Once you’ve narrowed your topics and stories to your best options, you should briefly outline your stories before you start writing. In this lesson, we are going to share a powerful outlining framework that you can use to create outstanding essay – It’s called the STAR framework.
STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
We’ll cover the basics of this helpful outlining tool. We’ll also look at an example of how Steven, an MBA applicant, used the STAR framework to outline his leadership essay.
The S in STAR stands for Situation.
This is the time and place and context of the story — you can think of it as the setting but it might also include the broader challenge or conflict that you or your organization faced. In essence, this is the set-up of the story.
In our example, the situation of the story is a fundraising event for a not-for-profit, and Steven served as the donations chair for the event.
For Situation in his outline Steven wrote:
Last year, I volunteered to chair the donations committee of Literacy Now’s annual fundraiser.
Next, let’s look at the Task portion of your outline.
The Task is your role in the story — and it often takes the form of a goal or objective statement.
For example, Steven’s main tasks as the donations chair were:
Assigning specific jobs to committee members, checking on their progress, helping teammates make agreed-upon deadlines for obtaining the donations, and offering other assistance.
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The Action of the story is what admissions officers are really interested because this is their chance to see your strengths in action.
While it won’t be necessary at this outlining stage to write down every action you took, you’ll want to jot down the highlights.
In this example, Steven summarizes his action as follows:
Motivated team by having them meet Literacy Now children. Assigned tasks and checked in regularly. Successfully mediated team dispute. Visited 20 restaurants and called 12 wineries. Ensured deadlines were met.
Results are the impact of your actions and final resolution of the complication you set up at the beginning of the story. Evidence of results is almost as important as action when you’re judging the quality of your story – a positive outcome and happy ending will make the story that much more powerful.
Specific details count here, as we will see in Steven’s case. Steven quantifies his results, which is a very good idea:
Convinced 10 restaurants, 3 wineries, 20 businesses to donate, directly helping to raise $15,000 for organization, ensuring the event’s success.
Are your MBA essay stories STARS?
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Your STAR Story
While your actual STAR outline will likely include more details than this sample, you can see how by looking at Steven’s complete STAR outline how this technique will help you tell a story succinctly with a beginning, middle, and end.
A STAR outline will help you almost immediately see if a story is going to translate into a successful essay. Once you’ve outlined your best story options, you should be ready to start writing the drafts of your application essays.
Stay Tuned for Your Next Email Course…
Congratulations – you’ve completed basic training! In our final lesson for this course, we will recap the key takeaways. Stay tuned!