Would a builder build a house without blueprints? Would a traveler set out on a cross country trip without a map or GPS? Would a chef bake a cake for the first time without using a recipe?

Okay… enough analogies!

The point (finally!) is, outlining is essential to writing an effective college application essay. Here’s why:

It helps organizes your thoughts and concepts. Moving things around in outline form, experimenting with what works best, is far simpler to accomplish before you begin writing than “on the fly” during the writing process, or after the first draft has been written.

It makes writing the first draft more efficient. Unnecessary digressions or points that don’t belong are weeded out before you waste time on them.

It provides a structure for expansion. Seeing your ideas grouped together can sometimes inspire additional ideas or facets of existing ones.

It can help you make smart use of the word count. By seeing how much space you’ve devoted to each point, you can make sure that the focus of your essay remains on your key points and not on minor ones.

It will make for a denser, richer essay, with all points coordinated and supporting the main ideas.

It saves time.

There are two main forms of outlines and either one will work for your essay. One is the traditional Roman numeral I, II, III, capital A, B, C, format which many students are taught in school. If that level of formality (Roman numerals? Shouldn’t we have dumped them centuries ago?) cramps your style, simple bullet points and sub bullet points are equally helpful. Word processing programs will help you set either of these up and do most of the structural work for you. Ideas, unfortunately, are not included. If neither of these feel comfortable, just lay out a list of your major points and fill in several supporting ideas under each of them.

Always remember that outlining is a major step in the college application writing process. Like a good hearty breakfast before a long hike… don’t skip it!

For more personal help with the college application essay, please contact Craig Heller at 818-340-1276 or [email protected].

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