Maybe you took Essay Writing 101. Maybe you come from public school. Maybe you paid your bro to write them for you and learned a few things along the way. But I can attest that there are at least a few homeschoolers who have never had to write a decent “essay,” at least in the expected format for college. Having been through the brutal process of learning how to write a good college essays, I will present a few tips that can easily affect your grade.
Tip #1: “MLA” or “APA” Formatting
College essays usually are submitted one of two formats: “MLA” or “APA.” The most likely thing to pop into a student’s mind when they hear those acronyms is citation style. Sure, you can pop your works cited data into Son of Citation Machine and have it come out all nice and pretty. But these formats are more than citation style, and I’ve seen a lot of students miss that information.
For MLA, for example, there is a specific amount of inches each paragraph must be from the top of the essay and both sides of each page. (NOTE: teachers are Human, and if your information is “close enough” to the required proportions, I haven’t seen any that care.) Your pre-title data must be in a specific order, and you must use parenthetical citations.
Make these mistakes early if you must and never again. It’s really frustrating to get points off for a formatting mistake after pouring a lot of time into the content of an essay.
Tip #2: Grammar Within Quotation
This is an incredibly basic grammar mistake that is made very, very often. People simply do not know how to use quotation and punctuation together. On the Internet or other communication streams, people don’t even notice, but for a college essay, there will be teachers who count off for it. Watch closely:
Mom said he “watched far too much Youtube”.
This is wrong. The corrected version is:
Mom said he “watched far too much Youtube.”
On some level even the people making this mistake understand there are rules to it – you don’t put a speech-ending comma outside of the speech. However, many new students automatically think “period goes at the end of the sentence.” This is a completely rational mindset yet an incorrect one. I encourage all soon-to-be college students to review obscure grammar rules like this one.
Tip #3: Know Your Teacher
This is one that will really burn you not only when writing an essay but also in other classes. If at any point during a class a teacher says something you should do or avoid when working on a test or important assignment of theirs, write it down as fast as possible. They seriously may not say it again. And if you do not remember it, there is a high chance this peeve of the teacher will be looked for on future assignments. If not followed, you get points off.
For an essay this is even more important because an essay is not a test full of varied questions. If you make a small mistake once, you are likely to make it once more, and once more. Two points off becomes twelve points off, and your B is now a C. Obviously the strictness depends on your teacher, but this is an important guideline nonetheless.
Remember these important guidelines and you can bring a poor essay up to a subpar one. Good luck, and don’t forget the commas!