How to Format Application Essay

April 19, 2018

So you have come to the point when you want to start with the process of applying to the university. It does not matter if you are a high school student or if you have already completed your studies, this step is very important in your life. The essay can be one of the most difficult aspects of a college application. Yes, you have test scores, but now you have to put yourself on paper and this may seem almost impossible. But in fact this is the topic that you know best – just follow these recommendations and tips, which will help you with tedious steps to write and format the college application.

What is an Application Essay?

The application essay is the most memorable part out of all the documents that you provide for admission. Through the essay, the admission committee tries to see you as a person, what you really are. Thousands of applicants have the same scores for exams, grades and it is the essay that highlights you and reveals your personality. In addition, the essay shows how you can commit yourself, analyze information, communicate with other people in writing. When employees of the Admission Committee read the essays, they not only learn information about you and judge your grammatical structures and used language units, but also pay attention to what you said and what ideas were presented in your essay.

How to Format Application Essay?

Some of your formatting problems will depend on whether you cut and paste your essay into a text box in the form of an online application or attach a formatted document. If you are not sure what you need to do, check the application instructions.

Most schools also allow you to send in a paper application, which actually gives you more control over the formatting of the essay. Nevertheless, I generally do not advise sending a paper application (if you do not have another option) for several reasons:

Most schools say they prefer to receive online applications. While this usually does not affect your chances of admission, it is wise to respect institutional preferences in the college application process, where possible. This, as a rule, makes the process smoother.

Paper applications can get lost in the mail. Of course, there may be problems with online applications too, but you will be aware of the problem much sooner than if something happens to your paper application and then it gets mailed back to you. On the contrary, online applications allow you to be sure that your materials have been received.

Regardless of how you decide to submit your essay, you must create it in a text editor. This will help you to track the number of words, allow you to use spell checker, etc.

If you are going to copy and paste into the text field:

The main thing, when you copy and paste into the text field, is a double and triple confirmation that everything is correctly transmitted.

The number of words can get messed up with the unreliable formatting or can be treated differently in the text box, so keep in mind that you may need to make minor adjustments. When copying and pasting, you may lose formatting, for example, in bold or italic. Sometimes, bold and italic will simply not work in the text box, so you might be better off without them.

If you copy and paste your essay, your spacing between paragraphs may get spoiled. So make sure that all of your paragraphs are clearly delineated either through tabs or through a missing line if the tab stops working.

The font is likely to be standardized, but if it is not, select a standard font, for example Times New Roman or Arial (in any case you will have limited features) and a normal size (12 pt).

If you are attaching a document:

If you are attaching a document, you need to take care of the overall format of the college application essay. Things such as fields and gaps become more important.

Use one-inch fields. This is standard and easy to read. Although essays with one interval are generally acceptable, your essay will be easier to read if it is 1.5 or double. Clearly outline your paragraphs. One tab in the beginning is good.

Use a font that is easy to read, for example, Times, Arial, Calibri, Cambria, etc. Avoid fonts such as Papyrus and Curlz. And use the 12 pt font .

You can specify the title of the college essay with the page number and the ID of your application. Do not enter your name unless specifically requested.

Often you need to send the college essay in a certain file format. The application can only accept standard versions of Word files (ie, only .doc files, not .docx), .rtf or .pdf files. So make sure that you have saved the file in the accepted format before you upload it! I recommend .pdf files when possible, because they are immutable and always look the same.

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How to Structure Your Application Essay

The college application essay is actually a good opportunity to play around with the structure a little and get out of the five-paragraph essay. (You, of course, are not forbidden to write an essay with five paragraphs, but this does not guarantee the best structure of the essay.)

A good college essay is like a sandwich, where the introduction and conclusion are pieces of bread, and everything that comes between them is a sandwich filling. A sandwich without bread is a bad sandwich, but a good sandwich can have any number of things between pieces of bread.

Therefore, you need a clear introduction that gives you a fairly clear idea of where are you going with the essay, and a conclusion that covers everything and makes your main meaning understandable.

However, when you approach the middle part, it is all up to you. You could structure your essay more like a narrative related to an important experience of your life. You can use an extended analogy, where each paragraph is part of an analogy. You want to generally adhere to the wisdom that every paragraph should have an identifiable underlying idea, but college essays are certainly a great chance to get out of an essay with five paragraphs.

General Tips and Advise

  1. Answer the questions that are asked. Never try to write a “universal” essay, suitable for all universities. Most likely, this essay will not impress anyone in the Admission Committee.
  2. Be specific. For example, do not say that you are an excellent doctor, if you can not bring specific life examples to confirm this statement. If your wish to become a lawyer, an engineer, etc., you should have specific experience that is described in your essay. Your statement should be the logical conclusion of your life stories.
  3. Find the “right angle”. It is very important to show your story under an interesting angle, make it unusual, find a way of describing that will help to “hook” anyone who will read your essay.
  4. Pay attention to the first paragraph. The first paragraph (introductory paragraph) is extremely important. Here you either grasp attention of the reader, or you lose it. This paragraph becomes the basis for everything that follows.
  5. Tell me about what you know. The “heart” of your essay is the interests and experience in the field that you want to get into, and also the knowledge about it. Extremely many people want to enter a certain specialty without any knowledge of it. Tell me what you know about the sphere you are interested in, using a professional language. Tell us about your professional experience (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people from the industry, the books you read, the seminars you attended, or any other resources that you used to learn more about the profession that you want to get into, and also why you are suitable for this profession.
  6. Explain why you are applying to this university and this particular program. Study the specifics of the certain program and university and explain your choice. If certain geographical or cultural factors provided by the university are important to you, it would be great to mention them.
  7. Pay attention to grammar and punctuation! Even if you are a foreign student, this does not give you the right to write an essay with mistakes. Most members of the admission committee note that literacy plays a decisive factor when choosing a student. Also, observe the established limit on the number of words.

What not to do

  • Do not try to be someone else. You will not be able to deceive the staff of the admission committee, who saw thousands of essays and immediately see that your description of yourself does not coincide with the rest of the documents.

    “We often get essays written in words that you rarely use in everyday conversation and who seem to be called upon to create the impression that the speaker has a broad vocabulary,” says Curtis-Bailey.

    There is no need to use lofty words, “when all we want is to see what kind of person you are, without digging into dictionaries in search of the meaning of the used terms.”

  • Do not take too complex topics and ideas for the essay. There are a lot of essays, where students are trying to show that they understand complex ideas and topics, when in fact they don’t and this is never a good thing.
  • Do not use common cliches, they show that you can not express ideas on your own.
  • Do not use a lot of quotes. They give the impression that you do not have your own opinion.
  • Do not write an autobiography. Do not write something that can be found in other documents of your application. It is not interesting.

Good luck with your essay!

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