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College Application Essay Format Rules

how to format college entrance essay

The college application essay has become the most important part of applying to college. In this article, we will go over the  best college essay format for getting into top schools, including how to structure the elements of a college admissions essay: margins, font, paragraphs, spacing, headers, and organization. 

We will focus on commonly asked questions about the best college essay structure. Finally, we will go over essay formatting tips and examples.

Table of Contents

  • General college essay formatting rules
  • How to format a college admissions essay
  • Sections of a college admissions essay
  • College application essay format examples

General College Essay Format Rules

Before talking about how to format your college admission essays, we need to talk about general college essay formatting rules.

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 Application Essay word limit .  The word limit for the Common Application essay is typically 500-650 words.

Not only may it be impossible to go over the word count (in the case of the  Common Application essay , which uses text fields), but admissions officers often use software that will throw out any essay that breaks this rule. Following directions is a key indicator of being a successful student. 

Refocusing on the essay prompt and eliminating unnecessary adverbs, filler words, and prepositional phrases will help improve your essay.

On the other hand, it is advisable to use almost every available word. The college essay application field is very competitive, so leaving extra words on the table puts you at a disadvantage. Include an example or anecdote near the end of your essay to meet the total 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 will not read the essay at all. The problem is that you do not know whether the rest of your application (transcripts, academic record, 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.

Line breaks do not count toward word count, so they are a very easy way to organize your essay structure, ideas, and topics. Remember, college counselors, if you’re lucky, will spend 30 sec to 1 minute reading your essay. Give them every opportunity to understand your writing.

Do not include an essay title 

Unless specifically required, do not use a title for your personal statement or essay. This is a waste of your word limit and is redundant since the essay prompt itself serves as the title.

Never use overly casual, colloquial, or text message-based formatting like this: 

THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT POINT!. #collegeapplication #collegeessay.

Under no circumstances should you use emojis, all caps, symbols, hashtags, or slang in a college essay. Although technology, texting, and social media are continuing to transform how we use modern language (what a great topic 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.

How To Format A College Application Essay

There are many  tips for writing college admissions essays . How you upload your college application essay depends on whether you will be cutting and pasting your essay into a text box in an online application form or attaching a formatted document.

Save and upload your college essay in the proper format

Check the application instructions if you’re not sure what you need to do. Currently, the Common Application requires you to copy and paste your essay into a text box.

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

If submitting your application essay in a text box

For the Common Application, there is no need to attach a document since there is a dedicated input field. You still want to write your essay in a word processor or Google doc. Just make sure once you copy-paste your essay into the text box that your line breaks (paragraphs), indents, and formatting is retained. 

  • Formatting like  bold , underline, and  italics  are often lost when copy-pasting into a text box.
  • Double-check that you are under 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 possible, make sure the font is standardized.  Text input boxes usually allow just one font . 

If submitting your application essay as a document

When attaching a document, you must do more than just double-check the format of your admissions essay. You need to be proactive and make sure the structure is logical and will be attractive to readers.

Microsoft Word (.DOC) format

If you are submitting your application essay as a file upload, then you will likely submit a .doc or .docx file. The downside is that MS Word files are editable, and there are sometimes conflicts between different MS Word versions (2010 vs 2016 vs Office365). The upside is that Word can be opened by almost any text program.

This is a safe choice if maintaining the  visual  elements of your essay is important. Saving your essay as a PDF prevents any formatting issues that come with Microsoft Word, since older versions are sometimes incompatible with the newer formatting. 

Although PDF viewing programs are commonly available, many older readers and Internet users (who will be your admissions officers) may not be ready to view PDFs.

  • Use 1-inch margins . This is the default setting for Microsoft Word. However, students from Asia using programs like Hangul Word Processor will need to double-check.
  • Use a standard serif font.  These include Times New Roman, Courier, and Garamond. A serif font adds professionalism to your essay.
  • Use standard 12-font size. 
  • Use 1.5- or double-spacing.  Your application essay should be readable. Double spaces are not an issue as the essay should already fit on one page.
  • Add a Header  with your First Name, Last Name, university, and other required information.
  • Clearly   separate your paragraphs.  By default, just press ‘ENTER’ twice.

Sections Of A College Admissions Essay

University admissions protocols usually allow you to choose the format and style of your writing. Despite this, the general format of “Introduction-Body-Conclusion” is the most common structure. This is a common format you can use and adjust to your specific writing style.

College Application Essay Introduction

Typically, your first paragraph should introduce you or the topic that you will discuss. You must have a killer opener if you want the admissions committees to pay attention. 

Essays that use rhetorical tools, factual statements, dialog, etc. are encouraged. There is room to be creative since many application essays specifically focus on past learning experiences.

College Application Essay Body

Clearly answering the essay prompt is the most important part of the essay body. Keep reading over the prompt and making sure everything in the body supports it. 

Since personal statement essays are designed to show you are as a person and student, the essay body is also where you talk about your experiences and identity.

Make sure you include the following life experiences and how they relate to the essay prompt. Be sure to double-check that they relate back to the essay prompt. A college admissions essay is NOT an autobiography:

Personal challenges

  • How did you overcome them?
  • How or how much do past challenges define your current outlook or worldview? 
  • What did you learn about yourself when you failed?

Personal achievements and successes

  • What people helped you along the way?
  • What did you learn about the nature of success

Lessons learned

  • In general, did your experiences inform your choice of university or major?

Personal beliefs

  • Politics, philosophy, and religion may be included here, but be careful when discussing sensitive personal or political topics. 
  • Academic goals
  • Personal goals
  • Professional goals
  • How will attending the university help you achieve these goals?

College Application Essay Conclusion

The conclusion section is a call to action directly aimed at the admissions officers. You must demonstrate why you are a great fit for the university, which means you should refer to specific programs, majors, or professors that guided or inspired you. 

In this “why this school” part of the essay, you can also explain why the university is a great fit for  your  goals. Be straightforward and truthful, but express your interest in the school boldly.

common app essay format, essay sections 1

College Application Essay Format Examples

Here are several formatting examples of successful college admission essays, along with comments from the essay editor.

Note: Actual sample essays edited by  Wordvice professional editors .  Personal info has been redacted for privacy. This is not a college essay template.

College Admission Essay Example 1

This essay asks the student to write about how normal life experiences can have huge effects on personal growth:

Common App Essay Prompt: Thoughtful Rides

The Florida turnpike is a very redundant and plain expressway; we do not have the scenic luxury of mountains, forests, or even deserts stretching endlessly into the distance. Instead, we are blessed with repetitive fields of grazing cows and countless billboards advertising local businesses. I have been subjected to these monotonous views three times a week, driving two hours every other day to Sunrise and back to my house in Miami, Florida—all to practice for my competitive soccer team in hopes of receiving a scholarship to play soccer at the next level. 

The Introduction sets up a clear, visceral memory and communicates a key extracurricular activity. 

When I first began these mini road trips, I would jam out to my country playlist and sing along with my favorite artists, and the trek would seem relatively short. However, after listening to “Beautiful Crazy” by Luke Combs for the 48th time in a week, the song became as repetitive as the landscape I was driving through. Changing genres did not help much either; everything I played seemed to morph into the same brain-numbing sound.  Eventually, I decided to do what many peers in my generation fail to do: turn off the distractions, enjoy the silence, and immerse myself in my own thoughts. In the end, this seemingly simple decision led to a lot of personal growth and tranquility in my life. 

The first part of the Body connects the student’s past experience with the essay prompt: personal growth and challenging assumptions.

Although I did not fully realize it at the time, these rides were the perfect opportunity to reflect on myself and the people around me. I quickly began noticing the different personalities surrounding me in the flow of traffic, and this simple act of noticing reminded me that I was not the only human on this planet that mattered. I was just as unimportant as the woman sitting in the car next to mine. Conversely, I also came to appreciate how a gesture as simple as letting another driver merge into your lane can impact a stranger’s day. Maybe the other driver is late for a work interview or rushing to the hospital because their newborn is running a high fever and by allowing them to advance in the row of cars, you made their day just a little less stressful. I realized that if I could improve someone else’s day from my car,  I could definitely be a kinder person and take other people’s situations into consideration—because you never know if someone is having one of the worst days of their lives and their interaction with you could provide the motivation they need to keep going on . 

This part uses two examples to support the writer’s answer to the essay prompt. It ends the paragraph with a clear statement.

Realizing I was not the only being in the universe that mattered was not the only insight I attained during these drives. Over and over, I asked myself why I had chosen to change soccer clubs, leaving Pinecrest, the team I had played on for 8 years with my best friends and that was only a 10-minute drive from my house, to play for a completely unfamiliar team that required significantly more travel.  Eventually, I came to understand that I truly enjoy challenging myself and pushing past complacency . One of my main goals in life is to play and experience college soccer—that, and to eventually pursue a career as a doctor. Ultimately, leaving my comfort zone in Pinecrest, where mediocrity was celebrated, to join a team in Sunrise, where championships were expected and college offers were abundant, was a very positive decision in my life. 

This part clearly tells how the experience shaped the writer as a person. The student’s personality can be directly attributed to this memory. It also importantly states personal and academic goals.

Even if I do not end up playing college soccer, I know now that I will never back down from any challenge in my life; I am committed to pushing myself past my comfort zone. These car rides have given me insight into how strong I truly am and how much impact I can have on other people’s lives. 

The Conclusion restates the overall lesson learned.

College Admission Essay Example 2

The next essay asks the reader to use leadership roles or extracurricular activities and describe the experience, contribution, and what the student learned about themselves.

As I release the air from the blood-pressure monitor’s valve, I carefully track the gauge, listening for the faint “lub-dub” of  Winnie’s heart. Checking off the “hypertensive” box on his medical chart when reading 150/95, I then escort Winnie to the blood sugar station. This was the typical procedure of a volunteer at the UConn Migrant Farm Worker Clinic. Our traveling medical clinic operated at night, visiting various Connecticut farms to provide healthcare for migrant workers. Filling out charts, taking blood pressure, and recording BMI were all standard procedures, but the relationships I built with farmers such as Winnie impacted me the most.

This Introduction is very impactful. It highlights the student’s professional expertise as a healthcare worker and her impact on marginalized communities. It also is written in the present tense to add impact.

While the clinic was canceled this year due to COVID-19, I still wanted to do something for them. During a PPE-drive meeting this July, Winnie recounted his family history. I noticed his eyebrows furrow with anxiety as he spoke about his family’s safety in Tierra Blanca, Mexico. I realized that Winnie lacked substantial information about his hometown, and fear-mongering headlines did nothing to assuage his fears. After days of searching, I discovered that his hometown, Guanajuato, reported fewer cases of COVID-19 in comparison with surrounding towns. I then created a color-coded map of his town, showing rates across the different districts. Winnie’s eyes softened, marveling at the map I made for him this August. I didn’t need to explain what he saw: Guanajuato, his home state, was pale yellow, the color I chose to mark the lowest level of cases. By making this map, I didn’t intend to give him new hope; I wanted to show him where hope was.

The student continues to tell the powerful story of one of her patients. This humbles and empowers the student, motivating her in the next paragraph.

This interaction fueled my commitment to search for hope in my journey of becoming a public health official. Working in public health policy, I hope to tackle complex world problems, such as economic and social barriers to healthcare and find creative methods of improving outcomes in queer and Latinx communities. I want to study the present and potential future intervention strategies in minority communities for addressing language barriers to information including language on posters and gendered language, and for instituting social and support services for community youth. These stepping stones will hopefully prepare me for conducting professional research for the Medical Organization for Latino Advancement. I aspire to be an active proponent of healthcare access and equity for marginalized groups, including queer communities. I first learned about the importance of recognizing minority identities in healthcare through my bisexual sister, Sophie, and her nonbinary friend, Gilligan. During discussions with her friends, I realized the importance of validating diverse gender expressions in all facets of my life.

Here, the past experience is directly connected to future academic and professional goals, which themselves are motivated by a desire to increase access among communities as well as personal family experiences. This is a strong case for why personal identity is so important.

My experiences with Winnie and my sister have empowered me to be creative, thoughtful, and brave while challenging the assumptions currently embedded in the “visual vocabulary” of both the art and science fields. I envision myself deconstructing hegemonic ideas of masculinity and femininity and surmounting the limitations of traditional perceptions of male and female bodies as it relates to existing healthcare practices. Through these subtle changes, I aim to make a large impact.

The Conclusion positions the student as an impactful leader and visionary. This is a powerful case for the admissions board to consider.

If you want to read more college admissions essay examples, check out our articles about  successful college personal statements  and the  2021-2022 Common App prompts and example essays .

Wordvice offers a full suite of proofreading and editing services . If you are a student applying to college and are having trouble with the best college admissions essay format, check out our application essay editing services  (including personal statement editing ) and find out  how much online proofreading costs . 

Finally, don’t forget to receive common app essay editing and professional admissions editing for any other admissions documents for college, university, and post-doctoral programs.

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College Essays

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When you're applying to college, even small decisions can feel high-stakes. This is especially true for the college essay, which often feels like the most personal part of the application. You may agonize over your college application essay format: the font, the margins, even the file format. Or maybe you're agonizing over how to organize your thoughts overall. Should you use a narrative structure? Five paragraphs?

In this comprehensive guide, we'll go over the ins and outs of how to format a college essay on both the micro and macro levels. We'll discuss minor formatting issues like headings and fonts, then discuss broad formatting concerns like whether or not to use a five-paragraph essay, and if you should use a college essay template.

How to Format a College Essay: Font, Margins, Etc.

Some of your formatting concerns will depend on whether you will be cutting and pasting your essay into a text box on an online application form or attaching a formatted document. If you aren't sure which you'll need to do, check the application instructions. Note that the Common Application does currently require you to copy and paste your essay into a text box.

Most schools also allow you to send in a paper application, which theoretically gives you increased control over your essay formatting. However, I generally don't advise sending in a paper application (unless you have no other option) for a couple of reasons:

Most schools state that they prefer to receive online applications. While it typically won't affect your chances of admission, it is wise to comply with institutional preferences in the college application process where possible. It tends to make the whole process go much more smoothly.

Paper applications can get lost in the mail. Certainly there can also be problems with online applications, but you'll be aware of the problem much sooner than if your paper application gets diverted somehow and then mailed back to you. By contrast, online applications let you be confident that your materials were received.

Regardless of how you will end up submitting your essay, you should draft it in a word processor. This will help you keep track of word count, let you use spell check, and so on.

Next, I'll go over some of the concerns you might have about the correct college essay application format, whether you're copying and pasting into a text box or attaching a document, plus a few tips that apply either way.

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Formatting Guidelines That Apply No Matter How You End Up Submitting the Essay:

Unless it's specifically requested, you don't need a title. It will just eat into your word count.

Avoid cutesy, overly colloquial formatting choices like ALL CAPS or ~unnecessary symbols~ or, heaven forbid, emoji and #hashtags. Your college essay should be professional, and anything too cutesy or casual will come off as immature.

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Mmm, delicious essay...I mean sandwich.

Why College Essay Templates Are a Bad Idea

You might see college essay templates online that offer guidelines on how to structure your essay and what to say in each paragraph. I strongly advise against using a template. It will make your essay sound canned and bland—two of the worst things a college essay can be. It's much better to think about what you want to say, and then talk through how to best structure it with someone else and/or make your own practice outlines before you sit down to write.

You can also find tons of successful sample essays online. Looking at these to get an idea of different styles and topics is fine, but again, I don't advise closely patterning your essay after a sample essay. You will do the best if your essay really reflects your own original voice and the experiences that are most meaningful to you.

College Application Essay Format: Key Takeaways

There are two levels of formatting you might be worried about: the micro (fonts, headings, margins, etc) and the macro (the overall structure of your essay).

Tips for the micro level of your college application essay format:

  • Always draft your essay in a word processing software, even if you'll be copy-and-pasting it over into a text box.
  • If you are copy-and-pasting it into a text box, make sure your formatting transfers properly, your paragraphs are clearly delineated, and your essay isn't cut off.
  • If you are attaching a document, make sure your font is easily readable, your margins are standard 1-inch, your essay is 1.5 or double-spaced, and your file format is compatible with the application specs.
  • There's no need for a title unless otherwise specified—it will just eat into your word count.

Tips for the macro level of your college application essay format :

  • There is no super-secret college essay format that will guarantee success.
  • In terms of structure, it's most important that you have an introduction that makes it clear where you're going and a conclusion that wraps up with a main point. For the middle of your essay, you have lots of freedom, just so long as it flows logically!
  • I advise against using an essay template, as it will make your essay sound stilted and unoriginal.

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Plus, if you use a college essay template, how will you get rid of these medieval weirdos?

What's Next?

Still feeling lost? Check out our total guide to the personal statement , or see our step-by-step guide to writing the perfect essay .

If you're not sure where to start, consider these tips for attention-grabbing first sentences to college essays!

And be sure to avoid these 10 college essay mistakes .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

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College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4, writing a strong college admissions essay.

  • Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
  • Brainstorming tips for your college essay
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  • Taking your college essay to the next level
  • Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
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  • Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
  • Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
  • Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem
  • Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

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How to format and structure a college essay: A definitive guide

Bonus Material: Download 30 essays that worked for Princeton

Are you a rising high school senior preparing for the admissions process and aiming for one of those coveted spots at selective universities? Are you looking for help figuring out how to structure your college admissions essay to maximize your chances of acceptance?

 We’ve guided countless students through the application process to acceptances at the country’s most selective colleges. In this blog post, we’ll share some of our proven advice on how to structure and format your college admissions essay to make the best impression on admissions officers.

We’ve also included a set of 30 successful college application essays that helped students get into Princeton. There are few better resources to help your brainstorming than essays that you know worked!

Download Thirty Essays that Worked for Princeton

Jump to section:

What makes a successful college essay Types of College Essay Formats The Narrative Essay Format and Example The Montage Essay Format and Example The “I am…” Essay Format and Example The Creative/Artistic Format and Example Next Steps

What makes a successful college essay?

You can think of a college essay’s effectiveness as being made up of two things: the content, and the narrative structure. In other words, you need to have a strong topic, but you also need to structure and format the way you write about that topic in a specific way. Without the right format, even the most unique and moving topic won’t wow the admission committee.

We’ve written extensively about our step-by-step process for ensuring that you have the right topic in our post on the Diamond Strategy here . It’s a proven method for topic selection, and we encourage everyone to read it and use it.

Your choice of topic is going to heavily influence what format will work best for your college essay. Below, we’ll go into several specific college essay formats (with successful college admissions essay examples!), and we’ll discuss when to use each one.

Types of College Essay Formats

In this post, we’ll talk about four kinds of structures or formats that have been proven to work again and again for successful college admission essays.

how to format college entrance essay

  • The Narrative – best if you want to describe one key moment in your life.
  • The Montage – best if you have an eclectic mix of interests/experiences.
  • The “I am…” – best if you have an identity or belief that’s important to you.
  • The Creative/Artistic – Best if you have an unusual topic and like taking risks.

Remember: although each of these formats can be broken down into something like a template, it will always get its power from the specifics of your story and your experiences. Take a look at any of these successful college essays that worked and you’ll see that, no matter the format, the key to each is tons and tons of specific detail.

Also remember that these formats are not always interchangeable : if you want to write about what you learned from a pivotal moment in your life, you’ll probably want The Narrative and not, say, The Montage. 

The Narrative Essay Format and Example (best if you want to describe one key moment in your life).

The Narrative Essay format is one of the most popular and one of the most commonly seen on “Essays that Worked” blogs–and with good reason! This essay structure lets you tell a detailed story, keeping admissions counselors engaged while also conveying key insights about you as an applicant.

Here are the typical components of a Narrative Essay:

  • Start in the middle of the story
  • Show personal growth
  • Reflect on what’s changed

So what does it look like? Let’s take a look at an actual sample essay from our Thirty College Essays that Worked for Princeton and break it down.

1 – Start in the middle of the story (media res)

Drop the reader right into the middle of a crucial moment, describing it like a scene in a film or movie.

how to format college entrance essay

To him, I was a stranger. He could not recall that I had fervently cared for him every day for the past five weeks. As I laughed at his trademark joke for the third time that day, he felt a familiar, but unidentifiable gratitude. When I mentioned a detail about his past, he blushed, realizing that I, a perceived stranger, knew him better than himself. The only recollection he had of me was of a girl with an unmatched dedication to his happiness. This man was one of the patients I encountered during my volunteer internship at Expressions, a hospital program for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Notice how this begins the story with no preamble. If your essay topic is about a major event in your life, one of the strongest ways to begin your college essay is by jumping right into it.

2 – Zoom out

Once you’ve hooked the reader with your story, zoom out and provide more context and background information. How did you get there? What brought you to that moment?

On the second day of the internship, I strode through the door, eager to delve into my new daily responsibilities. As I approached the patients, I anticipated, somewhat naively, a chorus of welcomes and friendly receptions. But instead, I was met with puzzled glances and polite, but reserved greetings. I realized that no one remembered who I was. For the next several minutes, I questioned my purpose in a program where I could not permanently impact the participants. What motivation did I have to go beyond mediocrity when, no matter the quality of my service, I would be forgotten? But it was that morning, as I poured each patient a cup of coffee, smiled, and reintroduced myself, that I constructed my personal motto: “Initiative requires no incentive.” Throughout the rest of the day, I found motivation through mundane, yet meaningful moments, like helping a patient complete a crossword or color a picture. It was in those moments that I learned that dedication is not derived from a desire to make memorable change, but from a will to contribute to your community no matter the reward.

You want to maintain a high level of detail and specificity, but you also want to zoom out enough to make sure your reader understands the background and context of your story. This essay does that perfectly by explaining the internship and the student’s initial involvement. More importantly, it shows us what the student was thinking at the beginning, which provides an opportunity for growth and learning.

3 – Show personal growth/development/change

The narrative works because it’s about how you, as a student, college applicant, and human, have changed and grown through the experience you describe. So the next part of your essay should describe some element of change as it develops through this story. Take a look below:

Over the next few weeks, I discovered that because the patients had no recollection of the past, they cherished the present moment. It was this principle of mindful existence that taught me to love the moments of doing, rather than linger in the memories of “I have done.” To fulfill this principle, I sought to paint each moment with cheer and consideration. Through all their bursts of frustration, shivers of discomfort, and tears of untraceable nostalgia, I strove to offer warmth and support. On several occasions, I brought in my tutu and pointe shoes and performed a ballet variation. As I taught the participants ballet steps, the room rang with laughter and amusement. Hoping to inspire the creativity I find so empowering, I also orchestrated events from poetry slams to watercolor classes to recipe exchanges. By incorporating my individuality into the program, I reinvented my role as a volunteer, a community member, and an individual.

This process of “discovery” is one of the keys to the Narrative Structure. This college essay format is designed to let you bring out the personal growth that accompanied this event. In the body paragraphs, the author shows how she developed and “reinvented” her role through this experience.

4 – Reflect on what’s changed

As you bring your essay to a close, you should actively reflect on what has changed throughout this narrative. The closing can be short and sweet, and often refers back to the original story you told in the first paragraph.

how to format college entrance essay

On my last day at the program, I was leading a jewelry-making activity, when I noticed one of the participants becoming agitated. She was, among all the group members, the patient in the most advanced stage of memory loss and the patient I accompanied most often. I drew up a chair next to her and offered my help. Her head, previously hunched over scattered bracelet pieces, slowly lifted and her eyes turned to meet mine. As her eyes flickered across my face, I saw in her expression that she was searching for a thought, creeping to the forefront of her mind. Then, carefully she said, “Your name is Dana, right?” It had been nearly a year since she had remembered the last five minutes, yet she had remembered my name. As I smiled and nodded, she began to tear up, and we both silently rejoiced in the realization that she had momentarily overcome her disease. In that instant, my continuous acts of compassion, whether previously forgotten or anonymous, came to fruition. Service became more than the completion of routine tasks or the collection of volunteer hours; it became the responsibility to foster hope and prosperity within my community, the nation, and humanity.

This final paragraph beautifully brings the entire essay to a close: it recalls the opening paragraph, but now gives it a new and more positive spin. It also tells the admissions committee what this student has learned through this narrative. This student comes away from the experience with a new understanding of service.

This is one of the best examples of a successfully executed college essay in the Narrative style. It hooks the reader in from the beginning, making us want to figure out what’s going on. Then, it gives us the context we need to understand how the writer got to this point and who they are. Most importantly, it concludes the narrative by showing real, impressive personal growth in the student’s perspective on the world, ending with a reflection on what this writer values and brings to a college.

Yours will look different, of course. But if you want to understand why the narrative essay structure works, this impactful essay is a great place to start.

You can find more successful narrative essay examples in our Thirty College Essays that Worked for Princeton .

The Montage Essay Format and Example (best if you have an eclectic mix of interests/experiences)

The Narrative Structure is great if your essay topic can be conveyed through a single crucial moment or experience. But what if you want to show the admissions committee at your dream university some aspect(s) of your personality that can only be conveyed through multiple moments?

Here are the key elements of a Montage Essay:

  • Introduce your theme
  • Present a series of snapshots related to the theme
  • Tie the snapshots to the theme

That’s the kind of topic the Montage Essay Format is designed for. You won’t go into as much detail as you would in the Narrative Essay. Instead, you will present the admissions committee with a series of snapshots from your life, all connected by a common theme.

how to format college entrance essay

These snapshots can be actual events, or they can be creatively selected items from your life that tell universities something about you–you might create a montage of what’s on your bookshelf or what kind of bumper stickers are on your car, for example.

1 – Start with the unifying thread or theme

Give us a bit of context for whatever unites the montage by setting it up. Alternatively, you can just jump right into one of the montage moments (like in the Narrative Format). The best option here will depend on your specific essay.

We can see an example from our collection of thirty actual sample essays below:

“You know nothing, Jon Snow” Being an avid Game of Thrones fanatic, I fancy every character, scene, and line. However,Ygritte’s famous line proves to be just slightly more relatable than the incest, corruption, and sorcery that characterizes Westeros. Numerous theories explore the true meaning of these five words, but I prefer to think they criticize seventeen-year-old Jon’s lack of life experience. Growing up in a lord’s castle, he has seen little about the real world; thus, he struggles to see the bigger picture until he evaluates all angles. Being in a relatively privileged community myself, I can affirm the lack of diverse perspectives —and even more, the scarcity of real-world problems. Instead, my life has been horrifically plagued by first world problems.

This introductory paragraph opens with something creative and catchy, then explains the purpose. It also sets up the montage that will follow: “the first world problems.”

2 – Present the montage!

Naturally, this is the biggest part of the Montage Format. The pieces of your montage can be short (as in the below example) or fairly long. The most important thing is that they are detailed, unique, and come together to tell the university admissions officers something about you.

how to format college entrance essay

I’ve written a eulogy and held a funeral for my phone charger. I’ve thrown tantrums when my knitted sweaters shrunk in the dryer. And yes, I actually have cried over spilled (organic) milk. Well, shouldn’t I be happy with the trivial “problems” I’ve faced? Shouldn’t I appreciate the opportunities and the people around me? Past the “feminism v. menimism” and “memes” of the internet, are heartbreaking stories and photos of life outside my metaphorical “Bethpage Bubble.” How can I be content when I am utterly oblivious to the perspectives of others? Like Jon Snow, I’ve never lived a day in another person’s shoes. Fewer than three meals a day. No extra blanket during record-breaking winter cold. No clean water. I may be parched after an intense practice, but I know nothing of poverty. Losing a loved one overseas. Being forced to leave your home. Coups d’état and dictatorial governments. I battle with my peers during class discussions, but I know nothing of war. Denial of education. Denial of religion. Denial of speech. I have an endless list of freedoms, and I know nothing of oppression. Malaria. Cholera. Cancer. I watch how Alzheimer’s progresses in my grandmother, but I know nothing of disease. Living under a strict caste system. Being stereotyped because of one’s race. Unwarranted prejudice. I may be in a minority group, yet I know nothing of discrimination. Flappers, speakeasies, and jazz. Two world wars. Pagers, hippies, and disco. I’m barely a 90’s kid who relishes SpongeBob episodes, and I know nothing of prior generations. Royal weddings, tribal ceremonies, and Chinese New Years. I fast during Ramadan, but I know nothing of other cultures. Hostile political parties. Progressive versus retrospective. Right and wrong. I am seventeen, and I know nothing of politics.

This montage is really a list of the first-world problems of the writer and the things the writer “knows nothing” about. In writing this list, however, the student is making clear that they’re aware of the limits of their own experience, and that kind of self-reflection is crucial for a winning college essay.

3 – Tie the moments of the montage together

Each montage essay must end by clearly drawing a lesson. The question every admissions officer will be asking is: what do all of these moments tell us about you?

Is ignorance really bliss? Beyond my community and lifetime exists myriad events I’ll never witness, people I’ll never meet, and beliefs I’ll never understand. Being unexposed to the culture and perspectives that comprise this world, I know I can never fully understand anyone or anything. Yet, irony is beautiful. Embarking on any career requires making decisions on behalf of a community, whether that be a group of students, or a patient, or the solar system. I am pleased to admit like Jon Snow, I know nothing, but that will change in college.

This reflection really doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. In just a few sentences, this author shows us why the montage matters: this student understands the limits of their experiences and knowledge, and, most importantly, is eager and willing to work to overcome them.

For more successful college application essays like this, check out our collection of actual sample essays below:

The “I am…” Essay Format (best if you have an identity or belief that’s important to you)

This format is the most direct way to approach a personal essay. By using this structure, you will directly present the admissions officers with some crucial aspect of your personality, background, or interests.

This essay format is best for students who want to highlight a particular quirk, lifelong challenge, or important aspects of their demographic background.

This kind of essay generally follows this structure:

  • A surprising “I am…” statement
  • Explanation of the statement with specific examples
  • Reflection on how this has shaped you

Like all college admissions essays, this will require you to be specific and detailed. But, it might not involve much of an actual story or narrative (though it can!). Take a look at the breakdown of the example below to see how it’s done.

how to format college entrance essay

1 – Start with a surprising “I am…” statement

This essay structure depends on hooking your reader’s attention from the first line, so you want to start with something memorable, unexpected, and maybe even a bit confusing. Though often this means saying “I am…” it could just as easily be “I believe…” or “I have…”

I am an aspiring hot sauce sommelier. Ever since I was a child, I have been in search for all that is spicy. I began by dabbling in peppers of the jarred variety. Pepperoncini, giardiniera, sports peppers, and jalapeños became not only toppings, but appetizers, complete entrées, and desserts. As my palate matured, I delved into a more aggressive assortment of spicy fare. I’m not referring to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the crunchy snack devoured by dilettantes. No, it was bottles of infernal magma that came next in my tasting curriculum.

Here’s a classic example of how to start. “Hot sauce sommelier” is unusual and quirky enough that it holds the reader’s attention. Admissions officers will want to keep reading to see why this matters.

2 – Expand on the “I am…”

This can take different forms: you can explain how you came to be, say, a hot sauce sommelier. Or you can tell us what that looks like in your everyday life. It’ll depend in large part on what your individual story is, but the key is specifics, specifics, specifics.

Despite the current lack of certification offered for the profession which I am seeking, I am unquestionably qualified. I can tell you that a cayenne pepper sauce infused with hints of lime and passion fruit is the perfect pairing to bring out the subtle earthy undertones of your microwave ramen. I can also tell you that a drizzle of full-bodied Louisiana habanero on my homemade vanilla bean ice cream serves as an appetizing complement. For the truly brave connoisseur, I suggest sprinkling a few generous drops of Bhut Jolokia sauce atop a bowl of chili. Be warned, though; one drop too many and you might find yourself like I did, crying over a heaping bowl of kidney beans at the dining room table. Although I consistently attempt to cultivate the rarest and most expertly crafted bottles of molten spice, like an oenophile who occasionally sips on five dollar bottles of wine, I am neither fussy nor finicky. I have no qualms about dousing my omelets with Cholula, dipping my tofu in pools of Sriracha, or soaking my vegetarian chicken nuggets in the Frank’s Red Hot that my mom bought from the dollar store. No matter the quality or cost, when gently swirled, wafted, and swished; the sauces excite my senses. Each initial taste, both surprising yet subtly familiar, has taught me the joy of the unknown and the possibility contained within the unexpected.

Check out all specific details the writer uses in this portion of the essay! These moments both show the student’s skill as a writer and, more importantly, convey their very real passion for hot sauce. It doesn’t matter that it’s a little bit silly: what matters is showing the university that this student is dedicated to something .

3 – End by reflecting on how this aspect of your identity shapes who you are as a person and student

As always, these essays have to end with a bit of introspection: you’ve told us the story, now explain why it matters, as this student does.

My ceaseless quest for piquancy has inspired many journeys, both gustatory and otherwise. It has dragged me into the depths of the souks of Marrakech, where I purchased tin cans filled with Harissa. Although the chili sauce certainly augmented the robust aroma of my tagine, my food was not the only thing enriched by this excursion. My conquest has also brought me south, to the valleys of Chile, where I dined among the Mapuche and flavored my empanadas with a smoky seasoning of Merkén. Perhaps the ultimate test of my sensory strength occurred in Kolkata, India. After making the fatal mistake of revealing my penchant for spicy food to my friend’s grandmother, I spent the night with a raw tongue and cold sweats. I have learned that spice isn’t always easy to digest. It is the distilled essence of a culture, burning with rich history. It is a universal language that communicates passion, pain, and renewal. Like an artfully concocted hot sauce, my being contains alternating layers of sweetness and daring which surround a core that is constantly being molded by my experiences and adventures. I’m not sure what it is about spiciness that intrigues me. Maybe my fungiform papillae are mapped out in a geography uniquely designed to appreciate bold seasonings. Maybe these taste buds are especially receptive to the intricacies of the savors and zests that they observe. Or maybe it’s simply my burning sense of curiosity. My desire to challenge myself, to stimulate my mind, to experience the fullness of life in all of its varieties and flavors.

how to format college entrance essay

This student makes clear to colleges why this aspect of their personality matters. It has helped them learn and travel; it shows the student’s desire to “challenge” themselves and to “stimulate their mind,” which is exactly what a top-tier university is looking for.

The Creative/Artistic Format (Best if you have an unusual topic and like taking risks)

I’m cheating a little bit here: by definition, there’s no real format to these Creative/Artistic Essays. These are the most unique, the toughest to pull off, and the riskiest essays. But for certain students, they’re undoubtedly the right choice.

Although these essays aren’t as easy to bulletpoint out as the above, creative personal essays will always contain the following elements:

  • A unique gimmick
  • Meaningful information about the writer’s life or identity
  • A mature reflection

how to format college entrance essay

The Creative/Artistic Essays make your essay stand out to colleges, but require careful planning and editing to pull off. If you’re an artist type, or, alternatively, if you feel your application needs something to separate you from the pack, these can be the right choice.

Consulting with one of our expert college essay coaches can be the best way to ensure that your Creative/Artistic Essay helps and not hurts your application.

Below is a successful example, and some analysis of why this essay works:

“Is it bigger than a breadbox?” “Yes.” I have always been tall, decidedly tall. Yet, my curiosity has always surpassed my height. Starting at a young age, I would ask countless questions, from “How heavy is the Earth?” to “Where does rain come from?” My curiosity, displayed in questions like these, has truly defined me as a person and as a student. Therefore, it is not surprising that I became transfixed the first time I played 20Q (the electronic version of Twenty Questions). Somehow, a little spherical device guessed what I was thinking. The piece of technology sparked my curiosity and instilled in me a unique interest in 20Q. This interest would later reveal valuable character traits of mine while also paralleling various facets of my life. “Does it strive to learn?” “Yes.” I became determined to discover how 20Q guessed correctly. After some research, I discovered artificial intelligence, more specifically, artificial neural networks—systems which learn and improve themselves. This idea fascinated me. I wanted to learn more. I read avidly, seeking and absorbing as much information as I could. When given the opportunity years later, I signed up for the first computer programming class available to me. I found myself in an environment I loved. I would stay after class, go in during free periods, make my own apps, and work over Cloud-based IDEs. I prized the freedom and the possibilities. “Is it driven?” “Yes.” After my introduction to 20Q, I began to play Twenty Questions (the traditional parlor game) and became determined to rival the guessing accuracy of the artificial intelligence. At first I was mediocre. However, through long car rides with family, good-natured yet heated competitions with friends, logical strategy, and time, I became more effective. I discovered the “secrets” to success: practice and perseverance. “Does it apply what it learns?” “Yes.” As 20Q implements what it learns, so do I. Throughout high school, I applied the “secret” of practice to my basketball career. I spent countless hours sharpening my skills in 90° summer heat to 20° late-winter cold, countless afternoons playing pickup games with my friends, and countless weekends traveling to AAU basketball tournaments. As a result, I became a starter for my school’s varsity team. I applied another “secret,” this time the “secret” of perseverance, by dedicating myself to physical therapy after knee surgery in order to quickly return to football. Later that year, I became the first player in my grade to score a varsity touchdown. “Does it attempt to better itself?” “Yes.” Once I became proficient at Twenty Questions, I strengthened my resolve to become masterful. To do so, I needed to become a skillful inquisitor and to combine that with my analytical nature and interpersonal skills, all of which are vital for success in Twenty Questions. Because I had been debating politics with my friends since the 8th grade, I recognized that debate could sharpen these skills. I began to debate more frequently (and later more effectively) in English and government class, at the lunch table and family gatherings, and whenever the opportunity presented itself. This spurred in me an interest for how public policy and government work, leading me to attend Boys State and receive a nomination for The United States Senate Youth Program. “Does it think deeply?” “Yes.” So far, I have realized that thriving at Twenty Questions, just like life, is all about tenacity, rationality and interpersonal skills. I have found that, as in Twenty Questions, always succeeding is impossible; however, by persevering through difficulties and obstacles, favorable outcomes are often attainable. As I have become better at Twenty Questions, so too have I improved in many other aspects of my life. Nonetheless, I realize that I still have unbounded room to grow. And much like 20Q, I will continue to learn throughout my life and apply my knowledge to everything I do. “Are you thinking of me?” “Yes.” Source: Johns Hopkins Essays that Worked

Framing this essay as a round of 20 questions is the kind of risky creative move that, in this case, can really pay off.

It works here because it isn’t just being creative or artsy for the sake of it: this format really allows the student to express multiple important aspects of their personality as it relates to their application.

You’ll notice that, like most creative essays, it combines elements of the other essay formats. But it does so in a unique way that can’t be replicated: nobody else can write a 20 Questions style essay without ripping off this author.

If you can find a creative idea like this one that lets you express unique elements of your story or personality in a fun, attention-grabbing structure, then this option might be the best one for you.

You should think of the steps outlined in this blogpost as the middle of the essay writing process. First, you need to brainstorm and select your topic (see our guide on that here) . Then, based on that topic, you can use this post to identify what structure and format will work best for crafting your essay.

If you’ve settled on an essay format, it’s time to move on to actually writing the essay itself. We recommend starting by reviewing some of the past successful essays linked below and by first reading our post on the Diamond Strategy for topic selection.

Of course, there’s no substitute for professional help: our expert essay coaches have helped countless students with brainstorming, topic choice, organization, crafting, and final touches on essays that have helped these students gain admission to Ivies and other elite colleges. If you’re interested in working with one of our college essay coaches, reach out to us here !

Top College Essay Posts

  • 14 Best College Essay Services for 2023 (40 Services Reviewed)
  • Qualities of a Successful College Essay
  • 11 College Essays That Worked
  • How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Questions
  • How Colleges Read your College Applications (A 4-Step Process)
  • How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays
  • The Diamond Strategy: How We Help Students Write College Essays that Get Them Into Princeton (And Other Ivy League Schools)
  • What is the College Essay? Your Complete Guide for 202 4
  • College Essay Brainstorming: Where to Start
  • How to Write the Harvard Supplemental Essays
  • How to Format Your College Essay

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how to format college entrance essay

How to Write College Application Essays

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

College Application Essay Fundamentals 

How to prepare to write your essay , how to approach different essay types, how to structure your essay , how to revise your essay, how to find essay writing help , resources for teaching students how to write a college essay, additional resources (further reading).

Of all the materials in a college application, the essay provides the greatest opportunity for you to set yourself apart. Unlike the transcript or resume, the essay is creative and expressive; in it, you can show the admissions counselors who you are and what you can do (that is, how well you can write!). A good application essay should have a memorable main idea, a cohesive structure, and a strong introduction and conclusion. Although essay topics can vary by college, the most common prompts deal with personal experiences and aspirations for the future. This guide   contains a diverse set of resources to help you orient yourself to the college application essay and, ultimately, to write the most competitive essay possible. 

The college application essay is a requirement for admission to almost all institutions of higher learning. Though in some ways it resembles essays you've written in class or on standardized tests, in other ways it's a unique writing exercises with its own particular requirements. Use the resources below to help you understand how the essay should be structured and what kind of content to include. 

"How Long Should College Application Essays Be?" (Learn.org)

This webpage guides you through some basic tips on writing the college essay—including essay length, sticking to the prompt, and maintaining an original tone. 

"College Application Essay" (College Board)

This webpage from the College Board discusses the different types of application essays, what length you should aim for, and most importantly, why colleges value this aspect of the application so much. 

"College Essays, College Applications" (College Board) 

The College Board's website is a great resource for any student looking to apply to college. This webpage contains several links to helpful resources, including sample essays and genuine student interviews. 

"Timeline for College Applications" (College Essay Guy)

This colorful, one-page guide from a college application specialist offers an illustrated timeline for high school students looking to apply for college. 

Before putting your ideas down on paper, it's important to conceptualize your essay, to craft strategically your tone and style, and,  crucially, to choose a topic that suits you and the school to which you're applying. The resources in this section include writing tips, lists of common mistakes you should avoid, and guides dedicated to the college application essay.

How to Plan Your Essay

"3 Common College Essay Mistakes to Avoid" (CNBC)  

This article from CNBC broadly outlines the most common mistakes students make when writing their college application essays. Although these mistakes may seem obvious, even the most experienced writers can fall into these common traps.

"7 Effective Application Tips" (Peterson's)

This article from Peterson's (a company providing academic materials for test prep, application help, and more) lists seven pieces of advice designed to make your writing pop. 

"The Secret to Show, Don't Tell" ( The Write Practice Blog)  

You've heard it before: show, don't tell. This is a great writing tip, but how do you pull it off? Here, the writing blog  The Write Practice  outlines how you can make your writing more descriptive and effective. 

"Passive Voice" (University of North Carolina)  

Avoiding passive construction is a subtle yet effective way to upgrade any piece of writing. Check out this webpage from a university writing center for some tips on recognizing and avoiding passive voice. 

"Using Appropriate Words in an Academic Essay" (National University of Singapore)

There are many ways to upgrade your vocabulary. Often, words can be replaced with more impressive substitutes, phrases can be shortened or lengthened depending on context, and transitions can be used for a smoother flow. The link above expands on these strategies and offers several others. 

How to Brainstorm Topic Ideas

"Bad College Essays: 10 Mistakes to Avoid" (PrepScholar)

This article from a well-known tutoring service and test prep program describes what to avoid when writing your essay. Essays that are too graphic, too personal, or too overconfident are all problematic, and this article explains why. 

"5 Tricks for Choosing Your College Essay Topic" (CollegeXpress)

Lost on how to choose a topic? This webpage from CollegeXpress outlines five sources of inspiration you can mine for ideas as you're getting started.

"The College Admission Essay: Finding a Topic" (The Choice Blog)

This article from New York Times  blog The Choice  breaks down three essential questions to ask yourself when choosing a topic for your college essay. 

"COLLEGE ESSAY GUIDE: Choosing a Prompt for the Common Application" (YouTube)

In this five-minute video, a Yale student discusses how to choose a college essay prompt and how to approach the essay writing process. His channel is filled with original videos on the college application process. 

"Where to Begin? 3 Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises" ( CollegeVine Blog)

Approaching the Common App essay prompts can be difficult. This blog post explains several tactics you can use to narrow down your options, such as writing down a list of your greatest convictions.

"Using First Person in an Academic Essay: When Is It Okay?" (WritingCommons.org)

Most high school students are told to avoid using the first person point of view; this can be confusing when writing college essays, which typically ask what  you  think. This article breaks down when (and why) it's acceptable to write in the first person. 

Although all college essays serve the same purpose - articulating why you should get into a college - they come in different kinds. While topics on the Common Application are relatively consistent from year to year, personal statements and so-called "supplemental essays" vary by institution. Each of these essays requires a slightly different approach. The resources in this section will prepare you to answer the various types of essay prompts you're likely to encounter. 

Common Application Essays

CommonApp.org

The Common Application's official website is the best place to start getting acquainted with the service to which the majority of US colleges and universities now subscribe - a service which allows you to streamline your application process and minimize duplication of materials.

"What's App-enning" Blog (Common App)  

The Common App runs a blog with a wealth of information on common application-related news, including periodic updates on common application essay prompts for each application cycle. You can practice brainstorming with old prompts, or even start preparing your application by looking at this year's prompts.

125 College Essay Examples (PrepScholar Blog)

Here, PrepScholar provides a variety of Common App essays that got their respective applicants into their desired schools. Along with the body text of the essays, the website provides analysis on  what  makes the essays so great. 

A Few Essays That Worked (And a Few That Didn't) (NYTimes Blog)

This article analyzes unsuccessful essays, illuminating the ways in which they fell short. Although you should exercise caution and adjust your approach to your specific school, it's always good to pick up on general things to avoid. 

Personal Statements

What Is a Personal Statement? (PrepScholar Blog)

Although personal statements and Common App essays are similar, not all personal statement essays are administered through the Common App. This article from PrepScholar's blog will provide you with everything you need to know about writing a personal statement.

Examples of Successful Statements (Purdue OWL)

The Purdue OWL online writing lab collate links on this page to several successful personal statement. It can be useful to read successful statements and to consider how and why the statements made an impact on their readers. 

Past Threads on Advice for Writing Your College Essay (Reddit Post)

Although not about the personal statement  per se , this Reddit post has links to several past threads that may be of use to any prospective college applicant. 

What 10 Things Should Your Personal Statement Include? (Which University UK)  

This site outlines ten things to consider when writing a personal statement, including outlining what you will bring to the course, not what the course will bring to you. 

Supplemental Essays

How to Write Great Supplemental College Essays (IvyWise Newsletter)

Supplemental essays can often be challenging, asking a range of questions from the mundane to the oddly specific. This article from college application site IvyWise will break down example prompts to make them more approachable. 

Write Your Supplemental Essays (College Essay Guy)

Looking for a comprehensive guide to supplemental essays? Look no further than this page provided by the "College Essay Guy," who breaks down how to write supplemental essays that ask different kinds of questions. 

An Awesome Guide to the UChicago Supplement (Dyad)

Dyad, a college mentoring service, walks you through how to approach UChicago's supplemental essay question. Although the article is specific to UChicago, it contains general tips that are helpful to any college applicant. 

Reading My Yale Supplement Essay (YouTube)

Josh Beasley is back in this short YouTube video, where he reads the supplemental essay that got him into Yale and extrapolates advice for current and prospective applicants. 

A college application essay (like any academic essay) should have an introduction, a conclusion, and body paragraphs. Additionally, it should have overall coherence (that is, it should make a point) and cohesion (that is, it should flow well from paragraph to paragraph). We've collected the most relevant resources here to help you structure your college essay correctly and efficiently. 

How to Make Your Essay Stand Out 

College Essays That Stand Out From the Crowd (NYTimes)

This NYTimes article includes links to several recent essays that caught the eyes of the admissions readers by taking risks. You can even listen to an essay being read aloud by a current Princeton student.

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays (Gen / Kelly Tanabe)  

If you have some time on your hands, this hefty PDF document contains 50 essays from successful Ivy League applicants. After reading these essays, consider what they have in common and how they might be a model for your own essay.

Make Your Application Essay Stand Out (CampusExplorer.com)

In this article from CampusExplorer, you'll find general tips on how to make your essay more appealing to the admissions readers. The writers include general writing tips as well as more targeted advice for the tone and audience of the application essay.

How to Write a College Application Essay that Stands Out (Boston University)

This short video from BU's own admissions department touches briefly on what impresses their admissions readers, including risk-taking, memorable stories, and honesty. 

Essay Structure (Monash University)

This chart from Monash University visually demonstrates how your content should be organized in order to keep your argument or story on track. 

How to Write an Introduction

How to Start a Personal Statement: The Killer Opening (Which University UK)  

Any good introduction both forecasts what your essay will be about and catches the reader's attention. This page will give you some helpful advice on starting your essay with a bang. 

How to Start a College Essay Perfectly (PrepScholar Blog)

This article from PrepScholar shows you how to "hook" your reader at the start of your application essay with colorful language, a vivid story, and an "insightful pivot" to your main point.

Let Me Introduce Myself (Stanford University)

This article from Stanford U's alumni page details the first-line openings of the essays for some current Stanford undergrads. 

Five Ways to NOT Start Your College Application Essays (PowerScore)

In this article, you'll learn five techniques to avoid, as they typically land a college application essay in the "reject" pile; these include beginning with dictionary definitions or famous quotations. 

How to Write a Conclusion 

Ending the Essay: Conclusions (Harvard University)

Harvard's writing center suggests bringing closure to your essay (that is, wrapping up your argument) while still expanding outward to broader applications or insights in your final paragraph.

Concluding Paragraph (Easybib)  

Although you may have used Easybib to make a bibliography before, did you know they have many resources on how to write a good essay? Check out this page for succinct advice on what your conclusion should entail. 

5 Ways to Powerfully End Your College Essay (College Greenlight)

This blog post instructs you to end with action (that is, a story or anecdote) rather than summary, giving you five ways to do this effectively, including addressing the college directly.

How to Write the Best Conclusion for a College Application Essay and Supplement (Koppelman Group)

The Koppelman Group, a college application consulting firm, warns you, above all, not to end "in conclusion" or "to conclude." They also provide targeted advice for the Common App and Supplement essays, respectively. 

No essay is perfect in its first-draft form; college application essays in particular are limited by word counts that can be difficult to meet. Once you've communicated your ideas, you'll want to edit your essay in order to make sure it's the best it can be. You'll also need to cut or add words to make sure it's within the specifications set by the institution. The resources in this section include tips and tricks for revising your college application essay. 

3 Ways to Increase Word Count (WikiHow)

Complete with illustrations, this WikiHow page outlines several ways you might go about substantively expanding your essay. These tips include clarifying points, reworking your introduction and conclusion, adding new viewpoints and examples, and connecting loose threads. 

Admissions 101: What an Essay Word Limit Really Means (Veritas Prep) 

In this blog post, Veritas Prep's college preparation tutors assure you that being a little over or under the limit is acceptable, recommending ways you can think about the word limit's purpose.

College Essay Word Limit - Going Under? (College Confidential) 

In this College Confidential discussion forum, students discuss the possible ramifications of writing under the word limit for a college essay. 

How to Increase Your Essay Word Count (WordCounter)

This article from WordCounter outlines different ways you might go about meeting word count, including addressing different viewpoints, adding examples, and clarifying statements. 

Hitting the Target Word Count in Your College Admissions Essay (Dummies.com)

This article details how to hit the target word count. Scroll down to the middle of the article for advice on where you should cut words from to meet word count. 

Some Tricks to Reduce Word Count (EastAsiaStudent.net)

This article recommends simplifying your style, deleting adverbs, deleting prepositions, and revisiting connectives and adjectives to reduce word count. 

Advice on Whittling Your Admissions Essay (NYTimes) 

In this New York Times article, Andrew Gelb discusses how to go about cutting down your admissions essay in order to meet the requisite word limit.

How to Shorten an Essay Without Ruining the Content (Quora) 

This Quora post from a concerned student yielded useful community responses on how to effectively shorten an essay without losing the original message. 

Feel like you've hit a wall revising your essay on your own? You're not alone, and there are plentiful resources on the web through which you can connect with fellow college applicants and/or professional tutors. The links in this section will take you to free services for improving your college application essay, as well as two of the top paid writing tutor services.

College Confidential Forums 

College Confidential is a free, public forum in which you can post your essay and receive feedback from current college students, current college applicants, and even teachers or other experienced users. 

/r/CollegeEssays (Reddit)

This subreddit is a great place to look for crowdsourced help on your essay, ask questions about college essays, or even find a private tutor. 

Essayforum.com

Essayforum.com provides another platform for students to share their application essays. Although this link takes you to the site's forum for applicants to undergraduate degree programs, you can submit and review essays in other categories as well.  Varsity Tutors

Varisty Tutors offers tutoring services from freelance tutors based on location. Prices and services vary, but their site is easy to use and there are many tutors available to choose from.

Princeton Review

Princeton Review, one of the largest providers of college preparation tutoring (ranging from standardized test preparation to essay help) offers online essay tutoring services with a free trial period. 

Using in-class time to prepare your students to write college application essays is, of course, rewarding, but can also be challenging. If you're a teacher looking to incorporate the college essay into your curriculum but you're not sure where to start, take a look at the useful resources below.

TeachersPayTeachers

College Essay Writing

This product includes material for more than one full lesson plan, including powerpoint presentations, assessments, and homework on the topic of college essays. 

Narrative Writing Ideas and Prompts

Appealing to students 9th grade and up, this product includes lesson plans, handouts, and homework for developing narrative writing for the college essay process. 

College Essay: Comprehensive 7-Session Workshop Series

This PDF includes entire courses, manuals, and handouts designed to teach students the ins and outs of the college essay process, either in an individual or group setting. 

College Essay Revision Forms & Rubrics

These PDFs provide students with visual organizers and rubrics to assess their own writing and learn how to become better college essay writers. 

Free Resources

Teaching the College Essay (Edutopia) 

Teaching your students about writing the college essay can be incredibly intimidating -- as a teacher, how should you approach the process? This article from Edutopia outlines how to go about introducing the college essay to your students. 

Essay Lesson Plan Ideas for College Applications (EssayHell)

If you're a teacher looking for a concrete lesson plan on college essays, this guide recommends using the first day to discuss the importance of the essay, the second day for brainstorming, and so on. Click on the link above to examine their full guide. 

Help Your Students Write a Killer College Essay (EdWeek Blog)

This blog post goes over various techniques designed to help your students choose an appropriate topic and write their essay with passion. 

The Biggest College Essay Mistakes & How to Fix Them (Talks With Teachers)

Looking to help your students avoid the minefield of mistakes in the college essay field? Check out this post from Talks With Teachers, a journal that shares "inspiring ideas for English teachers." 

Curious to read more about college application essays, or to see fun and unusual examples of what students have written? The articles, blog posts, and books in this section are a good place to start surveying the field.

One Over-the-Top Admissions Essay (Huffington Post)

This piece from the Huffington Post talks about a humorous response to a Stanford supplemental essay topic, the so-called "letter to my future roommate."

College & University - Statistics and Facts (Statista.com) 

In the process of writing your college essay, you may find yourself wondering who exactly goes to college, how many colleges there are in the United States, etc. This site gives the up-to-date statistics for various US demographics, both in aggregate and by university, as well as other information.

Who Made That College Application? (NYTimes)

This piece from the NYTimes outlines the history of the college essay from its origins in the 1800s, to the first "modern" college application, produced by Columbia University in 1919, to the present.  

How They Got Into Harvard (Staff of the Harvard Crimson)

This highly-rated collection of successful Harvard application essays, available on Amazon, is both an entertaining read and an instructive resource for anyone looking for exemplary essays to use as models. 

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how to format college entrance essay

How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Getting ready to start your college essay? Your essay is very important to your application — especially if you’re applying to selective colleges.

Become a stronger writer by reviewing your peers’ essays and get your essay reviewed as well for free.

We have regular livestreams during which we walk you through how to write your college essay and review essays live.

College Essay Basics

Just getting started on college essays? This section will guide you through how you should think about your college essays before you start.

  • Why do essays matter in the college application process?
  • What is a college application theme and how do you come up with one?
  • How to format and structure your college essay

Before you move to the next section, make sure you understand:

How a college essay fits into your application

What a strong essay does for your chances

How to create an application theme

Learn the Types of College Essays

Next, let’s make sure you understand the different types of college essays. You’ll most likely be writing a Common App or Coalition App essay, and you can also be asked to write supplemental essays for each school. Each essay has a prompt asking a specific question. Each of these prompts falls into one of a few different types. Understanding the types will help you better answer the prompt and structure your essay.

  • How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges
  • Personal Statement Essay Examples
  • How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity Essay
  • Extracurricular Essay Examples
  • Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay
  • Diversity Essay Examples
  • Tips for Writing a Standout Community Service Essay
  • How to Write the “Why This Major” Essay
  • How to Write a “Why This Major” Essay if You’re Undecided
  • How to write the “Why This College” Essay
  • How to Research a College to Write the “Why This College” Essay
  • Why This College Essay Examples
  • How to Write The Overcoming Challenges Essay
  • Overcoming Challenges Essay Examples

Identify how each prompt fits into an essay type

What each type of essay is really asking of you

How to write each essay effectively

The Common App essay

Almost every student will write a Common App essay, which is why it’s important you get this right.

  • How to Write the Common App Essay
  • Successful Common App Essay Examples
  • 5 Awesome College Essay Topics + Sample Essays
  • 11 Cliché College Essay Topics + How to Fix Them

How to choose which Common App prompts to answer

How to write a successful Common App essay

What to avoid to stand out to admissions officers

Supplemental Essay Guides

Many schools, especially competitive ones, will ask you to write one or more supplemental essays. This allows a school to learn more about you and how you might fit into their culture.

These essays are extremely important in standing out. We’ve written guides for all the top schools. Follow the link below to find your school and read last year’s essay guides to give you a sense of the essay prompts. We’ll update these in August when schools release their prompts.

See last year’s supplemental essay guides to get a sense of the prompts for your schools.

Essay brainstorming and composition

Now that you’re starting to write your essay, let’s dive into the writing process. Below you’ll find our top articles on the craft of writing an amazing college essay.

  • Where to Begin? 3 Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises
  • Creating the First Draft of Your College Application Essay
  • How to Get the Perfect Hook for Your College Essay
  • What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?
  • 8 Do’s and Don’t for Crafting Your College Essay
  • Stuck on Your College Essay? 8 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Understand how to write a great hook for your essay

Complete the first drafts of your essay

Editing and polishing your essay

Have a first draft ready? See our top editing tips below. Also, you may want to submit your essay to our free Essay Peer Review to get quick feedback and join a community of other students working on their essays.

  • 11 Tips for Proofreading and Editing Your College Essay
  • Getting Help with Your College Essay
  • 5 DIY Tips for Editing Your College Essay
  • How Long Should Your College Essay Be?
  • Essential Grammar Rules for Your College Apps
  • College Essay Checklist: Are You Ready to Submit?

Proofread and edited your essay.

Had someone else look through your essay — we recommend submitting it for a peer review.

Make sure your essay meets all requirements — consider signing up for a free account to view our per-prompt checklists to help you understand when you’re really ready to submit.

Advanced College Essay Techniques

Let’s take it one step further and see how we can make your college essay really stand out! We recommend reading through these posts when you have a draft to work with.

  • 10 Guidelines for Highly Readable College Essays
  • How to Use Literary Devices to Enhance Your Essay
  • How to Develop a Personalized Metaphor for Your College Applications

how to format college entrance essay

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

how to format college entrance essay

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, how to format a college admission essay.

Hey everyone, I'm starting to work on my college admission essays and wondering how I should format them. Is there a specific format or layout I should follow? Any tips or examples you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

Hey! Formatting your college admission essay is important because it helps make your essay easy to read and visually appealing. Here are some general guidelines you can follow to ensure a well-formatted essay:

1. Font: Stick with a standard, easy-to-read font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Avoid decorative or fancy fonts that may be difficult to read.

2. Font size: Use a 12-point font size, which is generally the default setting in most word processing programs. This size is easy on the eyes and professional-looking.

3. Margins: Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides. This is typically the standard margin size and will help keep your essay looking clean and organized.

4. Line spacing: Use double-spacing throughout your essay. This makes it easier for readers to follow along and gives them room to make notes or comments if necessary.

5. Indentation: Indent the first line of each paragraph by using the Tab key or 5 spaces. This visually separates paragraphs and makes your essay easier to read.

6. Align your text to the left rather than justifying the margins. Justified text can create awkward gaps between words, making it harder to read.

7. Headings and titles (if needed): Use a consistent and clear style for any headings or titles you may include in your essay, such as a slightly larger font or boldface. Be sure to stay within the essay's word limit.

8. Personal information: If the college requires you to include your name, application ID, or other identifying information in your essay, be sure to follow their guidelines. If they don't specify, consider including your name and application ID in the header or footer of your essay.

9. Proofread: A well-formatted essay is only as good as its content, so be sure to proofread and edit your work before submitting it. Check for spelling and grammar errors, awkward phrasing, and inconsistencies in your formatting.

10. Save as a PDF: Once you have your essay formatted and finalized, save it as a PDF. This ensures your formatting stays consistent across different devices and software.

Remember, the most important thing is to make your essay easy to read and visually appealing, so keep any formatting decisions you make clean and consistent. Good luck with your applications!

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.

Sample College Admission Essay 1 with Feedback

Introduction.

We've discussed in a general sense what makes a good essay, but it's always helpful to look at specific examples and hear how admissions officers evaluated them. Included below is a sample essay. It's well-written and avoids the common admission essay pitfalls discussed in previous videos (listing off accomplishments like a resume, writing about someone else instead of making it personal, etc.), so it's not simple to know how an admissions officer will react. Read the essay, and then proceed to the follow-up video to hear from admissions.

Sample essay 1

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you (500 word limit).

A misplaced foot on the accelerator instead of the brakes made me the victim of someone’s careless mistake. Rushing through the dark streets of my hometown in an ambulance, I attempted to hold back my tears while two supportive Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) comforted me. Although I suffered a minor knee injury, the trauma of that accident still lingers.

Fast forward six years to the present. Now I am sitting in the back of the ambulance, a rookie EMT, with my purple gloves on, stethoscope around my neck, and a red medical bag in hand. I am also making sure we have the proper medical equipment stocked, including neck collars and long body boards. As I step out of the ambulance, a bitter breeze nips at my face. Shattered glass, two crushed car hoods, and traffic everywhere, the scene is put into perspective as I can finally see what is happening. I stop in my tracks. It is my accident all over again.

“Get the collars and boards, there is a possible back injury,” my partner whispers to me. I fetch the items, still attempting to deal with my conflicting emotions. Using the help of five other EMTs, we extricate the victim from the car and secure him to the stretcher. While in the ambulance, I realize now that circumstances have been reversed. This time, clutching the patient’s hand, I tried to soothe him, and he slowly calms down. I keep my composure and actively tried to help the patient feel as comfortable as I did. Keeping all of his personal belongings close to me, we wheel him into the busy emergency room and transfer him safely. As we leave, he looked into my eyes and I could feel his sincere gratitude. Rather than being an innocent victim, like the current patient was, I am now the rescuer.

Even though I felt the horrid memories rushing back, I kept my duties as a rescuer in the forefront of my mind. Keeping my cool in the face of extreme pressure I came out of the call a changed person: someone who can see a problem, regardless of any bias I may have, and focus only on what is happening at that instant. Confidently facing my own terrors, I felt as if conquering my fears allowed me to face my duties with a grounded and compassionate outlook.

Tears stream, limbs hurt, children cry: I am there, with a smile on my face, a stethoscope around my neck, compassion in my heart, happy to help and proud to serve.

Related Articles

How to Start a College Essay: 5 Effective Techniques

how to format college entrance essay

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Impressionable Openers

Descriptions and demonstrations, show vulnerability, be authentic, stay personal, fun & quirky, common mistakes to avoid in your college essay.

  • Ways to Overcome Writer's Block

Frequently Asked Questions About Starting a College Essay

College essays are a huge part of your college career. If not huge, one of the biggest, and for someone who has been there and done that, I know the amount of pressure the beginning of a college essay, as well as the entire essay, can put on your shoulders.

Not only are you trying to juggle things like word count and grammar errors, but you're also trying to create the perfect college essay introduction that will attract admissions officers to your application or professors to your writing skills. And that, itself, can feel impossible, fill you with dread and self-doubt, but just breathe. I am here to help all present and future students know how to start a college essay.

Today is all about starting a college essay. I have come up with five easy and effective techniques that will help you create essays so good you're going to leave your readers wanting more , starting with your opening sentence! So, this is for all college students and college applicants. Stress no more! This guide was created to help you write a successful college essay. Let's get into it.

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how to format college entrance essay

The beginning of your essay should, first and foremost, always have a strong opening sentence . This sentence sets the tone for not only your readers but for the entire essay. Having a wobbly, almost interesting opener can steer an admissions officer and/or professor away, so you want it to be strong. And it doesn't have to be complicated! Less is more in this situation. Here are a couple of ways you can accomplish this.

  • Look within and be relatable
  • Use your real life for inspiration
  • Think about ways to evoke emotion

Here are some examples of impressionable openers:

  • Example 1: When I was 11 years old, my mother told me she had cancer over breakfast.
  • Example 2: Maybe yellow isn't my favorite color.
  • Example 3: I sat next to this girl in class who made me feel stupid.

DISCLAIMER : your opener should ALWAYS adhere to the essay prompts. These are just a few examples that can capture your reader's attention almost immediately.

In order to keep readers interested, visuals are key . Image-based descriptions will not only add value to your writing, it will give your readers front seats to your essay's journey. These descriptions let actions speak for themselves.

Here is an example of a description and demonstration in an essay:

  • Example 1: "I was sitting on a bar stool when the word 'cancer' hit me like the smell of her coffee brewing on the stove. The Rice Krispies were popping in my cereal bowl, and MTV Jams was playing in the background, yet all I could hear was the sound of doom all around me. The lips of my mother were moving, but I was frozen, crumbling on this stool like my mother's health. She was sick, and I didn't know how sick or what that even meant, and that terrified me."

Why This Works:

Here you can clearly feel the writers emotional state: shocked, still, scared. Not only is this moment at breakfast traumatic, you feel frozen in time with the writer. Using descriptions like this will evoke so much emotion and leave your reader wanting more.

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Something one of my teachers told me in high school was any good essay will have personal elements in it, no matter the topic. That always stuck with me and became the way I approached my college essays. Showing vulnerability in your writing will always guarantee interest. It also evokes emotion.

You can show vulnerability by:

  • Being honest
  • Explaining what's going on inside underneath the exterior
  • Describe what's going on around you at the moment
  • Letting go of the fear of being seen
  • Connecting with the topic
  • Being transparent about mistakes/flaws

Examples of showing vulnerability:

  • Example 1 : My mother telling me she had cancer over breakfast was not on my bingo card this year.
  • Example 2 : I never thought losing someone I love would change me.
  • Example 3: I had to lose everything in order to gain everything.

I know being vulnerable can be tough for some , but showing this side of you to college admissions officers and/or professors will not only make you stand out, but it can also help free you of things that might be weighing on your mind. Not to sound corny, but it can be therapeutic and make you a better writer . Just make sure you are staying on track with the essay prompt, and you're set!

Whether it's believed or not, an admissions officer wants to see pieces of you in your personal statement, so starting your essay by showing authenticity is a major major key. Along with being vulnerable, there are a few ways you can achieve this.

  • Reflect : Take the time to reflect on your experiences, values, and beliefs that have shaped who you are today. Let your values, passions, and interests shine through in your writing.
  • Mind Your Voice : Write in your own voice and avoid trying to sound like someone you're not. Authenticity comes from being genuine and true to yourself.
  • Tell Your Story : Share personal anecdotes and insights that show your unique perspective.
  • Be True to You : Focus on what matters to YOU (as long as you're on topic!). Write about what is meaningful and important to you rather than what you think admissions officers want to hear.

Above all, be open . Showing introspection and self-awareness in your essay will show any admissions committee who you are beneath the surface, as well as your personal growth.

You can also begin your essay being as random and silly as you'd like . It goes hand-in-hand with other important factors like vulnerability and authenticity. But don't get too crazy . Beginning your essay with something strange will definitely draw readers in. Let me show you what I mean.

  • Example 1 : I start my mornings off in silence and solitude to keep people away from me.
  • Example 2 : Sometimes, I like to circle big words in complex articles to learn new words. Yeah, but to also keep one in my back pocket for later use.
  • Example 3 : Being the youngest child means getting away with everything you want, and that's exactly how I like it.

Do you see how each sentence draws you in? Not only are they light-hearted, but they also make you want to know why you want to keep people away in the morning and what kind of weapon you're forming against others with new words. And every youngest sibling will attest to feeling that exact same way. All of these examples are sure to make your essay fun, show who you are, and leave readers wanting more.

mistakes to avoid in college essays

Years of writing college essays have taken me through every high and low of the process possible. And when they're good, they're great! But for some reason, my mistakes stick out more than anything. So, I've compiled a list of common mistakes to avoid when writing your college essay .

  • Avoid Being Cliche - While you want to be captivating, you want to avoid overly used syntax and phrases that could potentially lose your reader's curiosity. For example, "in today's day and age," "follow my heart," "don't judge a book by its cover," etc. are all cliches that can be avoided by thinking outside of the box.
  • Using Vocabulary to be Impressive - I know you want to impress the admissions committees, but it's important to stick to what you know and not what you can allude to. That is, use verbiage that resonates with your personality. Using extravagant words can work against you, and they can also sound forced. College admissions officers want to see the real you, so show it to them.
  • Steer Clear of Controversy - Though it's not said enough, your college essay should tell your personal story and not touch on things that can stir the pot. For instance, talking about politics and religious beliefs may not be the route you want to take UNLESS it's called for in the college essay topic. And if so, stay on track with the essay prompts.
  • Procrastinating : Waiting until the last minute to start writing your essay will bite you in the butt. You will feel rushed and end up writing a poorly crafted piece. Give yourself enough time to complete an essay draft, edit the draft, and repeat this two-step cycle until your essay is complete.
  • Lack of originality : This goes hand-in-hand with avoiding cliches. Your college essay should exude a lot of your personality, so show admissions officers and teachers who you are! Include your cultural background, test scores that you're proud of, any future aspirations, etc. This all depends on the essay prompts, of course, but in my experience, every essay topic has room to show who you are.
  • Ignoring the prompt : This is a major key. STAY ON TRACK. Make sure to carefully read and understand the essay prompt, and write your essay accordingly. The last thing you want to do is write a college essay that has nothing to do with the prompt. Reading is essential here.
  • Lack of focus : If you want to know how to start a college essay, that means knowing how to stay focused. Find a quiet space, turn off electronics, hide your phone, and really nestle into how you want to capture your reader's attention. This will help you use your five senses clearly, keep your writing strong and not write an overly wordy essay. Focus is the tool here.
  • Poor organization : Make sure your essay has a strong structure with clear transitions between paragraphs. An outline will work best to accomplish this. If you go into starting your college essay without a plan, be prepared to hit all roadblocks.
  • Neglecting to Revise and Edit : Like procrastinating, don't fail to revise and edit your work. Always, always, always proofread your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors , as well as clarity and coherence.
  • Not Seeking Feedback : Listen, I know that completing an essay is an accomplishment in itself, and you immediately want to submit it, but it's so beneficial to have others read your essay for feedback. You can only spot so many holes in your work when your eyes are constantly reviewing it, so a second, third, or even fourth set of eyes can help point out areas for improvement.

Above all, trust the writing process. Though I do want you to be aware of your jargon, don't get too wrapped up in thinking you're making a mistake. That's what editing is for! Once you complete your college essay, you should always revise and edit accordingly . What you thought sounded good might make you edit it to sound great. Just keep in mind that many colleges are looking for honesty and authenticity vs how well you can sound on paper . So, if you're aware of these factors, you'll be good to go.

ways to overcome writers block

Ways to Overcome Writer's Block

Take it from someone who has suffered from chronic writer's block, it's a pain to get through . Imagine being on a writing streak so good that when you stop, the entire essay writing process stops as a whole. It's definitely a challenge, but after 10 years of writing essays and really honing my craft, I learned a few things that have helped me get through even the thickest of writer's blocks, and I want to share them with you. Check them out:

  • Take a break : This works every single time. Take a short break and step away from your computer to clear your mind and come back with a fresh perspective. For me, 15 minutes is all I ever need. If you need more time, that's okay. Just try not to make your break a rest.
  • Freewriting : Sometimes, I'd start writing without worrying about my structure or grammar to get the ideas flowing, and surprisingly enough, I found my essay taking a pleasant turn.
  • Change your environment : Move around. Don't underestimate the effects of a different location or workspace to stimulate creativity. Try coffee shops, bookstores, a park, or a new room in your house. New environment, new energy.
  • Set small goals : This one is actually the most important. Some people get overwhelmed with the word "essay" for things like lack of proper writing skills, pressure to write a great essay, etc. But if you try breaking down your writing task into smaller, manageable chunks to make it less overwhelming, it can help. For example, set a goal of three paragraphs one day, take a day to edit those paragraphs, two more the next day, and so forth. Find a formula that works for you.
  • Brainstorming : Write down all your ideas--everything. No matter how small you think the idea is, write it down. Even if these ideas seem unrelated, they will help you generate new thoughts and connections.
  • Read or listen to music : It took me a while to realize this helps, but engaging in other forms of art can inspire new ideas and break through mental blocks. And new creativity can lead you to impress admissions officers.
  • Talk it out : As a writer, it's hard to let people in on the creative process, but discussing my ideas with a friend, family member, or colleague helped me gain new perspectives and insights.
  • Relax and Meditate : Hear me out: it works! Practice deep breathing and/or meditation to reduce stress and anxiety that may be contributing to writer's block.

I won't sugarcoat it: the college application process can be intimidating , but it doesn't have to throw you off your game. When it comes to college essays, I see them as opportunities to be fun and expressive. Trust me when I say if you have fun with it, you'll attract the reader's attention , paint vivid details, and write an essay that will leave the admissions officer wanting you at their school. So, take it one step at a time and watch your personal statement come to life.

essays

How can I make my college essay stand out to admissions officers?

Simply put, be yourself. As long as you stay on track with the essay's topic, showing pieces of yourself will allow admissions officers to know more about who you are. Essays are meant to show readers who you are, how you feel, and what you think naturally, not robotically, so be authentic in your writing, and you'll be sure to stand out amongst the rest.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a college essay?

Some common mistakes to avoid in your essay are using cliches and boring wording. You also want to avoid procrastinating, wasting time, not focusing, not editing, etc. When writing your essay, you want to make sure you give your writing the time and attention it deserves, so make sure you're aware of what is pulling you away from your writing. This will help you stay focused. If you have any other doubts, refer to the section about mistakes in this article and let it guide you to success.

How important is the college essay in the admissions process?

Your college essay is key in the admissions process . It's an admissions committee's first impression of you as a writer and potential student, so it should be taken very seriously. Trying to cut corners or rush through the writing process will be obvious, and it will stand out more than things like test scores, academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and any other positive influence you've had in your life. So, don't take the easy way out and really work on your essay.

Feeling confident in your college essay skills and want to explore some other essay content? Explore our blog on the comma splice to enhance your technical writing skills!

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  • May 30, 2024
  • 11th Grade , 12th Grade , College Admissions , Common App

How To Answer Common App Essay Prompts: 2024-25

Trying to figure out if the Common App essay prompts are any different this year? Well, we’re here to answer that. We’re going to give you, a college student-to-be, as much guidance on how to approach the Common App essay prompts as possible. Learn what the prompts are, which are most popular, and how to answer them effectively.

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Fill out this form to book your complimentary initial consultation., are the 2024-25 common app essay prompts different from last year.

Student thinking about common app essay prompts

These open-ended prompts are designed with flexibility in mind, inviting students to explore a wide array of topics and themes. Whether you wish to recount a pivotal moment that shaped your worldview, delve into an intellectual passion that ignites your curiosity, or provide a glimpse into your background and how it has influenced your identity, there is a prompt ready to serve as the ideal canvas for your unique narrative.

The Common App essay prompts are here and there are no surprises this year! All seven prompts remain unchanged, providing students with a diverse range of options to share their stories, perspectives, and experiences that truly capture who they are as individuals.

What are the Common App essay prompts for 2024-25?

The Common App college essay plays a vital role in your application process to get into the elite and Ivy League colleges . As stated before, there are no new prompts this year. The Common App essay prompts are as follows:

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Which Common App prompts are the most popular?

The Common Application essay prompts that were most popular according to Common App analytics are prompt 7: the choose your own topic, prompt 5: Explain an accomplishment, and coming in third prompt 2: a setback or failure.

While these prompts may resonate widely due to their broad, relatable nature, admission officers encourage students to approach them with originality and authenticity. Your personal statement is a prime opportunity to showcase your unique voice and perspective. It’s your chance to stand out in a sea of applications .

Should you choose the most popular prompts?

Instead of simply selecting the most popular Common App prompts, the key is to find one that genuinely resonates with your experiences and allows you to showcase your authentic voice. Don’t let popularity alone dictate your choice. Carefully consider each prompt, and gravitate towards the one that enables you to craft a compelling personal statement that captures the essence of who you are. Prioritize prompts that provide an ideal canvas for your unique narrative to shine.

High school student writing common app essays

Breaking Down the 2024-25 Common App Essay Prompts

Now we’re going to go through the college application essay prompts and answer Common App essay questions you may have. Our goal is to give you the additional information that you are looking for.

Prompt 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

With this prompt, you have the opportunity to write about one of your favorite extracurricular or academic passions. It allows you to interweave a narrative that displays personal growth in that area. An essay that displays your personality and unique interest is sure to grab the attention of admissions officers.

Prompt 2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. While it’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as not winning an award, another (perhaps more powerful) tactic is to write about a foundational failure and assess its impact on your development thereafter.

Prompt 3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Don’t be deterred by the seeming gravity of this prompt. While questioning deeply-rooted societal norms might seem like the expectation, admissions officers are equally interested in how you navigate challenging beliefs or ideas in your daily life. Highlight an experience where you respectfully challenged assumptions, even on a smaller scale. Perhaps you embraced an unconventional interest despite social pressures, or formed an unexpected connection that defied norms. The key is illustrating your ability to think critically, approach ideas with an open yet discerning mindset, and drive meaningful growth. 

Prompt 4: Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

While this prompt may seem to be asking a simple question, your answer has the potential to provide deep insights into who you are to the admissions committee. Explaining what you are grateful for can show them your culture, your community, your philosophical outlook on the world, and what makes you agitated.

Prompt 5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

This prompt is expansive in that you can choose any accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked personal growth or new understanding. A fairly simple prompt that you have the chance to make your own and impress the college admissions officers with.

Prompt 6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

If you want to expand and deepen a seemingly small or simple idea, topic, or concept, this is a great prompt to choose. For example, you could talk about trees. Maybe you grew up in the country or would always go to the park. This can translate to a deeper meaning, your love for nature grows and you end up wanting to be an environmental biologist.

Prompt 7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Coming in as one of the most popular prompts for a reason, this prompt allows you to write anything you want to express, even if it doesn’t align directly with one of the other prompts. While this prompt is very open-ended, it doesn’t mean you can adapt any essay you’ve written and think it will suffice. Make sure to do some brainstorming and incorporate an out-of-the-box essay that will leave an impact on the admissions committee.

How many Common App essays are required?

When you use the Common App , you only have to write one essay based on the prompts above and it will qualify for all the colleges that are associated with the app. This will be most of the colleges that you apply to, but double-check before applying!

What makes a great Common App essay?

The best way to make your essay great is to ensure that you are making a deep personal connection. Think about the people who will be reading your essay; These college admission officers are reading hundreds of essays so make sure yours is the one that stands out. If they feel connected to your essay, you’ll have a great chance of getting accepted.

Key takeaways about answering the Common App questions

Now that you know all about the Common App essay prompts, you can conduct proper research to make yours the best one yet. Remember to stay personal and original within your writing and follow our essay tips to help you out.

Our college admissions experts are always here to guide you through writing your Common App essays. Through our comprehensive curriculum, individualized coaching, and writing specialists, you are set for success as soon as you connect with us.

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73 Best Colleges Without Supplemental Essays – 2024

May 27, 2024

When college application season arrives, it’s easy for students to become overwhelmed about the essays. There’s the personal statement , which many students have a general idea about, and then there are the supplemental essays. Supplemental essays can cover a range of college-specific prompts that help the colleges better understand why you’d be a great fit . Due to how personal and varied the supplemental essays can be, students often end up spending weeks, if not months, writing them.

However, across the country, there are colleges that do not require supplemental essays at all. For some students, applying to colleges without supplemental essays can make the overall application process much smoother. Benefits include experiencing less stress in their application preparation and diversifying prospective colleges while focusing more on their priority schools. Sometimes, though, these schools do ask for program-specific essays or optional essays, depending on the applicant.

Best Colleges without Supplemental Essays

1) albion college.

At Albion College, the application essay is not required, but it is recommended. Students are encouraged to provide any more details that they believe the admissions team should consider.

2) Allegheny College

As noted on their website, Allegheny College has not required the supplemental essay since their 2013-2014 application cycle. Students will find more essay questions in the Member Questions section of the Common Application.

3) Augusta University

Augusta University joins the list of colleges without supplemental essays as they do not require a personal essay at all. They do still require SAT or ACT scores and GPA.

4) Bates College

Since 1984, Bates College has not required SAT Subject Tests or ACT scores in their applications. There is an optional arts supplement for students who are applying to study art, creative writing, dance, film, music, and theater.

5) Case Western Reserve University

At Case Western Reserve University, the Common Application personal essay is required. However, if you’re applying to the Pre-Professional Scholars Program, then you’ll have to write supplemental essays.

Best Colleges Without Supplemental Essays (Continued)

6) clemson university.

Clemson University does not require students to complete a personal essay with the Common or Coalition Application. There is also a test-optional policy that may appeal to some students.

7) Coe College

At Coe College, the personal essay is optional for students who meet the college’s minimum academic standards. Coe College joins the list of colleges without supplemental essays that also have a test-optional policy.

8) Colby College

Colby College accepts the Common Application, Coalition Application, and QuestBridge Application, and they do not have any additional writing supplements. Test scores are optional for applicants at Colby College, and there is no application fee.

9) Colgate University

Colgate University is one of the colleges without supplemental essays required, but there is the option to write them. As stated on their website, “These prompts are not meant to feel like essays; they are simply an added perspective.

10) College of the Holy Cross

College of the Holy Cross does not require supplemental essays, but the following are optional: personal interview, SAT or ACT scores, and supplementary materials.

11) Denison University

Denison University joins this list of colleges without supplemental essays. Their website states that they wish to provide “equal access” to a Denison education, and they are also test-optional.

12) DePaul University

For first-year student applicants at DePaul University, personal essays are not required but optional. They have also been a test-optional university since 2012.

13) Dillard University

Dillard University is the oldest HBCU in Louisiana and is one of the colleges with no supplemental essay requirements. However, if students do not meet the minimum GPA and standardized test score requirements, then they must submit two letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

14) Drew University

At Drew University, a personal statement is required, along with a counselor evaluation, teacher evaluation, and high school transcript.

15) Drexel University

Drexel University joins the list of colleges without supplemental essays. They do require all students to complete the 250 to 650 essay on the Common or Coalition Application. However, the short answer question is optional.

16) Fairleigh Dickinson University

At Fairleigh Dickinson University, all essays, résumés, and recommendations are optional.

17) Florida Gulf Coast University

The only essay required by Florida Gulf Coast University is a two-page personal essay that discusses academic performance, special talents, and what the student can contribute to the campus.

18) Florida State University

Although Florida State University is one of the colleges without supplemental essays, students should invest time into the Common Application personal statement.

19) Fordham University

At Fordham University, the Common Application essay is required, but there are also optional writing sections. If students choose not to write in these sections, they will not be penalized.

20) Franklin and Marshall College

Franklin and Marshall College joins this list of colleges without supplemental essays. They do require the personal essay in the Common Application, as well as standardized test scores, recommendations and other materials.

21) Furman University

At Furman University, first-year applicants do not need to submit a personal essay, and they are also test-optional.

22) Gannon University

Gannon University does not require students to submit a personal statement. It is optional but recommended for students to submit a statement. However, it is required for LECOM 4+4 Medical Program applicants.

23) Gettysburg College

Although Gettysburg College joins the list of colleges without supplemental essays, it does require a personal statement on the Common Application.

24) Grinnell College

Grinnell College does not require supplemental essays and it also does not have an application fee. Standardized test scores are also optional.

25) Hamilton College

Although Hamilton College joins this list of colleges without supplemental essays, the optional essays are still encouraged.

26) Hampshire College

Hampshire College only requires supplemental essays from international students applying as first-year or transfer students.

27) Hanover College

Hanover College states on their website that the essay or personal statement is optional, alongside test scores, letters of recommendation and résumé.

28) Hollins University

At Hollins University, for first-year students no personal statement is required and standardized test scores are optional.

29) Howard University

Howard University requires students to complete the Common Application essay and there is one optional supplemental essay.

30) Indiana University – Bloomington

Students applying to Indiana University – Bloomington must write the one essay in the Common Application or through Apply IU.

31) Kent State University

At Kent State University, first-year students are not required to submit a personal essay or a letter of recommendation. Test scores are also optional.

32) Kenyon College

Kenyon College joins this list as it is one of the colleges without supplemental essays. For first-year and transfer students, test scores are optional and flexible.

33) Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University does require the Common Application personal statement, but as of its most recent admissions cycle, no supplemental essay is required.

34) Mercer University

At Mercer University, applicants who wish to be test-optional must complete the supplemental essays. They must also have a 3.5 GPA and letter of recommendation.

35) Miami University

Miami University, not to be confused with the University of Miami, requires the Common App personal statement but not the supplemental essays.

36) Michigan State University

Michigan State University requires students to write only one essay on the MSU application, Common Application or Coalition Application.

37) Middlebury College

Middlebury College is one of the best colleges without supplemental essays. They do still require the personal statement on the Common Application.

38) Muhlenberg College

Muhlenberg College requires students to submit the personal essay but no other supplemental essays.

39) New College of Florida

New College of Florida is one of the many colleges with no supplemental essays. However, they do still require a personal statement.

40) New Jersey Institute of Technology

New Jersey Institute of Technology only requires a personal statement included in the Common Application. There is no supplemental essay requirement.

41) New York Institute of Technology

Students applying to the New York Institute of Technology are required to write a 300 to 350 word essay as their only essay. They may require test-optional applicants to submit a graded essay.

42) Northeastern University

Northeastern is one of the best colleges without a supplemental essay requirement. They do require a personal statement, alongside other materials.

43) Nova Southeastern University

At Nova Southeastern University, the essay is entirely optional, and students can self-report their test scores.

44) Oberlin College

Oberlin requires a personal statement, but does not require any supplemental essays.

45) Ohio State University

Ohio State University only requires a personal statement. However, they also offer a COVID-19 impact statement on the Common Application for interested students.

46) Ripon College

At Ripon College, the personal statement itself is optional for applicants, along with other materials.

47) Rhodes College

Rhodes College does not require a supplemental essay, but they have the option for students to record an optional “ Elevator Pitch .”

48) Rowan University

Rowan University requires a personal statement in the Common Application, but joins this list as a college without supplemental essays.

49) St. Lawrence University

St. Lawrence University has no supplemental essay requirement, but it still requires the personal statement essay. They are also test-optional, depending on the applicant.

50) St. Mary’s University (San Antonio)

For students applying to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, the personal statement is only required if they choose not to submit test scores.

51) Seton Hall University

At Seton Hall University, the personal statement is required, but there are no other supplemental essays.

52) Siena College

Siena College has made the personal statement (open topic) optional for students applying.

53) Skidmore College

While Skidmore College does not require supplemental essays, students do often send in supplemental materials to further support their application.

54) Stony Brook University

At Stony Brook University, only a personal statement is required. However, students applying to the Honors, WISE, University Scholars, Scholars for Medicine, and Scholars for Dental Medicine must write supplemental essays.

55) Sewanee: The University of the South

Sewanee does not require supplemental essays and SAT/ACT scores are also optional.

56) Susquehanna University

Susquehanna University only requires supplemental essay materials for students applying to the creative writing, graphic design, studio art, and music programs.

57) Temple University

Temple University offers an optional essay as part of the Common Application for students to tell more about themselves beyond grades or test scores.

58) Union College

Union College does offer an optional supplemental essay question as part of their application.

59) University of Alabama

At the University of Alabama, essay submissions and letters of recommendation are not required but they are optional.

60) University of Albany

University of Albany joins the list as one of the colleges without supplemental essays. However, it does require a personal essay of at least 250 words on the Common Application of SUNY Application.

61) University of Arkansas

At the University of Arkansas, first-year students are not required to submit a personal essay. They accept self-reported test scores and letters of recommendation are also not required.

62) University of Arizona

Although the University of Arizona does not require an application essay, they strongly encourage students to submit the 500-word personal statement.

63) University of Cincinnati

Students applying to the University of Cincinnati are required to write the Cincinnati personal statement and the Common Application personal statement. However, there are no other required essays.

64) University of Colorado-Denver

University of Colorado-Denver requires the personal statement on the Common Application, but not other supplemental essays.

65) University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut joins this list as one of the best colleges without supplemental essays. The university does require a personal essay on the Common Application or the Coalition Application.

66) University of Dayton

The University of Dayton does not require any supplemental essays, although it does require a personal statement. The university is also test-optional.

67) University of Denver

The University of Denver only requires the personal statement on the Common Application.

68) University of Houston

Students who apply to the University of Houston without a test score must submit a short admissions essay and extracurricular activities.

69) University of Iowa

The University of Iowa does require a personal statement as part of their application, but there is no supplemental essay requirement.

70) University of Kansas

The University of Kansas is a college without supplemental essay requirements for first-year students. However, students applying to the Honors Program or the Engineering SELF Program must submit their responses.

71) University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky requires students to write one personal statement from seven of their given writing prompts.

72) University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

For first-year students applying to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, the personal essay is not required, although it is encouraged.

73) University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln does not require a personal statement for first-year students. However, those applying to the Honors Program must write a 300-600 word essay.

Whether for the personal statement or any supplemental essay, writing college application essays can prove to be a challenging task. But if students plan ahead about how they want to approach the essays, it helps tremendously. Those who are about to apply to a college without supplemental essays can focus any extra time on other schools that do require them. It’s also great for students who wish to be considered primarily for their grades, test scores, personal statement and other reasons.

Best Colleges Without Supplemental Essays – Additional Resources 

  • 10 Instructive Common App Essay Examples 
  • How to Write a Body Paragraph for a College Essay
  • UC Essay Examples
  • Good Safety Schools
  • College Search/Knowledge

Joanna Hong

With a BA from Pitzer College and an MA from University College London, Joanna has worked in London, Berlin, and Los Angeles covering many cultural and political issues with organizations such as Byline Media, NK News, and Free Turkey Media. A freelancer for The New York Times, her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Dazed and Confused Magazine, and The Guardian, among others. In addition, Joanna was the recipient of the 2021 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship in Fiction and is currently completing her first novel.

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  1. How to Format a College Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    Again, we'd recommend sticking with standard fonts and sizes—Times New Roman, 12-point is a standard workhorse. You can probably go with 1.5 or double spacing. Standard margins. Basically, show them you're ready to write in college by using the formatting you'll normally use in college.

  2. College Application Essay Format Rules

    The college application essay has become the most important part of applying to college. In this article, we will go over the best college essay format for getting into top schools, including how to structure the elements of a college admissions essay: margins, font, paragraphs, spacing, headers, and organization.. We will focus on commonly asked questions about the best college essay structure.

  3. How to Format A College Essay: 15 Expert Tips

    Clearly delineate your paragraphs. A single tab at the beginning is fine. Use a font that's easy to read, like Times, Arial, Calibri, Cambria, etc. Avoid fonts like Papyrus and Curlz. And use 12 pt font. You may want to include a college essay heading with a page number and your application ID.

  4. Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

    Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor. 1. Start Early. Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school.

  5. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Tips for writing an effective college essay. College admissions essays are an important part of your college application and gives you the chance to show colleges and universities your character and experiences. This guide will give you tips to write an effective college essay.

  6. College Essay Format & Structure

    There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but you should carefully plan and outline to make sure your essay flows smoothly and logically. Typical structural choices include. a series of vignettes with a common theme. a single story that demonstrates your positive qualities. Although many structures can work, there ...

  7. How to Write a College Essay

    Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement. Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying "no" to other interests. Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness. Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself.

  8. How to Format and Structure Your College Essay

    1. In-the-moment narrative. This is where you tell the story one moment at a time, sharing the events as they occur. In the moment narrative is a powerful essay format, as your reader experiences the events, your thoughts, and your emotions with you. This structure is ideal for a specific experience involving extensive internal dialogue ...

  9. How to Write a College Application Essay

    Be on the lookout for words and phrases like "maybe," "sort of," and "I think" that might undercut that tone. At the same time, though, make sure to follow application guidelines about format and length. If the essay has a suggested 650-word maximum, your application will stand out—not in a good way—if you turn in 250 words. 6.

  10. College Essay Format: Top Writing and Editing Tips for 2024

    1. Be authentic. One of the most essential parts of how to format a college application essay is to be authentic. The college wants to know who you are, and they will be reading dozens of essays a day. The best way to make yours stand out is to just be yourself instead of focusing on what you think they want to hear.

  11. How to Write the Best College Application Essay

    Here are some things that admissions officers look for in a personal essay for college. 1. Open Strong. Knowing how to start a college essay can create a strong opening paragraph that immediately captures the reader's interest. You want to make the admissions officer reading your essay curious about what you say next. 2. Show You Can Write.

  12. Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

    Don't summarize. Avoid explicitly stating the point of your essay. It's far less effective when you spell it out for someone. Delete every single "That's when I realized," "I learned," and "The most important lesson was...". It's unnecessary, unconvincing, and takes the reader out of the moment.

  13. Writing a strong college admissions essay

    Transcript. College admissions essays should showcase a student's unique voice, intellectual curiosity, and resilience. Simple, everyday topics can make powerful essays. It's important to have someone read the essay and share their impressions, ensuring it reflects the student's personality and experiences. Questions.

  14. How to format and structure a college essay: A definitive guide

    1 - Start with a surprising "I am…" statement. This essay structure depends on hooking your reader's attention from the first line, so you want to start with something memorable, unexpected, and maybe even a bit confusing. Though often this means saying "I am…" it could just as easily be "I believe…" or "I have…".

  15. How to Write College Application Essays

    How to Structure Your Essay. A college application essay (like any academic essay) should have an introduction, a conclusion, and body paragraphs. Additionally, it should have overall coherence (that is, it should make a point) and cohesion (that is, it should flow well from paragraph to paragraph).

  16. How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

    Next, let's make sure you understand the different types of college essays. You'll most likely be writing a Common App or Coalition App essay, and you can also be asked to write supplemental essays for each school. Each essay has a prompt asking a specific question. Each of these prompts falls into one of a few different types.

  17. How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

    Here are some tips to get you started. Start early. Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don't have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to ...

  18. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Insert a quote from a well-known person. Challenge the reader with a common misconception. Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it ...

  19. How to format a college admission essay?

    5. Indentation: Indent the first line of each paragraph by using the Tab key or 5 spaces. This visually separates paragraphs and makes your essay easier to read. 6. Align your text to the left rather than justifying the margins. Justified text can create awkward gaps between words, making it harder to read. 7.

  20. How do I format a college essay?

    Your college essay's format should be as simple as possible: Use a standard, readable font. Use 1.5 or double spacing. If attaching a file, save it as a PDF. Stick to the word count.

  21. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts '17 graduate. 2. Write like a journalist. "Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading.

  22. Sample College Admission Essay 1 with Feedback

    Sample essay 1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you (500 word limit). A misplaced foot on the accelerator instead of the brakes made me the victim of someone's careless mistake. Rushing through the dark streets of my hometown in an ambulance, I attempted ...

  23. How to Start a College Essay: 5 Effective Techniques

    Ignoring the prompt: This is a major key. STAY ON TRACK. Make sure to carefully read and understand the essay prompt, and write your essay accordingly. The last thing you want to do is write a college essay that has nothing to do with the prompt. Reading is essential here.

  24. How To Answer Common App Essay Prompts: 2024-25

    The Common Application essay prompts that were most popular according to Common App analytics are prompt 7: the choose your own topic, prompt 5: Explain an accomplishment, and coming in third prompt 2: a setback or failure. While these prompts may resonate widely due to their broad, relatable nature, admission officers encourage students to ...

  25. 5 Strategies To Unlock Your Winning College Essay

    The best essays have clear, coherent language and are free of errors. The story is clearly and specifically told. After drafting, take the time to revise and polish your writing. Seek feedback ...

  26. How to End a College Admissions Essay

    Option 4: End on an action. Ending on an action can be a strong way to wrap up your essay. That might mean including a literal action, dialogue, or continuation of the story. These endings leave the reader wanting more rather than wishing the essay had ended sooner. They're interesting and can help you avoid boring your reader.

  27. 73 Best Colleges Without Supplemental Essays

    When college application season arrives, it's easy for students to become overwhelmed about the essays. There's the personal statement, which many students have a general idea about, and then there are the supplemental essays.Supplemental essays can cover a range of college-specific prompts that help the colleges better understand why you'd be a great fit.

  28. 3 Things To Consider When Hiring A Top Ivy League College ...

    If a consultancy promises insider information on the admissions process but fails to articulate specific strategies for helping your student boost their admissions profile, they are likely all ...