Tips for writing college essays

Oscar Rodriguez graduated Cum Laude from the University of Washington Tacoma earning a double major in Arts, Media, and Culture and Communication. He is fluent and literate in Spanish and currently volunteers at his church translating documents for the Hispanic/Latino community.

I don’t know about you, but some of my worst memories from college involve staying up late, even pulling all-nighters to finish papers, articles, etc. It’s been over a year since I graduated and I still have the occasional nightmare about dozing off and not finishing one. In reality, I pretty much always finished my writing assignments on time and got good grades, but not without stressing and struggling until the very last minute on several of them.

I think many of you know the frustration of dealing with writer’s block. No matter how prepared you are or how early you start on an assignment sometimes the writing part just doesn’t go smoothly. Based on what I just shared, you probably think I am the last person who should be writing an article, much less one about giving college students advice on how to make writing less stressful. However, it is because I have gone through and learned from these experiences that I can give you advice on how to prevent writer’s block from making writing assignments harder and more time consuming than they already are.

When it comes to writing, sometimes the hardest part—after choosing your topic –is simply getting started. One of the biggest mistakes many people (myself included) often make when trying to start on a writing assignment is that they spend too much time staring at their computer screen trying to figure out what to write and how to write it.

Someone who is trying to decide what to write by siting at their desk and staring at the computer screen is like someone trying to decide what to wear by standing in front of a mirror staring at their reflection. You won’t get much inspiration looking at what you don’t have. Instead try opening up the closet of your mind.
However, don’t just think about the words and not write. This is like staring at all your clothes and thinking you have nothing to wear. Try them on!

You will get a better idea of what you want to wear by pulling out some clothes, laying them out on the bed, and then trying them on in front of the mirror. Likewise, you will get a better idea of what you want to write by pulling some words out of your mind (or writing down ideas), laying them out (or free-writing/brainstorming) them on a piece of paper, and then trying them on (or typing them) to see how they look on the screen.

In many ways, writing an assignment can be as simple or as complicated as picking out what to wear: You may end up trying a bunch of words and phrases that you don’t like, don’t fit, or don’t match your style; You might get frustrated and feel like you’re wasting time; You might even make a mess in the process before you find whatever works; You might end up going with the last idea you thought would ever work, or you might end up going with your first choice. The point is you won’t know for sure unless you try something on.

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