Essay writing is a skill every college student must learn and develop. Whether you’re majoring in advanced mathematics or world history, it’s impossible to make it through college without writing killer essays – or at the very least, decent ones.
In fact, many colleges won’t even let you in before sampling your essay writing skills in what they sometimes call an application essay, personal essay, or a personal message. Scholarships and grants may also request essays as part of the qualification process. Yet, many people struggle just to write the first sentence.
We’re here to help with five simple tips you can apply to take you from struggling with an introduction to wrapping up a well-written conclusion.
1. Read More.
Reading more is one of the best ways to improve writing in any area. Reading not only improves your vocabulary, but gives you ideas of how to phrase sentences, and helps you learn what structure works best for your needs.
Avid readers also tend to be more articulate, which reflects in their writing. This in turn causes their work to sound more mature and well-written.
In addition to this, you can read to become more familiar with the topic you need to write about.
2. Use Writing Samples.
Look for samples of the kind of essays you need to write. You may find these online, from friends, past students, or even from asking your instructor. Many schools keep “best samples” on file, which illustrate what the final product of your essay should look like.
If you choose to request samples from your teacher, be sure to ask for samples on different topics from what you have been asked to write about. This deflects any suspicions of plagiarism she would otherwise have, which could cause her to scrutinize your paper more.
3. Read and Follow the Instructions.
This goes without saying, and yet many people don’t do it. Don’t attempt to write your essay off memory of what your instructor said in class. Find the assignment instructions, which usually shows how to structure the assignment and how the instructor will grade it. Follow it as closely as possible.
If you didn’t get one, ask for it or write the instructions down. This is often the difference between an A or B, or a pass or fail.
4. Cite Your Sources.
Excluding most personal application essays, all essays written for college should have cited sources. Remember to check with your college and instructor to see whether they use MLA or APA for citing sources, and what version.
Don’t know what those are? Learn the basics at the Purdue OWL. Failing to give proper credit may result in accusations of plagiarism; punishment for which may range from failing the assignment to expulsion from school.
Aim for at least 3 sources for each assignment, and more if the instructor requests it.
5. Proof-Read and Edit.
Always proof-read and edit your work. No matter how amazing your essays usually are, typos happen to the best of us. Reading over will ensure you catch them before your instructor does. Many instructors subtract points for typos and grammatical errors, even when the content is accurate.
You may also ask a family friend, tutor, or even us to take a look at your work to see if you missed any typos, made any grammatical errors, and if your writing is easily understood.
Follow these easy tips to take you one step closer towards better grades and a better GPA. It won’t solve all your essay writing problems, but it’s a start in the right direction.
Send all proof-reading and editing queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
About the Author
Usually birthdays mean little to me beyond presents and my annual birthday money. But this year, I definitely have so much more to celebrate, and be thankful for…so much more to look forward to. The actual day is Sunday, but here's to a fresh new start at 27 in a new country, with great new friends, and a whole new life.
Alexis Chateau is the Founder of College Mate and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.
***Photo Credit: College Degree 360