10 Simple Tips on Essay Writing for College Students

Essay writing for college students is par for the course in higher education. This not only includes research papers but also includes writing essay answers to questions on tests. Those who struggle to write essays may find these college essay writing tips helpful in organizing essay question answers and organizing their thoughts for research papers.

essay writing for college students essay writing for college students

1. Brainstorm to Find Topics Important to You

In essay writing for college students, it’s all about finding a topic you are interested in. Brainstorming is simply a matter of thinking about the issue and coming up with all the ideas that could fit within the essay assignment’s parameters. There are formal methods, such as creating a "map" with the topic in the center and then bubbles coming out of it with thoughts about the main topic, but you can also just make a simple list of good topics that come to mind.

2. Allow Research to Guide Your Topic

Once you brainstorm topics, the best topic for the essay should be chosen based on the essay assignment and the research materials available (if any). Even the best topic can be a failure if you can’t find research on it. Therefore, research topics need to be specific enough to find useful information but not so specialized that you won't be able to write a full paper on the subject. If you aren’t finding enough research, try modifying your topic.

3. Be Specific

Before you even start your paper, make sure you have a clear and specific thesis statement. The thesis statement isn’t set in stone. It can morph and change as you dig further into your research. However, you want this to be strong, precise and set the tone for your paper.

4. Don’t Skimp on the Outline

Essay outlines aren’t always required, but they can help you mold your article while researching. Create a simple outline by splitting the paper into an introduction, body and conclusion. As you are researching, jot down the information to be included in each of your sections.

Essay Introduction

You will want to start with the introductory section of the paper.

  • Start by creating bullet points.
  • The first bullet point should highlight the thesis, topic or central idea of your paper.
  • The other bullet points should summarize the strong arguments you will elaborate in the paper’s body to support your topic or main idea.
  • This section should highlight points that you plan to discuss in the rest of the paper without elaboration or specific discussion about any of the points.

Essay Body

The paper’s body is where you will present your main argument and specific information to support your paper’s topic or main idea.

  • You should create bullet points for each main argument, then supply supporting points for each of the main bullet points that you plan to discuss in the body of your paper.
  • Keep in mind that these supporting facts should come from outside sources known to be reliable to justify your argument.

Essay Conclusion

The conclusion should highlight bullet points that restate the thesis and summarize the paper’s body in a few short sentences. The conclusion is where you will also include your thoughts on the topic or main idea discussed throughout the paper. These should be addressed in your outline too.

5. Start With a Bang

The introduction of your essay needs to hit readers and hit them hard. Whether using an anecdote or personal story, it needs to hook your reader. The first sentence sets the tone for the rest of your piece. Make sure it grabs the reader’s attention.

6. Show Instead of Tell

Anyone can recount a story or analysis in their essay. But professors are looking for more. Rather than just recounting your research or your trip to Italy, show them the lessons you learned through the experience, how the experience changed you, or even why you feel so strongly about this topic. Dig down deep and share personal experiences, reflections and moments that make you who you are. This also adds your voice to your essay.

8. Revise, Revise, Revise

When it comes to college papers, you want them to be perfect. Rarely are they perfect on your first try. So, you want to write your first draft and set it aside. Then after a few days, read it to yourself, looking for holes in your analysis, story or research. Run your essay through a few spell and grammar checkers. Do a plagiarism check on your essay to make sure everything is clear. Have multiple people proofread your essay throughout the entire process to ensure nothing gets missed.

Reread the assignment and ask yourself:

  • Does my paper meet all the requirements?
  • Does my analysis or research make sense?
  • Is everything clear?
  • Does this have my voice?
  • Does everything flow logically?
  • Did I include transitions?
  • Will my professor find it interesting?

When your paper is complete, you should be able to answer yes to all these questions.

8. Care About the Conclusion

Creating an amazing essay starts with a great introduction, but ends with a thought-provoking conclusion. Therefore, you don’t want to skimp on the conclusion. A good conclusion should always round out the essay and restate your thesis. But that doesn’t mean it should be dull. Consider ways that you can leave your reader wowed all the way to the final word of your conclusion. You might even consider adding a concluding hook.

9. Don’t Forget Your Style Guide

Every college paper needs to be written in a specific style like MLA formatting or APA citations. When using outside resources, make sure to format your in-text and reference citations to your specific style. Style guides are not a one size fits all. Pay attention to the differences so you don’t lose easy points.

10. Watch Your Length

Many times in college, professors ask you for a specific word count for your essay. You aren’t just trying to do the bare minimum but truly develop your points, arguments or personal experiences. Add details and reflections to fully flesh out your paper and meeting any word count is easy.

College Essay Writing Tips

Writing in high school is one thing, but college is a whole different beast. Essays go beyond your typical five-paragraph essays to multiple pages. Use these tips and tricks for essay writing to make sure you turn in an “A” paper. And if you need additional help, check out how to write an essay.


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