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How To Format A College Application Essay

How to Format a College Application Essay

Nothing is more daunting to a high school student than having to get his or her college application essay ready and as perfect as possible so that chances of acceptance are far higher than chances of rejection.

And the prompts given by some of the colleges and universities can add to the levels of anxiety considerably. Prompts can be as bizarre as "How do you feel about Wednesday?" - This was once given by the University of Chicago or "You have finished writing your 300-page autobiography. Submit page # 217!" - This was given as one option from Tufts University.

Of course, some mundane prompts such as "Describe a formative experience in your life," could also come. No matter how a college application essay prompt gets worded, the anxiety and fear of getting it right rarely diminish for anyone.

This article gives you some basic formatting style that can be used to write a college application essay. It also includes a few helpful tips on how to write a college application essay.

How to Format a College Application Essay

Font Size, Margins, Heading, and Spacing – A margin space of 1 inch should be left on all four sides of the document; top, bottom, right, and left.

The lines of each paragraph should be double-spaced. The font type that is used normally is one of the following:

  • Times New Roman

  • Georgia

  • Cambria

The font size should be 12. All academic paper are kept at this font size. Make your heading left-indented and it should start at the top left corner of the page

Tips on how to write a college application essay

Plan and strategize before your start writing – After you have understood the prompt, brainstorm the various ideas flowing through your head. Make notes of the ideas and thoughts and pick one or two that really strikes a chord in your heart. From this, choose one and then work on ideas that are based on this one concept.

Make a network of data showing the flow of content and at each level add some information. It's like creating a mind-map of your basic idea around which all other thoughts are being focused. Plan what you will write in each paragraph and make sure only one idea is discussed per paragraph. Decide how you want to conclude your essay and make sure you tie up everything neatly in your conclusion.

Make your essay concise and succinct – While most college application prompts require a minimum of 250 words with no upper limit set, it makes a lot of sense to keep your essay short and sweet. The admission officer gets to read loads of essays each day and he or she will be very put off by a lengthy one. Going over 700 words is definitely a no-no; however, 300-500 words sounds reasonably good.

Be very honest in your writing – Do not any kind of embellishments to your achievements. If you were the copy editor of your school's newspaper, then do not say you were the president. Avoid inflating any kind of information. Admission officers understand that everyone cannot be a star. Avoid lying about anything in your life in your college application essay.

Be as unique as you can – Before you start drafting your essay, ask yourself this question, "How can I stand apart from the rest? What makes me what I am?" Remember you are competing with hundreds of unknown high school students who are also applying to the same college. It is not in your scores or your achievements that you will stand apart; it will be in the way your mind works.

Delve deep within you and find what sets you apart. Believe me, if you tried hard enough you will find it. And this knowledge is something that will come of use to you throughout your life and not just for your college application essay.

Be clear and coherent – Avoid adding big-sounding words that can confuse the admission officer about your intention. Keep your language simple; keep your sentence structure small and simple, and use words that you are absolutely sure of. Nobody is testing your vocabulary here.

Also, stick to the active voice as much you can; it enhances simplicity and reduces needless complexity in sentence structure. The active voice is a better method to make impactful and effective communication.

Be precise and accurate – Make sure your grammar, punctuation, and spelling are all spot-on. Ensure you use the conventional colons, semi-colons, etc with clarity and at the right place. Do not write inaccurate data. If you are going to quote someone, make sure the quote is perfect and the spelling of the name of the person is correct too.

Let your descriptions be vivid – Any good essay is like a great story. Try and introduce an anecdote; make the description of the anecdote as vivid as possible. The words you write should create a visual of the event in the mind of the reader so that the admission officer can relate you to that incident. He should be able to recall you as, "that girl who fell into the pond," or "that boy who ended up shepherding the sheep for an entire day," or something like that.

Include many people in the story; your parents, your siblings and/or cousins; your teacher; your friends. This gives a sense of social connection to your personality while telling the reader that you are trying hard to make the reading as interesting as possible.

Present yourself in an amicable light – Avoid anger and resentment feelings in your story. Lighten it up by making your responses to difficult situations witty and laughable. Show how you can easily laugh at yourself. However, I would like to add a word of caution here; the idea of wit is relative; so don't overboard and unless you are sure about something, avoid being too witty for your own good.

Let your smartness come out in your essay – It would be great to talk about something intelligent. Tell them which of the literary writers you like and why. College is, after all, about gaining intelligence and knowledge. So, you must mention the things that turn your mind on!

Stick to the topic – It is extremely easy to get carried away and meander off from the main topic. Keep reading your lines so that you know if you have said something that might not seem relevant to the topic and hence can drift your focus away. Keep going back to the prompt and the title to remain on track.

Let your essay have a seamless connection throughout – When you write the second sentence, there must be some kind of connection to the first; when you write the third, the reader should be able to see why this one follows the previous sentence. This will make your essay appear fluid, easy-to-read and seamless in content.

Proofread and edit your essay – If you do not proofread and edit the essay, it would be like serving food to your most important guest without tasting it to make sure all flavors are combined correctly. It would be a nightmare when your guest screws up his or her face because of excessive salt or spice; all your hard work gone down the drain simply because you did not taste the food before serving.

Never, ever submit any written work without proofreading and editing. Irrespective of the beauty of your content, if your admission officer saw grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, he or she is not going to be impressed. In fact, the thought that will run in his mind would be, "If this person cannot manage spelling and grammar right then I wonder if he or she would ever be a good fit in our college?"

Final Notes

The agony associated with college admissions can never be overstated. The stress and pressure for you and your parents during this crucial phase of your life can be grueling, to say the least.

Making sure you have all the documents as needed by the various colleges; making sure you have paid the prescribed fees; making sure your college application essay is suitably tweaked for each college; making sure you have couriered out your application on time; all this and more work can drive you nuts.

Our experienced experts at Prescott Papers will be very happy to help you and guide you through the college application essay writing process. Please do not hesitate to contact us for help.

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