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8 Tips for Writing College Essays

September 28, 2011
College Is Cool

1. Start Early

If you are like me, you normally procrastinate until the last possible moment. While this can be very tempting, essay assignments (and other tasks for that matter) should be completed well in advance. If you try to pound out an essay the night before it is due, you will not have much time to edit, and the result will be a less-effective paper. To give yourself enough time to properly perfect your essay, finish your first draft well in advance of the due date, and then edit it a few times before submitting it.

2. Research Well

Before you even begin writing, invest time in researching. Although you might not want to wait, proper researching will help you to write a topical, organized essay that will get a top grade. If you are researching online, remember to use the great resources mentioned in this post.

3. Use An Outline

When I first began outlining, I was convinced that it was simply a time waster. After all, what is the point of outlining? Since that time, my opinion has completely changed. Rather than considering it a useless extra, I believe outlining is arguably the most important part of the entire process of writing! Once I have designed a thorough outline, (or, skeleton, as my teacher calls it) adding the “flesh” is a quick and simple process. Using an outline will help you stay topical, logical, and organized.

4. Use a Strong Attention Getter

To start your essay well, you should capture your reader’s interest within the first one or two sentences. If you cannot pique their curiosity during that first part, your professors are unlikely to read your essay as thoroughly, and, as a result, you will likely get a lower grade.

Although there are many different ways to get attention, some of my favorite are:

  • Startling Statistics
  • Thought-provoking Questions
  • Exciting Stories

Whatever method you use, make sure that it is closely related to the rest of your essay.

5. Use Examples

As you continue your essay, use plenty of examples.

Do not simply state a fact:

“College is useful.”

Instead, use a story:

“I realized the usefulness of college when I applied for my first job at…”

When needing examples, look to these three sources:

  • Personal Experience
  • History
  • Literature

Using these stories will help you illustrate your points and keep your reader’s attention.

6. Be Detailed

Make sure to add plenty of detail by using descriptive nouns, verbs, and modifiers.

For instance, do not write:

“The man walked down the road.”

Instead, write:

“The tall gentleman in the brown suit trotted down the shady country drive.”

Your goal is to paint a clear picture in your reader’s head.

7. Be Concise

Just as it is important to be detailed, it is also necessary to be concise. Be descriptive, but do not use superfluous words.

Keeping your essay concise will make you much more persuasive.

8. Edit

Once you finish your first draft, do not think that you are done. Your rough draft is probably just that – unfinished!

After letting your essay rest for a day, come back to it and complete your second, edited, draft. By leaving it untouched for a day, you make it possible to see your essay from a fresh perspective.

Often, you will be surprised how many obvious errors escaped unnoticed through the first draft.

Good editing skills are a major key to strong writing.

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