Choosing the best college application essay format

As you write your college application essay, pay attention to formatting! Don’t forget: your audience is human! So, use specific techniques like using short paragraphs and making your essay look inviting to keep your reader happy!

Your College Application Essay “Audience”

When writing the college application essay, students usually focus on what they want to say and the impression they want to make. In doing so, however, don’t forget the application essay format! It is equally important to keep in mind the needs of the person who is reading the essay. This is your “audience” and it’s important they enjoy the show.

“What?” you say. “This isn’t a show, it’s my future!”

Well, of course.

But imagine your job entails reading a thousand essays during the college application essay season. Do you think you might experience a little burnout?  Say, around essay number 618? Assuming Admissions Directors are human beings, we can at least acknowledge that possibility.

burnout: college application essay format

You Need Specific Techniques

What all this means is that capturing the attention of your reading audience might require some specific techniques that will make it easier for them to concentrate on their 33rd essay of that day. These adjustments are well within the parameters of good writing, and quite often apply to other types of writing as well. For me, the most important of these is…

Use Short Paragraphs

In my opinion, keeping the paragraphs in your college application essay short is one of the bottom-line keys to writing an outstanding essay. Shorter paragraphs do two things. 

First, they increase the reading pace. A quick, fluid pace will make the essay easier and more enjoyable to read. Subtly, this also establishes and reinforces the impression that the student is a strong writer.

Second (notice the jump to a new paragraph here), an essay written in short paragraphs looks more inviting on the page.  And to a reader who has read a ton of essays that week, this can mean a lot.

Looks Count!

Facing two paragraphs of 325 words each is a daunting proposition that can challenge the concentration and actually give the reader a negative mindset before reading a single word. An essay with several three sentence paragraphs sprinkled in among slightly longer ones, however, will set a positive attitude in the reader’s mind that can carry over throughout the read. Paragraph length can’t substitute for good writing, of course, but if the writing is there, it can enhance it.

Let’s review!

To make sure your essay is the crispest read it can be:

  1. Consistently review your essay for potential paragraph breaks.
  2. If you see a paragraph that looks too long, break it up.
  3. Reread the essay carefully and make sure you have not repeated the same point within a paragraph, only stated it in different words. If so, drop all repetitions except the clearest one. This technique will help you construct paragraphs that are shorter and more concise and, most significantly, keep your Admissions Director happy.

For more personal help with the college application essay, contact Craig Heller directly.

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