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Unlock Your College Dreams: 3 Proven Essay Frameworks for Amazing Application Essays!

college prep high school writing tips Aug 13, 2023
3 Proven College Application Essay Frameworks

I've taught college application essay writing to students for over 30 years and have read hundreds of story patterns.

Unfortunately, many of these frameworks don't lend themselves well to these types of essays.

So, when it comes to helping students write essays for college applications, I use only a few proven story patterns.

Here are three of my favorites: The Underdog, Coming of Age, and The Quest.

**You can read about my other favorite story frameworks here.**


The Underdog: Triumph Against All Odds

The underdog story is one of hope and perseverance. Underdogs show the world that they never give up, never settle for second best, and have the courage to strive for something better. 

Your challenge: Tell how you overcame adversity, be it failure, illness, bullying, or other obstacles that came your way.

The Underdog Essay Framework

  1. The Struggle: Begin by outlining the difficulties and adversities you have faced. Be truthful with your struggle and your reaction.
  2. The Climb: Show us how you never gave up despite overwhelming odds. Describe the steps you took to face adversity with courage and perseverance.
  3. The Turning Point: Explain what insights and lessons you learned from your ordeal. Explain a critical moment or decision that turned the tide in your favor.
  4. The Unexpected Victory: Consider accomplishments or successes and emphasize the journey, not just the endpoint.

Why It Works: The underdog essay resonates because it's a testament to human resilience. It inspires and shows that you can overcome even the most difficult challenges. For this framework to be effective, your readers must pull for you and realize that victory isn't always the result of the event but what you have learned.


Coming of Age: Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood

Everyone goes through this metamorphosis from adolescence to adulthood, making it a universal experience.

Your challenge: write about your transition so readers can empathize and identify with you.

Coming of Age Essay Framework

  1. The Innocent World: Begin by describing your younger years. What perceptions, beliefs, and dreams did you have? How did you see the adult world around you?
  2. The Catalyst: Name an event or series of events that triggered your change. This could be a personal challenge, a new environment, or an influential person who came into your life.
  3. Trials and Triumphs: Describe the experiences that contributed to your growth, both the bitter and the beautiful. Focus on moments of self-discovery, resilience, and learning.
  4. Summarize your story by reflecting on who you have become. How do you perceive the world differently now? What values and beliefs have you developed?

The coming-of-age narrative is appealing because of its universality. Readers can connect with your story, allowing them to reflect on their own development. 

Your goal is to add value to the college you are applying to. You become more tangible, likable, and above all else, relatable when readers can empathize with your story.


The Quest: The Journey for Purpose

The relentless pursuit of new knowledge and physical or spiritual fulfillment characterizes quest plots.

The Quest Essay Framework

  1. The Stirring: Begin with what triggered your quest.
  2. Challenges along the way: Describe the hurdles you encountered along the way.
  3. The Epiphany: Describe the moments of realization or clarity that brought you closer to your goal or solution.
  4. The Conclusion of the Quest: Conclude with what you gained from the journey, not only in terms of your original goal but also in terms of personal growth, insights, and new perspectives.

Why it works: The quest essay is fascinating because it describes a journey and carries the reader along with the ups and downs, discoveries, and insights. Allow your readers to join you on the quest, just as they do with the other archetypes.

The art of essay writing reflects the personal journey combined with storytelling techniques. The "Coming of Age," "Underdog," and "Quest" archetypes are just templates to help you structure your story and convey it convincingly.

Remember that whatever framework you choose, the emphasis is on authenticity and relatability. The goal is to connect with your reader and take them on the journey with you.


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