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Joining a higher learning institution is the dream of every high schooler. When the time comes to join colleges or universities of their choice, students learn the importance of their high school grades and courses. Besides, they take an admission test to gauge their suitability. In turn, a college application essay format serves as a supplement to these requirements. Unlike other types of papers, essays provide students with an opportunity to make their case before the admission committee in writing.  Moreover, essays should focus more on telling stories of students, including their attributes, academic experiences, and community service, among others. As a result, college essays aim to impress the admission committee by persuading members to recommend the student’s application.

General Guidelines on College Application Essay Format

It is the dream of every high schooler to join colleges of their choice. When applying for college admission, students must demonstrate their suitability in several ways. For example, some of the features that determine the success of a college application include high school grades, courses, and standardized admission test scores. While these features are essential, students need to demonstrate to the admission committee that they are the right candidates. In this case, a college application essay format is a tool that students use to appeal to the admission committee to accept their applications. In essence, college essays focus on highlighting students’ qualities that make them stand out from the rest.

College application essay format

Definition of a College Application Essay Format

Sometimes referred to as a personal statement or a statement of purpose, a college application essay format is a written statement focused on influencing the committee of a college or university to accept a student’s application for admission. In this sense, this type of essay is written by prospective students, mostly those transitioning from high school to higher education. As indicated above, a college application essay is an additional feature to those features, such as grades, courses, and admission test scores, that support a student’s application for admission to a college or university.

Why Students Write a College Application Essay

The primary reason for writing a college application essay is to strengthen one’s case for admission to a preferred high learning institution. Basically, a college application essay format serves a pillar that supports high school grades and admission test scores. While these features demonstrate the student’s academic vigor, the application essay puts a case forward as to why students deserve a chance to study at colleges or universities.

When and Where Students Write an Admission Essay

Since it is an application essay for college, a paper is written before a student joins higher education. Basically, students write it during their final year at high schools. Moreover, some students prefer to go to colleges, and others want to enter universities. For example, their decisions are mostly based on what profession a person is pursuing. Then, every college and university has its requirements regarding a college application essay format. For instance, some educational institutions require young persons to write one piece, and some colleges require them to write several papers. However, some organizations make an admission essay for college optional. What is clear is that application essays supplement high school grades and admission test scores. In turn, colleges and universities give students essay topics that are very specific or open-ended.

Importance of Writing a College Application Essay

There is no doubt that grades, curriculum, and standardized admission test scores are essential in influencing a student’s application to a higher learning institution. However, a college application essay format plays a critical role in persuading the admission committee that students deserve an opportunity to study at colleges or universities. In essence, such essays make all the difference between being accepted at a college or university and being denied such an opportunity to study in a college or university. Then, all students who write a college application essay should approach it as a platform for selling themselves to the admission committee. Hence, it means highlighting one’s talents and accomplishments without appearing to be self-serving.

Writing in a College Application Essay Format: Step-by-Step Guide

Like any other academic text, a college application essay format must satisfy specific standards of academic writing. Basically, these standards include having an introduction part that sets out the aim of a college essay – a thesis statement. Also, a college paper should have body paragraphs that outline the main points that writers seek to put across. Then, students make a compelling case as to why the admission committee should accept their application. In turn, the conclusion part should give a final impression that persuades the committee that a particular person is the right candidate for a college or university. In summary, application essays should follow a standard academic text structure, although it is not necessary for students to include headings and subheadings. Ideally, a written composition looks like a personal statement that requires no titles.

Step 1: Preparation

The secret to writing a comprehensive academic text is preparation. As the first step in writing an essay, preparation allows students to plan their essays. Basically, it means identifying the topic, preparing ideas, and studying the needs or requirements of the audience. Moreover, students who write in a college application essay format should not rush to organize a paper. In turn, they should consider each of the above essential elements of preparation.

Step 2: Defining the Topic

In many instances, students do not choose topics when writing academic texts as instructors provide them. Basically, the same format applies to college application essays. Almost all colleges and universities give students prompts, which are mostly open-ended. Once students have their essay topics for college, they should research it to familiarize themselves with concepts essential in strengthening their arguments and ideas.

Step 3: Preparing Ideas

Students write about topics in a college application essay format and provide directions that they should take in papers. By researching the topic, students develop a deeper understanding of what the admission committee requires and develop ideas to satisfy those requirements. Therefore, preparing ideas is about addressing requirements set forth by the admission committee, which may be provided in instructions or not. In turn, the main part of the research should be focused on studying essay prompts of various colleges and universities to identify critical issues.

Step 4: Considering the Audience in a College Application Essay Format

The target audience of a college application essay is the admission committee. Basically, the committee’s purpose is to consider students’ suitability for admission to colleges or universities based on their high school grades, curriculum, and standardized admission test scores. In this case, a college application essay format serves to supplement these features of admission consideration. Therefore, students should ensure that their college application essays leave a powerful impression on admission committee members.

Step 5: Setting the Stage

Before beginning to write in a college application essay format, a student should ensure everything is in order. Basically, it means following the essay structure and having the content. When writing college application essays, students should research the topic while making notes, which become the foundation of the entire paper. Also, the structure means an essay outline that students follow when writing such papers.

Step 6: Making Notes

While researching a topic is essential in academic writing, it is not helpful if a student does not make short notes. Basically, these notes should help writers develop ideas that would support the essay from the beginning to the end. In summary, making notes is about identifying information, through research, that students would use to make their cases before the admission committee in writing.

Step 7: Creating an Outline

Structure plays a vital role in helping writers of academic texts to organize their thoughts. Basically, creating an outline is the activity that develops the structure. Moreover, it means identifying where to write what content. Typically, the introduction part is where writers inform readers about the purpose of their texts. In this case, the thesis statement is a crucial feature of this part. Then, the body part is where writers provide arguments about the topic, Also, they use the information that they gathered through research. Finally, the conclusion part is where writers offer concluding thoughts to leave a lasting impression on readers. Although a college application essay format does not require students to highlight these sections by using titles, the structure and content are the same.

Step 8: Creating an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a summary of sources that writers use to get information (evidence) to back up that their claims and arguments in an essay. Basically, some papers require students to provide an annotated bibliography, while other requirements do not suppose using these types of work. In this case, a college application essay format falls under the latter category. Even concerning texts that do not require an annotated bibliography, writers can prepare one to keep track of their sources and their contents.

Step 9: Writing the First Draft in a College Application Essay Format

When writing in a college application essay format, a student should start with the first draft. Ideally, young individuals make mistakes when writing final academic texts without revisions, which is a typical scenario. Therefore, writing the first draft ensures that writers have an opportunity to revise their works for a perfect paper. In essence, the first draft gives students a platform to organize their papers by ensuring that written works are structured correctly. In turn, it means having an introductory part with a thesis statement, body paragraphs that make a case for admission, and concluding thoughts that leave a lasting impression on the audience.

First Draft

Writing the first draft is an essential activity in academic writing. Unlike other forms of writing, academic texts must meet specific standards. Basically, this aspect explains why writers must be convinced that academic papers that they submit are perfect. When writing a college application essay, the format of the first draft helps students brainstorm ideas during the writing process. After reading through the draft, one can decide whether a college paper format is perfect for submission or should be revised.

Step 10: Wrapping It Up

Upon completion of the first draft, writers should read it through, at least twice, to ensure it is perfect. For example, a perfect college paper lacks grammatical mistakes and other notable errors, such as inconsistent arguments and an illogical flow of ideas. In case of such mistakes, students should revise or edit their essays and write final drafts for application to the admission committee.

A. Topic Sentences

As indicated, body paragraphs are essential in putting across the writer’s main ideas concerning the topic under study. Basically, the thesis statement serves as the foundation upon which writers develop these ideas. In every paragraph, students begin with a topic sentence, which prepares readers for the argument that they put forth in that particular part of the paper. Moreover, the message in the topic sentence should be relevant to the thesis statement. What follows the topic sentence is content that creates clarity on the claim made in the sentence. Hence, students need to know how to write a topic sentence.

B. Concluding Sentences

While topic sentences introduce a single idea, concluding sentences connect that idea to the thesis statement. Basically, every paragraph should have a topic and a concluding sentence. Between them, there is the evidence that writers have gathered to back up the claim made in the topic sentence, which should align with the thesis. However, providing evidence is not enough. In this case, students should interpret it to create a connection with the thesis statement. Therefore, the concluding sentence is the writer’s concluding remarks about the idea in the topic sentence and how it aligns with the thesis. In turn, another purpose of concluding sentences is to transit readers to the next paragraph.

C. Transitions

Ensuring a logical flow of ideas in a college application essay format is important. For example, transitions are words and phrases that help writers to achieve this goal. When writing a college application essay, a student should use words, like “consequently,” “furthermore,” “most importantly,” and “even though,” among others. In turn, these words can be used in the topic sentence, concluding sentence, or the content between them.

Step 11: Peer Review

One of the factors that create credibility in a text is committing to thorough scrutiny by experts. Basically, this feature makes journal articles scholarly texts. Also, academic texts undergo examination by peers in respective disciplines. In this case, peer review means that distinguished scholars have taken time to go through the text and qualify it as academic by content and format. Therefore, to ensure a college application essay is of high quality, students should give first and final drafts to a mentor for review.

Step 12: Writing the Final Draft

Final drafts are written papers that students finally submit to the audience through publication or submission to respective departments or committees. When writing in a college application essay format, scholars submit final drafts to admission committees. Moreover, this draft reflects a perfect piece, meaning that it lacks grammatical mistakes and other notable errors, like inconsistent arguments or illogical flow of ideas.

The Grading of a College Application Essay Format

Writing of academic texts is an academic exercise that influences the final grades that students receive in a semester, at the end of the academic year, or towards graduation. Since the purpose of the college application essay is to convince the admission committee that one is the best candidate for admission, students must expect the committee to grade their work. The grading helps to identify the best students for admission among prospective candidates. The grading process involves determining how best a student has addressed some central requirements. These include the essay’s purpose and the audience.

1. Purpose

While essays allow writers to demonstrate their level of knowledge concerning a matter, the college application essay is about the writer. When writing the college essay, a student’s focus should be to influence their chances of admission. This means the essay’s content should be about the student, such as personal attributes and achievements. In short, the student should demonstrate an understanding of the purpose of the college admission essay. This purpose is to persuade the admission committee to recommend their admission to the college or university.

2. The Audience

When writing a college essay, the audience is the people who will read it. Unlike other academic texts that address a broader audience, such as students and researchers, college application essays target the admission committee. In this case, the essay’s purpose is short-lived. Therefore, students should demonstrate that they know who the audience is and provide information specific to them. In turn, authors should research the admission committee’s expectations, which tend to be standard across colleges and universities.

How to Increase Scores

Since the purpose of writing in a college application essay format is to increase the chances of admission to a college or university, it is prudent for students to approach the exercise with all seriousness. Basically, there are several things that students should do when writing college essays to increase their grades.

1. Show, Do Not Summarize

Typically, colleges and universities provide students with open-ended college application essay prompts. For example, this aspect allows students to provide detailed accounts of their experiences, such as moments that they consider significant in their academic journeys. In this case, the goal of open-ended prompts is to let students demonstrate their critical thinking, analysis, and reflection skills. Ultimately, students should use a college application essay format to communicate their real-life experiences and the lessons learned, and how such experiences have made them better persons academically or even privately.

2. Be Authentic

When writing college application essays, writers should be authentic. Also, students should read their essays as life stories. While the use of the first-person language is forbidden in most academic texts, a college application essay format is an exception. Basically, this type of essay aims to paint a picture of the student in the mind of the audience – the admission committee. Hence, students should avoid exaggerations, even if they present information about themselves.

3. Originality

There is always the scenario of students brainstorming as a group every time they are given an assignment that they are free to submit after several days. While this feature is recommendable, it may be a stumbling block to writing original work. In other words, students who work together on an assignment may end up writing similar content. In such a case, it would be difficult for instructors to consider their work original. When writing in college application essay format, authors must ensure that they do not copy another’s work, even if it is from online platforms. In turn, the academic writing literature considers such work as plagiarized, which is academic dishonesty. Therefore, a college application essay format should be unique and individual to a particular student.

What to Prepare For

Given elements that determine the grading of a college application essay format, students must be mentally prepared for their exercises. Basically, the relevance of high school grades, curriculum, and standardized admission test scores makes the admission criteria a holistic review of a student’s suitability. In this case, students should visit websites of their preferred college or university to familiarize themselves with essay requirements and formats. In summary, applicants should be prepared to talk about their grades, standardized admission test scores, high school reputation, personal attributes, accomplishments, community service, and so on.

Examples of College Application Essay Prompts

The Common Application is a platform that is increasingly becoming popular among students writing college application essays. Presently, over 700 colleges recommend it. Also, the platform gives students access to college application prompts, which they must answer using between 250 and 650 words. Hence, some of these prompts are:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

8. Describe a person you admire.

9. Why do you want to attend this school?

10. What is an extracurricular activity that has been meaningful to you?

1. What Are Prompts All About?

Looking at the above 10 examples of college application essay prompts, one can notice that the expectation is for students to respond from their point of view. In other words, prompts are open-ended, meaning that there is no specific answer that the admission committee of any college or university expects. Basically, the secret is for each student to respond to the prompt by using critical thinking and being creative. In turn, several students can have the same prompt but provide different responses, which may be graded highly.

2. Requirements/Expectations

Typically, students give different responses to the same college application essay prompt. For example, such an outcome is possible because prompts are not only about providing specific answers or responses but also demonstrating an understanding of the purpose of the assignment and being authentic and being original in response. As such, students must read the prompt and answer it thoroughly, bearing in mind that the goal is to impress the admission committee. Therefore, while being authentic and original is essential, writers should use their backgrounds creatively to create that impression.

How to Format a Perfect College Application Essay

Like any assignment, writing in a college application essay format requires a strategy. Basically, the strategy should involve increasing the chances of the admission committee recommending the application of a particular student. In this case, the strategy should have elements, each of which should be tailored towards this goal. Moreover, students need to understand that the primary goal of the application essay is to win admissions to colleges or universities of their choice. Hence, such an understanding helps to create clarity on what to do and not to do when writing a college application essay.

1. Forget “Writing From the Heart”

Throughout their high school years, students get a constant message from their parents, teachers, and mentors: write sincerely, write what they feel, and write about what matters. While these pieces of advice are well-intentioned, they do not guarantee that students will excel in their writing. Sometimes, authors can write from their hearts and end up writing a horrible text. In this case, the best approach to writing a paper, including a college application essay format, is to narrow research into what makes a college application essay terrible. With such information, students can know what to avoid when writing their college essays.

2. Seek Not to Be Interesting but Interested

Since college essay prompts are open-ended, students’ temptation to write about many things is always high. In an attempt to create a lasting impression on the admission committee, individuals may write about exciting experiences from their point of view. Basically, the problem with such an approach is that it may divert them from the purpose of the prompt. In turn, the best approach is for students to be interested in the prompt, meaning that their focus is limited. Therefore, while authors may provide exciting experiences, their focus is restricted to the prompt.

3. Avoid Flattery

When students are expected to create an impression through writing, the temptation to engage in vanity and pride is high. Basically, scholars should know that what should speak about them is not only their exploits but also their grades, attributes, and achievements. When individuals are preoccupied with their exploits when writing in a college application essay format, they may cause the admission committee suspicious rather than impressed. As a result, such an outcome may not be in the student’s best interest and can lead to a denial of admission.

4. Tell a Story

The good thing with open-ended questions is that they make an individual free as far as thinking is concerned. In other words, specific questions limit the extent to which a person can engage in creativity when responding. However, an open-ended question does not give this limitation. Therefore, when responding to the college application essay prompt, students should be as creative as they can be. In turn, the best approach is to include a personal anecdote in a persuasive essay, as it gives the audience a real-life view of the student’s experiences.

Strategy on Passing a College Application Essay Format

Getting the admission committee to recommend admission is the ultimate goal of formatting college application essays correctly. Besides some strategies mentioned in the previous section about writing a perfect college application essay, students should know how to write a persuasive essay. In turn, the strategy involves following a particular pattern and being prepared to handle any prompt.

1. Pattern

As indicated previously, ensuring a college application essay format has a structure is essential. Although headings are unnecessary, it is essential to ensure content flows so that the audience can identify the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Besides this structure, authors should ensure that their essays have a pattern. For example, such a pattern involves starting with high school grades, scores of standardized admission tests, personal attributes, and personal achievements. Notably, this content should appear in body paragraphs. Also, the first paragraph of college application essays should only serve to introduce a particular student with the purpose of writing, while the conclusion should be about a final appeal to the admission committee.

2. Responding to Prompts

Based on everything discussed in the preceding sections, students who write in a college application essay format should note several things. Firstly, college application essay prompts highlighted above are open-ended, indicating the need for authors to engage in critical thinking and reflection when writing academic essays. Then, the section on the step-by-step guide of writing college application essays indicates the essence of preparation. When responding to open-ended prompts, students should not rely much on external research, but their perspectives on issues. Finally. since application essays are about a particular student as an individual, a preparation format should focus on identifying what it is that makes an applicant excellent. Also, this feature means areas of achievement in academics and the community.

3. Patterns of College Application Essay Prompts

While over 700 colleges use the Common Application platform to provide students with prompts on college application essays, prompt formats differ from college to college. Nonetheless, they all share a pattern, and they are all open-ended. For example, it is hardly possible to come across a college or university that gives students college application essay prompts that require a specific answer. Then, the second pattern is that they all focus on the individual. In other words, all prompts require students to provide personal details, such as school grades, personal experience, or a personal story.

How to Be Prepared for Writing in a College Application Essay Format

The section about the step-by-step guide of writing in a college application essay format emphasizes the importance of preparation, setting the stage, writing the first draft, revising and editing, and so on. While these activities are critical in ensuring a college essay is of high quality, students should also engage in other activities meant to increase their chances of admission. For instance, these activities include reflecting on the topic or prompt, noting down all ideas that come to their head, narrowing down some options, and choosing what story to tell.

1. Reflection

Writing an essay that requires one to highlight personal attributes and experiences can be daunting. Often, students find it difficult choosing what story to tell about themselves and which one to ignore. To get through this dilemma, authors should take time to reflect on their experiences to identify events that help to advance the purpose of college application essays. As discussed, individuals should not aim only at writing an interesting essay but also getting interested in what they are writing.

2. Noting Down Ideas

Noting down ideas is different from making notes. For example, the former is a result of reflection, while the latter results from research. Since no research is necessary when writing college application essays, students should focus more on a reflection format. Basically, this exercise should come before the actual writing of the essay.

3. Narrow Down Options

The aspect of being open-ended makes a college application essay format broad in scope. In other words, students can write about many things in their attempt to address the central message in the prompt. To avoid writing about things that may be irrelevant or not helpful to the purpose of the essay, authors should narrow down their options by identifying the idea(s) that resonate well with the prompt and expectations of the admission committee.

4. Choose the Story to Tell

The inclusion of a personal anecdote in a college application essay format enriches the content of the text and creates a powerful impression on the audience. After narrowing options, writers should pick one and use relevant information to support it. Basically, this information includes personal experiences, character traits, and a personal story. Moreover, authors should choose one of these features and focus more on it. In essence, it becomes the story that they choose to tell the admission committee.

Summing Up on a College Application Essay Format

A college admission essay format supplements high school grades and standardized admission test scores. Collectively, such elements serve to increase students’ chances to get admitted to colleges or universities of their choice. When writing an essay, students should master the following tips:

  • read and reread the essay prompt(s);
  • take time to think about the purpose of the essay;
  • take time to reflect on personal experiences during high school education;
  • note down ideas;
  • brainstorm on ideas and narrow down to those that help to get the one story to tell;
  • seek not to be interesting but interested;
  • be authentic;
  • write original content;
  • avoid flattery;
  • tell the story.

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