College Essay Outline: Writing and Formatting for Beginners

Many students often have a challenge with how to write a college essay. Often, students develop poor writing habits and cement these habits through repeated practice over a long duration.

Here, we’ll discuss various tips regarding the college essay to help you improve your writing skills and to ensure that you secure a decent grade without much struggle. 

How long should a college essay be?

Among popular searches for students is the question: how long is a college essay? to start, the length of a college essay may be determined by the complexity of a topic, the level of study, and your faculty requirements.

Class assignments may range between 500 to 1000 words while dissertations and thesis can carry between 3000 and 10,000 words. If you are confused as to the preferred length of your paper, we recommend that you consult your tutor for guidance. 

College essay format

A college essay is broadly divided into three sections: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The introduction of your thesis carries the hook, which should highlight the relevance of your subject to the reader. Also, this section carries the background of your study to build toward your stance by highlighting a gap that warrants the research. finally, the introduction carries the thesis statement which helps you to transition to your first argument in the body paragraph. 

The body of your essay contains arguments in support of your thesis and the relevant evidence to support your arguments. Each paragraph should carry one idea and start with a topic sentence to avoid any confusion as to the point you intended to communicate. 

The conclusion then summarizes your key points, helping revert your reader’s attention from specific arguments to the overall ideas of your paper. 

Higher level thesis and dissertations are further chunked into additional sections which include the abstract, the literature review, a methodology, and results in addition to the introduction, body, and conclusion. 

College essay outline

The college essay often follows the five-paragraph essay format comprising an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. In case the word count is higher, you may adjust the size of each section provided that the body carries the largest number of words compared to the introduction and conclusion. 

When going about your essay, we recommend that you develop an outline to better organize arguments within your paper, avoiding deviation from your key arguments within the writing stage. The outline of your paper may appear as:

Paper title


1.1. Background information

1.2. Thesis


2.1. Paragraph 1

2.1.1. Topic sentence

2.1.2. Support

2.1.3. Conclusion

2.2. Paragraph 2

2.2.1. Topic sentence 

2.2.2. Support

2.2.3. Conclusion

2.3. Paragraph 3

2.3.1. Topic sentence 

2.3.2. Support

2.3.3. Conclusion


3.1. Restatement of thesis 

3.2. Highlight key argument

3.3. Recommendation

Choosing college essay topics that stand out

It is worth noting that not all topics make for a quality essay. Some topics may either be too shallow or too complex, making them unsuitable for your provided word count. although there is no list of the perfect topic for your essays, there are a few pointers that could help you select a quality essay. 

Some of the considerations to make to select a topic that stands out are:

  • Ensure that your selected topic is relevant to your interests
  • Ensure that your topic is within the provided scope for your paper
  • Select a topic that allows you to bring about new insights into the subject
  • Narrowing your topic to an idea that is feasible within the provided word count.

Some examples of quality topics for college essays include:

  1. The things you’ve discovered via your successes and failures.
  2. What friendship-related advice would you give your younger self? 
  3. Describe a moment that altered your outlook on the world and your life forever. 
  4. Contrast homeschooling versus public school. 
  5. How can the decline in business trust be stopped for good? 
  6. Describe the importance of tolerance in the workplace. 
  7. Benefits and drawbacks of Globalization 
  8. Specify the intellectual problems you want to resolve. 
  9. The most valuable guidance you’ve ever received. 

From these topics, you can easily tell the key idea of the paper. this is in contrast with the College essay topics to avoid as they are often ambiguous and carry more than one idea. Also, stay clear of controversial topics and any topics that are not related to the provided essay ideas.

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