College Essays

Don’t fret; college essays aren’t too different than high school essays were. However, if you have a language-based major, you will have to write a whole lot more of them. They’re also graded a bit harder, naturally.

The purpose of an essay in college might also be a little unfamiliar to some new freshmen students. The higher you go in school, the more analytical essays become. In college, it’s assumed that you can recall information. The next step is to fully comprehend the nuances of information and be able to add you own analysis.

Of course, you won’t be expected to write a full-on analytical piece your first day at school. Many entry-level classes, especially at state schools, use essay-grading software to determine whether you know the content. The specifics of the software will depend on your school, but essays graded by computers are fundamentally different than essays graded by professors. First off, the computer doesn’t usually care how well your sentences flow or how varied your diction is. Most essay graders just go through a checklist of information that has to be included. Typically, it still has to be in full sentence form, but for some software, you can essentially list everything that’s on the prompt and get full credit.

Personally, I hated the computer-graded essays. The fact that no one was actually going to read my papers bothered me (probably because I wanted to get into writing professionally). My way out of learning to navigate the software was to take higher-level English classes to satisfy some of my lower-level credits. A quick chat with your advisor will clarify whether that’s possible for your class schedule.

In a human-graded essay, the hardest part is usually the beginning. Outlining essays is extremely helpful when attempting to tackle complicated material. If nothing else, it gets your ideas on paper in a skeleton format. When Basically, I would just jot down all of the answers to the prompt that I could think of. Then I’d cross off the topics that I didn’t think I could explain very well. The ideas left on the page became the topics for each supporting paragraph. Sometimes, I found it helpful to notate a few details for each topic in order to figure out which ideas weren’t going to work out or didn’t really fit the essay.

College essays are rarely timed. However, there are so many to write that it would be too time consuming to outline, draft and finalize each essay exactly as your professors recommend. A huge part of adjusting to college is learning to manage your time better than your professors could explain. Generally each professor expects you to spend the majority of your free time working on his or her class.
In other words, something that seems like a short cut (such as an abbreviated outline for your paper) might save you from a stress overload.

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