Archive | Applications

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Transitioning from military service is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming process, especially when it comes to applying to a college or university. Unlike most 18-year-olds, veterans entering college after military service have traveled the world, endured hardship, worked in high-stakes situations, and formed an idea of what they want to study, do or be. Armed with these experiences, they are well-prepared for the rigors of higher education and have access to a variety of resources and benefits along the way. Find out how you can apply to college as a veteran with these tips from Veteran Car Donations:

Know Your Benefits

Veterans who have completed at least three years of active federal service since Sept. 11, 2001 are eligible for 100 percent of the 36 months of allowed benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under this law, tuition benefits are equivalent to 100 percent of the most expensive public state school’s in-state undergraduate tuition. Additional tuition benefits may be available under the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows schools to waive part of any remaining tuition cost, and the Veterans Affairs (VA) to match that tuition waiver.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill also includes a housing allowance equal to the local ZIP code’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate for an E-5 with dependents. There is also a $1,000-per-year stipend for books and materials, and up to $100-per-month allowance for tutoring (with a maximum of $1,200). These benefits are good for 15 years after the service member is honorably discharged or retired from the armed forces.

The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is also still an option — and, in various cases, makes more sense for some veterans. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill has more monthly income associated with it, it can only be used at degree-granting institutions of higher learning. Those attending trade schools, participating in apprenticeships or flight training, or who wish to take preparatory courses for national exams are only eligible for benefits through the MGIB. The MGIB also provides up to 36 months of benefits with a monthly payout rate. These benefits are good for 10 years after a service member is discharged or retired.

Curious which benefit is right for you? The VA has a handy GI Bill calculator that can help guide that decision. Just remember to keep a copy of your DD 214 and Certificate of Eligibility handy once you have chosen the benefit that is right for you. Your target college or university will also have a veteran’s office that will help you navigate any benefits paperwork.

Square Away Your Educational Priorities

With only 36 months of GI Bill benefits, it may seem impossible to obtain a degree from a four-year university. With distinct educational priorities and a strategic plan, it is possible to graduate before running out of funds. During out-processing, veterans receive a Joint Services Transcript that lists all of their completed training that is eligible for college credit. Choose a college that accepts this credit, even if it does not directly apply to your chosen degree.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests also offer an opportunity to receive general education credit in one of 33 subjects. Some universities even give veterans the option of petitioning for credit through work-related portfolios that demonstrate knowledge they would have gained in the classroom. Be sure to talk to any veterans’ advisors at potential universities about the options they offer.

Finding a Campus Community

Once they leave active duty, most veterans find that they are missing the sense of community the military offers. Fortunately, myriad colleges and universities have clubs and activities aimed at easing the transition to civilian life. On-campus VA offices often employ certified counselors, academic advisors, tutors and benefits advisors to make sure veterans are successful. Seek this staff during campus visits. These individuals will offer insights into life as a veteran at that college or university. They also sponsor activities to let student vets get together and form a sense of campus community.

Veterans bring a unique perspective to the university experience. If they seek the experts, ask for credit for time served, and access the benefits they have earned, they can experience success long after they hang up the uniform.

This article was contributed by guest author Jeremy Silverstein.


Image by Aaron Burden,

Image by Aaron Burden,

Applying to college is many things—emotional, stressful, time-consuming—but it is definitely not easy. Your college application isn’t just an application, but a reflection of your work ethic, dreams, and ambitions. The pressure of summarizing your entire existence in a 1000 word paper is a lot to deal with, especially when the return (of accepted applicants) is so low. Each college requires something different in their application process, making the entire process quite lengthy. Instead of wasting that time and energy only to receive a refusal, invest it wisely and make an effort to stand out on your college application.

Know What Each College Is Looking For

College recruiters, be it for undergraduate or graduate programs, want students that will embody the spirit of the university. They want participants that will succeed in their particular academic environment. Show that you have done your research on the program you have applied to and cater to their individualized mission statements. Make it known that you are a good fit for the school and the program. If it is possible, mention faculty that you would be excited to work with.

Write (and Speak) from the Heart

Perhaps not-so-surprisingly, showing a genuine and honest interest is much more valuable than fabricating or embellishing information to sound interesting. Instead, write and speak in detail about the truth. Show that you notice small things. Liven-up your written work by elaborating on the exact feeling you had when you completed your first art exhibition or the squeak of your shoes as you walked up to the podium for an amazing speech you gave. The things you notice and mention in your writing have a lot of personality. If you are doing an interview, the same concept of authenticity applies.

Indicate Genuine Interest

While researching the college beforehand and writing honestly aid this endeavor, backing up your claims of interest with evidence is a sure way to stand out from the rest. Applying for one of the best health law schools? Include your award from the Pre-Law Society and mention the number of hours you’ve spent volunteering at the local hospital. Make sure your extracurricular activities are relevant and can help you demonstrate your passion for the field.

Showing that you are a real person with true interest in the university and field is a great way to stand out in your application. Show the office of admissions that you are hard-working, capable, and worthy of the program. Beyond that, you want to show them that you will learn from their program and use it to be a true asset to society.

This article was contributed by guest author Marlena Stoddard.

Image by Unsplash,

Image by Unsplash,

The college application process is undoubtedly one of the most tiring and hectic processes a student has to go through. It requires lots of documents, including (and likely most importantly) – the application letter. This is where many students lose their edge and can’t figure out how to write something that will make them stand out in the competition. Here are some tips that can help you write a captivating letter and get you one step closer to admission into the college of your dreams!

Present Personal Information in a Formal Manner

A letter of application is your chance to present yourself in the best way. Consider it your opportunity to give a written interview where you can refine your words repeatedly to craft a perfect letter. Be sure to write personal information but keep it formal and don’t be overly descriptive; just keep it relevant. Examples include writing about what you have learned through your previous experiences, what you expect to learn from college and how it will benefit you. If you can, try writing how your college education will give you the capability to help others.

Don’t Lose the Professional Touch

No matter how much personal information you include in your letter, make sure you write it in the most professional manner. Losing the professional touch means you are just another student who can’t find the balance between being personal and professional.

Give Proper Attention to Structure

Structure is a very important element, not only in college essays, but in every writing piece including your application letter. Make an outline of the things you will include in the letter before you begin writing. This will help you stay on track and eventually compose a well-organized application. If you write in a haphazard way, it will leave a bad impression and your points may not be made clearly.

Avoid Writing a Generic Letter

As you know, there are hundreds and thousands of college applications for an admissions panel to go through. In this process, they find many generic letters with more or less the same stories. Try to compose a different story so that your letter captures their interest. Begin with a captivating story, add objectives and always end it with your future goals and plans. This shows that you know yourself well and you have a plan for your future.

Write something interesting that describes yourself and your hopes attached to the college you want to secure admission in. Tell them how you think this specific college degree can bring a positive change in not just your own life, but in the lives of others as well.

This article was contributed by guest author Carlton Herman.

Image by Komsomolec,

Image by Komsomolec,

The college application process can be stressful and frustrating – especially when hard-working students fail to be admitted into their dream school. Future college students should be extra vigilant when submitting complete applications, and work to ensure their letter of admission will get them ahead of the competition. When it comes to writing and drafting your own, keep these tips in mind.

Be Personable, yet Professional
A letter of admission must find the right balance between being personable and engaging, but also intelligent and professional. In other words, a letter of recommendation is a one-sided interview that allows you to formally present yourself to a panel. Like a job interview, pleasant agreeableness must equally match your academic competency. Students should take advantage of this opportunity to include relevant and meaningful information about themselves. For example, they can share previous experiences that shaped their background, and transition into how they hope that the college program will positively benefit them. This can briefly include real-world problems, such as a family member with a health problem, and how the student hopes that their education will improve this problem, such as being able to help others receive medical care.

Be Organized
Like a resume or job application, a letter of admission is a snapshot of the candidate’s professional competency. That being said, a letter that is awkwardly designed and poorly written indicates a candidate that is neither organized nor clear-minded. A succinctly written letter creates a positive impression of a sensible and logical person. In order to maximize efficiency, students should consider creating an outline and carefully branching out to main points. The letter should also be visually appealing with a proper balance between content and white space. Be sure to ask a few friends with critical thinking skills to review and provide feedback.

Be Unique and Specific
Admissions coordinators must frequently sift through hundreds of generically written letters of admissions at a time. As a result, predictable content usually gets passed over. Students should consider presenting distinct content with a personal story that ends with future hopes and goals. Students can use factual information to support their claims and aspirations, and should cite their high GPA levels throughout high school to illustrate their academic consistency. Include relevant personal information, such as important volunteer work or extracurricular activities, which specifically points out their skills and demonstrates their candidacy for the target college program.

As a final note, students should clearly demonstrate how their degree will improve themselves and others as well. For example, students getting a degree in library science can share how their education will allow them to inspire young students. Make sure that overall, your letter shows who you are, and what you hope to become. Colleges will be more likely to choose you if your letter is written well.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Image by StartupStockPhotos,

Image by StartupStockPhotos,

When you’re a high school student applying to college, there’s a lot to keep track of — but a lot of the work can be done in a very natural way. Teachers provide reminders and suggested deadlines, parents are often more hands-on, and in many cases there are even counselors who can help with every step of the process. In other words: it’s difficult, but there’s a lot of assistance available for students who want to take advantage of it.

When you’re a college student or graduate applying to grad school, it’s a whole different ballgame. Students who fit this description are more independent and more mature, and as a result they’re expected do more of the work on their own. That’s not to say there isn’t any help available, but the responsibility tends to be more on the student’s shoulders to seek it out.

If you happen to be a student in the midst of discovering all this, here are some tips on how to get out in front of graduate school applications and make the process as smooth (and hopefully successful!) as it was when you were in high school.

First and foremost, go after your recommendations as early as possible. Professors are very busy people, and if you feel one is worth securing a recommendation from, chances are other students feel the same way. As soon as you know you’re applying to schools or you have specific schools and programs to which you need recommendations sent, contact any professors (or coaches, work supervisors, etc.) you may want to write for you. This gives them plenty of time to do the best possible job and get the recommendations in on time. As for choosing which professors to contact, the best tip is to choose teachers who know what you can do, as recommended by U.S. News. This advice goes the same when applying to college or grad school, and it’s important to understand properly: you don’t necessarily need the most popular teachers or the ones you enjoyed the most success with. Go for professors you’ve gotten to know, who understand and appreciate your work ethic, competence, and any relevant goals you may have.

You’ll need the recommendations no matter where you apply (though the specific number of recs required may vary), which is why that’s a good step to get out of the way right off the bat. But when you delve into the actual applications themselves, one of the first steps worth considering is to secure a coach or advisor if possible. Depending on your college, you may have a very helpful career center available as a valuable resource during the process. But even so, there’s nothing wrong with getting some more personal assistance and instruction. Menlo Coaching points to the numerous ways in which a professional coach can actually help you to organize your application and address each step properly. From choosing the right schools and programs to writing essays, designing resumes, and practicing interviews, a coach can help you to present yourself as effectively as possible throughout the process.

Finally, you’ll need to figure out how to nail the interviews. As stated, a coach can help with the preparation in this regard, but there’s ultimately something very personal about going through interviews, and in most cases this will be the experience that differs most from the undergraduate application process. Browsing through generic interview tips online you’re likely to come across all kinds of advice regarding how to dress, why you should make strong eye contact and be punctual, etc. But frankly, those are mostly common sense practices related to etiquette. Beyond how you present yourself, the actual content of an interview is extremely important, too, and requires more preparation. USA Today offers a wonderful guide to getting ready for an interview in which a number of the best bits of preparation are outlined. You’ll want to research the program you’re applying to and the careers it may lead to, figure out the individual school’s interview process, rehearse common questions, and be ready to articulate exactly why you’re interested in that program (not grad school in general). Addressing all of these ideas will help you to present yourself as an intelligent, disciplined, and goal-oriented candidate.

Every application carries its own demands, and each program is looking for different things in applicants. But by heeding these tips, you can set yourself up to put together competitive applications. That doesn’t make it an easy thing to do, but in this case preparation is more than half the battle.

This article was contributed by guest author Shannon Leonard.

Image by Aberdeen Proving Ground, Flickr

Image by Aberdeen Proving Ground, Flickr

“I must have been crazy to consider going back to school at 41 with two young children at home.”

“Even if I had gotten into law school, it would have been an insane amount of work, a lot of time away from my family, and a long haul ahead.”

“I should have spent more time studying for the LSAT.”

“I could have done a better job prepping for that law school interview.”

Relax the shoulders; relax the back. Let go of any tension you are holding in your body. And if there are any thoughts that aren’t serving you here today – let them go.

Karen’s words intrude on my negative train of thought, and I feel mildly annoyed because I’m in a funk, and while I know these thoughts “don’t serve me well”, today, I am determined to be angry. I crank up the tension on my bike a full turn, settle into my saddle, and through gritted teeth, push hard against the weight of the pedals.


You chose to come here today. What was your intention? Ask yourself: why am I here?

Ok, I am here, because I’m ticked. Four weeks ago, after being wait-listed for ten weeks, I found out I will not be attending law school this September. After I got the news, oddly, I wasn’t as disappointed, upset, or as depressed as I thought I would be. Maybe it’s because I assumed acceptance was a long shot to begin with, or perhaps after being in limbo for so long, rejection was a welcome relief. But today, I woke up mad. And this morning I came to spin class because I am angry with myself. But being ticked wasn’t my intention; it’s just how I’m feeling now. So, why am I really here this morning? I’m here to work it out – my frustration, my disappointment, my emotions – all this through gnashed jaws with the intention of feeling better by the end of my sixty minute spin class.

The decision to go back to school at my age is not an easy one, but I can say going through the process of applying to law school, studying and writing my LSAT, and seriously contemplating the possibility of attending school full-time for three years with a young family, was at once both daunting and exciting. I’ve certainly learned a few things on this ride, and no matter what age you are, or where your academic pursuits take you, I hope I can impart a few words of sage advice that might help make your journey a much smoother ride than mine.


This is the beginning of your ride. How are you going to set it up? Think about what you need to do this. Decide: How you are going to take this ride?

Lesson One: Develop a realistic action plan.

Assuming you have gone through the process of what your academic goals are and why you are choosing the path you have chosen, you now need a solid action plan. Develop a plan with tactics and deadlines to help you achieve your end goal. Map it out, use technology, block off time in your calendar, organize your time, and use it well. Oh, and I can’t impress upon you how important it is to be realistic about your time. In my case, having to sit down and study again after being out of school for fifteen years was an unexpected shock. Working toward corporate deadlines, doing laundry, making lunches, and doing homework with my nine year old had in no way prepared me for sitting down at the library for hours and training my mind to think a certain way so I could ace the LSAT. If you think it will take you 8 weeks to study for your LSAT, MCAT or GMAT – double that time. Of course there are exceptions, and this may not be the case for you, but life is busy. You may be completing your undergrad while studying, working part-time or even full-time, depending on your situation, but in life, unexpected things arise, so mitigate your stress levels by assuming you need the extra time up front, and pace yourself appropriately.


Dig down into your core, take a deep breath, and find what you are looking for. It’s somewhere between ease and effort. Don’t think about what’s coming next. Find your breath, find a spot in front of your bike, and focus on this ride.

Lesson Two: Think about one goal, one objective; stay focused, stay on task.

We’ve all got distractions and weaknesses, and for many of us it’s easy to procrastinate, especially when it comes to doing hard work. In my case, the challenge was related to my familial demands, but I have to be honest here – at times it wasn’t just because my kids were demanding my time; rather they became my inadvertent excuse to procrastinate. Sure, my kids would love to have me 24/7, but did I have to volunteer for all those pizza lunches? Speaking of pizza, I could have ordered in a few of those for dinner, instead of spending 90 minutes making that Dijon rosemary rack of lamb with grilled veggies. And did I really need to be home to tuck them in and read them a story every night of the week instead of heading to the library with my LSAT books, when my hubby could have managed just as well without me? I can tell myself that I’m doing all this for my kids, but there were times when I used them as an excuse to avoid studying as much as I should have. Why? Because studying for the LSAT is much harder than trying out a new recipe, or reading my 5 year old ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. Be honest with yourself about what your distractions are and don’t lose focus. This may mean putting tools in place to keep you on track. Get a study buddy, remove distractions (or remove yourself from distractions), and stay on track with your action plan.


Focus on your pedal stroke. There’s always a weaker side. Now focus on that weaker side, make it better, make it stronger, and even it out. Ask yourself: What can I change today? What do you need to do on this ride, to go for better? What are you going to do differently? Change something.

Lesson Three: Assess your weaknesses honestly; and then act on them!

Be honest with yourself about what you suck at. If that sounds critical – it’s meant to. Let’s be honest, we all naturally like to focus on what we do well, and keep doing more of that, because it’s easier. But we all have things we need to improve on. In my case, and with regard to the LSAT, it was logic games. I was honest with myself about my weakness, but what I didn’t do was act on it. Instead, I avoided it. I decided to cut my losses and improve on the areas of the test I already excelled at – because let’s face it, it was easier, and frankly it made me feel better about myself. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Find your weakness, figure out what you need to change, and tackle it until you get better.


Remind yourself of your intention, and why you chose to come here today. This is going to get heavy – push through! You’ve got some momentum here, stay with it, and keep this pace. You’re building this. Your endurance, your strength, every stride makes you stronger – this is how you build it. You can do this!

Lesson Four: Don’t slack off, and stay positive!

If it feels hard, that’s probably because it is. Obtaining a higher education isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, the end result wouldn’t be so rewarding. Remember: it’s competitive, it’s demanding, and if you can’t get through the entrance exams and the application process, then you won’t have the mettle for law school, med school or any other comparable academic pursuit. Yes, it will feel tough at times; in fact, in my case there were many times when I felt like giving up. Remind yourself what motivated you to pursue this path in the first place, bring your focus back to your goal, stay on task, and stay positive!


This is the end of your ride. You’ve got something here. How are you going to go for better?! Let’s take this home!

Karen’s words jolt me back to the present. I look down and see a pool of sweat under my bike. Ok. So, I didn’t get into law school this year, but it was quite possible that I could have. I also could have studied harder for my LSAT, done a better job prepping for my law school interview, and put more thought into volunteering for a cause — that would have provided a more relevant and tangible perspective for my future career pursuits. Next time, I will go for better.

So, this is your ride, how are you going to take it?


By Moyan Brenn on Flickr

The following GMAT infographic highlights some of the most crucial facts about the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) that you need to know.

Background Information
The GMAT is a computer adaptive test which adapts to the examinee’s level. This means that based on the responses, the computer automatically adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment. The GMAT is used to assess a student’s readiness for over graduate level business programs in 1500 universities worldwide.

Test Content/Timing
The GMAT takes a total of 3 hours and 30 minutes, and is made up four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment (a fancy way of saying essay), Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. The Integrated Reasoning section is most unlike other tests that applicants may have taken – this section requires the test-taker to reason through and analyze the data provided to answer the questions. The Quantitative and Verbal sections are similar in style to other standardized tests such as the SAT, but with a higher difficulty level.

Final Thoughts
From a basic overview of the GMAT to a list of 10 highly selective MBA programs, this infographic covers the most important topics and relevant information about the GMAT. Feel free to explore it below and share with your friends!

GMAT Infographic
Infographic by LA Tutors 123


By EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine on Flickr

The new SAT is fast approaching with the first version available for testing in March 2016. The infographic below outlines the most important things you need to know about the new SAT. Feel free to explore it below and share with your friends.

Background information
The SAT was first introduced in 1926, and is used to assess applicants to undergraduate programs after high school. Over 2,000,000 students take the SAT worldwide and over 6,000 colleges and universities consider SAT scores for admissions purposes.

Major Changes
This the first time in eleven years that the SAT has had a major overhaul. The most important changes include more time per question, no more penalty for guessing, less obscure vocabulary, calculator free math sections, and four answer choices instead of five.

Math questions will be reformatted to be more content-based, and the previous Writing questions will be incorporated into the new Reading and Writing sections. The new SAT score will no longer be out of 2400. Instead, each section will be scored out of 800 for a total of 1600. Additional scores that will be provided are individual test scores (Reading, Writing and Language; and Math), cross-test scores (Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science), subscores (scores based on specific content in each section), and three Essay scores (Reading, Analysis, and Writing).

Final Thoughts
From a basic overview of the new SAT to a list of 10 highly competitive universities and their relevant admissions statistics, this infographic covers the major changes and other relevant information that you need to know about the new SAT. For a more detailed breakdown of the test, please visit the new SAT resource page.

New SAT InfographicInfographic by LA Tutors 123

Image by Brandy, Flickr

Image by Brandy, Flickr

The GRE is used to gage a student’s ability outside of their institution’s grading methods. Since each university is different, the GRE is meant to give students a chance to showcase their intellectual talents on a level playing field.

The GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations, and is administered by the same company that administers the SAT and the TOEFL – the Educational Testing Services (ETS). Check out their site for further information.

Difference between the GRE and the GMAT

The GRE is accepted by a variety of graduate programs. Not all Canadian universities require the GRE, but many American universities do. Whether a graduate program requires or accepts a GRE score will be mentioned in their application guidelines/requirements. Many general graduate school programs will accept the GMAT as well as the GRE. In the past, the GMAT has been specifically directed towards business schools, but a growing number of business schools are now accepting the GRE as well.

The GMAT is more expensive to take, and can take longer to write than the GRE. The GRE is composed of three sections (analytic, verbal, and quantitative), while the GMAT is composed of four sections (analytic, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal). If you take both the GRE and GMAT, your scores cannot be compared or judged in relation to each other, as they are completely different tests with different formats and scoring methods.


The GRE is composed of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Overall, there will be six divisions of the GRE composed of any kind of these sections. The GRE takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. One half hour should be devoted to each of the six sections, as there is a ten minute break dividing the first three from the last three sections; but you should use your time however you see fit, according to your strengths and weaknesses.

The Verbal Reasoning section contains multiple choice questions that test your vocabulary and deductive abilities pertaining to words and written concepts. Most students run into trouble in this section because they have not brushed up on their vocabulary. Research the “top 100 words used in the GRE” to practice. Make sure you understand the meaning of the words in isolation, instead of relying on context.

The Quantitative Reasoning section is, in a word: math. Typically, the difficulty level will not go beyond grade 12 functions, calculus, or data management. If you took some of these math courses in high school, return to your notes to brush up. Students who did not take math in grade 11 or 12 should do some serious studying if they want to do moderately well in this section. Memorize the “special triangles,” how to find the area of basic shapes (circle, triangle, etc), and the Pythagorean Theorem.

The Analytical Writing section requires you to write responses instead of choosing from multiple choice. You will be asked to write a response that tests your analytical abilities, critical thinking, ability to articulate complex ideas, and of course, your writing skills. This section is essentially an in-class essay written in undergraduate final exams, but one that could be on any topic. To succeed in this section, outline the argument(s) and/or structure of your essay before you start writing.

Extra Sections

The GRE may include two extra sections – do not panic. Neither of these potential sections will count towards your score. One is an “Unscored” section that will not be identified within the test. The other is a voluntary “Research” section administered after the main test. Both these sections can contain any kind of question, verbal or math. Neither of these sections will count towards your grade. If you have more than the standard two math sections, it can be assumed that one of them is an experimental section; but do not try to skip the third math section on this basis, since the “Research” section will be anonymously mixed in with the others.


You can write the GRE on a computer or on paper. There is no difference other than the medium through which the test is administered. The computer-delivered test is designed to allow the flexibility of the paper-based test. You can move freely back and forth through the test questions, can tag questions to return to them later, use an on-screen calculator, and can edit answers within a section. The paper-delivered test will provide you with a standardized calculator – you are not allowed to bring your own.


You can choose which scores you would like the universities to see. If your score is better the second time you write the GRE, you can send that score to your desired university without them ever knowing the inferior original score.

The paper-delivered test is not offered very often, so research the future times months in advance to register if you want to write in this format. There is no maximum to how many times you write the paper-delivered test. You can write the computer-delivered GRE a maximum of once every 21 days, up to five times within a year.

Here’s a GRE Prep Guide if you want some more in-depth information on it.

Want to learn about other tests?

Image by Erin Kohlenberg, Flickr

Image by Erin Kohlenberg, Flickr

There’s more to writing a proper English essay than throwing together an introduction, body and conclusion. Here are some tips on how to knock your essays out of the park:

  1. Write the Introduction Last
  2. The first thing to do is figure out what you want to say. Once you have a clear idea and you have supported it with scholarly sources and examples, then start by introducing the topic, what you intend to say about it, and how you are going to explain it to the reader. It is safe to assume he or she has no previous knowledge of the topic.

    This is the lead for the rest of the essay. Make sure it grabs your readers’ attention. Don’t be afraid to use something unconventional or an interesting fact. You want to keep the reader interested enough to continue reading.

    Remember, the thesis statement is the last sentence in the introduction.

  3. Writing a Thesis
  4. The thesis should answer a few questions. How does your essay relate to the topic? Most importantly, what are you arguing? Does it focus on an idea for which you have ample information to write about?

    The thesis is the intention of the paper. What is the point of reading the paper? It should be original and answer the “so what?” question. Given the topic, what are you trying to say and why is it important?

    Remember to include the author, the issues with the text, and your approach in proving your point – i.e. compare and contrast, a methodical or theoretical approach?

  5. Essay Outline
  6. The outline of the essay is an introduction, body paragraphs and your conclusion. Do not follow the five paragraph or “hamburger”-style essay. These formats need to be expanded and more analytical in post-secondary education.

  7. Paragraph Format
  8. You should start your paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the intent of the paragraph. Follow it with your supporting point and the evidence. Each argument often has three points, and each point should have its own paragraph. Each paragraph should contain a conclusion that directly relates to the thesis. Your points must always relate to the thesis, the topic and what you’re proving in the essay.

    Make sure you indent and it is double spaced.

  9. Citation
  10. Spend time making sure you have properly understood the citation. Should you write “bibliography” or “works cited”? Is everything spelled correctly? Properly formatted? Know the difference between writing a quotation and paraphrasing.

    Do you need to include the author, title of the book, year or page number? What form is the professor asking for?

  11. Organization
    • If possible, use multiple screens – it helps you to sort information, and there is a lot that needs to be written and properly structured in the essay.
    • Colour-coordinate – highlight, change the font, and alternate between first and following drafts. This allows you to create your own legend. It keeps track of when you’ve written certain information, and you can pick and choose if you still want to use it or rewrite it.
    • Create its own folder – any information on your computer associated with your essay is in this folder. This is another organization technique that makes it easier to access your work.

  12. What Type of Essay is this?
    • Compare & Contrast
    • Argumentative

    This will help you structure your essay in terms of organization, word choice and even research. After you’ve figured out what you’re going to say, how are you going to say it? It’s safe to say you’re going to argue something or bring an obscure fact to light, but what’s the best way to explain it in five-plus pages?

  13. Take Time to Read Over the Entire Essay
  14. After you’ve written the essay, leave it for a day and come back, so you can read it with fresh eyes. It will be easier to catch mistakes, improper spelling, organization issues, and identify what doesn’t make sense.

  15. Peer Editing
  16. One useful technique is to have someone who hasn’t read your essay, or who has little to no knowledge of the topic, read it out loud to you. While they’re reading it, take notes. How does it sound to you? Is this the way you wanted the writing to come across? Does it make sense?

    Finally, ask them questions. Was it clear and easy to read? Could they understand the point you were trying to make? Most importantly, did they enjoy reading your essay? Bias not included.

Regardless of the type of essay you’re writing:

  • Avoid general statements
  • Refrain from using clichés
  • Present new ideas
  • Use your own words only – or cited otherwise
  • Make sure it relates to course material
  • Save everything, constantly!
  • Keep track of what you’re writing
  • Does it make sense?
  • Do you like it?
  • Have you done what’s required?
  • Ask questions for clarifications

These essay-writing tips should help you get on your way to submitting a thorough, properly structured essay. Tweet us @StudentsDotOrg and let us know if these tips helped you!

Before you start writing, be sure to check out this article on how to avoid getting an “F” on your academic paper.

Are you writing your supplementary essay? These tips might help you too.