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What’s the Best Scholarship Essay Format?

By Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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and Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: March 26th, 2024
What’s the Best Scholarship Essay Format?

Many scholarships require students to write an essay as part of their application. These writing and essay scholarships want to learn about your experiences, interests, or background as a student through your essay. But once you have finished writing, you may wonder: What is the best way to format my scholarship essay?

Should you include a title? What about spacing, page numbers, or citations? These are important questions and should be essential parts of your editing and revising process. Keep on reading to make sure that your essay is formatted properly!

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Getting started with essay formatting

The first rule of the scholarship essay format is following all of the rules that the scholarship application states. Whether that is spacing, citations, or font size, you should always follow the directions. There isn’t a faster way to get a scholarship committee member to say “nah” than ignoring the directions.

Essay titles

Should you begin your essay with a title? In my experience reading essays of all types, a title is very optional. If it is an especially clever or necessary title, then sure, go for it!

Otherwise, I would recommend saving your valuable word count and put it towards the actual essay. If you write your essay and are feeling stuck on a title, let it go and don’t worry about it. Prepare for your scholarship writing endeavors  by reading our short essay guides for 250 word essays, as well as 500 word essays!

Related: How to write an essay about yourself

Font size & style

The MLA recommends using size 12 font, and that’s what we’d recommend using. As far as the style of the font, you should stick to something that is legible and easy to read. Times New Roman or Arial are both going to be good bets. The scholarship essay is not the best place to get creative with a funky, hard-to-read font.

Should I single or double space the essay?

We know that most of your essays for school are probably double spaced. This is usually a good call for scholarship essays as well, because it makes the essay easier to read. In addition to spacing, you want to make sure that your scholarship essay is broken down into paragraphs and is not one single block of text.

Are page numbers required?

On many school papers, you may have to put a page number on each page. This is not necessary for your scholarship essays unless it is a clearly stated requirement.

Does proper scholarship essay formatting require citations?

If you are citing other sources, it is a good idea to use citations. It does not matter whether you are using MLA, Chicago, or some other type of citation (unless it is specifically required). Instead, it is important to simply be consistent in how you cite your sources. Most essays probably will not require outside sources or research, but if you are applying to certain research-based or STEM scholarships you may want to brush up on your citations.

Do’s and don’ts for scholarship essay formatting 

Do’s Don’ts
Use a 12 point font Don’t use any unconventional or hard-to-read fonts
Use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman or Arial Don’t include an overly casual or unnecessary title
Cite your sources if you are using external facts (especially necessary in STEM essays)  Don’t use page numbers unless specifically instructed to
Double-space your essay Don’t submit your essay before double checking to make sure that you meet all formatting requirements
Carefully read the essay formatting requirements before submitting Don’t submit your essay without reading it over

Final thoughts

Writing can be a very stressful process for students, both in the scholarship process and the college admissions process. One of the best things that you can do is give yourself plenty of time to write and refine your essays. Ideally, you will also have a trusted outside reader serve as an editor for all of your essays.

The major rules of scholarship essay formatting are to follow the application instructions and make sure that your formatting is not distracting. Ultimately, you will want to ensure that the essay reader can easily and clearly read your essay and not distract them with sloppy or unconventional formatting.

Additional resources for writing essays

Here at Scholarships360, we have nearly every resource to help you write your best scholarship essay and to help you through the college admission process. Learn how to write winning scholarship essays, including how to start a scholarship essay and how to end a scholarship essay as well! Maybe you are writing a “Why this college” essay? We can help with that too! Also, be sure to check out our individualized supplemental essay guides for schools that require them.

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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • First and foremost, always carefully read the instructions of what format is required 
  • Unless otherwise specified, double space your essay and break it down into easily digestible paragraphs
  • If not stated, use easy to read fonts like Times New Roman or Ariel
  • Never use information without citing, and if you do need to cite, be consistent with citation style (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)
  • Always. always double check that your essay is not only formatted correctly, but thoroughly proofread for grammar and spelling
  • Most important of all is to always look for any formatting guide from the scholarship provider, and ensure that you take their advice over any of ours Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about scholarship essay formatting 

Should a scholarship essay be double spaced?

Unless the prompt specifies otherwise, it’s a good idea to double space your essay. This makes it easier to read for the selection committee and improves the chances that your essay will have an impact.

What citation style should I use in a scholarship essay?

Always check thoroughly to see if there is a specified citation style in the prompt. If not, either MLA is usually a safe bet. If your scholarship is in a particular field, try to find out which style is more popular in said field. 

Above all, the important thing to remember with citations is to keep them consistent. Don’t use half-MLA and half-Chicago as doing so will come off as careless.

Is it better to include a scholarship essay title?

Unless the prompt asks you specifically for a title, you don’t need to add one. That being said, if you come up with a title that builds upon your essay or helps it to stand out, it’s fine to include it. Just remember that it’s also fine to not include a title unless specifically asked for.

What font is good for a scholarship essay?

When it comes to scholarship essays, you want to stand out via the things you write, not the appearance of your essay. So, try to use a neutral and professional font. Usually, Arial and Times New Roman are the safest bet in this regard.

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