How To Format A College Essay

College years bring students a lot of joyful and challenging moments. And absolutely every student encounters writing a new type of academic paper – a college essay. Its writing process takes much pain to many students as they face college essay format, which is different from high school essay format.

How to write headings? Where to watch out for the right structure? How to organize titles? These and more questions will be covered below, so students don’t worry about how to write college personal essays.

college essay formatting

College Application Essay Format

What if we tell you that a university application paper can either boost or decrease your chance of being applied to a university? A university admission paper is a powerful tool that summarizes your knowledge acquired from high school and your ability to clearly state your thoughts. Even an incorrectly written title can create a negative picture of your work. Thus sticking to the right university admission paper format is rule number one for every applicant.

Every college sets its requirements on how the admission paper should look like. Be sure to meet all the requirements. But before you do an ideal university admission paper, turn your attention to the submitting type. It can be writing an article in a text box or attaching a file. If you are supposed to submit the admission paper in a text box, use the following rules:

  • Avoid using italics or bold text. While putting it in a box, everything will likely mess up as the program will not identify your formatting correctly. And it can be a fatal mistake for your application process.
  • Double-check your structure. A text box may not identify the paragraphs’ separation or spacing. After you write it in a box, be very attentive to the college essay format structure.
  • Stick to a simple article structure. Indeed, writing a university admission paper in a certain shape looks more attractive and readable but not in the case of text box submission.

Formatting Attached Document

If the college you are dreaming about requires attaching a document, then the structure of your university admission paper will be correct with these tips:

  • Don’t experiment with the font: let it be standard Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri with the 12 font size.
  • Separate the lines with 1,5 spaces.
  • When submitting a university admission paper, attach it in PDF format. First, it doesn’t allow editing. And second, it will show an essay in the right college essay format since Microsoft Word has multiple versions that can change the document when showing it.

How To Structure A College Essay

The clearer the structure of your admission paper, the easier it is to read and perceive information. Depending on the university requirements, you can choose to write using the conventional or unconventional university admission paper structure. Let’s start with the traditional essay structure.

For the traditional way of writing university papers, you can choose from the three structures:

  • In-the-moment narrative
  • Narrative through a long period of time
  • Montage

In-The-Moment Narrative

In the in-the-moment narrative essay structure, a writer shares his experience from one event. The main goal of this university paper structure is to make the reader feel your story. This structure is very strong when applying for admission. It allows a writer to express his emotions and thoughts about an event. Descriptions of details, inner experiences, and emotions are common for this type of paper.

The most challenging task is to describe the event but not overwhelm a reader. Thus the structure should consist of an introduction, key points, and a conclusion. In-the-moment narrative essays should be written from the first-person perspective, which is not usual for academic paper writing. To add more expressiveness, use metaphors, analogies, and rhetorical questions when composing a college admission paper.

Narrative Through a Long Period of Time

Narrative through a long period of time structure suits well when the purpose of writing is to shed light on different experiences. It has several parts that refer to different time intervals. Such a university paper structure is suitable when a writer wants to depict the transformation over an extended period of time. To preserve a coherent structure, it is important to summarize the events. Every event should have a proper understanding of why it was included in a college paper format.

Don’t forget to state the time with appropriate markers and adverbs of time. Include flashbacks and triggers for the events in the past. A narrative through a long period of time is fitting for showing a writer’s personality. It can be a powerful message that will greatly support an applicant.


In the montage structure, you can be a real film producer. This university paper structure involves composing a complete story from a set of different stories. A writer is free to pick up a few not necessarily related anecdotes and frame them into a paper. By montaging them, a writer unfolds different events that have one thing in common. The scenes can be chosen from different periods. They are not obliged to be chronically connected. The thing is that the anecdotes form one message that should be revealed in the conclusion of a montage college essay format.

There is another way to express your thoughts in a university paper structure. While you are thinking: “How to write my college essays?” applicants use unconventional structures. Following this route, you should be full of courage to play with the college essay format. Before you do this, make sure your college allows such a risky step. Otherwise, your paper will not meet the requirements.

When you want to show your creative nature, you can choose the following formats:

  • A movie. Write a university essay structure as a script for the movie.
  • A legal document. What could be more creative than turning a college essay format into a detective story?
  • A story in an original visual format. Shape your essay into a certain form or image.
  • A debate. Come to a conclusion through the debate college essay format.
  • A story with the song lyrics. Insert some melody into your paper.

You can also play with the linguistics and write it in different variations.


College Essay Titles

A title is the first thing a reader sees. Among the many applicants, you need to stand out. And it is the title that serves as this powerful tool. A title for a college essay format should be a “hook” that engages readers to move further and continue reading. It should also tune readers to read and give them a hint about what the paper will be about. Here are the essential tips to make a winning title for your university admission paper.

Write a Precise Title

All great college essays that worked had concise titles. A title should not consist of any meaningless words like “bad” or “good.” It should work only for your university admission paper structure and fit only your theme. If it can easily be applied to any other topics, you had better change it.

Avoid Generalization

Too general topics like “My Experience,” “The Story Of My Life,” or “What I Believe In” will only weaken your work. Under general topics, readers can imagine everything. They will not be focused on getting something extraordinary from your university admission paper.

Use the Active Voice

If you have verbs in your title, write them only in the active voice.

Don’t Play With the Words

If you plan to insert some clever phrases that can be perceived in multiple ways, substitute them with the easier ones. Some readers will understand you correctly, and some will treat your university admission paper as weird.

Double-Check the Title for Misspellings

It is very common for writers to make a mistake in the title. Don’t undermine your reputation by writing “piece” instead of “peace” and so on.

College Essay Headings

Taking into account the similarity of these two definitions, let’s state the difference between title and heading. A title names the whole document. A heading is used to name sections. Headings are useful not only for a clear understanding of content but for separating the chapters. And using a heading, readers can find specific information. Follow these tips on how to create headings, and your university admission paper will put you on the top of the application list.

  • Write a descriptive heading. A heading should guide a reader through the section it corresponds to. Make it short and clear. But don’t put only one word as a heading.
  • Don’t repeat headings in your university admission paper. Just as no two sections are the same, there should not be two identical headings. If it is difficult to define sections in a different way, use more descriptive headings.
  • Capitalize headings according to the rules. You can use online services which can capitalize the heading for your college essay. But you can do it by yourself. Capitalize all the words except conjunctions, prepositions, and articles.
  • Use automatic heading creation. If you use Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you can compose headings for college essays with heading styles.
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