How to Format a Scholarship Essay

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Effective scholarship essays paint a picture with words, using anecdotes and examples to highlight your qualifications. How you format those colorful thoughts can make a difference in how the review committee perceives your application. Following the scholarship committee's formatting requirements, using standard editorial practices and making the essay easy to read are keys to formatting your scholarship essay effectively.

Scholarship Guidelines

  • Read the scholarship application instructions thoroughly to find any specific formatting guidelines. Failing to follow the formatting instructions is a red flag for the review committee. They want to see that you paid attention and followed the directions. For electronic submissions, determine if you need to use a particular format, such as a PDF or a Microsoft Word document. Verify the maximum size for the submission process. For either electronic or printed essays, check on specific formatting guidelines for the title page, your personal information, line spacing, font style and size, margin sizes and length requirements.

Essay Formatting

  • The way you break up the information in your essay influences the quality of the piece. Your paragraphs should be balanced -- don't cram lots of information into one paragraph and use only a few sentences in another. If one paragraph is longer than the others, divide it into two smaller paragraphs at a logical point. Use standard 12-point font for your essay content. Bump the font up to 14-point for headings or titles. Avoid swirly, script-style fonts that lack professionalism. Stick with basic fonts, such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial or Tahoma. Type your essay with double spacing between the lines unless the essay instructions indicate otherwise. Margins between 1 and 1 1/2 inches create the white space around the text that makes your scholarship essay easier to read.

Information Organization

  • Scholarship essays often have a word or character limit. Format your essay carefully to fully answer the question within the word limit. An outline of the content helps you organize the essay material and spread the word count strategically. Create a section in the outline for each paragraph with specifics under the section that answer the essay question. The first paragraph introduces the main idea or theme, the middle paragraphs provide supporting examples and the final paragraph ties the ideas together to emphasize why you should receive the scholarship. Estimate how many words or characters each section in the outline needs to include all necessary information while staying within the limit. Paragraphs are separated either by putting an extra space between them or by indenting the first line of each paragraph. Do not do both.

Finishing Touches

  • A final review and polish of the essay formatting ensures you submit a piece that is easy to read and visually pleasing. Wait a few days after you finish writing to review the formatting of your essay. Read through it to make sure your paragraphs are divided logically. Open the document in its final form if you are submitting electronically. Look for any obvious inconsistencies or problem areas in the formatting, such as improper indentation or uneven spacing. If you are submitting a paper version, print the essay to check the formatting. It should have white space with large enough font to read easily. Ask a teacher or mentor to look at your finished version and to offer any formatting suggestions.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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