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

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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Brian P. D.’s Answer

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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Simeon’s Answer

Both are equally important. You won't be selected if you have poor spelling, grammar, or flow of thought. However, your application will be in a stack of several other applications, so it's wise to have a personal and unique story to have your application stick out from the others.
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Emily’s Answer

The goal of your essay should be to showcase who you are outside of your academic work. It’s your opportunity to create connections beyond the grades by demonstrating who you are.

Use your essay to talk about interests outside of school like volunteering, leadership opportunities, and participation in sports or clubs. It’s important that your essay draws the lines between your experiences and who you are as a person.

For example, describe past experiences where you’ve gone out of your comfort zone and what you’ve learned. How have you grown from this? What strengths do you now have as a result of this experience?

Use your essay to differentiate yourself from your peers through experience!

This answer combines input from a group of marketers with more than 50 years’ experience - all currently working at a global tech company. We hope you find it helpful and wish you the best in all of your endeavours.
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Aparanji’s Answer

No doubt that the content is more important. But, the structure and formatting add value to the content. If your essay content has good flow, structure, and formatting, it helps the reader to easily understand your profile. It gives a good feeling when some reads a well structured and formatted document. The reader does not have to struggle to get the information he/she is looking for.

You can use proper structure and formatting to highlight the key points in your essay. A little effort on the structure and formatting will definitely enhance your content.
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Stefania’s Answer

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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