9 Steps to a Great College Essay
Knocking out a great college application essay could mean the difference between being accepted to your school of choice and having to continue the search. However, forming such an essay can be easier said than done. If you’re struggling to create a great college essay — or haven’t even attempted it yet — here is a nine-step outline that could help make the essay writing process a little easier.
You never know where a great idea might come from, and you can’t always force such ideas. However, sitting down in a quiet place where you can really delve into your thoughts and ponder the essay topic you’ve been provided could have you drilling down into the subject enough to pull a few really great ideas out to work on.
Creating a brief — point-by-point — outline of what you’d like to put down on paper can make the writing process a little easier. Getting those main points outlined can allow you to go back and fill in the blanks so to speak, putting a few more pertinent thoughts or ideas down to the main point you’ve already outlined.
Write Without Stopping
To get all your ideas down without forgetting anything along the way, you may find it beneficial to write without stopping. This means just letting your ideas flow, avoiding pauses for things like word choice, grammar fixes, and similar items that can break your train of thought and cause you to forget the direction in which your writing is heading.
Tighten Things Up
Once you’ve got your thoughts down on paper — or computer — you can go back through and begin to tighten things up. This could act as your first proofread or just an opportunity to change wording, add to or eliminate certain parts of your essay, and generally make your essay ready for that first real proofread.
Running your work through an automated spell and grammar check might be one of the easiest aspects of your essay writing. Just remember though, you can’t always rely on a computer to find and properly fix all the issues in your writing, and even if it does want to make a correction, it might not be the right correction. Therefore, while using such a tool can be helpful, it isn’t the end all and be all of proofreading.
Wording, Phrasing, Grammar
Once you’ve had the computer give things a good going over, then it’s likely time to give your essay a strong proofread. During this revision, you may be focusing more on wording, phrasing, grammar, and looking for things that the spell/grammar check didn’t pick up on like differences between their/there/they’re or it’s and its or rain/reign/rein.
The Backwards Read
Multiple proofreads are a good idea for your college essay; however, even though you’ve been over the words you’ve written multiple times, it still might not be enough to catch every mistake. Our brains will often “fill in the blank” or scan over mistakes due to conditioning and our already having knowledge of what the next word, sentence, or paragraph might read, and sometimes it takes an alternative strategy to find errors.
By starting at the end of your essay and working sentence by sentence backward throughout your work, you can somewhat take these words out of their structural context and better focus on what you’ve written and how.
The Second (or even third or fourth) Pair of Eyes
After you’ve had time to review your work a time or two, it could be the perfect time to let someone else take a look. Letting your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends or whomever take a read of your work could have them finding issues that you never noticed. Having multiple sets of eyes on your essay can help you not only find grammatical issues, but possibly get differing perspectives on your essay topic that you might not have considered.
One Last Read
Even if you’ve read your essay multiple times and had others read it as well, one last look might be a good idea. Sometimes making a fix in one spot of an essay can alter it in another, and making sure your work is cohesive and flows smoothly from beginning to end can be the final touch before sending it off for review.