What is it?

Structure refers to how the information within a written text is presented and organized. 

Why is it Important?

Structure is a key aspect of impactful writing. When done correctly it ensures that related sections are linked together and that the ideas and arguments progress in a logical and orderly manner. Without structure, even highly compelling stories can present as scattered and long-winded, qualities which can easily tank an admissions essay. Admissions officers read hundreds of essays; they have neither the time nor inclination to try to figure out what you are trying to say.

How do I create it?

There are many elements that impact narrative structure. Here are a few.

Narrative effect is the main point of your story—the moral, the message, the insight you offer. Without a specific narrative effect, your essay is merely a series of unconnected events. If you are unsure what your main point is, you might ask yourself, “Why am I telling this story? Why should someone else be interested in reading about my experience?” In addition, you must decide whether to reveal your point explicitly(stated directly) or implicitly (suggested but not stated).

Organization and Coherence
The narrative consists of three basic parts: The orientation, at the beginning of the essay, establishes the setting, characters, and other essential elements of the story. The complication involves rising conflict that leads up to the climax (the point of highest action in the story). Then, in the resolution, the conflict is resolved and the narrative effect is revealed or suggested.

Your narrative also needs a time structure. You must decide whether chronological time or psychological time best suits your story. In chronological time, events are described in the order in which they happened; in psychological time, events are described according to the connections between them, as they might be arranged in someone’s memory. The techniques of flashback and flashforward can also be part of your narrative’s time structure. Use flashback to recall an event from the past that has a significant impact on the present. Use flash forward to jump to the future and show a possible outcome for the events in the present. Both techniques, if used well, can contribute greatly to the effectiveness of your narrative. 

Style supports content in your paper. A good narrative doesn’t just tell an interesting story; it tells it in a way that engages the reader. Therefore, it is important to consider the following points as you write: Don’t simply list details. Your details should all work together to give a dominant impression of whatever you are describing. Decide before you start what impression you want to convey to the reader. Focusing on this impression, like narrative effect, gives your essay purpose. 

Use concrete nouns and active verbs. Don’t put your reader to sleep by getting caught up in wordy sentences and vague descriptions. In other words, use clear, precise language that keeps your reader’s attention. Also make use of sensory language (language that appeals to the senses), especially when you are writing a highly detailed scene. Don’t just tell us that spring was in the air—describe how the sun felt on your skin, how the birds sang in the trees, how the dew sparkled on the grass. Make the reader see, smell, hear, feel …and taste the scene you’re writing.


Use these exercises to help you begin and/or analyze your admissions essay.

  • State your thesis: what you learned, or how the event is significant to you. 
  • Write two or more paragraphs moving from action to reflection, clearly indicating to the reader the passage of time and/or a transition has occurred. 
  • Analyze and reflect on the action of the story, including how the events are significant to you. 
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