12 Essay Writing Tips for College Students

Writing essays is all part of college life. It’s also a crucial part of the college admissions process. A good essay can swing the application in your favor, whereas a poor essay might just torpedo it.

Not everyone can write a good essay. Some people stumble over grammar and punctuation. Others fall flat when it comes to making a coherent argument and drawing rational conclusions. With practice and constructive feedback, your essay writing skills will improve, but if you need a head start, check out the following essay writing tips.

Don’t Underestimate How Much Time You Need

It’s common for first-year college students to drastically underestimate how long it takes to write an essay – at least to a good standard. The level of research needed for college essays is greater than that required for essays you write in senior school. You can’t afford to ‘wing it’ if you want good grades.

If you are seriously behind and you don’t think you can meet your deadline, it might be worth using an essay writing service, such as Papers Marketplace. They can write your paper for you.

Read Around the Topic

Instead of posting on Facebook, “help me to write an essay”, start reading around the essay topic. This will help you figure out what you want to say in the essay. The more you understand the topic, the easier it will be to come up with interesting research angles and new perspectives. Remember, your professor won’t want to read an essay that has nothing new to say. Be original and you will score a much better grade on your paper.

Read the Brief

It should go without saying that you need to read the brief, but too many students fail to do this and then end up having their work rejected.

Make a note of the required word count. Is there a specific format you need to use? Does your professor want an argumentative essay or a narrative? Do you need to adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style?

Find all this out before you start writing, and if you have any questions, ask.

Create a Writing Schedule

Prepare a writing schedule that takes into account your other work commitments. Schedule sufficient writing time each day, so you have plenty of time to do research and make notes. Leave enough time in your schedule for some rest and relaxation. It is OK to have fun at college!

Plan Your Structure

Once you have an idea of the angle you want to take in your essay, start building a structure. All essays need an introduction and conclusion.

Use the introduction to tell the reader what you are going to discuss in your essay. The main body of the essay should cover your arguments and answer any key questions. The conclusion needs to wrap everything up.

The structure must be logical. Each section should naturally lead on to the next. Transitions between sections must be smooth. Don’t jump from one argument to another without a bridge.

In theory, once you have a structure for your essay, the rest should be simple, as all you are doing is fleshing out your arguments and points.

Make Notes from Research Materials

Make notes as you read up on the topic. Use sticky tabs to mark sections that you can use and copy online research materials. Organize your research materials in a methodical way, so it is easy to find notes, quotes, and anything else you need. Online research can be organized into folders and offline research materials into a binder with dividers.

Include notes in your essay as you write, so you know where to look in your research folders in you want to flesh out the point a bit further.

Include Citations

All quotes, research studies you mention, and other outsourced material etc., must be backed up by citations. Do this as you go along. Adding in citations at the end will be a real headache.

Write in a Professional Voice

Unless your professor is happy for you to write in an informal way (unlikely), maintain a professional, academic style of writing. College essays are not supposed to sound like blog posts. They should be written using academic language. Use present tense, clear and concise language, and avoid colloquialisms and informal phrases.

Be as clear and concise as possible. Avoid needless repetition and overuse of adverbs. Don’t say in 20 words what you can say in 10 words or less.

A Critical First Draft

Once you have the first draft, put it aside for a day and then come back to it with fresh eyes.

Next, read through your first draft with critical eyes. Do your arguments hold up or is more research needed? Does the essay flow? Is the style OK?

If in doubt, ask a third-party to read the essay and look for research holes or inconsistencies. Often, as a writer, we are too close to our own work to be critical.

If you are happy with your first draft, polish it a bit more and move on to the next stage. If not, go back to your research materials and start adding extra content or reworking any problematic sections.

Grammar and Spelling Check

Run your essay through a spell check and grammar check. Online services such as Grammarly, Ginger, and Hemingway are all useful at picking up silly errors, run-on sentences, passive tense, and other problems that detract from your writing.


Plagiarism is a big no-no. Any ideas that come from a third-party source must be attributed to that source with a citation. It’s not okay to copy and paste another person’s work without acknowledging them.

Be very careful not to inadvertently copy someone else’s material. This can sometimes happen if you are immersed in a piece of research. Their ideas become yours and you end up using them in your essay.

Colleges use advanced plagiarism checking tools, so you will be caught.

Asking for Help

Always ask for help if you run into trouble when writing a college essay. Speak to your professor or tutor for guidance as soon as possible. Don’t ask your roommate to “write my essay” the night before it’s due. That’s not fair on them.

Follow these tips and you should have no problems writing your next essay!

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