Get Help Writing an Essay
Do you need help writing an essay? If you answered “yes” then you’re not alone. One of the biggest struggles that international students often face is writing an essay. For students whose first language is not English, writing an entire college essay in English can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are a number of honest essay writing resources to help you write a great essay.
When looking for help writing an essay it is important to stay honest and avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism refers to using someone else’s words or ideas without proper credit or citation and passing them off as your own. Colleges and universities all have their own policies for dealing with plagiarism, and the consequences are usually quite strict. You might find yourself failing the course, put on academic probation, or even asked to leave the school.
When most people think of plagiarism, they think of copying and pasting full paragraphs from Wikipedia into their essay. While this is indeed a form of plagiarism, it is by no means the only way to plagiarize, or even the most common. Plagiarism can also mean not putting quotation marks around a quote, buying essays that someone else has written, copying a sentence and its structure but changing just a few words, or using so many ideas or words from a source that it makes up the majority of your work. Most instances of plagiarism can be avoided by properly citing your sources, so it’s important to include a comprehensive list of works cited for your writing. If you’re unsure how to cite something, talk to your instructor about their preferred citation method. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
There are still resources when it comes to help writing an essay without resorting to dishonest means. These essay writing help resources include:
EssayDog® is a software that helps walk students like you through the process of writing college essays. EssayDog® can help you identify the elements of a great story which you can then use to create a great essay. Students who use EssayDog® watch short videos that guide them through the process of brainstorming and building an essay, then complete a short writing exercise after each video. These exercises will help you pinpoint your story in four sentences, find the overarching message and theme of your story, and link your story to the essay prompt. Once you’re done with each of these steps, the EssayDog® software uses these exercises to combine all of your work and create the first draft of your essay which will be ready for editing and proofreading. EssayDog® is a great resource for students who struggle with essay structure.
2. Writing Center on Campus
Most colleges and universities have an on-campus writing center free for students’ use. These writing centers are staffed by faculty and graduate students who can help students who are struggling to write essays for their classes. Students can seek help with specific assignments, or they can go to the writing center for help with more general essay-writing skills. The staff at the writing center can help you with structure, coming up with a strong thesis, and crafting supporting arguments. While you can go to the writing center with a finished paper to receive feedback and advice, you don’t need to have a finished paper to visit the writing center. You can come with ideas, notes, or a draft, and the staff there can help you write a strong paper. Some writing centers even offer English language and grammar tutoring, which can be helpful for international students.
When you work one-on-one with an instructor, you’ll have more opportunities to discuss ideas, ask questions, and learn to organize, revise, edit, or proofread. After a few sessions, you’ll likely notice a difference in your writing process; you may find yourself paying much more attention to your writing, writing more effectively and efficiently, and feeling more confident in your writing skills.
3. Take a Writing Class or Workshop
If you’re struggling with writing essays and want to improve your skills, taking a class or workshop can be extremely helpful. Check with your college or university to see if they offer any kind of writing seminar, which will teach essay writing structure, thesis writing, and general writing tips. These classes allow you to get personalized attention from writing instructors whose sole goal for the semester is to help you become a better writer. Often, these classes utilize peer editing exercises. Editing another student’s work and giving feedback is a great way to get better at editing your own work.
If your school doesn’t offer a writing class, you may find a workshop offered on campus or even a class you can take online, if you’re willing to pay. You can find online writing workshops that cover every aspect of writing, for every skill level.
4. Do Your Own Research
If you can’t find a class through your school, and you can’t afford to pay for a course, you can research this topic on your own. The internet is full of essay writing tips, and you can also study sample essays to get an idea of how a good essay is structured, how to craft a supporting argument, and what a strong thesis looks like. If you do this, it’s important to make sure your own writing remains distinct and different from the essays that you use to study; if your writing is too similar it can get you in serious trouble. Additionally, if you turn to the internet for writing tips, be prepared to spend a large chunk of time sifting through information to find a reputable source.
5. Find a Tutor
Whether through your school or simply another student on campus, finding a tutor is fairly easy. Check in areas around campus where students often advertise services, such as student lounges or the International Student Center. Tutoring is a great option because it allows you one-on-one time with your instructor, so they can give you all their attention and become familiar with your writing. A tutor who had a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer will be best prepared to help you improve in areas that you need. Although a great solution for one-on-one time, it can also be an expensive option.
6. Work with a Friend or Group
Writing an essay is difficult, so you probably know someone else who is also trying to become better at essay writing. It may be helpful to get together to encourage each other to write. You can also help edit each other’s writing and give feedback. Often, it’s easier to notice mistakes in someone else’s writing than in your own. When you work with a friend or a group of friends, it’s easier to stay focused and encouraged to write. If one of you becomes stuck, the other can give feedback and advice. Remember that writing doesn’t have to be a lonely activity; if you have an essay coming up, consider suggesting to friends in your course that you all get together to bounce ideas off each other and write.
7. Talk to your TA
In larger classes, your professor will likely be assisted by a TA, or teaching assistant. This is likely a graduate student whose job is to grade assignments and provide students with help. They may even lead a class or two throughout the semester. If you’re struggling with an aspect of the class, such as writing essays, it’s always a good idea to stop by your TA’s office during their office hours and talk to them about your options. Your TA will be able to point you towards helpful resources on campus, and depending on their availability, they may offer to read over your essay drafts and give you advice and feedback. Your TA is there to help students who ask for it, and it’s never a bad idea to go to them for advice.
If you are an international student worrying about your writing skills, there are many helpful resources that are available to you. Some of these may be a better fit for you than others, so it’s best to have an idea of how you want to improve as a writer and which option will best fit into your budget.
Essay Writing Center
You’ve taken the tests, requested the recommendations, completed the common app, and now it’s finally time to refocus on what you’ve been putting off: the essay.
While most students spend days, sometimes weeks, perfecting their personal statements, admissions officers only spend about three to five minutes actually reading them, according to Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon.
High school seniors are faced with the challenge of summarizing the last 17 years into 600 words, all while showcasing their “unique” personality against thousands of other candidates.
“It’s hard to find a balance between sounding professional and smart without using all of those long words,” says Lily Klass, a senior at Milford High School in Milford, Mass. “I’m having trouble reflect myself without sounding arrogant or rude or anything like that.”
The following tips will help applicants make the leap from ‘average’ to ‘accepted’:
1. Open with an anecdote.
Since the admissions officers only spend a brief amount of time reviewing stories, it’s pivotal that you engage them from the very beginning.
“Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start by sharing a moment,” says Janine Robinson, writing coach and founder of Essay Hell. “These mini stories naturally grab the reader … it’s the best way to really involve them in the story.”
Let the moment you choose be revealing of your personality and character. Describe how it shaped who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.
2. Put yourself in the school’s position.
At the end of the day, colleges want to accept someone who is going to graduate, be successful in the world and have the university associated with that success. In your essay, it is vital that you present yourself as someone who loves to learn, can think critically and has a passion for things—anything.
“Colleges always say to show your intellectual vitality and curiosity,” Robinson says. “They want kids who are going to hit the ground running—zoom to class and straight out into the world. They want them hungry and self-aware.
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3. Stop trying so hard.
“One of the biggest mistakes students make is trying too hard to impress,” Robinson says. “Trust that it is those every day, specific subjects that are much more interesting to read about.”
Colleges are tired of reading about that time you had a come-from-behind- win in the state championship game or the time you built houses in Ecuador, according to Robinson. Get creative!
Furthermore, you’re writing doesn’t have to sound like Shakespeare. “These essays should read like smart, interesting 17-year-olds wrote them,” says Lacy Crawford, former independent college application counselor and author of Early Decision. “A sense of perspective and self-awareness is what’s interesting.
4. Ditch the thesaurus. Swap sophistication for self-awareness
There is a designated portion of the application section designated to show off your repertoire of words. Leave it there.
On the personal essay, write how you would speak. Using “SAT words” in your personal statement sounds unnatural and distances the reader from you.
“I think most students are torn between a pathway dividing a diary entry and a press release. It’s supposed to be marketing document of the self,” Crawford says.
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5. Write about what matters to you, not what matters to them
Crawford recommends students begin by answering the question, “if you had 10 minutes to talk to them in person, what would you say?” The admissions teams are looking for authenticity and quality of thinking.
“Theoretically, I think anything could be ‘the perfect topic, as long as you demonstrate how well you think, your logic and ability to hold readers’ attention,” Crawford says.
6. Read the success stories.
“The best advice is to read essays that have worked,” Robinson says. “You’ll be surprised to see that they’re not winning Pulitzers; they are pieces of someone. You want your story to be the one she doesn’t put down.”
Once you find a topic you like, sit down and write for an hour or so. It shouldn’t take longer than that. When you write from your heart, words should come easily.
Rawlins recommends showing the essay to a family member or friend and ask if it sounds like the student. “Take a few days and come back to it. But only do that once,” Rawlins says. “Reading it over and over again will only drive you nuts.”
7. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
While colleges tend to nod to disadvantaged students, roughing up your background won’t help your cause.
“It’s less about the topic and more about how you frame it and what you have to say about it, Robinson says. “The better essay is has the most interesting thing to say, regardless of a topic that involves a crisis or the mundane.”
The essays serve as a glimpse into how your mind works, how you view the world and provides perspective. If you have never had some earth shattering experience that rocked your world, don’t pretend you did. Your insights will be forced and disingenuous.
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8. Follow the instructions.
While the directions on the applications may sound generic, and even repetitive after applying to a variety of schools, Rawlins points out that every rhyme has a reason.
“They have to know that college put a lot of thought into the instructions we give them—so please follow them!” he says. “We’ve given a lot of thought to the words we use. We want what we ask for.”
9. Use this space to tell them what your application can’t.
Most colleges don’t have the time or bandwidth to research each individual applicant. They only know what you put in front of them. “If they don’t tell us something, we can’t connect the dots,” Rawlins says. “We’re just another person reading their material.”
Like Crawford, he recommends students imagining they are sitting next to him in his office and responding to the question, “What else do I need to know?” And their essays should reflect how they would respond.
At the end of the day, however, Rawlins wants students to know that the personal essay is just another piece of the larger puzzle. “They prescribe way too much importance to the essay,” Rawlins says. “It makes a massive difference—good or bad—to very few out there, so keep it in context.”
Paige Carlotti is a senior at Syracuse University.
admissions essay, college applications, Paige Carlotti, writing, VOICES FROM CAMPUS