College Application Essay Outline #1 - “A Life Changing Event”

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.

“A Life Changing Event” Outline

This outline is based on a common movie plot known as “The Hero’s Journey.” In this case, YOU are the hero. We want to see you face a challenge (or more than one) and overcome them in some way. For this outline make sure to be humble when talking about the struggle. Let us relate to you so we can cheer you on. Then, outline your strengths that helped you overcome this challenge, but don’t come off as too arrogant. It’s a balance between humility and confidence. Finally, revise, revise, revise. Have people you trust read your essay and give you feedback.

Introduce the “setting”

Introduce yourself (YOU are the main character) and the world within which you live (your “setting”.) How would you describe your upbringing, family, culture, community, etc.? What makes you unique? In the first paragraph you will also name the school you are applying to, and the department/major if you know it. Finally, transition the reader into the story you are about to tell. How does this specific story fit with your application to this specific school?

*Tip: If you feel comfortable, start your essay at your story’s exciting incident. This pulls the reader in. Then, introduce the “setting.” Make sure your transitions are smooth, though, so the reader does not get confused.*

Life changing event part 1

Did you have something happen in your life that changed your life forever? Such as: your family moved, a death, health or financial issues, cultural or religious event, etc.

Life changing event part 2

After your life changing event, what happened that shook your world even more. Think of this as your “and, then!” moment. This makes your reader wonder how you will ever overcome these obstacles.


Moment of truth: what did YOU say or do to overcome these obstacles? This shows the reader that you took hold of your life and made positive change. A college admissions reader will want to see perseverance, strength, determination, resiliency, compassion, etc.


What happened after the moment of truth? YOU (the main character) should have changed in some way. Did you learn something new? Did you change your behavior or beliefs? Did you gain any new talents or skills?

Now get 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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