How to Write a Great College Application Essay Title

Learn why you should craft an effective title and how to make it work

  • Essay Samples & Tips
  • College Admissions Process
  • College Profiles
  • College Rankings
  • Choosing A College
  • Application Tips
  • Testing Graphs
  • College Financial Aid
  • Advanced Placement
  • Homework Help
  • Private School
  • College Life
  • Graduate School
  • Business School
  • Distance Learning
  • Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania
  • B.S., Materials Science & Engineering and Literature, MIT

Your application essay' s title is the first thing admissions officials will read. Although there are many ways to approach the title, it's important that the words at the top of the page make the proper impression.

Key Takeaways: Application Essay Titles

  • Don't skip the title. It's the first thing the admissions folks will read, and it is your chance to grab their interest.
  • Avoid vague titles and cliché phrases. Make sure the title gives a sense of your essay's content.
  • A little humor can be fine in a title, but it isn't necessary and cleverness should never be forced.

Importance of the Title

Ask yourself which work you'd be more excited to read: " Give Goth a Chance " or "Carrie's Essay." If you don't provide a title, you don't give your reader—in this case, busy admissions officials sorting through thousands of applications—any reason to be interested in reading your essay other than a sense of duty. Ensure that college admissions officers are motivated to read your essay due to curiosity rather than necessity.

Alternatively, imagine a newspaper in which every article lacks a title: You would be unlikely to pick up the paper and read anything. Clearly, a newspaper without titles would be confusing for readers. Application essays are similar in that way: Your readers want to know what it is that they are going to read.

The Purpose of an Application Essay Title

A well-crafted title should:

  • Grab your reader's attention
  • Make your reader want to read your essay
  • Provide a sense of what your essay is about

When it comes to the third item, realize that you don't need to be too detailed. Academic essays often have titles that look like: "Julia Cameron's Photography: A Study of the Use of Long Shutter Speeds to Create Spiritual Effects." For an application essay, such a title would come across as cumbersome and even pompous.

Consider how a reader would react to an essay with the title, "The Author's Trip to Costa Rica and How It Changed His Attitude Toward Biodiversity and Sustainability." After reading such a long and belabored title, admissions officials would have little motivation to read the essay.

Essay Title Examples

A good title can be clever or play with words, such as "Porkopolis"  by Felicity or "Buck Up"  by Jill. "Porkopolis" is a nonsense word, but it works well for an essay on becoming a vegetarian in a meat-centric world, and "Buck Up" employs both a literal and figurative meaning of the phrase. However, don't try to be too clever. Such efforts can backfire.

A title can be provocative. As an example, a student who wrote about encountering new foods while abroad titled her essay "Eating Eyeballs." If your essay focuses on a humorous, shocking or embarrassing moment in your life, it's often easy to write an attention-grabbing title. Titles such as "Puking on the President," "Romeo's Ripped Tights," and "The Wrong Goal" are sure to pique your reader's interest.

Simple and direct language can also be quite effective. Consider, for example, "The Job I Should Have Quit"  by Drew,  "Wallflower"  by Eileen, and "Striking Out"  by Richard. These titles don't play with words or reveal great wit, but they accomplish their purpose perfectly well.

In all of these examples, the title provides at least a sense of the essay's subject matter, and each motivates the reader to continue reading. After viewing such titles, even harried admissions officials are sure to ask: What the heck does "Porkopolis" mean? Why did you eat eyeballs? Why should you have quit your job?

Avoid These Title Mistakes

There are some common missteps that applicants make when it comes to titles. Be aware of these pitfalls.

Vague language . You'll be off to a remarkably bland start if your essay is titled "Three Things That Matter to Me" or "A Bad Experience." "Bad" (or "good" or "evil or "nice") is a painfully subjective and meaningless word, and the word "things" might have worked well in Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," but it rarely adds anything of value to your essay. Be precise, not vague .

Broad, overly general language . This is a continuation of the vague language problem. Some titles try to cover far too much. Don't call your essay "My Life Story" or "My Personal Growth" or "An Eventful Upbringing." Such titles suggest that you are going to attempt to narrate years of your life in a few hundred words. Any such effort is doomed to failure, and your reader will doubt your essay before beginning the first paragraph.

Overblown vocabulary . The best essays use clear and accessible language. When a writer attempts to sound intelligent by adding unnecessary syllables to every word, the reading experience is often torturous. For example, if an essay's title is "My Utilization of Erroneous Rationalizations During My Pupilage," the reader's immediate response is going to be pure dread. No one wants to read 600 words on such a subject.

Strained cleverness . Be careful if you're relying on wordplay in your title. Not all readers are fans of puns, and a title may sound ridiculous if the reader doesn't understand a supposedly clever allusion. Cleverness is a good thing, but test out your title on your acquaintances to ensure that it works.

Clichés . If your title relies on a cliché, you're suggesting that the experience that you are narrating is unremarkable and commonplace. You don't want the first impression of your essay to be that you have nothing original to say. If you find yourself writing "When the Cat Got My Tongue" or "Burning the Midnight Oil," stop and reevaluate your title.

Misspellings . Nothing is more embarrassing than a misspelled title. There, at the top of the page in bold letters, you've used the word "it's" instead of "its ," or you wrote about "patients" instead of "patience." Take extra care to check the spelling of your essay title—and, indeed, your essay in general. An error in the title is sure to eliminate any confidence your reader has in your writing ability.

A Few Title Tips

Many writers—both novices and experts—have a difficult time coming up with a title that works well. Write your essay first and then, once your ideas have truly taken shape, go back and craft the title. Also, seek help with your title. A brainstorming session with friends can often generate far better titles than a solitary session of pounding your head on your keyboard. You want to get the title right so that the admissions officials read your essay in a curious and eager state of mind.

If you're writing your essay for the Common Application , keep in mind that your title will go in the text box with the rest of the essay, and the title will count toward your essay's overall word count.

  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • Sample Common Application Essay for Option #5
  • "My Dads" - Sample Common Application Essay for Option #1
  • How to Write an Outstanding College Application Essay
  • "Handiwork" - Sample Common Application Essay for Option #1
  • Sample Application Essay - Porkopolis
  • Tips for Writing a Winning College Application Essay
  • Tips for the Pre-2013 Personal Essay Options on the Common Application
  • Bad Essay Topics for College Admissions
  • "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"—Sample Common Application Essay, Option #4
  • Ideal College Application Essay Length
  • College Essay Style Tips
  • "Gym Class Hero" - a Common Application Essay Sample for Option #3
  • College Application Essay - The Job I Should Have Quit
  • Private School Application Essay Tips
  • Should an Application Essay Be Single-Spaced or Double-Spaced?

PrepScholar

Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to format a college essay: 15 expert tips.

author image

College Essays

office-594132_640.jpg

When you're applying to college, even small decisions can feel high-stakes. This is especially true for the college essay, which often feels like the most personal part of the application. You may agonize over your college application essay format: the font, the margins, even the file format. Or maybe you're agonizing over how to organize your thoughts overall. Should you use a narrative structure? Five paragraphs?

In this comprehensive guide, we'll go over the ins and outs of how to format a college essay on both the micro and macro levels. We'll discuss minor formatting issues like headings and fonts, then discuss broad formatting concerns like whether or not to use a five-paragraph essay, and if you should use a college essay template.

How to Format a College Essay: Font, Margins, Etc.

Some of your formatting concerns will depend on whether you will be cutting and pasting your essay into a text box on an online application form or attaching a formatted document. If you aren't sure which you'll need to do, check the application instructions. Note that the Common Application does currently require you to copy and paste your essay into a text box.

Most schools also allow you to send in a paper application, which theoretically gives you increased control over your essay formatting. However, I generally don't advise sending in a paper application (unless you have no other option) for a couple of reasons:

Most schools state that they prefer to receive online applications. While it typically won't affect your chances of admission, it is wise to comply with institutional preferences in the college application process where possible. It tends to make the whole process go much more smoothly.

Paper applications can get lost in the mail. Certainly there can also be problems with online applications, but you'll be aware of the problem much sooner than if your paper application gets diverted somehow and then mailed back to you. By contrast, online applications let you be confident that your materials were received.

Regardless of how you will end up submitting your essay, you should draft it in a word processor. This will help you keep track of word count, let you use spell check, and so on.

Next, I'll go over some of the concerns you might have about the correct college essay application format, whether you're copying and pasting into a text box or attaching a document, plus a few tips that apply either way.

stamp-312609_640.png

Formatting Guidelines That Apply No Matter How You End Up Submitting the Essay:

Unless it's specifically requested, you don't need a title. It will just eat into your word count.

Avoid cutesy, overly colloquial formatting choices like ALL CAPS or ~unnecessary symbols~ or, heaven forbid, emoji and #hashtags. Your college essay should be professional, and anything too cutesy or casual will come off as immature.

emoji-653309_640.jpg

Mmm, delicious essay...I mean sandwich.

Why College Essay Templates Are a Bad Idea

You might see college essay templates online that offer guidelines on how to structure your essay and what to say in each paragraph. I strongly advise against using a template. It will make your essay sound canned and bland—two of the worst things a college essay can be. It's much better to think about what you want to say, and then talk through how to best structure it with someone else and/or make your own practice outlines before you sit down to write.

You can also find tons of successful sample essays online. Looking at these to get an idea of different styles and topics is fine, but again, I don't advise closely patterning your essay after a sample essay. You will do the best if your essay really reflects your own original voice and the experiences that are most meaningful to you.

College Application Essay Format: Key Takeaways

There are two levels of formatting you might be worried about: the micro (fonts, headings, margins, etc) and the macro (the overall structure of your essay).

Tips for the micro level of your college application essay format:

  • Always draft your essay in a word processing software, even if you'll be copy-and-pasting it over into a text box.
  • If you are copy-and-pasting it into a text box, make sure your formatting transfers properly, your paragraphs are clearly delineated, and your essay isn't cut off.
  • If you are attaching a document, make sure your font is easily readable, your margins are standard 1-inch, your essay is 1.5 or double-spaced, and your file format is compatible with the application specs.
  • There's no need for a title unless otherwise specified—it will just eat into your word count.

Tips for the macro level of your college application essay format :

  • There is no super-secret college essay format that will guarantee success.
  • In terms of structure, it's most important that you have an introduction that makes it clear where you're going and a conclusion that wraps up with a main point. For the middle of your essay, you have lots of freedom, just so long as it flows logically!
  • I advise against using an essay template, as it will make your essay sound stilted and unoriginal.

scroll-32626_640.png

Plus, if you use a college essay template, how will you get rid of these medieval weirdos?

What's Next?

Still feeling lost? Check out our total guide to the personal statement , or see our step-by-step guide to writing the perfect essay .

If you're not sure where to start, consider these tips for attention-grabbing first sentences to college essays!

And be sure to avoid these 10 college essay mistakes .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

Follow us on Facebook (icon)

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”

should a college application essay have a title

How to Write College Application Essays

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

College Application Essay Fundamentals 

How to prepare to write your essay , how to approach different essay types, how to structure your essay , how to revise your essay, how to find essay writing help , resources for teaching students how to write a college essay, additional resources (further reading).

Of all the materials in a college application, the essay provides the greatest opportunity for you to set yourself apart. Unlike the transcript or resume, the essay is creative and expressive; in it, you can show the admissions counselors who you are and what you can do (that is, how well you can write!). A good application essay should have a memorable main idea, a cohesive structure, and a strong introduction and conclusion. Although essay topics can vary by college, the most common prompts deal with personal experiences and aspirations for the future. This guide   contains a diverse set of resources to help you orient yourself to the college application essay and, ultimately, to write the most competitive essay possible. 

The college application essay is a requirement for admission to almost all institutions of higher learning. Though in some ways it resembles essays you've written in class or on standardized tests, in other ways it's a unique writing exercises with its own particular requirements. Use the resources below to help you understand how the essay should be structured and what kind of content to include. 

"How Long Should College Application Essays Be?" (Learn.org)

This webpage guides you through some basic tips on writing the college essay—including essay length, sticking to the prompt, and maintaining an original tone. 

"College Application Essay" (College Board)

This webpage from the College Board discusses the different types of application essays, what length you should aim for, and most importantly, why colleges value this aspect of the application so much. 

"College Essays, College Applications" (College Board) 

The College Board's website is a great resource for any student looking to apply to college. This webpage contains several links to helpful resources, including sample essays and genuine student interviews. 

"Timeline for College Applications" (College Essay Guy)

This colorful, one-page guide from a college application specialist offers an illustrated timeline for high school students looking to apply for college. 

Before putting your ideas down on paper, it's important to conceptualize your essay, to craft strategically your tone and style, and,  crucially, to choose a topic that suits you and the school to which you're applying. The resources in this section include writing tips, lists of common mistakes you should avoid, and guides dedicated to the college application essay.

How to Plan Your Essay

"3 Common College Essay Mistakes to Avoid" (CNBC)  

This article from CNBC broadly outlines the most common mistakes students make when writing their college application essays. Although these mistakes may seem obvious, even the most experienced writers can fall into these common traps.

"7 Effective Application Tips" (Peterson's)

This article from Peterson's (a company providing academic materials for test prep, application help, and more) lists seven pieces of advice designed to make your writing pop. 

"The Secret to Show, Don't Tell" ( The Write Practice Blog)  

You've heard it before: show, don't tell. This is a great writing tip, but how do you pull it off? Here, the writing blog  The Write Practice  outlines how you can make your writing more descriptive and effective. 

"Passive Voice" (University of North Carolina)  

Avoiding passive construction is a subtle yet effective way to upgrade any piece of writing. Check out this webpage from a university writing center for some tips on recognizing and avoiding passive voice. 

"Using Appropriate Words in an Academic Essay" (National University of Singapore)

There are many ways to upgrade your vocabulary. Often, words can be replaced with more impressive substitutes, phrases can be shortened or lengthened depending on context, and transitions can be used for a smoother flow. The link above expands on these strategies and offers several others. 

How to Brainstorm Topic Ideas

"Bad College Essays: 10 Mistakes to Avoid" (PrepScholar)

This article from a well-known tutoring service and test prep program describes what to avoid when writing your essay. Essays that are too graphic, too personal, or too overconfident are all problematic, and this article explains why. 

"5 Tricks for Choosing Your College Essay Topic" (CollegeXpress)

Lost on how to choose a topic? This webpage from CollegeXpress outlines five sources of inspiration you can mine for ideas as you're getting started.

"The College Admission Essay: Finding a Topic" (The Choice Blog)

This article from New York Times  blog The Choice  breaks down three essential questions to ask yourself when choosing a topic for your college essay. 

"COLLEGE ESSAY GUIDE: Choosing a Prompt for the Common Application" (YouTube)

In this five-minute video, a Yale student discusses how to choose a college essay prompt and how to approach the essay writing process. His channel is filled with original videos on the college application process. 

"Where to Begin? 3 Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises" ( CollegeVine Blog)

Approaching the Common App essay prompts can be difficult. This blog post explains several tactics you can use to narrow down your options, such as writing down a list of your greatest convictions.

"Using First Person in an Academic Essay: When Is It Okay?" (WritingCommons.org)

Most high school students are told to avoid using the first person point of view; this can be confusing when writing college essays, which typically ask what  you  think. This article breaks down when (and why) it's acceptable to write in the first person. 

Although all college essays serve the same purpose - articulating why you should get into a college - they come in different kinds. While topics on the Common Application are relatively consistent from year to year, personal statements and so-called "supplemental essays" vary by institution. Each of these essays requires a slightly different approach. The resources in this section will prepare you to answer the various types of essay prompts you're likely to encounter. 

Common Application Essays

CommonApp.org

The Common Application's official website is the best place to start getting acquainted with the service to which the majority of US colleges and universities now subscribe - a service which allows you to streamline your application process and minimize duplication of materials.

"What's App-enning" Blog (Common App)  

The Common App runs a blog with a wealth of information on common application-related news, including periodic updates on common application essay prompts for each application cycle. You can practice brainstorming with old prompts, or even start preparing your application by looking at this year's prompts.

125 College Essay Examples (PrepScholar Blog)

Here, PrepScholar provides a variety of Common App essays that got their respective applicants into their desired schools. Along with the body text of the essays, the website provides analysis on  what  makes the essays so great. 

A Few Essays That Worked (And a Few That Didn't) (NYTimes Blog)

This article analyzes unsuccessful essays, illuminating the ways in which they fell short. Although you should exercise caution and adjust your approach to your specific school, it's always good to pick up on general things to avoid. 

Personal Statements

What Is a Personal Statement? (PrepScholar Blog)

Although personal statements and Common App essays are similar, not all personal statement essays are administered through the Common App. This article from PrepScholar's blog will provide you with everything you need to know about writing a personal statement.

Examples of Successful Statements (Purdue OWL)

The Purdue OWL online writing lab collate links on this page to several successful personal statement. It can be useful to read successful statements and to consider how and why the statements made an impact on their readers. 

Past Threads on Advice for Writing Your College Essay (Reddit Post)

Although not about the personal statement  per se , this Reddit post has links to several past threads that may be of use to any prospective college applicant. 

What 10 Things Should Your Personal Statement Include? (Which University UK)  

This site outlines ten things to consider when writing a personal statement, including outlining what you will bring to the course, not what the course will bring to you. 

Supplemental Essays

How to Write Great Supplemental College Essays (IvyWise Newsletter)

Supplemental essays can often be challenging, asking a range of questions from the mundane to the oddly specific. This article from college application site IvyWise will break down example prompts to make them more approachable. 

Write Your Supplemental Essays (College Essay Guy)

Looking for a comprehensive guide to supplemental essays? Look no further than this page provided by the "College Essay Guy," who breaks down how to write supplemental essays that ask different kinds of questions. 

An Awesome Guide to the UChicago Supplement (Dyad)

Dyad, a college mentoring service, walks you through how to approach UChicago's supplemental essay question. Although the article is specific to UChicago, it contains general tips that are helpful to any college applicant. 

Reading My Yale Supplement Essay (YouTube)

Josh Beasley is back in this short YouTube video, where he reads the supplemental essay that got him into Yale and extrapolates advice for current and prospective applicants. 

A college application essay (like any academic essay) should have an introduction, a conclusion, and body paragraphs. Additionally, it should have overall coherence (that is, it should make a point) and cohesion (that is, it should flow well from paragraph to paragraph). We've collected the most relevant resources here to help you structure your college essay correctly and efficiently. 

How to Make Your Essay Stand Out 

College Essays That Stand Out From the Crowd (NYTimes)

This NYTimes article includes links to several recent essays that caught the eyes of the admissions readers by taking risks. You can even listen to an essay being read aloud by a current Princeton student.

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays (Gen / Kelly Tanabe)  

If you have some time on your hands, this hefty PDF document contains 50 essays from successful Ivy League applicants. After reading these essays, consider what they have in common and how they might be a model for your own essay.

Make Your Application Essay Stand Out (CampusExplorer.com)

In this article from CampusExplorer, you'll find general tips on how to make your essay more appealing to the admissions readers. The writers include general writing tips as well as more targeted advice for the tone and audience of the application essay.

How to Write a College Application Essay that Stands Out (Boston University)

This short video from BU's own admissions department touches briefly on what impresses their admissions readers, including risk-taking, memorable stories, and honesty. 

Essay Structure (Monash University)

This chart from Monash University visually demonstrates how your content should be organized in order to keep your argument or story on track. 

How to Write an Introduction

How to Start a Personal Statement: The Killer Opening (Which University UK)  

Any good introduction both forecasts what your essay will be about and catches the reader's attention. This page will give you some helpful advice on starting your essay with a bang. 

How to Start a College Essay Perfectly (PrepScholar Blog)

This article from PrepScholar shows you how to "hook" your reader at the start of your application essay with colorful language, a vivid story, and an "insightful pivot" to your main point.

Let Me Introduce Myself (Stanford University)

This article from Stanford U's alumni page details the first-line openings of the essays for some current Stanford undergrads. 

Five Ways to NOT Start Your College Application Essays (PowerScore)

In this article, you'll learn five techniques to avoid, as they typically land a college application essay in the "reject" pile; these include beginning with dictionary definitions or famous quotations. 

How to Write a Conclusion 

Ending the Essay: Conclusions (Harvard University)

Harvard's writing center suggests bringing closure to your essay (that is, wrapping up your argument) while still expanding outward to broader applications or insights in your final paragraph.

Concluding Paragraph (Easybib)  

Although you may have used Easybib to make a bibliography before, did you know they have many resources on how to write a good essay? Check out this page for succinct advice on what your conclusion should entail. 

5 Ways to Powerfully End Your College Essay (College Greenlight)

This blog post instructs you to end with action (that is, a story or anecdote) rather than summary, giving you five ways to do this effectively, including addressing the college directly.

How to Write the Best Conclusion for a College Application Essay and Supplement (Koppelman Group)

The Koppelman Group, a college application consulting firm, warns you, above all, not to end "in conclusion" or "to conclude." They also provide targeted advice for the Common App and Supplement essays, respectively. 

No essay is perfect in its first-draft form; college application essays in particular are limited by word counts that can be difficult to meet. Once you've communicated your ideas, you'll want to edit your essay in order to make sure it's the best it can be. You'll also need to cut or add words to make sure it's within the specifications set by the institution. The resources in this section include tips and tricks for revising your college application essay. 

3 Ways to Increase Word Count (WikiHow)

Complete with illustrations, this WikiHow page outlines several ways you might go about substantively expanding your essay. These tips include clarifying points, reworking your introduction and conclusion, adding new viewpoints and examples, and connecting loose threads. 

Admissions 101: What an Essay Word Limit Really Means (Veritas Prep) 

In this blog post, Veritas Prep's college preparation tutors assure you that being a little over or under the limit is acceptable, recommending ways you can think about the word limit's purpose.

College Essay Word Limit - Going Under? (College Confidential) 

In this College Confidential discussion forum, students discuss the possible ramifications of writing under the word limit for a college essay. 

How to Increase Your Essay Word Count (WordCounter)

This article from WordCounter outlines different ways you might go about meeting word count, including addressing different viewpoints, adding examples, and clarifying statements. 

Hitting the Target Word Count in Your College Admissions Essay (Dummies.com)

This article details how to hit the target word count. Scroll down to the middle of the article for advice on where you should cut words from to meet word count. 

Some Tricks to Reduce Word Count (EastAsiaStudent.net)

This article recommends simplifying your style, deleting adverbs, deleting prepositions, and revisiting connectives and adjectives to reduce word count. 

Advice on Whittling Your Admissions Essay (NYTimes) 

In this New York Times article, Andrew Gelb discusses how to go about cutting down your admissions essay in order to meet the requisite word limit.

How to Shorten an Essay Without Ruining the Content (Quora) 

This Quora post from a concerned student yielded useful community responses on how to effectively shorten an essay without losing the original message. 

Feel like you've hit a wall revising your essay on your own? You're not alone, and there are plentiful resources on the web through which you can connect with fellow college applicants and/or professional tutors. The links in this section will take you to free services for improving your college application essay, as well as two of the top paid writing tutor services.

College Confidential Forums 

College Confidential is a free, public forum in which you can post your essay and receive feedback from current college students, current college applicants, and even teachers or other experienced users. 

/r/CollegeEssays (Reddit)

This subreddit is a great place to look for crowdsourced help on your essay, ask questions about college essays, or even find a private tutor. 

Essayforum.com

Essayforum.com provides another platform for students to share their application essays. Although this link takes you to the site's forum for applicants to undergraduate degree programs, you can submit and review essays in other categories as well.  Varsity Tutors

Varisty Tutors offers tutoring services from freelance tutors based on location. Prices and services vary, but their site is easy to use and there are many tutors available to choose from.

Princeton Review

Princeton Review, one of the largest providers of college preparation tutoring (ranging from standardized test preparation to essay help) offers online essay tutoring services with a free trial period. 

Using in-class time to prepare your students to write college application essays is, of course, rewarding, but can also be challenging. If you're a teacher looking to incorporate the college essay into your curriculum but you're not sure where to start, take a look at the useful resources below.

TeachersPayTeachers

College Essay Writing

This product includes material for more than one full lesson plan, including powerpoint presentations, assessments, and homework on the topic of college essays. 

Narrative Writing Ideas and Prompts

Appealing to students 9th grade and up, this product includes lesson plans, handouts, and homework for developing narrative writing for the college essay process. 

College Essay: Comprehensive 7-Session Workshop Series

This PDF includes entire courses, manuals, and handouts designed to teach students the ins and outs of the college essay process, either in an individual or group setting. 

College Essay Revision Forms & Rubrics

These PDFs provide students with visual organizers and rubrics to assess their own writing and learn how to become better college essay writers. 

Free Resources

Teaching the College Essay (Edutopia) 

Teaching your students about writing the college essay can be incredibly intimidating -- as a teacher, how should you approach the process? This article from Edutopia outlines how to go about introducing the college essay to your students. 

Essay Lesson Plan Ideas for College Applications (EssayHell)

If you're a teacher looking for a concrete lesson plan on college essays, this guide recommends using the first day to discuss the importance of the essay, the second day for brainstorming, and so on. Click on the link above to examine their full guide. 

Help Your Students Write a Killer College Essay (EdWeek Blog)

This blog post goes over various techniques designed to help your students choose an appropriate topic and write their essay with passion. 

The Biggest College Essay Mistakes & How to Fix Them (Talks With Teachers)

Looking to help your students avoid the minefield of mistakes in the college essay field? Check out this post from Talks With Teachers, a journal that shares "inspiring ideas for English teachers." 

Curious to read more about college application essays, or to see fun and unusual examples of what students have written? The articles, blog posts, and books in this section are a good place to start surveying the field.

One Over-the-Top Admissions Essay (Huffington Post)

This piece from the Huffington Post talks about a humorous response to a Stanford supplemental essay topic, the so-called "letter to my future roommate."

College & University - Statistics and Facts (Statista.com) 

In the process of writing your college essay, you may find yourself wondering who exactly goes to college, how many colleges there are in the United States, etc. This site gives the up-to-date statistics for various US demographics, both in aggregate and by university, as well as other information.

Who Made That College Application? (NYTimes)

This piece from the NYTimes outlines the history of the college essay from its origins in the 1800s, to the first "modern" college application, produced by Columbia University in 1919, to the present.  

How They Got Into Harvard (Staff of the Harvard Crimson)

This highly-rated collection of successful Harvard application essays, available on Amazon, is both an entertaining read and an instructive resource for anyone looking for exemplary essays to use as models. 

  • PDFs for all 136 Lit Terms we cover
  • Downloads of 1929 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • Explanations and citation info for 40,694 quotes across 1929 books
  • Downloadable (PDF) line-by-line translations of every Shakespeare play

Need something? Request a new guide .

How can we improve? Share feedback .

LitCharts is hiring!

The LitCharts.com logo.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

Also Found On

  • Affiliate Program

Wordvice

  • 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
  • Our Editors
  • Client Reviews
  • 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

should a college application essay have a title

The college application essay has become the most important part of applying to college. 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 Application Essay 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:

Personal challenges

  • 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

Lessons learned

  • In general, did your experiences inform your choice of university or major?

Personal beliefs

  • 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.

common app essay format, essay sections 1

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 has been 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.

Transizion

The Admissions Strategist

College essay titles: are they important.

If you’re reading this, you are probably writing your college essays. Writing, drafting, revising, and proofreading your essays all play really important roles in the process.

One of the finishing touches on most pieces of writing is a title – but do you need one in a college essay? This guide gives you all the information you’ll need!

College Essay Titles: Everything to Know!

Click above to watch a video on College Essay Titles.

Are college essay titles important?

To be blunt: not really. The most important part of a college essay is the essay itself. Your essay should be personal, insightful, creative, and meticulously proofread. They do not need to be titled.

However, this doesn’t mean that a title is a bad idea. A title for your college essay falls under the “nice to have” category. A title isn’t something that an application reader will be looking for, but a well-done title can really help tie your essay together, especially if you have room in your word count for one.

How to think of a great college essay title

A title for any piece of writing should be brief, clever, and creative. Most importantly for college essays, they should add something to your piece. College essays often have a limited word count, so if you are going to be using some of the words for a title, it’s important to make sure it’s worth it!

To begin brainstorming a great college essay title, close your eyes. Think about your essay holistically. Likely you have been working on a micro-level of editing and revising: word choice, sentence structure, and other small-level changes. Try and zoom out.

What is the big picture of your essay? What is the major lesson you learned? Or, perhaps, what is the funniest part – what could be an exciting hook for your reader? Try and brainstorm a list of these ideas. Don’t worry about being brief yet.

Once you have an idea you like, workshop it down. Try and make your title as short as you can without sacrificing substance.

It might also be a good idea to ask some friends, family members, or teachers for advice. Sometimes it’s easier to see the big picture of an essay if you weren’t the person who actually wrote it.

Examples of poor college essay titles

A bad essay title is wordy, confusing, or just plain boring. Restating the essay prompt in a title, or an essay for that matter, is a waste of words and time. Avoid titles that sound like the following:

  • “My Most Memorable Moment” – boring
  • “The Importance of Finding Community in Unlikely Places” – boring and wordy
  • “Why I Want to Attend [University Name]” – boring
  • “Cars and Lessons” – confusing and vague, doesn’t add anything to the piece

Examples of great college essay titles

So, what does a good college essay title sound like? Great college essay titles are quippy, creative, interesting, and/or add something new to your essay. Here are some examples:

  • “Found Family, French Fries, and Football” – the alliteration shows some extra thought put into titling the essay. This title already tells a reader this will likely be about the author finding a community in a football team, but leaves the reader wondering how french fries factor into it all.
  • “Y-whay I-way Ove-lay Ig-pay Atin-lay” – this falls under the “creative” category. That title uses “Pig Latin,” a made-up “language” many people are likely familiar with. Once translated, this also piques the reader’s interest; how will Pig Latin be relevant in a college essay?
  • “It’s The Lemurs” – this title is for an essay answering “Why Do You Want To Attend Our School,” and the author chose to write about the university’s lemur research center. This is a short and surprising title, and definitely leaves the reader wanting to know more!

Conclusion: College Essay Titles

When push comes to shove, your essay is your essay, and you know it best. If you feel certain that the best title for your essay breaks one of the above rules, that’s okay. Our guidelines are just that: guidelines.

Hopefully, this guide helps you understand the purpose of college essay titles and how to come up with good ones. Remember, essay titles for college applications are certainly not necessary, but can add a lot if done correctly.

Learn how we can help you with college and career guidance! Check out our YouTube channel!

Click Here to Schedule a Free Consult!

should a college application essay have a title

Stay on track and ease your anxiety with our second-to-none college application assistance.

How to get into Carnegie Mellon

  • Ethics & Honesty
  • Privacy Policy
  • Join Our Team

(732) 339-3835

[email protected]

should a college application essay have a title

Should I include a title on my common app essay? Answered

I'm am writing one of my essays for the common app and I don't know if it needs to have a title.

Earn karma by helping others:

Although I am not an expert, from what I've seen, I would suggest not to put an essay. The admissions officers will already know the prompt so they would know what the essay is about and also the title will count towards the overall length and word count of the essay. Once you finish it and you still have enough space to put in a title without making your essay too lengthy, then it is up to you whether to put one or not.

^ All articles I’ve read said not to put a essay title even if it isn’t common app essay.

Hey @corryn , this is a great question and one we've been seeing a lot of lately. While it comes down to personal preference and what you're hoping to accomplish by including a title I would agree with @francisco and suggest you do not include one on the common app essay.

For one, as @francisco mentioned, the title would count towards your total word count for the essay. In most instances you're going to get a greater benefit from using the few words you would have used on your title in the body of your essay. You only have 650 words for your essay and, while it might not seem like much, those 4-10 words you might use for a title most likely can be used to add details to your story. In addition, you'd want to ensure your title doesn't mess up with the formatting of your essay. Nothing would be worse than including a title on your essay only to have it messing up the formatting and limiting your chances of acceptance.

Also, an admissions officer will be reading your essay regardless of if you have a title or not. Chances are your title won't be some eye-catching thing that makes the admission officer that much more interested in your essay. That should be coming from your essay itself. Even with the most catchy title it won't make up for a poorly written essay. Overall, the benefits of a title don't really outweigh the negatives in my personal opinion.

Now, having said all that, if you are set on adding a title to your essay I would recommend writing your complete essay first. A title isn't important enough for you to be stressing out over. Write your essay, edit your drafts, revise, and keep going until your essay is complete and you are 100% satisfied. After that you can see how much space you have left and consider adding a title. In the right situations, it's entirely possible a short, concise title, maybe one with some humor included, can work. Maybe something poking fun at pop culture or current events could work. But only add one if it actually ADDS to your essay. Don't have one just to have one. I definitely would avoid generic titles (Things That Matter to Me) or very general ones (My Life Story). Hope this helps and I'm happy to answer any follow-up questions!

Calculate for all schools

Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, community guidelines.

To keep this community safe and supportive:

  • Be kind and respectful!
  • Keep posts relevant to college admissions and high school.
  • Don’t ask “chance-me” questions. Use CollegeVine’s chancing instead!

How karma works

College Application Essay Writing

College Application Essay Format

Barbara P

College Application Essay Format & Samples

Published on: Feb 18, 2021

Last updated on: Apr 18, 2024

College Application Essay Format

People also read

College Application Essay - Complete Guide with Writing Tips

College Application Essay Examples for 2024

College Application Essay Prompts and How to Answer Them

How to Write a Strong Statement of Purpose for Any Program

Share this article

If you plan to get admission to the dream school, you need to write a college application essay.

College essays are the main part of the application. For a good application essay, make sure you have good story skills. Writing the college application essay requires a lot of time and planning.

An important thing that every student knows is that a college essay is a perfect place to show your writing abilities.

On This Page On This Page -->

What is a College Application Essay Format?

College essays are a new type of writing for high school and college students. The college application essay is an important part of academics for any student. The college essay is written in a way that depicts the clarity of mind and thoughts.

A college application essay is an important part of college admission. The admission committee can judge the student by a simple glance at their essay.

A college application essay format is a way of organizing thoughts and ideas. Many students are confused about paper formatting and essay structure. If you write and format the essay correctly, it will help you to get admission easily.

Following a proper format is very important in college essays. If the format is incorrect, the examiner might not consider reading the essay. In the  college application essay , follow the correct format for the font size, line spacing, and margins.

If students fail to follow the college application essay format, it will ruin all their efforts. An incorrect formatting style makes your essay substandard.

The essay is written in the correct format; it will help you shine out among other students. A properly written essay with a proper essay format tells the admissions officer bout your career and academic goals.

The content and college admission essay format define your future. Many students start writing the essay without knowing the proper format of the essay. So, understand the essay format first and then start writing the college essay.

How to Format the College Application Essay?

Writing the college application essay is one of the most important academic assignments. Some students have been stuck in this question “How to format a college application essay”. Formatting is quite stressful for some students when writing a college application essay.

There are some guidelines that every student should follow when writing and formatting a college application essay.

The format is the main thing in the essay, and without proper format, the essay is a waste piece of writing. A good college application essay includes three main sections, i.e., introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

When you start writing the college essay, don’t dismiss the introduction. It is an important part of your college application process. In this section, the student introduces themselves, and the college application essay prompts.

The introduction starts with the attention-grabbing opening sentence. The first sentence in this paragraph should be the topic. An introduction part should be neither too long nor too short.

In the introduction, don’t create a list of arguments. Make sure that your introduction is relevant and describes all the things in order.

Write a few sentences in the introduction part that lead to the main point of your essay. End the paragraph with a thesis statement.

The body paragraphs contain information that is supportive of your thesis statement. Support your main idea in this section. Writing the essay body paragraphs requires a lot of time and effort.

Support your statements with solid facts and evidence. Make your essay easy to read and follow the proper format of the college application essay.

In one paragraph, write a summary of the entire college application essay. Write a few sentences that summarize your whole essay. It is where you wrap up the points and examples you have discussed in the essay.

Restate your thesis statement and convince the reader by the facts you have discussed in your body paragraphs.

When writing the college application essay, the font that you use should be Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. The size of the essay font is 12pt. The font size should be readable, and try to avoid using fancy fonts. Avoid using emojis, hashtags, underlines, and ALL CAPS in your essay writing.

The headings should not be the primary concern for some writers. But it is an important factor in the essay.

The heading should be less than ten words and must be in bold type. The word count is important in the headings. It is written in the upper left corner of the page.

The page heading must be written in a proper format. Firstly, write your name, then the professor’s name, the title of the essay, and the submission date.

The heading is the fundamental part of the essay. Write the page headings carefully and correctly follow the proper format of the headings.

The title is the first thing that the academic committee read. The title words make the first impression on the admission officials.

The title of the essay should be written under the page headings. The title of the college application essay gives a sense of your essay’s content. Avoid vague titles and make your reader want to read your essay.

When attaching a document, you have to be more concerned with the college essay format. You have to submit the college essay in a specific file format. The academic committee accepts only word files or PDF documents.

Make sure that you are saving the file in an accepted format before submitting your essay. When you create the document, save it in PDF because they are uneditable and always looks the same.

The citation writing style of the college application essay is the same as other essays. By citation, you can also avoid plagiarism and give proper credit to the original author or authors. The sources you cite depend on your academic style, and you must know the style requirements when you compile your citations.

Some students use MLA, APA, Chicago, or Harvard citation styles in their essays. When you cite sources, make sure that you can correctly cite without any mistakes.

Order Essay

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

College Application Essay Format Examples

Some students do not have good essay writing skills, and they consult online essay writing services and get their work done.

However, if you can write a good essay on your own. Check these examples that you can use for your help and create a successful application essay.

College Application Essay Format (PDF)

College Application Essay Example (PDF)

MLA College Application Essay Format (PDF)

Tips for Formatting the College Application Essay

Formatting is the main part of the college essay, and your essay depends on them. We collect some tips that you can use when formatting your essay.

  • Your essay is a reflection of your personality, so always be organized when you present yourself.
  • Create an outline for your essay.
  • Write an engaging introduction.
  • Choose a standard font for your essay.
  • Provide reasons for why you are the best candidate for admission.
  • The page headers are placed in the upper-left corner of the page.
  • Avoid overly informal formatting choices.
  • Indent or double space to separate paragraphs.
  • Try evaluating the piece from the examiner's perspective.
  • Write other than your grades and test scores.
  • Save your essay in a PDF format before submitting it.

Writing a good college application essay is necessary if you get admission to your dream college. If you feel that you need extra help, then you can consult an AI essay generator .

Our service has a dedicated team of writers from various academic backgrounds that can easily write an essay for you. We provide high-quality academic essays with proper personal statements without any mistakes or plagiarism.

Place your order now and get the best essay help from experts.

Barbara P (Management)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

Get Help

Keep reading

College Application Essay Format

Legal & Policies

  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookies Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Refunds & Cancellations
  • Our Writers
  • Success Stories
  • Our Guarantees
  • Affiliate Program
  • Referral Program
  • AI Essay Writer

Disclaimer: All client orders are completed by our team of highly qualified human writers. The essays and papers provided by us are not to be used for submission but rather as learning models only.

should a college application essay have a title

What are your chances of acceptance?

Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.

Duke University

Your chancing factors

Extracurriculars.

should a college application essay have a title

How to Format and Structure Your College Essay

←What Is a College Application Theme and How Do You Come Up With One?

How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges→

A person sitting cross legged, pointing to the text, with an abstract monitor behind them

Does your Common App essay actually stand out?

Your essay can be the difference between an acceptance and rejection — it allows you to stand out from the rest of applicants with similar profiles. Get a free peer review or review other students’ essays right now to understand the strength of your essay.

Submit or Review an Essay — for free!

College essays are an entirely new type of writing for high school seniors. For that reason, many students are confused about proper formatting and essay structure. Should you double-space or single-space? Do you need a title? What kind of narrative style is best-suited for your topic?

In this post, we’ll be going over proper college essay format, traditional and unconventional essay structures (plus sample essays!), and which structure might work best for you. 

General College Essay Formatting Guidelines

How you format your essay will depend on whether you’re submitting in a text box, or attaching a document. We’ll go over the different best practices for both, but regardless of how you’re submitting, here are some general formatting tips:

  • There’s no need for a title; it takes up unnecessary space and eats into your word count
  • Stay within the word count as much as possible (+/- 10% of the upper limit). For further discussion on college essay length, see our post How Long Should Your College Essay Be?
  • Indent or double space to separate paragraphs clearly

If you’re submitting in a text box:

  • Avoid italics and bold, since formatting often doesn’t transfer over in text boxes
  • Be careful with essays meant to be a certain shape (like a balloon); text boxes will likely not respect that formatting. Beyond that, this technique can also seem gimmicky, so proceed with caution
  • Make sure that paragraphs are clearly separated, as text boxes can also undo indents and double spacing

If you’re attaching a document:

  • Use a standard font and size like Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Make your lines 1.5-spaced or double-spaced
  • Use 1-inch margins
  • Save as a PDF since it can’t be edited. This also prevents any formatting issues that come with Microsoft Word, since older versions are sometimes incompatible with the newer formatting
  • Number each page with your last name in the header or footer (like “Smith 1”)
  • Pay extra attention to any word limits, as you won’t be cut off automatically, unlike with most text boxes

Conventional College Essay Structures

Now that we’ve gone over the logistical aspects of your essay, let’s talk about how you should structure your writing. There are three traditional college essay structures. They are:

  • In-the-moment narrative
  • Narrative told over an extended period of time
  • Series of anecdotes, or montage

Let’s go over what each one is exactly, and take a look at some real essays using these structures.

1. In-the-moment narrative

This is where you tell the story one moment at a time, sharing the events as they occur. In the moment narrative is a powerful essay format, as your reader experiences the events, your thoughts, and your emotions with you . This structure is ideal for a specific experience involving extensive internal dialogue, emotions, and reflections.

Here’s an example:

The morning of the Model United Nation conference, I walked into Committee feeling confident about my research. We were simulating the Nuremberg Trials – a series of post-World War II proceedings for war crimes – and my portfolio was of the Soviet Judge Major General Iona Nikitchenko. Until that day, the infamous Nazi regime had only been a chapter in my history textbook; however, the conference’s unveiling of each defendant’s crimes brought those horrors to life. The previous night, I had organized my research, proofread my position paper and gone over Judge Nikitchenko’s pertinent statements. I aimed to find the perfect balance between his stance and my own.

As I walked into committee anticipating a battle of wits, my director abruptly called out to me. “I’m afraid we’ve received a late confirmation from another delegate who will be representing Judge Nikitchenko. You, on the other hand, are now the defense attorney, Otto Stahmer.” Everyone around me buzzed around the room in excitement, coordinating with their allies and developing strategies against their enemies, oblivious to the bomb that had just dropped on me. I felt frozen in my tracks, and it seemed that only rage against the careless delegate who had confirmed her presence so late could pull me out of my trance. After having spent a month painstakingly crafting my verdicts and gathering evidence against the Nazis, I now needed to reverse my stance only three hours before the first session.

Gradually, anger gave way to utter panic. My research was fundamental to my performance, and without it, I knew I could add little to the Trials. But confident in my ability, my director optimistically recommended constructing an impromptu defense. Nervously, I began my research anew. Despite feeling hopeless, as I read through the prosecution’s arguments, I uncovered substantial loopholes. I noticed a lack of conclusive evidence against the defendants and certain inconsistencies in testimonies. My discovery energized me, inspiring me to revisit the historical overview in my conference “Background Guide” and to search the web for other relevant articles. Some Nazi prisoners had been treated as “guilty” before their court dates. While I had brushed this information under the carpet while developing my position as a judge, it now became the focus of my defense. I began scratching out a new argument, centered on the premise that the allied countries had violated the fundamental rule that, a defendant was “not guilty” until proven otherwise.

At the end of the three hours, I felt better prepared. The first session began, and with bravado, I raised my placard to speak. Microphone in hand, I turned to face my audience. “Greetings delegates. I, Otto Stahmer would like to…….” I suddenly blanked. Utter dread permeated my body as I tried to recall my thoughts in vain. “Defence Attorney, Stahmer we’ll come back to you,” my Committee Director broke the silence as I tottered back to my seat, flushed with embarrassment. Despite my shame, I was undeterred. I needed to vindicate my director’s faith in me. I pulled out my notes, refocused, and began outlining my arguments in a more clear and direct manner. Thereafter, I spoke articulately, confidently putting forth my points. I was overjoyed when Secretariat members congratulated me on my fine performance.

Going into the conference, I believed that preparation was the key to success. I wouldn’t say I disagree with that statement now, but I believe adaptability is equally important. My ability to problem-solve in the face of an unforeseen challenge proved advantageous in the art of diplomacy. Not only did this experience transform me into a confident and eloquent delegate at that conference, but it also helped me become a more flexible and creative thinker in a variety of other capacities. Now that I know I can adapt under pressure, I look forward to engaging in activities that will push me to be even quicker on my feet.

This essay is an excellent example of in-the-moment narration. The student openly shares their internal state with us — we feel their anger and panic upon the reversal of roles. We empathize with their emotions of “utter dread” and embarrassment when they’re unable to speak. 

For in-the-moment essays, overloading on descriptions is a common mistake students make. This writer provides just the right amount of background and details to help us understand the situation, however, and balances out the actual event with reflection on the significance of this experience. 

One main area of improvement is that the writer sometimes makes explicit statements that could be better illustrated through their thoughts, actions, and feelings. For instance, they say they “spoke articulately” after recovering from their initial inability to speak, and they also claim that adaptability has helped them in other situations. This is not as engaging as actual examples that convey the same meaning. Still, this essay overall is a strong example of in-the-moment narration, and gives us a relatable look into the writer’s life and personality.

2. Narrative told over an extended period of time

In this essay structure, you share a story that takes place across several different experiences. This narrative style is well-suited for any story arc with multiple parts. If you want to highlight your development over time, you might consider this structure. 

When I was younger, I was adamant that no two foods on my plate touch. As a result, I often used a second plate to prevent such an atrocity. In many ways, I learned to separate different things this way from my older brothers, Nate and Rob. Growing up, I idolized both of them. Nate was a performer, and I insisted on arriving early to his shows to secure front row seats, refusing to budge during intermission for fear of missing anything. Rob was a three-sport athlete, and I attended his games religiously, waving worn-out foam cougar paws and cheering until my voice was hoarse. My brothers were my role models. However, while each was talented, neither was interested in the other’s passion. To me, they represented two contrasting ideals of what I could become: artist or athlete. I believed I had to choose.

And for a long time, I chose athlete. I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and viewed myself exclusively as an athlete, believing the arts were not for me. I conveniently overlooked that since the age of five, I had been composing stories for my family for Christmas, gifts that were as much for me as them, as I loved writing. So when in tenth grade, I had the option of taking a creative writing class, I was faced with a question: could I be an athlete and a writer? After much debate, I enrolled in the class, feeling both apprehensive and excited. When I arrived on the first day of school, my teacher, Ms. Jenkins, asked us to write down our expectations for the class. After a few minutes, eraser shavings stubbornly sunbathing on my now-smudged paper, I finally wrote, “I do not expect to become a published writer from this class. I just want this to be a place where I can write freely.”

Although the purpose of the class never changed for me, on the third “submission day,” – our time to submit writing to upcoming contests and literary magazines – I faced a predicament. For the first two submission days, I had passed the time editing earlier pieces, eventually (pretty quickly) resorting to screen snake when hopelessness made the words look like hieroglyphics. I must not have been as subtle as I thought, as on the third of these days, Ms. Jenkins approached me. After shifting from excuse to excuse as to why I did not submit my writing, I finally recognized the real reason I had withheld my work: I was scared. I did not want to be different, and I did not want to challenge not only others’ perceptions of me, but also my own. I yielded to Ms. Jenkin’s pleas and sent one of my pieces to an upcoming contest.

By the time the letter came, I had already forgotten about the contest. When the flimsy white envelope arrived in the mail, I was shocked and ecstatic to learn that I had received 2nd place in a nationwide writing competition. The next morning, however, I discovered Ms. Jenkins would make an announcement to the whole school exposing me as a poet. I decided to own this identity and embrace my friends’ jokes and playful digs, and over time, they have learned to accept and respect this part of me. I have since seen more boys at my school identifying themselves as writers or artists.

I no longer see myself as an athlete and a poet independently, but rather I see these two aspects forming a single inseparable identity – me. Despite their apparent differences, these two disciplines are quite similar, as each requires creativity and devotion. I am still a poet when I am lacing up my cleats for soccer practice and still an athlete when I am building metaphors in the back of my mind – and I have realized ice cream and gummy bears taste pretty good together.

The timeline of this essay spans from the writer’s childhood all the way to sophomore year, but we only see key moments along this journey. First, we get context for why the writer thought he had to choose one identity: his older brothers had very distinct interests. Then, we learn about the student’s 10th grade creative writing class, writing contest, and results of the contest. Finally, the essay covers the writers’ embarrassment of his identity as a poet, to gradual acceptance and pride in that identity. 

This essay is a great example of a narrative told over an extended period of time. It’s highly personal and reflective, as the piece shares the writer’s conflicting feelings, and takes care to get to the root of those feelings. Furthermore, the overarching story is that of a personal transformation and development, so it’s well-suited to this essay structure.

3. Series of anecdotes, or montage

This essay structure allows you to focus on the most important experiences of a single storyline, or it lets you feature multiple (not necessarily related) stories that highlight your personality. Montage is a structure where you piece together separate scenes to form a whole story. This technique is most commonly associated with film. Just envision your favorite movie—it likely is a montage of various scenes that may not even be chronological. 

Night had robbed the academy of its daytime colors, yet there was comfort in the dim lights that cast shadows of our advances against the bare studio walls. Silhouettes of roundhouse kicks, spin crescent kicks, uppercuts and the occasional butterfly kick danced while we sparred. She approached me, eyes narrowed with the trace of a smirk challenging me. “Ready spar!” Her arm began an upward trajectory targeting my shoulder, a common first move. I sidestepped — only to almost collide with another flying fist. Pivoting my right foot, I snapped my left leg, aiming my heel at her midsection. The center judge raised one finger. 

There was no time to celebrate, not in the traditional sense at least. Master Pollard gave a brief command greeted with a unanimous “Yes, sir” and the thud of 20 hands dropping-down-and-giving-him-30, while the “winners” celebrated their victory with laps as usual. 

Three years ago, seven-thirty in the evening meant I was a warrior. It meant standing up straighter, pushing a little harder, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”, celebrating birthdays by breaking boards, never pointing your toes, and familiarity. Three years later, seven-thirty in the morning meant I was nervous. 

The room is uncomfortably large. The sprung floor soaks up the checkerboard of sunlight piercing through the colonial windows. The mirrored walls further illuminate the studio and I feel the light scrutinizing my sorry attempts at a pas de bourrée , while capturing the organic fluidity of the dancers around me. “ Chassé en croix, grand battement, pique, pirouette.” I follow the graceful limbs of the woman in front of me, her legs floating ribbons, as she executes what seems to be a perfect ronds de jambes. Each movement remains a negotiation. With admirable patience, Ms. Tan casts me a sympathetic glance.   

There is no time to wallow in the misery that is my right foot. Taekwondo calls for dorsiflexion; pointed toes are synonymous with broken toes. My thoughts drag me into a flashback of the usual response to this painful mistake: “You might as well grab a tutu and head to the ballet studio next door.” Well, here I am Master Pollard, unfortunately still following your orders to never point my toes, but no longer feeling the satisfaction that comes with being a third degree black belt with 5 years of experience quite literally under her belt. It’s like being a white belt again — just in a leotard and ballet slippers. 

But the appetite for new beginnings that brought me here doesn’t falter. It is only reinforced by the classical rendition of “Dancing Queen” that floods the room and the ghost of familiarity that reassures me that this new beginning does not and will not erase the past. After years spent at the top, it’s hard to start over. But surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become. In Taekwondo, we started each class reciting the tenets: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet. 

The thing about change is that it eventually stops making things so different. After nine different schools, four different countries, three different continents, fluency in Tamil, Norwegian, and English, there are more blurred lines than there are clear fragments. My life has not been a tactfully executed, gold medal-worthy Taekwondo form with each movement defined, nor has it been a series of frappés performed by a prima ballerina with each extension identical and precise, but thankfully it has been like the dynamics of a spinning back kick, fluid, and like my chances of landing a pirouette, unpredictable. 

This essay takes a few different anecdotes and weaves them into a coherent narrative about the writer’s penchant for novel experiences. We’re plunged into her universe, in the middle of her Taekwondo spar, three years before the present day. She then transitions into a scene in a ballet studio, present day. By switching from past tense to present tense, the writer clearly demarcates this shift in time. 

The parallel use of the spoken phrase “Point” in the essay ties these two experiences together. The writer also employs a flashback to Master Pollard’s remark about “grabbing a tutu” and her habit of dorsiflexing her toes, which further cements the connection between these anecdotes. 

While some of the descriptions are a little wordy, the piece is well-executed overall, and is a stellar example of the montage structure. The two anecdotes are seamlessly intertwined, and they both clearly illustrate the student’s determination, dedication, reflectiveness, and adaptability. The writer also concludes the essay with a larger reflection on her life, many moves, and multiple languages. 

Unconventional College Essay Structures

Unconventional essay structures are any that don’t fit into the categories above. These tend to be higher risk, as it’s easier to turn off the admissions officer, but they’re also higher reward if executed correctly. 

There are endless possibilities for unconventional structures, but most fall under one of two categories:

1. Playing with essay format

Instead of choosing a traditional narrative format, you might take a more creative route to showcase your interests, writing your essay:

  • As a movie script
  • With a creative visual format (such as creating a visual pattern with the spaces between your sentences forming a picture)
  • As a two-sided Lincoln-Douglas debate
  • As a legal brief
  • Using song lyrics

2. Linguistic techniques

You could also play with the actual language and sentence structure of your essay, writing it:

  • In iambic pentameter
  • Partially in your mother tongue
  • In code or a programming language

These linguistic techniques are often hybrid, where you write some of the essay with the linguistic variation, then write more of an explanation in English.

Under no circumstances should you feel pressured to use an unconventional structure. Trying to force something unconventional will only hurt your chances. That being said, if a creative structure comes naturally to you, suits your personality, and works with the content of your essay — go for that structure!

←What is a College Application Theme and How Do You Come Up With One?

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

should a college application essay have a title

Your Best College Essay

Maybe you love to write, or maybe you don’t. Either way, there’s a chance that the thought of writing your college essay is making you sweat. No need for nerves! We’re here to give you the important details on how to make the process as anxiety-free as possible.

student's hands typing on a laptop in class

What's the College Essay?

When we say “The College Essay” (capitalization for emphasis – say it out loud with the capitals and you’ll know what we mean) we’re talking about the 550-650 word essay required by most colleges and universities. Prompts for this essay can be found on the college’s website, the Common Application, or the Coalition Application. We’re not talking about the many smaller supplemental essays you might need to write in order to apply to college. Not all institutions require the essay, but most colleges and universities that are at least semi-selective do.

How do I get started?

Look for the prompts on whatever application you’re using to apply to schools (almost all of the time – with a few notable exceptions – this is the Common Application). If one of them calls out to you, awesome! You can jump right in and start to brainstorm. If none of them are giving you the right vibes, don’t worry. They’re so broad that almost anything you write can fit into one of the prompts after you’re done. Working backwards like this is totally fine and can be really useful!

What if I have writer's block?

You aren’t alone. Staring at a blank Google Doc and thinking about how this is the one chance to tell an admissions officer your story can make you freeze. Thinking about some of these questions might help you find the right topic:

  • What is something about you that people have pointed out as distinctive?
  • If you had to pick three words to describe yourself, what would they be? What are things you’ve done that demonstrate these qualities?
  • What’s something about you that has changed over your years in high school? How or why did it change?
  • What’s something you like most about yourself?
  • What’s something you love so much that you lose track of the rest of the world while you do it?

If you’re still stuck on a topic, ask your family members, friends, or other trusted adults: what’s something they always think about when they think about you? What’s something they think you should be proud of? They might help you find something about yourself that you wouldn’t have surfaced on your own.  

How do I grab my reader's attention?

It’s no secret that admissions officers are reading dozens – and sometimes hundreds – of essays every day. That can feel like a lot of pressure to stand out. But if you try to write the most unique essay in the world, it might end up seeming forced if it’s not genuinely you. So, what’s there to do? Our advice: start your essay with a story. Tell the reader about something you’ve done, complete with sensory details, and maybe even dialogue. Then, in the second paragraph, back up and tell us why this story is important and what it tells them about you and the theme of the essay.

THE WORD LIMIT IS SO LIMITING. HOW DO I TELL A COLLEGE MY WHOLE LIFE STORY IN 650 WORDS?

Don’t! Don’t try to tell an admissions officer about everything you’ve loved and done since you were a child. Instead, pick one or two things about yourself that you’re hoping to get across and stick to those. They’ll see the rest on the activities section of your application.

I'M STUCK ON THE CONCLUSION. HELP?

If you can’t think of another way to end the essay, talk about how the qualities you’ve discussed in your essays have prepared you for college. Try to wrap up with a sentence that refers back to the story you told in your first paragraph, if you took that route.

SHOULD I PROOFREAD MY ESSAY?

YES, proofread the essay, and have a trusted adult proofread it as well. Know that any suggestions they give you are coming from a good place, but make sure they aren’t writing your essay for you or putting it into their own voice. Admissions officers want to hear the voice of you, the applicant. Before you submit your essay anywhere, our number one advice is to read it out loud to yourself. When you read out loud you’ll catch small errors you may not have noticed before, and hear sentences that aren’t quite right.

ANY OTHER ADVICE?

Be yourself. If you’re not a naturally serious person, don’t force formality. If you’re the comedian in your friend group, go ahead and be funny. But ultimately, write as your authentic (and grammatically correct) self and trust the process.

And remember, thousands of other students your age are faced with this same essay writing task, right now. You can do it!

How to Title an Essay

  • Essay Writing Guides

How to Title an Essay? Everything an Essay Guru Should Know

As soon as you sit down to compose an academic paper, you may be troubled by how to name your essay so that it reveals the essence of your text and grabs the audience’s attention at first sight. Ideally, that’s what a good title should achieve – informing and engaging. 

So, what’s the secret recipe for an ideal essay title ? How long should an essay title b e to comply with the college rules and formatting standards? 

The answer is not that straightforward, as you need to be inventive when creating an essay title . Some pro tactics will always help you move on and find a good title for an essay on any topic, and your task is to master the art of naming your works like a pro. 

Read on to get an exhaustive answer to the question, “ What is a good title for an essay ?” Your search for the best essay title ends here. Our guide covers the main principles of title formatting, structuring, and selection to make you a naming guru. We’ve also paired theory with practice and have given a series of catchy essay title examples to illustrate the manual. 

A Secret Recipe of a Good Essay Title 

To understand what a good title for an essay looks like, we need to understand its purpose. Wise people say that a reader shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Yet, in fact, that’s what usually happens, and this means that your essay headline will be the first (and sometimes the last) information the reader gets about your intellectual product. 

As a rule, paper titles serve the following goals: 

  • Inform the readers what your essay is about. 
  • Motivate them to go on reading. 
  • Excite their interest in the subject. 
  • Catch the readers’ attention to make them read until the end.

Using these features of a good essay title , we may easily arrive at a definition of a winning headline: 

  • A good title captures the main topic and essence of the essay. 
  • It differentiates your piece from hundreds of texts on a similar topic. 
  • It hooks the readers’ attention and urges them to continue. 
  • A good title also exemplifies your expertise on the subject. 

Essay Title Composition Rules You Should Know 

Now, let’s proceed to the essay title format , which also can’t be ignored when composing an academic paper. Professors may require students to use a variety of referencing styles, each of which has specific instructions about the essay or research paper title . 

Guidelines for Essay Titles in MLA Format 

How to title an essay in MLA? A good title for an essay in the MLA referencing style should follow these conventions: 

  • Use title case for notional words. 
  • Place the title at the center and do not underline, bold, or italicize it. 
  • Double-space the heading as the rest of your essay’s text. 

Guidelines for Essay Titles in APA Format 

How to title an essay in APA? The APA essay title format requires you to follow these instructions: 

  • The APA title is placed on the title page and then repeated on the first page. 
  • It should be capitalized (notional words). 
  • It should be centered on the page and written in the bold font. 

Guidelines for Essay Titles in Chicago Manual of Style Format 

How to title an essay in Chicago? When you’re writing an academic task in the Chicago style, your good title for an essay should be structured as follows: 

  • The title should be placed one-third of the page down from the page’s top. 
  • It should be centered and capitalized. 
  • No bolding or italicization is required.  

How to Title an Essay: Pro Guidelines 

Before we proceed to title ideas for essays , let’s briefly cover the step-by-step algorithm for arriving at a good title your professor will love. So, how to title an essay correctly by using a simple instruction? 

#1 Complete Your Essay 

A pro tip for crafting a good essay title is not to start your work with it but rather to end it. Try this tactic out, and you will see how simple it is to formulate a good headline after the whole text is ready. 

#2 Sum It Up 

Your road to a creative title starts with a recap of your essay’s content. You should re-read the text and summarize it in a couple of sentences to see what it’s exactly about. 

#3 Determine the Keywords 

You can create a good title by using the key phrases and words that capture the gist of your essay. So, pick 3-5 main words that characterize the content and make up several versions of the title using their combinations. 

#4 Mind the Format 

As we’ve already noted, a good headline should be composed in line with the referencing style you need to follow. So, you should check whether your essay should be in the APA, MLA, or other format and use appropriate guidelines in composition.  

#5 Rephrase 

Once you have the key ideas in one place, experiment with paraphrasing to find your good title . 

Creative Essay Title Examples 

Now, it’s time to cover some of the coolest essay titles that can make your paper stand out of the crowd and attract the professor’s attention with creativity and originality. We’ve compiled a list of examples of good titles for essays of various types so that you have go-to prompts regardless of the homework your tutor gives. 

Argumentative 

How to title an essay that should argue a point? When you write an argumentative essay , titling an essay should include the position you’re planning to argue. That’s why a good essay heading of an argumentative type should contain your stand. Some great essay names for argumentative pieces are: 

  • Importance of school uniforms in US public schools. 
  • Severity of the greenhouse effect problem in Canada. 

Compare and Contrast 

Creating an essay title for a compare-and-contrast type of paper is a no-brainer, generally speaking. It should name all the subjects you’re planning to compare and may also include the characteristics by which you want to conduct the comparative analysis. Some great paper titles in the comparative format are: 

  • Distinctive features of wild animals compared to domesticated ones. 
  • Online vs. offline learning. 

Analytical 

How to title an essay with an analytical approach? It requires in-depth analysis of an assigned subject using a variety of academic sources. Thus, a good headline for this piece of work should reflect your analytical standpoint and reveal the essence of your inquiry. Best titles for essays of this kind may look as follows: 

  • Therapeutic benefits of CBT for PTSD. 
  • Limitations of AI applications in creative professions. 

Persuasive 

Titling an essay in a persuasive format should look convincing and reflective of the stand you’re holding. A great persuasive essay heading may look as follows: 

  • The need for more nuanced sex education in public schools. 
  • The unmet needs of cyberbullying victims. 

Expository 

How to title an essay in an expository format? This is a form of writing that requires you to describe a specific subject and introduce it to the audience in as much detail as possible. Thus, this essay title format won’t require argumentation or emotional appeals; an expository essay headline should simply name the subject you will deal with. Good titles for essays of this type can be: 

  • Socio-economic reforms in Sweden. 
  • The peacemaking activities of the UN. 

Use these essay title examples as inspiration to create your own good headline once your next assignment arrives. 

Final Word 

Now you know everything about the principles of writing creative essay titles that impress the readers and have several essay title examples for guidance. If you still have many lingering questions about how to title an essay or what the best essay title should look like, don’t struggle with these academic hardships on your own. 

Come to our service and partner with one of our experienced writers. Each expert in our team knows how to pick a title for an essay , how to select the most suitable essay title format , and what impact great college essay titles produce on your grades. Transform your grades with our pros’ support and guidance, and creating an essay title will never be a challenge for you again. 

Evergreen To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Topics

  • Share full article

Advertisement

Supported by

Letter of Recommendation

What I’ve Learned From My Students’ College Essays

The genre is often maligned for being formulaic and melodramatic, but it’s more important than you think.

An illustration of a high school student with blue hair, dreaming of what to write in their college essay.

By Nell Freudenberger

Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn’t supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or worse, they’re afraid that packaging the genuine trauma they’ve experienced is the only way to secure their future. The college counselor at the Brooklyn high school where I’m a writing tutor advises against trauma porn. “Keep it brief , ” she says, “and show how you rose above it.”

I started volunteering in New York City schools in my 20s, before I had kids of my own. At the time, I liked hanging out with teenagers, whom I sometimes had more interesting conversations with than I did my peers. Often I worked with students who spoke English as a second language or who used slang in their writing, and at first I was hung up on grammar. Should I correct any deviation from “standard English” to appeal to some Wizard of Oz behind the curtains of a college admissions office? Or should I encourage students to write the way they speak, in pursuit of an authentic voice, that most elusive of literary qualities?

In fact, I was missing the point. One of many lessons the students have taught me is to let the story dictate the voice of the essay. A few years ago, I worked with a boy who claimed to have nothing to write about. His life had been ordinary, he said; nothing had happened to him. I asked if he wanted to try writing about a family member, his favorite school subject, a summer job? He glanced at his phone, his posture and expression suggesting that he’d rather be anywhere but in front of a computer with me. “Hobbies?” I suggested, without much hope. He gave me a shy glance. “I like to box,” he said.

I’ve had this experience with reluctant writers again and again — when a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously. Of course the primary goal of a college essay is to help its author get an education that leads to a career. Changes in testing policies and financial aid have made applying to college more confusing than ever, but essays have remained basically the same. I would argue that they’re much more than an onerous task or rote exercise, and that unlike standardized tests they are infinitely variable and sometimes beautiful. College essays also provide an opportunity to learn precision, clarity and the process of working toward the truth through multiple revisions.

When a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously.

Even if writing doesn’t end up being fundamental to their future professions, students learn to choose language carefully and to be suspicious of the first words that come to mind. Especially now, as college students shoulder so much of the country’s ethical responsibility for war with their protest movement, essay writing teaches prospective students an increasingly urgent lesson: that choosing their own words over ready-made phrases is the only reliable way to ensure they’re thinking for themselves.

Teenagers are ideal writers for several reasons. They’re usually free of preconceptions about writing, and they tend not to use self-consciously ‘‘literary’’ language. They’re allergic to hypocrisy and are generally unfiltered: They overshare, ask personal questions and call you out for microaggressions as well as less egregious (but still mortifying) verbal errors, such as referring to weed as ‘‘pot.’’ Most important, they have yet to put down their best stories in a finished form.

I can imagine an essay taking a risk and distinguishing itself formally — a poem or a one-act play — but most kids use a more straightforward model: a hook followed by a narrative built around “small moments” that lead to a concluding lesson or aspiration for the future. I never get tired of working with students on these essays because each one is different, and the short, rigid form sometimes makes an emotional story even more powerful. Before I read Javier Zamora’s wrenching “Solito,” I worked with a student who had been transported by a coyote into the U.S. and was reunited with his mother in the parking lot of a big-box store. I don’t remember whether this essay focused on specific skills or coping mechanisms that he gained from his ordeal. I remember only the bliss of the parent-and-child reunion in that uninspiring setting. If I were making a case to an admissions officer, I would suggest that simply being able to convey that experience demonstrates the kind of resilience that any college should admire.

The essays that have stayed with me over the years don’t follow a pattern. There are some narratives on very predictable topics — living up to the expectations of immigrant parents, or suffering from depression in 2020 — that are moving because of the attention with which the student describes the experience. One girl determined to become an engineer while watching her father build furniture from scraps after work; a boy, grieving for his mother during lockdown, began taking pictures of the sky.

If, as Lorrie Moore said, “a short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage,” what is a college essay? Every once in a while I sit down next to a student and start reading, and I have to suppress my excitement, because there on the Google Doc in front of me is a real writer’s voice. One of the first students I ever worked with wrote about falling in love with another girl in dance class, the absolute magic of watching her move and the terror in the conflict between her feelings and the instruction of her religious middle school. She made me think that college essays are less like love than limerence: one-sided, obsessive, idiosyncratic but profound, the first draft of the most personal story their writers will ever tell.

Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Limits” was published by Knopf last month. She volunteers through the PEN America Writers in the Schools program.

IMAGES

  1. How To Write A College Application Essay

    should a college application essay have a title

  2. 🏷️ College essay template. Why This College Essay Guide + Examples

    should a college application essay have a title

  3. College Essay Examples in 2021

    should a college application essay have a title

  4. ⭐ Amazing college essay examples. Exceptional Academic Writing Services

    should a college application essay have a title

  5. Expert Guide to Write a College Application Essay

    should a college application essay have a title

  6. College Application Essay Service 10 Steps, How many words should a

    should a college application essay have a title

VIDEO

  1. What Should a College Application Essay be Like

  2. Why Your College Application Essay is So Bad

  3. College Application Essay Writing Tips 2023

  4. How To Write A College Essay in 7 Minutes

  5. 10 Tips on Writing College Application Essay

  6. Rating YOUR College Essays

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Great College Application Essay Title

    A well-crafted title should: Grab your reader's attention. Make your reader want to read your essay. Provide a sense of what your essay is about. Read More. Tips for Writing a Winning College Application Essay. By Allen Grove. When it comes to the third item, realize that you don't need to be too detailed.

  2. Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

    Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor. 1. Start Early. Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school.

  3. Should I title my college essay?

    The college essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars. Some colleges also require supplemental essays about specific topics, such as why you chose that specific college .

  4. Should I give my college essay a title, or is it unnecessary?

    It's natural to wonder whether a title adds to the impact of your college essay. In my experience, a title is not required and typically, admissions officers do not expect one. However, if you feel a brief, captivating title contributes to your essay and serves as a thematic entry point, it could be a tasteful addition. Remember, the most crucial aspect is the content and the story you're ...

  5. Common App Essays

    Prompt 2: Overcoming challenges. Prompt 3: Questioning a belief or idea. Prompt 4: Appreciating an influential person. Prompt 5: Transformative event. Prompt 6: Interest or hobby that inspires learning. Prompt 7: Free topic. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about college application essays.

  6. How to Format A College Essay: 15 Expert Tips

    Clearly delineate your paragraphs. A single tab at the beginning is fine. Use a font that's easy to read, like Times, Arial, Calibri, Cambria, etc. Avoid fonts like Papyrus and Curlz. And use 12 pt font. You may want to include a college essay heading with a page number and your application ID.

  7. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org. College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

  8. How to Write College Application Essays

    How to Structure Your Essay. A college application essay (like any academic essay) should have an introduction, a conclusion, and body paragraphs. Additionally, it should have overall coherence (that is, it should make a point) and cohesion (that is, it should flow well from paragraph to paragraph).

  9. How to Write the Common Application Essays 2023-2024 ...

    Be specific. Choose active voice, not passive voice. Avoid clichés. Write in a tone that aligns with your goals for the essay. For example, if you are a heavy STEM applicant hoping to use your Common App essay to humanize your application, you will be undermined by writing in a brusque, harsh tone.

  10. How to Write a College Application Essay

    Be on the lookout for words and phrases like "maybe," "sort of," and "I think" that might undercut that tone. At the same time, though, make sure to follow application guidelines about format and length. If the essay has a suggested 650-word maximum, your application will stand out—not in a good way—if you turn in 250 words. 6.

  11. College Essay Format & Structure

    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. Although many structures can work, there ...

  12. What is the format of a college application essay?

    Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

  13. How to Write a College Application Essay in 2024

    3. Use specific details and examples. College application essays should ideally serve as a showcase of students' potential, emphasizing their accomplishments over future aspirations. These statements should provide in-depth descriptions and concrete examples that vividly depict past experiences.

  14. College Application Essay Format Rules

    The college application essay has become the most important part of applying to college. 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.

  15. Unlock Your Future: Mastering the Art of the College Admission Essay

    However, when it comes to crafting a college admission essay, set this formula aside. The admission essay is a unique genre that demands a different approach. Rethinking the Essay Structure. Forget everything you know about standard academic essays because the college application essay follows different rules.

  16. How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

    Your essay is very important to your application — especially if you're applying to selective colleges. You should also take advantage of the following free resources: Peer Essay Review. Become a stronger writer by reviewing your peers' essays and get your essay reviewed as well for free. Essay Livestreams.

  17. Should My Common App Essay Have a Title?

    Hello! As someone who has helped many students with their college application essays, I can tell you that a title for your Common App essay is not necessary. Admissions officers are mainly focused on the content, your writing style, and what the essay says about you as a person and student. Remember, the essay should reflect your personality ...

  18. College Application Essay Guide: A How-to With Samples!

    College essays should be concise. Long-winded narratives risk losing the attention of readers, and you typically only have a few hundred words to make your point quickly and effectively. For example, the Common App essay is used by over a thousand colleges in the United States and explains that essays are to be between 250-650 words.

  19. How to Format a College Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    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.

  20. College Essay Titles: Are They Important?

    The most important part of a college essay is the essay itself. Your essay should be personal, insightful, creative, and meticulously proofread. They do not need to be titled. However, this doesn't mean that a title is a bad idea. A title for your college essay falls under the "nice to have" category. A title isn't something that an ...

  21. Should I include a title on my common app essay?

    Chances are your title won't be some eye-catching thing that makes the admission officer that much more interested in your essay. That should be coming from your essay itself. Even with the most catchy title it won't make up for a poorly written essay. Overall, the benefits of a title don't really outweigh the negatives in my personal opinion.

  22. College Application Essay Format

    College Application Essay Title. The title is the first thing that the academic committee read. The title words make the first impression on the admission officials. The title of the essay should be written under the page headings. The title of the college application essay gives a sense of your essayâ s content.

  23. How to Format and Structure Your College Essay

    1. In-the-moment narrative. This is where you tell the story one moment at a time, sharing the events as they occur. In the moment narrative is a powerful essay format, as your reader experiences the events, your thoughts, and your emotions with you. This structure is ideal for a specific experience involving extensive internal dialogue ...

  24. Your Best College Essay

    When we say "The College Essay" (capitalization for emphasis - say it out loud with the capitals and you'll know what we mean) we're talking about the 550-650 word essay required by most colleges and universities. Prompts for this essay can be found on the college's website, the Common Application, or the Coalition Application.

  25. How to Title an Essay? All Secrets Revealed

    Your road to a creative title starts with a recap of your essay's content. You should re-read the text and summarize it in a couple of sentences to see what it's exactly about. #3 Determine the Keywords. You can create a good title by using the key phrases and words that capture the gist of your essay.

  26. What I've Learned From My Students' College Essays

    By Nell Freudenberger. May 14, 2024. Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn't supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or ...