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Writing Good College Essays


student study SATWriting an A-quality college essay is no easy feat, especially if you’ve become used to being walked through the process by past teachers. The comforting news is this: There is no one way to write a good college essay. But they do take creativity and confidence.

Once you’ve gotten the idea of a precise formula out of your head, you’ll be more likely to succeed in crafting good college essays that your professors will respect.

Clarify Basic Expectations

Writing good college essays often requires adhering to a set of guidelines, so you should ask the pertinent questions when you get the assignment. If you aren’t provided with a rubric, feel free to ask the teacher how many pages the paper is supposed to be, what kind of essay it is, what format it should be in (for example, MLA or Chicago style) and how many sources you should use.

However, there is a difference between clarifying the assignment and expecting your teachers to hold your hand so you can write good college essays. If your professor tells you to pick a subject, trust that this is exactly what you are supposed to do. Of course, you can double check to make sure there are no topics that are off limits — then use your imagination.

This kind of freedom offers you the chance to pick a topic you truly care about. That’s often the secret to writing good essays, so look at the open-ended nature of your essay topic as your professor’s way of doing you a favor.

Look at Other Great College Essays

If you are still feeling overwhelmed at the idea of choosing your own subjects before writing college essays, you can create some parameters for yourself without stifling your creativity.

This is where looking at examples of good college essays can be helpful. Browsing a few papers can show you that a variety of formats and subjects all work well as long as the content is high quality.

For example, if you are about to write a college thesis for an honors program or graduate school, find out if your department keeps papers from past students. When I wrote my honors thesis, I felt less overwhelmed after I looked through a few examples of papers from previous years.

When I saw the thesis papers all had varying subjects, formats and lengths, I realized that good college essays come in all shapes and sizes. I then had the confidence to write my paper the way I felt it should be written – even when that turned out to involve writing more than 90 pages. That’s when I became glad I had chosen a topic I enjoyed!

Defend Your Thoughts

Your professor is not expecting you to agree with every belief he or she has. Good teachers understand students’ views might differ from theirs, so don’t feel pressured to agree completely with what your professors have told the class. If you disagree, let them know, but back up your beliefs with facts when trying to write good college essays.

I remember feeling nervous when writing a paper that directly contrasted with what I knew of my professor’s beliefs. He had made a statement during class that clearly showed how he felt about a topic, and I strongly disagreed.

Rather than speaking up in class, I made sure my college essay outlined why I felt the way I did, using statistics and anecdotes that made an impact on me.

I was sure I would get a bad grade after expressing my original thoughts, but I got an A. The professor even wrote “good points!” on the paper.

That showed me you do not always have to agree with your teacher when you want good grades in college, as long as you show you understand the point of most college essays – to use facts when trying to persuade others.

It takes time to get good at writing college essays without your professor telling you what to say. Fortunately, you have at least four years to perfect this craft!



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