Send your essay in a folder so the papers stay crisp.

Remember when I said that using high-grade paper was one of the best dollar-for-dollar ways of making your essay stand out? Well, this tip is in the same category as that one, but this one may be even better.

Let’s examine what happens to your essay after you drop it in the mail (or even if you send via UPS, FedEx, etc.). Surely you’ve already heeded my earlier advice about putting your application in a large envelope that prevents you from having to fold it. But even then, it still has quite an ordeal to endure before it gets into our hands.

It’s going on a brutal trip across the country that begins when it’s picked up and tossed into a document bin on a truck. Then, it gets taken back to an office, where it’s dumped somewhere else into another box and eventually loaded onto a plane or semi truck (depending on how you sent it). With the higher-end delivery services, it’s then going to a sorting facility where it’s going to be tossed around with millions of other packages on conveyor belts and tons of other sorting machinery. Then it reaches its destination city, where it’s tossed onto a truck again, and then, if you’re lucky, maybe the delivery guy won’t fold the thing in half and shove it in our mail slot.

Keeping pieces of paper in good shape from point A to point B isn’t easy, is it?

But you have a weapon at your disposal — a high-quality folder. They’re sold at Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, even Wal-Mart and the like. Get a good-quality, glossy folder (I like glossy ones myself, just because they look even sharper than the cheap-o folders, and they might run you a whopping 50 cents more) and put your essay/application inside it.

Even one of the flimsy, 6-for-a-dollar folders will keep a few sheets of paper safe from creases, tears, and rips, but you’ve come this far already, so don’t go cheap-o on me now. Go the whole nine yards and buy a thick, glossy folder. Trust me.

Here’s a secret for you: Essays that arrive in folders tend to stay in their folders as they’re passed around from judge to judge. Don’t ask me why; it’s just one of those tendencies about human beings that seems to be innate. I do it myself. Something inside me says that when I pull a nice essay out of a nice glossy folder, then I ought to put it back in that folder when I’m done with it. So not only will it stay protected from the delivery folks, it’s very likely to stay pristine as it gets handed around between judges.

And like I said earlier about the high-quality paper, an essay in a folder stands out from the thousands of others that aren’t. That’s probably the single best thing about this trick: almost no one does it. That’s why you should — it gives you a great little edge and is a great tactic for Beating the Stack.

5 thoughts on “Send your essay in a folder so the papers stay crisp.”

  1. Thank you for the advice, Josh. I think it will be very helpful with all of the scholarships I am trying to apply for. I have a question though. You say to use the folders. Do you recommend using or not using certain colors?

  2. This is interesting to know, because I was told not to bother with folders when applying for art-related calls for submissions, because in the end, everything will be photocopied and nobody will see the original besides the intern who isn’t really in charge of the decision. I guess scholarship committees and art juries aren’t quite the same ballpark.

  3. When you say folder, are you referring to one with pockets, or a file folder?

    Also, in terms of keeping papers together, is it better to staple or paper clip multiple sheets together if there are no instructions saying otherwise?

  4. Hi Sarah,

    I think a folder with pockets would more impressive than a file folder. I saw some professional, laminated/glossy twin-pocket folders at Office Depot. They are high in quality and you can tell they are not “cheap-o’s” when you see them in person. In store, they go for $11.99 for a 10-pack or $9.99 online. Here’s the link:

    I recommend the black folders as they may be more appropriate for a scholarship application.


  5. Josh, additional explanation would be appreciated here.
    Some scholarship application have many parts, eg. your cover letter, completed application, resume, transcript, letter of recommendation, FAFSA report, a photograph and the essay(s). Are you suggesting to keep all the other documents lose/stapled and to place the essay(s) separate in this “high-quality folder”? Please clarify further. Thank you.

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