College is a learning experience unlike any other. In high school, you can scrape by through minimal work and teachers will at worst knock off some letter grades from your work. College is more competitive and the essays you write will ultimately affect where you end up upon graduation. With essays being a significant portion of what you will be doing in many of your classes, you want to ensure that they are the best they can be. How well you do in college will have a direct effect on how likely you are to land the job you want when you graduate. With that said, here are some of the important things you need to focus on when you are writing college essays.
College is as much about work as it is about fun, but no employer will care how about how hard you partied or how popular you were on campus. Instead, you need to focus first on the difficult work at hand and an essay is always going to require a significant amount of work. Sure, you can phone it in and possibly get a passing grade, but to excel in your courses you want to impress your professors.
Make sure that you start preparing for your essay the second you find out about it. You may be in class when it is assigned, so pull out a scratch piece of paper and have it ready for ideas that pop into your head. Get as many quick notes down as possible and refer to those throughout your writing. Inspiration for a little bit of extra brilliance in your essay could come at any time and you should write it down before it escapes.
Research your Research
You are going to have to spend a significant amount of time researching the subject of your essay. While there are plenty of places to get this information, you want to put the facts that you find through their paces. Once you find some information you want to use, try to find the same information from an independent source somewhere else. With Wikipedia becoming a go to source for all information, facts are starting to become muddy “mostly factual” ideas. Use traditional resources and non-traditional resources for your research to find the right information and make sure that what you write is factual and supports your essay. Your professor is in their position for a reason and they will likely know when something is only partial fact.
Take your notes and your research and sketch out a rough idea of how the essay will look upon completion. Literally draw your outline. An effective way to make sure that the essay flows is to cut up all of the pieces you are using and then use them as puzzle pieces to lay out the loose idea of your essay. Go over it a few times, then give it twenty-four hours and look at it again. Does it still look solid and flow like you want? If so, move on to the next step.
Hey! Focus on my Essay!
You’ll want to start every essay off with a very strong introduction and attention getting statement. Don’t go over the top like some of the “journalists” that are so popular on different news networks. Ground your attention getter in fact, but make sure that it immediately grabs the attention of the reader. For example, much has been said about the line “Call me Ishmael”. The opening of that book is so strong and interesting, but simple in its design that the reader will immediately continue to the next line. As long as that next line is solid, you’ll have them hooked for the rest of the essay.
Examples are Important, so are Details
You just saw an example of using examples in the previous paragraph. Make sure to take full advantage of examples to personalize the essay you are writing. In addition, you want to make sure you are being detailed in your writing. A line such as “He introduced himself to the woman” is much less powerful than something like “Then the man in the dark coat sauntered to her and simply stated, with a hint of nervousness on his breath, ‘I am Jack Forlien’”. The difference in the two statements is very impactful and puts a vision in the readers head. While you will most likely be writing most of your essays in less of a creative fashion, use this as an example of how to add character to what you write.
Don’t Over Do It
You’ll eventually have so much information that you want to write that your essay could turn into a book. Try to be concise and accurate with every statement. Read and re-read the finished work and start to cut or shorten statements that don’t ultimately help your argument or goal. A good practice is to copy and paste sections into a new word document and read it multiple times. Does that section flow and stand on its own or is it adding small things here and there that actually add very little to the overall goal of your paper?
This step includes editing and you should spend as much time editing as you did writing. Try to get a fresh set of eyes on the paper by taking a day or two off and not thinking about it at all. When you come back you notice small mistakes that you would have missed no matter how many times you looked at it.
About the Author:
Mohd Aktar is a blogger and a freelance writer. He is currently working for UniversitiesOnline.net. He is also attending an online college in his free time and raising his 3-year-old daughter.