Writing a College Essay: 7 Elements Every Great Paper Should Have
Writing a college essay is particularly challenging if words give you trouble. Sure, everyone can write words on a page. Using those words to craft a coherent world view or thesis is an art form, though. One that requires lots of practice.
In the following article, we’re going to talk about what every college essay needs to be functional. There are seven elements it absolutely cannot live without. Let’s start from the top.
Writing a college essay is difficult when you think in terms of broad topics. You might be worried about being able to write to a specific word length so being general will give you more to discuss. This is a poor way of approaching the essay.
Ideally, you want to drill down into a topic as deeply as you can. That’s because every college essay should present a thesis with supporting points and illustrations that make the case. We’ll be spending more time on those elements as we go along. For now, just know this.
The more specific you are about your topic, the easier it will be to write and research, and the more interesting it will be to you.
Beyond a thesis statement and the supporting points, you need a way of drawing the reader in. Some people start their first paragraphs with startling statistics or engaging stories or facts that serve as a great springboard to the overall essay.
You decide the approach that works best for you. As you do so, however, keep in mind that the purpose is to draw readers in a way that they absolutely have to read the next sentence. That means hooking them with the first sentence or even the first word or phrase if you can.
How much of your personality to put into a college essay will depend on the specifics of the assignment. Even if it’s a formal essay, though, you can interject some personality to keep the writing from appearing drab or morose. One way of doing this is to use a clever metaphor or simile to help illustrate points.
You also might use bits of humor or fear-mongering or enthusiasm. Whatever your personality is like with friends and family, there should be a spark of that in the work.
People who read your college essay should be able to tell by the way you use words and craft sentences and structure your essay that you are passionate about it. Passion is essential for a long paper of any kind. That’s why your teacher or professor will try to leave it to you to pick the topic. They want you to be engaged from the start of the process.
Sometimes you may have to write about overarching topics that aren’t as interesting as you’d like them to be. Even in these scenarios, you might consider finding something deep down about the topic that you can connect to and manufacture some passion long enough to do the work. It’s not always easy, but it is always possible.
5. Clear Viewpoint
You don’t want the readers of your essay to wonder where you stand on the topic. If you’re just giving a rundown of different viewpoints without evaluating for the strongest case, you’re going to leave the audience very bored.
They want you to be bold and explain your position, or they at least want that same boldness as you explain why all the different viewpoints are wrong. Establishing a clear viewpoint in the work is as simple as injecting courage into your writing and research.
6. Supporting Illustrations
Supporting points and illustrations are important for helping make the material accessible. Accessibility is important because otherwise your readers will feel like you’re talking down to them, or they’ll feel like they walked in on the middle of a conversation in which they have or know no facts or understanding.
Supporting illustrations rely heavily on established research — studies, expert opinions, facts, etc. They also rely on language that is concrete in nature. That’s why similes and metaphors are such strong tools to have in the Supporting Illustrations Toolbox.
7. Strong Ending
The last thing you’ll need when writing a college essay is a strong ending. How do you get to that strong ending is the question that you’ll need to answer. Of course, you’ll need to follow the six items listed above, but you’ll also need a simple tool for each paragraph, especially your final one, in order to get to this part of the journey unscathed.
We’re talking about transitions. Transitional sentences logically transport your audience from the introduction to the first point, the first point to the second point, the second point to the third point, and so on until you reach the conclusion. Make sure your transitions are strong.
When you finally arrive at that final paragraph, make sure you’re restating the thesis, summarizing the points that support your thesis as accurate, and leave your readers with a little food-for-thought about what it all means.
Writing a College Essay Takes a Lot of Work
Writing a college essay can be fun once you get the first couple under your belt and you know the seven elements listed above. If you still think your college papers need work, share your experience in the comments section below. What are some areas you just can’t seem to master or would like a little more insight on?
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]