Basically, there are two major college essay formats in the United States: the Modern Language Association (MLA) style and the American Psychological Association (APA) style. The MLA style is one of the most commonly used formats for college essay writing and is usually used in liberal arts classes. This means that MLA style is used by most English majors and other liberal arts majors. APA style, on the other hand, is commonly used by science students, for both "soft" and "hard" science. As a result, it is also one of the most commonly used essay formats for undergraduates in the United States.
MLA style is typically used by liberal arts majors and is the format most commonly used by students majoring in language, literature, education, and English. It is a fairly simple and straightforward format with guidelines on page numbers, spacing of the paper, and citations of works referenced in the essay. For the two major college essay formats in the U.S., this can be considered somewhat simpler since no title page or abstract is required.
APA style is generally used by those doing "hard" or "soft" science. Hard sciences are most commonly referred to as "science" and include geology, chemistry, physics, and biology. Soft sciences are also referred to as social sciences and include subjects such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology. All of these subject areas typically require students to use APA style, which uses different methods to cite work within an essay and requires the inclusion of a title page and abstract at the beginning of the essay.
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There are also more general college essay formats that can be used in the U.S. as well as in other countries. For example, the five-paragraph essay is one of the most common and popular essay formats for use in high school and for use in some colleges within and outside the United States. This simple format allows the student to structure an essay with an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs that contain the main body of the paper, and a conclusion paragraph. Some professors may also have college essay formats they prefer, usually as modifications to more common formats. Students should always follow their professors' preferred requirements and formats, rather than strictly adhering to a more common format.