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For college application essays, is content or structure and formatting more important?

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Many applications give you options on essays. Some choices seem ideal with my writing style that I could write them with good formatting, but other topics I feel as if the content I put into it would help me stand out, but may not be quite as structured.
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Stefania’s Answer

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In all transparency, I think you will have to approach your essay assuming they will look for everything -- writing, content, structure and formatting as well as a unique, compelling story. A strongly written essay will have all these elements. The fact that some may focus on one area versus another is very subjective so I would urge you to focus on your story, build an outline and highlight key content areas or examples you want to showcase. One way to get a little exposure is to do a little research and look up best practices for college application essays. A quick Google search will pull up loads of samples and articles on what colleges may look for. This should help guide you in the right direction.


https://professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/applications/essay

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/education/edlife/college-application-essay-admissions.html

https://apply.jhu.edu/application-process/essays-that-worked/

https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/professors-guide/2010/09/15/10-tips-for-writing-the-college-application-essay


If you need help with your writing, there are plenty of low-fee tutorials and sources that can help you if you do a little searching. You can also look for a writing center at your school.


Hope this helps!

Good luck,

Stefania

Stefania recommends the following next steps:

  • Draw an outline of they key points you want to tell in your story
  • Research best practices and examples to get inspired and gain some direction
  • Have someone proofread and share feedback.
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Brian’s Answer

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Your structure and presentation are important in helping you appear organized and prepared, but in the end the content matters most. Colleges want to know your ideas and goals and perspectives on the world and your own life. They are most interested in the type of person you are and want to become and will use that information to decide whether you are a good fit their community.

That said, you should also make sure you choose the right college for you. Take your future plans and goals in mind, as well as your personality, and look for the school that is the right fit for you, and not necessarily the school that ranks highest on a list of "best" colleges. Enrolling at a college that is highly ranked but does not fit your outlook, goals or lifestyle will only result in an unpleasant experience or, worse, changing who you really are to fit someone else's definition of who you should be.

When writing your applications, you should be honest with the school and with yourself. In this way, the content is always more important than the presentation.

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