How To Format A College Admission Essay

The college admission essay should be a brief about who you are and intentions at the academic institution you are choosing. The essay should be strong and personal yet focused and structured. Many college applications do not provide guidelines for the formatting of personal essays but it should be well written and easy to read. Single or double-spacing is usually fine unless specifically noted in instructions. Here is the ideal way to format your admission essay to make it the most effective.

Focused, General Idea

The essay should not be a novel. It must be focused and succinct. Five paragraphs should be adequate for completion. Introduce the purpose and state a thesis, support your argument, and then summarize the content and restate the purpose to conclude. Be sure to stay on topic and not drain the interest of the reader.

Page Mechanics

The essay page should have 1-inch margins along the top, bottom, and sides. Each paragraph should have the standard indentation and (five spaces or hitting the “tab” button once). Standard type and font should also be used (Times New Roman, sized 12 is the universally accepted font for formal papers).


The essay can and should be written in first person. First-person is the accepted perspective because you are writing about and your goals. Be sure to check your paper for use of second person perspective because it is rarely acceptable and you don’t want to make a poor impression. Review your paper for use of active vs. passive verbs. Active speaks firmly about who you are while passive leaves some doubt because of its lack of strength.


Pay attention to grammar and spelling, and do not rely solely on spell-check for the perfect essay. Have someone else proofread your work for content and errors. Also, read the essay from start to finish to catch any spelling errors. Consult forms of grammar help for rules on punctuation usage, especially if you are not sure about something.


Be focused and concise in what you say. Your essay is a glimpse into your personality and interests. The paper should be set up with 1-inch margins and have paragraphs properly indented. Use correct perspective and voice, and most importantly correct grammar. The last thing you need is your words and ideas drowning in difficulties of mechanics and style. Follow these suggestions and have fun and you can write an effective college admission essay.

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