15 Tips on Formatting Your College Essay

When applying to college, even the smallest details sometimes can make a big difference. This especially applies to essays. Your application contains various types of information about you, and the essay is the most personal part. Some students have problems with the general understanding of the task and organizing their thoughts, while others get stuck because the cannot format their essay properly. Should it be five paragraphs long? Should the structure be narrative? In this article at Writers-House.com blog, we are going to consider essay formatting with all its ins and outs. We will also address such issues as fonts and headings. You will also learn when you should use the five-paragraph structure, and what to do with college essay templates.

Formatting College Essays: Margins, Fonts, Etc.

The format of your essay to a certain extent depends on how you’re going to submit it. For example, you may need to paste your essay into an online application form, or you may attach an already formatted document. If you don’t know the answer for sure, check your instructions. If you’re preparing for the Common Application, you will have to paste the essay into an online text box.

There are many schools that allow students to send paper applications. In this case, you get more control over the format of your paper, however, there are some reasons why we recommend that you don’t send paper applications:

  • Many schools emphasize that they prefer online applications. Although it may not affect an opinion about you, we suggest taking into account the preferences of a certain institution to make your application process go easily.
  • Paper applications can just be lost. Email certainly has a number of advantages over regular mail. One of the main advantages is that if any problem occurs when using email, you will at least know it immediately. In the case of regular mail, you will know that some problem happened only after you receive your letter back.

No matter how you’re going to submit your essay, use text editing programs to write it. This kind of software allows you to keep an eye on the number of words and to see if you made any mistakes.

Now let’s consider formatting in more detail, depending on the way you’re going to submit it. Some tips will be useful regardless of whether you will use an online form or attach a document.

When Copy-Pasting Text Into an Online Form

The most important thing is to make sure all the text is properly transferred.

  • Make sure that you have copy-pasted the whole essay and nothing is missing.
  • Sometimes you may find out that your word count changed after you copied the text. It can happen due to different formatting mechanisms. If your word count no longer meets the requirements, be ready to edit your essay.
  • Some formatting features of your paper, such as sections written in bold or italics, may not work after pasting the text. In this case, just use a regular font for these elements.
  • When you copy and paste your college essay, you may also lose paragraph spacing. If you need to effectively separate paragraphs from each other, use the Tab key or skip a line.
  • In the online form or text box, you’ll likely deal with a standard font. However, if you can choose from a certain range of fonts, we suggest sticking with standard fonts like Arial and Times New Roman.

When Attaching a Document

If you can attach your own document, the format of your essay becomes very important. Thus, make sure you use correct spacing and margins.

  • Use one-inch margins on every side of the sheet. This will make your paper easy to read.
  • Most colleges accept single-spaced documents, however, if you want to make your essay easier to read, use 1.5 or double spaces.
  • To effectively separate paragraphs from each other, delineate them using one tab at the beginning.
  • Use standard and easy-to-read fonts like Times, Calibri, Arial, Cambria. Don’t use unusual fonts. As for the size of your font, we suggest choosing 12.
  • Some students include an essay heading with a page number and add their application ID. If there’s no specific request to include your name, don’t do it.
  • Sometimes, you may need to use some specific format to submit your paper. For example, you may be allowed to submit only particular types of Word documents, or your essay may need to be formatted as a .pdf or .rtf file. Make sure you use the right format! We also recommend that you use .pdf documents when it’s possible. The reason is that these files don’t change the way they look.

Helpful Formatting Guidelines

  • You don’t need a title unless it has been specifically requested. The title can make you waste your word count.
  • Avoid inappropriate formattings, such as ALL CAPS, emoji, or ~#unnecessary symbols*~. The main thing is to make your essay look professional so that your audience can see that your intentions are serious.

How to Structure Your Essay

There are many students who don’t have any problems with fonts or margins but don’t understand how to build the general structure of the essay. Is there any method that will help you perfectly describe your strengths, being confident and persuasive?

Unfortunately, there is no universal solution that would guarantee the success of your college essay. However, it means that you can experiment and create the structure that will meet your objectives. You can also use a standard five-paragraph structure, however, keep in mind that it may turn out to be not the best solution.

Good college essays are different from each other but they also have something in common. For example, they always have an introduction and a conclusion and various central sections. The introduction and conclusion of your essay are very important sections. The introduction should give your readers a clue to the direction your essay is going in, while the conclusion should make your point clear and summarize the whole essay.

How you structure the body of your college essay is up to you. For example, if your essay is focused on some experience, you may make it narrative. You can also provide a complex analogy at the beginning and illustrate this analogy in each body paragraph. You may be familiar with the traditional requirement to make every paragraph devoted to a particular idea, however, college essays allow you to forget about the five-paragraph structure for a while.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Templates

There are many college essay templates available online, and you may think that they may help you create a proper structure for every paragraph of your essay. That truth is that the use of templates can make your essay sound even worse than if you create your own structure that fits your specific purpose. Think of what idea you want to express, what experience you want to share, and then think of what structure would look the best.

You can find many sample essays available online or buy a custom sample essay to get some fresh ideas on how to write your own essay. The most important thing is to provide your own voice and experiences.

Formatting College Application Essay: Summary

When formatting your college essay, you should create a proper overall structure and use proper fonts, margins, headings, etc. We can call these two levels of formatting a macro level and a micro level.

Here are the most important tips on the micro level of the format:

  • Always use good text editors, even if there’s a convenient text box available on a submission page.
  • When copying and pasting your essay on the website, make sure you paste the whole essay, and the format is properly transferred.
  • When attaching your documents, use 1.5 or double spaces, 1-inch margins, and the right format of the file.
  • Don’t include the title if it’s not specified in the requirements.

Here are tips for the micro level of your essay’s format:

  • There’s no universal format that would guarantee the success of an essay.
  • The general structure should include the introduction, the body section, and the conclusion. You can organize the body the way you like.
  • Templates make your essays sound unoriginally and basic.

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