How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines

How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines

This article covers how to format a college application essay and some guidelines to write a perfect college application essay.

Admissions officers look beyond the facts of good grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities when they use the college application essay to help decide who gets invited to attend their institution of higher learning.

You now have the chance to discuss how your vision, goals, successes, and experiences have shaped who you are and why you would make a strong applicant for admission. For your college application essay format, refer to this comprehensive guide.

How to Format a College Application Essay?

There are numerous writing suggestions for college admissions essays. Whether you plan to attach a formatted document or copy and paste your essay into a text box on an online application form will determine how you upload your college application essay.

If you’re unsure of what to do, check the application guidelines. Your essay must currently be copied and pasted into a text box on the Common Application.

There are some main formats when it comes to submitting your college essay or personal statement:

If Submitting Your Application Essay in a Text Box

Since the Common Application has a specific input field, there is no need to attach a document. Even so, you should write your essay in a word processing program or Google Docs. Just make sure your line breaks (paragraphs), indents, and formatting are maintained after you copy-paste your essay into the text box.

How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines
  • Formatting like bold, underlines, and italics are often lost when copy-pasting into a text box.
  • Verify that you are within the word limit. Word counts may be different within the text box.
  • Make sure that paragraphs and spacing are maintained; text input fields often undo indents and double-spacing.
  • If at all possible, make sure the font is uniform. Text input boxes usually allow just one font.

If Submitting Your Application Essay as a Document

You need to do more than just make sure your admissions essay is formatted correctly when attaching a document. You must take the initiative to ensure that the structure is logical and appealing to readers.

  • Microsoft Word (.DOC) format

A.doc or.docx file will probably be uploaded if you are uploading your application essay. The drawback of MS Word files being editable is that there can occasionally be conflicts between different MS Word versions (2010, 2016, and Office 365), and this is true of all three. The advantage is that almost any text editor can open Word.

  • PDF format

This is a safe choice if maintaining the visual elements of your essay is important. Since older versions of Microsoft Word occasionally aren’t compatible with the newer formatting, saving your essay as a PDF prevents any formatting issues that are associated with that program.

Despite the prevalence of PDF viewing software, many older readers and Internet users (who will serve as your admissions officers) might not be able to view PDFs.

  • Use 1-inch margins. For Microsoft Word, this is the default setting. However, Asian students who use applications like Hangul Word Processor should double-check.
  • Make use of a common serif font. These fonts include Garamond, Courier, and Times New Roman. Using a serif font gives your essay more authority.
  • Use the 12-point standard font size.
  • Use double or 1.5 spacing. Your essay for the application should be readable. The essay should already fit on one page, so double spaces are not a problem.
  • Add a Header with your The following information necessary: first name, last name, and university.
  • Clearly separate your paragraphs. Simply hit “ENTER” twice by default.
How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines

General College Essay Format Rules

We need to cover general formatting guidelines for college essays before discussing how to format your college application essays.

Pay Attention to Word Count

It has been well-established that the most important rule of college application essays is to not go over the specific word limit. Usually, between 500 and 650 words are allotted for the Common Application essay.

In the case of the Common Application essay, which uses text fields, it may be impossible to exceed the word limit, and admissions officers frequently use software that will automatically reject any essay that does so. Being a successful student largely depends on your ability to follow directions.

Your essay will be improved by refocusing on the essay prompt and removing superfluous adverbs, filler words, and prepositional phrases.

However, it is advisable to use almost every word that is offered. You will be at a disadvantage if you leave out additional words in the highly competitive field of college essay applications. Near the end of your essay, use an example or anecdote to increase the word count.

Do Not Write a Wall of Text: Use Paragraphs

Here is a brutal truth: College admissions counselors only read the application essays that help them make a decision. Otherwise, they won’t even bother reading the essay. You have a problem because you don’t know if the rest of your application (transcripts, academic records, awards, etc.) will be competitive enough to get you accepted.

A very simple writing rule for your application essay (and for essay editing of any type) is to make your writing readable by adding line breaks and separate paragraphs.

How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines

Line breaks are a very simple way to arrange your essay’s structure, ideas, and topics because they do not count toward the word count. In case you’re lucky, college advisors will read your essay for 30 to 1 minute. Give them as many chances as possible to comprehend your writing.

Do Not Include An Essay Title

Please refrain from using a title in your personal statement or essay unless it is specifically requested. This is unnecessary because the essay prompt itself serves as the title, and it also wastes your allotted words.

Emojis, all-caps, symbols, hashtags, and slang are never appropriate in college essays.

Although social media, texting, and technology are still changing how we communicate in the modern world (what a fascinating subject for a college application essay!), admissions officers will view the use of these casual formatting elements as immature and inappropriate for such an important document.

Sample Format for a College Essay

Even though you have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to the structure of your college essay, having an example to use as a jumping-off point for ideas can be useful. When structuring your writing, think about the upcoming sample of a college essay.

Think About Using a Title

Your college essay doesn’t need to have a title. But adding one can make it more interesting. You can omit it, though, if you’re short on words. You could decide later after you’ve finished writing your essay. After you’ve told your story, it’s frequently simpler to think of a suitable, catchy title.

Open With a Hook

One of the most crucial passages in your essay is the one at the beginning. It is what you will employ to grab the reader’s interest and persuade them to continue reading. Make a strong opening for your essay because this is your chance to make a strong first impression. Here are two examples of how you can open with an interesting hook:

  • Start in the middle of your story: Declare the most intriguing part of your tale, and then go backward from there. For example, “And there I was on Virginia Beach’s hazy shores, surrounded by young sea turtles.”
  • Make a specific generalization: This is a general statement about the subject of your essay while providing a detailed description. An example: “I ponder life’s purpose as we cross the Golden Gate Bridge every year while on our family’s getaway outside of the city.”

Continue With Your Introduction

The remainder of your introduction should inform the reader of the direction you’re taking with your essay while still piquing their interest with your hook. In four to five sentences, begin your story.

Tell Your Story in the Body of Your Essay

How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines

If the body of your essay is 450 words, and the introduction and conclusion are each roughly 100 words long, then. Think of that as three to five paragraphs, each with a main idea or point of its own.

As opposed to writing a how-to manual, write in a narrative style more like you’re having a conversation. You have the freedom to make your essay a reflection of your personality, though you should strictly adhere to using proper grammar and sentence structure.

Use humor if you’re a funny person. Let your unwavering optimism or your fascination with life’s tiniest details come through. Logic, clarity, and sense should all be used to tell your story.

Wrap Up With a Conclusion

Make sure you have covered your main point before concluding your story with a conclusion paragraph. What is the most important thing that this story will reveal about you to the college? What you’ve learned, a principle you hold dear, or something you want to give back to society—whatever it is—is it?

Finally, put your personal statement about yourself in the conclusion of your essay.

Writing Tips on How to Format a College Essay

As you’re writing your college essay, keep these tips in mind:

  • Construct Your Essay Like a Feature Story

An effective narrative has a start, middle, and end. Use the first paragraph of your college application essay as an introduction, and the final paragraph as a summary of your argument. The essay’s main body should come after that. Laissez la saga progresse et s’achever jusqu’à sa conclusion logique.

  • Stick to One Topic

You won’t be able to fit your entire life’s events into a 650-word essay, so choose one incident that best illustrates how you evolved into the distinctive person you are today and use that as the theme of your essay.

How to Format a College Application Essay? Rules and Guidelines
  • Create an Outline

Make an outline with each paragraph making a distinct point, showing how the story will flow from start to finish. You can develop your essay and keep it on topic by using an outline.

  • Be Creative But True

Because it sounds simple, it might be alluring to use a typical college application essay sample. But it might make for a dry read. When writing your college application essay, be authentic to who you are while letting your creative side shine through.

  • Use Analogies and Examples

Let your essay use concrete, life-related examples or analogies. Mention significant occasions in your life that helped shape the person you are today. An essay for a college application that stands out can use examples of success, overcoming challenges, and leadership. Utilize this information as evidence or supporting material for your main argument.

  • Have Someone Else Read Your Application Essay

Allow someone you trust to read your essay and provide feedback once you feel you have completed your best work. Request that they read the text while examining it for readability, flow, and grammar mistakes. A new perspective and helpful criticism can help you improve your college application essay.

  • Write on Your Computer

On your personal computer, create your college application essay using Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Refrain from typing it directly into the online application box. Make use of the word count and spellcheck functions. Once it is finished, you can upload your document or copy it and paste it into the online box.

  • Don’t Include the Essay Prompt

The purpose of the essay prompt is to provide you with topic suggestions. On your essay, do not use the prompt as a header.

Conclusion: Format a College Application Essay

Your college essay’s structure and subject should go beyond your academic and extracurricular achievements.

In your college essay, show off your best qualities. Find your voice, organize your essay, pick pertinent details, and write in a way that draws readers in.


What Does a College Essay Format Look Like?

Use a standard font and size like Times New Roman, 12 points. Make your lines 1.5-spaced or double-spaced. Use 1-inch margins. The document cannot be edited, so save it as a PDF.

Is a College Essay MLA Or APA?

Students in humanities normally follow the MLA format, while those in the science and research field usually follow the APA format. Schools frequently emphasize using the MLA format.

Do College Essays Follow MLA Format?

The MLAA grammar and reference guide, which is primarily used by students and academics writing about the humanities (languages and literature), will probably be indicated in the essay guidelines your instructors give you. or In the social sciences, the APA style is most frequently used.

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