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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

When it comes to essays, university and high school couldn’t be any more different. Unlike your high school teachers who just wanted a simple hamburger essay, every professor comes with a different set of expectations (appetites). Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it’s not hard: it’s just something new to get used to! Here are some tips to help you get along until you become more confident in your essay-writing skills.

1. Write about what you love or what you know. The best moment is when these two intersect. Don’t let this deter you from exploring other areas, but it helps if you focus on something that you’re passionate about or find interesting. Whether it’s the role of gender, the historical facts, the mode of narration, or the structure of the novel, writing about something you like will make it easier for you to hit the books and, ultimately, easier to write your essay.


2. Start it early. This may be easier said than done, but it really does help to start it early. And I don’t mean two weeks before the due date: I mean a few weeks in advance if you can, at least for brainstorming ideas. That way you have time to formulate ideas, do some research, and (of course) edit your essay.


3. Straighten out the facts. Like I said earlier, every prof will want their essay done differently, so it’s up to you to get that information – especially where formatting is concerned. Ask about details such as word length, citing methods, font, font size, font spacing, margins, cover page, and anything else you can think of.

Tip: Be sure to ask about using “I” in an essay. Some profs hate it while others don’t mind it.


4.   Visit your professor/TA. Or both, if you have the time. Visit them before you begin your essay to get input on your thesis, visit them during so that they can help keep you on the right track, and if they’ll allow it, visit them with a draft. Not only are you able to learn and correct as you go along, but it also puts you at an advantage for when they read your essay since they already know what you’re trying to communicate!


5.   Some things to avoid: avoid contractions. Almost all professors see these as an informality. Try to avoid page-long paragraphs. Profs have to read tons of essays at once, and the last thing they want to see is a page of endless text. Avoid passive voice: active voice usually makes for a more formal and confident tone.


These are some good goals to have while writing your essays, but we all know how hard it can be to stay on track at times. So if a wrench gets thrown into your plan or you’re at a loss with your essay, don’t stress about it. Take a break, talk to a friend, get someone else to read it over, or take it to the Writing Support Centre. No matter what, you will get it done: you can do it!

Alero is a fourth year student at Western University. She is pursuing an Honours degree in Creative Writing & English and is looking forward to post-graduation plans. Her dream job would be something where she could either write or read for the rest of her life - preferably both.
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