Elite College Essay Formatting: A Step-by-Step Guide

Mark Twain once stated, “I like a good story well told. That’s the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.”

At Top Elite Writers, we too like excellent stories well told.

The issue is that sometimes pupils have excellent stories… that are poorly told.

They have the germ of an idea and the makings of a great narrative, but the essay’s format and structure are disorganized.

Which can cause an admissions officer to perceive you as disorganized. And your essay does not have the impact that it could.

So, if you’re here, you’re likely curious:

Exists a required format for college-level essays? How should I organize my essay?

Possibly, what is the difference?

This article responds to that question.

Let’s begin by discussing a few common concerns students have when attempting to format their essay.


Should I include a title in my college essay?

You do not require one. The overwhelming majority of students with whom we work do not use titles. In the few instances where they have, it is because the title allows for a discreet play on words or recasting of the entire essay. Therefore, there is no requirement to include one; they are entirely optional.

Should I use paragraph breaks or indents in my college essay?

Either. Simply be constant. Use paragraph breaks if you are pasting into a box that messes up your formatting; for example, if your indentation is eliminated when you copy your essay into the box. (And when you arrive at college, be sure to verify which style manual you should be using: Chicago, APA, MLA, etc., can all adopt different formatting approaches, and different fields have varying requirements.)

How many sentences should a college essay have?

Statements of purpose are not English essays. They do not need to be five paragraphs with a clear, argumentative thesis statement at the outset and a summary paragraph at the end. Therefore, feel free to deviate from that. How many paragraphs should a college essay have? Within reason, the decision is yours. We’ve seen some excellent personal statements with four paragraphs and others with eight or more (especially dialogue—yes, dialogue is acceptable!).

How many words should my undergraduate paper be?

The good news is that colleges and their application systems will typically provide you with a maximal word count. The most popular college application systems, such as the Common Application and the Coalition Application, grant you a maximum of 650 words for your primary personal statement and typically less for school-specific supplemental essays. Other systems typically specify the utmost word count; the UC PIQs have a word limit of 350. If they don’t specify this in their application systems or on their website (and you’ve done your research), you can send them an email to inquire! They will not strike.

So, should you utilize every inch? We typically endorse it. We believe it would be a missed opportunity if you did not utilize the entire space provided to tell your life narrative, as you likely have a great deal to say about yourself. While you are not required to use every single word, aspire to use the majority of the words provided. But avoid merely filling space if what you’re sharing does not contribute to the overall story you’re conveying.

There are also applications and supplementary materials with suggested word counts or lengths. For instance, Georgetown specifies “approximately one page,” whereas the University of Chicago does not specify a maximum length, but suggests aiming for 650 words for the extended essay and 250 to 500 words for the “Why us?”

You can typically apply the recommendations of the University of Chicago to other schools that do not impose a limit: If the supplement is a “Why Major” supplement, 650 words is probably sufficient; for other supplements, 250-500 words is a reasonable range to aim for. If you exceed the word count, it is acceptable as long as you justify it (i.e., you are not rambling or excessively wordy). Your audience consists of humanity. If you send them a book, they may lose interest.

Regarding elements such as italics and bold

Keep in mind that when you paste text into a box, the formatting may be lost. Verify if you’ll be able to utilize italics or bold for emphasis if you were planning to do so. (And in general, rather than relying on bold or italics, use sentence structure and phrasing to create emphasis, as doing so will make you a stronger writer.)

Regarding typeface, size, and hue

Maintain simplicity and conformity. Regarding font type, you cannot go wrong with fonts such as Times New Roman or Georgia (which is used here). Simply avoid Comic Sans and other informal/casual fonts.

11- or 12-point is acceptable.

The color is black.

Choosing an alternative to the above could involve a risk, possibly a substantial one, for relatively little gain. Things such as an unusual font or text color can easily appear contrived to the reader.

To make your writing stand out, take some risks with the topics you choose and the connections and observations you make.

When attaching a document (as opposed to pasting)

All of the aforementioned still holds true if you are attaching a document as opposed to pasting words into a text box. Once more, we advise sticking with conventional fonts and sizes; Times New Roman, 12-point, is a reliable choice. Most likely, 1.5 or double spacing will do. normal margins.

Basically, use the formatting you’d typically use in college to demonstrate to them that you’re prepared to write in that environment.

Is there a sample college essay I may follow?

Depending on what you’re requesting. If formatting is what you mean when you say “template,” then… look above.

But not exactly if you mean a structural template. There isn’t a single model college essay to use. And that’s advantageous.

Having said that, we’ve discovered two fundamental structural methods to creating college essays that may be used for each and every prompt we’ve encountered. (Apart from listings. as they are lists.)

We’ll discuss those two essay forms in more detail below, but you’ll notice how adaptable they are and how they may produce remarkably distinct writings. You can also look at a few sample essays to get a sense of the format and organization. However, before you look at too many samples, we advise doing some brainstorming and outlining to come up with some potential subjects.

Step One; How to Brainstorm an Amazing Essay Topic

Together, we’ll talk about the theme and structure. Why? the two inform one another.

(And just to be clear, by “topic,” we mean the theme or focal point of your essay that you use to demonstrate your character and principles. You are always the “topic” of your college essay.)

There are, in our opinion, two fundamental structural techniques that can be used in any college essay. These aren’t the only two alternatives; rather, they can be used for any writing prompt you may encounter.

Which structural strategy you employ depends on how you respond to the following query (and its addendum): Do you believe that you have overcome big obstacles in your life? or not at all? Do you want to write something about them?

If the answer is yes to both questions, you should adopt the narrative structure.

If the answer is no to either, you should probably attempt Montage Structure.

Thus, what exactly are those structures? And how do they impact your subject?

The narrative structure is a traditional form for stories. If you read, watch movies and TV, share stories with friends and family, and watch movies and TV, you’ve probably seen this a lot. This can be unfamiliar if you don’t do any of these activities. If not, you already are aware of this. Maybe you’re just unaware that you do. In a narrative, a character or characters—in this case, you—work to overcome obstacles while also learning, developing, and gaining understanding.

For a college essay that uses the narrative format, you should divide the word count nearly evenly among the following three sections: a) Challenges You Faced; b) What You Did About Them; and c) What You Learned (with the proviso that a and b may be slightly intertwined with c). Events and paragraphs are causally related.

Montages are another thing you’ve seen. But once more, you could not be aware of what you know. So: A montage is a collection of items with a common theme, usually photographs. You’ve probably seen montages in countless movies, such as the “here’s the couple meeting, dating, and falling in love” montage in romantic comedies and the well-known “training” montage in action flicks. A tale is told more fully by a few photos. By using a thematic thread to write about five distinct pairs of pants that represent various facets of who you are and what you value, you may create a montage in your college essay. Or distinct but related things that you enjoy and are quite knowledgeable about (like games or animals). or notes in your happiness journal.

How does structure affect a compelling topic?

We feel that the following topics or themes are more likely to make an essay stand out as a montage essay (i.e., an essay NOT about challenges):

Elastic (able to be connected to a variety of examples, occasions, or values)

Y. Uncommon (i.e., something that presumably no other students are writing about)

According to us, a narrative essay is more likely to be noticed if it includes:

X. Compelling or difficult challenges

A. Perception

Instead of being binary, each of them exists on a spectrum.

Each individual will define “elastic” differently. Mountaineering and family, history, literature, science, social justice, environmentalism, development, and insight might be related in some way. and another person could not make much of a connection with it. perhaps trees?

“Uncommon” – thousands of students compose essays each year discussing concerts, sports, or missions. It’s not impossible to write on these topics, but it’s far more difficult to stand out.

It’s possible to categorize “difficult or compelling challenges” into two categories: the weaker end includes things like failing a class or not making the sports team, and the stronger end includes things like escaping a war or spending three years without a home. It’s quite difficult to compose an excellent essay about a weaker problem, even though you theoretically could.

“Insight” is the response to the query, “so what?” A fantastic insight will probably surprise the reader a little, whereas a mediocre insight will probably not. It’s important to realize that some themes are definitely simpler to draw insights from than others. However, insight is something you’ll generate in an essay through the writing process rather than something you’ll typically know in advance for a topic.

To be clear, you may still create a fantastic montage with a well-known subject or a tale with mediocre insights. However, the level of difficulty increases. Probably quite high.

How do you come up with possible topics that are on the simpler side of the spectrum to stand out with in light of that?

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