Posts Tagged ‘how to write a college essay’
Over the weekend I began going through the ever-growing tower of past schoolwork I’ve kept from high school and college. I read through probably a hundred different papers I’ve written over the years. With each one, a little flood of pride swept over me–Wow, I knew what ‘Defenestration‘ meant?–and, ultimately decided to keep a bunch of them (and by ‘a bunch of them’ I really mean every single one).
You’re probably reading this post as a cry for help from my secret hoarder life, but it’s not (it is), it’s really not (I had to tunnel through my hallways filled with every newspaper since 1987 just to get to my room filled with 48 cats).
No, we’re talking about great college papers. With hindsight being 20/20, I was able to see what made some of my college papers works of, dare I say, genius, and others just kinda lumps of complicated words that didn’t really add up to much in the end.
Here’s my words of wisdom, which include the comments scribbled in the margins from professors who’ve read my papers:
1. You need to stop procrastinating now!
This one’s a bit obvious. But hey, here’s the simple fact: If you start your paper 5 hours before it’s due, chances are it will not be thoroughly researched, thought through, or finely edited. I’ve had my share of “let’s watch this marathon Law & Order all day and start writing at midnight” experiences. It shows in the work. If you start your paper when it’s assigned, you’ll have a chance to write an outline, fine-tune your thesis, and even sleep on your ideas. Letting your ideas marinate a bit will help them grow stronger, or will help you realize what works and what doesn’t. Give yourself the gift of time!
2. I’m confused, what’s your thesis?
Sometimes the things our teachers told us in high school don’t quite sink in. If that’s the case with what they taught you about a thesis, it’s definitely time to learn what a thesis is. The thesis in your paper is the argument you’re making. It can be as simple as “Juliette was stupid” or “Hamlet was a nutjob.” You can argue whatever you want, but it has to be a strong and interesting enough argument to carry through your entire paper.
3. Do you even know what this word means?
Avoid trying to sound smarter than you are. You are probably a very smart person. Using words because they sound esoteric will turn your paper into something pedantic and alien. Your teachers don’t care how much you can impersonate an academic voice as much as hearing YOU argue your thesis smartly and thoughtfully.
4. Did you read the book? I’m seriously concerned you didn’t read the book.
Read the book. They always know when you don’t read the book.
4.5 Please never write an essay in 15 pt Comic Sans Again. Please, I beg you.
5. Where’s the proof?
Once you have your thesis, go back carefully through the text to come up with evidence. Think of yourself as a little Sherlock Holmes and gather all the evidence you can for your argument. The proof is in the pudding. And in this case, the pudding is the text, not your memory of it.
Do you have any tips for writing a great college essay? Leave a comment!
As rising seniors, there will be certain things you’ll get excited for over the summer, like getting to hang out in the senior courtyard, take the classes you’ve been waiting to take or any other perks that only seniors get.
The one thing you might not be prepared for is the question that most students wind up dreading:
“So, [insert name], where ya heading off to college next year?”
Why does this question get annoying? Well, for one, you might not know the answer. And for another, any question that is repeatedly asked by anyone and everyone you happen to come in contact with will make you feel like you accidentally stepped into a never-ending inquisition.
So here are 4 ways to repeatedly answer the most dreaded college question:
As soon as you notice the words forming in your podiatrist’s lips, hop off the chair, and run out the door–you can send a pigeon for your shoes later.
If you are not a good runner, or you haven’t trained your pigeon to carry heavy objects quite yet, the next 3 options might be for you.
2. I’m Still Searching
You might have zero clue where you’re going. In fact, depending on the time of year someone asks you the question-that-shall-not-be-named, you might only be in the beginning of your college search. If this is the case, be honest. Let the inquisitor know you’re really not sure. You can tell them about the schools you might apply to, or which schools Cappex has introduced you to. Keep your answer short and sweet.
Don’t underestimate your magician-like skills as a conversationalist. Utilizing the magician’s method, you can make it seem like the question never existed by artfully changing the subject. This takes skill, but, hey, David Copperfield didn’t just make the Statue of Liberty disappear one random morning–he honed his craft (and had a big crew).
4. Bore your listener
If you really want to teach the person who asked the dreaded question a lesson, give them all the gory details. They’ll realize how much is behind the question–the hours you spent studying for the ACT/SAT, the conversations where you asked your favorite teacher to write you a recommendation, more hours you spent studying for the SAT II’s, asking a teacher you didn’t like that much for a recommendation, figuring out what to write your college essays about, joining the 10 different clubs that all raise money to help children–the list goes on!
The more you elaborate, the less likely that person is to ever assault another high schooler with the question:
“So, where you going to college?”
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