Should a College Essay Be in MLA Format?

May 12, 2023

When it comes to formatting academic papers, different disciplines and institutions may have specific requirements. One commonly used format is the Modern Language Association (MLA) style, which is often used in humanities courses and for literary analysis. However, when it comes to college essays, the use of MLA format may vary depending on the institution and the specific instructions provided by professors or the college itself. In this article, we will explore the question of whether a college essay should be in MLA format and provide some guidance on formatting considerations.

Check the Instructions: The first step in determining the appropriate formatting for your college essay is to carefully review the instructions provided by your professor or the college. They may specify a particular formatting style to follow, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago. In such cases, it is important to adhere to the given guidelines. If no specific instructions are provided, you can consider using MLA format as a default option, particularly for humanities-related essays.

MLA Format Basics: MLA format is known for its specific guidelines on citing sources, page formatting, and in-text citations. If you decide to use MLA format for your college essay, here are some key elements to consider:

Page Formatting: Use standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper, set 1-inch margins on all sides, and use a legible font (e.g., Times New Roman) in 12-point size. Double-space the entire document.

Heading and Title: Include a heading on the first page that includes your name, instructor’s name, course title, and date. Below the heading, provide a centered title for your essay that reflects its content.

In-Text Citations: Whenever you use external sources, whether through direct quotes or paraphrasing, it is important to provide proper in-text citations. Use parenthetical references within the body of your essay, including the author’s last name and page number (e.g., Smith 45).

Works Cited Page: Include a separate page at the end of your essay titled “Works Cited” that lists the full details of the sources you cited in your essay. Follow the MLA guidelines for formatting the entries.

Follow College Guidelines: While MLA format may be suitable for many college essays, it is crucial to follow any specific guidelines provided by your college. Some colleges may have their own preferred formatting style or specific requirements that deviate from standard MLA guidelines. Always prioritize the instructions given by your professors or the college.

Consistency and Clarity: Regardless of the formatting style you choose, it is important to maintain consistency throughout your essay. Ensure that your font, font size, margins, headings, and citations are consistently applied. This creates a professional and polished appearance. Additionally, focus on clarity in your writing by organizing your thoughts coherently and presenting your ideas in a logical manner.

Seek Clarification: If you are unsure about the appropriate formatting for your college essay, do not hesitate to seek clarification from your professor or a writing center on campus. They can provide specific guidance tailored to your college’s requirements and offer assistance in formatting your essay correctly.

In conclusion, the decision to use MLA format for a college essay depends on the specific instructions provided by your professor or college. While MLA format is commonly used in humanities disciplines, it is essential to review the guidelines given to you. Follow the instructions provided, whether they specify MLA format or an alternative formatting style. By adhering to the given guidelines and maintaining consistency and clarity in your writing, you can submit a well-formatted college essay that meets the expectations of your professors and the college.