College Application Essay

Are you just about to write your college application essay? Wondering how you should structure your paper? Well, you don’t have to worry anymore as the process is quite simple, and if done correctly, it can easily capture the attention of your audience.

Many students have remarkable stories to share, but sadly, they cannot present them properly. While having a basic concept of the story, their college application essay format is shoddy and even confusing to the readers. In this detailed guide, we’re going to give you all the essential tips and examples you need to craft a compelling college application paper. Take a look!

Step 1. Take Time Before Coming up with a Suitable Topic (Brainstorming)

The initial stage of learning how to format a college application essay is settling on a catchy and attractive theme before you start writing. Without a well-thought topic, your paper’s structure will only be irrelevant. So, what exactly should you consider when picking out a theme?

You must choose an elastic topic. Such means that it should cover just about everything you want to talk about, for example, qualities, values, and special skills. Here are ten exciting college application essay format, example topics:

  1. Describe a situation when you didn’t manage to achieve your goals and what entire experience taught you

  2. Explain some terrible mistakes you’ve made in your life

  3. Describe a risky situation you took explaining how it changed your life

  4. Talk where you grew up in explaining how this place contributed to the person you’ve become!

  5. The current social, as well as scientific controversies, are both a challenge and a blessing to our community. How?

  6. Explain those personal experiences which made you believe in something strongly!

  7. Talk about a situation when your beliefs and values were profoundly challenged!

  8. If you had the chance to invent something, what would you create, and why?

  9. Which worldly invention, in your opinion, should have never been created? Why do you think so?

  10. Explain a situation in your life that made you think that you’d rather be alone than in bad company?

Once you have selected the topic for your college admission paper, you now need to worry about how to make it better. However, if you still feel that you can come up with a more in-depth or more revealing topic, then please take your time and come up with another one. Remember that this is a crucial stage and you should never rush!

Step 2. Understand the College Application Essay Format and Structure

To develop an engaging college application essay, there are two structures that you need to keep in mind. These are:

  1. The narrative structure

  2. The montage structure

  1. Explaining the Narrative Structure

This format is a reliable and time-tested approach that’s been previously used by different film schools in America. If you decide to structure your paper using it, here are the basic principles to follow.

  • The Inciting incident or the status quo this is the start of your story, and it focuses on what you’ve faced as the main protagonist. Good examples include moving to a new city or a sudden death in your family.

  • Raising the stakes life changes get more serious. For example, it could be a new club losing funding or financial challenges as a result of the death of a key member in the family. This is a crucial stage in your paper as it raises the heights of dramatic tension.

  • Describing the moment of truth the climax of your paper or story. It answers questions such as: How did you beat the problem? Did you get the club funding you needed? Were you able to get rid of the school bully?

  • Explaining the new status quo the closing stage of your paper where you need to explain the skills or talents you got from the entire experience. You could have also gained a brand new life perspective. Just answer this simple question, ‘so what?’

An Exciting Example of a College Application Essay Format Example in the Narrative Structure

Title: A Disagreement and Later Break Up With My Mom

The Inciting incident (the status quo) the writer uses this college application essay format example to show disagreement with his mother, as she couldn’t give him enough space.

Raising the stakes his mother suffered from anxiety attacks and talked to her estranged ex-husband only. All her family members wanted to do nothing with her. The writer added that even though he was always there for her, she didn’t believe he loved her. In fact, she felt that he was in no position to giving her a stable life.

Describing the moment of truth the writer explains how he was fed up with living such a ‘cruel’ life under her ‘yoke’ of discrimination and oppression. He, therefore, took it upon himself to break ties with his mom and chose to live a different life.

Explaining the new status quo during the time that he was separated from his mom, he filled up this void by learning as much as he could. He educated himself on different topics and languages like building a website and speaking French.

He concludes by saying that during this stage, he learned how to be empathetic, which drove him to pick up the phone and call his mum. Fortunately, they’re now establishing some lines of communication.

  1. The Montage Example Format

In this structure don’t focus on the challenges in your chosen topic. Instead, use it to talk about your skills, qualities, and values. Here, you’re merely creating something new from different small fragments like your love for music and photography. An excellent example of a college application essay format template that you should consider is talking about when you ‘fell in love.’

What’s so amazing about this structure is that you don’t have to explain everything you went through. You could just mention:

  • How you surprised her with flowers while she was at work

  • Taking a late-night stroll

  • An unintended dance under the rain

  • And of course, your first kiss!

As you can see, using only a few images, you are effectively telling your readers the full story. However, even as you do so, remember to keep your account as visual as possible. You can use objects, soundtracks, and even movies to describe how they’ve brought out certain qualities in your life. But ensure that they relate with the emotions and suit the interests of your audience.

Another essential point to keep in mind is talking about something that you’re thoroughly familiar with. Suitable examples are: how to learn cooking or your first driving lesson. Lastly, focus on an elastic topic that will give you the chance to disclose a good number of your qualities!

Step 3. Choosing the Right College Application Essay Format

Once you’ve understood the clear difference between the Montage and Narrative formats, pick the one that, in your opinion, will assist you in expressing yourself better. If you wish to explain the events in your life systematically, for instance, how ‘A led to B and B led to C,’ then use the Narrative structure. On the other hand, if you desire to connect different events in your life using a thematic approach, go for the Montage format.

Now, whichever method you choose, ensure that your admission paper follows the ‘sandwich’ of college application essay format technique. Here, the introduction and conclusion serve as your slices of bread, and all that falls in the middle become sandwich toppings. Just like you can’t have a sandwich without bread, your application paper should have a ‘tasty’ intro, as well as a conclusion.

That said, how you construct the ‘in-between’ section of your essay solely depends on you. That is whether you choose the narrative approach or an extended analogy. Whichever method you use, you must follow the wisdom of every paragraph. Don’t make it too long and irrelevant while you have the chance to keep it short and precise.

Step 4. Realize That Not All College Application Essay Format Template Will Help!

While writing your college application essay, it’s normal for you to be drawn to online sites, offering tips on how to format your paper. If you choose to use many of them, your essay will only appear dull and canned. Once you’ve come up with a suitable topic, talk about how you can best format it with a professional writer, or provide practice outlines before you start working on it.

Now, don’t get us wrong; we are not saying that you should ignore these sample papers. No! Instead, use them to understand the various structural styles and captivating topics.

An Excellent Example of a College Application Essay Format Template Is the ‘Burying Grandma’ Paper.

Here, the writer talks about how they buried their grandmother using the narrative approach. She starts with the inciting incident, which is hard to identify unless you go through the entire story.

She then describes the impact that her grandmother had in her life and why the pain of losing her was too great to bear. As you move on with the story, you’ll notice how she raises the dramatic tension. She talks about the drastic measures she had to take to get over her grandmother’s death.

As she winds down, she talks about what drove her to become a better individual in society. Since her grandmother died from cancer, she decides to volunteer at a nearby cancer center. This is something that helped her to discover the path in life. She then concludes by taking us back to the start of the story, helping us understand how she’s changed since her grandmother passed away.

Step 5. Test the Format You Use for Your College Application Essay!

A well-written college application paper should show your contributions not only to the institution you want to join but also beyond your academic life. That’s why you should ensure that your college application essay format template has these four integral components.

  1. Explains your core values.

  2. Specific vulnerabilities.

  3. Offers ‘so what’ or insightful moments.

  4. Interesting craft.

The core values are the qualities that mean a lot to you. Therefore, here, some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Which conditions are vividly explained in my paper?

  • Which ones are poorly represented in the essay?

  • What are my missed opportunities?

When it comes to vulnerability, try to see if you’ve established a closer relationship with your readers. What have they learned about you that didn’t previously know?

When it comes to the ‘so what’ situations, review all the claims made in your paper, try to see if you’ve made different or common explanations. Lastly, the craft part here, you should show how you’ve understood the purpose of your paper by going through every paragraph and by testing every section. Always ask yourself, ‘Do I need to mention this?’

Which Are Some Basic Takeaways to Remember When Formatting Your College Application Paper?

Usually, you should ensure that your essay follows these two formatting principles. These are the micro-level and macro-level approach.

  • The Micro Method

Here, you’re expected to come up with proper margins, headings, and fonts. If you’re transferring your entire document into a text box from your word document, make sure that every formatting rule is in the correct place. Likewise, if you’re attaching your report, ensure that it’s readable with standard margins and well-spaced lines.

  • The Macro Essay Template

This is how you structure your entire essay. Just like we’ve already pointed out, it’s essential to have a paper that has a captivating introduction and engaging conclusion. While you have free-reign on how to structure the middle part, it should follow a logical flow!

Other Steps to Consider When Crafting Your College Admission Paper

Once you’ve understood the above structural tips and examples, you must concentrate on a few nitty-gritty details as you write your paper. These include:

  • Use Descriptive and Accurate Language

Take the words to cost a dollar, and you only a few funds left to purchase them. What does this mean? Well, instead of writing a lengthy or wordy sentence, make it short and precise. Let’s look at two college application essay format example sentences to assist you in understanding the concept better.

Wrong ‘Every year, we would drive to the beach, where I always hoped that one day, I would meet the boy who would later become my prince charming.’

Correct ‘Every summer, we traveled to Indiana Beach, where I knew that one day, I would meet the love of my life.’

  • Make Sure Your Paper Has Momentum

Every part of your essay should flow in a seamless and well-thought manner, leading to a suitable conclusion. For example, in a section where you are talking about how you spent a summer vacation in Hawaii, don’t keep talking about how you drove from the hotel to the beach every day. Such a statement doesn’t explain the primary purpose of you taking the vacation.

  • Use Apt Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar

There’s nothing that drives away your audience from your paper like an essay, filled with grammatical errors, typos, and poor spelling of words. This also shows the reader that you don’t care about the message portrayed in your college admission essay. Furthermore, anyone reading your paper will interpret such mistakes to be signs of dishonesty and laziness. To avoid this, take as much time as you can to proofread your document.

  • Avoid Generalizing Your Experiences

Whichever college application essay format you use, remember to be specific in how you craft your paper. For instance, don’t just say how you enjoyed your first soccer match, but instead, talk about how you scored a match-winning goal from centerfield. Remember that by being specific, you’re merely ‘inviting’ the reader into the key events of your life.


The best college application essays are the ones that share your personal experiences. It should not describe your entire life, but rather provide small glimpses of critical events that have made you grow up to be a reputable individual. In most cases, it helps to think of how past events have shaped your life; then tell this story in a unique and captivating way!

So, do you now know how to format a college application essay, using the above structural guidelines and examples? You can decide to narrate about your hiking trip or choose to take the reader through your first love experience. Whichever direction you take, be precise, and hook the reader from the onset. Good luck!

If you still need more guidance with writing a college application essay, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We have numerous professional writers on call, and we’ll be glad to help you out!