Caleb S.
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College Application Essay Format - Guidelines and Examples

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Published on: Oct 20, 2020

Last updated on: Apr 19, 2023

College Application Essay Format

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College admissions officers are looking for more than just good grades. They want to see that you're a well-rounded person with interests outside of school. The essay is your chance to show them who you are and what makes you unique.

A strong writing style can make or break the impression you give off in this crucial application component.

Formatting a college application essay is an intimidating task. There are so many rules to follow and requirements that it can be hard to know where to start.

To help you out, we have compiled some formatting guidelines and examples of essays for your reference!

You'll find a list of tips on what not to do, as well as the best ways to make your essay stand out from the rest.

What is a College Application Essay Format?

A college application essay is an important part of getting into the right school. The admission committee can judge you by a simple glance at your words, so it's crucial that they're read carefully. In addition, a proper format can make your words more impactful and structured for the admission officers.

A college application essay format helps the essay to be well-organized and have a clear structure. A well-written essay with the correct formatting style is a major factor in showing off your personality, interests, and academic goals.

An incorrect formatting style makes one's efforts fall short, as it reduces their chances of being accepted into a university and succeeding academically while being there.

Thus, make sure to read the formatting guidelines and tips below to format your college application essay in the best way possible.

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Types of College Application Essay Structures

When it comes to writing a college application essay, there are three traditional structures that you can use. These are further explained below.

  • In-the-moment Narrative

The in-the-moment narrative is when you tell the story as it is happening. You share events that occur and what you are thinking or feeling at that moment. The in the moment narrative is powerful because it makes your reader experience the event with you.

It might be best for an event with lots of internal dialogue, emotions, and reflection.

For in-the-moment essays, people often go overboard on descriptions. They provide too many details, but this essay does not do that. The writer just gives the right amount of background and detail to help us understand what is happening. They balance out the event with a reflection on what this experience means to them.

  • Extended Time Narrative

In this essay structure, you will share a story that happens over time. You can use different parts of your life to show how you have changed. This is a good structure if you want to show your development over time.

The writer explores her conflicting emotions in an engaging and reflective tone. This is because the piece also focuses on personal transformation, which makes it well-suited for a college application essay.

  • Anecdote and Montage Series

This essay has a lot of parts. You can focus on one thing and tell it in detail, or you can tell many things that show what you are like. Montage is when you put many different things together to form a whole story.

This technique is most often used in movies, but it can also be used when writing essays. For instance, imagine your favorite movie: It probably features lots of different scenes and is not always in order.

How to Format a College Application Essay?

There are some guidelines that everyone should follow when writing a college application essay. The most important part of the essay is the formatting. Some people have trouble with this, so it can be stressful for them to write their essays.

Here are some guidelines that you should follow to format your college application essay properly and effectively.

Structuring Your Essay into Standard Sections

A good college application essay should have three main sections: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Each of these sections is further explained below.

  • College Application Essay Introduction

When you start writing your college essay, don’t forget to mention the introduction. It is important because it introduces you to the person reading it.

The introduction starts with an attention-grabbing opening sentence. The first sentence in this paragraph should be the topic of your essay. The introduction should not be too long or too short.

In the introduction, do not list arguments. Make sure that you start with an introduction sentence about what you are going to talk about. The paragraph should describe the main point of your essay. End with a sentence that states your thesis statement.

  • College Application Essay Body Paragraphs

In the body paragraphs, you will provide information that supports your thesis statement. You need to do a lot of work and think about it carefully. Support your statements with facts and evidence. Make sure that you follow the proper format and make it easy to read.

You can write and organize your body paragraphs according to any of the three structures mentioned above.

  • College Application Essay Conclusion

In this paragraph, you should summarize the whole college essay. Include some of the points you made in the body paragraphs to explain why you are the best candidate and deserve that admission.

The best way to do this is to restate your thesis statement and then convince your reader with the facts you have discussed in your body paragraphs.

Use the Standard Font Style and Size

In college applications, you should use Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri fonts. The font size is 12 points, and the font should be easy to read.

Do not use fancy fonts, emojis, hashtags, or underlines in your essay writing. Also, do not use ALL CAPITAL letters in your writing.

Write a Proper Title of the Essay

The title is the first thing that people read. The title words make the first impression on people. When you write your essay, be sure to include the title in the headings at the top of each page. You can use these to tell what your essay is about.

You can base the title of your essay on the essay prompt or essay topics provided by the admission committee. If they haven’t specified any, then you are free to choose one by yourself.

Do not use a vague title like "My Life.” Be clear and make it sound interesting, so people want to read it.

Include Page Headings

The heading is an important part of your essay. It should include the professor's name, title, and submission date. The heading should be less than ten words and must be in bold type. It is written at the top of the page, on the left-hand side.

The page headings must be written carefully and correctly follow a proper format.

Attach the Required Documents

When you attach a document, make sure it is in the right file format. The committee only accepts word files or PDF documents. If you are creating a document, make sure to save it as a PDF because they are uneditable and always looks the same.

Cite the Sources in the Required Citation Style

You can avoid plagiarism and give credit to the author or authors by citing sources. When you cite a source, make sure that there are no mistakes in your work.

Every school has a different academic style, but you should know which style your school prefers before writing your citations. Some students use MLA, APA, Chicago, or Harvard citation styles in their essays.

These are the standard guidelines for creating a well-formatted college application essay.

Examples of College Application Essay Format

If you want to write a good essay on your own, then check these examples. You might be able to use them for your help and create a successful application essay.

Tips for Formatting a College Application Essay Well

The formatting and writing process can be daunting, but these expert tips will make it easier for you.

  • Always type your personal statements or college essay in the word processing software. Then you can copy it and paste it into the application text box.
  • Make your essay like a feature story. You can write about something that has happened to you, make up a story, or write about something you see happening.
  • In your essay, explain why you think you are the best candidate for admission.
  • When you write, don't use informal ways of expressing yourself. Moreover, avoid making formatting choices that are too informal.
  • It is important to use consistent indentation or double spaces when writing. his will help your writing look more professional and organized.
  • Be mindful of the required word count by the high school, college, or university you are writing for.
  • Imagine you are the examiner. Read your essay from their perspective. Think about what he or she might think of the essay that you have written.
  • Double-check your essay for any mistakes or errors before submission.
  • If you're looking to boost your college application, be more creative than just describing the grades and test scores.
  • Don't forget to save your essay in PDF format before submitting your essay.

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Caleb S.


Caleb S., Literature, Marketing

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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