As an English major, I know a thing or two about crafting college essays. This is my senior year, and I’m even training this semester to become a writing tutor. During my preparation to become a tutor, I’ve been working with other students to determine common issues writers face when crafting their college essays. My training as a tutor, as well as my experience working with friends from other non-English majors, has opened my eyes to the common struggles of college essay writing. Whether you’re new to college, or you just don’t feel confident about your writing, here are some of my top college essay writing tips straight from the campus writing center!
Perfect your Thesis
Your thesis statement is ultimately the main argument of your college essay. You should be able to support your thesis with solid facts from the text (if it’s a literature paper) or your research. If you’re struggling to find support for your thesis, then you might be arguing something a little too outside of the box. Bold thinking can be helpful in college essay writing, but make sure you can back up your claims with cold, hard facts.
Are you struggling to even come up with a thesis statement? Here are some of my go-to ways to overcome thesis-block:
- Write a couple arguments down and start listing as much support for each topic as you can. Whichever one you have the most compelling support for is your winner.
- Just start writing. Oftentimes, you’ll start to develop your thesis through writing a rough draft. Odds are that by the time you reach the conclusion you’ll have a good idea of what you want to say.
- Brainstorm. It can be really helpful to talk the essay out with someone before putting pen to paper. You might discover your thesis in the process!
Break from the 5 Paragraph Mold
I know, I know. All through middle and high school teachers have been forcing you into the five-paragraph structure for writing an essay. Let me be the first to tell you that you can rid yourself of those shackles and move on with your life. College essays allow for much more freedom when it comes to organizing your essay. There’s definitely a time and a place for the five-paragraph classic, but by no means should you feel compelled to use it every single time. Focus instead on content and clear organization, which are way more important when it comes to college essay writing!
Don’t do all of your writing at once
It pains me when I see people pulling all-nighters to finish their essays in college! I know things get crazy really quickly, but try your best to keep from procrastinating when it comes to college essay writing! The more drafts you have, the better. I always write a first draft, wait a day or so, revise, wait a day, and the revise once more. If you simply sit down and write in in one sitting, you’re bound to make glaring mistakes. It’s a sad fact of life that your brain will be unable to recognize some of your mistakes after a few hours of staring at a computer screen. I don’t care how much coffee you’ve had, you need to take a break between revisions.
Short on time? Still try to take a break, even if it’s just a small one, between readings. After you initially get all your words on the page, take a few minutes to get a snack or do some jumping jacks. These few minutes will help you see your work with fresh eyes, and trust me you’ll notice more mistakes this way than if you just sat in the same place the whole time.
Find a Reader for your College Essay
Before you turn in that final draft, try to have a reader look over your paper. You can have a friend, classmate, or even a parent look over your essay and point out any glaring mistakes. If you have the time, it can definitely be beneficial to visit your school’s writing center or work with a tutor to help with any overarching issues. If you’re unable to find a reader before the due date (ie. you put it off until the night before!), try printing your essay and reading it aloud. There’s something about the printed page that shows more errors, and also hearing it aloud will help you find awkward wording issues or glaring mistakes.
Learn from Past Essays
I used to be the student who crammed graded papers into my backpack without looking at the comments. Literally, the teacher would hand back the paper and I would shove that thing as far into my binder as I could in an attempt to never face the truth. This was obviously ridiculous and didn’t help me at all. Your professor writes comments on your college essays for a reason, so be sure to read them and take them into account. Sometimes they can be as simple as a repeated grammatical mistake, but other times they’re deeper content issues. Being aware of these things will be helpful the next time an essay comes around so you can avoid making the same mistakes twice!
Happy Essay Writing
These were my top tips from my college writing center! Hopefully, you can apply them to your own college essay writing. What are your tips for essay writing?