Good College Essays Do This

October 26, 2021

As someone going to college, you probably are no stranger to writing essays. You have written them for classes, exams, and even college applications. College and high school essays are similar in that they both have introductions, body paragraphs, and a conclusion with references cited throughout, but there are several key attributes of a good college essay (regardless of academic discipline) that differentiate a good college essay from a great one.

Know the Audience

Unlike your high school essays, in college, your papers will be written for PhD professors. This means that the arguments you will be making, the tone of your sentences, and the structure of your essay should all have in mind that they will be read by someone who has done research and scholarly work within that field. Also, professors vary on how they want essays to be formatted, so take note of that. Some prefer MLA formatting, while others are open to other style guides so long as it’s consistent. Know what your professors prefer, and write to meet that preference.

Organized ideas

The process of writing can be difficult, but good essays will always have their points and arguments organized in a logically following way. Not only will it make your paper easier to read, but it will also make your arguments more digestible and better able to flow from idea to idea. Some academic fields have a set format, while others are less limiting, so make sure you organize your papers in a way that makes sense for what you are writing about.

To-the-Point Writing

Essays that make strong points are much easier to follow for your professor. Professors are grading hundreds of essays, so by writing clearly, you’ll save your professor time and frustration. Always ask yourself if a sentence could be rephrased with fewer words or if a specific word choice is absolutely necessary. Less is often more.

Critical of Sources

If you’re struggling with writing body paragraphs, know that a good portion of your analysis can be evaluating and comparing sources. By being critical of the sources you cite, not only will it strengthen your arguments, but it will also address the areas where your own analysis has weak points.

Proofread Final Drafts

Clicking “spell check” on Word or Google Docs is something you should always do, but sometimes it won’t pick up minor–but glaringly obvious–spelling mistakes. This is why you should either read through your final draft out loud at least once or have a friend proofread your writing. It will help immensely with fixing awkward sentences, grammatical or spelling mistakes, and checking to make sure your paper has proper citations. Though most professors are grading your essays on their ideas (though some certainly do factor in grammar and spelling into the final grade), in college, you are expected to have greater writing skills, and so taking the extra time to make sure your essay reads well is important.

Different subjects will have different requirements for essays, but generally these qualities are consistent throughout all academic disciplines. A good essay is relatively easy to read, while also being interesting and engaging. The hardest part about writing is starting, but once you’ve pushed through the first few sentences and get an idea of how you want to structure everything, the writing will just come to you and the essay will seemingly write itself. Good luck with your writing!