Are you in the process of writing and becoming concerned about your college application essay format? If so, your primary focus should be ensuring that your essay is well-written and adheres to all requirements. Personal writing can be a challenge at first, so start early and give yourself plenty of time for revisions.
Once you have a draft, it’s time to return to the question of formatting. When it comes to expressing yourself, we know that it can make all the difference in your college applications. That’s why we want to help you format a college essay that reflects your unique voice and personality. Our team can provide all the guidance and support you need to craft a fantastic essay that will stand out from the rest.
Still wondering what format should a college essay be in? Join us today to learn how to write a fantastic college application essay!
How long should a college application essay be?
As you begin the college application, one of the most critical questions that will linger in your mind is, “how long should my college application essay be?” After all, this document-in-progress holds great importance; it could determine your future, and as such, you want to make sure you put your best foot forward in enough detail to highlight your strengths.
Here’s the truth: if you haven’t picked a topic yet, worrying about the word count now isn’t going to help. In the first stages, focus on brainstorming. Later, you can be more mindful of how to format a college essay according to the rules.
When it comes to editing? Five hundred words make a big difference when deciding whether your college application will be accepted or rejected. Not to mention, the admissions officer only has a few minutes to read your essay, so you need to make them interested quickly.
No doubt, it will take you many days to research and craft your essay. Even so, read the instructions carefully one last time before you submit, as your college of choice may have its preferences regarding essay length.
What format should a college essay be in?
Writing a good essay can seem like an obstacle, but once you know your writing process, it can be less intimidating! What format should a college essay be in? Here’s how to create a dynamic and powerful college application essay:
1. Explain your motivation
At some point in your writing, explaining your motivation for applying to college is essential. What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish by attending college? Explaining your motivation will give the admissions committee a better understanding of who you are and what you hope to achieve.
2. Describe your academic interests
In this section of the essay, describe your academic interests. What are the subjects that you are most passionate about? What areas of study would you like to pursue in college? By describing your academic interests, you will give the admissions committee a better sense of how you would fit in at their school.
3. Discuss your extracurricular activities
In addition to academics, colleges also value extracurricular activities. Reflect on how these activities have contributed to your development as a person, and share impactful learning moments. By discussing your extracurricular activities, you will show the admissions committee that you are well-rounded and have a variety of interests.
4. Follow formatting guidelines
You might still be wondering how to format a college essay. You should follow a few general formatting guidelines when writing your college essay unless your preferred college wants a specific format.
- Unless otherwise specified by your instructor, you should use 12pt Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial and double-space your paper.
- All margins and indentations should be 1 inch (2.54 cm).
These guidelines may seem trivial, but following them will make your paper look more professional and polished.
When you submit your writing as part of an online application file, though, you’ll probably be able to copy and paste the text into the field. The key difference is that you won’t be able to rely on text stylization.
For instance, you’ll want to avoid relying too heavily on the following to convey your point, just in case (they often appear warped, or not at all):
- Italicization, bolding, or strikethrough styles
- Creative indentation
- Line breaks
- Bullet points or numbered lists
- Emoji and other special characters
- Images, GIFs
- Different fonts
Instead, use the following standard punctuation to make your points:
- Direct statements
- Intesity through word choice and adjectives
- Capitalization (or ALL CAPS styling)
- Parentheticals () and bracketing 
- Vivid sensory details
- Exclamation points (!), Em dashes (—), and Ellipses (…)
These will convey your expression regardless of the formatting limitations that may apply to you.
Be sure to conclude your essay with a strong statement. This could be a call to action for the admissions committee or an idea of your plans. Whatever you choose to write, be sure it is powerful and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.
The conclusion of your college essay could also summarize your paper’s main points and leave the reader with a strong impression.
6. Proofread & edit
Once you have finished writing your college essay, it is crucial to proofread and edit it carefully before submitting it. First, check for any grammar or spelling errors in your college essay format and correct them accordingly. Then, read through your paper again and ensure that all of your sentences are clear and concise; if they are not, rewrite them until they are.
Finally, ask someone else to read through your paper and give you feedback; their fresh perspective can help you catch any errors you may have missed.
How should I structure my college application essay?
With the acceptance rates at most universities becoming increasingly competitive, you need to create an impactful essay that captures who you are. Trying to structure your thoughts into something coherent can feel overwhelming, but with some helpful guidance, writing this essay should be manageable.
Here we’ll discuss what makes up an effective college application essay so that you know how to organize yours to capture attention and make sure your story shines through.
- The college application essay should be your work: You should not have anyone else write it for you or edit it. The admissions committee wants to see your voice and how well you can communicate in writing. This is your opportunity to show them who you are and what you’re capable of.
- Keep it personal: Your essay should be about you and no one else. It should be about your experiences, your thoughts, and your feelings. It should be about something other than what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. This is your opportunity to let the admissions committee get to know you as a person rather than just an applicant. Be honest and authentic in your writing, and include information on any challenges or obstacles you have faced.
- Be honest: Admissions committees can spot a dishonest essay a mile away. They’re looking for authenticity and want to see if you can be truthful about yourself. So, don’t try to exaggerate or embellish the truth. Just be honest and tell your story the best way you know how.
- Be specific: Generic essays are boring and don’t tell the admissions committee anything new or interesting about you. Be specific in your details and paint a picture for them with your words. Use concrete examples to help them understand who you are and what you’re all about.
- Keep it concise: Your essay should be at most 500-600 words. This is a little space, so make sure every word counts. Refrain from rambling on or including unnecessary information just to fill up space. Stick to the point and be concise in your language.
Common mistakes to avoid in college application essays
When applying for college, your essay could mean the difference between getting accepted to your dream school and having your application tossed aside. You may work hard to ensure that all of its information is accurate and up-to-date, but have you thought about what goes into that essay? Sure, it needs to be well written with good grammar and structure, but there’s more than just a great-sounding story in an effective essay.
To help guide you through this critical step in college applications, we’ve outlined some common mistakes to avoid when crafting one of these crucial documents:
Not Answering the Prompt
One of the most common mistakes students make in college application essays is not answering the prompt. Each college has essay prompts, and students are typically asked to write about a specific topic or answer a particular question. Students must take the time to read and understand the prompt before they start writing their essays.
Writing About a Clichéd Topic
Another mistake that students often make is writing about a clichéd topic. College application essays allow students to share something unique about themselves. Many students choose to write about topics such as their passion for helping others or their commitment to academic excellence.
However, these topics are often overused, and admissions committees may need more time to read about them. Instead, students should write about something that is not as common but still provides insight into who they are.
Failing to Proofread
Students often need to proofread their essays before submitting them. Proofreading is important because it allows students to catch any errors or typos that they may have made. It also allows them to ensure that their essay flows smoothly and makes sense. Admissions committees will likely be less impressed by an essay full of errors than one carefully proofread and edited.
Making It All About Themselves (And Nothing Else)
Another common mistake in college application essays is making the essay all about the student instead of focusing on how they can contribute to the college community. Colleges are looking for students who will be assets to their campus, so students must focus on what they can bring to the table rather than simply listing all of their accomplishments.
Not Being Genuine
Finally, one of the most important things to avoid in a college application essay is not being genuine. Admissions committees can tell when a student is trying to sound like someone they’re not, and students must be authentic in their writing. Students should write about their passion and be honest about their experiences and achievements.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Writing a college application essay is hard. It’s even more challenging to figure out what to write about or how to structure your essay.
This will guide you through creating a start for the perfect college application essay in just minutes! Our step-by-step process makes it simple for anyone to write their best college application essay.
Need more in-depth information about college applications? Schedule a consultation with us to get started with your admissions today!