College Essay Format: How to structure your college admissions essay

Now that you’ve picked your college essay topic, it’s time to make sure your essay stands out from your peers. 

It’s essential to focus on structure, grammar, and punctuation to get the shell of your essay going – then it’s time for the juicy details that make the essay a representation of yourself.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

Electronic college essay submissions

While some schools still offer the option to submit your essay in paper format, the preferred option is to submit all college admission essays electronically. Not only can paper essays get lost in the mail, but drafting in a word processor will help you keep track of word count, use spell check, and take advantage of other grammar correcting resources.

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If you use other tools such as the Common Application, you may be asked to copy and paste the text from your current file to complete your essay submission. 

If you are copying and pasting an essay from one place to another, double-check that everything transferred over correctly. It would be a shame to put so much hard work into writing your college admissions essay to realize you cut off half of the last paragraph.

Structuring a college admissions essay

The actual format of your college admissions essay is important to pay attention to. Here are some basics when it comes to framing your essay:

  • 1-inch margins all around.
  • 1.5- or double-spaced text is preferred, you can single-space the document, but 1.5 or double spaced will make it easier on the reader.
  • Single tab spacing for each new paragraph, so the reader knows it’s a new segment.
  • Easy to read fonts: Times, Cambria, Calibri. Stay away from “script” type fonts as it will only make it harder to read and distract your audience.
  • Headers and page numbers to make it more organized.
  • Proper document format: .doc, .pdf, etc. Use whichever format the school requests.
  • Avoid using ALL CAPS.
  • Titles should only be included if asked. Otherwise, they take away from your word count.

The bread of the essay

Your college essay does not have to be a standard essay with a specific paragraph count. Instead, focus on getting the content right.

Think of your essay like a sandwich — your introduction and conclusion paragraphs are the bread, and everything in-between is the details you want to add. As long as you are within the word count, you can add as much “meat, toppings, condiments” to that essay sandwich as you’d like.

Talk about your life experiences, wisdom, or lessons you learned, and how something may have changed you. Ultimately, it’s your chance to get away from the standard essay and create something that is all about you.