I have taught at the university level for about a decade and have graded hundreds, if not thousands, of college essays. Earning a high grade on your academic essay does not usually involve writing a Shakespearean level paper or a professional dissertation worthy of Oxford Press. Instead, follow these simple writing tips to ace your next college essay.
Read Your Syllabus
This may seems simple, but I don’t know how many papers that I’ve graded that have did not follow simple instructions. For example, if an assignment needs to be an essay, then write an essay not a question and answer format. If the topic is the battle of Waterloo, don’t jump into your personal political opinions on the latest presidential election, no matter how relevant you think it may be to the topic. If the professor needs the paper to be in Turabian or Chicago styles, then be sure to format the paper accordingly. This not only will keep you from losing a few unnecessary points but will make your paper shine above students that simply slop together an assignment. Formatting issues are often the number one reason why one paper outshines another, regardless of content.
Know Your Sources
If over half of your paper consists of Wikipedia, random personal opinions, or social media quotes, you can bet that your professor can’t keep his or her eyes from rolling as they read your paper. Your university has a library, and most have online libraries that you can access easily from your smartphone or tablet. Log in to the library, search for your sources with the option “peer-reviewed” checked. Immediately you will have incredible sources that will not only increase your overall knowledge of the topic with real researched information but will impress your professor with your incredible research skills. Besides you will become acquainted with trade journals necessary in your field. Added bonus: if you happen to be going to school and working at the same time, knowing how to conduct high quality research will put you on the fast track for upper management positions. Know your sources and you show that you know your stuff.
Use Writing Resources
Whether you decide to use a simple grammar check in Microsoft Office, attend a writing workshop, or get that cute classmate to coach you in writing skills, use the writing resources available to you. And be honest about your writing skills. Not everyone had the opportunity to attend a high quality high school that prepared students for college. Not everyone grew up speaking and writing English as a first language. Not everyone even likes to write in the first place. If you are lacking in any major area, take the time to find the resources available to you and seek them out. Learning how to write an academic paper in your freshman year will save you a few years of heartache, not to mention decades of being passed over for more literate coworkers in your field. Believe it or not, knowing how to write matters, it really does. Learn how to communicate in writing and in speaking. These are basic career skills you need regardless of the field.
Do Not Plagiarize
At this point you might be saying, “Duh!” or thinking about the last few stolen papers that you managed to get by your prof. Plagiarism is not the core problem, however. When a student plagiarizes it demonstrates that the student has poor life skills in general like poor time management skills. For example, most of the students that plagiarize in my courses have a tendency to wait until the last minute to finish an assignment, complete only the bare minimum, and have at least a dozen excuses for poor work. When they submit a perfectly constructed paper at the last minute red flags go off immediately. Already the student has demonstrated that they are not ready to take a college course through their poor work, and a quick check in a plagiarism checker reveals that the student plagiarized. When I check an entire class’s papers for plagiarism, it is almost always the poorest performing students who choose to plagiarize. Plagiarism is part of a destructive pattern that will lead to unemployment and missed job opportunities in the future. Combine poor class performance with plagiarized assignments, and you will quickly see your grade plummet, and in most cases, failed classes or expulsion may result. Instead, give yourself enough time to complete your assignments. You deserve to give yourself at least that much respect and time.
Now you have a few useful tips to help you next time you write a paper. Remember to follow the instructor’s syllabus, ask questions if you do not understand the instructions, and use good research to support your assignment. Get additional help if you need help with grammar, formatting, sentence structure, or other key writing skills. Avoid plagiarizing with good time management. Follow these simple tips and you will find that your grades will soar along with your marketable career skills.