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College Application Essay Format – Complete Guide

How to Format College Admission Essay

College application essay format & samples are like; when you graduate high school, it feels momentous. It’s a huge milestone, after all. You may celebrate it by throwing a grand party at your house or opt to go for a mini-vacation because you certainly deserve it after surviving high school. But you can’t deny there’s a lingering feeling of dread about what’s to come. Every member in your family must’ve nagged you about which colleges you’ve applied to and whether or not you can make it into the Ivy League. Worst of all, if you don’t want to continue college, what else are you going to do? These plethora of questions would make anyone want to make a run for it.  

On the other hand, if you’re eventually applying for colleges, the biggest hurdle you face happens to be the college essay format. Sure, we believe you’re capable of whipping up impressive essays in your sleep, but things might not come to you as easily when you actually get down to it. Of course, you can sit all day in front of a blank screen and still come up empty-handed, which is why you desperately need inspiration. But before that, you have to tackle the issue of formatting your essay, which cannot be anything less than a headache.

If your brain has short-circuited on how to write a college essay, allow us to give you a helping hand.

Working on a college application essay format

How to write a college application

Construct the essay like a feature story

First of all, you have to keep in mind that you’ve got a lot riding on this essay. People are going to give a brief overview of your essay and decide whether you’re worthy of admission or not. So you have to give it your best shot and prove it to them that you’re a viable candidate. Therefore, we’d recommend you to structure the essay like you’re penning a feature story. Pretend you’re one of New York’s Bestselling authors, and hence, your story needs to be outclass. Begin with an interesting introduction, place the meat of the essay in the body paragraphs and wrap it all up neatly in conclusion.

Stick to the topic

It’s understandable; writing about one’s experience may require you to cover a number of things; however, you must pick the most significant moment that describes you reasonably and stick to it. If you try to bite more than you can chew, it may lead to unsatisfactory results. Keep in mind you can’t have the reader trying to make sense of your work; they must be able to grasp the concept and ideas on their own as they read your essay. Use a unique theme and explain how the situation made you become the person you are today.

Begin with an outline

It might be a bit overwhelming if you keep thinking about how much depends on your essay; it can be mentally exhausting. Hence, treat it like any other essay you’d write for school. So start off with an outline and a mind map of all the things you have to write about, followed by the placements of each point. Next, take notes from other people’s essay examples and observe how you can structure your own essay in a similar pattern. You don’t have to follow a college essay format by the book, but make sure that there’s a logical order to your entire essay.

Be true to your essay

It will take you multiple tries until you finally write an essay that you feel is good enough to represent yourself and can be submitted. However, we’d suggest not to give up in the early stages. You might get fed up and opt for using a template instead, but it’s likely other people would do the same, and you’d probably get judged for using a typical template. Furthermore, in an attempt to just get done with the essay, you might even make stuff up about yourself, which might be highly unethical, so definitely avoid anything as such.

Make use of analogies

The crux of your essay are the examples and incidents you’ve used to make your point or to prove how they’ve impacted your life. Any life-altering decisions that made you a different person today or perhaps, an incident that made you reflect on your life choices. Success stories and overcoming hurdles are the typical essay topics selected by most students. Sure, you can use the same but make sure you include a touch of your own to make your essay unique from others. Throw in a real-life example or two if it can back up your claim.

Get a second opinion

Once you’re done with your essay, ask a friend of yours to give it a read through and tell you if there are any discrepancies. On your end, you might’ve done an excellent job, so it might be hard to criticize your own work, so that’s where your friend comes into the picture. They can let you know if you sound too haughty or too timid in the essay so that you can rectify the essay accordingly. Although, go for a friend you trust so that they can give an honest opinion of your work unfiltered and unbiased so that you can submit a college admissions essay format based write-up.

Use a device you are comfortable with

Write your essay on a laptop or a computer that you often use so that you can get in the right headspace to focus. Keep the distractions to a minimum. Sure, you can go for the old-school paper and pen for drafting the essay but for the final version, write it on your device so that you can avoid making any mistakes and correct them on run-time. Use a spell-check and keep an eye on the word count. You don’t want to get carried away penning down your entire life in a single essay.

How to take the admissions essay format into consideration

The admissions essay format for each college may vary, so you can’t submit the same application everywhere. Even if the application is being submitted online, you must adhere to the specified instructions, or there are chances for your application to get rejected within the application process. You wouldn’t want to risk something like that. So, spend your time reading the rules and regulations thoroughly before you start working on the application. Other than that, your SAT scores also matter as Ivy Leagues like Harvard have been known to reject a student or two with 1600 SAT scores. Hence, you don’t want to take any chances.

Here are a few things you need to track for any college essay format:

The online application

The format of a college essay is often submitting in person. Although some schools still allow you to submit applications on paper, most colleges avoid such a hassle. These days, colleges have made the application process easier by letting students apply online. However, the entire process can be crucial, so don’t fill the application in the middle of the night when you’re sleep deprived or any other particular inappropriate hour. Instead, grab yourself a cup of coffee and go through the instructions so that you don’t end up searching ‘how to submit a college application later on. Make sure that you submit it within time and do not work on it at the last minute.

Adhere to the application standards

Usually, a college essay format is explicitly specified on most college websites before you begin. But just in case it isn’t, you’re recommended to look it up. For an online application, you’d be provided with a textbox to write your essay, or you can attach a file. We would suggest that you go for the latter. Use Microsoft Word or Google Docs to write your essay and then attach the file accordingly. Don’t go overboard by using fancy fonts. Stick to Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman with 12-point size unless stated otherwise. Keep your essay professional by avoiding the use of emoticons, hashtags or ALL CAPS.

Keep your college essay format in check

If you opt for writing your essay in the text editor provided on the application form, keep an eye as you type. Because oftentimes, the text editor’s parameters can hinder your college essay format as they might not be compatible to incorporate your formatting of bold or italic phrases. For this purpose, we’d suggest you to double check everything once you’re done so that nothing remains incomplete. There’s also the issue of line spacing and paragraphing, so look out for that as well. Other than that, a text editor should be good enough, albeit not as reliable as Word or Docs.  

Common Ivy League essay mistakes

There are certain mistakes every student makes while working on their essay for school. To avoid going down the same route as them, we’ve listed down a few here:

  1. Following a college essay format that doesn’t match the requirements
  2. Trying to be humorous in the essay
  3. Not providing enough details
  4. Writing in a detached style with zero emotions
  5. Forgetting to proofread
  6. Not giving a proper conclusion to the essay

Perfecting that college essay format

You have to focus on the university-specific prompt that’s provided to you and work on your college essay format accordingly. If you go completely off the topic, your marks would probably get deducted for that. While writing your essay, make sure you opt for a cohesive structure and elegant style that highlights all the necessary details so that the reader can be amused and their attention doesn’t get diverted.

If you’re asked why you’re applying to the university specifically, don’t find absurd reasons. In fact, truly point out how you’re expecting this specific college to be a vital chapter in your life and for what reasons in particular. Also, narrow it down to why you chose this college above the rest and how much thought you put into making such a decision.

The tone of your essay plays an important part. If you come off as someone who takes things lightly, that probably won’t end up in your favor. On the other hand, you want to sound eager about exploring new opportunities and what they might entail for you.

Why an essay format is necessary

Using an essay format allows you to mold the ideas in your head into a better shape. There could be a gazillion ideas you possess, but unless you outline them or highlight them on paper, they’d keep on swirling around your brain. Studying a sample or two for college essay format is bound to help you structure your essay so that there are higher chances of you getting accepted. If you don’t follow a format, you might be turning in an essay that could get rejected in a single glance thus, running all your hard work. A proper structure will likely help you stand out from any other conventional college essay format.

Steps to writing an amazing college application essay

In case you’re still confused about how to go about writing the ideal college application essay format, follow the given steps:

  1. Read the instructions carefully
  2. Draft and mind map the ideas you have in mind
  3. Begin with a compelling introduction
  4. Trust your inner self to do the best by you
  5. Avoid clichés
  6. Use anecdotes and examples to support your claim
  7. Stick to the essay plan you’ve drawn up, improvise where necessary
  8. Keep in mind the formatting of page headings etc.
  9. Follow an APA format example unless stated otherwise
  10. Request someone to proofread your college essay format

Furthermore, check if your essay needs to be subjected to proper document formatting such as margins, line spacing, paragraphing, fonts and alignment. Also, if you’re submitting online, Get assistance from our essay writers and go through the submission guidelines. For instance, if you’re asked for a .pdf file instead of a .docx file, it might not get accepted. 


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