Whether you’re studying English, Business, History, Law, or any other major subject, during your time as a college student, you’re going to have to write a number of essays. If expressing your thoughts on paper isn’t your strong suit, you may wonder how to write a college essay. At this stage in your academic career, professors will expect you to be able to compose strong, effective papers that clearly demonstrate your ability to organize and express your ideas.
If this worries you, the following guide should make the process easier:
The Prep Stage
There are many different types of essays university students are tasked with writing, including research papers, argumentative pieces, opinion essays, narrative stories, application essays, informative papers, literary analyses, and much more. Each type of paper has its own individual set of requirements, and each should have a different effect. No matter what type of essay you are writing, in order to submit your best work, it’s important to prepare first:
Step 1. Generate Multiple Topic Ideas
When trying to come up with topics for your paper, don’t settle on the first idea you think of. Instead, make sure you develop several different ideas. It’s unlikely that the first topic you generate will be perfect. By taking the time to develop multiple ideas, you’ll stand a better chance of finding one that you have a personal interest in. When you care about a topic, it’s easier to write about it in a persuasive manner. Although some instructors will ask you to respond to specific prompts, many will require you to propose your own ideas.
Step 2. Create an Outline
You should never begin an essay without making an outline first. To do so, gather all your research materials first, then make a list of the various important points or statements you wish to make in your essay. Organize them in a logical manner, choosing the right paragraph for all your points. The proper structure for a school level essay requires each paragraph to build on the next. In your introduction, you’ll explain the basic argument you’re planning to make or the topic you’re going to cover. By the time your reader arrives at the conclusion, they should believe you accomplished the goals you outlined in the beginning of the paper. By making an outline for each essay you write in college, you’ll quickly grow accustomed to the format.
Step 3. Seek out Examples
Students who are having difficulties writing good, informative papers often feel much more confident once they’ve had a chance to read samples of a great essay. Ask your professor if they have any examples from past students that received a strong evaluation. If they don’t, consider hiring an online writing service to provide you with a sample. Again, when colleges expect students to master everything from autobiography and biography papers to analytical and reflective pieces, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. One of the best ways to get more comfortable with the type of paper you’re writing is to read an example of something that worked in the past.
Once you’re ready to begin writing the paper, keep in mind that you’re only working on your first draft. As such, it doesn’t need to be perfect. At this stage, you’re merely trying to get all your thoughts on the page. Later on, when you work on revisions, you can sort through your ideas and put them together in a cohesive, organized format:
Step 4. Start Early
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a long or short paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s an essay for your college app, an expository piece, a descriptive essay, or a critical analysis. You’re never going to be able to predict with absolute accuracy just how long it will take you to write a particular essay. The only way you can know for certain that you’ll have enough time to get the work done is to not put off any work that you can get started on right away. As you’re probably aware, there’s a lot you have to do throughout the process, including research, outlining, writing, and revising. Don’t cause yourself to experience unnecessary stress because you waited to begin the work.
Step 5. Consider Your Goals
Obviously, your practical goal when writing an essay is to earn a high grade so you graduate with a strong GPA, impress the admission staff, or earn a scholarship. However, it’s more important when writing a college essay to consider what specific goals your instructor wants you to achieve. For example, if you’re writing a basic essay explaining the meaning and relevance of a concept, your goal should be to provide a general definition of the topic. If you’re tasked with writing a comparative essay, one in which you provide a comparison between two works of literature, you should compare and contrast them in such a way as to illustrate their similarities and highlight their differences. In a creative writing class, you may be asked to write a piece in which you reflect on an important experience in your life, be it the time you have showed leadership skills, time when you began a major friendship or time when you realized why you wanted to go to college. If you’re a History student, you might have to write a profile for a major figure.
Having passed these five steps, it’s time to revise your paper. To do so successfully, follow these essential steps:
Step 6. Read It First
Before making any changes, read your paper carefully once. After that first read through, read it a second time. This time around, make notes for yourself about changes you should make. For the best results, read the paper once for grammar errors, another time for organizational issues, and another time for any flaws in your reasoning or overall message.
Step 7. Share
After you’ve finished making a list of changes you need to make, write a second draft of your paper. Once this is complete, read it again for any errors, and share it with teachers, friends, and anyone else you know who is a strong writer. They’ll pick up on any mistakes you may have missed.
It’s essential to understand which classification each assignment falls under. Although different courseworks share some common elements, each assignment is unique in its own particular way. Understanding the goal you’re trying to achieve is essential. An expository paper has a different purpose than a personal story titled “My Favorite Memory Ever,” just as a synthesis paper serves a different function than an admissions letter. As such, your response to each assignment should be slightly different.
Luckily, by keeping these tips in mind and learning what exactly your professor is asking of you, you’ll be able to submit strong work every single time.