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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay

upitt honors college essay examples

The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.

Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.

Components of a Good Essay

The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.

Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.

Keys to Introductory Paragraphs

Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.

What Makes a Thesis Statement

The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.

Content of Supporting Paragraphs

Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.

The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.

Concluding Paragraph Tips

Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.

Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.

A Note on Compare and Contrast

Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.

Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?


upitt honors college essay examples

What's Your Question?

10 Great Essay Writing Tips

upitt honors college essay examples

Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.

Prepare to Answer the Question

Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.

upitt honors college essay examples

Plan Your Essay

Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.

Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable

You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

upitt honors college essay examples

View It as a Conversation

Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.

upitt honors college essay examples

Provide the Context in the Introduction

If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.

upitt honors college essay examples

Explain What Needs to be Explained

Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.

upitt honors college essay examples

Answer All the Questions

After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.

upitt honors college essay examples

Stay Focused as You Write

Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.

upitt honors college essay examples

Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread

When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.

upitt honors college essay examples

Avoid Filling the Page with Words

A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.


upitt honors college essay examples

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upitt honors college essay examples

How to Write the University of Pittsburgh Essays 2023-2024

upitt honors college essay examples

The University of Pittsburgh, or Pitt, is a public research university just a few miles east of downtown Pittsburgh. With a campus encompassing 132 acres, Pitt enrolls almost 20,000 undergraduates, and is composed of 17 different undergraduate and graduate schools. 

Pitt is moderately selective and is consistently ranked as one of the top public universities in the country. The most popular departments at Pitt are business, engineering, health, and the social sciences. 

There are no optional supplements applicable to all applicants, other than the main personal statement on the Common App , Coalition Application , or Pitt Application. Honors applicants must write a separate essay, however, and international applicants are asked to answer another prompt in lieu of the personal statement.

In this post, we’ll break down how to write these essays to improve your chances of acceptance. Read this Pitt essay example to inspire your own writing.

Pitt Supplemental Essay Prompts

All applicants, if you have written a common application personal essay you are not expected to also submit a personal statement below. we will receive your common app personal essay if completed., submission of either the optional personal statement or common app personal essay is required for scholarship review, if applying without sat or act scores, and may increase the likelihood that you are considered for guaranteed admission programs or given special consideration due to extenuating circumstances..

The personal statement is your opportunity to communicate directly with the Admissions Committee. Applicants are welcome to submit anything that helps tell their story, being mindful and thoughtful about the quantity and quality of information shared. Share information not included elsewhere in your application. (750 words)

International Applicants

Describe an experience where you had to adapt to a new environment (i.e. a different culture, situation, or way of thinking). (1500 characters recommended)

Honors Applicants

Please select one of these questions. (200-300 words recommended).

  • Option 1 : What is something you would like to see change in the world? Explain why.
  • Option 2: If you had 10 minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your TED Talk be about?
  • Option 3: What does it mean to be “educated”?

The personal statement is your opportunity to communicate directly with the Admissions Committee. Applicants are welcome to submit anything that helps tell their story, being mindful and thoughtful about the quantity and quality of information shared. Share information not included elsewhere in your application. (750 words).

This personal statement is optional for those submitting the Common App Essay. While we typically encourage you to write all optional essays to demonstrate your interest, this is an exception since this prompt is presented as an alternative to another essay. If you aren’t submitting the Common App, however, then you should complete this personal statement. 

The goal of the personal statement is to share a story about what makes you unique. As we mention in our guide to the Common App Essays, a good personal statement should answer these four core questions:

  • “Who Am I?”
  • “Why Am I Here?”
  • “What is Unique About Me?”
  • “What Matters to Me?”

This essay should tell a story and use a narrative/creative writing format rather than your standard academic essay format. We recommend reading our Common App Essay guide for more advice on crafting a great personal statement.

Finally, keep in mind that while you have up to 750 words, you don’t need to use the full word count. While we typically recommend maximizing your allotted space, this essay is presented as an alternative to the Common App essay, which only goes up to 650 words. An essay of 550-650 words should be the sweet spot for saying what you want without dragging it on. 

Describe an experience where you had to adapt to a new environment (i.e. a different culture, situation, or way of thinking). (1500 characters recommended, about 200-400 words)

Being an international student is a unique experience, and Pitt wants to know that you are prepared for the challenges of adapting to a new country, culture, and environment. 

For this prompt, you will want to share a story that illustrates your adaptability, awareness, and open-mindedness. Hone in on one experience and take a deep dive into your thoughts and emotions as you were going through this transition.

Try to steer clear of cliche storylines; many students will generally discuss how it was difficult at first to study abroad, move to a different location, or overcome homesickness at an overnight program. Instead, focus on a specific aspect of the experience you choose to write about. For instance, a student who loved their study abroad experience would tell an anecdote about how they got lost in a foreign city and had to piece together their knowledge of the language to talk to taxi drivers and random strangers. Describing a specific moment like this will showcase your mentality and emotions in the moment where you were adapting to a new environment, which is what admissions officers want to learn from this essay.

Don’t feel obligated to write about experiences that are obviously relevant to being an international student. The prompt also mentions new “situations” or “ways of thinking.” You could also write about joining a new club, trying a new sport, or learning about a different way to approach a problem. The key is to pick a topic that will allow you to be reflective and illustrative of how you will adapt as an international student on Pitt’s campus.

As you decide on a topic and write your essay, ask yourself:

  • Which experience best allowed me to demonstrate my adaptability and openness?
  • What did I learn from this experience?
  • What were my thoughts and emotions as I was going through this experience?
  • How will this experience help me thrive as an international student?

Your essay should answer all of these questions, while still being exciting and engaging. For example, you might want to write about how you switched from a public to a private school. Don’t give an overview of your experience. Instead, tell the story of your first homecoming game where you were surrounded by students with pride for their school. Even though it was a new environment you were still getting acquainted with, seeing the school spirit and cheering on your team helped you feel like you belong at your new school. Despite the fear you might have felt the first few weeks of school, you decided that if you could cheer alongside your peers, you could talk to them in class as well. You now know that despite the challenges that might arise the first few weeks of college, when you’re standing in the stadium cheering on the Panthers you will feel the same sense of camaraderie and you will be able to connect with your peers.  

Honors Applicants, Option 1

What is something you would like to see change in the world explain why. (200-300 words).

There’s so many ways you can go about this essay, and the key is to begin by brainstorming what it is you’re passionate about, and why you’re passionate about it. Pitt Honors College is specifically looking for students who “want to advance research, better the community, and leave a global footprint.” They’re asking you to think big, and think altruistically—so don’t be afraid to write about lofty dreams. Just be sincere and specific. 

It would be even better if you have past experiences working towards implementing changes, which would give you more credibility and grounding. Even if it’s as small as being a member of a community service club, or volunteering, you could use these experiences as a jumping off point for your future goals. Also, if there’s a personal reason why you’ve chosen your topic, you should definitely talk about it, as it could lead to strong anecdotes that would make your essay come alive. 

At the end of the essay, you could even go into how you see Pitt Honors College fitting into your trajectory towards changing this proposed problem. You could talk about a Pitt Honors first year seminar, like “Power and Resistance,” mention how you would love to engage in meaningful conversations by living in Honors housing, and list an honors pod you would want to join—like the community engagement pod or the health sciences pod. 

Here are some examples to think about:

  • Maybe you want to study education, and in particular, you want to make a dent in reforming public education. You can acknowledge that this is a huge, structural problem probably unsolvable by a single person, but that you nevertheless want to give it your best try. You want to start by participating in Pitt’s Combined Accelerated Studies in Education, granting you a bachelor’s and a master’s in five years. You could discuss how you want to start as a student teacher, then manage your own classroom to learn how best to help children learn. Maybe after a while, you can go into education policy, and specifically work on creating less segregated public schools, and bringing more funding into underserved areas. 
  • Maybe your intended major is computer science, and the problem you’d like to address is a lack of rural connectivity to the internet, even in America. You want to take the normal slate of computer science classes, but also many classes in public policy, to know how the government plays a role in broadband access. After graduating, you’d want to both work as a programmer, but also advocate on behalf of rural communities, especially through granting local and state funding to develop better internet service in rural areas.
  • Maybe you are really interested in racial justice since you have grown up feeling the effects of systemic racism and discrimination. You want to provide justice to Black Americans by becoming a death row lawyer and working with people who have been wrongly convicted. You plan to take law classes at Pitt that will teach you more about the complex workings of the justice system and how to perfect your public speaking skills. On campus, you want to join the Prisoner Legal Support Project to work with other like-minded students who care about these issues. After graduation, you plan to go to Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate, to get some experience working with lawyers and inmates before law school.

Honors Applicants, Option 2

If you had 10 minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your ted talk be about (200-300 words).

This creative prompt from Pitt asks you to brainstorm about a topic that deeply interests you. Ideally, you should choose a timely topic that relates to your ongoing academic or extracurricular interests.

Additionally, because TED talks are meant to bring value to a broader audience, the topic should be influential for many people to hear. For example, you may want to avoid talking about building an interplanetary defense system to protect against asteroids from hitting Earth because it’s not a hugely current societal problem.

Before you begin writing, familiarize yourself with the format of a TED talk. Watch a few of the most popular ones , or search for some that align with your interests. If you’re having trouble thinking of a topic, ask yourself:

  • What are the important lessons you’ve learned?
  • What are you good at?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What is an unusual experience you’ve had?
  • What do you want to teach others?
  • What can you talk about for a full 10 minutes?

A good TED talk will most likely be a strong response to more than one of these questions. For example, maybe you’re passionate about backyard gardening, and even started a local neighborhood gardening group. You might give a TED talk called “Your Friendly Neighborhood Gardner: A Lesson In Crop Rotation,” where you discuss your experience and how others can coordinate gardening groups and share ground with neighbors to make the most of their harvests. Or, maybe you love chemistry and cooking, and want to teach others how to use science to improve their dishes. Your speech might be called “Molecules and Meatballs: The Chemistry Behind Our Food.”

Make sure to include a few key details when putting together this essay about a TED talk. Include the following: 1) a catchy title that captures the reader and summarizes what you will talk about; 2) the message you want to get across to your audience and why it is meaningful to you; and 3) what the overall impact your talk could have on the community at large. By including all three of these key ideas you will better express your thoughts, interests and dreams to the admissions readers who are eagerly looking forward to reading your essay.

As long as you pick a topic you’re genuinely excited about, and frame it in a way that makes it applicable to others, your TED talk should be strong. Definitely have some fun with this one!

Honors Applicants, Option 3

What does it mean to be “educated” (200-300 words).

This prompt essentially has two parts: one, establishing what being educated means to you, and two, linking that definition to your life experiences.

For the first part, reflect on the times you’ve genuinely enjoyed learning, which could be in or outside the classroom.

For example, you could discuss how education to you means broadening your horizons beyond the classroom by attending independent film screenings or local art exhibits in your town. You could define education as exploring new ideas by connecting to those with different opinions and points of view. Education could mean learning new languages in order to be able to learn about new cultures and belief systems. Whatever position you decide to take, be sure to explicitly address what being educated means to you in your introduction.

As you begin to build on your essay beyond the introduction, think about what moments in your own life have provided you with experiences that have “educated” you in the way that you define it. Perhaps you define “education” as learning new languages in order to be able to learn about new cultures and belief systems. To better explain this definition, use the rest of the essay to write about the time when you traveled internationally to South America and lived in Brazil and it was only after learning some broken Portuguese that you fully embraced the culture there. You learned to speak with the locals, were taught how to Samba, danced to unique music like Pagode and Bossa Nova and tried all the delicious local street food delicacies.

Once again, this is a very open-ended prompt so feel free to make it your own and provide your own voice and background to make your definition of “education” unique to you.

Where to Get Your University of Pittsburgh Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your Pitt essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools.  Find the right advisor for you  to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

upitt honors college essay examples

University of Pittsburgh

Frederick Honors College Application

Admission to Frederick Honors College is highly competitive. It is based not only on the academic credentials you have already provided but also on your response to an additional essay. Please complete the short answer question below to apply to the Frederick Honors College.

Fields marked with * are required.


University of Pittsburgh 2022-23 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide 

University of pittsburgh 2022-23 application essay question explanations.

The Requirements: 1 essay of 200-300 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Oddball

Hello, future University of Pittsburgh grads. (We’re speaking it into existence!) The prompt below is only for applicants who wish to apply to Pitt Honors. Let’s dive in!

I n lieu of an essay or personal statement, we ask interested applicants to answer a short answer question. The Admissions Committee reviews responses for quality rather than length. However, the most effective responses typically range from 200-300 words per question. Responses that are longer or shorter are acceptable. The question is required for Pitt Honors consideration.

1. if you could change anything in the world, what would it be explain why and how you would change it.

The Admissions Committee wants to accept ambitious students who want to change the world for the better. So, if you could change anything in the world, what would it be? Take some time to brainstorm and write down anything that comes to mind. Maybe, if you had the power, you would make sure that no one in your city went to bed hungry. Why is this particular issue important to you? What steps would you take to enact this change? If after reading this prompt you immediately thought of something on the sillier side (flying cars! superpowers! robot dogs!), don’t be afraid to explore how you might talk about that topic, too. So long as you are giving admissions better insight into who you are and what makes you tick, you’re on the right track. Let your imagination run wild and show the University of Pittsburgh admissions committee that you aren’t afraid to dream big.

About Sofia Newgren

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Length of Honors Essays?

I’m just wondering what the length of the Honors essays should be for Pitt. The website says nothing about this, and I tried googling but nobody else seems to have asked this same question. So, how long do you think they should be? Currently mine are 300-400 words, and I’m wondering if they should be longer. Thanks in advance.

I submitted my application around a week ago, and I’m 80% sure that it says on the top of the essay page that they prefer around 200-300 words. Mine was a little longer than 300 though.

That’s what it says for the normal college, not the honors college,

I think H2P said that the Honor’s essay should be a normal structured essay at 650 word length cap.

@coryindahouse there is no length limit but use our tips while you’re writing!

Pitt Honors Essay Tips: -Use the essays to tell us something your application, grades, and test scores cannot. -Don’t summarize or restate your accolades, activities, and awards; use this opportunity to provoke thought and engage your reader. -Proceed as if these essays are the most important factor in the Pitt Honors admissions process.

@hailtopitt1787 The honors college website indicates the average SAT is 1450 for honors students. May I ask whether you know if 1450 is the cutoff for honors. Should one with a lower SAT expect not to get in – maybe shouldn’t bother applying?

@sugaree20 that is an average so some students could have scored lower. The essays are really the chance for you to stand out!

@Sugaree20 Unless you have some other, incredible hook, you need an SAT score of at least 1450.

little worried now because I thought the honors essays were supposed to be the same length as the other ones so mine were between 200 and 300 words.

Quality essays are about content not length. In fact, many believe it’s much more difficult to write a compelling short essay (than a longer one). Editing is challenging.

An outstanding writer I know views it as valuable real estate. Make every word count. Editing is more than correcting sentence structure. It’s about discernment. Do the ideas matter? He judges every sentence with the “who cares” filter. Be brutually honest with yourself and don’t get married to any word, sentence, or thought. The final product will be far shorter than the original.


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