’ve fixed the problems you found on the first pass and have a second or third draft, ask some other people to read it. Parents, teachers, and friends are great resources, but how helpful they will be depends on the individual and how willing you are to take criticism from her. Give your readers a sense of what you’d like them to read for, or print out the questions I listed above and include them at the end of your essay Eva modifies the solution slightly to include the fact that this call wasn’t her first.

I heard a dial tone on the other end of the line, followed by a distinctive click. I had been trying to find out if the Atlas Theater was closing to make way for a big AMC theater or if it was just a rumor, but no one would return my calls. Eva decided to stick more closely to her own perspective, after hearing rumors that Atlas Theater was going to be replaced with an AMC multiplex.

She puts a paragraph break before this sentence to emphasize that she’s moving on to the background information rather than describing her call. A fresh set of eyes can catch an issue you’ve been ignoring simply because you’ve been looking at the essay for so long. Give your readers instructions to only look for errors, since you don’t want to make any major changes at this point in the process. It’s worth taking the time to make sure you don’t have any errors.

I was hoping to ask you some questions when I was a reporter for The Falcon. I was worried that the Atlas Theater was going to be replaced with an AMC theater. When I was a kid, my dad would take me to see every Pixar movie on opening night and buy me Red Vines to distract me from the sad parts.

My personal history with the place didn’t seem to matter to anyone official, and my calls to both the theater and city hall had gone unanswered. Remember when we talked about making a chart to keep track of all the different essays you have to write?

Don’t forget that some schools may require more than one essay or ask for short paragraphs in addition to the main personal statement, so keep in mind your deadlines. If you choose to reuse an essay you wrote for a different prompt, make sure it addresses every part of the question and fits the word limit.

Even if you use the same basic topic in the essay, you’re probably better off starting from scratch. It’s okay to talk about something similar as long as you don’t use the same topic for your personal statement. If you haven’t finished the rest of the application process, you should look at our guides to asking for recommendations, writing about extracurriculars, and researching colleges.

How do you layout a college application essay?

Line spacing can be either 1.5 or double. Although you may be able to submit your work in single line spacing, this makes it harder to read. The first line of each paragraph should be removed with a tab. The Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri are easy to read in 12-pt type.

How do you organize your essay?

  • The thesis was written. A thesis statement is the first step in organizing an essay.
  • Paragraphs are supporting. The body paragraphs are the next step in organizing my essay.
  • There is an outline for a topic.
  • A thesis.
  • Paragraphs are supporting.
  • There is an outline for this topic.

One sentence that expresses the thrust of your essay is what you should begin writing. Body paragraphs are the next step in organizing my essay.

You might be tempted to start writing the rest of your essay immediately after developing your thesis. By outlining the body of your paper, you can make sure that the rest of the essay supports your thesis. An outline connects the body of the essay to the thesis.

Write out the major points that support your thesis on a separate piece of paper. Remove the lead phrases, “I believe that” and “Because” once you’ve come up with enough statements to support your thesis. A rough outline is what you have left. The final step in the essay preparation process is a topic outline.

Sub-points reflect and support the main point. Some of the most popular dogs in America are golden retrievers.

An organized essay from a disorganized one is the most creative one for some writers. Pick a sentence that reflects the main point of the essay and begin writing your final draft.

Writing a single sentence that expresses the thrust of your essay is how to begin developing your thesis. The body paragraphs are the next step in organizing your essay. You might be tempted to start writing the rest of your essay immediately after developing your thesis.

By outlining the body of your paper, you can ensure that the rest of your essay supports your thesis. An outline connects the body of the essay to the thesis. Write out the major points that support your thesis on a separate piece of paper.

The lead phrases “I believe that” and “Because” should be removed once you have enough statements to support your thesis. There is a rough outline for your final essay left. A topic outline is the final step in the essay preparation process. Sub-points reflect and support each main point.

Golden retrievers are some of the most common dogs in America.

What is the best way to organize your writing?

  • You have to find a platform that works.
  • You can organize from big to small.
  • There is a system for naming files.
  • Don’t trash it.
  • At the end, keep it separate.

Creating memorable characters and settings, writing sparkling dialogue, and injecting your scenes with intrigue and emotion are some of the things you want to do when you are excited about a story.

Plot points and character notes are tracked in Airtable and also on random index cards. You might as well make a bonfire for your computer and all your little scraps of paper because it is not working, because you don’t know where you recorded that crucial story note. Even though my journey to figuring out how to organize my writing has been messy, I recommend that all beginning writers do some experimentation of their own.

Finding a system that can grow and adapt with your story and ability as a writer is the trick. If you have a hard drive, another cloud-based service Suite, or even a binder, I can suggest some tips for you to use.

I like G Suite because it allows me to edit my writing from any device, but I realize that not all writers have consistent access to a wi-fi connection. Here are some of the broad categories that I use, but the possibilities are endless depending on what you’re writing and your personal organizational style.

I added a phrase to each folder’s name as a reminder of what my character should be going through in Resisting, Learning, and Changing. The chapter titles remind me of the main thing that happens, so it’s easier to navigate if I need to change, add, or cut content.

At the end of the file name, I add the word count to make sure each chapter is the same length. If I need to find a piece of writing that has been cut, I can use the search function in Drive to find it. Writing a novel is a huge project, and if you try to hold the whole thing in your head at once, it becomes overwhelming very quickly.

What are the main rules in organizing an essay?

  • There are seven rules for writing an essay.
  • Complete sentences are what you should write in them.
  • Write in third person
  • Don’t say “do not abbreviate.”
  • Slang like kids should not be used.
  • Don’t use them.
  • Figures of speech shouldn’t be used.
  • Don’t use the same words or phrases.

There are different rules for essays, letters, poems, and journal writing. The Common Core Writing Standards divide essays into two categories.

Essays present evidence in a fair and balanced manner, despite the fact that they may express opinions. The main points of the case and the evidence that supports them are presented by the attorney.

The closing arguments are presented by the attorney. Abbreviations don’t belong in essays because they are informal.

No-prep resources allow students to work at their own pace. Teachers can differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills by using the Essay Skills Worksheets. The Eight Writing Process Essays feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, a writing prompt with connected reading, a graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities.

Each essay has a detailed analytical rubric for assessment-based learning.

What is organizing in essay?

A clear, focused, logical and effective essay can be written in an organized fashion. It is easier to understand the thesis with an organization. It is easier for the writer to put the entire essay together and harder for the reader to understand the main ideas presented in the essay when they are in order.

Neal Kaplan I'm a director of technical communications working for a data analysis startup in Redwood City. I started as a technical writer, and since then I've also been learning about information architecture, training, content strategy, and even something about customer support. I'm also passionate about cross-team collaboration and user communities.

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