Single Blog Title

This is a single blog caption

How to Format Your Common Application Essay

How to Format Your Common Application Essay

The 2017-18 popular Application opened for business earlier this week (August. 1). You will soon need certainly to discover how to format your common application essay.

If you should be regarding the ball, you could be ready to connect with specific universities and colleges and need certainly to submit your core Common Application essay, since well as other shorter essays required by specific schools (often called Supplemental Essays).

Or you remain getting ready or taking care of writing them, but will need to know how to format your common application essay(s) in upcoming weeks or months.

The first rung on the ladder is to get a free account aided by The Common Application.

Then find out your list of colleges you will be applying to, and commence searching your website for additional shorter essays they need you to publish.

Under each university, you will see a tab called Writing criteria. You can find these additional short essays either under the College Questions or the Writing Supplements.

Every school is different, so really root around all the tabs and drop-down options. As an example, some schools will ask you to write about an extracurricular activity (in 150 words or so) beneath the College Questions section, under one of this drop down tabs, such the Activities or Essay Questions tab.

Confusing, yes. But it will make more sense once you get logged on and explore the site.

RELATED: 10 Hot Tips to Power your Supplemental Essays

I like to advise my students to collect all the supplemental essays (by prompt and word count) in one single place ( such as a Word or Google doc file). That way they know what they will need to write about at the commencement, and also manage to see which ones are the same or similar. (as an example, many schools have supplemental essays about ‘Why are you a fit?’ or authoring your intended major.)

RELATED: Check out this short Slideshare to understand How to Write Short Essays.

Of course, the most important essay you will write is the core Common Application essay, although some schools usually do not require it and you may determine which ones do as you read through the application site. (Even if you only have one of your target schools that will require the main Common App essays, you will require to publish one and discover ways to format your common application essay.)

Nine Hot Suggestions To Format Your Popular Application Essay

If you do need certainly to submit a core Common App essay (you pick from one of 7 prompts; 250-650 words), here are some tips on how to format your common application essay:

  1. Compose your draft in either a word file or Google docs. Do maybe not craft it directly in the Common Application text box (You could lose work)! If you use Word or Google docs, you can use their word count and, most of all, the spell check feature. The Common App now allows you to upload Google docs directly from Google Drive. (Hint: If you need to utilize this feature, it’s advisable to get a Gmail account that you use exclusively for these essays.) you can even copy and paste your Word or Google doc directly into the Common App text box.
  2. The Common Application essay text field does maybe not allow tabbing. So make your paragraphs with block formatting (have a space in between each paragraph instead of an indentation.) You can format this way in your Word or Google doc, but make sure it translates once you either upload your Google doc, or copy and paste from the Word or Google doc.
  3. The Common Application essay text box only has formatting for Bold, Underline and Italics. I would format your essay along MLA guidelines (using italics for things like book titles, foreign words, those types of copyediting rules.), and then make sure they translate or carry over after you upload or copy and paste. If you lose the italics, utilize the Common App italics formatting to incorporate them inside the text box. I see no reason to utilize either Bold or Underlining in your essays. Avoid gimmicky formatting, such as ALL CAPS, emojis or #hashtags.
  4. Avoid titles. Even though i do believe a snappy title can raise an essay, I see no chance to format it at the top of this Common App essay that would center it, and think it could be much more of a distraction. If you really like your title, feel free to offer it a go, but I think it’s going to only stick regarding the far left of the first line. (If you go for it that way, maybe put it in Bold to make it clear it’s a title.)
  5. Do NOT include the prompt at the top of your essay. That only eats up precious words. With your Common App essay, you simply check the box that your essay lines up aided by the most readily useful.
  6. Supplemental (shorter) essays have similar formatting options. Make use of the same rules as above for these. Some usually do not provide a text box and require you to upload from Google docs or attach A word file (converting it to a PDF.)
  7. Double check word counts. The normal App text box and text bins for the supplemental essays show the minimum and maximum word counts, which is beneficial. Once you copy and paste an essay, always scroll through it to be sure everything copies (and your formatting carried over) and make yes it’s inside the word count requirement shown under the box.
  8. You can return back and make edits once you have submitted your essays. Even once you submit, go straight back and review to make sure it’s exactly how you wanted it.
  9. General rules for formatting drafts in Word or Google docs: Use a common font (Times New Roman, Arial, Cambria…), write in 12 pt font, double space.

an essay about racism

I hope this helps you format your Common Application essay, and not sweat it.

If you might be still working on locating a hot topic for your essay, read my Five Top Tips on Finding Topics.

If you have more questions on the best way to format your common application essay, let me know into the remarks box below. If I don’t know the clear answer, I will do my most readily useful to locate a credible source to answer you.

The New York Times ran an article yesterday called ‘Why Kids Can’t Write.’

Great piece, but i did son’t concur with the title.

They can write. ( Click bait.)

However, while the article chronicled at length, most students never have been taught exactly how to publish. The writing experts debated if the problem was at the mechanics end (lack of instruction on writing rules) or the other end with innovative writing (lack of opportunity for personal expression through writing.)

I don’t think it’s an either-or issue.

Students need to first learn the guidelines of the trail with writing and develop a basic set of skills with grammar, syntax, vocabulary building, punctuations, etc. in addition they need to learn early on why these skills matter and so are relevant.

Everyone knows the only way to learn writing is to do it a lot. If students cannot care about it, or lack something they wish to say or express through their writing, they will never do it and they won’t progress.

You need a few things to publish: Something to say and the skills to state this.

As being a writing advisor, I have the privilege of working with students who’re very motivated to publish, possibly for the first-time in their life they want to publish outstanding college application essays to help buy them into their dream school.

If they come to me, however, most are maybe not prepared. They either don’t know very well what to state in their essays (about on their own and who they are), or if they do have ideas about their topics, they are ill-prepared on the best way to frame and express them effortlessly (so others care).

Does this mean they can’t write?


For as long as they will have their most elementary writing skills down and yes, most do by their senior year of high school these students mainly need certain help with just how to think of themselves (just what they value, exactly how they learn, why it matters…) and direction on exactly how to frame and structure their piece.

Toss in specific writing techniques, ideas and devices (found all over this weblog and in my books!), and they are off.


Yes, if those same students had more opportunities and efficacious writing instruction during their English classes over time, especially sophomore and junior year, of course they might have more confidence when it stumbled on these college application essays.

The greater amount of you write, the better you get at it.

Like all other skills tennis, throwing pots, hacking computers, etc. the combination of good instruction and practice is the only way to get better.

Same with writing. It is not a gift, although some people catch on faster for whatever reason (again, maybe not that different from tennis stars and hackers). But even the pros practice like maniacs.

If you took the full time to read the The New York Times piece on Why Kids Can’t Write, they quoted several experts who were at the helm of efforts to boost student writing.

Some believed the ‘problem’ was because of the mechanics, and promote solutions, such as for example time for sentence diagramming. (I actually did that in 7th grade having an ancient English teacher and thought it absolutely was fun, but I still suck at grammar and I don’t think that held straight back my writing job.)

Others made the situation for setting students loose to write that is free find their voice. I think free writing is a great exercise to flesh out ideas, but I also think structure can be very freeing in writing and gives students a productive framework for expression. You can free write for a month straight and still not be able to kick down a meaningful personal essay.

And, of course, all of them lamented the lack of reading.

I join their despairing chorus.

You can write even although you don’t read a great deal. It’s possible. But it’s likely that your some ideas defintely won’t be as wide and informed, and your ear for language will be regarding the flat side.

Also, the simplest way to learn is to observe others do it. (This is true of writing college application essays: Read sample essays by other students to see exactly how it works, and borrow ideas and techniques from the ones you like.)

In terms of ‘bad writing’ crisis discussed in this specific article, there isn’t any easy fix.

If The New York Times had asked me about students and writing, that is what I would have said:

First, we need to value writing as one of the most important skills most students need both in their education journey and the workplace.

Second, we truly need to train our English teachers how to write well on their own, and then just how to teach writing. This just isn’t happening in most high schools.

(I believe people from teachers to administrators to policy-makers are scared of writing because it’s such an intangible skill, hard to quantify and a pain to review, and so are happy to maybe not have to cope with it.)

Teachers are time-strapped, burdened and overwhelmed by the mandates of excelling at those stupid standardized tests (AP classes and SAT/ACT). There’s literally almost no time to allow lessons on various sorts of writing, including personal and innovative writing.

So, of course, kids can’t write very well, and lack confidence in their ability. They are not taught how to do it, and they have beenn’t offered time to apply it. Also, most of what they have had to write about is irrelevant with their world and BORING.

And as non-readers in a culture it doesn’t prize writing, they will have little reason to value it.

Until then one day, frequently into the summer or fall of their senior year, they are tasked with writing an essay about themselves that may make or break their college dreams.

If you ask me, it’s really a golden moment. They suddenly care about writing.

And most are able to scramble to find something meaningful to say and discover ways to write about any of it.

Most students surprise themselves that they do have something to say. Which they have things they care deeply about and viewpoints they wish to express.

For the first time, they have a possiblity to hear their unique writing voice.

The New York Times article mentioned my favorite writing exercise to help students capture their voice and write about their background. It’s called ‘Where I’m From,’ based on making use of a template from a poem by George Ella Lyons.

I pointed out it in my post of College Application Essay Lesson Plans for English Teachers (in the bottom.) I also just used these exercises working with high school sophomores attending a collegebound camp here in Orange County, sponsored by Girls, Inc. And I used it with students at another collegebound program down by the border into the Rio Grande Valley a year ago.

It’s very nearly magic if they read their poems out loud and experience the power of simple, everyday details and images from their childhood.

For a couple minutes, they felt like writers, since they were, and they liked it. They got a glimpse at the impact of these own words and back ground. They cared. And wanted to find out more.

All students deserve opportunities similar to this to understand just how to write for a purpose other than pleasing their teachers or standardized mandates.

It’s maybe not fair that for most students, the one time they will care of a writing assignment is when it feels too late to learn just how to do it.

( very good news If this is you: It isn’t too late to understand. That is why I started this weblog to share lots of advice and easy methods to learn writing skills and techniques to craft standout essays about yourself! Read more posts!!!)

We can transform this. But first, most of us need to care more. About writing.