How do I create an effective outline?
When creating outlines, think of them as ever-evolving; similar to rough drafts of the paper itself. Initially, it is helpful to create more of a brainstorming master list of topics and ideas that you want to address within the paper. Then, you can rearrange that list into your first most basic outline, showing the order in which your ideas will progress. Then it's time to flesh out the details a little more. You can add in supporting details to strengthen your topic for each paragraph, and even write out complete sentences if your wheels have started turning. This is also a great time to solidify your references. In your outline you can note which sources you plan to use to support each topic, and even transcribe exact quotes or passages you may want to use. This is helpful because you can make sure you have a variety of sources throughout the paper before you end up with a finished draft and realize you ended up referencing from only one or two sources the majority of the time, or that only some ideas were supported by outside references and other have no backing other than your own opinion. Generally, the more details you put into your outline, the easier it will be to write your first rough draft of the paper. By creating a thorough outline, you may also realize earlier on if an idea you initially thought would be great is in fact not going to work, and then go back to the drawing board before attempting to write the entire paper.
How do I stay on top of everything when I have a never ending list of homework and studying to get through?
Stay organized! Use an agenda to keep track of assignment due dates and tests. For larger projects, it can also be helpful to break the assignment down into steps and set smaller deadlines for yourself. So, if you have a paper due a month from now, rather than just marking down the final due date, pick days by which you want to complete the initial research, outline, rough draft, reference list, etc. This will help you avoid forgetting about an assignment and then scrambling to get the entire thing done in one week. It can also be helpful to make one consolidated to-do list from week to week. Once you see everything you need to get done over the next several days, you can prioritize which items to complete first, and start checking things off the list. When making your list it is also valuable to estimate how long each task will take. This way, you can figure out what might take you 30 minutes, and you can get it done in between classes or during a free period, and what you will need to block out an entire evening to get done. This way, you can be more efficient with your time and plan ahead to bring needed materials with you when you think you might have time to fit a task into your day.
How do I write an admissions essay that stands out?
Admissions essays can be difficult to write because a lot of information needs to be condensed into a short narrative. One of the most important aspects of this essay is to be authentic. When choosing the topic for the essay, you should think about what experience(s) truly had the most impact on you, not just what you think may sound impressive. For example, you may have participated in a service trip to Costa Rica, which you think will demonstrate some valuable personal qualities such as commitment to charitable endeavors, worldliness, exposure to different living conditions, etc. However, that trip may not have influenced your educational and career aspirations as profoundly as the afternoon you babysat your little sister and took care of her when she fell off the slide at the park and needed to go to the hospital for stitches. It is much more important to write truthfully than to fall into a cliche of a typical coming-of-age story. Additionally, it is much better to show than to tell. If you want the reader of your essay to know that you are daring and adventurous, do not list these adjectives. Instead, tell an anecdote that demonstrates these qualities. Keep your writing clear and concise, and read your drafts out loud as you go. Ask multiple people to read your drafts and give opinions, and don't be afraid to completely scrap an idea and start fresh.