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How to Write a College Essay?

New to the college essay writing experience? Scared out of your wits or don’t know where to start? I hear you. It can be quite intimidating how to write a college essay at first.  Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. All you’ve got to do is start right.

For that reason, here are some quick guidelines that will help you figure out what you’re supposed to do.

Start with the three parts

The first step to getting the essay right is understanding that there are three parts to every essay. That’s the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. So far so obvious. The introduction and the conclusion need to link up. What do I mean with that? I mean that you ask a question or make an argument in your introduction and then summarize how you’ve dealt with that question or argument in your conclusion.

The body is then where you make your way through the steps that can allow you to state in your conclusion that you’ve dealt with whatever you outlined in the introduction.

Normally the introduction and the conclusion will only be a few hundred words each. The rest of the text will be devoted to the body. Of course, if you’re writing an essay that comes in under a thousand words then you’ll have to make them shorter as otherwise, you’ll not have any space for the actual meat of your essay.

Don’t just start writing

If you’re an experienced essay writer perhaps you can just start writing. If you haven’t written that many essays yet, however, then you’ll quickly find yourself wandering off the beaten track, into the forest and entirely lost. And in that case, you might as well buy essay right off the bat instead of wasting a dozen hours and then reaching for online help.

You need a trail of breadcrumbs that you can follow so that you know what to write about in a college essay. The best way to do that is to write an outline. It doesn’t have to be very detailed, but it has to be there. Start with the subject of your essay. What is the question you want to answer? That’s your introduction. Then find out what the answer is. That will be your conclusion. Next, take the arguments that you believe will support that answer. And those will make up the body of your text.

Hey, presto. You have an outline.

Now it’s all about arranging them

Obviously, your introduction and your conclusion are fixed in place. The steps that you want to use to carry you from your question to your answers aren’t quite as rigid, however. So, play around with the order. You’ll want to put the strongest two in the beginning and the end as that the initial pop and what your audience will remember.

The rest go in the middle.

And then you write

It might sound like a lot of work, but I promise that if you follow this outline you’ll end up spilling a lot less ink and doing a lot less editing. Then, when you’ve internalized how you do this process you can always consider dropping them again as you’ll understand how to link things up.

But if you’re looking at articles like these you’re not there yet. Write the outline. Follow the path. Do that well and your essay will make sense. Don’t and you’ll end up getting back an essay with big red question marks in their margin.

How to Start a College Essay?

Want to know the best way to start a college essay? Well, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t just start writing. Because if you do that then you’ll never end up where you’re trying to go – at least if you’re trying to get a passing grade.

The most important part of writing an essay isn’t the actual writing. That part is pretty easy once you’ve done that most important part. Instead, the part that you’ve got to focus your attention on is finding the arguments that you’re going to put forward.

Start with the beginning and the end

A college essay is all about introducing your question and then answering it. For that reason, start with what you’re going to talk about and decide what your end position is going to be. Write these two down. Now, I’m not saying that you’ve got to write them out. No, nothing like that. Instead, the point is quite simply to have your starting point and your endpoint – a bit like you’re trying to figure out where you’re going on Google Maps.

When you’ve got those, you can find the best route to get there.

The arguments

Next, you’ll want to find the arguments that you’re going to discuss in the body of your essay. These need to come forth from what you’ve been reading, as that’s what your professor expects. Sure, occasionally you can throw in an argument that you’ve thought up all by your lonesome, but that can’t be the majority of what you’re trying to say. No, not even if you’re a genius.

Write these arguments out in a few lines and then order them in a way that makes sense. Remember to always put the strongest and arguments at the beginning and the end as the first one is where you want people to sit up and take notice and the last one is the one you want them to remember.

And now you have an outline

Sure, it’s not a very detailed one. But for most essays that’s okay. Particularly as nothing is exactly written in stone yet (often your ideas in an essay will evolve as you write them down). Of course, if you’ve got to write a longer essay, you might want to flesh this outline out a bit more. You can even give yourself a rough estimate of how many words you’ll have to put into each argument.

If that sound preposterous (two thousand words about why 1 + 1 = 2?!) then you’ll need to find some more arguments. But at least in this way, you’ll know that.

And then you write

Yeah, that does make it sound a lot easier than it is. I mean, how long does it take to write an essay? Well, how long is a piece of string? It really all depends on how much experience you have. One good thing to note, it does get easier as you get more experienced. So there is that.

Now go on, figure out that outline. It’s a simple step but it’s vital to the college essay writing experience.

How Long Should a College Essay Be?

Most of my professors when I asked them that question had a specific word count in mind. One professor had a different answer. He would say ‘as long as a piece of string’. Boy, did we hate him? How long is that?

The thing is, he is right of course. It’s all about what is in there and not how many words you need to say it. An essay that says what it’s supposed to in 500 words is better than one that says exactly the same thing in 600 words. After all, the effectiveness of an essay is the points made divided by the words needed to make them.

In other words, more arguments for fewer words means more bang for your buck.

Still, I understand how annoying that can be. I mean, now I sound like that professor that I used to have and I hated him. Ergo sum (Latin for ‘therefore’ – yes I’m a facetious prick) you don’t like me that much right now either.

So let me give you a bit more concrete advice.

Introduction and conclusion

Every essay needs these. The first introduces what you’re going to say and what you’re going to talk about. The last one in effect sums up what you’ve just said and rounded up the arguments. Having an essay without either of them is like having a bunch of books on a bookshelf without bookends. It’s not terribly effective.

These both require a few hundred words. So that’s about 200 to 400 words right there (depending on how self-explanatory everything is).

The body

This is obviously the most variable part of the writing experience. Bodies can stretch only a few hundred words to thousands upon thousands (though if you’re going for the really long essay, you might want to create sub-intros and conclusions to keep yourself and your audience on track).

Here the best way to know how long the texts should be is based on how many arguments you’re going to make. Now, to be clear some arguments can be made in a hundred words or less, while others take a few thousand.

But even here you can figure things out. It simply depends on how much sub-arguments you need to introduce to explain the main argument. If you don’t have to introduce very many, then the argument will only stretch over a paragraph. If you need half a dozen or so sub-arguments to make your main argument, well then that argument can stretch over pages.

It’s all about nesting

In effect, your essay is one long argument. To make that argument, you need to make sub-arguments. And those might need arguments in them as well. The number of such nestled arguments you have will make it clear how long your essay needs to be.

So really, what you should be looking at is what you need to do to argue your argument. If you’ve done that and you’ve done it well, then you’ve got the right essay length. If you haven’t, well then you need to keep writing.

Yeah, ‘as long as a piece of string’ was more helpful, wasn’t it?

College Essay Writing Tips

Looking to make your essay writing better? Of course, you do. After all, essay writing is important in whatever field you study. Even better, the skills that you learn in essay writing are going to be useful in your future life as well. Sure, you won’t be doing something quite as exact as college essay writing, but nonetheless, if you’re writing an email or a proposal those essay-writing skills are still going to come in useful.

For that reason, it’s never a bad idea to invest more time in becoming a better essay writer. To help you do so, here are some tips for a college essay.

Are you using enough connector words?

Connector words are words like ‘therefore’, ‘it follows’, ‘thus’ and ‘as a result’. If you’re not using enough of those there is a good chance that you’re just introducing statements without actually arguing them out.

This is a common problem for people who haven’t written a lot of academic texts. They don’t yet grasp that writing an essay is a process of taking an audience through a series of steps that lead from the original clause to the ending conclusion.

Take this argument:

  • All men are mortal
  • Socrates is a man
  • Therefore Socrates is mortal

Do you see what the ‘therefore’ is doing there? It’s taking two statements and showing what logically follows as a result of them. If you want to write a high-quality essay, you’ll want to do the same thing.

It’s about complicated concepts, not complicated sentences

A lot of new writers think that they are making better arguments if they use longer sentences. That’s simply not true. Longer sentences only lead to one thing – headaches for your audience. For that reason (hey look, another connector), keep your sentences simple and make your arguments sophisticated. That’s the way to your teacher’s heart (and to that A+).

If you’re not sure if you’re using long sentences, consider using something like The Hemingway App or readable.io. They’re great tools that can really make a huge difference. And here I’m not just speaking in terms of Academia. I’m speaking in terms of all of your writing.

Edit!

Do you know how those writers that seem to write so conversationally make their writing seem so effortless? By putting in huge amounts of effort, that’s how. I promise you favorite writers edit their texts dozens of times. Yes, that’s right, dozens.

Now, you might not want to go that far (though really you should). But you do want to at least go through your text twice. No, not once, twice. And not quickly either. Take the time to sit down and carefully consider what you’ve written. Because editing is where you turn an okay essay into something that blows people’s socks off.

And that, my dear friends, is how you write great essays. Trust me, these college essay writing tips are worth their weight in gold. Yes, I know they physically don’t weigh anything. You know what I mean. Smart ass.