There are many things students find annoying when working on writing tasks for college. Research can take up to several days, the writing process is very tiresome, and you have to proofread your text before submitting it.

However, one of the most time-consuming activities involved in the college essay writing process is formatting and structuring. That is if you don't know how to tackle them.

If you are one of those dreading this part of the essay writing process, we've got you covered with our short but comprehensive guide on how to format a college essay.

Let's dive in!

What is a College Essay Format?

College essay format implies a way of presenting the information in manuscripts and citing the sources used to support their credibility.

There are several official approaches of how to format an essay for college:

  • MLA - the Modern Language Association citation and formatting style
  • APA - the American Psychological Association citation and formatting style
  • Chicago - rules based on the Chicago Manual of Style
  • IEEE - formatting rules based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • AMA - the American Medical Association citation and formatting style

There are also some mixed formats. For instance, ASA uses Chicago as the foundation for text formatting while using a slightly different way of citing sources.

General College Essay Format Rules

Now, how should a college essay be formatted according to the styles mentioned above?

At our college paper writing service, we get requests for MLA, APA, and Chicago the most when it comes to essays. So, let's break down these formats to help you understand the rules they follow.

MLA format

Here are the general formatting requirements for the MLA style:

  • Double space
  • Times New Roman (can be other fonts, but the difference between regular and italics should be distinct)
  • Only one space after punctuation marks
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • The first line of each paragraph should be situation 1.5 inches from the left margin

Title pages are not specific to the MLA, so you don't have to create one if your professor doesn't request it.

APA format

Below are the main rules the APA style requires you to follow:

  • Create a page header (a running head) - it should be at the top of every page and include the title of your paper
  • Set page numbers
  • Use double spacing
  • The running head should not be more than 50 characters, including spacing
  • Fonts allowed: Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia

The title page is necessary for the APA formatting style.

Chicago format

Finally, let's take a look at what the Chicago format requires:

  • Double spacing is a must
  • All pages should contain numbers
  • Margins should be no less than one inch
  • You can use any readable font
  • The font size should be no less than 10

As for the title page, you can create a separate one or include the title of your essay on its first page.

Tips for Formatting

Now, as you have a better understanding of the essay formatting styles, let's go over a few general tips on how to format a college essay. They will help you approach this process with more efficiency.

  • Let Times New Roman be your go-to font. One of the main rules of college essay formatting is making it readable. A good font with the distinction between regular and italics, like Times New Roman, will do the trick.
  • Set the right margins right away. It's better to tweak your paper settings before the writing process and set the 1-inch margin right away. The same goes for 1.5 or double spacing (whatever is required by your professor).
  • Adjust the format as you go. Pay attention to whether you're deviating from the format or not. It will be easier to spot mistakes afterwards and cut down the proofreading time significantly.
  • Create the list of citations right away. In general, it is better to have the list of references prepared in the right format before you start writing - it will save you a lot of time.

Overall, we'd also suggest creating a college essay outline based on the requested format before you start writing a paper. However, this means that you should also know how to properly structure your essay. So, let's discuss it in our next section.

What is a College Essay Structure?

A college essay structure is a general outline you need to follow when writing an essay. We can't say that there are specific rules to follow, like with formatting styles. Sometimes, professors let you deviate from the structure, especially if we're talking about descriptive essays.

So, how to structure a college essay?

Typically, you need to break it down into the following sections:

  • An introduction with a thesis statement
  • The body with an in-depth analysis of the topic
  • Conclusion wrapping up the ideas presented in the essay

Again, the structure of a college essay may vary, but these structural components are usually present in all college papers.

Tips for Structuring

Here, we'd like to point out that breaking your essay down into three parts mentioned above is not enough to receive a good grade. Remember, it's not just about the proper structure, it's about how well it supports your arguments.

So, to help you out, we've collected a few tips on how to structure a good college essay that wins you the best grade in your class:

  • Start with research first. It will help you understand the topic better and have a clearer idea of how to break down your essay into meaningful parts later on.
  • Break down each section into subsections. The body part of your essay will be the most informative. So, to make sure it delivers the right message and supports the thesis, you can break each body section into several subsections that follow proper logic.
  • Write the introduction last. You can't write a good convincing intro if you don't understand the topic properly. So, explore your research first, write the body of your essay, and then proceed with the introduction and thesis.

Now, to help you have a better idea of formatting and structuring essays, let's take a look at a few examples.

College Essay Format and Structure Examples

So, if you're writing a traditional essay, you'll have to follow the following format and structure:

  • Intro with a thesis
  • At least three pieces of evidence
  • A conclusion providing your point of view

This format is good for shorter essays that intend to provide arguments to support a thesis.

Now, what if you have to write a cause-and-effect essay?

  • Introduction starts with a description of an event
  • Body and conclusion focus on explaining the effect the event has had

Such a structure is appropriate for free-style and personal essays.

Next, some writing tasks ask you to compare and contrast two phenomena. Here's how you can structure your essay in this case:

  • Intro presenting the two phenomena
  • Body explaining the nature of both phenomena and then singling out their similarities and differences
  • Conclusion reiterating the points of comparison and contrast

In this case, it's important to work with blocks or sections to build a logical flow.


As you can see, it's not very difficult to follow a proper format and structure of a college essay. With format, you just need to do everything according to your professor's requirements, and the structure is usually dictated by the style and purpose of your essay.

However, if you're still having trouble with formatting and structuring your writing tasks, we can help you out! We have a team of editors who will be more than happy to assist you.


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