As you develop a strategy for your paper, you engage in the mental process of picturing the finished product in your head. Conjuring a mental image of your paper will reassure you; your paper exists -- all you have to do is transfer that mental image to words on paper. You don't have to write anything down in the strategy-development process, but you certainly can do so if it helps you. Developing a writing strategy for a paper works best in a conducive environment, in which you have a clear mind and a quiet, comfortable situation to nurture the planning process.
Don't panic if nothing jumps into your head immediately; if you relax, ideas should start to gel in your mind. Some of the strategic questions you may want to think about as your paper takes shape in your mind include: How long should it be? This question may already be answered by your instructor's assignment, but you'll want to think about whether it will be difficult to write as much as assigned or to confine yourself to the assigned length.
If you anticipate problems with length, ask your instructor's policy on too-short and too-long papers. What special components will it need? Will you cite outside sources in your paper, hence requiring some form of bibliography? Will you want to prepare any charts, tables, graphs, or illustrations?
How long will they take? What will the paper's title be? If you can conceptualize a title, you'll have an excellent starting point for writing the paper. Bear in mind that some instructors prefer you not title your papers; if that's the case, title it in your head even though it won't have a title on paper. Another way to jump-start the strategy process is to imagine your paper is a newspaper story. What should its headline be? How will you begin the paper? How will you state your thesis?
In what order will you express your supporting points? What organizational scheme will best bolster your thesis? What does your audience -- generally your instructor -- expect? What is he or she looking for? Are the professor's instructions for the assignment clear? Include your professor in your strategy process. Most instructors will be only too happy to make research suggestions, check your bibliography, go over your outline, and even look over your rough draft.
Usually the professors will ask you questions to get you thinking and head you in the right direction. Even if your paper ends up being less than he or she hoped for, chances are the instructor will give you at least some benefit of the doubt when it comes to grading simply because he or she knows you tried hard to write a successful paper. Sometimes your approach will be determined by the prompt or topic that you choose. By contrast, if you want to write about how your favorite book changed your life, that will probably be a thematic essay.
Doing a little bit of outlining before you put fingertips to keyboard to write your essay is always a good idea. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending a lot of time staring at a blank Word document. Here are four tips for writing college essays and making sure your work stands out in a good way:. The more details you use, the more your writing will come alive.
One of my biggest accomplishments in life was teaching my little brother to ride a bicycle. I encouraged him to keep going when he fell down. One of my biggest accomplishments in life was teaching my eight-year-old brother to ride the racy red bicycle he got for his birthday. He wanted to give up when he took a tumble and skidded across the sidewalk.
But while I bandaged up his knees with Batman band-aids, I convinced him to give it another try. I told him to think about how he would be able to bike all around the neighborhood exploring. Now I smile whenever I see him zooming down our street—wearing his helmet, of course! Think how boring this angel statue would be if it was just kind of vaguely chiseled out of the rock.
What really keeps you going? So if your parents got a divorce last year, it may be too raw to write about, which is perfectly fine. If, however, they got divorced when you were 5 and you can honestly reflect on how it changed your life, go for it. Of course, you want to be honest in a reasonable and appropriate way.
You definitely want your writing to set you apart—but you want it to set you apart in a good way. This does not mean you should get really avant-garde with your essay formatting. They may well be annoyed. So deploy humor carefully and selectively. The more cliches you use in your writing, the more boring and less insightful your essay will be. Cliches are phrases that are so overused that they are essentially meaningless, and they are likely to make any reader roll their eyes. Try to think about how you can communicate the same idea in a more specific and interesting way.
You should also avoid platitudes or sweeping generalizations about life. These are statements that are so broad and far-reaching as to be both obvious and completely uninsightful. How do you avoid the platitude problem? Not so! Editing is one of the most important parts of writing the best college essay possible, and here are two essential college essay tips for editing.
In fact, several sets of eyes is even better! Other people can help you make sure your essay flows, you have enough detail, that everything is relevant, and that you sound as engaging and interesting as you really are! Brace yourself for cutting up your initial draft into tiny little ribbons and rearranging the remaining pieces Frankenstein-style.
A first draft is really just a starting place to get your ideas down before you revamp the entire thing into a more streamlined, better organized, highly polished version. So you have to be ready to let go of pieces of your essay, no matter how much you love a particular turn of phrase or analogy.
Your finished essay is like this duck: many pieces arranged into an amazing whole. One thing you can do to give any essay a boost is to make sure that your first sentence is attention-grabbing. The most important quick thing you can do for your essay is to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Imagine the essay you could write about the time you painted Mr. Lurker's claws. Looking for some college essay examples?
See essay examples and expert analysis here , along with 11 more places to find great college essay examples. We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:. Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.
See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers. How to Get a Perfect , by a Perfect Scorer. Score on SAT Math. Score on SAT Reading. Score on SAT Writing. What ACT target score should you be aiming for?
How to Get a Perfect 4. How to Write an Amazing College Essay. A Comprehensive Guide. Choose Your Test. And, of course, the more essays you have to write, the earlier you should start! Don't worry, you don't need to start this early.
Yes, good, very detailed essay plan.