How to write good essays as a freshman
Writing good essays can be difficult and even scary especially in your freshmen year when you don’t know what your professors expect of you. Essays at university are very different from the papers you were producing at secondary school so some preparation is necessary. However, when you get the hang of it, writing essays will become easy and you will write them almost on autopilot. Here are a few tips that can help you.
1. Sign up for an Academic Writing course
If your school offers an Academic Writing course, sing for it immediately while still in your freshmen year. The knowledge you will get from it will serve you literally for lifetime. Or, at least, during all those years of your studies. And you can obtain some credits while doing so.
If your school or study programme doesn’t provide such a course, you can certainly find some online. Just try googling or searching on YouTube, there are a lot of videos and guidelines on the topic.
2. Practice makes perfect
Just as any skill, even writing essays is something that you have to practice in order to get better at it. Let’s face it; your essays in the freshmen year are probably going to suck. Relax, your teachers know that. Still, you have to make a continuous effort to improve. In your second year, teachers won’t be as benevolent and they won’t tolerate sloppy work anymore.
3. Get feedback
If you attend an Academic Writing course, there’s a high chance that your teacher will actually read every single word of your essay and give you honest feedback. Don’t be afraid of it. Even if your paper is almost all read with corrections, consider it part of your learning process. Try to rewrite your essay with those hints in mind; it’ll surely be much better next time. If your teacher is patient enough, they might read your second attempt as well and offer invaluable advice.
Provided you can’t attend a course or your teacher doesn’t have that much time, you can try asking older students for help. Or you can ask your classmates and create your own little writing circle. Another person’s perspective can make you notice your unique mistakes and while reading other people’s work, you can understand what works and what doesn’t.
4. Academic essays are…academic!
That’s why you can’t confuse them with the types of papers you were writing at secondary school. Remember to use formal language, cite your sources and never ever plagiarize. Seriously, there’s software that can uncover you in a minute. Unless your teacher wants you to, don’t include your personal feelings on the topic. Academic essays are basically scientific articles that should stay objective.
5. Use a structured outline
Every essay needs an introduction, the main body where you will develop your arguments and discuss counterarguments and a solid conclusion. The most common beginner mistake is forgetting that the last paragraph should conclude the whole text. Conclusion offers no new information, it only summarises your results. Rule of thumb: A reader should be able to get the gist of your essay just by reading your introduction and conclusion.
6. Check your grammar
There’s nothing sloppier than submitting an essay full of typos and careless grammar mistakes. Even if the content of your essay is otherwise very interesting and well-built, it’ll inevitably lower your grade. Most of these minor mistakes can be easily avoided.
Switch on the spell-check function in your text editor which should highlight most typos. Always read your text several times before handing it over. Check for problematic grammar structures separately. Meaning, read the first time just to check grammar tenses, the second time only for articles, the third time for the usage of correct phrases and collocations etc.
7. Read your assignment carefully
When your teachers assign you to write an essay, they’ll usually be VERY specific about what they expect you to hand in. While you can be quite original when it comes to the content (within reason, of course), you have to follow given instructions very closely.
When the assignment states 500-700 words, writing less would result in a failing grade while writing a lot more can be a failure as well. You can argue that writing more shows you’re eager but the opposite is true. It only shows that you’re not able to express yourself clearly within certain word limit which is also an important skill a university student has to learn.
8. Take your time…but don’t procrastinate!
It’s highly recommended to write your first draft as soon as possible and then leave it for a few days. When you return to your text with a fresh perspective later, you’ll notice all those minor mistakes you’d otherwise overlook. This action must be deliberate, though. Don’t confuse it with procrastination! If you finish writing your essay literally five minutes before the deadline, you won’t have any time for revisions. So plan beforehand.
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University freshmen tend to be intimidated when their first essay assignment comes. Still, it’s no rocket science. If you study handy guidelines a bit and watch a few tutorials on Academic writings on YouTube, you’ll do just fine.
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