All Roads Lead To The 5 Paragraph Essay
A 5 part Mini-Series Based on this Conventional Form
“Why 5 paragraphs?” A middle school student asks me, her tutor. “Why not 6? Why not 4?”
I pause and say, “It’s a long story.” I then begin to fabricate an answer that covers all bases, sounds convincing, and will hopefully distract – or bore – this smart-as-a-whip 8th grader so we can get back to her boarding school and New York City day school application essays.
“I hate the 5 paragraph essay,” she says. “It makes no sense.”
“I hear you,” I say. “It’s confining and has limitations and you probably don’t like to be told what to do.”
She’s texting while I’m talking. Her mother has asked that we get at least three applications done—a daunting task, but I’m game.
“You probably hate it when tutors ask you to stop texting, right?”
She smiles. “Yup.”
I ask for the phone and promise to not read her texts. Then I pose a challenge. “Let’s make a deal,” I say. “You respond to that essay prompt that asks you to describe an important family tradition or ritual and what it means to you, and I’ll give you your phone for a five minute text-a-thon.”
She cocks an eyebrow and says, “You’re on.”
She opens a Word file and writes Application Essay on the top. She then writes a sentence about Easter at her Aunt and Uncle’s house in Vermont. She starts describing their old farmhouse and the chickens that lay eggs that get hard-boiled for decorating. Then, she pauses. The pause becomes a stall, which becomes a full stop.
“I don’t know what else to say,” she says.
I ask her what her argument is, her thesis, her opening statement that she’s then going to support with examples, and then sum up with a discovery of her own. “Remember,” I say. “You’re taking the admissions directors, your readers, on a road-trip. They have no idea where they’re going, what they should be looking at and what they’re going to learn about you, their guide, along the way.”
She then says, “Can I give two examples of why Easter in Vermont is so fantastic?”
“Why not three,” I say. “Then if one isn’t so dynamic, the other two will carry the load.”
“So, all roads don’t lead to Rome,” she says. “They lead to the five paragraph essay.”
- Prologue – 5 Tips to Writing A Persuasive Five Paragraph Essay
- Episode 1 – 5 Paragraph Essay and the High School Application Prompt
- Episode 2 – 5 Paragraph Essay and The College Common Application
- Episode 3 – 5 Paragraph Essay and The High School Junior
- Episode 4 – Spring Into High School With the Fail-Proof 5 Paragraph Essay
By Elizabeth England, Writing Coach