How to Format a College Essay: Step-by-Step Guide
Mark Twain once said, “I like a good story well told. That’s the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.”
At College Essay Guy, we too like good stories well told.
The problem is that sometimes students have really good stories … that just aren’t well told.
They have the seed of an idea and the makings of a great story, but the essay formatting or structure is all over the place.
Which can lead a college admissions reader to see you as disorganized. And your essay doesn’t make as much of an impact as it could.
So, if you’re here, you’re probably wondering:
Is there any kind of required format for a college essay? How do I structure my essay?
And maybe what’s the difference?
Good news: That’s what this post answers.
First, let’s go over a few basic questions students often have when trying to figure out how to format their essay.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- College essay format guidelines
- How to brainstorm and structure a college essay topic
- Recommended brainstorming examples
- Example college essay: The “Burying Grandma” essay
College Essay Format Guidelines
Should I title my college essay?
You don’t need one. In the vast majority of cases, students we work with don’t use titles. The handful of times they have, they’ve done so because the title allows for a subtle play on words or reframing of the essay as a whole. So don’t feel any pressure to include one—they’re purely optional.
Should I indent or us paragraph breaks in my college essay?
Either. Just be consistent. The exception here is if you’re pasting into a box that screws up your formatting—for example, if, when you copy your essay into the box, your indentations are removed, go with paragraph breaks. (And when you get to college, be sure to check what style guide you should be following: Chicago, APA, MLA, etc., can all take different approaches to formatting, and different fields have different standards.)
How many paragraphs should a college essay be?
Personal statements are not English essays. They don’t need to be 5 paragraphs with a clear, argumentative thesis in the beginning and a conclusion that sums everything up. So feel free to break from that. How many paragraphs are appropriate for a college essay? Within reason, it’s up to you. We’ve seen some great personal statements that use 4 paragraphs, and some that use 8 or more (especially if you have dialogue—yes, dialogue is OK too!).
How long should my college essay be?
The good news is that colleges and the application systems they use will usually give you specific word count maximums. The most popular college application systems, like the Common Application and Coalition Application, will give you a maximum of 650 words for your main personal statement, and typically less than that for school-specific supplemental essays . Other systems will usually specify the maximum word count—the UC PIQs are 350 max, for example. If they don’t specify this clearly in the application systems or on their website (and be sure to do some research), you can email them to ask! They don’t bite.
So should you use all that space? We generally recommend it. You likely have lots to share about your life, so we think that not using all the space they offer to tell your story might be a missed opportunity. While you don’t have to use every last word, aim to use most of the words they give you. But don’t just fill the space if what you’re sharing doesn’t add to the overall story you’re telling.
There are also some applications or supplementals with recommended word counts or lengths. For example, Georgetown says things like “approx. 1 page,” and UChicago doesn’t have a limit, but recommends aiming for 650ish for the extended essay, and 250-500 for the “Why us?”
You can generally apply UChicago’s recommendations to other schools that don’t give you a limit: If it’s a “Why Major” supplement, 650 is probably plenty, and for other supplements, 250-500 is a good target to shoot for. If you go over those, that can be fine, just be sure you’re earning that word count (as in, not rambling or being overly verbose). Your readers are humans. If you send them a tome, their attention could drift.
Regarding things like italics and bold
Keep in mind that if you’re pasting text into a box, it may wipe out your formatting. So if you were hoping to rely on italics or bold for some kind of emphasis, double check if you’ll be able to. (And in general, try to use sentence structure and phrasing to create that kind of emphasis anyway, rather than relying on bold or italics—doing so will make you a better writer.)
Regarding font type, size, and color
Keep it simple and standard. Regarding font type, things like Times New Roman or Georgia (what this is written in) won’t fail you. Just avoid things like Comic Sans or other informal/casual fonts.
Size? 11- or 12-point is fine.
Going with something else with the above could be a risk, possibly a big one, for fairly little gain. Things like a wacky font or text color could easily feel gimmicky to a reader.
To stand out with your writing, take some risks in what you write about and the connections and insights you make.
If you’re attaching a doc (rather than pasting)
If you are attaching a document rather than pasting into a text box, all the above still applies. Again, we’d recommend sticking with standard fonts and sizes—Times New Roman, 12-point is a standard workhorse. You can probably go with 1.5 or double spacing. Standard margins.
Basically, show them you’re ready to write in college by using the formatting you’ll normally use in college.
Is there a college essay template I can use?
Depends on what you’re asking for. If, by “template,” you’re referring to formatting … see above.
But if you mean a structural template ... not exactly. There is no one college essay template to follow. And that’s a good thing.
That said, we’ve found that there are two basic structural approaches to writing college essays that can work for every single prompt we’ve seen. (Except for lists. Because … they’re lists.)
Below we’ll cover those two essay structures we love, but you’ll see how flexible these are—they can lead to vastly different essays. You can also check out a few sample essays to get a sense of structure and format (though we’d recommend doing some brainstorming and outlining to think of possible topics before you look at too many samples, since they can poison the well for some people).
Let’s dig in.
STEP 1: HOW TO BRAINSTORM AN AMAZING ESSAY TOPIC
We’ll talk about structure and topic together. Why? Because one informs the other.
(And to clarify: When we say, “topic,” we mean the theme or focus of your essay that you use to show who you are and what you value. The “topic” of your college essay is always ultimately you.)
We think there are two basic structural approaches that can work for any college essay. Not that these are the only two options—rather, that these can work for any and every prompt you’ll have to write for.
Which structural approach you use depends on your answer to this question (and its addendum): Do you feel like you’ve faced significant challenges in your life … or not so much? (And do you want to write about them?)
If yes (to both), you’ll most likely want to use Narrative Structure . If no (to either), you’ll probably want to try Montage Structure .
So … what are those structures? And how do they influence your topic?
Narrative Structure is classic storytelling structure. You’ve seen this thousands of times—assuming you read, and watch movies and TV, and tell stories with friends and family. If you don’t do any of these things, this might be new. Otherwise, you already know this. You may just not know you know it. Narrative revolves around a character or characters (for a college essay, that’s you) working to overcome certain challenges, learning and growing, and gaining insight. For a college essay using Narrative Structure, you’ll focus the word count roughly equally on a) Challenges You Faced, b) What You Did About Them, and c) What You Learned (caveat that those sections can be somewhat interwoven, especially b and c). Paragraphs and events are connected causally.
You’ve also seen montages before. But again, you may not know you know. So: A montage is a series of thematically connected things, frequently images. You’ve likely seen montages in dozens and dozens of films before—in romantic comedies, the “here’s the couple meeting and dating and falling in love” montage; in action movies, the classic “training” montage. A few images tell a larger story. In a college essay, you could build a montage by using a thematic thread to write about five different pairs of pants that connect to different sides of who you are and what you value. Or different but connected things that you love and know a lot about (like animals, or games). Or entries in your Happiness Spreadsheet .
How does structure play into a great topic?
We believe a montage essay (i.e., an essay NOT about challenges) is more likely to stand out if the topic or theme of the essay is:
X. Elastic (i.e., something you can connect to variety of examples, moments, or values) Y. Uncommon (i.e., something other students probably aren’t writing about)
We believe that a narrative essay is more likely to stand out if it contains:
X. Difficult or compelling challenges Y. Insight
These aren’t binary—rather, each exists on a spectrum.
“Elastic” will vary from person to person. I might be able to connect mountain climbing to family, history, literature, science, social justice, environmentalism, growth, insight … and someone else might not connect it to much of anything. Maybe trees?
“Uncommon” —every year, thousands of students write about mission trips, sports, or music. It’s not that you can’t write about these things, but it’s a lot harder to stand out.
“Difficult or compelling challenges” can be put on a spectrum, with things like getting a bad grade or not making a sports team on the weaker end, and things like escaping war or living homeless for three years on the stronger side. While you can possibly write a strong essay about a weaker challenge, it’s really hard to do so.
“Insight” is the answer to the question “so what?” A great insight is likely to surprise the reader a bit, while a so-so insight likely won’t. (Insight is something you’ll develop in an essay through the writing process, rather than something you’ll generally know ahead of time for a topic, but it’s useful to understand that some topics are probably easier to pull insights from than others.)
To clarify, you can still write a great montage with a very common topic, or a narrative that offers so-so insights. But the degree of difficulty goes up. Probably way up.
With that in mind, how do you brainstorm possible topics that are on the easier-to-stand-out-with side of the spectrum?
Spend about 10 minutes (minimum) on each of these exercises.
Essence Objects Exercise
21 Details Exercise
Everything I Want Colleges To Know About Me Exercise
Feelings and Needs Exercise
If you feel like you already have your topic, and you just want to know how to make it better…
Still do those exercises.
Maybe what you have is the best topic for you. And if you are incredibly super sure, you can skip ahead. But if you’re not sure this topic helps you communicate your deepest stories, spend a little time on the exercises above. As a bonus, even if you end up going with what you already had (though please be wary of the sunk cost fallacy ), all that brainstorming will be useful when you write your supplemental essays .
The Feelings and Needs Exercise in particular is great for brainstorming Narrative Structure, connecting story events in a causal way (X led to Y led to Z). The Essence Objects, 21 Details, Everything I Want Colleges to Know exercises can lead to interesting thematic threads for Montage Structure (P, Q, and R are all connected because, for example, they’re all qualities of a great endodontist). But all of them are useful for both structural approaches. Essence objects can help a narrative come to life. One paragraph in a montage could focus on a challenge and how you overcame it.
The Values Exercise is a cornerstone of both—regardless of whether you use narrative or montage, we should get a sense of some of your core values through your essays.
How (and why) to outline your college essay to use a good structure
While not every professional writer knows exactly how a story will end when they start writing, they also have months (or years) to craft it, and they may throw major chunks or whole drafts away. You probably don’t want to throw away major chunks or whole drafts. So you should outline.
Use the brainstorming exercises from earlier to decide on your most powerful topics and what structure (narrative or montage) will help you best tell your story.
For a narrative, use the Feelings and Needs Exercise, and build clear bullet points for the Challenges + Effects, What I Did About It, and What I Learned. Those become your outline.
Yeah, that simple.
For a montage, outline 4-7 ways your thread connects to different values through different experiences, and if you can think of them, different lessons and insights (though these you might have to develop later, during the writing process). For example, how auto repair connects to family, literature, curiosity, adventure, and personal growth (through different details and experiences).
Here are some good example outlines:
Narrative outline (developed from the Feelings and Needs Exercise)
Domestic abuse (physical and verbal)
Controlling father/lack of freedom
Prevented from pursuing opportunities
Cut off from world/family
Lack of sense of freedom/independence
What I Did About It:
Pursued my dreams
Traveled to Egypt, London, and Paris alone
Explored new places and cultures
Developed self-confidence, independence, and courage
Grew as a leader
What I Learned:
Inspired to help others a lot more
Learned about oppression, and how to challenge oppressive norms
Became closer with mother, somewhat healed relationship with father
Need to feel free
And here’s the essay that became: “ Easter ”
Values: Family, tradition, literature
Ex: “Tailgate Special,” discussions w/family, reading Nancy Drew
Perception, connection to family
Chinese sword dance
Values: Culture/heritage, meticulousness, dedication, creativity
Ex: Notebook, formations/choreography
Nuances of culture, power of connection
Values: Science/chemistry, curiosity
Synthesizing plat nanoparticles
Joy of discovery, redefining expectations
Values: Exploration, personal growth
Knitting, physics, politics, etc.
Importance of exploring beyond what I know/am used to, taking risks
And here’s the essay that became: “ Home ”
When to scrap what you have and start over
Ultimately, you can’t know for sure if a topic will work until you try a draft or two. And maybe it’ll be great. But keep that sunk cost fallacy in mind, and be open to trying other things.
If you’re down the rabbit hole with a personal statement topic and just aren’t sure about it, the first step you should take is to ask for feedback. Find a partner who can help you examine it without the attachment to all the emotion (anxiety, worry, or fear) you might have built up around it.
Have them help you walk through The Great College Essay Test to make sure your essay is doing its job. If it isn’t yet, does it seem like this topic has the potential to? Or would other topics allow you to more fully show a college who you are and what you bring to the table?
Because that’s your goal. Format and structure are just tools to get you there.
Down the Road
Before we analyze some sample essays, bookmark this page, so that once you’ve gone through several drafts of your own essay, come back and take The Great College Essay Test to make sure your essay is doing its job. The job of the essay, simply put, is to demonstrate to a college that you’ll make valuable contributions in college and beyond. We believe these four qualities are essential to a great essay:
Core values (showing who you are through what you value)
Vulnerability (helps a reader feel connected to you)
Insight (aka “so what” moments)
Craft (clear structure, refined language, intentional choices)
To test what values are coming through, read your essay aloud to someone who knows you and ask:
Which values are clearly coming through the essay?
Which values are kind of there but could be coming through more clearly?
Which values could be coming through and were opportunities missed?
To know if you’re being vulnerable in your essay, ask:
Now that you’ve heard my story, do you feel closer to me?
What did you learn about me that you didn’t already know?
To search for “so what” moments of insight, review the claims you’re making in your essay. Are you reflecting on what these moments and experiences taught you? How have they changed you? Are you making common or (hopefully) uncommon connections? The uncommon connections are often made up of insights that are unusual or unexpected. (For more on how to test for this, click The Great College Essay Test link above.)
Craft comes through the sense that each paragraph, each sentence, each word is a carefully considered choice. That the author has spent time revising and refining. That the essay is interesting and succinct. How do you test this? For each paragraph, each sentence, each word, ask: Do I need this? (Huge caveat: Please avoid neurotic perfectionism here. We’re just asking you to be intentional with your language.)
Still feeling you haven’t found your topic? Here’s a list of 100 Brave and Interesting Questions . Read these and try freewriting on a few. See where they lead.
Finally, here’s an ...
Example College Essay Format Analysis: The “Burying Grandma” Essay
To see how the Narrative Essay structure works, check out the essay below, which was written for the Common App "Topic of your choice" prompt. You might try reading it here first before reading the paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown below.
They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.
The author begins by setting up the Challenges + Effects (you’ve maybe heard of this referred to in narrative as the Inciting Incident). This moment also sets up some of her needs: growth and emotional closure, to deal with it and let go/move on. Notice the way objects like the shovel help bring an essay to life, and can be used for symbolic meaning. That object will also come back later.
When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself. They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death. However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasn’t trying to comprehend what dying was; I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.
In the second paragraph, she flashes back to give us some context of what things were like leading up to these challenges (i.e., the Status Quo), which helps us understand her world. It also helps us to better understand the impact of her grandmother’s death and raises a question: How will she prevent such blindness from resurfacing?
I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance. While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals. And as I began to consider my future, I realized that what I learned in school would allow me to silence that which had silenced my grandmother. However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. I started to believe that academic perfection would be the only way to redeem myself in her eyes--to make up for what I had not done as a granddaughter.
In the third paragraph, she starts shifting into the What I Did About It aspect, and takes off at a hundred miles an hour … but not quite in the right direction yet. What does that mean? She pursues things that, while useful and important in their own right, won’t actually help her resolve her conflict. This is important in narrative—while it can be difficult, or maybe even scary, to share ways we did things wrong, that generally makes for a stronger story. Think of it this way: You aren’t really interested in watching a movie in which a character faces a challenge, knows what to do the whole time, so does it, the end. We want to see how people learn and change and grow.
Here, the author “Raises the Stakes” because we as readers sense intuitively (and she is giving us hints) that this is not the way to get over her grandmother’s death.
However, a simple walk on a hiking trail behind my house made me open my own eyes to the truth. Over the years, everything--even honoring my grandmother--had become second to school and grades. As my shoes humbly tapped against the Earth, the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky reminded me of my small though nonetheless significant part in a larger whole that is humankind and this Earth. Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.
There’s some nice evocative detail in here that helps draw us into her world and experience.
Structurally, there are elements of What I Did About It and What I Learned in here (again, they will often be somewhat interwoven). This paragraph gives us the Turning Point/Moment of Truth. She begins to understand how she was wrong. She realizes she needs perspective. But how? See next paragraph ...
Volunteering at a cancer treatment center has helped me discover my path. When I see patients trapped in not only the hospital but also a moment in time by their diseases, I talk to them. For six hours a day, three times a week, Ivana is surrounded by IV stands, empty walls, and busy nurses that quietly yet constantly remind her of her breast cancer. Her face is pale and tired, yet kind--not unlike my grandmother’s. I need only to smile and say hello to see her brighten up as life returns to her face. Upon our first meeting, she opened up about her two sons, her hometown, and her knitting group--no mention of her disease. Without even standing up, the three of us—Ivana, me, and my grandmother--had taken a walk together.
In the second-to-last paragraph, we see how she takes further action, and some of what she learns from her experiences: Volunteering at the local hospital helps her see her larger place in the world.
Cancer, as powerful and invincible as it may seem, is a mere fraction of a person’s life. It’s easy to forget when one’s mind and body are so weak and vulnerable. I want to be there as an oncologist to remind them to take a walk once in a while, to remember that there’s so much more to life than a disease. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Through my work, I can accept the shovel without burying my grandmother’s memory.
The final paragraph uses what we call the “bookend” technique by bringing us back to the beginning, but with a change—she’s a different, slightly wiser person than she was. This helps us put a frame around her growth.
… A good story well told . That’s your goal.
Hopefully, you now have a better sense of how to make that happen.
For more resources, check out our College Application Hub .
- Online Degree Explore Bachelor’s & Master’s degrees
- MasterTrack™ Earn credit towards a Master’s degree
- University Certificates Advance your career with graduate-level learning
- Top Courses
- Join for Free
College Essay Format: Writing & Editing Tips
A good college essay format, with the right topic, goes beyond your academic accomplishments and extracurriculars.
You want to stand out in a crowd, particularly when you’re applying to the college of your choice. As part of the application process, many schools ask for an essay to accompany the standard academic and personal information they require. So it’s important to make it a good one.
Your college application essay is essentially a story you tell that offers a glimpse into who you are, beyond your admissions application, grades, activities, and test scores.
A college essay, often called a personal statement, is your opportunity to reveal your personality. It's a way for the admissions department to get to know you as a person and get an idea of the kind of student you'll be.
So how should a college essay be formatted? This article covers formatting best practices, how to choose a compelling topic for your essay, and writing and editing tips to help you craft an essay that captures the attention of the reader, gets your point across, and is free of errors.
Decide on a topic.
You'll often have a choice of topics for your essay provided by the college or university. Choose a topic that allows you to best highlight what you want the college to know about you.
A good start is to list three positive adjectives that describe you. Then, see if you can write two or three real-life examples of each trait that demonstrates that you possess that characteristic.
Also, think about the stories other people tell about you or the words they use to describe you. Ask people who know you well:
What do you think sets me apart from others?
What are my strengths?
How would you describe my personality?
What are my quirks?
These ideas can become the inspiration to develop material for a good college essay.
From the list of essay prompts you receive from the college, choose the topic that will give you the best chance to showcase who you are within the limited word count. You don't have to write about a major life-changing event. It can be a mundane or ordinary situation—like a dinner table conversation, day at school, or conversation with a friend. Often, slightly unusual topics are better than typical ones because they hold a reader's attention.
Regardless of the topic you choose, remember that the true topic of your college essay is you, and the purpose of it is to show how you are unique. It highlights an important piece of who you are and where you want to head in life.
Common college essay prompts
Over 900 colleges use Common App essay prompts, which means you may be able to write one essay for several college applications. Some past Common App college essay prompts—which are announced publicly each year—include the following topics:
Share a story about your background, interest, identity, or talent that makes you complete as a person.
Describe a time when you faced a setback, failure, or challenge and what you learned from it.
Tell about a topic, concept, or idea that is so captivating to you that you lose all track of time.
Write about something that someone has done for you that you are grateful for, and how gratitude has motivated or affected you.
Whether or not the school you're applying to uses Common App questions, it will publish required essay topics in its admissions materials. Or, you may be asked to write on a topic of your choice. Here are some additional common college essay prompts you might encounter:
Describe a person you admire and how that person has influenced your behavior and thinking.
Why do you want to attend this school?
Describe your creative side.
Name an extracurricular activity that is meaningful to you and how it has impacted your life.
Tell about what you have done to make your community or school a better place.
Consult your college application instructions to see how long your essay should be. Be sure to stay within the required word count or essay length, not going over the maximum or under the minimum.
Chances are, you'll be given a word limit. If none is specified, experts on the admissions process recommend you keep your word count between 500 and 650 words. Use the required essay length to help you determine what you will share. You won't be able to tell your life story within these few paragraphs, so choose the most impactful examples as your content.
Create an outline.
An outline helps you plan your essay so you know how it will begin and end and identify key points you want to include in the middle. Use your outline to stay on topic and get the most use out of your word count.
Decide on a logical order.
The most effective outlines are usually the most simple ones. For instance, a good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Likewise, your essay will have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Unless the college requests a specific admission essay format, use the format you've been using to write essays in high school that you're likely to be the most comfortable with. If you're stuck on how to open your essay, write the middle of your story first. Then, go back and write a compelling introduction and a concise conclusion.
Sample format for a college essay
While the format of your college essay is largely up to you, it can be helpful to have an example as a springboard to give you ideas. Consider the following college essay format as you organize your writing.
1. Think about using a title.
A title for your college essay is not necessary. However, including one can add interest. But if you're low on word count, you can skip it. You can also wait until after you write your essay to decide. It's often easier to come up with a fitting, compelling title after you've told your story.
2. Open with a hook.
Your opening sentence is one of the most important parts of your essay. It's what you'll use to capture the attention of the reader and give them a reason to read on. The start of your essay is your opportunity to make an impactful first impression, so make your opening a good one. Here are two examples of how you can open with an interesting hook:
Start in the middle of your story: Call out the most interesting point of your story, and then backtrack from there. For example, "And there I found myself, surrounded by baby sea turtles on the hazy shores of Virginia Beach."
Make a specific generalization: This is a sentence that makes a general statement on what your essay will be about, but gives a specific description. An example: "Each year on our family vacation out of the city, I contemplate the meaning of life as we cross the Golden Gate Bridge."
3. Continue with your introduction.
While your hook will spark the reader's curiosity, the rest of your introduction should give them an idea of where you're going with your essay. Set your story up in four to five sentences.
4. Tell your story in the body of your essay.
If your introduction and conclusion are roughly 100 words each, your body will end up being about 450 words. Think of that as three to five paragraphs, with each paragraph having its own main idea or point.
Write in a narrative style—more as though you're having a conversation as opposed to writing an instruction manual. While you should pay strict attention to using proper grammar and sentence structure, you have the freedom to make your essay a reflection of your personality.
If you are a humorous person, use humor. If you're an eternal optimist or love getting into the minute details of life, let that shine through. Tell your story in a way that’s logical, clear, and makes sense.
5. Wrap up with a conclusion.
Finish your story with a conclusion paragraph, and make sure you've made your main point. What is the main thing you want the college to know about you through this story? Is it what you've learned, a value that's important to you, or what you want to contribute to society? Finally, conclude your essay with the personal statement you want to make about yourself.
Writing tips on how to format a college essay
As you're writing your college essay, keep these tips in mind:
Be authentic. One of the most essential parts of how to format a college application essay is to be authentic. The college wants to know who you are, and they will be reading dozens of essays a day. The best way to make yours stand out is to just be yourself instead of focusing on what you think they want to hear.
Show you can write . While the most important part of your personal statement is showcasing who you are, you'll also be judged on your writing ability. That's because knowing the fundamental principles of writing is important to college success. Show that you understand the structure of an essay and proper use of the English language.
Give the answer right away. If you're using a specific question as your writing prompt, answer the question directly in the opening paragraph. Then, use the rest of the essay to elaborate on your answer.
Stay on topic. Make good use of your word count limit by being concise and coherent. Stay on topic and refrain from adding any information that doesn't add to the main idea of your essay.
Write in your voice. Imagine you’re speaking to an actual person as you write. Be honest and accurate, using words you normally use. Your essay is a personal statement, so it should sound natural to the reader—and to you too.
Use real examples. Add real-life events and vivid details from your life. This adds color and validity to your personal statement. Personal examples will show you embody the characteristics or values you claim to, rather than merely saying you do.
Keep the formatting simple. Opt-out of fancy fonts that can be hard to read. Stick to fonts like Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid using bolding (except for headings), italics, all caps, or exclamation points. Let your words speak for themselves instead.
Save your essay. Instead of writing your essay directly in the online application, draft and save your essay in a document like Google Docs or Word—or start out on paper and pen if that's what you're most comfortable with. That way you can make edits and use helpful online spelling and grammar checkers. And you won't risk losing your essay if the application times out or you navigate away from it by mistake. When you copy and paste your essay into the application, make sure your formatting, such as line spacing and bolding for headings, remains intact.
Follow directions. Read and understand the specific instructions set by the college. Review them again before you submit your essay to make sure you've met all of the requirements.
Editing tips on how to format a college essay
Finally, edit your essay until you’re satisfied it conveys the message you want it to and it’s free of errors. Let your first draft be as messy or pristine as it comes out. Then, go back later—several times if needed—to clean it up. Ask yourself these questions as you edit your essay:
Is my essay free of grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors?
Is it the proper word length assigned by the college?
Have I answered the question in the prompt?
Does the introduction make me want to read more?
Are there any vague statements I can replace with more specific details?
Do any parts drone on or feel boring?
Does it feel too formal?
Are any parts or words repetitive?
Have I misused any words (such as there, their, and they're)?
Are my sentences varied in length?
Have I shared with the college what I most want them to know about me?
It can also be helpful to ask someone you trust to read your essay and give you constructive feedback. This might be a trusted teacher, parent, school counselor, or college student. It's best to choose someone who is familiar with the purpose of a college essay.
Ask them to give feedback about your essay using the same questions as above. But they should never try to rewrite your essay. And never let others edit out your voice. Ask them to focus on grammar and mechanics and to give suggestions on items to add in or leave out.
Above all, ask your guest editor what point they think you were trying to make with your essay. If they get it right, you know you've crafted a college essay that reflects you and your intended message.
Enhance your writing skills
Bring out your best in your college essay with a course in Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Learn how to find your voice, structure your essay, choose relevant details, and write in a way that pulls in your readers.
Bachelor’s Degree Guide: Resources for Your Undergraduate Education
College Essay Topics and Writing Tips
How Long Should a College Essay Be?
How to Write a Personal Statement
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
Develop career skills and credentials to stand out
- Build in demand career skills with experts from leading companies and universities
- Choose from over 8000 courses, hands-on projects, and certificate programs
- Learn on your terms with flexible schedules and on-demand courses
Start or advance your career.
- Google Data Analyst
- Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate
- Google IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate
- Google IT Support
- Google Project Management
- Google UX Design
- Preparing for Google Cloud Certification: Cloud Architect
- IBM Cybersecurity Analyst
- IBM Data Analyst
- IBM Data Engineering
- IBM Data Science
- IBM Full Stack Cloud Developer
- IBM Machine Learning
- Intuit Bookkeeping
- Meta Front-End Developer
- DeepLearning.AI TensorFlow Developer Professional Certificate
- SAS Programmer Professional Certificate
- Launch your career
- Prepare for a certification
- Advance your career
- How to Identify Python Syntax Errors
- How to Catch Python Exceptions
- See all Programming Tutorials
Popular Courses and Certifications
- Free Courses
- Artificial Intelligence Courses
- Blockchain Courses
- Computer Science Courses
- Cursos Gratis
- Cybersecurity Courses
- Data Analysis Courses
- Data Science Courses
- English Speaking Courses
- Full Stack Web Development Courses
- Google Courses
- Human Resources Courses
- Learning English Courses
- Microsoft Excel Courses
- Product Management Courses
- Project Management Courses
- Python Courses
- SQL Courses
- Agile Certifications
- CAPM Certification
- CompTIA A+ Certification
- Data Analytics Certifications
- Scrum Master Certifications
- See all courses
Popular collections and articles
- Free online courses you can finish in a day
- Popular Free Courses
- Business Jobs
- Cybersecurity Jobs
- Entry-Level IT Jobs
- Data Analyst Interview Questions
- Data Analytics Projects
- How to Become a Data Analyst
- How to Become a Project Manager
- Project Manager Interview Questions
- Python Programming Skills
- Strength and Weakness in Interview
- What Does a Data Analyst Do
- What Does a Software Engineer Do
- What Is a Data Engineer
- What Is a Data Scientist
- What Is a Product Designer
- What Is a Scrum Master
- What Is a UX Researcher
- How to Get a PMP Certification
- PMI Certifications
- Popular Cybersecurity Certifications
- Popular SQL Certifications
- Read all Coursera Articles
Earn a degree or certificate online
- Google Professional Certificates
- Professional Certificates
- See all certificates
- Bachelor's Degrees
- Master's Degrees
- Computer Science Degrees
- Data Science Degrees
- MBA & Business Degrees
- Data Analytics Degrees
- Public Health Degrees
- Social Sciences Degrees
- Management Degrees
- BA vs BS Degree
- What is a Bachelor's Degree?
- 11 Good Study Habits to Develop
- How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
- 10 In-Demand Jobs You Can Get with a Business Degree
- Is a Master's in Computer Science Worth it?
- See all degree programs
- Coursera India
- Coursera UK
- Coursera Mexico
- What We Offer
- Coursera Plus
- MasterTrack® Certificates
- For Enterprise
- For Government
- Become a Partner
- Coronavirus Response
- Beta Testers
- Teaching Center
- Modern Slavery Statement
Schedule a Free Consultation Now!
College Application Essay Format: The Definitive Guide
They are looking for that one thing that makes you uniquely you: your personality.
This is your chance share how your vision, goals, triumphs and experiences have molded who you are, and why you would be a choice candidate for admissions. Use this definitive guide for your college application essay format.
14 Tips for Formatting Your College Application Essay
Writing tips for the college application essay.
Danny is the CEO of FLEX College Prep. Danny’s core focus is on helping young people get the best advice, and be the best students they can be. His team of professionals are also personal coaches, and great people, driven by the same passion for helping people.
The Growing Importance of APs in College Admission
Many things have been changing in the college admissions landscape. Notably, there has been a decreased emphasis on general standardized exams such as the SAT and ACT and a legal
What Juniors Must Know About College Apps
Juniors. Parents of juniors. It’s time to discuss college applications. Many of you may think application deadlines are far away – a thing to be tackled when your demanding junior
Stand Out As A Student And Get A Great Recommendation Letter From Your Teacher
As you prepare to send off college applications, you need to find out which schools require letters of recommendation. Colleges and universities require letters of recommendation from applicants to gain
Let’s get started, together.
from learners to impacters
© 2023 FLEX College Resource Centers – All Rights Reserved
Why Admissions Officers Look for Personality in Essays
Ucla & brown admissions officers share insights.
FLEX and Admissions Officers from Brown and UCLA (former) will discuss the evolution of the holistic review in college admissions. What does this mean for the class of 2024 and beyond? College admissions are no longer simply tied to academics and test scores. The holistic review also factors in applicants’ experiences and personal characteristics as well as the perceived fit each candidate may have with a particular college campus.
In this webinar, we will cover the new personality/character index that is used in admissions and how Admissions Officers use college essays to rate each applicant against this index. How does a student hit the points that will deliver success? Join us to learn the difference between a mediocre essay and one that Admissions Officers will love to read.
Why A+ Students Don't Get 5s On AP Exams
How ap exams have changed, how colleges use scores, and how flex can help.
Did you know that AP exams are not graded on a curve? Did you know that, of the most frequently taken AP exams, none of the top 5 are STEM related? Do you know the difference between acing your Biology final and getting a 5 on the AP exam? Or how great writers can still bomb their exam for AP English Language and Composition?
In this webinar, you’ll hear from experienced AP instructors on some of the broader changes to how AP exams ask questions and award points. You’ll learn how these changes have made it more difficult for even high-achieving students to consistently do well on their AP exams. And, you’ll hear about FLEX AP Intensive classes designed to help students maximize their scores, which are increasingly important data points in the changing landscape of college admissions.
The New "Perfect Profile"
For getting into the ucs.
Last year, the UC system had another record-breaking year with 210,840 applicants for its nine undergraduate colleges. Always topping the list of best colleges, each school has its own variety of degrees and specialties offered as well as different acceptance rates.
Please join our seminar to learn about what the UCs are looking for in their applicants, what type of student profiles have the most success in getting acceptances from the UCs, and how ACE can level up your profile.
ACE Preview Workshop:
College essay topic - common app personal statement.
The Common App is an undergraduate college application that students may use to apply to more than 950 different colleges and universities in the US, Canada, China, Japan, and various European countries. With FLEX’s Application & College Essay (ACE) Program, students are always prepared for the latest changes in college admissions requirements including the growing importance of the college essay. A great college essay highlights a student’s personal attributes, how they are unique from their peers, and the kind of impact they can contribute in their community. Now more than ever, college essays are incredibly important in the college admission process, an opportunity to share who the student is outside of the classroom and how they can be an asset to their selected campus.
Juniors can join this in-person workshop to learn more about the Common App and how they can rise to the top of the application pool with a perfected personal statement. Students will work closely with a FLEX essay specialist to develop their own topics and to ensure that their unique voices are reflected in their essay.
While students are honing their personal statement, parents will have the opportunity to learn more about the post-pandemic College Admissions process and ask questions that are specific to their student.
Winning Strategies For Getting In:
Ucla and usc.
What are UCLA and USC looking for in an increasingly-competitive applicant pool? Learn how to level up your student’s application profile to gain acceptance into these prestigious universities.
This webinar aims to demystify the college admissions process, provide reliable information, and help students and parents develop a successful college application strategy.
Webinars for 6th - 9th Grade Students
Personality testing: the newest trend in post-pandemic college admission, prepare for success in high school, college & beyond, ace preview essay workshop, uc insight question.
With FLEX’s Application & College Essay (ACE) Program, students are always prepared for the latest changes in college admissions requirements including the growing importance of the college essay. A great college essay highlights a student’s personal attributes, how they are unique from their peers, and the kind of impact they can contribute in their community.
Now more than ever, college essays are incredibly important in the college admission process, an opportunity to share who the student is outside of the classroom and how they can be an asset to their selected campus.
Students work closely with their FLEX essay specialist to develop their own topics and to ensure that their unique voices are reflected in their UC or Common Application.
- B.A. Biology and Asian Studies – Bowdoin College
- M.A. Biological Sciences – CSUEB
- ACT Math and Science
- AP Chemistry
- AP Calculus
Aki graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in Biology and Asian Studies. Upon graduation, he gained experience in ophthalmic clinical research, where he was fortunate to co-author publications and co-invent a patent. While working in the clinic, Aki pursued a master’s degree in the biological sciences at CSU East Bay, where he completed a biotechnology certificate and was one of the few students to be granted a visiting scholar position at UCSF as part of his master’s research for one year.
Aki’s passion for helping students overcome challenges in math and science is demonstrated in his extensive tutoring experience. From supplementing a student’s school curriculum to designing a customized course; for nearly a decade, he has helped students realize their goals. In his free time, Aki enjoys learning new subjects and topics, all of which he utilizes when teaching students.
Why My Major?
In this College Essay Workshop, students will learn how to address the essay topic in a way that is specific, personal, cohesive, and that aligns with what colleges are looking for in a stand-out student.
A student’s extracurricular profile has become a significant factor in college admissions, speaking volumes to a student’s intellectual curiosity, personal excellence, and character.
So how do you go about building one? Should a student display a wide variety of interests, or deep interest in a single field? Do colleges care about the quantity over quality of activities? How can you distinguish yourself from other applicants? This is the time to showcase to colleges your passions and accomplishments outside of the classroom.
Join FLEX in our free webinar as we discuss what an extracurricular activities profile is, the relevance of extracurricular and summer activities, and how to build them seamlessly into a robust and cohesive application profile!
- University of California, Riverside – PhD in Sociology
- University of California, Los Angeles – BA in Gender Studies
- Students looking to gain admission to top-25 colleges and universities
- First-generation college students and transfer students
- Students interested in graduate school and/or research
- Students who are passionate about social justice work
- Crafting extracurricular profiles to assist students to stand out
- Merit-based scholarships and awards, including prestigious national titles
- Students who’ve had to overcome adversity, including learning disabilities
Dr. April Cubbage has sat on the graduate admissions committee for UC Riverside and evaluates scholarship applications for UCLA. She earned her BA degree from UCLA, where she was named a UC Regent Scholar. She is a nationally-decorated speech and debate champion and has won over $150,000 in merit-based scholarships. She was also named to the All-USA Academic Team and won the prestigious Harry S. Truman Award.
When she is not counseling students at FLEX, April also works as a Professor of Sociology. She earned her MA and PhD from UC Riverside and has spent the last 15 years in the higher education ecosystem.
April has advised and assisted dozens of students in applying for college and getting them into their dream schools, such as Stanford, NYU, USC, UC Berkeley, UCLA and UCI. She is passionate about guiding students to reach their greatest success and has extensive experience doing so. She frequently mentors students on research projects that are accepted and presented at local and national conferences.
April is excited to bring her compassion, enthusiasm, and insider knowledge to help students attain their college admissions goals. She is a great motivator and specializes in crafting profiles and guiding students into activities that tell a story of the student’s success.
Changes & Trends:
Analyzing early results for the class of 2023.
Analyze early application results for the Class of 2023 with FLEX’s expert counselors! This year’s early application results give indications of how colleges have continued to adapt to the changing college admissions landscape including testing policies and a more socially-minded, less achievement-driven admissions process.
Get the statistics on FLEX’s Early Round Decisions to see what worked (and what did not) and for a chance to meet some of our counselors who supported these students in getting into their target colleges!
- B.A. Psychology & B.A. Criminal Justice – University of Maryland
- M.A. Legal and Forensic Psychology – UC of Irvine
- SAT English
- ACT English
- AP Psychology
Sarah Kim graduated from the University of Maryland in College Park with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Criminal Justice/Criminology. She currently studies at the University of California, Irvine pursuing a Master’s in Legal and Forensic Psychology. There, her research focuses on rapport and support building in interviews with adolescent victims of sex trafficking. She takes her research focus on rapport building to reach students individually in a gentle but focused manner. When not working or doing school work, she loves to read, dance, and spend time with her dog.
Sarah has been tutoring for 7 years with experience in K-12 general English as well as SAT/ACT Test Preparation. She specializes in the reading writing components of standardized tests. Her extensive background in tutoring has allowed her to be considerate of all students’ needs–whether that be young children learning how to read or high schoolers wanting to succeed on their SAT. Sarah believes that each student should be met where they are and strongly believes that every student can succeed.
- B.S. Economics – Arizona State University
- M.A. Educational Leadership and Administration – UC Davis
- Master of Education – Arizona State University
- Ph.D. Sociocultural Studies and Educational Policy – Arizona State University
Dr. Carmina Mendoza is an education scholar with 25 years of experience in the public education sector. Her research and teaching have focused on Spanish instruction at different levels–elementary, secondary, and higher education. Dr. Mendoza has decades of experience, both as a teacher and as a researcher of Spanish immersion programs in Arizona and California.
Dr. Mendoza is also an active adjunct professor at Santa Clara University, teaching courses at the Masters of Arts in Teaching and Credential program. In this program, Dr. Mendoza has taught graduate level courses in Spanish to students who want to add a Spanish/English bilingual authorization to their teaching credential.
Dr. Mendoza is also a published author. She is the author of the book Transnational Messages: Experiences of Chinese and Mexican Immigrants in American Schools. She has also written chapters in edited volumes and articles in peer-reviewed academic journals, including the High School Journal and Multilingual Educator (publication of the California Association for Bilingual Education).
- B.A. Social Sciences, Emphasis Sociology – New York University
- ACT English and Reading
- AP English Language and Composition
- AP European History
- AP US History
Sara has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with an emphasis on sociology from New York University, and an Associates of Art in Sociology from Fullerton College. Sara’s past experiences as an educator and tutor range from Elementary to College age students. She provided peer-led supplemental instruction during her time at Fullerton College; during this supplemental instruction, she assisted students with understanding concepts and assignments in English courses taught at the school. She currently works as a long-term substitute teacher for local high schools. Sara’s main motivation to pursue a career as an educator is to support students and provide them with a fun and conducive learning experience that will set them up for future success.
- B.A. Economics – CSU Long Beach
- M.A. Economics – CSU Long Beach
Sami Shamroukh received his B.A. and M.A in Economics from California State University, Long Beach. As a graduate student, Sami focused on econometric research, creating and using mathematical models to understand economic systems. His projects have centered on the connection between an individual’s financial literacy and their savings rate, as well as the impact of ethnic diversity on police spending.
Sami has experience teaching economics as a graduate assistant for undergraduate courses as well as an economics tutor, specifically for micro/macroeconomics at the entry and intermediate levels. Sami enjoys teaching students by letting them work problems out logically until the student fully understands how to dissect the problem for themselves. The most important thing for Sami is that any student he has the fortune of teaching is able to walk away feeling they have a deeper understanding of the material than they had before.
- B.S. Computer Game Science – UC Irvine
- AP Computer Science A
- Computer Science: C/C++
- Computer Science: Java
- Computer Science: Python
- Math, Lower Level (Alg2 and Below)
- Pathways – STEM Coding
Theodore (Teo) Lee
Theodore (Teo) Lee graduated from the University of California-Irvine with a B.S. in Computer Game Science. He has been tutoring computer science for the last 5 years, helping those new to the field understand and develop their computer science skills. In addition to tutoring, Teo is President of the local Association for Computing Machinery. He has led many team projects developing software, and he has won numerous prizes in the many competitions he has attended.
When teaching students, Teo likes to implement practical examples and explain concepts using visual models and diagrams. In the field of Computer Science more specifically, it is especially important to understand how things work “under the hood,” so Teo strives to equip his students with multiple ways of thinking about a problem, thereby developing their own style in navigating the various technical routes toward achieving a solution.
- B.S. Business Administration in Marketing and Finance – UC Berkeley
- M.S Education – CSU East Bay
- Multiple Subject Teaching Credential – CSU East Bay
- Single Subject Teaching Credential English, History Social Science, Science – CSU East Bay
- AP Macro and Micro
- ACT English Reading Science
- AP Lit and Lang
- AP Environmental Science
Rick attended San Francisco’s Lowell High, qualifying as a National Merit Finalist. After graduating from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Denny spent 15 years marketing and managing tech startups that were acquired by Amazon, Microsoft, Time Warner, and others for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Seeking to make a meaningful difference in students’ lives, Rick earned an MS in Education, and seven California teaching credentials including single subject English, history and social science, and science. Since 2007, Denny has taught and tutored diverse learners in English through AP Language and AP Literature; social science through AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, and AP US History; and science through AP Environmental Science. Rick has also mentored students in individual college-level research projects.
Since 2013, Denny has helped students excel on standardized tests, especially the SAT and ACT. Rick particularly enjoys individual tutoring because he likes getting to know his students and their interests, customizing instruction to meet their needs, and contributing to their growth and success. His tutoring superpowers are listening, analysis, patience, and humor.
- M.A. Engineering Economic Systems and Operations Research – Stanford
- B.A. Natural Science Area, Emphasis in Biology – Johns Hopkins
- ACT Math & Science
- College Essay
- Math, Lower Level (Alg2 & Below)
A Bay Area native, Reem earned her B.A. at Johns Hopkins University in Natural Science with an emphasis in Biology. She then returned to the Bay Area for a master’s at Stanford University in Engineering Economic Systems and Operation Research.
Her tutoring career officially began as a peer tutor at the Tutorial Center at Mountain View High School. In college, she volunteered to tutor inner-city children through the Johns Hopkins Tutorial Project. Her teaching continued at Stanford, where she taught graduate level Dynamic Equations.
As a tutor, Reem is amazingly friendly and upbeat while still being systematic in her assessment of her students’ needs and progress.
- B.A. English, Philosophy – University of Hartford
- Ph.D. English – UC Irvine
- AP English Language & Composition
- AP English Literature & Composition
- FRMC – Humanities
Dr. Michael Mahoney holds a PhD in English from the University of California-Irvine, where he has extensive experience teaching university courses in College Writing, English, Philosophy, Film, and History. Michael is widely recognized for his ability to engage students. He has received multiple campus-wide awards in recognition of his excellence as an instructor. In addition to his teaching, Michael’s research has also been recognized for its innovative approach to interdisciplinarity. His doctoral work has received support from endowments in fields as diverse as literary criticism, medical humanities, and science and technology studies.
Michael believes strongly in a student-centered approach to teaching, one that emphasizes active engagement with core concepts in order to achieve specific learning outcomes. His goal is to equip students with the skills to think critically, meaningfully, and independently about texts, ultimately helping them gain a sense of mastery and command over their use of language. Drawing on nearly a decade of experience teaching college writing in various disciplines, Michael also aims to help students reach their full potential in developing compelling and insightful essays.
- B.S. Mathematics – Harvey Mudd College
- College Math
- Math (lower and upper level)
Elisha Dayag is a PhD student in Mathematics at UC Irvine. He received his BS in Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. For the past five years, he has taught and tutored a wide range of students and topics: everything from 6th graders to college students doing calculus and beyond.
As a tutor, Elisha feels that math instruction should be tailored to a student’s specific needs and help soothe any anxieties they may have regarding mathematics. He further believes that anyone can be proficient in and, more importantly, find joy in doing mathematics given enough practice and the right guidance.
- B.A. English, Minor in European Studies – UCLA
- M.A. English – CSU Long Beach
- AP World History
- Pathways – English & Writing
Chelsea Gibbons holds a B.A. in English with a minor in European studies from UCLA and an M.A. in English from Cal State Long Beach, where she specialized in 18th century British literature. While pursuing her Master’s, Chelsea worked as a managing editor for the school’s academic journal and taught as a graduate assistant for numerous literature and history classes. Outside of the university setting, Chelsea has instructed high school students across the humanities, and specifically in the test prep environment: her teaching background includes AP English Language, AP English Literature, AP European History, AP US History, AP World History, college application essays, and standardized test prep (ACT, ISEE, PSAT, SAT).
Chelsea views the classroom as a democratic space. Her students are active participants in their own learning, guided as they are through thoughtful discussions and assignments. She strongly believes that the development of critical thinking and the promotion of a global perspective makes humanities classes crucial to every student’s education, no matter what their major or academic focus.
- M.S. Physics – New York University
- M.S. Applied Mathematics – CalPoly University, Pomona
- M.S. Physical Chemistry – CalPoly University, Pomona
- B.S. Physics – CalPoly University, Pomona
- AP Calculus AB/BC
- AP Physics 1
- AP Physics 2
- AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism
- AP Physics C: Mechanics
- Math, Upper Level (Trig and Up)
Andrés Cárdenas is an accomplished scientist and STEM teacher. He holds multiple Master’s degrees: one in Computational Physics from NYU, another in Applied Math from CalPoly, and one in Physical Chemistry, also from CalPoly.
After working as a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Andrés spent 8 years teaching AP Physics at New York City high schools. His passion for science, in part, explains his love for teaching: his classroom enthusiasm is immediately visible, something his students find contagious. Andrés believes that a robust STEM education starts with a student’s sense of wonder and a desire to discover; and his curriculum work reflects an emphasis on connecting concepts with theory organically—be it in mathematics, physics, chemistry, or computer science.
- B.A. Political Science – University of the Pacific
- Ph.D. American History – Brandeis University
- AP US Government & Politics
Alexandra (Alex) Lough earned her PhD in American History from Brandeis University and a B.A., with high honors, in Political Science from the University of the Pacific. She is currently pursuing a Single Subject Teaching Credential in Social Science from National University. Alex has extensive experience teaching and tutoring advanced high school and college students. She has taught Analytical Writing and Freshman Composition at the college-level and has been tutoring students in AP US, World, and European History for the past eight years.
In addition to teaching, Alex has a background in academic editing and publishing. She serves on the Board of Directors and frequently writes for the American Journal of Economics and Sociology and is a contributing editor of the six-volume book series, The Annotated Works of Henry George (Rowman & Littlefield). Alex enjoys creating and using her own content in her work with students. In 2016, she co-founded LectureSource, Inc.—an online marketplace for advanced high school and college course materials.
How to Build Your Extracurricular Activities Profile for Stand-Out College Applications
Extracurricular activities profiles play a significant role in college admissions. So how do you go about building one? Do colleges care about the quantity over quality of activities? How can you distinguish yourself from other applicants?
This is the time to showcase to colleges your passions and accomplishments outside of the classroom. Reserve your spot in our free seminar to learn what an extracurricular activities profile is, what it means to colleges, and what steps you can take to build it.
Summer Planning - Making the Most of Your Time
School may be out and you may be in vacation mode, but summer is a great opportunity for students to gain valuable experiences outside the classroom and to enhance their extracurricular profile.
A student’s extracurricular profile has become a significant factor in college admissions, speaking volumes to a student’s intellectual curiosity, personal excellence, and character. So how do you go about building one? Should a student display a wide variety of interests or deep interest in a single field? Do colleges care about the quantity over quality of activities? How can you distinguish yourself from other applicants? This is the time to showcase to colleges your passions and accomplishments outside of the classroom.
Join FLEX as we discuss what an extracurricular activities profile is, the relevance of extracurricular and summer activities, and how to build them seamlessly into a robust and cohesive application profile!
Pre-Med and BS/MD Programs - What It Takes to Get In:
Is there a doctor in the house.
Many students have aspirations to become a medical doctor but may not necessarily know the additional commitment and requirements needed to have a successful journey. Increasingly, fewer schools are offering BS/MD Programs, so what does this mean for your student?
Please join our webinar to learn more about the impact of fewer offerings of BS/MD programs and what it means to be pre-med. FLEX presenters will go over what it takes to enhance a pre-med profile, what schools still offer BS/MD programs, and if these programs are right for your student.
What Sophomores & Juniors Should Be Doing Right Now to Prepare for College
Senior year may seem like it’s far away, but if you start your college application planning now, you will reduce stress and reap the rewards of a seamless and quality college journey.
In this webinar, we will share how a little foresight in specific areas will help you achieve your college goals. Topics covered include:
- Did you know that public schools and private schools calculate their GPA differently? Learn how to select classes that will optimize admission to your target college. We’ll also talk about the importance of taking Honors/AP® courses, as well as college level credits in high school.
- What you do outside of class both in school and off campus is an important part of your college application journey. We’ll provide strategies on how to not only best keep track of your extra-curricular activities now but also give you insights on which activities can enhance your college application.
- Students should actively plan and prep for standardized tests well before their senior year. We’ll share how you can best approach your PSAT®/SAT®/ACT® and what you should start doing now to maximize your success on the target test date.
Attend this free webinar to learn what Sophomores and Juniors MUST know about college applications and how you can get a winning start!
Changes & Trends:
Early results for the class of 2023.
- BSC. Mechanical Engineer – University of Alexandria
- A.S. Mechanical Engineering – Diablo College
- B.S. Mechanical Engineering – UC Berkeley
Michael holds a Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley and another from Alexandria University in Egypt. And he is currently pursuing a Master’s in Robotics at the University of Maryland.
Michael is passionate about education. He believes that he can help make every student love Mathematics and Physics – even those who have had a hard time coping with the nuances and complexities of these fields. Michael has taught widely throughout the Bay Area. He has been an instructor and STEM tutor at Diablo Valley College, as well as working in that capacity with students in private schools in San Francisco and in Berkeley. Having served in the US Army as a Combat Medic Specialist, Michael is experienced in aiding individuals when they are under extreme stress and in need of a calming, motivating presence. Michael is generous and kind, and particularly enjoys connecting to different cultures and people of all backgrounds.
- PhD Sociology – University of Southern California
College essay instructor.
Alfredo Huante holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Southern California. He has taught several undergraduate courses, introducing students to or advancing their understanding of the social world. Alfredo has published works in academic journals and websites and has ample editing experience. Alfredo excels at helping students translate their experiences into engaging, written essays by adjusting to each student’s specific needs.
- B.A. English – Stanford University
Cristina Herrera Mezgravis
Cristina graduated from Stanford University with Distinction and awards both in fiction and nonfiction for exceptional work in Creative Writing. Her application essays were published in 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays and 50 Successful University of California Application Essays.
She taught English to elementary school students while studying abroad in Paris, ran a creative writing program for high school students during her senior year at Stanford, and currently volunteers as an ESL tutor with the Palo Alto Adult School. Cristina worked for two years at an Andreessen Horowitz-backed startup, prototyping a new mobile app for teachers and students, and curating unpublished books, stories, and deleted scenes by New York Times bestselling authors.
Her experience in admissions consulting began by helping friends and family highlight the passions that set them apart as individuals and select the colleges that were a right fit for them. Students she advised were admitted to Stanford University, USC, and UC Berkeley, among others.
- B.A. English – Santa Clara University
- Masters of Library and Information Science – San Jose State University
Assistant director of college essay.
Sara attended UC Berkeley and transferred to Santa Clara University after deciding she wanted the opportunity to work with faculty on research. While at Santa Clara University, she helped Professor Judy Dunbar research and edit her book The Winter’s Tale: Shakespeare In Performance . Sara then went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science at San Jose State University and graduated in the top 1% of her class.
She has used her undergraduate and graduate education to pursue her passion of teaching research and writing to students. Sara has over five years of experience teaching and coaching, over two of which are with FLEX College Prep. At FLEX, Sara has successfully taught classes in SAT Verbal, ACT Verbal, middle school writing and English classes, college essay, and AP English Language and Composition.
She is committed to staying current with trends in test prep and college admissions as well as setting realistic goals for each student so that he or she can achieve success.
- B.A. US History and Philosophy – UC Davis
- M.A History – San Francisco State University
Nick Dawes earned his BA in US History with a philosophy minor from the University of California, Davis, and an MA in History with a concentration in cross-cultural contact from San Francisco State University. While Nick was growing up, many in his family were teachers and school administrators across the South Bay, including Fremont Union High School District, so he is intimately familiar with the academic landscape of the Bay Area.
While in graduate school, he lectured in undergraduate courses, acted as an associate editor of an academic journal, and published his own original work. After graduation, Nick worked in standardized test prep, AP subject tutoring, and he most recently taught at a Bay Area private school for five years. He believes that students learn and work best when they have a productive relationship with their instructor.
In his essay coaching, he works to help students dig deeper into who they are as individuals and what motivates them in order to find the compelling, unique stories in each student. Nick has worked with students on their college admissions essays for the last 9 years, helping students gain admission to top UCs and other prestigious top 20 public and private institutions across the country.
- Doctoral study in Human Development and
- Psychology – Harvard University
- M.A. Applied Child Development – Tufts University
- B.A. Anthropology – Boston University
Master consultant & instructor.
Martha Crowe has worked with, for, and on behalf of youth for three decades, as a social worker, child advocate, nonprofit director, consultant, and for the past eight years, as a professor, researcher, and medical writer at SDSU. Helping people tell their stories has been at the heart of each phase of her career. Martha loves getting to know young people — to hear about what they care about, what they are good at, and what their dreams are for their futures. And magic can happen when they trust her enough to help them tell their stories in an authentic and compelling way that both honors who they are and convinces admissions counselors to accept them.
Martha believes in taking a personalized approach with each student, tailoring her time with them based on their individual writing skills and learning needs. Her approach is always based on genuine care and concern combined with concrete action items and deadlines. For the past four years, Martha has helped students get into a variety of colleges, as well as honors programs within those colleges, from tiny to huge, rural to urban, California to the East Coast: UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UC Davis, Northeastern, UMass Amherst, University of Michigan, Syracuse, Macalester, Santa Clara University, Pepperdine, University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount, Cal Lutheran, Cal Arts, Claremont McKenna Colleges, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne, among others.
Martha grew up in Kansas City and joyfully left for Boston after high school, attending Boston University, Tufts, and Harvard for undergraduate and graduate school. She moved to SoCal in 2004 to spend time with her brother after graduation, and like so many others, forgot to leave. Most importantly, she’s a mom to three kids, who are, at the time of this writing, 18, 16, and 12, and an auntie to 58 nieces and nephews (true story) and too many great nieces and nephews to count. In her spare time, Martha volunteers with High Tech High, Miracle League, and Meals on Wheels, is an avid reader, and loves hanging out with her kids.
- B.S. Mathematics – UCSD
- M.S. Psychology – King’s College London (In Progress)
Helena is a Masters student in Psychology with extensive experience in the education sector, where she has worked as a teacher, consultant and student advocate. She started tutoring students in high school and supported herself in college as an SAT instructor. With a mathematics background but still very much interested in pedagogy and mentorship, Helena decided to leverage her analytical mindset and ability to problem-solve by continuing to work in college admissions consulting–advising high school students and their families on the complex college admissions process. Through this work, she continued her passion for teaching others how to write and hone their narrative voice, which brought her to FLEX as a college essay instructor.
- B.A. English/Creative Writing; Minor: Music Industry and Cinematic Arts – University of Southern California
Gabriel graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California with a BA in English/Creative Writing. He honed his writing skills through writing-intensive programs at USC and the University of Melbourne in Australia. After graduating, he spent four years in the music industry working for Sony Music Publishing, where he engaged in daily writing assignments and excelled at working with others and building trusting relationships. Gabriel has years of teaching experience; he brings a warm energy and first hand expertise in writing successful college essays. In the classroom, Gabriel values trust and joy. With a genuine interest in others, he builds trust through keen listening and clear and open communication, and asks for the same, in return. By having fun with the material and leading with positive reinforcement, he brings his best to the classroom and gets the best from his students. Most importantly, Gabriel believes in pursuing what you love. He can’t wait to learn what makes you who you are and to help you convey your authentic self to your dream school.
- M.A. Private School Leadership – Columbia University
- M.F.A Writing – University of San Francisco
- B.A. English, Creative Writing – University of Houston
- B.S. Communication Studies – University of Texas
NDidi is originally from Houston, TX, born and raised, and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. She obtained her MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco in 2017. Prior to that, she earned a Bachelor of Science from University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston. She is currently a graduate student at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, pursuing a Master of Education in Private School Leadership.
Ndidi has worked with students of all ages since 2003, moving into a focus on middle and high school students in 2015. Ndidi specializes in teaching essay writing, speed reading, and reading comprehension skills. She believes in student choice and autonomy and uses evidence-based practices. In the past, she has helped dozens of high school students get into their dream schools as a summer college essay instructor, including admissions to Spelman College, Howard University, Harvard University, University of California, and University of Texas at Austin.
Northern California Info Banks September 17th
- UC Berkeley – BA in English
- Santa Clara University School of Law – JD
- Students seeking admission to highly-selective schools
- Students seeking admission specifically to the Ivy League
- High-level students
Senior VP of Admissions Consulting & Principal Consultant
Dan has over 7 years of experience working with students interested in a wide range of schools. A Bay Area native, Dan graduated from Mission San Jose High School. While at the Santa Clara University School of Law, Dan was a Judicial Extern for a United States District Judge. Prior to joining FLEX, he worked at a specialty scientific instrumentation technology company.
During his collegiate years, Dan played volleyball for both UC Berkeley and SCU earning a League Championship and 2nd Team All-American Honors. He later went on to coach at Mission San Jose High School and Archbishop Mitty High School, earning league, section and state championships. Dan also co-founded and directed a successful junior club volleyball program that earned multiple JO bids.
Dan’s students have been placed at top-caliber universities, including all of the Top 20 private schools.
- University of California, San Diego – PhD in Literature
- University of California, Berkeley – BA in English
Senior associate consultant.
Alex has nearly a decade of experience mentoring and teaching students. During his time as a PhD student in Literature and adjunct professor at UCSD, he developed the ability to bring out the best in his college undergraduates, and for the past three years, he has focused his attention on counseling, mentoring, and tutoring students at the high school level.
In his current role as an Associate Admissions Consultant, Alex seeks to cultivate students not just academically but also holistically. He leads students toward a more contemplative life where they are able to reflect deeply on their own values, ambitions, and experiences. His goal is not merely to help students develop compelling profiles on paper that would earn them admission to an elite university, but also to help them develop into individuals who have the curiosity and passion for learning.
Alex is proud to have been part of the journey of students who have forged their way into such prestigious institutions as Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Wellesley, NYU, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and Caltech. As somewhat of an errant intellectual, Alex’s continued academic interests include varied topics such as data science and the humanities, critical theory and the neuroscience of language, and colonialism and the universalization of the nation state. When not reading or writing, he might be found enjoying a run in the park — but, realistically, you will find him reading or writing.
- Stanford University – BS in Biological Sciences
- Westminster Seminary – MDiv in Counseling and History
- Students seeking best fit school environments
- Students interested in interdisciplinary fields
- Scholar athletes & scholar musicians
- Building personal narratives
Chief Director of ACE & Senior Principal Consultant
Tiffany has over a decade of experience at FLEX as a science and math instructor and academic counselor. She has previous work experience in the fields of land development, children’s ministry, and oncology research.
Tiffany has guided hundreds of students to selective schools during her tenure at FLEX, but she most enjoys finding the best-fit school environments for each student. She encourages students to focus not only on application strategy and outcomes, but also on personal growth through the application process and on goals beyond the undergraduate years.
An avid reader, Tiffany is always up for a good hike and enjoys noodles of all shapes and sizes.
- UC Irvine – MA in Art History
- UC Irvine – BA in Art History with a minor in English
- English (native proficiency)
- Korean (conversational)
Associate Consultant & College Essay Instructor
Since her days as an undergraduate, Jaimie has had an insider’s perspective of the college admissions process at the University of California system. She has worked as a Campus Representative in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and as an Academic Advisor in the School of Humanities at UC Irvine, where she gained invaluable insight into the admissions and counseling process. Because of these experiences, Jaimie understands the importance of fit when selecting and applying to colleges. Additionally, she has been able to work with a diverse group of students, including international students and first-generation students.
With all of her students, Jaimie strives to help them gain entrance to a college or university that will not only set them up for career success, but will also help them find joy in learning. She hopes she can help her students feel empowered in their own skills and abilities.
Jaimie is also a FLEX College Essay Specialist, which allows her to bring out her students’ most authentic and compelling selves. She has a proven track record in producing high-quality storytelling with her students and finds that writing is a necessary strength for any major.
In terms of admissions, Jaimie has worked with students who have been granted admission to John Hopkins, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine.
During her free time, Jaimie volunteers for an Asian American art collective. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about pop culture.
- University of California, Irvine – MA in Education
- University of California, Irvine – BS in Biological Sciences
- Students interested in STEM, Business or the Social Sciences
- Students seeking admission specifically to the University of California
- Students seeking admission specifically to selective private schools
- Students with international educational experiences.
- Finding the right “college fit” and matching students to their dream school
- Crafting unique and compelling college essays
Bernadette has been working with high school and college students for over 10 years. Prior to joining FLEX, she taught and counseled international high school students in multiple countries on navigating the college application process in the US, and her students have received acceptances to top-tier private and public colleges. Coming from academically challenging educational contexts herself, she understands the difficulties and challenges that many students face in trying to stand out at a competitive high school.
As an Admissions Consultant and College Essay Instructor at FLEX, Bernadette takes a compassionate and hands-on approach, expertly guiding her students through the complicated and often stressful process of applying for college. As a result, Bernadette has had great success helping students write essays that are distinctive, compelling, and reveal their true passions and identities. She also regularly presents webinars on standardized testing changes and college trends in the COVID-19 era.
Bernadette has successfully helped students gain admission to the Ivy League, top 30 schools, as well as the UC campuses with the most selective majors, including selective majors such as Computer Science, Biology, Public Health, and Neuroscience. She specializes in helping students of diverse backgrounds and interests find their best fit application strategy and school list.
- B.A. Computer Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley
Dickson Tsai graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Computer Science and Linguistics, and he is currently a software engineer. While at Berkeley, he worked as a teaching assistant for numerous computer science courses. In addition to teaching undergraduates, he also tutored high school students online in AP Computer Science and on the SAT, reaching the Top 10 in “Super Helpful” ratings at a top online education service platform.
Dickson cares most about cultivating a growth mindset in students, since an internal desire to improve leads to a stronger, healthier motivation than any external reward. He emphasizes a mastery of fundamentals through highly interactive activities like drawing program visualizations for AP Computer Science.
Through this and other activities, Dickson works to accurately assess his students’ understanding and provide timely, actionable feedback. That way, students can gain the confidence to reason on their own from first principles.
- B.A. Cinema and Media Studies – Carleton College
- PhD Art History – Stanford University
- AP English Language Composition
- AP English Language Literature
- AP Art History
- Creative Writing
Henry’s passion for education is demonstrated in his extensive experience teaching high school students at Stanford University’s summer program and Stanford undergraduates. Over the past 5+ years, he has worked with many students to develop more sensitivity and subtlety in their writing. He has also worked individually with high school and international students taking a wide array of Stanford courses over the summer, though he specializes in English, Art History, and Film Studies-his PhD being a strange mix of all three.
Henry thinks of writing more an artform than an algorithm, a way of thinking and feeling more forcefully about the world rather than a simple means of delivering information. How we write changes what an experience might mean. As an admissions reviewer, Henry has seen just how many applicants are crippled by a too-standard, high school curriculum approach to essay writing, one that does not allow them their own voice.
Henry hopes that his students will not only succeed in their high school essays and college application essays, but that they will develop skills that will benefit them in their college coursework and beyond.
- B.A. Creative Writing – SFSU
- English Enrichment
Ashley attended San Francisco State University where she received her BA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry. As an avid writer, Ashley developed an interest in poetry at a very young age, after immersing herself in the collections of Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare. Throughout her college experience, Ashley participated in numerous workshops where she was able to sharpen her skills in playwriting, poetry, short stories, novels, and essays. She worked as an Editor for Transfer Magazine, SF State’s literary publication, where she read and edited hundreds of submissions and selected the best pieces to be published. After college, Ashley worked as an Editor for an appraisal firm, interned as a writer for a travel magazine, and became the lead writer for a video game startup, here in the Silicon Valley.
Her passion for writing developed into a drive to educate youth on the English language. From Creative Writing to grammar and vocabulary, Ashley enjoys helping students hone their writing skills and prepare them for college. For over 5 years with FLEX, she has tutored students in essay writing for college and graduate school applications, with a focus on Architecture, History, Interior Design, Art, STEM, Social Sciences, and more! Ashley is a taskmaster who ensures her students complete coherent, authentic, and strategic essays well before application deadlines.
- B.A. Linguistics – UC Santa Barbara
- M.A. Eastern Classics – Saint John’s College
Steven Peterson earned his B.A. in Linguistics with emphasis in Japanese from UC Santa Barbara and his M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College, Santa Fe. His research focuses on the history of language and literature: he presented on classical philology at the West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium, for example, and his linguistic work has been published in the interdisciplinary journal Western Tributaries. In his spare time, he enjoys learning new languages and memorizing classical poetry.
Steven has extensive experience successfully teaching the humanities: he prefers to teach history as a series of vignettes rather than a mass of dry facts, and he loves using his linguistic background to reveal to students the grammatical “DNA” lying behind the English language. He has an in-depth knowledge of the SAT and ACT (as well as several of the AP tests), and specializes in preparing students for the Verbal components of standardized testing.
- B.S. Mathematics – Stanford University
- M.S. Mathematics – San Jose State University
- Ph.D. Mathematics – UC Santa Barbara
- SAT I & II Math
- AP Calculus AB and BC
- Computer Science (Java, C++, & Python)
Matt Lazar specializes in mathematics, including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Precalculus, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Discrete Mathematics. He is also familiar with higher level mathematics including abstract algebra, complex analysis, real analysis, differential geometry, differential topology, and point set topology. In addition, he has experience in editing math textbooks. Matt Lazar is capable of teaching introductory computer science languages, including the languages of C++, Java, and Python. Within the area of computer science, Dr. Lazar specializes in two dimensional and three-dimensional computer graphics.
At FLEX College Prep, Dr. Lazar would like to transfer his skills in mathematics and computer science to his students, so that his students can become successful in their education and their careers. Matt’s exceptional teaching ability is also shown in his AP track record, where the average AP Calc BC score of his students is 4.9, with 90% of his students earning 5s. His passion for math has enabled students across the ability spectrum to achieve their Calculus learning goals.
- B.S. Social Science – Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
- B.S. Computer Science – University of Maryland
- M.A. US History – George Mason University
- M.S. Computer Information Systems – Boston University
- Teaching Credential – Seattle Pacific University
- AP U.S. History
Jim served four years in the United States Army and was a Systems Engineer for Lockheed Martin for 29 years. Since retiring in 2007, he has been tutoring AP and non-AP United States History, European History, World History, essay writing and SAT preparation. He has also taught History and Geography part-time at a small private school. During his military service and Lockheed employment, he lived in Japan for two years and in Great Britain for 19 years and traveled in Russia, many western European countries, Scandinavia, China and Korea. Living abroad gave him the opportunity to see history through the eyes of several cultures and enhanced his understanding of history and his ability to communicate history to students.
- B.S. Molecular Environmental Biology – UC Berkeley
- ACT Science and Math
- SAT II Biology
- SAT II Math 2C
Klaus graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Molecular Environmental Biology. He is FLEX’s Instructor Trainer and Supervisor and is also the head of Math and Science Curriculum. He has over 11 years of experience working with students in the Los Altos and Cupertino areas in biology, chemistry, physics and math. His passion lies with introducing students to the wonders of math and science and helping them develop an understanding of the fundamental concepts necessary to succeed.
In 2012, Klaus started FLEX’s Biology Olympiad program which allows students to explore various disciplines in Biology, build conceptual understanding, and succeed on a very challenging exam. He has also overseen the creation of FLEX’s math curriculum for the SAT and math and science curriculum for the ACT. Klaus enjoys teaching students what these exams test for and how to develop the key strategies and techniques to score at their full potential.
As the head of FLEX’s AP Programming, Klaus has phenomenal success in motivating and coaching students towards 5’s. Since 2014, every student who has followed his 3-month study plan has achieved a 5 score. One would be hard-pressed to find another instructor in the Bay Area with more experience in AP preparation.
- UC Santa Cruz – PhD and MA in Sociology
- University of Michigan – Certificates in R Programming; Bayesian Analysis; Intermediate Regression Analysis; and Statistics, Probability, and Advanced Calculus
- UCLA – MA in Education
- UCSD cum laude – BA in Ethnic Studies (Honors Distinction) and BA in Psychology
- Students who have experienced personal and/or academic challenges
- Underrepresented and/or first generation students
- Transfer students
- Students in need to direct feedback and guidance in writing effective college application essays
- Students seeking admission to highly-selective schools who ultimately value fit more than prestige
- Students seeking admission specifically to UCSD, UCLA, UCSC, UIUC, University of Michigan, Duke, and Dartmouth.
Yvonne has 14 years of teaching and counseling experience: 10 in university settings and 6 in the private college prep and consulting industry. She is currently ladder-rank faculty at San Jose State and teaches classes in sociology and Asian American studies. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College where she taught, conducted research, and mentored students.
Given her research and experience, Yvonne approaches college prep and admissions through a personalized and holistic lens—all the while keeping a keen awareness about students’ local context, college admissions trends, and family needs. Yvonne takes a hands-on approach with all her students. Her objective is to have students learn about themselves, their passions, and practical needs as they navigate the tumultuous process of determining the right college fit.
Yvonne’s college placements include but are not limited to Dartmouth, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, Cornell, Duke, Northwestern, NYU, Brown, Pomona, CalTech, MIT, Georgia Tech, Michigan, CMU, USC, BU, BC, Vanderbilt, Rice, Wake Forest, Emory, and the UCs.
During her free time, Yvonne makes wheel-thrown pottery, rock climbs, serves on the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Task to build support for SJSU students, and advocates for immigrant rights. She works hard to not only give back to the communities that have been integral to her scholarly and personal growth but also impart critical thinking skills to all her students.
- BA in Political Science, minor in Conflict Studies – University of California, Irvine
- Crafting unique admission strategies
- Art students and students submitting a portfolio/audition
- Students with complex high school situations
- Students applying to top-50 schools
- Students with special needs
- International and transfer students
Since 2016, Ryan has been helping students at every level gain entry to selective colleges. He has extensive experience guiding students through the complicated pre-collegiate process — from advising them on high school courses, extracurriculars, college selection, and admissions essays, to everything in-between.
Many of his students have been accepted into some of the world’s most competitive institutions. These include traditional universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and USC, as well as more unique schools like West Point, Rhode Island School of Design, and Amherst College. Ryan works to ensure that his students matriculate to schools that are not only a good academic fit but also provide a supportive and empowering community.
Ryan is an inspiring and motivating counselor. It is crucial for him that his students do not experience the college application process as only stressful but as an exciting time of opportunity. He works closely with his students to take advantage of local resources to develop a bespoke unique admission strategy for each of his students.
In his free time, Ryan works with his local LGBT Center and the International Rescue Committee, helping to ensure that those who need it most have access to higher education. He also likes to explore the world through travel, D&D, SCUBA, and backpacking with his friends and family.
- New York University – MA in School Counseling
- University of Southern California – MS in Global Medicine
- University of California, Los Angeles – BS in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, minor in Chinese
- Students seeking admission to BS/MD or BA/MD programs
- International students
Jay has over 9 years of experience working as a consultant in college admission. He has previously served as an application reader and interviewer for the UCLA Alumni Scholarships Program. In addition, Jay is a certified Strong Interest Inventory counselor who can help students discover and explore their interests to determine possible majors and careers.
Having gone through the process himself, Jay understands the difficulties and challenges coming from a competitive high school in California. As an admissions consultant, he takes an informative and nurturing approach. Jay aims to work collaboratively with parents and students to craft an individualized plan to help students get into their dream school or program.
Jay’s college placements include but are not limited to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, UChicago, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Emory, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Boston College, Michigan, Georgia Tech, UIUC, and all the UC campuses.
During his free time, Jay likes to run, watch movies with friends, and discover new food to eat.
- UC Berkeley – BA in Molecular and Cell Biology
- Biola University – MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
- Students seeking admission into health-related majors
- Underrepresented students
- Students who have experienced personal challenges in their lives
Senior Master Consultant
Sunny has been with FLEX since 2013 and worked with over 140 students to help them achieve their different educational goals. Prior to that, she worked for a non-profit organization developing English language teaching materials for underprivileged children around the world. While completing her master’s program at Biola University, Sunny spent two years in China as an English language teacher and counselor for less fortunate high school students.
As a counselor at FLEX, Sunny’s goal is to help students find the right college by navigating them through high school and the college application process. In doing so, she strives to be a nurturing mentor who encourages students to grow in all aspects of their lives. Sunny believes that the high school years are an important time for students, not only to prepare for college academically but also to grow holistically so they can become more independent and responsible and eventually be prepared to leave their parents’ nests.
Sunny has assisted students interested in Health, Business, Journalism, Engineering, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Arts, Education, and more. Her college placements include but are not limited to Princeton, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, USC, University of Michigan, University of Texas-Austin, and all the UCs.
In her free time, Sunny enjoys doing simple sewing projects, spending time with family and friends, and hiking at Big Basin Redwoods Park.
- Yale University – BA in Sociology (Intensive)
- Students seeking admission specifically to Yale, Cornell, Brown, NYU, UC Berkeley, or UCLA
- Humanities and Social Science students
- Students needing guidance with high-level writing in college application essays
Director of admissions consulting.
Ben has been in college admission consulting since 2015, but his interest in the nexus between high school and college started during his time at Yale. His published senior thesis explored the local cultural factors that affect the college application behaviors of rural high-achieving students in Nebraska, his home state. In addition to his work as an admission consultant, since joining FLEX he has served as a College Essay Specialist, ACT/SAT Curriculum Developer, and all-around verbal instructor. He is currently the Director of Admissions Consulting, managing both the NorCal and SoCal Consulting teams.
Between his time as an undergraduate at Yale and his years of consulting experience, Ben knows what sets apart the most competitive applicants for elite colleges, among others. With his background in teaching and creative mindset, he helps students to understand how they can explore different interests deeply. Ben is very intuitive and can put even shy or nervous students at ease.
Ben’s college placements include but are not limited to Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Rice, Pomona, Brown, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NYU, UCLA, and UC Berkeley, as well as selective Aviation and Art programs.
Ben enjoys keeping up with family and friends around the globe (London to Singapore!), singing in a men’s chorus, and understanding the stories all around him.
- University of Southern California – Master of Social Work (MSW)
- University of California, Los Angeles – BA in Psychology (Honors), minor in Education
- Guiding students in competitive high schools determine their academic and personal path
- Academic counseling and career exploration
- Specialized majors: Engineering, Arts/Architecture, Theater/Film/Television, Nursing, Business Mentorship and strategic major selection
- Mentorship and strategic major selection
- Transfer and international students
- Students who have overcome challenges and obstacles in academics and their personal lives
- Helping students write compelling college essays
- Mental health, social and emotional learning resources
- Students seeking admission to Top 100 colleges, including public and private universities
- UC Admission expert and best practices for filling out the college application
Daisy Oliver has 16 years of higher education and career counseling experience, 11 in a university setting and 8 in the college admissions consulting industry, respectively. She is a former UCLA Admission Officer — specializing in freshman, transfer, and international admissions — and has reviewed almost 20,000 UCLA freshman and international student applications. Over the last several years, she has delivered hundreds of presentations and workshops to thousands of students and parents in the US and China.
Daisy has also worked as a Community Director in UCLA Residential Life and as a Career Counselor at Long Beach City College, where she gained experience in program and project management, community organization administration, strategic planning, and leadership development. She is devoted to preparing generations of young adults for various career pathways.
As an Admissions Consultant, Daisy has extensive insider knowledge of what colleges look for in students. She has helped thousands of students from various backgrounds thrive in collegiate settings. She takes an honest, clear, and intentional approach with students. Her desire is to connect them to various resources and guide them to the college that best matches their personality, dreams, and career aspirations.
Daisy’s college placements include but are not limited to all of the UC’s, Cal States, USC, CMU, UPenn, Duke, Stanford, Columbia, Tufts, NYU, University of Chicago, Northwestern, WashU St. Louis, Rice, Harvey Mudd, UMich, BU, University of Iowa, Pomona College, and Emory.
In her spare time, Daisy serves as Strategic Planning Chair of a non-profit organization in south central Los Angeles. She also enjoys tanning at the beach, playing the guitar, and exploring new restaurants.
- B.A. Sociology – UC Santa Barbara
- M.A. Sociology – UC Santa Cruz
- Ph.D. Coursework & Research – UC Santa Cruz
- Students seeking admission into highly selective, research-oriented universities and programs
- STEM students targeting Top 30 schools
- Interdisciplinary profiles
- UCs (including Berkeley EECS)
- Students seeking to build a strong research profile
- Crafting exceptional scholarship and admissions essays
- Students managing and navigating adversity
- First-generation college students
- Students who are driven to do social justice/activist/community work
With over 10 years of teaching experience in higher education, Justin knows what it takes for students to succeed and thrive. After receiving his BA from UCSB, Justin went on to earn his MA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. Justin has also enjoyed his time at the University of Cambridge and Columbia University. Privileged to travel to over 25 countries, Justin brings a unique global lens to the work that he does: seeing problems from multiple angles and finding new solutions and insights.
Justin’s mentoring experience includes roles in student affairs, research assistantships, university teaching, as well as serving as a resident advisor, where he helped freshmen navigate the crucial transition to college life. At FLEX, Justin has worked as an essay specialist in addition to his position as an admissions consultant. Justin’s mentoring style is one of tough love and high expectations. He calibrates his feedback accordingly while still pushing each student to be the best versions of themselves. Justin’s students can expect honest, prompt, and detailed appraisals that will push them past their comfort zone so that their college applications can shine.
Justin’s students have been accepted into schools such as: Stanford, CalTech, MIT, Columbia, Dartmouth, UPenn, all UCs, USC, John Hopkins, NYU, Northwestern, CMU, Swarthmore, WashU, CalArts, Pitzer, UBC, and UMich.
When he isn’t mentoring students, you will likely find Justin engrossed in books, savoring delicious food, watching an NBA game (go Warriors!), or jamming out to show tunes.
- Cornell University – School of Criticism and Theory, with distinction
- UC Irvine – PhD in English (ABD), emphasis in Critical Theory
- UC Irvine – MA in English
- University of Southern California – BA in English (Honors), cum laude, minor in Art History
- University of Kent at Canterbury, UK – University Diploma, with merit, in English and American Literature
- Crafting effective college application essays
Admissions Consultant Director & Principal Consultant
Paul has 24 combined years of teaching and counseling experience, 12 in a university setting and 12 in the college prep and educational consulting industry. He is a former professor in American Cultures and Asian Pacific American Studies at Loyola Marymount University and has also taught courses and advised students at UC Irvine. He has also delivered numerous conference papers around the country and has published a scholarly article on James Joyce and Irish colonial subjectivity.
Given his extensive experience, Paul has a deep understanding of what colleges are looking for in a student. As an admissions consultant, he takes a direct, honest, and strategic approach with his students. His objective is always to guide students toward the college that’s the best fit for them — rather than just the best known one — because he believes doing so will better set them up for future success.
Paul’s college placements include but are not limited to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, UPenn, Cornell, Duke, Northwestern, UChicago, UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, and Carnegie Mellon.
During his free time, Paul likes to travel, eat good food, and learn about wine.
- Harvard University – BA in Social Studies, magna cum laude
- Cal State LA – Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, K-8
- UCLA – M.Ed in Educational Administration, Preliminary Clear Administrative Credential
- Mandarin (basic conversation)
- Taiwanese (basic conversation)
- Spanish (conversational)
- Connecting students with local groups and businesses
Judy has over 21 years of experience as an educator, working with students spanning preschool to high school. A native of the San Gabriel Valley, she graduated at the top of her class from La Cañada High School and went on to earn her BA in Social Studies, magna cum laude, from Harvard. There, she was awarded the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship to teach English at a private boarding elementary school and magnet high school on the outskirts of Beijing, China.
Judy’s experience with her own three daughters — combined with her elementary and high school experience and her years at FLEX — allows her to observe the educational spectrum from birth to high school graduation. As a daughter of immigrants from Taiwan, Judy understands the challenges many immigrant families face as they navigate the educational system in the US. She strives to help families and students make informed choices and attend a university that best fits their talents and personality.
Judy’s college placements include but are not limited to Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, MIT, Princeton, UChicago, Cornell, Brown, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, and NYU. During her “free time,” Judy is busy taking care of and driving her daughters, elementary and middle school-aged, to their activities. When she has time to herself, she loves to exercise, eat out with her husband or friends, and serve the special-needs adults at the church she attends.
- Williams College – B.A. in Comparative Literature (Spanish Certificate, Africana Studies Concentration)
- Mandarin Chinese
- Hokkien/Min Nan Dialect
- Students seeking admission to highly-selective universities and liberal arts colleges
- Students with artistic talent and/or interest in creating supplemental portfolios
- Crafting effective application essays
- Students undecided on their college major
- Private K-12 schools
- Students interested in graduate school
Master Consultant & College Essay Instructor
Corbin graduated from Williams College with a degree in Comparative Literature, certificate in Spanish, and concentration in Africana Studies. With more than ten years of experience counseling students from middle school to applying for medical school, Corbin’s college placements include: all Ivy League schools, UChicago, Rice, and all of the UCs—in addition to top 20 engineering and business programs, also helping students earn millions of dollars in scholarships.
He is a caring, yet firm, counselor whose approach is methodical, creative, and strategically personalized to each student’s needs and goals. Having worked at his college’s Writing Center, at a local high school, and at a test prep academy, Corbin additionally brings multiple years of teaching experience to the FLEX team. Given his background growing up in a multicultural family in Southern California, Corbin gets along well with students and families from diverse backgrounds.
Those who know Corbin think of him whenever there is good sushi. When not advising students, he can be found traveling across the globe, listening to podcasts, or brushing up on his Japanese and French.
Have a language expert improve your writing
Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes, generate your apa citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- College essay
- College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
Published on September 24, 2021 by Meredith Testa . Revised on July 22, 2022.
There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but you should carefully plan and outline to make sure your essay flows smoothly and logically.
Typical structural choices include
- a series of vignettes with a common theme
- a single story that demonstrates your positive qualities
Table of contents
Formatting your essay, outlining the essay, structures that work: two example outlines, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
You should keep the formatting as simple as possible. Admissions officers need to work very quickly, so fancy formatting, unnecessary flourishes, and unique fonts will come off as more distracting than individual. Keep in mind that, if you’re pasting your essay into a text box, formatting like italics may not transfer.
Your essay will be easier for admissions officers to read if it is 1.5- or double-spaced. If you choose to attach a file, ensure that it is a PDF.
You don’t need a title for your essay, but you can include one, especially if you think it will add something important.
Most importantly, ensure that you stick to the word count. Most successful essays are 500–600 words. Because you’re limited in length, make sure that you write concisely . Say everything that you need to express to get your point across, but don’t use more words than necessary, and don’t repeat yourself.
Once you’ve finished brainstorming topics but before you start writing, think about your writing’s trajectory: how you’ll start the essay , develop it, and end it .
Do you want to organize it chronologically? Would you prefer to make a “sandwich” structure by introducing a topic or idea, moving away from it, and then coming back to it at the end? There’s a variety of options (and a pair of strong examples below), but make sure you consider how you’d like to structure the essay before you start writing.
Although you should organize your thoughts in an outline, you don’t have to stick to it strictly. Once you begin writing, you may find that the structure you’d originally chosen doesn’t quite work. In that case, it’s fine to try something else. Multiple drafts of the same essay are key to a good final product.
Whatever structure you choose, it should be clear and easy to follow, and it should be feasible to keep it within the word count . Never write in a way that could confuse the reader. Remember, your audience will not be reading your essay closely!
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Vignettes with a common theme.
The vignette structure discusses several experiences that may seem unrelated, but the author weaves them together and unites them with a common theme.
For example, a student could write an essay exploring various instances of their ability to make the best of bad situations. A rough outline for that essay might look like this:
- In a rehearsal for a school play when a lighting fixture malfunctioned and the set caught fire, I helped extinguish it.
- To help the situation, I improvised fixes for the set and talked with the director about adding lines referencing the “disaster.”
- I didn’t get into my first-choice high school, but I became class president at the school where I ended up.
- When I had ACL surgery, I used the downtime to work on my upper body strength and challenged my friends to pull-up contests.
- How these qualities will serve me in college and in my career
Single story that demonstrates traits
The narrative structure focuses on a single overarching story that shows many aspects of a student’s character.
Some such essays focus on a relatively short event that the author details moment by moment, while others discuss the story of a longer journey, one that may cover months or years.
For example, a student might discuss trying out for a sports team as a middle schooler, high school freshman, and high school senior, using each of those instances to describe an aspect of their personality. A rough outline for that essay might look like this:
- Confident, there to have fun
- Very passionate and in love with the sport
- Little sister was born that day, so I had to go alone with a friend’s parents
- Learned to be independent and less self-centered
- Realized that as much as I love gymnastics, there are more important things
- Gave up first homecoming of high school, had to quit other activities, lost countless hours with friends
- I had to repeat level 9 and didn’t progress quickly
- I had a terrible beam routine at one competition the previous year and still had a mental block
- I got stuck on some skills, and it took over a year to learn them
- Passion from age 7, perspective from age 11, diligence from age 15
There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:
- A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
- A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.
Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.
Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:
- Use a standard, readable font
- Use 1.5 or double spacing
- If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
- Stick to the word count
- Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches
You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Testa, M. (2022, July 22). College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines. Scribbr. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/college-essay/format-outline-structure/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to revise your college admissions essay | examples, what do colleges look for in an essay | examples & tips, how to research and write a "why this college" essay.
8 Common College Essay Formats and Their Citation Styles
As a college student, you will be required to write dozens of papers on different topics. Depending on the subject youΓÇÖre studying, you will use some essay styles more than others. This article gives a short description of the most commonly used forms of college essays and the citation styles that you will need to use for each.
1. The Expository Essay
The expository essay explains something, or describes, or presents information and is used to inform the reader. Your professors will ask you to write this type of essay to help you learn more about the subject, to test your ability to research your topic effectively, and to prove your understanding of the subject. When you write an expository essay, remember that it is an impersonal style of writing and that while you may refer to the audience as ΓÇÿyou,ΓÇÖ you may not refer to yourself as ΓÇÿI.ΓÇÖ ItΓÇÖs a factual essay, so your opinion is not required. Expository essays require citation. The typical citation styles for these essays are MLA or APA formatting or Harvard modes.
2. The Persuasive Essay
As the name implies, a persuasive essay ΓÇ£persuadesΓÇ¥ the reader to a point of view. Not only will you need to understand the subject, but you must take a position on it, too. You prove your point by using logical, well-founded reasoning. To accomplish this, you must choose a side, as well as discuss alternative opinions. Persuasive essays require citation. Most persuasive essays use the MLA formatting style unless otherwise requested by your professors.
3. The Informal Essay
Compared with the other forms of essay writing, the informal essay is written more for the enjoyment of personal expression. It is written to communicate subjectively in a more relaxed, conversational, and expressive style than other types of essay. It can be informative or persuasive and can include personal opinion. However, it must still have a strong structure. No citation styles are required.
4. The Review
The aim of a review is to analyze and present a piece of work, such as a book or a film, and evaluate its overall effects and validity. Though your subjective opinion does play a significant part, a review must still maintain certain objective standards. You will be required to prove any assertions you may make. How formal your review depends on how much of it is analysis, how much is a summary, and how much of it is your opinion. The more you include your opinion, the less formal the review will be. You will use citations if you include any reference material, and will likely need to use the MLA formatting guidelines.
5. The Research Essay
The purpose of a research essay is to analyze a perspective or argue a point of view about a narrow topic. It involves locating or creating extensive quantities of objective source material and sifting through it to find appropriate research that supports your ideas. This will lead you to a greater understanding of your subject, which you will demonstrate in your essay as you interpret and evaluate the material and make your point. Normally a research essay must utilize either footnotes or endnotes or a reference list and may also require a bibliography. Citations are almost always required when writing a research essay. The usual forms of citation styles for research papers are MLA or APA formatting.
6. The Comparison and Contrast Essay
The object of a comparison and contrast essay is to explore and expose the similarities and dissimilarities between two or more ideas or things. You will be expected to use your critical faculties and your powers of analysis to describe what the ideas or things have in common and what makes them different to each other. Scholarly research and specific referencing are not normally required for this type of essay, so citation is not required.
7. The Literary Essay
There are similarities between a review and a literary essay insofar as they are both evaluative. However, a literary essay goes into the structure of the subject being reviewed in more depth than a review. The literary essay is used to explore the meaning and construction of a piece and evaluate specifics such as theme, character, style, tone, and subtext. You must take a viewpoint on the work you are writing about and use critical analysis to demonstrate how the details of the work support your viewpoint. You may use your own interpretation of the piece or a mixture of opinions and references to other peopleΓÇÖs critiques of the work. In such cases, you will include citations, applying either MLA or APA formatting.
8. The Cause and Effect Essay
Cause and effect essays are concerned with how and why things happen, and the effects that happen as a result, such as the causes of water pollution and its effects on the community, or the effects of children eating too much-refined sugar and its effects on health. A cause and effect essay must be written in a factual tone and be impersonal. Removing the first person gives more authority to the essay. Your choice of sources will have a bearing on the validity of your paper, so choose them carefully. You will include citations, following the MLA or APA formatting styles .
For more information about APA or MLA formats contact us today
David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy.┬á
Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Tags: apa writing , mla writing , reference point software , writing tips
Comments are closed.
The Admissions Strategist
College essay formatting: how to structure different kinds of college essays.
When it comes to writing college application essays, most applicants worry about choosing an excellent topic or crafting a perfectly polished personal statement .
But here’s the thing:
If you forget to pay attention to your essay’s structure , your memorable topic and flawless grammar won’t do you any good.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about structuring a college application essay. By following these tips, you’ll impress admissions officers and increase your chances of acceptance!
Click above to watch a video on how to format a College Essay.
Why Is Structure Important?
First, let’s talk about why structure is important.
Without structure, your “essay” might come across more like pointless rambling .
You might leave your reader feeling lost and confused, and that’s not the type of impression you want to make on an admissions team .
Carefully organizing your essay will:
- Help your writing make sense and flow well
- Ensure you clearly convey your point(s) to the admissions team
- Demonstrate logical thinking and clarity
- Contribute to a great first impression!
Step One: Create an Outline
No matter what structure you decide to use, it’s essential to start by creating an outline.
Your outline can take the shape of a formal outline, a bubble map, a list of ideas, etc. The goal is simply to help you plan your essay in advance.
An outline allows you to:
- Map out the key points and details you want to cover in your essay
- Ensure that ideas are logically connected
- Identify any holes in your essay and fix them before you start writing
- Plan the order of your paragraphs, the transitions you’ll use, and how to effectively begin and end your essay
As you build your outline, make sure you don’t forget:
A Beginning, Middle, and End
With your college application essays, you’re telling your story to admissions officers.
And all good stories have a beginning, middle, and end.
When you’re outlining your essay, ensure that it has a natural intro, body, and conclusion.
Beginning: The Intro
You can open with an anecdote , a thought-provoking question, dialogue, or maybe even some humor.
However you decide to start your essay, be sure that you have some sort of thesis in your intro.
A thesis is a single sentence that sums up the main point you hope to convey in your essay.
- You can also think of the thesis as your answer to the question the prompt is asking.
- For instance, if the prompt is asking why you chose this particular college, include a sentence providing an overview of the main reasons you’re interested in this school.
Sometimes, writing the intro is particularly challenging.
If you’re having trouble with your intro, you may want to come back and write it at the end.
Remember, you don’t have to write the essay in the same order that admissions officers will read it!
Middle: The Body
The body of your essay should discuss events, activities, experiences, or examples that support your thesis.
- Each body paragraph should focus on a particular topic or aspect, and all of your points should be clearly connected.
- As you outline your essay, look for any gaps or confusing transitions between ideas.
Your body paragraphs should not be in random order.
You’ll end your essay with a conclusion . Depending on what structure you use for your essay, your conclusion could include:
- An ending to the action or event being narrated
- Some reflection, an insightful thought
- Looking ahead to the future
- Connecting the rest of your essay to you, the type of student you’ll be, your growth and development, etc
Types of Essay Structures
All essays need a beginning, middle, and end.
But exactly how you structure these components may vary.
Below, we’ll take a look at several specific essay structures, plus when to use them.
This is your traditional essay structure:
- An introduction containing your thesis or main point
- Three examples or pieces of evidence supporting this main point
- Conclusion stating what the essay has demonstrated/shown
Good for : Making a single, strong point, especially when writing a shorter essay.
- This also works well for a very straightforward prompt, such as “ Why This College ” or questions about your interest in/experiences with a particular field.
Drawbacks : This type of structure can come across as formulaic or dull, particularly for a longer personal essay.
Example : For instance, a “Why This College” essay could include:
- An introduction outlining three main reasons for your interest in the college (a particular program, a professor you want to work with, and something specific about campus culture)
- Three body paragraphs, each developing one of the reasons mentioned above in vivid detail
- A conclusion summing up these main points and reiterating your passion for the college in question
Connect us to your school's principal!
Cause and effect.
A cause and effect essay is built around explaining how one significant event or experience caused change or had a major impact on you and your life.
If you write this type of essay, you’ll:
- Start by describing an experience or influence.
- Discuss specifically how this experience or influence impacted you and your life.
Good for : Essays about a life-changing experience or an individual who had a major impact on you, your personal growth, your choice of career, etc.
Drawbacks : It’s sometimes easy to “write yourself out of the equation” in this type of essay. While you do need to introduce the experience or influence, spend the bulk of your time on Step #2: discussing the impact on you .
Example : Let’s say you want to write about how your grandfather, an engineer, inspired your interest in science and math. You can:
- Write an introduction briefly explaining that your grandfather had a major impact on your goals and ambitions.
- Introduce your grandfather and his background as an engineer, as well as your relationship with him (cause).
- Explain how your grandfather inspired your interest in science and math (effect). Then focus the rest of your essay on describing your passion and experiences with math and science, as well as how you plan to pursue this interest at the college to which you’re applying.
Compare and Contrast
This essay structure is similar to the cause and effect essay structure described above.
There are two different ways to structure a compare and contrast essay:
- Organize your essay point by point, comparing one aspect of the objects or situations at a time.
- Use the “block method,” covering all points of one object/situation in the first half, then all points of the other in the second half.
Good for : Questions about your personal growth and development, since this structure allows you to compare how you once were to how you are now.
- You can also use it for “impact essays,” like a question about your leadership skills. (See the example below.)
Drawbacks : This structure isn’t conducive to all essay topics, so use it wisely.
Example : Maybe you want to write an essay about the impact your stellar leadership skills had on your school’s Spanish Club.
Here are two ideas:
- Start by briefly introducing your role in the Spanish Club and the fact that you helped improve the club using your leadership abilities. Then use the “block method,” first describing what the Spanish Club was like before you worked your magic, then describing exactly what you did, and finally describing the improvements achieved by your leadership.
- If you don’t want to use the block method, you can alternatively focus each body paragraph on an aspect of the Spanish Club that was altered or improved thanks to your leadership.
Narrative or Chronological
Because it’s filled with action, dialogue, and vivid details, the narrative or chronological structure is one of our favorites for the college application essay.
If you choose to write a narrative or chronological essay, you’ll need to focus on a single event or moment in your life.
- This essay should create a “snapshot” of a single experience that describes you or showcases a specific aspect of your personality.
With this structure, you’re essentially telling a story.
- Your introduction should start at the beginning of the story you’re choosing to tell, briefly alluding to the main point of this anecdote.
Then, you’ll tell the story in chronological order, using colorful, specific details.
- Your conclusion should reveal the end of the story, possibly including a brief reflection on how this experience has impacted you or what this story reveals about you.
If you don’t want your entire essay to be a narrative, you may wish to narrate a brief anecdote in your introduction.
The rest of your essay can focus on describing the impact of this anecdote or reflecting on its significance.
Good for : Longer essays, especially when a school has required you to write multiple essays. This structure can be easily adapted to almost any topic, as long as you can think of a meaningful narrative that effectively illustrates your point.
Drawbacks : Some consider this essay structure to be on the risky side, but it’s okay to get creative with your college application essay.
In fact, it’s encouraged! Just make sure that you:
- Focus on a key moment or day instead of detailing a long list of events.
- Don’t include extra details that aren’t necessary to convey your point.
- Don’t overdramatize your story. Just use vivid, specific, and true details that are meaningful to you.
If you’re nervous about using this structure, try using a more traditional structure on some of your other essays. That way, there will be a nice balance to the content and format of your essays.
Example : You want to tell the story of your community’s experience with a powerful hurricane—particularly the way that you helped organize relief efforts.
- Jump right into the action with your introduction. You may describe experiencing the hurricane itself, or perhaps you should take the reader on a tour of your neighborhood, detailing the damage and the emotions people experienced in the hurricane’s aftermath.
- Next, simply narrate your story in chronological order. How did the idea to do something take root in your mind? How did you put your plan into action? What exact steps did you follow? Did you experience any problems or obstacles along the way? How did you deal with them?
- In your conclusion, you might want to describe the results of your efforts.
- Alternatively, you could briefly reflect on what you learned from the experience, how you’ll continue helping others in college and the future, or what this story demonstrates about your character.
What About the Shorter Essays?
In some cases, you’ll be stuck with some pretty restrictive word limits: 250 words, 150 words, and sometimes even less!
How can you write an effective beginning, middle, and end in just a few words?
For these shorter essays, limit your intro and conclusion to just a sentence each.
- Sometimes, you might not have an introduction or conclusion and all, and that’s okay!
- Colleges understand that word limits do just that: limit how thoroughly you can write about a topic.
Just ensure that your main points are evident and that you’ve chosen only the clearest, most direct pieces of information to include in your essay.
Anything that isn’t absolutely essential will need to be cut.
Read your essay from beginning to end multiple times, ensuring that your ideas flow logically and that the connections between your ideas are clear.
Other Tips for Shorter Essays
- Consider the impact your series of short essays will have as a whole.
- Vary structure and content, but be consistent with your voice and style.
- Ensure that your essays support the impression you’ve established in the rest of your application.
- If writing a short essay is really difficult, some experts recommend writing a longer essay and cutting it down to the bare essentials.
Conclusion: College Essay Formatting & Structure
As you write your college application essays, choosing a clear and logical structure is essential.
You want your essay to be interesting and memorable, but you also want it to make sense.
Consider the purpose of each essay you’re writing, then think about the most logical way to structure it (example, compare and contrast, cause and effect, or narrative/chronological). Build an outline, look for and fix any holes in your logic, then start writing.
Admissions officers will be impressed by the clarity and organization of your writing, helping you write your way to an acceptance letter (or maybe several)!
Learn how we can help you and your school with college and career guidance!
Fill Out Our Form!
College Application Boot Camp
Stay on track and ease your anxiety with our second-to-none college application assistance.
- Ethics & Honesty
- Free Consult
- Satisfaction and Money-Back Guarantee
- Join Our Team
Sign up for the The Admissions Strategist newsletter to get the latest information on college and career success
- Affiliate Program
- UNITED STATES
- 台灣 (TAIWAN)
- TÜRKIYE (TURKEY)
Academic Editing Services
- - Research Paper
- - Journal Manuscript
- - Dissertation
- - College & University Assignments
Admissions Editing Services
- - Application Essay
- - Personal Statement
- - Recommendation Letter
- - Cover Letter
- - CV/Resume
Business Editing Services
- - Business Documents
- - Report & Brochure
- - Website & Blog
Writer Editing Services
- - Script & Screenplay
- Editing & Proofreading Prices
- Wordvice Points
- Partner Discount
- Plagiarism Checker
- APA Citation Generator
- MLA Citation Generator
- Chicago Citation Generator
- Vancouver Citation Generator
- - APA Style
- - MLA Style
- - Chicago Style
- - Vancouver Style
- Writing & Editing Guide
- Academic Resources
- Admissions Resources
College Application Essay Format Rules
The college application essay has become the most important part of applying to college. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased social equity concerns, entire public university systems such as the University of California have opted to entirely remove the ACT/SAT as an admissions requirement .
The result is that high school students in 2021 are facing a new admissions landscape, and that means an opportunity for those who know how to properly write and format their application essays.
In this article, we will go over the best college essay format for getting into top schools, including how to structure the elements of a college admissions essay: margins, font, paragraphs, spacing, headers, and organization.
We will focus on commonly asked questions about the best college essay structure. Finally, we will go over essay formatting tips and examples.
Table of Contents
- General college essay formatting rules
- How to format a college admissions essay
- Sections of a college admissions essay
- College application essay format examples
General College Essay Format Rules
Before talking about how to format your college admission essays, we need to talk about general college essay formatting rules.
Pay attention to word count
It has been well-established that the most important rule of college application essays is to not go over the specific word limit. The word limit for the Common Application essay is typically 500-650 words.
Not only may it be impossible to go over the word count (in the case of the Common Application essay , which uses text fields), but admissions officers often use software that will throw out any essay that breaks this rule. Following directions is a key indicator of being a successful student.
Refocusing on the essay prompt and eliminating unnecessary adverbs, filler words, and prepositional phrases will help improve your essay.
On the other hand, it is advisable to use almost every available word. The college essay application field is very competitive, so leaving extra words on the table puts you at a disadvantage. Include an example or anecdote near the end of your essay to meet the total word count.
Do not write a wall of text: use paragraphs
Here is a brutal truth: College admissions counselors only read the application essays that help them make a decision . Otherwise, they will not read the essay at all. The problem is that you do not know whether the rest of your application (transcripts, academic record, awards, etc.) will be competitive enough to get you accepted.
A very simple writing rule for your application essay (and for essay editing of any type) is to make your writing readable by adding line breaks and separate paragraphs.
Line breaks do not count toward word count, so they are a very easy way to organize your essay structure, ideas, and topics. Remember, college counselors, if you’re lucky, will spend 30 sec to 1 minute reading your essay. Give them every opportunity to understand your writing.
Do not include an essay title
Unless specifically required, do not use a title for your personal statement or essay. This is a waste of your word limit and is redundant since the essay prompt itself serves as the title.
Never use overly casual, colloquial, or text message-based formatting like this:
THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT POINT!. #collegeapplication #collegeessay.
Under no circumstances should you use emojis, all caps, symbols, hashtags, or slang in a college essay. Although technology, texting, and social media are continuing to transform how we use modern language (what a great topic for a college application essay!), admissions officers will view the use of these casual formatting elements as immature and inappropriate for such an important document.
How To Format A College Application Essay
There are many tips for writing college admissions essays . How you upload your college application essay depends on whether you will be cutting and pasting your essay into a text box in an online application form or attaching a formatted document.
Save and upload your college essay in the proper format
Check the application instructions if you’re not sure what you need to do. Currently, the Common Application requires you to copy and paste your essay into a text box.
There are three main formats when it comes to submitting your college essay or personal statement:
If submitting your application essay in a text box
For the Common Application, there is no need to attach a document since there is a dedicated input field. You still want to write your essay in a word processor or Google doc. Just make sure once you copy-paste your essay into the text box that your line breaks (paragraphs), indents, and formatting is retained.
- Formatting like bold , underline, and italics are often lost when copy-pasting into a text box.
- Double-check that you are under the word limit. Word counts may be different within the text box .
- Make sure that paragraphs and spacing are maintained; text input fields often undo indents and double-spacing .
- If possible, make sure the font is standardized. Text input boxes usually allow just one font .
If submitting your application essay as a document
When attaching a document, you must do more than just double-check the format of your admissions essay. You need to be proactive and make sure the structure is logical and will be attractive to readers.
Microsoft Word (.DOC) format
If you are submitting your application essay as a file upload, then you will likely submit a .doc or .docx file. The downside is that MS Word files are editable, and there are sometimes conflicts between different MS Word versions (2010 vs 2016 vs Office365). The upside is that Word can be opened by almost any text program.
This is a safe choice if maintaining the visual elements of your essay is important. Saving your essay as a PDF prevents any formatting issues that come with Microsoft Word, since older versions are sometimes incompatible with the newer formatting.
Although PDF viewing programs are commonly available, many older readers and Internet users (who will be your admissions officers) may not be ready to view PDFs.
- Use 1-inch margins . This is the default setting for Microsoft Word. However, students from Asia using programs like Hangul Word Processor will need to double-check.
- Use a standard serif font. These include Times New Roman, Courier, and Garamond. A serif font adds professionalism to your essay.
- Use standard 12-font size.
- Use 1.5- or double-spacing. Your application essay should be readable. Double spaces are not an issue as the essay should already fit on one page.
- Add a Header with your First Name, Last Name, university, and other required information.
- Clearly separate your paragraphs. By default, just press ‘ENTER’ twice.
Sections Of A College Admissions Essay
University admissions protocols usually allow you to choose the format and style of your writing. Despite this, the general format of “Introduction-Body-Conclusion” is the most common structure. This is a common format you can use and adjust to your specific writing style.
College Application Essay Introduction
Typically, your first paragraph should introduce you or the topic that you will discuss. You must have a killer opener if you want the admissions committees to pay attention.
Essays that use rhetorical tools, factual statements, dialog, etc. are encouraged. There is room to be creative since many application essays specifically focus on past learning experiences.
College Application Essay Body
Clearly answering the essay prompt is the most important part of the essay body. Keep reading over the prompt and making sure everything in the body supports it.
Since personal statement essays are designed to show you are as a person and student, the essay body is also where you talk about your experiences and identity.
Make sure you include the following life experiences and how they relate to the essay prompt. Be sure to double-check that they relate back to the essay prompt. A college admissions essay is NOT an autobiography:
- How did you overcome them?
- How or how much do past challenges define your current outlook or worldview?
- What did you learn about yourself when you failed?
Personal achievements and successes
- What people helped you along the way?
- What did you learn about the nature of success
- In general, did your experiences inform your choice of university or major?
- Politics, philosophy, and religion may be included here, but be careful when discussing sensitive personal or political topics.
- Academic goals
- Personal goals
- Professional goals
- How will attending the university help you achieve these goals?
College Application Essay Conclusion
The conclusion section is a call to action directly aimed at the admissions officers. You must demonstrate why you are a great fit for the university, which means you should refer to specific programs, majors, or professors that guided or inspired you.
In this “why this school” part of the essay, you can also explain why the university is a great fit for your goals. Be straightforward and truthful, but express your interest in the school boldly.
College Application Essay Format Examples
Here are several formatting examples of successful college admission essays, along with comments from the essay editor.
Note: Actual sample essays edited by Wordvice professional editors . Personal info redacted for privacy. This is not a college essay template.
College Admission Essay Example 1
This essay asks the student to write about how normal life experiences can have huge effects on personal growth:
Common App Essay Prompt: Thoughtful Rides
The Florida turnpike is a very redundant and plain expressway; we do not have the scenic luxury of mountains, forests, or even deserts stretching endlessly into the distance. Instead, we are blessed with repetitive fields of grazing cows and countless billboards advertising local businesses. I have been subjected to these monotonous views three times a week, driving two hours every other day to Sunrise and back to my house in Miami, Florida—all to practice for my competitive soccer team in hopes of receiving a scholarship to play soccer at the next level.
The Introduction sets up a clear, visceral memory and communicates a key extracurricular activity.
When I first began these mini road trips, I would jam out to my country playlist and sing along with my favorite artists, and the trek would seem relatively short. However, after listening to “Beautiful Crazy” by Luke Combs for the 48th time in a week, the song became as repetitive as the landscape I was driving through. Changing genres did not help much either; everything I played seemed to morph into the same brain-numbing sound. Eventually, I decided to do what many peers in my generation fail to do: turn off the distractions, enjoy the silence, and immerse myself in my own thoughts. In the end, this seemingly simple decision led to a lot of personal growth and tranquility in my life.
The first part of the Body connects the student’s past experience with the essay prompt: personal growth and challenging assumptions.
Although I did not fully realize it at the time, these rides were the perfect opportunity to reflect on myself and the people around me. I quickly began noticing the different personalities surrounding me in the flow of traffic, and this simple act of noticing reminded me that I was not the only human on this planet that mattered. I was just as unimportant as the woman sitting in the car next to mine. Conversely, I also came to appreciate how a gesture as simple as letting another driver merge into your lane can impact a stranger’s day. Maybe the other driver is late for a work interview or rushing to the hospital because their newborn is running a high fever and by allowing them to advance in the row of cars, you made their day just a little less stressful. I realized that if I could improve someone else’s day from my car, I could definitely be a kinder person and take other people’s situations into consideration—because you never know if someone is having one of the worst days of their lives and their interaction with you could provide the motivation they need to keep going on .
This part uses two examples to support the writer’s answer to the essay prompt. It ends the paragraph with a clear statement.
Realizing I was not the only being in the universe that mattered was not the only insight I attained during these drives. Over and over, I asked myself why I had chosen to change soccer clubs, leaving Pinecrest, the team I had played on for 8 years with my best friends and that was only a 10-minute drive from my house, to play for a completely unfamiliar team that required significantly more travel. Eventually, I came to understand that I truly enjoy challenging myself and pushing past complacency . One of my main goals in life is to play and experience college soccer—that, and to eventually pursue a career as a doctor. Ultimately, leaving my comfort zone in Pinecrest, where mediocrity was celebrated, to join a team in Sunrise, where championships were expected and college offers were abundant, was a very positive decision in my life.
This part clearly tells how the experience shaped the writer as a person. The student’s personality can be directly attributed to this memory. It also importantly states personal and academic goals.
Even if I do not end up playing college soccer, I know now that I will never back down from any challenge in my life; I am committed to pushing myself past my comfort zone. These car rides have given me insight into how strong I truly am and how much impact I can have on other people’s lives.
The Conclusion restates the overall lesson learned.
College Admission Essay Example 2
The next essay asks the reader to use leadership roles or extracurricular activities and describe the experience, contribution, and what the student learned about themselves.
As I release the air from the blood-pressure monitor’s valve, I carefully track the gauge, listening for the faint “lub-dub” of Winnie’s heart. Checking off the “hypertensive” box on his medical chart when reading 150/95, I then escort Winnie to the blood sugar station. This was the typical procedure of a volunteer at the UConn Migrant Farm Worker Clinic. Our traveling medical clinic operated at night, visiting various Connecticut farms to provide healthcare for migrant workers. Filling out charts, taking blood pressure, and recording BMI were all standard procedures, but the relationships I built with farmers such as Winnie impacted me the most.
This Introduction is very impactful. It highlights the student’s professional expertise as a healthcare worker and her impact on marginalized communities. It also is written in the present tense to add impact.
While the clinic was canceled this year due to COVID-19, I still wanted to do something for them. During a PPE-drive meeting this July, Winnie recounted his family history. I noticed his eyebrows furrow with anxiety as he spoke about his family’s safety in Tierra Blanca, Mexico. I realized that Winnie lacked substantial information about his hometown, and fear-mongering headlines did nothing to assuage his fears. After days of searching, I discovered that his hometown, Guanajuato, reported fewer cases of COVID-19 in comparison with surrounding towns. I then created a color-coded map of his town, showing rates across the different districts. Winnie’s eyes softened, marveling at the map I made for him this August. I didn’t need to explain what he saw: Guanajuato, his home state, was pale yellow, the color I chose to mark the lowest level of cases. By making this map, I didn’t intend to give him new hope; I wanted to show him where hope was.
The student continues to tell the powerful story of one of her patients. This humbles and empowers the student, motivating her in the next paragraph.
This interaction fueled my commitment to search for hope in my journey of becoming a public health official. Working in public health policy, I hope to tackle complex world problems, such as economic and social barriers to healthcare and find creative methods of improving outcomes in queer and Latinx communities. I want to study the present and potential future intervention strategies in minority communities for addressing language barriers to information including language on posters and gendered language, and for instituting social and support services for community youth. These stepping stones will hopefully prepare me for conducting professional research for the Medical Organization for Latino Advancement. I aspire to be an active proponent of healthcare access and equity for marginalized groups, including queer communities. I first learned about the importance of recognizing minority identities in healthcare through my bisexual sister, Sophie, and her nonbinary friend, Gilligan. During discussions with her friends, I realized the importance of validating diverse gender expressions in all facets of my life.
Here, the past experience is directly connected to future academic and professional goals, which themselves are motivated by a desire to increase access among communities as well as personal family experiences. This is a strong case for why personal identity is so important.
My experiences with Winnie and my sister have empowered me to be creative, thoughtful, and brave while challenging the assumptions currently embedded in the “visual vocabulary” of both the art and science fields. I envision myself deconstructing hegemonic ideas of masculinity and femininity and surmounting the limitations of traditional perceptions of male and female bodies as it relates to existing healthcare practices. Through these subtle changes, I aim to make a large impact.
The Conclusion positions the student as an impactful leader and visionary. This is a powerful case for the admissions board to consider.
If you want to read more college admissions essay examples, check out our articles about successful college personal statements and the 2021-2022 Common App prompts and example essays .
Wordvice offers a full suite of proofreading and editing services . If you are a student applying to college and are having trouble with the best college admissions essay format, check out our application essay editing services (including personal statement editing ) and find out how much online proofreading costs .
Finally, don’t forget to receive common app essay editing and professional admissions editing for any other admissions documents for college, university, and post-doctoral programs.
Don't have an Account?
- International Student
- Essay Writing Center
How to Write Common Types of College Essays
The types of essays you’re likely to encounter in college are a little more advanced than what you may be used to writing. In general, international students might have a harder time than domestic students with writing essays as English might not be your first language. But when it comes to writing, practice makes perfect and our tips can help you get on the right track!
Common Types of Essays
There are many types of essays but these will be the ones you’ll likely see the most:
- Definition Essay
- Persuasive/Argumentative Essay
- Analytical Essay
Of course, the essay prompts you are assigned will also depend on your major. Different majors will likely have different writing styles and essay topics.
Definition essay prompts will ask you to define and explain a concept, term or a set of terms. Definition essay topics can be about anything general or specific. No matter what your major is, chances are you will end up writing one of these during your time in college.
For example, your instructor may prompt you to define climate change based on an assigned reading. For this kind of prompt, you would need to refer to the reading in question in order to come up with a response. Once you can define the term, you can start the essay process.
Like any essay, you’ll need to follow the Introduction, Thesis Statement, Body, Conclusion structure. You won’t need much for your introduction; 2-3 sentences will be just fine. The last sentence of your introduction should be your strongly written thesis statement stating the definition in question. The body paragraph(s) will be the supporting details for your thesis and here you’ll want to state facts that back up your claim. Finally, the conclusion should tie all of these parts together by repeating your thesis statement and wrapping up in a few sentences.
Persuasive essay prompts will ask you to respond with your point of view on a topic and convince the reader that your point of view is legitimate. Sometimes persuasive essays are called argumentative essays but for the purposes of this how-to page, we’ll refer to them as persuasive. Topics for persuasive essays are often polarizing issues that force you to choose a side to argue. For example, your instructor could prompt you to answer a question about the death penalty, gender equality, etc.
First, you’ll want to choose what position you would like to take on the topic in question. If you don’t want to pick a side, you can choose to take a neutral position. However, this route is far more difficult to argue, and it is best to choose one side or the other even if you don’t necessarily agree with either side. This way, your argument will be as strong as it can possibly be. After you’ve taken a position, come up with at least three claims that support your main argument. These claims will be presented in the thesis and supported by specific details in the body paragraphs. It might be tempting to write “I think” or “In my opinion” since this kind of essay is largely opinion-based. Avoid these, however, because they will weaken your argument. It’s best to make your opinion seem like fact to make your argument strong. You should also make sure to be as specific as possible and provide sufficient evidence to back up your claims. In the conclusion, you should repeat your thesis and tie all of the claims you’ve made together.
For analytical essay prompts, you will be asked to respond to a piece of writing through a critical lens. This means that you will need to offer your thoughts and opinions about the piece in question. You could be asked to respond to a book, essay, article, etc. This essay is most commonly assigned to English or History-related majors but it could be assigned to any major.
Before you even begin an analytical essay, you need to be sure to fully understand what you’ve read. It’s a great idea to take notes, underline or highlight key words and phrases, write in the margins, and reread the text. Organization is key in writing an excellent analytical essay. Once you’ve made sure to fully understand the text and all of its elements, you should form your opinion. Determine if you agree or disagree with what’s been written and how it’s been written. Then write your response. Like a persuasive essay, you should back up your claims with specific details and avoid “I think” and “In my opinion”.
Your thesis should express your viewpoint of the piece in a clear and concise way. Use the text in the body of your essay by quoting and paraphrasing and then respond directly to it. The conclusion should repeat your thesis and tie together all of your thoughts and opinions.
College professors and instructors have a lot of students, making it very difficult to remember every one of them by name and face. As a result, they may ask you to write a personal essay describing you and your experiences in the narrative style. Usually, prompts for this kind of essay will come at the beginning of each semester. You could be asked to talk about your summer or talk about something that makes you interesting. Regardless, the point is to stand out to your professor or instructor so they will have a name to put with your face.
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine just how personal this essay should be. It is really up to you and what you are comfortable with sharing. It’s important to note that you might be required to share your personal essay with your class as a “get to know each other” activity, so don’t write about anything that’s top secret to you. The best advice we can give you is to just be yourself and have fun with this kind of essay. They should be taken seriously, but the rules aren’t as strict here as in an academic essay. Don’t be afraid to use personal pronouns like “I” and “my” here.
Finally, the most dreaded but possibly the most common kind of essay you’ll have to write in college is the research paper. A research paper is a kind of academic writing which requires you to do thorough research on a specific topic and present your research findings. Most of the time, these essays will be worked on throughout the course of an entire semester because they have many stages and require a lot of effort and time. These stages are:
- Choosing a topic
- Doing research and creating a bibliography
- Creating a thesis
- Writing a rough draft
- Writing a final draft
For a research paper, your professor or instructor may assign a topic to research or give you the opportunity to choose a topic related to the course. If you are given the opportunity to choose your own topic, choose wisely. Challenge yourself, but don’t reach beyond your means. Generally, it’s great to choose a topic about something you’re interested in learning about that relates back to the course you are taking.
Once you have your topic, you can start researching. There is a wide variety of academic sources that you can utilize from your school’s library database which are perfect for research papers. You’ll want to make sure to get with a librarian to learn about how to properly use the database to its full potential. Common sources you’ll find within the library database are academic journals, newspaper articles, books, Ebooks, etc. As you find sources, you should make citations for the bibliography. A bibliography is a list of all the sources you have referred to in your research. Check the essay prompt to make sure you are citing in the required format. The most common citation formats you’ll use in college are MLA and APA, but it varies by major and instructor. Web tools such as EasyBib will even complete citations and organize them for you.
Now that you’ve completed your research and bibliography, you should craft your thesis. Make it a strong argument for the information that you are conveying. Then, you should complete a rough draft. Give the draft to your professor or instructor for feedback and make changes based on what feedback they give you. Finally, when writing the final research paper you should take the time to reshape the thesis based on feedback and provide ample evidence to back that thesis up in the body paragraphs. Use quotes and paraphrases from your sources and cite them properly. Then, repeat the thesis tie together all of your claims in the conclusion.
Get the international student newsletter.
For a college essay using Narrative Structure, you'll focus the word count roughly equally on a) Challenges You Faced, b) What You Did About
Conventional College Essay Structures · 1. In-the-moment narrative · 2. Narrative told over an extended period of time · 3. Series of anecdotes, or
Sample format for a college essay · 1. Think about using a title. · 2. Open with a hook. · 3. Continue with your introduction. · 4. Tell your story
Use this guide to the college application essay format to show how your ... Join us to learn the difference between a mediocre essay and one that Admissions
There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but these are two common structures that work: A montage structure, a
8 Common College Essay Formats and Their Citation Styles · 1. The Expository Essay · 2. The Persuasive Essay · 3. The Informal Essay · 4. The Review · 5. The
An introduction containing your thesis or main point · Three examples or pieces of evidence supporting this main point · Conclusion stating what the essay has
General College Essay Format Rules · Pay attention to word count · Do not write a wall of text: use paragraphs · Do not include an essay title.
The five most common types of college essays are: definition, persuasive/argumentative, analytical, personal and research. Here, we offer our tips on how to