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College Essay Outline Examples

How to Outline a College Admissions Essay

By the time high school graduation comes around students should have acquired a solid working understanding of the basic essay structure. Unfortunately, not all high school English departments are created equal, and some students may find the prospect of writing their college admissions essay more than a little daunting. But if we take some time to review the basic essay structure, and consider how to approach your admissions essay, you will be well on your way to a successful submission.

Sample of a Basic Template Structure

Before we delve to deeply into the process, let's review the basics. The standard essay format that you have been writing in high school, and will be expected to write in college, has a basic structure of five paragraphs. A standard essay consists of an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs and a final paragraph presenting your conclusion. Obviously, you can have additional body paragraphs depending on the breadth of your argument, but the five paragraph essay is a working model best suited to our current purpose. It is through this simple essay structure that you will present, defend and conclude your argument in a neat and cohesive manner.

Introduction Ideas

The typical introductory paragraph for any essay will present your thesis statement, which will clearly define the subject and purpose of your essay. For example, a simple thesis statement might be, “Switching to a paperless office model will not only save the company money, it will also reduce wastage and create a more efficient workspace while helping the environment.” As you begin your introductory paragraph you will want to approach your topic broadly, bring it into focus over the course of the paragraph and present the reader with your thesis. By the time the first paragraph is finished you should have introduced the reader to your subject, suggested your supporting points of discussion and interested them in your argument.

Formal Body Paragraphs

As you move on in your essay, you will want to dedicate a paragraph to each of the salient points you wish to make to support your thesis statement. Once again, the traditional model includes three paragraphs for developing your argument but this is not a hard and fast rule. As you progress in your essay writing while at college you will find much longer essay forms will be needed. The paragraphs making up the body of your essay should be ordered to reflect your supporting points as addressed in your initial thesis statement. Each paragraph should be supported with research and original ideas that defend you initial assertion.

When you are preparing the outline for your essay, you will want to briefly jot down the supporting points for each paragraph, and list examples or research points you want to include that will prove your original thesis statement. When you look over your outline, you should recognize the skeleton of your finished essay. Your outline will also allow you to see and address any holes in your argument, and to take note of any supportive points that are either too light or too heavy on information.

In Conclusion

The final paragraph of your essay is where you will summarize your argument and present the reader with your ultimate conclusion. The standard format for an essay's conclusion is to restate the thesis, and then concisely demonstrate how your supporting points have proven your original assertion. It is important that the conclusion of your essay be strong and definitive. In the end, you want to present your reader with a coherent and concise essay that demonstrates your knowledge of the topic at hand, and your ability to reason and argue clearly and with precision.

Preparing for your college admissions essay may seem daunting at first. But with an understanding of an essay's basic structure, and a detailed outline, you will be able to present the college admissions board with a cohesive essay that will impress the judges and move your application at the top of the acceptance pile.

Major points are the building blocks of your paper. Major points build on each other, moving the paper forward and toward its conclusion. Each major point should be a clear claim that relates to the central argument of your paper.

Sample Major Point: Employment and physical health may be a good first major point for this sample paper.  Here, a student might discuss how dropping out of high school often leads to fewer employment opportunities, and those employment opportunities that are available tend to be correlated with poor work environments and low pay.

Minor points are subtopics within your major points. Minor points develop the nuances of your major points but may not be significant enough to warrant extended attention on their own. These may come in the form of statistics, examples from your sources, or supporting ideas.

Sample Minor Point: A sample minor point of the previous major point (employment and physical health) might address worker injury or the frequent lack of health insurance benefits offered by low-paying employers.

The rest of the body of your paper will be made up of more major and minor points. Each major point should advance the paper's central argument, often building on the previous points, until you have provided enough evidence and analysis to justify your paper's conclusion.

More Major and Minor Points: In this paper, more major points might include mental health of high school dropouts, healthcare access for dropouts, and correlation between mental and physical health. Minor topics could include specific work environments, job satisfaction in various fields, and correlation between depression and chronic illness.

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