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How to Write a Successful Essay in College
| by Pauline Flores

According to the complaints of many students, writing essays is up there as one of the most dreadful parts of college. The exasperated sighs are especially loud when multiple essays are due around the same time.

You may be experiencing this tough situation right now as you steadfastly wade through floods of papers, exams, and homework. Time management is key. Read our blog post about how to get good grades in college for more advice on that subject. This post is solely about essays and how you can write a successful one.

Start with a Plan

It’s good to begin an essay with some sort of framework in mind. In high school, they probably made you write a plan for every essay and turn it in for a grade.

Good news: college professors don’t care about how you plan your essay. This is both a blessing and a curse because it can motivate procrastinators to “wing it” as the essay deadline approaches.

Your plan doesn’t have to be detailed; just have an idea of how you want your paragraphs to be arranged. Always leave your strongest argument or point for the ending body paragraph.

Just Do It

Now that you have your plan written, the next challenge you’ll face is actually finding the motivation to write your essay! Writer’s block is common, but not permanent. Turn off all possible distractions and get down to businesses. Once you start, you’ll find yourself get into a flow where you just keep typing and typing. During the rough draft stage, don’t worry too much about writing the perfect essay on the first try.

Analysis is Key

Answering the prompt is a good start, but doing that alone is not enough. Providing a thorough analysis of your claims is essentially answering why and how. During this stage, provide examples that you may have learned in class or found during your research.

Frankly, an essay that drones on and on about facts and figures is not very engaging. The analysis you provide is key to showing your professor that you have a good understanding about your topic. Analyses are, more often than not, your original ideas and interpretations about your research, reading, etc.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Throughout your essay writing journey (or battle, for some students), you will always have resources available to you. Purdue OWL is a resource that almost all college professors recommend students use.

On top of that, most college campuses have a free writing lab where any student can come in and get advice on their essays. If possible, the most beneficial thing you can do for your essay is to get help directly from the source: your professor or TA. Don't miss out on these helpful resources!

Try emailing them to see if they would be willing to give feedback on one of the paragraphs you have already written. Asking them to look over your whole essay may be asking for too much, but some professors and TA’s are nice enough to do it. Make sure that you chew on every piece of feedback you receive until it’s digested, fully absorbed into your system, and spat out onto your paper.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

This part of essay writing is important, but often neglected. When it comes to writing anything that will be turned in, make sure to read it over at least three times. That’s right. Three.

And don’t just stop at correcting typos and adding commas in the right places. Thoughtfully read over your sentences, and ask yourself if it sounds clunky or awkward.

Being able to write concise sentences is a valuable skill. A good proofreading session will involve cutting unnecessary stuff out and adding information in. If you can, have a friend proofread your essay for you. We often overlook our own mistakes, but others can catch them in a flash.

Advice for the Future

If writing is not your strength, then don’t stress out. Developing your writing skill take time and practice. One way to improve your writing is to read more books, online articles, or magazines. If you frequently expose yourself to writing by professional authors, then you will begin to emulate their styles and tones of voice in your own writing.

You’ll hold a higher standard for yourself when you write because of the skilled authors whom you’ve read. So, read away, and good luck on your essay!


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