Writing College Essays: College Essay First Draft

Colton Lipfert
December 28, 2023
College Essays

This blog post is part of a series where our writers discuss their experiences writing their personal statements. In this installment, they answer the question below.

How did you turn your outline into a college essay first draft?

Maria: The first thing I did was make sure I had the most detailed outline possible. Having all my ideas on the page made it much easier to turn my outline into a college essay first draft, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t need to spend as much time brainstorming in these last stages.

Chase: Unlike Maria, my outline is very barren and just a bullet-pointed ordering of the ideas I want to convey. I embrace the process of iterating through drafts, letting myself spit out an initially unpolished essay from my unpolished outline, and adjusting this initial flow of ideas over multiple revisions and drafts until I’m happy with it.

Cory: I think both Maria and Chase’s methods are advantageous in their own way. Writing down all the details first ensures you don’t leave anything important out. On the other hand, you might lose some of the narrative art— because it might feel more like assembling a puzzle than writing a story. I personally like writing down 2-3 big picture details and trusting my creative brain to tell the story in a compelling manner.

Maria: I agree, I think both methods add different dimensions to an essay. Something I found with my college essay was that I wrote out an entire outline, turned it into a college essay first draft, realized I didn’t like my idea anymore, and wrote an entirely new essay. Like Chase said, revisions help create a flow of ideas, and sometimes you have to scrap some of them. It is okay to outgrow your initial topic, and the drafting process will help you sort through this.

Chase: Building off of Maria’s experience in having to scrap an essay she previously meticulously outlined, I think that one of the most important parts of becoming a skilled college essay writer, and writer in general, is to not get overly attached to anything you write. Although you spend a lot of time on something and you think it sounds amazing on its own, it might not work that well in the context of your entire essay. Thus, you must always be willing to part ways, change, and scrap sentences or even entire essays in the name of producing the best final product possible. 

Cory: Yeah, that’s true. This is where another pair of eyes comes in handy— college admissions counselors, teachers, and friends can tell you whether or not you’re talking about the right topic with the right voice, words, and format. My best essays were informed by the critical eye of English teachers and other people I trusted.

For more guidance on how to draft your personal statement, get into contact with a Dewey Smart tutor today!

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