College Application Essay Outline #2 - “Focusing on a Theme”

Congratulations! If you are thinking about applying to college then you are already halfway there. Advanced education, whether it is a four-year degree, a technical college, a certificate, or any specialty class or course, will prepare you for so much in life. The first step is to apply, which often includes an essay (or multiple essays) and/or a cover letter.

You might be thinking: how do I write a college application essay?? Don’t worry, we can help. While there are a million ways to write an essay for a college application, and a million ways to show you are unique and qualified, there are a couple of common outlines, which you can find below.

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let’s go over a few important details:

  • Always customize your college application essay for each specific school you are applying to. Admissions officers can tell when you have submitted the same essay to every school (seriously.) Ask yourself: why do I want to go to this school? What do I think I want to study? Are there any classes or professors that interest me? How will this particular school help me achieve my goals?

  • College is a time to grow, mature, and learn, so many schools will want to see that you have the capability to do those things. Make sure to write about stories or situations that influenced you as a person and taught you something about yourself and the world around you.

  • This is also a time to start focusing on your future. Even though you may not know exactly what you want to major in, or what you want to be when you grow up, you can still identify clear goals. Do you have a certain field you want to work in? (i.e. computer science, dance, agriculture, art, etc.) Do you want to do something creative, inventive, managerial, etc? If you identify clear, specific goals then admissions offers will see an applicant who is organized and driven.

  • Some colleges will ask you specific questions, in which case these outlines may not fit. These suggestions may work if a college asks for a “personal statement” or another general essay.

  • Finally, getting into college isn’t always easy. Storysquares is not responsible for any success or failure with your school journey. We are only offering our opinion and suggestions. 

This essay focuses more on a theme, emotion, or topic that has been influential in your life. If you don’t feel like you have had a ‘significant’ life change, then this might be a great outline for you. Every single person can identify a theme that has impacted their life, such as hard work, family, perseverance, etc. Those are pretty generic examples, though, so be as specific as you possibly can. See examples below.


Introduce a theme, emotion, or topic that has been significant in your life and that you can back up with specific examples or an anecdote. For example, maybe your single mother taught you about hard work; maybe a high school teacher taught you about the importance of learning from failure; or maybe your time in the military prepared you for unknown situations. Whatever you choose, make sure it is relevant to college: i.e. hard work, perseverance, determination, learning, etc. Also, be as specific as possible and try and tie it to a person, place, or thing. When an admissions officer can picture something in their mind, you become much more memorable.

Example 1

The body of your essay will consist of examples or very short anecdotes that illustrate how this theme impacted your life. You may choose to list these chronologically, by impact, or another way, but make sure it is organized in a way that makes sense. *Tip: The more specific and sensory you can be, the better. Think of all five senses and really paint a picture for the reader.*

Example 2

Another example/anecdote how this theme impacted your life, as well as how it connects to the college experience.

Example 3

Another example/anecdote how this theme impacted your life, as well as how it connects to the college experience.


In your final paragraph (if you are allowed a longer essay this may be several paragraphs) you should tie your main theme back into who you used to be and who you have become. This tells the admissions reader that you have grown, matured, and learned lessons in life, making you a better person. The most important part, though: make sure to explain how attending this specific college, along with your theme, will shape who you are moving forward.

Now, start writing!

You can do this! Writing is a process, just like practicing a musical instrument, or running drills in basketball. It is hard, so go easy on yourself. If you put work into your writing and revising, and you are honest, detailed, and goal-oriented, then your essay will stand out. If you have any questions reach out to the Storysquares team anytime. And of course let us know if these outlines helped you get into college! We’d love to spotlight your success on our website. Good luck!

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