If you type an essay in open office and submitt to your school can they view it using there word program?

If they have a program that can read .odt file format there is no problem.

If they have only MS Word there might be a problem with .odt documents. So if I can advise you, in OpenOffice.org you can save the document also in .doc format (it is the drop down menu just bellow the field where you type the name of the document).

The best way is to check with the school what types of documents they are able to process and then act accordingly.