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Writing The Ultimate College Essay

by Alexi Knock on October 22, 2011
Senior > Journalism > Hofstra University

Along with the bigger campus, taller buildings, and larger football players that come along with the transition from high school to college, essays assigned are expected to be much longer than the ones you wrote in AP English.

Adjusting to a brand new social life is hard enough, so throwing in actual assignments can seem like a burden to your otherwise perfect freshman world. Although parties and sports are often a dominating factor in your new life, the reason we are breaking the bank to attend school is, in fact, to learn.

If you have a case of writer’s block during your first – or tenth – college essay, take these tips into consideration the next time you need to finish that 10-12 page paper about the history of lamps:

1.) Don’t procrastinate

It’s been reiterated to us thousands of times, yet we still find ourselves jumping into page one on the Sunday night before the essay is due. There’s a reason the professor gave you two weeks to write, and you should take that time to fully brainstorm, outline, and get down to it. Make time to write an outline before you start so you can plan out your paragraphs and focus your essay.

“You should give yourself some time to think about it,” said Hofstra University Professor of Poliitical Science Rosanna Perotti. “Don’t think you will pull ideas out of thin air and write them down without forethought, study, or consideration.”

2.) Each essay is different but…

Whether you’re writing about Shakespeare or the Pythagorean theorem, there are a few factors that should go into any college essay.

Make your point or state your thesis early on, typically the last sentence of the first paragraph. Don’t veer off from your argument throughout the essay. Also, avoid repeating yourself when possible and think of ways to solidify your point without redundancies.

You need to remember this is your essay, so your voice should shine through. This definitely doesn’t mean you should write in the first person; just use your unique skills to make sure the professors remember your name.

“One of the most important things you can do in an essay is to give it your own voice; make it your story, your argument, not a collection of other people’s thoughts,” said Professor Perotti. “Certainly you can use and cite other people’s thoughts.  But the purpose of writing an essay is to say something yourself.”

3.) S.O.S.

If you’re truly in a bind, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take advantage of your professor’s open office hours and stop by to ask them questions. They can guide you along and let you know exactly what they are looking for in a great essay for your specific subject.

Finally, after finishing your article, give it to a friend to read over and edit. Sometimes it’s hard to find mistakes within your own writing when you’ve been staring at it for hours, so it’s great to give your essay a second pair of eyes.

Sharpen your pencils, open up Microsoft Word, and good luck writing!

Photo: courtesy of Just Colleges

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