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College Application Essay Format Rules

letter college essay format

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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How to Format and Structure Your College Essay

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College essays are an entirely new type of writing for high school seniors. For that reason, many students are confused about proper formatting and essay structure. Should you double-space or single-space? Do you need a title? What kind of narrative style is best-suited for your topic?

In this post, we’ll be going over proper college essay format, traditional and unconventional essay structures (plus sample essays!), and which structure might work best for you. 

General College Essay Formatting Guidelines

How you format your essay will depend on whether you’re submitting in a text box, or attaching a document. We’ll go over the different best practices for both, but regardless of how you’re submitting, here are some general formatting tips:

  • There’s no need for a title; it takes up unnecessary space and eats into your word count
  • Stay within the word count as much as possible (+/- 10% of the upper limit). For further discussion on college essay length, see our post How Long Should Your College Essay Be?
  • Indent or double space to separate paragraphs clearly

If you’re submitting in a text box:

  • Avoid italics and bold, since formatting often doesn’t transfer over in text boxes
  • Be careful with essays meant to be a certain shape (like a balloon); text boxes will likely not respect that formatting. Beyond that, this technique can also seem gimmicky, so proceed with caution
  • Make sure that paragraphs are clearly separated, as text boxes can also undo indents and double spacing

If you’re attaching a document:

  • Use a standard font and size like Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Make your lines 1.5-spaced or double-spaced
  • Use 1-inch margins
  • Save as a PDF since it can’t be edited. This also prevents any formatting issues that come with Microsoft Word, since older versions are sometimes incompatible with the newer formatting
  • Number each page with your last name in the header or footer (like “Smith 1”)
  • Pay extra attention to any word limits, as you won’t be cut off automatically, unlike with most text boxes

Conventional College Essay Structures

Now that we’ve gone over the logistical aspects of your essay, let’s talk about how you should structure your writing. There are three traditional college essay structures. They are:

  • In-the-moment narrative
  • Narrative told over an extended period of time
  • Series of anecdotes, or montage

Let’s go over what each one is exactly, and take a look at some real essays using these structures.

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, emotions, and reflections.

Here’s an example:

The morning of the Model United Nation conference, I walked into Committee feeling confident about my research. We were simulating the Nuremberg Trials – a series of post-World War II proceedings for war crimes – and my portfolio was of the Soviet Judge Major General Iona Nikitchenko. Until that day, the infamous Nazi regime had only been a chapter in my history textbook; however, the conference’s unveiling of each defendant’s crimes brought those horrors to life. The previous night, I had organized my research, proofread my position paper and gone over Judge Nikitchenko’s pertinent statements. I aimed to find the perfect balance between his stance and my own.

As I walked into committee anticipating a battle of wits, my director abruptly called out to me. “I’m afraid we’ve received a late confirmation from another delegate who will be representing Judge Nikitchenko. You, on the other hand, are now the defense attorney, Otto Stahmer.” Everyone around me buzzed around the room in excitement, coordinating with their allies and developing strategies against their enemies, oblivious to the bomb that had just dropped on me. I felt frozen in my tracks, and it seemed that only rage against the careless delegate who had confirmed her presence so late could pull me out of my trance. After having spent a month painstakingly crafting my verdicts and gathering evidence against the Nazis, I now needed to reverse my stance only three hours before the first session.

Gradually, anger gave way to utter panic. My research was fundamental to my performance, and without it, I knew I could add little to the Trials. But confident in my ability, my director optimistically recommended constructing an impromptu defense. Nervously, I began my research anew. Despite feeling hopeless, as I read through the prosecution’s arguments, I uncovered substantial loopholes. I noticed a lack of conclusive evidence against the defendants and certain inconsistencies in testimonies. My discovery energized me, inspiring me to revisit the historical overview in my conference “Background Guide” and to search the web for other relevant articles. Some Nazi prisoners had been treated as “guilty” before their court dates. While I had brushed this information under the carpet while developing my position as a judge, it now became the focus of my defense. I began scratching out a new argument, centered on the premise that the allied countries had violated the fundamental rule that, a defendant was “not guilty” until proven otherwise.

At the end of the three hours, I felt better prepared. The first session began, and with bravado, I raised my placard to speak. Microphone in hand, I turned to face my audience. “Greetings delegates. I, Otto Stahmer would like to…….” I suddenly blanked. Utter dread permeated my body as I tried to recall my thoughts in vain. “Defence Attorney, Stahmer we’ll come back to you,” my Committee Director broke the silence as I tottered back to my seat, flushed with embarrassment. Despite my shame, I was undeterred. I needed to vindicate my director’s faith in me. I pulled out my notes, refocused, and began outlining my arguments in a more clear and direct manner. Thereafter, I spoke articulately, confidently putting forth my points. I was overjoyed when Secretariat members congratulated me on my fine performance.

Going into the conference, I believed that preparation was the key to success. I wouldn’t say I disagree with that statement now, but I believe adaptability is equally important. My ability to problem-solve in the face of an unforeseen challenge proved advantageous in the art of diplomacy. Not only did this experience transform me into a confident and eloquent delegate at that conference, but it also helped me become a more flexible and creative thinker in a variety of other capacities. Now that I know I can adapt under pressure, I look forward to engaging in activities that will push me to be even quicker on my feet.

This essay is an excellent example of in-the-moment narration. The student openly shares their internal state with us — we feel their anger and panic upon the reversal of roles. We empathize with their emotions of “utter dread” and embarrassment when they’re unable to speak. 

For in-the-moment essays, overloading on descriptions is a common mistake students make. This writer provides just the right amount of background and details to help us understand the situation, however, and balances out the actual event with reflection on the significance of this experience. 

One main area of improvement is that the writer sometimes makes explicit statements that could be better illustrated through their thoughts, actions, and feelings. For instance, they say they “spoke articulately” after recovering from their initial inability to speak, and they also claim that adaptability has helped them in other situations. This is not as engaging as actual examples that convey the same meaning. Still, this essay overall is a strong example of in-the-moment narration, and gives us a relatable look into the writer’s life and personality.

2. Narrative told over an extended period of time

In this essay structure, you share a story that takes place across several different experiences. This narrative style is well-suited for any story arc with multiple parts. If you want to highlight your development over time, you might consider this structure. 

When I was younger, I was adamant that no two foods on my plate touch. As a result, I often used a second plate to prevent such an atrocity. In many ways, I learned to separate different things this way from my older brothers, Nate and Rob. Growing up, I idolized both of them. Nate was a performer, and I insisted on arriving early to his shows to secure front row seats, refusing to budge during intermission for fear of missing anything. Rob was a three-sport athlete, and I attended his games religiously, waving worn-out foam cougar paws and cheering until my voice was hoarse. My brothers were my role models. However, while each was talented, neither was interested in the other’s passion. To me, they represented two contrasting ideals of what I could become: artist or athlete. I believed I had to choose.

And for a long time, I chose athlete. I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and viewed myself exclusively as an athlete, believing the arts were not for me. I conveniently overlooked that since the age of five, I had been composing stories for my family for Christmas, gifts that were as much for me as them, as I loved writing. So when in tenth grade, I had the option of taking a creative writing class, I was faced with a question: could I be an athlete and a writer? After much debate, I enrolled in the class, feeling both apprehensive and excited. When I arrived on the first day of school, my teacher, Ms. Jenkins, asked us to write down our expectations for the class. After a few minutes, eraser shavings stubbornly sunbathing on my now-smudged paper, I finally wrote, “I do not expect to become a published writer from this class. I just want this to be a place where I can write freely.”

Although the purpose of the class never changed for me, on the third “submission day,” – our time to submit writing to upcoming contests and literary magazines – I faced a predicament. For the first two submission days, I had passed the time editing earlier pieces, eventually (pretty quickly) resorting to screen snake when hopelessness made the words look like hieroglyphics. I must not have been as subtle as I thought, as on the third of these days, Ms. Jenkins approached me. After shifting from excuse to excuse as to why I did not submit my writing, I finally recognized the real reason I had withheld my work: I was scared. I did not want to be different, and I did not want to challenge not only others’ perceptions of me, but also my own. I yielded to Ms. Jenkin’s pleas and sent one of my pieces to an upcoming contest.

By the time the letter came, I had already forgotten about the contest. When the flimsy white envelope arrived in the mail, I was shocked and ecstatic to learn that I had received 2nd place in a nationwide writing competition. The next morning, however, I discovered Ms. Jenkins would make an announcement to the whole school exposing me as a poet. I decided to own this identity and embrace my friends’ jokes and playful digs, and over time, they have learned to accept and respect this part of me. I have since seen more boys at my school identifying themselves as writers or artists.

I no longer see myself as an athlete and a poet independently, but rather I see these two aspects forming a single inseparable identity – me. Despite their apparent differences, these two disciplines are quite similar, as each requires creativity and devotion. I am still a poet when I am lacing up my cleats for soccer practice and still an athlete when I am building metaphors in the back of my mind – and I have realized ice cream and gummy bears taste pretty good together.

The timeline of this essay spans from the writer’s childhood all the way to sophomore year, but we only see key moments along this journey. First, we get context for why the writer thought he had to choose one identity: his older brothers had very distinct interests. Then, we learn about the student’s 10th grade creative writing class, writing contest, and results of the contest. Finally, the essay covers the writers’ embarrassment of his identity as a poet, to gradual acceptance and pride in that identity. 

This essay is a great example of a narrative told over an extended period of time. It’s highly personal and reflective, as the piece shares the writer’s conflicting feelings, and takes care to get to the root of those feelings. Furthermore, the overarching story is that of a personal transformation and development, so it’s well-suited to this essay structure.

3. Series of anecdotes, or montage

This essay structure allows you to focus on the most important experiences of a single storyline, or it lets you feature multiple (not necessarily related) stories that highlight your personality. Montage is a structure where you piece together separate scenes to form a whole story. This technique is most commonly associated with film. Just envision your favorite movie—it likely is a montage of various scenes that may not even be chronological. 

Night had robbed the academy of its daytime colors, yet there was comfort in the dim lights that cast shadows of our advances against the bare studio walls. Silhouettes of roundhouse kicks, spin crescent kicks, uppercuts and the occasional butterfly kick danced while we sparred. She approached me, eyes narrowed with the trace of a smirk challenging me. “Ready spar!” Her arm began an upward trajectory targeting my shoulder, a common first move. I sidestepped — only to almost collide with another flying fist. Pivoting my right foot, I snapped my left leg, aiming my heel at her midsection. The center judge raised one finger. 

There was no time to celebrate, not in the traditional sense at least. Master Pollard gave a brief command greeted with a unanimous “Yes, sir” and the thud of 20 hands dropping-down-and-giving-him-30, while the “winners” celebrated their victory with laps as usual. 

Three years ago, seven-thirty in the evening meant I was a warrior. It meant standing up straighter, pushing a little harder, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”, celebrating birthdays by breaking boards, never pointing your toes, and familiarity. Three years later, seven-thirty in the morning meant I was nervous. 

The room is uncomfortably large. The sprung floor soaks up the checkerboard of sunlight piercing through the colonial windows. The mirrored walls further illuminate the studio and I feel the light scrutinizing my sorry attempts at a pas de bourrée , while capturing the organic fluidity of the dancers around me. “ Chassé en croix, grand battement, pique, pirouette.” I follow the graceful limbs of the woman in front of me, her legs floating ribbons, as she executes what seems to be a perfect ronds de jambes. Each movement remains a negotiation. With admirable patience, Ms. Tan casts me a sympathetic glance.   

There is no time to wallow in the misery that is my right foot. Taekwondo calls for dorsiflexion; pointed toes are synonymous with broken toes. My thoughts drag me into a flashback of the usual response to this painful mistake: “You might as well grab a tutu and head to the ballet studio next door.” Well, here I am Master Pollard, unfortunately still following your orders to never point my toes, but no longer feeling the satisfaction that comes with being a third degree black belt with 5 years of experience quite literally under her belt. It’s like being a white belt again — just in a leotard and ballet slippers. 

But the appetite for new beginnings that brought me here doesn’t falter. It is only reinforced by the classical rendition of “Dancing Queen” that floods the room and the ghost of familiarity that reassures me that this new beginning does not and will not erase the past. After years spent at the top, it’s hard to start over. But surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become. In Taekwondo, we started each class reciting the tenets: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet. 

The thing about change is that it eventually stops making things so different. After nine different schools, four different countries, three different continents, fluency in Tamil, Norwegian, and English, there are more blurred lines than there are clear fragments. My life has not been a tactfully executed, gold medal-worthy Taekwondo form with each movement defined, nor has it been a series of frappés performed by a prima ballerina with each extension identical and precise, but thankfully it has been like the dynamics of a spinning back kick, fluid, and like my chances of landing a pirouette, unpredictable. 

This essay takes a few different anecdotes and weaves them into a coherent narrative about the writer’s penchant for novel experiences. We’re plunged into her universe, in the middle of her Taekwondo spar, three years before the present day. She then transitions into a scene in a ballet studio, present day. By switching from past tense to present tense, the writer clearly demarcates this shift in time. 

The parallel use of the spoken phrase “Point” in the essay ties these two experiences together. The writer also employs a flashback to Master Pollard’s remark about “grabbing a tutu” and her habit of dorsiflexing her toes, which further cements the connection between these anecdotes. 

While some of the descriptions are a little wordy, the piece is well-executed overall, and is a stellar example of the montage structure. The two anecdotes are seamlessly intertwined, and they both clearly illustrate the student’s determination, dedication, reflectiveness, and adaptability. The writer also concludes the essay with a larger reflection on her life, many moves, and multiple languages. 

Unconventional College Essay Structures

Unconventional essay structures are any that don’t fit into the categories above. These tend to be higher risk, as it’s easier to turn off the admissions officer, but they’re also higher reward if executed correctly. 

There are endless possibilities for unconventional structures, but most fall under one of two categories:

1. Playing with essay format

Instead of choosing a traditional narrative format, you might take a more creative route to showcase your interests, writing your essay:

  • As a movie script
  • With a creative visual format (such as creating a visual pattern with the spaces between your sentences forming a picture)
  • As a two-sided Lincoln-Douglas debate
  • As a legal brief
  • Using song lyrics

2. Linguistic techniques

You could also play with the actual language and sentence structure of your essay, writing it:

  • In iambic pentameter
  • Partially in your mother tongue
  • In code or a programming language

These linguistic techniques are often hybrid, where you write some of the essay with the linguistic variation, then write more of an explanation in English.

Under no circumstances should you feel pressured to use an unconventional structure. Trying to force something unconventional will only hurt your chances. That being said, if a creative structure comes naturally to you, suits your personality, and works with the content of your essay — go for that structure!

←What is a College Application Theme and How Do You Come Up With One?

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

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How to Format an Essay

Last Updated: April 11, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Carrie Adkins, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Aly Rusciano . Carrie Adkins is the cofounder of NursingClio, an open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog that connects historical scholarship to current issues in gender and medicine. She completed her PhD in American History at the University of Oregon in 2013. While completing her PhD, she earned numerous competitive research grants, teaching fellowships, and writing awards. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 87,675 times.

You’re opening your laptop to write an essay, knowing exactly what you want to write, but then it hits you—you don’t know how to format it! Using the correct format when writing an essay can help your paper look polished and professional while earning you full credit. There are 3 common essay formats—MLA, APA, and Chicago Style—and we’ll teach you the basics of properly formatting each in this article. So, before you shut your laptop in frustration, take a deep breath and keep reading because soon you’ll be formatting like a pro.

Setting Up Your Document

Step 1 Read over the assignment’s guidelines before you begin.

  • If you can’t find information on the style guide you should be following, talk to your instructor after class to discuss the assignment or send them a quick email with your questions.
  • If your instructor lets you pick the format of your essay, opt for the style that matches your course or degree best: MLA is best for English and humanities; APA is typically for education, psychology, and sciences; Chicago Style is common for business, history, and fine arts.

Step 2 Set your margins to 1 inch (2.5 cm) for all style guides.

  • Most word processors default to 1 inch (2.5 cm) margins.

Step 3 Use Times New Roman font.

  • Do not change the font size, style, or color throughout your essay.

Step 4 Change your font size to 12pt.

  • Change the spacing on Google Docs by clicking on Format , and then selecting “Line spacing.”
  • Click on Layout in Microsoft Word, and then click the arrow at the bottom left of the “paragraph” section.

Step 6 Put the page number and your last name in the top right header for all styles.

  • Using the page number function will create consecutive numbering.
  • When using Chicago Style, don’t include a page number on your title page. The first page after the title page should be numbered starting at 2. [4] X Research source
  • In APA format, a running heading may be required in the left-hand header. This is a maximum of 50 characters that’s the full or abbreviated version of your essay’s title. [5] X Research source

Step 7 Use a title page with APA or Chicago Style format.

  • For APA formatting, place the title in bold at the center of the page 3 to 4 lines down from the top. Insert one double-spaced line under the title and type your name. Under your name, in separate centered lines, type out the name of your school, course, instructor, and assignment due date. [6] X Research source
  • For Chicago Style, set your cursor ⅓ of the way down the page, then type your title. In the very center of your page, put your name. Move your cursor ⅔ down the page, then write your course number, followed by your instructor’s name and paper due date on separate, double-spaced lines. [7] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Step 8 Create a left-handed heading for MLA Style essays.

  • Double-space the heading like the rest of your paper.

Writing the Essay Body

Step 1 Center the title of your paper in all style formats.

  • Use standard capitalization rules for your title.
  • Do not underline, italicize, or put quotation marks around your title, unless you include other titles of referred texts.

Step 2 Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) for all styles.

  • A good hook might include a quote, statistic, or rhetorical question.
  • For example, you might write, “Every day in the United States, accidents caused by distracted drivers kill 9 people and injure more than 1,000 others.”

Step 4 Include a thesis statement at the end of your introduction.

  • "Action must be taken to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving, including enacting laws against texting while driving, educating the public about the risks, and giving strong punishments to offenders."
  • "Although passing and enforcing new laws can be challenging, the best way to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving is to enact a law against texting, educate the public about the new law, and levy strong penalties."

Step 5 Present each of your points in 1 or more paragraphs.

  • Use transitions between paragraphs so your paper flows well. For example, say, “In addition to,” “Similarly,” or “On the other hand.” [12] X Research source

Step 6 Complete your essay with a conclusion.

  • A statement of impact might be, "Every day that distracted driving goes unaddressed, another 9 families must plan a funeral."
  • A call to action might read, “Fewer distracted driving accidents are possible, but only if every driver keeps their focus on the road.”

Using References

Step 1 Create parenthetical citations...

  • In MLA format, citations should include the author’s last name and the page number where you found the information. If the author's name appears in the sentence, use just the page number. [14] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For APA format, include the author’s last name and the publication year. If the author’s name appears in the sentence, use just the year. [15] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • If you don’t use parenthetical or internal citations, your instructor may accuse you of plagiarizing.

Step 2 Use footnotes for citations in Chicago Style.

  • At the bottom of the page, include the source’s information from your bibliography page next to the footnote number. [16] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • Each footnote should be numbered consecutively.

Step 3 Center the title of your reference page.

  • If you’re using MLA format, this page will be titled “Works Cited.”
  • In APA and Chicago Style, title the page “References.”

Step 4 List your sources on the references page by author’s last name in alphabetical order.

  • If you have more than one work from the same author, list alphabetically following the title name for MLA and by earliest to latest publication year for APA and Chicago Style.
  • Double-space the references page like the rest of your paper.
  • Use a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) if your citations are longer than one line. Press Tab to indent any lines after the first. [17] X Research source
  • Citations should include (when applicable) the author(s)’s name(s), title of the work, publication date and/or year, and page numbers.
  • Sites like Grammarly , EasyBib , and MyBib can help generate citations if you get stuck.

Formatting Resources

letter college essay format

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Write an Essay

  • ↑ https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/392149/WE_Formatting-your-essay.pdf
  • ↑ https://content.nroc.org/DevelopmentalEnglish/unit10/Foundations/formatting-a-college-essay-mla-style.html
  • ↑ https://camosun.libguides.com/Chicago-17thEd/titlePage
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/page-header
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
  • ↑ https://www.uvu.edu/writingcenter/docs/basicessayformat.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/cruzmayra/basicessayformat.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://library.menloschool.org/chicago

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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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What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

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College Admissions , College Essays

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The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.

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Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

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. 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? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 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? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 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?

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.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018

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Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.

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Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.

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Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.

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An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

Want to build the best possible college application?   We can help.   PrepScholar Admissions combines world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've guided thousands of students to get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit and are driven to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in:

Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.

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An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.

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Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.

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#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

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What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

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:

The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

letter college essay format

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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Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

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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College Application Letters: Cover Letters & Letters of Continued Interest

College application letters.

College application cover letters support your college applications, college resume, and college application essay prompts. In combination with the other elements of your college applications, particularly your college entrance essay, college application letters help establish your “why.” In short, a college application letter is a cover letter for your college applications that describes your background, skills, and interest in the school. When looking at college application cover letter examples, pay attention to the values that they express. College application letters and college entrance essays are similar in that they are exercises in personal branding. When reading college application cover letter examples, pay attention to the messages they convey. 

If you’re wondering how to write a college application letter, CollegeAdvisor.com has advisors who can walk you through every part of the process. If your goal is to get into top colleges, CollegeAdvisor.com can help. We’ll analyze examples of college application letters and discuss the letter of continued interest to help you craft successful applications. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the different kinds of college application letters you may encounter when completing your college applications. We’ll discuss the college application letter and the letter of continued interest, as well as teacher recommendation letters.

If you want to read college application cover letter samples, you’ve come to the right place!

What is a college application letter?

To learn how to write a college application letter, you must first understand its purpose. Do this by checking out college application cover letter examples. College application letters and college resumes serve as introductions for your college applications. Unlike college application essay prompts, there are no specific questions to answer in your cover letter. Instead, include the essential elements of university application letters: your background, what makes you unique, and your reasons for wanting to attend that particular college. In short, what makes you, you .

As you’ll see when reading example college application letters, college application cover letters are not all that different from what you would write in a cover letter when applying for a job or graduate school. The purpose of college application cover letters, college entrance essays, and college resumes is to persuade colleges that you are the strongest candidate for admissions. 

College application cover letters are not the time to be shy, but they’re not the time to be pretentious either. When reading college application cover letter examples, you’ll see that there’s a fine line. Your tone matters. In your university application letters, show your experiences and accomplishments while portraying character traits that colleges value. To get into top colleges, find a balance between being proud of your accomplishments and being humble.

College application letters – Who requires them?

Unlike college entrance essays, college application letters are required by very few colleges. However, the skills you’ll develop by writing university application letters will serve you well as you approach your college application essay prompts. When researching college application examples, you’ll notice that there are optional materials to submit. If you’re serious about your college applications, submit university application letters to show your interest. 

College application cover letters are particularly effective if the college does not have college application essay prompts that ask you to explain why you want to attend the school and/or why you want to study your major. They are even more strongly recommended when applying to colleges that don’t have any supplemental essays. You’ll see many college application cover letter examples that focus primarily on academics, but you can include so much more.

Though university application letters are rarely required, they provide an ideal way to introduce yourself. After all, you’ll notice when reading college application cover letter samples that the goal is to help the admissions committee get to know you as a person. You are more than just your grades and scores.

If you want to get into top colleges that don’t allow you to submit a college resume or don’t provide interviews, you need to take extra steps to earn acceptance. Often, you can repurpose content from college application essay prompts that ask why you want to study your major! The college application essay format differs from that of a college application letter, but they serve a very similar purpose.

Test your knowledge about other aspects of the college admissions process in our quiz below!

What is a letter of continued interest?

A letter of continued interest (LOCI) is a letter you send to a college when you are deferred or placed on the waitlist. So, not everyone will need to write a college application letter of continued interest.

Your letter of continued interest has three primary goals: 

  • Reaffirm your interest in the school.
  • Provide additional context for your application. 
  • Discuss accomplishments on your college resume that have occurred since you submitted your application.

In this guide on how to write a college application letter, we discuss all forms of college application letters in detail. We’ll expand on the above goals to explain the strategies for writing effective letters.

Explaining teacher recommendation letters 

In addition to submitting a college application cover letter and, potentially, a letter of continued interest, your application will also include recommendation letters . These letters enhance your college application entrance essay and build on answers to supplemental college application essay prompts. 

Due to the shift away from standardized testing, other parts of your college applications are inevitably getting more attention in the evaluation process. When assessing your college applications, admissions committees will often rely on letters from your teachers and counselor in place of interviews.

When reading sample college application letters of recommendation, you’ll observe that some are better than others. But, it can be a bit harder to find example teacher recommendations than it is to find college application cover letter examples. To ensure high-quality letters, create a plan well in advance of your senior year. You’ll want to ask teachers to write your recommendations who know you best beyond your grades. The strongest sample college application letters of recommendation speak to both your personal and academic strengths. 

College application sample recommendation letters with the biggest impact typically come from teachers from your core junior year courses – math, science, English, and social studies. If there’s a teacher from your junior year who taught you during your sophomore or senior year too, even better! Teachers who know you through multiple environments – clubs, classes, sports, or other areas – can often do the best job speaking to your growth and achievement over time. 

Choose teachers who know you best

Ultimately, the most effective sample college application letters of recommendation are written by the teachers who know you best. Pay attention to the college application requirements for each school on your list. Note when reading example college application letters of recommendation who the intended audience is. Some schools require math or science teachers for STEM and business majors , while others require English or social studies teachers for humanities majors .

For example, when looking at college application sample requirements, MIT writes “One recommendation should be from a math or science teacher, and one should be from a humanities, social science, or language teacher.” Caltech also requires one math or science teacher evaluation and one humanities or social sciences teacher evaluation. 

Some applicants are tempted to send more letters than the college applications require. However, aim for quality over quantity. If you want to ask another teacher to write a recommendation letter for you, ask yourself what perspective they will bring to your college applications that isn’t already covered in your college entrance essay or other recommendation letters. 

Don’t hesitate to provide materials to help your teachers and guidance counselor write their letters of recommendation for you. In fact, you should! When reading college application sample letters of recommendation, you’ll note that they are specific and provide examples where possible. Some teachers will even have you fill out a standard form to gather information from you. So, by having additional information already prepared, you are helping them tremendously. 

Here are some materials you can provide to help your recommendations augment your college applications:

  • College entrance essay
  • College resume or a list of your extracurricular activities and awards
  • Responses to college application essay prompts.
  • A sample college application letter that you’re sending to one of your colleges.
  • A few paragraphs about why you want to study your major or pursue your intended career. 
  • Key elements of the course you took with them, such as a favorite project or unit. 

When preparing materials to give to teachers, read the instructions given to recommenders by MIT. Even if you aren’t applying to MIT, the information can still be helpful to know. By understanding the process of writing recommendation letters on the teacher’s side, you can see what information will help them write a strong letter for you. 

Don’t wait until you’re submitting your college applications to ask your teachers for recommendations. Some teachers limit the number that they will write, and you want them to have plenty of time to write a quality recommendation. To make sure you have the best recommendations , ask teachers late in your junior year or early in your senior year.

The College Application Letter

As we’ve mentioned, a college application letter is a cover letter for your college applications. It describes your background, skills, and interest in the school. It’s different from both the college application essay format and the letter of continued interest. When reviewing college application samples, you’ll see that your cover letter works together with your college resume and college entrance essay to help admissions officers get to know you. 

Below, we’ll discuss how to write a college application letter and walk through a sample college application letter. But remember, you want your letter to be original! Don’t feel limited by what’s in any examples of college application letters.

Do all schools require a college application letter?

No — few schools actually require college application letters. However, learning to write a strong college application letter can help you in other aspects of the college admissions process. Reading college application cover letter examples can also help you learn how to write for the admissions committee audience. 

One of the ways to learn how to write a college application letter is to read sample college application letters. For instance, the same skills that help you write a strong and concise college application letter will help you in the college essay format, too.

The college application letter – What should I include?

So, you know the purpose of college application letters, but what should you include in them? Reading college application cover letter samples can help you determine this. While the college application essay format lends itself to focusing on one topic or story, college application cover letter examples highlight the importance of covering several different topics.

College application letters should contain the following elements: 

1. school name and address.

You college application letter should follow formal letter formatting guidelines, which include writing the full name of the college or university you are applying to in the upper left hand corner of the letter. Try to be as specific as possible with the address you choose to use.

2. Salutation

A standard salutation is suitable for your college application letter. However, it is a great idea to do your research and use the full name of the admissions officer assigned to your region.

3. Introduction

The best examples of college application letters open strong. Thank the admissions committee for reviewing your application, and introduce yourself. Do you have a unique connection to the school? Can you hook the reader in some way to make them want to keep reading?

4. Explanation of academic interests

Your primary purpose in college is to earn a degree, so notice that in example college application letters most of the space is often devoted to discussing academic plans. Include your intended major and career path, as well as interdisciplinary interests.

5. Discussion of extracurricular interests

The college application essay format may be a place for you to discuss extracurricular involvement, so use this space to elaborate or discuss additional interests. These could be connected to your academic plans, but they don’t have to be.

6. Conclusion

Express your interest in the school! Impactful example college application letters have a clear and brief conclusion that reaffirms your desire to attend and enthusiasm for the opportunity to join the next class of undergraduates. Point to specific classes, professors, programs, organizations, and aspects of the college that pique your interest. No one is going to hold you to your plan, but colleges want to see that you have one.

8. Complimentary Close

Lastly, every good college application letter should include an expression of gratitude alongside your close and your signature.

In the example of a college application letter above, there are a few key details to highlight. The letter is essentially a five-paragraph essay, with one paragraph for each of the five elements. This differs significantly from the college application essay format. In this college application example, the college application letter has clear and distinct sections, and this is very common in college application cover letter samples.

Depending on your interests and plans, you could take a more integrated approach. You’ll read some examples of college application letters that center around a theme or broad plan rather than separated into individual paragraphs.

This sample college application letter is a narrative. The applicant’s goal is to tell her story to the admissions committee. The best sample college application letters paint a picture for the reader and draw the reader into the storyline. Though it can feel like being vivid and descriptive is a waste of your space, “showing instead of telling makes for stronger college applications.

How to format your college application letter?

When reading sample college application letters, you’ll observe that they are formatted very similarly to professional cover letters. Your university application letters should be one page single-spaced. The heading should also be consistent across college application letters. 

  • Your full address
  • The date you will send the letter
  • The admission officer’s name
  • The college name
  • The college address

Then, open your letter with a salutation. Many examples of college application letters open with “Dear” and are addressed to the admission officer. If you cannot find your regional admissions officer, it is fine to address the letter to the admissions office as was done in the sample college application letter above. Once you write the body of your letter, don’t forget your closing salutation – “Sincerely,” and then your name. 

Once you read several sample college application letters, you’ll understand the best practices. After writing a university application letter for one school, you don’t need to start from scratch for additional schools. Adapt what you have to fit the next college’s context and your specific interests on their campus. 

Being concise is key. Your university application letter should not be redundant. If it exceeds one page, see where information you mention is repeated elsewhere in your application. In your cover letter, focus on the content that makes you as original and unique as possible. Most importantly, don’t forget to proofread your university application letters! 

Can a college application letter help me with other parts of my application?

Think of the college application cover letter as the glue that holds your college applications together. When writing it, think about it as your opportunity to show your best self. After brainstorming the content, you’ll be better equipped to craft your candidate profile into a cohesive narrative and articulate why you want to attend the college.

Though many parts of your college applications will be out of your control by the time you reach your senior fall, the college application cover letter is one that you can control. Use it to elevate your college applications, show interest in your top schools , and make yourself stand out among other applicants!

The Letter of Continued Interest

Another form of college application letter is a letter of continued interest . In sample college application letters of continued interest, you’ll see that the primary purpose is to reaffirm your candidacy for a spot in the next incoming class of undergraduates. 

Though it can feel like a waiting game, the waitlist should not be passive. As soon as you are waitlisted or deferred, begin crafting a letter of continued interest. The best college application sample LOCIs are submitted promptly. Put in the effort to show you’re serious about attending. 

College application example LOCIs should focus on recent updates. Likely, a lot has happened since you submitted your application, particularly if you applied by the early deadlines. Strong college application sample LOCIs convey accomplishments and experiences that either add to previously mentioned ones or provide another dimension to your application. 

Letter of continued interest – When and where to submit?

Learn as much as you can by reading college application example LOCIs, but know that each school’s process for when and how to submit them is different. Additionally, the process may vary based on whether you were deferred to the regular decision round of admissions or waitlisted after the regular decision round. It’s important to follow each university’s directions.

Many schools will request that you upload your letter of continued interest to a portal. Some will request that you email it to an address – typically the admissions office. Others won’t allow you to submit any additional materials. If you’re in doubt, call or email the admissions office and ask. 

What to include in your letter of continued interest?

You’ll notice common trends when reading college application sample LOCIs. Effective college application example LOCIs convey a tone of sincerity, gratitude, and enthusiasm for an opportunity to attend. A strong sample college application letter of continued interest includes four elements. 

First, reaffirm your interest in attending the school if offered the chance to matriculate. Then, discuss relevant developments to your application, such as additional extracurricular accolades and continued academic successes. Sometimes, you’ll see a sample college application letter of continued interest that mentions how a student improved a lower mid-year grade or discusses a new leadership role. 

When reading a sample college application letter of continued interest, remember that colleges are looking for reasons to admit you, so don’t be shy! Offer to answer any questions they have and provide additional info in the conclusion of your letter. 

It’s important to back up your claims with supporting evidence. Strong college application sample LOCIs provide examples and specific details, just as you would in a cover letter or essay. Be vivid and descriptive as you share your story!

However, college application example LOCIs that include overly emotional appeals or merely complement the university are unlikely to be effective. Your letter of continued interest should be all about you. Though it can be difficult to realize this when reading college application example LOCIs, recognize that the content of your letter should fit within the context of the rest of your application. 

The many types of college application letters – Final Thoughts

In this guide, we covered several types of letters associated with your college process – college application cover letters, teacher recommendation letters, and letters of continued interest. Reading sample college application letters, whether they are college application cover letter samples or LOCIs, can help you do your best work. But, remember that every applicant’s college application process is unique. 

Our final tips for writing college application letters:

  • Proofread. College application letters with typos or grammatical errors reflect poorly on your effort and candidacy. Use a polished and professional tone in everything you write for your college applications.
  • Be yourself. Though this goal can get lost in the requirements, scores, and grades, you should focus on helping the colleges on your list get to know who you are . 
  • Follow the requirements. Each college has their own requirements for how they want you to submit materials. Pay close attention to the details for each college as you go through the admissions process. 

CollegeAdvisor.com can help guide you through every step of the college application process. Check out our blog , webinars , or register with CollegeAdvisor.com today. Good luck!

This guide to college application letters and letters of continued interest was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘22. At CollegeAdvisor, we have built our  reputation  by providing comprehensive information that offers real assistance to students. If you want to get help with your college applications from CollegeAdvisor.com  Admissions Experts , click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

MLA General Format 

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research in writing. MLA Style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages. 

Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the purposeful or accidental uncredited use of source material produced by other writers. 

If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the  MLA Handbook  (9th edition). Publishing scholars and graduate students should also consult the  MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing  (3rd edition). The  MLA Handbook  is available in most writing centers and reference libraries. It is also widely available in bookstores, libraries, and at the MLA web site. See the Additional Resources section of this page for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA Style.

Paper Format

The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA Style is covered in part four of the  MLA Style Manual . Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in  MLA Style :

General Guidelines

  • Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise prompted by your instructor).
  • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the “Tab” key as opposed to pushing the space bar five times.
  • Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
  • Use italics throughout your essay to indicate the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis.
  • If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

  • Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested or the paper is assigned as a group project. In the case of a group project, list all names of the contributors, giving each name its own line in the header, followed by the remaining MLA header requirements as described below. Format the remainder of the page as requested by the instructor.
  • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
  • Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks. Write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
  • Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text. For example:  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
  • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
  • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number. Number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit the last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)

Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:

This image shows the first page of an MLA paper.

The First Page of an MLA Paper

Section Headings

Writers sometimes use section headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.

MLA recommends that when dividing an essay into sections you number those sections with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.

MLA does not have a prescribed system of headings for books (for more information on headings, please see page 146 in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing , 3rd edition). If you are only using one level of headings, meaning that all of the sections are distinct and parallel and have no additional sections that fit within them, MLA recommends that these sections resemble one another grammatically. For instance, if your headings are typically short phrases, make all of the headings short phrases (and not, for example, full sentences). Otherwise, the formatting is up to you. It should, however, be consistent throughout the document.

If you employ multiple levels of headings (some of your sections have sections within sections), you may want to provide a key of your chosen level headings and their formatting to your instructor or editor.

Sample Section Headings

The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.

Formatted, unnumbered:

Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left

Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left

Level 3 Heading: centered, bold

Level 4 Heading: centered, italics

Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left

letter college essay format

How Long Should a College Essay Be

letter college essay format

Writing a college essay is a big deal for students, giving them a chance to share their unique stories and ambitions with admissions officers. But here's the thing: figuring out how long it should be can be tricky. 

In this article, we're going to tackle the question of a perfect essay length head-on. We'll break down what influences the ideal length for your essay and give you some tips on finding that sweet spot between saying enough and not saying too much.

Why Following a College Essay Word Limit Is Important

Sticking to the college essay length matters for a few important reasons. Firstly, it shows that you can follow instructions, which is a skill you'll need in college and beyond. Admissions officers have lots of essays to read, so keeping within the limit respects their time and attention. 

Plus, it helps level the playing field for all applicants, giving everyone a fair chance to make their case without overwhelming reviewers with too much information. And on your end, it forces you to be concise and clear, focusing on what really matters in your story. If the word limit of your essay is too large, simply say, ‘ do my essay for me ,’ and our experts will help you fit into any word limit.

Why Essay Length Varies in Different Assignments

The issue of how long is an essay can change depending on the assignment for a few reasons. First off, it's about who's reading it and why. A formal academic essay might need more detail and research, so it could end up longer. But it might be shorter and more casual if you're just sharing your thoughts with a friend. 

Then there's the topic itself – some things need more explanation. Plus, your teacher's guidelines, like how many words or pages to aim for, can also affect how long your essay turns out. It's about fitting the essay to the task at hand and making sure you cover everything you need to without going overboard.

Struggling to Fit into the Word Count?

Let an expert writer help you add more meaningful content to your essay.

Wondering about the ideal length for your college essay? You're not alone. Figuring out how much to write can be a head-scratcher for many students. But fear not! In this guide, we'll show you how to strike the right balance between text length and informational richness.

How Long Should a College Essay Be

High School Essay

The length of a high school essay can vary depending on the assignment and teacher's instructions. Generally, essays in high school classes range from around 500 to 1000 words, though some assignments may require shorter or longer compositions. The length often reflects the depth of analysis and detail expected by the teacher, as well as the complexity of the topic. 

Shorter essays might focus on summarizing information or making a concise argument, while longer essays allow for more in-depth exploration and analysis. Regardless of length, students should prioritize clarity, coherence, and relevance to effectively convey their ideas and meet the requirements of the assignment.

College Admission Essay

College admission essay length typically ranges from 250 to 650 words, with many colleges setting specific word limits. Admissions officers receive thousands of applications, so brevity is key. A well-crafted essay should be concise yet impactful, showcasing the applicant's personality, experiences, and aspirations within the given word count. 

Adhering to the word limit demonstrates the applicant's ability to follow instructions and communicate effectively, while exceeding it may signal a lack of respect for guidelines or an inability to convey ideas succinctly. 

Undergraduate College Essay

Undergraduate college essay length typically ranges from 400 to 650 words, although some institutions may specify shorter or longer limits. The essay aims to provide admissions officers with insight into the applicant's character, values, and potential contributions to the campus community. 

While brevity is important, the essay should be substantive enough to convey meaningful information about the applicant's experiences and aspirations.

Graduate School Admission Essay

Graduate school admission essay length varies, typically ranging from 500 to 1000 words, although specific requirements may differ by program. These essays allow applicants to articulate their academic and professional goals, research interests, and reasons for pursuing graduate studies. 

Admissions committees seek concise yet comprehensive essays demonstrating the applicant's readiness for advanced academic work and alignment with the program's values and objectives. 

Graduate School Essay

Graduate school essay length typically ranges from 500 to 1000 words, although requirements can vary between programs. These essays serve as a crucial component of the application process, allowing applicants to convey their academic background, research interests, career goals, and suitability for the program. 

Admissions committees value conciseness and coherence, so applicants should prioritize quality over quantity when crafting their essays. Ultimately, the essay should offer a compelling narrative that highlights the applicant's strengths, experiences, and motivations for pursuing graduate studies.

Recommended Length of Each Part of the Essay

While the recommended college essay length of each its part can vary depending on the specific requirements of the assignment or application, here's a general guideline:

  • Introduction

The introduction typically comprises 10-15% of the total essay length. It should provide background information on the topic, establish the context, and present the thesis statement or main argument.

  • Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should be roughly the same length and account for approximately 60-70% of the total essay length. Aim for around 150-200 words per paragraph. Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea or point and provide supporting evidence or examples to strengthen the argument.

The conclusion should be similar in length to the introduction, comprising around 10-15% of the total essay length. It should summarize the main points discussed in the essay, restate the thesis or main argument, and provide a sense of closure or resolution.

Remember that these are general recommendations, and the actual length of each part may vary based on the specific requirements of your assignment or application. 

It's essential to review any guidelines provided and adjust your essay accordingly to meet the expectations of your audience. Use a specialized college essay writing help from experts who always hit the mark when it comes to the length of assignments.

How Long Should an Introduction Be

An introduction should typically span between 50 to 100 words, offering enough context to engage the reader while succinctly presenting the main argument or thesis. It serves as a roadmap for the essay, providing an overview of what to expect without delving into excessive detail.

How Long Is a Body Paragraph

A body paragraph is typically around 100 to 200 words in length, although this can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the depth of analysis required. Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea or point, supported by evidence or examples, and contribute to the overall argument or thesis of the essay.

How Long Should a Conclusion Paragraph Be

Knowing how long should a college essay be – from 400 to 600 words – a conclusion paragraph should mirror the length of the introduction, comprising between 50 to 100 words of the total essay length. It should summarize the main points discussed in the essay, restate the thesis or main argument, and provide a sense of closure or resolution to the reader.

How to Check Word Count

To check the word count of an essay, you can use various methods depending on the software or platform you're using:

How to Make an Essay Longer

To make an essay longer, consider these strategies:

  • Expand Ideas: Add more detail and examples to elaborate on your points.
  • Provide Supporting Details: Include additional evidence or references to strengthen your arguments.
  • Address Counterarguments: Discuss opposing viewpoints and explain why they're invalid.
  • Use More Sources: Incorporate more research to support your claims.
  • Use Transitions: Improve the flow between paragraphs with transitional phrases.
  • Rephrase and Expand: Clarify and expand on your ideas by revising your sentences.
  • Consider Different Angles: Explore the topic from various perspectives.
  • Revise Carefully: Edit your essay to ensure added content enhances its quality.

How to Shorten an Essay

To shorten an essay length while maintaining its essence, follow these strategies:

  • Remove Redundancy: Cut out repetitive phrases or sentences.
  • Combine Similar Ideas: Condense related points to streamline your message.
  • Simplify Language: Use clear, concise language to convey your ideas.
  • Delete Unnecessary Details: Eliminate irrelevant examples or explanations.
  • Focus on Essentials: Keep only the most relevant information.
  • Check for Wordiness: Remove filler words and phrases.

When working on your compositions, remember about the impact of remote learning on students and your productiveness.

How to Format a College Essay Based on the Required Length

Let’s explore strategies to tailor your essay's structure and content to fit within specified word limits. By understanding how to adjust your writing style and organization, you'll be better equipped to craft a compelling essay that adheres to length requirements without sacrificing quality or clarity.

Spacing is crucial for how long is an essay looking, its readability and adherence to length requirements. Opting for double-spacing ensures adequate room for markers to review your content and allows for easy reading. Additionally, double-spacing aids in maintaining a clean, organized appearance, enhancing the overall presentation of your essay.

  • If the instruction is to double-space the paper, consider using a spacing of 2.1 or 2.2 instead. 
  • You can extend the margin size by a quarter, such as increasing the right and bottom margins from 1 inch to 1.25 inches, to make subtle adjustments in length without significantly impacting the overall appearance.
  • Another strategy is to increase the spacing between characters, although it should be done cautiously to avoid excessive alterations. 
  • Aim to keep the spacing between 1.2 and 1.5 to maintain readability and visual consistency throughout the document.

Font and Size

Font selection and size can be key to adjusting the college essay length. Opt for a standard, easily readable font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri to ensure clarity and consistency. Aim for a font size of 12 points, which is the standard for most academic writing and provides optimal legibility without sacrificing space or readability.

  • If your instructor hasn't specified a font, consider using larger options such as Arial, Bangla Sangam MN, Cambria, or Quicksand. 
  • Exercise caution and try not to exceed an increase of 0.1-0.5 points to avoid noticeable alterations. 
  • Another technique is to increase the size of punctuation marks, such as periods and commas, by a couple of points compared to the main text size, or italicizing them, which can subtly add to the overall length of your essay.

Following the specified length for your college essay is super important because it shows that you can stick to the rules and pay attention to instructions, which is a skill colleges value. Plus, sticking to the word count helps you be concise and get your point across clearly without rambling or overwhelming the reader.

If you’re struggling to fit into the required word limit, buy a college essay that will be written by a seasoned professional who knows exactly how to meet academic standards.

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How Many Pages Are in an Essay

How long is an essay paragraph.

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

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is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

  • How long should my essay be? – BigFuture | College Board . (n.d.). https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/help-center/how-long-should-my-essay-be  
  • 12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay - Harvard Summer School . (2022, August 9). Harvard Summer School. https://summer.harvard.edu/blog/12-strategies-to-writing-the-perfect-college-essay/
  • How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Honor Society - Official Honor Society® Website . (n.d.). https://www.honorsociety.org/articles/how-long-should-college-essay-be

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What I’ve Learned From My Students’ College Essays

The genre is often maligned for being formulaic and melodramatic, but it’s more important than you think.

An illustration of a high school student with blue hair, dreaming of what to write in their college essay.

By Nell Freudenberger

Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn’t supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or worse, they’re afraid that packaging the genuine trauma they’ve experienced is the only way to secure their future. The college counselor at the Brooklyn high school where I’m a writing tutor advises against trauma porn. “Keep it brief , ” she says, “and show how you rose above it.”

I started volunteering in New York City schools in my 20s, before I had kids of my own. At the time, I liked hanging out with teenagers, whom I sometimes had more interesting conversations with than I did my peers. Often I worked with students who spoke English as a second language or who used slang in their writing, and at first I was hung up on grammar. Should I correct any deviation from “standard English” to appeal to some Wizard of Oz behind the curtains of a college admissions office? Or should I encourage students to write the way they speak, in pursuit of an authentic voice, that most elusive of literary qualities?

In fact, I was missing the point. One of many lessons the students have taught me is to let the story dictate the voice of the essay. A few years ago, I worked with a boy who claimed to have nothing to write about. His life had been ordinary, he said; nothing had happened to him. I asked if he wanted to try writing about a family member, his favorite school subject, a summer job? He glanced at his phone, his posture and expression suggesting that he’d rather be anywhere but in front of a computer with me. “Hobbies?” I suggested, without much hope. He gave me a shy glance. “I like to box,” he said.

I’ve had this experience with reluctant writers again and again — when a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously. Of course the primary goal of a college essay is to help its author get an education that leads to a career. Changes in testing policies and financial aid have made applying to college more confusing than ever, but essays have remained basically the same. I would argue that they’re much more than an onerous task or rote exercise, and that unlike standardized tests they are infinitely variable and sometimes beautiful. College essays also provide an opportunity to learn precision, clarity and the process of working toward the truth through multiple revisions.

When a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously.

Even if writing doesn’t end up being fundamental to their future professions, students learn to choose language carefully and to be suspicious of the first words that come to mind. Especially now, as college students shoulder so much of the country’s ethical responsibility for war with their protest movement, essay writing teaches prospective students an increasingly urgent lesson: that choosing their own words over ready-made phrases is the only reliable way to ensure they’re thinking for themselves.

Teenagers are ideal writers for several reasons. They’re usually free of preconceptions about writing, and they tend not to use self-consciously ‘‘literary’’ language. They’re allergic to hypocrisy and are generally unfiltered: They overshare, ask personal questions and call you out for microaggressions as well as less egregious (but still mortifying) verbal errors, such as referring to weed as ‘‘pot.’’ Most important, they have yet to put down their best stories in a finished form.

I can imagine an essay taking a risk and distinguishing itself formally — a poem or a one-act play — but most kids use a more straightforward model: a hook followed by a narrative built around “small moments” that lead to a concluding lesson or aspiration for the future. I never get tired of working with students on these essays because each one is different, and the short, rigid form sometimes makes an emotional story even more powerful. Before I read Javier Zamora’s wrenching “Solito,” I worked with a student who had been transported by a coyote into the U.S. and was reunited with his mother in the parking lot of a big-box store. I don’t remember whether this essay focused on specific skills or coping mechanisms that he gained from his ordeal. I remember only the bliss of the parent-and-child reunion in that uninspiring setting. If I were making a case to an admissions officer, I would suggest that simply being able to convey that experience demonstrates the kind of resilience that any college should admire.

The essays that have stayed with me over the years don’t follow a pattern. There are some narratives on very predictable topics — living up to the expectations of immigrant parents, or suffering from depression in 2020 — that are moving because of the attention with which the student describes the experience. One girl determined to become an engineer while watching her father build furniture from scraps after work; a boy, grieving for his mother during lockdown, began taking pictures of the sky.

If, as Lorrie Moore said, “a short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage,” what is a college essay? Every once in a while I sit down next to a student and start reading, and I have to suppress my excitement, because there on the Google Doc in front of me is a real writer’s voice. One of the first students I ever worked with wrote about falling in love with another girl in dance class, the absolute magic of watching her move and the terror in the conflict between her feelings and the instruction of her religious middle school. She made me think that college essays are less like love than limerence: one-sided, obsessive, idiosyncratic but profound, the first draft of the most personal story their writers will ever tell.

Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Limits” was published by Knopf last month. She volunteers through the PEN America Writers in the Schools program.

University letters of recommendation: an essential guide

Letters of recommendation can make or break a student’s university application, so it’s important that we get them right

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Phillip Wenturine

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There are a plethora of documents that go into compiling the perfect college application. From transcripts to predicted grades, activity lists, resumés or CVs, essays, recommendation letters, certificates and more – each element of the application holds a different purpose and separate weight of importance, often varying from country to country and university to university.

By the senior year (Year 13), academics are nearly finalised, so there’s little wiggle room when it comes to improving that element of the application: senior GPA is set and calculated; IB predictions are nearly issued.

But beyond academics, some universities require recommendation letters, and this is where a student can stand out more, highlighting and emphasising their skills, qualities and abilities. 

These recommendation letters can sometimes illuminate the true heart and soul of the student, beyond their transcripts or personal-statement essay. The words in these letters can make or break a student’s application, so it’s important we get them right and tell their story with the thought and effort it deserves. 

Teacher letters of recommendation

In a teacher’s recommendation letter, students are brought to life beyond their grades, showcasing their holistic potential.

Teachers seize the chance to praise consistent academic excellence, to spotlight specific projects or skills, and to contextualise grade fluctuations resulting from personal circumstances.

These letters illustrate growth, revealing students’ readiness for university life. The emphasis is on articulating acquired skills and potential – a narrative far more impactful than grades alone. While an A-grade student may excel in tests, a B-grade student might exhibit invaluable traits, such as grit and resilience, best articulated through personalised advocacy.

Recommendation letter timelines

To support students and teachers, it’s important to highlight the importance of the teacher recommendation letter early on to teachers and students alike. Let students know as early as grades 10 and 11 (Years 11 and 12) that it’s important to build relationships with teachers well in advance of senior year. The best letters come from those teachers who have an excellent rapport with the student in question.

Ask students in the spring of junior year (Year 12) to select those teachers they would like recommendation letters from. The recommendation should ideally come from a core-subject teacher (maths, science, social studies, English) rather than an elective teacher, unless the elective is a field in which they intend to pursue a career.

To support the teachers, we work with students to compile what we call a brag sheet. Students answer a series of questions about themselves, in order to give the teacher the best context for writing the letter.

We tell teachers that if the student does not provide this brag sheet, or if they feel that the student has not performed well enough in their class to deserve a letter, they are allowed to respectfully decline the request to write the letter.

We also remind teachers that they do not need to agree to write any more than 20 letters. It is unfair if students all ask one teacher – who may then end up writing 60 letters – for a recommendation letter, while other teachers only have to write a few.. With that in mind, we also remind students of the importance of being organised and requesting the letter from their preferred teacher early on.

Writing the letters

Here are some examples of the questions we ask students on their brag sheets, which then give teachers a starting point for their letters:

  • What do you hope this letter will show about you that your GPA doesn’t?
  • What was a challenge that you faced in this class, and what actions did you take to overcome it?
  • Describe how this class influenced you, either through academic content or teacher interaction.
  • Give between one and three examples of times when you have exceeded expectations with your communication skills, and also some areas where you can reflect that you may need growth.
  • What majors or careers interest you?

To support the teachers further, we host a writing workshop in the spring of each year to give them examples of strong and weak letters (all confidential). We coach them in "show, don't tell" when it comes to writing about students’ strengths, as well as giving them concrete examples of how best to advocate for students and highlight their strengths.

We review what each different country’s universities desire from these letters, as some universities – such as the US – appreciate a holistic view of the student (for example, highlighting student athletes or detailing extracurriculars). By contrast, the UK is very academic-focused and prefers to read about the student’s abilities when working on class projects, research and outside endeavours in the field of study.

Counsellor recommendation letters

Some universities – mostly in the US – also allow a counsellor letter of recommendation. This letter goes beyond academic ability in the classroom and speaks more to students’ characteristics, personality, outside involvement and external factors helpful for an admission committee to review in the context of other application documents.

The counsellor’s role is to fill in the missing pieces of an application: we help identify and tell a student’s story, covering any hardships, exceptional leadership abilities, impressive commitment to community and so on.

Now more than ever, admission committees are telling us that they trust the counsellor and teacher letters to help give them the full picture of a student, and to help them judge whether or not they will be the best fit for their incoming class and able to thrive on their campus.

We send our students what we call a junior questionnaire, in order to collect the information necessary to write these letters successfully.

Some examples of the questions on the junior questionnaire:

  • What languages do you speak, and to what level of fluency?
  • Please provide some details about your family and highlight any diversity and/or adversity that you have experienced. 
  • Have there been any major circumstances that have impacted on your personal or academic life? 
  • What are three adjectives you would use to describe yourself? Think deeply about this one. 
  • How have you used your time outside of school, and can you elaborate on any particular projects, clubs, work experience, internships, or volunteer work that speaks to consistency in an activity, leadership experience or a particular commitment to have an impact on your community?

External letters

Sometimes students may wish to have an outside recommendation letter from a coach – for example, if they are a student athlete.

Overall, references should be academic-focused, but some universities that accept more than one letter are willing to receive one from an outside observer, too. In these cases, the person should be someone who oversees the student as the coach of a sport or the supervisor of an internship or work-experience programme.

The external referee should give this letter to the counsellor to send off on their behalf, as all recommendation letters must confidential and never shared with the student. 

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COMMENTS

  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. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org. College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

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

    While single-spaced essays are usually acceptable, your essay will be easier to read if it's 1.5 or double-spaced. 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.

  4. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Harvard College Writing Center 5 Asking Analytical Questions When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a

  5. 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.

  6. 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 ...

  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. 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.

  9. 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 ...

  10. How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction

    Good example. I wiped the sweat from my head and tried to catch my breath. I was nearly there—just one more back tuck and a strong dismount and I'd have nailed a perfect routine. Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus.

  11. How to Format an Essay: MLA, APA, & Chicago Styles

    If your instructor lets you pick the format of your essay, opt for the style that matches your course or degree best: MLA is best for English and humanities; APA is typically for education, psychology, and sciences; Chicago Style is common for business, history, and fine arts. 2. Set your margins to 1 inch (2.5 cm) for all style guides.

  12. 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).

  13. The 3 Popular Essay Formats: Which Should You Use?

    MLA style was designed by the Modern Language Association, and it has become the most popular college essay format for students writing papers for class. It was originally developed for students and researchers in the literature and language fields to have a standardized way of formatting their papers, but it is now used by people in all ...

  14. What is the format of a college application essay?

    Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

  15. 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 ...

  16. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other). My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 ...

  19. College Application Letter

    1. School Name and Address. You college application letter should follow formal letter formatting guidelines, which include writing the full name of the college or university you are applying to in the upper left hand corner of the letter. Try to be as specific as possible with the address you choose to use. 2.

  20. General Format

    In the case of a group project, list all names of the contributors, giving each name its own line in the header, followed by the remaining MLA header requirements as described below. Format the remainder of the page as requested by the instructor. In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the ...

  21. APA format for academic papers and essays

    Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines: Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides. Double-space all text, including headings. Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches. Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).

  22. How Long Should a College Essay Be: Simple Explanation

    Knowing how long should a college essay be - from 400 to 600 words - a conclusion paragraph should mirror the length of the introduction, comprising between 50 to 100 words of the total essay length. It should summarize the main points discussed in the essay, restate the thesis or main argument, and provide a sense of closure or resolution ...

  23. How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student

    Show me good student work. Copy and paste an especially well-writ paragraph from your student's best essay, or a screenshot of clean coding they did in class. Here's Kati: "Be brief in how you set it up, but it's cool to let the student speak for themselves.".

  24. 32 College Essay Format Templates & Examples

    32 College Essay Format Templates & Examples. July 26, 2020 6 Mins Read. Essay writing for many students is a boring activity. But once you start preparing yourself mentally to write great academic essays, you start seeing the development of a natural flair inside you. Writing essays is a good exercise for developing your creativity ...

  25. What I've Learned From My Students' College Essays

    By Nell Freudenberger. May 14, 2024. Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn't supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or ...

  26. University letters of recommendation: an essential guide

    There are a plethora of documents that go into compiling the perfect college application. From transcripts to predicted grades, activity lists, resumés or CVs, essays, recommendation letters, certificates and more - each element of the application holds a different purpose and separate weight of importance, often varying from country to country and university to university.