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10 College Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


Writing a college paper may seem like a terrible dream. It is especially true for new students who have just started their higher education. No matter how many instructions and guidelines you have read, there are bound of mistakes you can make in a college essay. These have to simply be taken into account every single time you write an essay, no exceptions. 


  1. You don’t follow the requirements to the letter. And when I say to the letter, I do mean the following: when paper instructions require five pages, but your word count is closer to three pages. You may think that the paper is already perfect as it’s well-written and properly cited. Well, think again, young grasshopper. Not including enough material to reach the limit is a reason to lower your score: never write less than required, even if it leaves you with stuff you would consider unnecessary. The paper instruction requires to input diagram or a picture, but there are no diagrams in your final paper? Well, you have skipped a chance to get another A. Spend an extra minute reading the requirements carefully and attentively. Even this single point will help you avoid most of the mistakes.


  1. You don’t listen to your professor. Yes, liking your friend’s photos on Instagram might be more exciting, but if the professor is currently explaining the material you might need, you better heed it. Your professors generally have the power and authority to adjust the requirements of a paper, but they might not necessarily send you the new file considering that all students will pay attention and take notes during classes. Pay attention to every word your professor says. Isn’t that the reason why you applied to a college, anyway?


  1. You get too carried away with the topic. The requirements may allow you to discuss and interpret a certain topic in your own way, but it also means that you have certain boundaries. If, say, your topic is to discuss how Virginia Woolf's novels influenced the work of a more contemporary writer, especially based on a specific story, it’s best to stick to that outline. Talking about Joyce throughout the paper might be fun for you, but this is not your topic at all. Don’t take too many liberties with it, unless your requirements or professor allow it.


  1. You don’t understand the topic. It’s crucial to carefully read the suggested topic, especially if the topic is difficult. You may end up writing a paper that has nothing to do with the assigned topic. Consult your professor in case of difficulties: this will also save your grade if the professor knows you had problems with the topic. Also, make sure that you understand the grading scale of your work. Using a test grade calculator can help out a great deal.


  1. You don’t provide references. You already know the topic? Great, but your knowledge is not a scientific and peer-reviewed source. Regardless of what you might think about referencing the paper, sources are necessary. Using proper and relevant sources is a basic requirement in college writing, and avoiding it is a sure way of getting a bad grade. Never make statements without providing proof, and always (always!) include the used sources. Want to state something without a reference? You can do so only in case if it’s your personal data or opinion.


  1. You actually go over the required limit. Diligence is a virtue, but exceeding the word count is also a violation of requirements. The professor will consider that you are unable to stay within the limit and it is the reason to lower your score. Never do more work than you’re asked to do.


  1. You don’t follow the deadlines. Procrastinating until the last minute is fun and engaging, but it steals more time than almost anything else you might do. But wait, there is even more than just stealing your time: cramming all of your work into the last few hours ensures that your paper won’t be up to the expected standards. It will be a miracle if you are a talented and highly productive writer who is able to work in a very limited timespan. Stick to the deadlines, especially if you tend to slack.


  1. You don’t consider the essay’s tone. Essays are a type of academic writing, meaning that the writer should follow general standards undertaken in academic society. Adding humour, writing incomplete sentences, ruining the structure of an essay is something you need to avoid. Essays are impersonal and preferably impartial unless the author needs to take a stance. Stating your own political opinions or otherwise controversial thoughts should be avoided when writing college papers unless the paper instructions require it.


  1. You don’t carefully read the source. Inserting a specific quote that supports an idea or a concept isn’t that bad, but you have to read the full context first. Skimming through the book or the article is not enough; you should critically analyze the whole material. It might turn out that the quote you’ve used is actually a part of a statement opposed to the topic you are writing about.


  1. You choose a too difficult topic. Sometimes the topic is just too hard or too controversial for you, or it may happen that there is not enough information for it. As a result, you write a poor paper or just give up writing. Never overestimate your abilities. If possible, try to choose a topic that you are able to handle, it will make the entire process way more bearable.


In conclusion, writing college essays is not the easiest thing in the world, and students, especially first-year students, tend to make mistakes. However, remembering and taking into account the mistakes we have talked above will turn academic writing in more simple and pleasant work. College papers are an essential part of college education, but sometimes it may become overwhelming. Everything requires practice, and college writing is hardly an exception. Just remember to avoid these mistakes, and your essays will be perfect!



Written by Nicky Quinton

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