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College Essays


If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.


Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.


Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.


A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.


What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )


Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.


If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?


Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.


  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Stuck on Your College Essay? 8 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

←How to Write a Last Minute Essay

11 Tips for Proofreading and Editing Your Essay→

We’ve all had that feeling. You know you have to write an essay, a research paper, or even a story, but you can’t seem to string two thoughts together. It’s frustrating, it’s disheartening, and you don’t know how long it’ll be before inspiration strikes again. 

This familiar feeling is commonly known as “writer’s block”. According to The New Yorker , it was once believed that writer’s block was caused by exhausting one’s supply of inspiration or a lack of external motivation. Now, thanks to the research of Jermone Singer and Michael Barrios, we know that there are four broad causes of writer’s block: 

  • Excessively harsh self-criticism 
  • Fear of being compared to other writers and their work
  • A lake of external motivation such as praise or attention 
  • A lack of internal motivation such as a desire to share a story with the world 

No matter which bucket your writer’s block falls under, you are certainly not alone, and you can definitely get your creative juices flowing again. Want to get over your writer’s block? Here are some proven techniques that will help re-inspire your writing. 

Tips For Overcoming Writer’s Block On Your College Essay 

1. freewrite .

A lot of people get stuck on the idea that what they write has to be perfect, and that pressure keeps them from writing down anything at all. If you find yourself feeling that weight on your shoulders, just take a step back for a minute. Give yourself some leeway to write whatever you want on the topic that you’re writing about, even if it’s grammatically incorrect or irrelevant. Just writing something down can often give the mind something to work with, and it can often lead to further inspiration.

Keep in mind that this freewriting can take whatever form you want it to. It can be full sentences, bullet points, even phrases randomly placed on a sheet of paper. Whatever gets your brain thinking in some capacity is a good step in overcoming writer’s block. 

2. Respond to Brainstorm Questions 

What if your writer’s block is so bad that you can’t even come up with a topic or subject for your essay? If you need a place to start, try thinking about something that is not directly related to your college essays. The easiest things to brainstorm are things that you know, like yourself. Here are some easy brainstorm questions to get you thinking: 

  • Who are my favorite characters on TV, Literature, and movies? Why are these my favorite characters? 
  • What is something that I would join a multi-day protest march for? Is there actually anything that I am passionate about?
  • Say I had to start a business selling something, and I would achieve the average level of success (financially, socially, etc) within that business, what would I choose to do?
  • What nonprofit or cause would I volunteer for assuming I could not choose an activity that I’ve already done or an activity available in my school?

While these questions may not be immediately relevant to the college essay you’re trying to write, they are introspective questions. So the more you think about answers to these questions, the more you are reflecting on yourself and your goals. If you can start writing down your answers, then you’re already well on your way to writing a personal statement or explaining your interests and passions to colleges.

3. Talk It Out With A Friend 

College essays always ask you to reflect on yourself, and who knows you better than some of your closest friends? While they shouldn’t write your essay for you, they can be a good sounding board for ideas while giving you some ideas of their own. Try contacting someone you trust and asking them how they would answer the essay prompt if they were answering it for you. See what comes to their mind. They may bring up an interesting approach to an essay that you hadn’t even thought about, or remind you about an aspect of yourself that you hadn’t already considered. Their ideas could help spark your ideas. 

Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be a friend. It could be a close relative, a neighbor, or even a teacher. You just need to talk to somebody who knows you well and can give you insight on how you should approach the essay, not how they would. 

4. Read a Memoir or Listen To a Podcast 

Inspiration tends to fuel inspiration, and what better way to get inspired to write a creative essay about yourself than to read/listen to others’ creative essays about themselves. Perhaps listening to people tell their stories will give you some ideas on how you can tell your story for your college essays. 

People share their stories in a variety of ways, both offline and online. You could read the personal memoir of someone who inspires you, or of someone whose story you relate to. If you want something that takes a little bit less time, you could listen to a podcast or watch a TED Talk of people telling their stories. Some other places to find inspiration are The New York Times’ Modern Love column or stories from The Moth . Most of the above are short and quick and could possibly spark inspiration for your own essay. 

i don't wanna write an essay

5. Change Your Environment 

Maybe it’s not that you lack ideas or inspiration. Maybe you just can’t, for whatever reason, seem to get your ideas down on paper. That’s totally normal, and there’s a chance that your environment has something to do with it. If you’ve been brainstorming in your room for hours or if you’re not comfortable wherever you are, it’s going to be very difficult for you to be able to write creatively and vulnerably. 

Try going somewhere else to write, preferably somewhere with fresh air and sunshine. A simple change of scenery can be surprisingly helpful in getting your brain to work again and letting the creativity come through. As long as you’re peaceful and comfortable wherever you go, it’s a good place to be writing. 

6. Get Some Exercise 

It is commonly accepted that exercise releases endorphins and other helpful chemicals that stimulate your brain and keep you happy. In this way, exercise can be very beneficial in the writing process. If you’re feeling frustrated because of your writer’s block, exercise can lift your mood and give you a much-needed break. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, the chemicals in your brain can help spark some creative inspiration for your essay. 

Of course, it might be a little bit difficult to go for a run or get exercise if you’re staying at home. Just remember that no form of exercise is better than another, and exercise doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. Do some jumping jacks in place, find an apartment-friendly workout video online, or just put on some music and dance in your room. The key is to get your body moving.

7. Use a Pen and Paper 

Most students type their essays on computers instead of writing them down, and this makes sense. Almost all college applications are submitted online now, and it’s easier to share your essays with others for editing. 

That being said, typing your essays may not be the best idea if you’re experiencing writer’s block. The blank screen in front of you may be a psychological deterrent to your creativity, and the internet may serve as a huge distraction. 

If you find yourself unable to come up with something to write on a computer, try going old school and writing your ideas with a pen and paper. If you don’t have any of that around, try jotting down some ideas on a dry erase board or chalkboard. Writing your ideas instead of typing them encourages you to jot down shorter ideas and think in an entirely different way. This can be a beneficial switch for your brain as you attempt to overcome your writer’s block.

8. Work On A Different Section 

Who says that you have to write your essay from start to finish? If you are having trouble coming up with the beginning, write the end or start somewhere in the middle! If you have an idea of what you want to say and how you want the essay to flow, you can write it down in whatever order you want. Write down the parts that come easiest to you and circle back to the parts you haven’t quite figured out yet. This way, you’ll at least have something written down, and you can use that something to inspire you to write the other parts of your essay later. 

Again, your essay does not have to be perfect on the first draft. If the different parts of your essay don’t seem to fit together because you wrote them at different times, that’s okay. At least you’ll have all of the parts written down, and you can edit from there. 

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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About the Author Stephanie Allen read Classics and English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and is currently researching a PhD in Early Modern Academic Drama at the University of Fribourg.

Image shows the beautiful New York Public Library.

Whatever your brand of brilliance – whether you’re a physics genius, a sporting hero or (like me) a blinky, bookish type – there comes a point in most students’ academic careers when being good at life means being good at essays.

You should also read…

  • Focus and Precision: How to Write Essays That Answer the Question
  • How to Conquer Your Nightmare Subjects

As the subjects you study get more advanced and complex, you’re increasingly asked to think, evaluate, and have opinions where you once might have simply made calculations or learned definitions. In general, the further you progress through your education, the more rote learning will be replaced by the kind of analysis usually best demonstrated by essays. If by some miraculous feat you manage to avoid writing anything substantial at high school, it’s something you’ll almost certainly have to face at university – yes, even if you’re studying a science subject (although the essays won’t usually be quite as long). One way or another, essay writing comes to us all.

Image shows the silhouette of a runner against the setting sun.

The likelihood is that at some point in the not-too-distant future (unless you are both incredibly reluctant and startlingly resourceful) you will have to write an essay, either in exam conditions or in your own time, that will count towards a final grade in some way. If this is a scary prospect for you, there’s good news and bad news. The bad thing about essay writing is that it’s not something – like French verbs, or the ability to run long distances – that miraculously gets better on its own if you just keep having a go. To improve at essay writing, students often need a paradigm shift: to figure out exactly what isn’t working, and why, and to learn and apply a new way of doing things. The good news, on the other hand, is that the individual skills required to write a strong essay are things you can learn, practise and improve in. This article is all about pinpointing what those skills might be, and giving you some suggestions as to how you might develop them. Not all these tips will work for all of you, but being good at essay writing, like being good at any other school-related discipline, is all about trying different things, and devising your own way of doing things.

Getting organised

Image shows the wood-panelled old library at Merton College, Oxford.

Before you even start planning an essay, I’d recommend you sit down and have a quick think about how you want to do it. First, what resources will you need? The internet, or library books? This might affect where and how you decide to work: I have wasted a huge amount of time trying to find versions of articles on the internet that I knew were in books at the library, or procrastinating because I wanted to work at home rather than leaving the house. I would recommend taking yourself to a library ninety-nine times out of a hundred. Secondly, if you’re working from books or downloadable articles, can you afford to work somewhere without the internet? The absence of Facebook and Instagram will guarantee your concentration will be about a hundred times better, which will show in the quality of your work. Next, make a little timeline for your essay. Make a list of everything you want to read and try to get hold of all your material before you start. Think about how long you’re going to spend reading and researching, planning, and writing – leaving a day or two before the deadline to make any significant changes, or just in case things don’t go to plan. I’d recommend allotting 3 hours to read a 20-page article, and about a day to write 2000 words. This might sound like a silly amount of planning, but the point of it is this: hundreds of all-nighters have taught me that essay-writing becomes incredibly stressful and painful when you’re up against the clock, and a reader can tell immediately if something is rushed or dashed off at 2am on the day of the deadline. What’s more, you simply won’t have your best creative ideas under pressure. If you’ve got time, have a look at this – comically eighties and slightly cringey – video about creativity . A lot of what the speaker says about thinking and playfulness is, in my opinion, directly applicable to essay-writing.

Gathering information

Image shows rows of bookshelves in a library.

Some teachers set reading lists for essays, or make suggestions about where students should look for information; others ask you to find sources yourself. Even if your teacher does prescribe reading, it’s always worth seeing whether you can find something extra that will add breadth, depth or a fresh perspective to your argument. However, it’s important to think carefully about whether a source is reliable and valuable.

What sort of sources should I use?

The most appropriate sources will vary from subject to subject. Here are some common ones: – Academic articles: These are essays by scholars at universities, and usually published in journals or as books. They are always useful, and can be found by looking in the library (ask your teacher for recommendations!), having a poke around Google Scholar, or, if your school has a subscription, on the website Search for key words and phrases and see what comes up. – Newspaper articles: might be useful evidence for an essay in History, but may not be detailed or scholarly enough for Biology. If you use a newspaper article or opinion piece, think about the factors that might bias it and include your thinking in your essay! – Wikipedia: a very useful starting-point, and an increasingly reliable resource. However, avoid referencing it: a teacher or examiner might not like it and may take against your essay. Instead, look at the reference section at the bottom of the article and see where the writer has gathered their information from. – Online blogs: in general, stay away from these, as you don’t know who’s written them and how valuable their opinion is, or how reliable their facts. The exceptions are blogs by well-known experts.

How should I take notes?

Image shows rows of bookshelves in a library.

It might feel like the world’s greatest faff, but taking good notes from your sources will save you a huge amount of time when you come to plan and write your essay: – Type out notes as you read, rather than simply underlining or highlighting – thus you’ll have a summary of the most important chunks of essays ready to use when you plan, rather than having to trawl through whole documents again looking for quotations. – For this reason, if you think you might want to quote something, copy it out in the exact wording of the writer. – Type notes in a different colour for each new source you read. In order to engage intelligently with what you’ve read, you’ve got to remember who said what, what they meant by it, who they were fighting against and whether you agreed with them or not. Colours are a really helpful visual aid to doing this. – At the end of each new essay or article, write a few lines summarising the author’s main points, and whether or not you agree with them. N.B. Your critical engagement with the scholars and authors whose work you’ve read will count for a huge chunk of marks. This does not mean listing a load of names and rehearsing their arguments; nor does it mean disagreeing with everyone for the sake of it. Instead, think about whether or not what they’re arguing holds true in your experience – or compare them to each other.

Image shows an old map, covered in pictures of monsters.

Planning is the single most important step in writing a good essay, and, frustratingly, also the step that’s most often rushed or neglected by students. If your essays often get criticised for having poor structure or unclear lines of argument, chances are you need to practise your planning. I use the following step-by-step process to turn my notes into a good plan; you can try it too, and see if it works for you. 1) Re-read your notes a couple of times, and underline anything you think is particularly important, interesting, or relevant to the area of the topic you want to discuss. As far as possible, try and organise your thoughts into sections, and see if you can link ideas together. Tip: It might be that you’ve got two or three different ideas for a topic, and you’re not sure which to go with: in this case, you can use a couple of different spider diagrams to see which works best. Where do the ideas link together most easily, or fall together into neat sections? Which question would you be able to answer most fully? 2) Sit back and look at your diagram(s), perhaps alongside your notes, and work out the main ‘point’ or conclusion you want to make in your essay. The best essays are characterised by a clear line of argument throughout – I don’t really buy the idea that essays should present both sides of a question. I always decide what I’m trying to say ; the point I want to conclude with, before I start. Now, the job you’ve got in writing the essay is to set this conclusion up. 3) Work backwards, using the links you’ve made on your spider diagram: what do you need to argue or show to make your point? Jot these ‘points’ down in a couple of words each. This forms the beginnings of a skeleton for your essay. 4) Start to fill out your skeleton with information from your notes, and any extra ideas you might have. If you’re writing a literature essay, it’s CRUCIAL that you include some close analysis of passages to support your argument. Jot down the sentences that link these in to the greater structure. 5) Fill out your skeleton more and more, until it’s essentially a rough draft in bullet points. Every twist or nuance of your argument should be in there; every introductory and concluding sentence for every paragraph, making it explicit how this paragraph answers your question.

Image shows a woman with her two daughters on either side of her, reading an essay that one of them is presenting to her.

6) At this point, it’s very helpful if you can get someone (a friend or a parent will do) to read over your plan and see if it makes sense. Does everything follow? Is it all relevant? Your plan should be so complete that the person who reads it will immediately be able to spot any flaws. Move things around, add or delete to incorporate their criticism: it’s much easier to change something in bullet-point format than when it’s all written out properly. Don’t expect this process to be quick or easy. For a 1500-word essay, I usually write a plan of about three sides, and spend at least three hours making sure that before I put pen to paper, every kink in my argument is ironed out. The pay-off of doing it this way is that the writing process is short and easy – a case of joining up the dots, polishing bullet-points into sentences – much better than coming up with ideas and organising thoughts at the same time as finding the words to express them. Get better and better: If you struggle with structure or clarity, practise your planning! Give yourself a limited amount of time (say, two hours), pick three previous essay questions from an exam or coursework paper, and plan your answers as thoroughly as possible. Get your teacher to look over your plans when you’re done.

The ‘actual writing’-bit can be the most daunting and stressful part of the essay process, and is where most students get stuck. Here are some tried-and-tested solutions to common writing problems:

I can’t get started

Image shows someone tapping a yellow pencil on a blank page.

It’s quite common to want your first sentence to be arresting, paradigm-shifting, to propel your reader headlong into your essay. However, this desire can be paralysing: one of the most stressful feelings in the world is that of staring at a blank page, thinking about the number of words you’ll need to fill it all up. The key to getting started is to just write something . Don’t worry about how good it is – get it down, and move on, and come back and change it when you’re well into your flow.

Writers’ block

Go back to your plan and make sure you know what you’re arguing. If you still can’t get the words out, try and write down what you want to say as simply as possible. Then move on to an easier section of the essay. Alternatively, you can try going for a walk, making a cup of tea or having a break.

It all feels a bit wrong…

Sometimes, in the process of writing, you’ll realise that you entirely disagree with two-days-ago you, and you don’t really believe in the argument you’re trying to make. If it is the case, go back to the drawing board. Don’t plough on regardless – a lack of conviction will show in your essay. Return to your plan, and see if you can use similar material but change the emphasis, and perhaps the odd bit of evidence, to produce a different argument.

Everyone has their own individual writing style: your might be as purple and flowery, or scientific and direct as you like (within reason). However you write, to get top marks, it’s crucial that you learn to be precise .

Style-wise, there are two poles of wrongness: vagueness, and over-complication. Of course, every subject has its particular vocabulary, and learning this will be crucial, and sharpen your analysis; but remember that little words are your friends too! Make sure that you know the exact meaning of each word you use. Crucially, make sure you know exactly what each word you’re using means, and think carefully about whether you’re applying it in the right context – remember that whoever is reading your essay will know better than you the meanings of zeugma, stagflation or symbiosis. Finally, don’t hide behind subject-specific vocabulary: make sure that you’re using terms to contribute to and develop your essay, and nothing of the flow is lost.

The boring stuff

– Get good at conventions like footnoting, and writing bibliographies. Examiners really do check these! – When you’ve finished, leave the essay for a day or two, and then re-read it. If possible, get someone to proofread for you. This way, you’ll avoid making lots of silly mistakes that threaten the clarity and flow of your essay.

Image credits: banner ; runner ; old library ; new library ; pens ; map ; parent ; tapping pencil ; egg . 

The Write Practice

Essay Writing Tips: 10 Steps to Writing a Great Essay (And Have Fun Doing It!)

by Joe Bunting | 118 comments

Do you dread essay writing? Are you looking for some essay tips that will help you write an amazing essay—and have fun doing it?

essay tips

Lots of students, young and old, dread essay writing. It's a daunting assignment, one that takes research, time, and concentration.

It's also an assignment that you can break up into simple steps that make writing an essay manageable and, yes, even enjoyable.

These ten essay tips completely changed my writing process—and I hope that they can do the same for you.

Essay Writing Can Be Fun

Honestly, throughout most of high school and college, I was a mediocre essay writer.

Every once in a while, I would write a really good essay, but mostly I skated by with B's and A-minuses.

I know personally how boring writing an essay can be, and also, how hard it can be to write a good one.

However, toward the end of my time as a student, I made a breakthrough. I figured out how to not only write a great essay, I learned how to have fun while doing it . 

And since then, I've become a professional writer and have written more than a dozen books. I'm not saying that these essay writing tips are going to magically turn you into a writer, but at least they can help you enjoy the process more.

I'm excited to share these ten essay writing tips with you today! But first, we need to talk about why writing an essay is so hard.

Why Writing an Essay Is So Hard

When it comes to essay writing, a lot of students find a reason to put it off. And when they tackle it, they find it difficult to string sentences together that sound like a decent stance on the assigned subject.

Here are a few reasons why essay writing is hard:

  • You'd rather be scrolling through Facebook
  • You're trying to write something your teacher or professor will like
  • You're trying to get an A instead of writing something that's actually good
  • You want to do the least amount of work possible

The biggest reason writing an essay is so hard is because we mostly focus on those external  rewards like getting a passing grade, winning our teacher's approval, or just avoiding accusations of plagiarism.

The problem is that when you focus on external approval it not only makes writing much less fun, it also makes it significantly harder.

Because when you focus on external approval, you shut down your subconscious, and the subconscious is the source of your creativity.

The subconscious is the source of your creativity.

What this means practically is that when you're trying to write that perfect, A-plus-worthy sentence, you're turning off most of your best resources and writing skills.

So stop. Stop trying to write a good essay (or even a “good-enough” essay). Instead, write an interesting  essay, write an essay you think is fascinating. And when you're finished, go back and edit it until it's “good” according to your teacher's standards.

Yes, you need to follow the guidelines in your assignment. If your teacher tells you to write a five-paragraph essay, then write a five-paragraph essay! If your teacher asks for a specific type of essay, like an analysis, argument, or research essay, then make sure you write that type of essay!

However, within those guidelines, find room to express something that is uniquely you .

I can't guarantee you'll get a higher grade (although, you almost certainly will), but I can absolutely promise you'll have a lot more fun writing.

The Step-by-Step Process to Writing a Great Essay: Your 10 Essay Writing Tips

Ready to get writing? You can read my ten best tips for having fun while writing an essay that earns you the top grade, or check out this presentation designed by our friends at Canva Presentations .

1. Remember your essay is just a story.

Every story is about conflict and change, and the truth is that essays are about conflict and change, too! The difference is that in an essay, the conflict is between different ideas , and the change is in the way we should perceive those ideas.

That means that the best essays are about surprise: “You probably think it's one way, but in reality, you should think of it this other way.” See tip #3 for more on this.

How do you know what story you're telling? The prompt should tell you.

Any list of essay prompts includes various topics and tasks associated with them. Within those topics are characters (historical, fictional, or topical) faced with difficult choices. Your job is to work with those choices, usually by analyzing them, arguing about them, researching them, or describing them in detail.

2. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “How can I have the most fun writing this?”

It's normal to feel unmotivated when writing an academic essay. I'm a writer, and honestly, I feel unmotivated to write all the time. But I have a super-ninja, judo-mind trick I like to use to help motivate myself.

Here's the secret trick: One of the interesting things about your subconscious is that it will answer any question you ask yourself. So whenever you feel unmotivated to write your essay, ask yourself the following question:

“How much fun can I have writing this?”

Your subconscious will immediately start thinking of strategies to make the writing process more fun.

The best time to have your fun is the first draft. Since you're just brainstorming within the topic, and exploring the possible ways of approaching it, the first draft is the perfect place to get creative and even a little scandalous. Here are some wild suggestions to make your next essay a load of fun:

  • Research the most surprising or outrageous fact about the topic and use it as your hook.
  • Use a thesaurus to research the topic's key words. Get crazy with your vocabulary as you write, working in each key word synonym as much as possible.
  • Play devil's advocate and take the opposing or immoral side of the issue. See where the discussion takes you as you write.

3. As you research, ask yourself, “What surprises me about this subject?”

The temptation, when you're writing an essay, is to write what you think your teacher or professor wants to read.

Don't do this .

Instead, ask yourself, “What do I find interesting about this subject? What surprises me?”

If you can't think of anything that surprises you, anything you find interesting, then you're not searching well enough, because history, science, and literature are all brimming   over with surprises. When you look at how great ideas actually happen, the story is always, “We used  to think the world was this way. We found out we were completely wrong, and that the world is actually quite different from what we thought.”

These pieces of surprising information often make for the best topic sentences as well. Use them to outline your essay and build your body paragraphs off of each unique fact or idea. These will function as excellent hooks for your reader as you transition from one topic to the next.

(By the way, what sources should you use for research? Check out tip #10 below.)

4. Overwhelmed? Write five original sentences.

The standard three-point essay is really made up of just five original sentences surrounded by supporting paragraphs that back up those five sentences. If you're feeling overwhelmed, just write five sentences covering your most basic main points.

Here's what they might look like for this article:

  • Introductory Paragraph:  While most students consider writing an essay a boring task, with the right mindset, it can actually be an enjoyable experience.
  • Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards.
  • Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay.
  • Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, it will also result in better essays.
  • Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn't have to be simply a way to earn a good grade. Instead, it can be a means of finding fulfillment.

After you write your five sentences, it's easy to fill in the paragraphs for each one.

Now, you give it a shot!

5. Be “source heavy.”

In college, I discovered a trick that helped me go from a B-average student to an A-student, but before I explain how it works, let me warn you. This technique is powerful , but it might not work for all teachers or professors. Use with caution.

As I was writing a paper for a literature class, I realized that the articles and books I was reading said what I was trying to say much better than I ever could. So what did I do? I quoted them liberally throughout my paper. When I wasn't quoting, I re-phrased what they said in my own words, giving proper credit, of course. I found that not only did this formula create a well-written essay, it took about half the time to write.

It's good to keep in mind that using anyone else's words, even when morphed into your own phrasing, requires citation. While the definition of plagiarism is shifting with the rise of online collaboration and cooperative learning environments, always  err on the side of excessive citation to be safe.

When I used this technique, my professors sometimes mentioned that my papers were very “source” heavy. However, at the same time, they always gave me A's.

To keep yourself safe, I recommend using a 60/40 approach with your body paragraphs: Make sure 60% of the words are your own analysis and argumentation, while 40% can be quoted (or text you paraphrase) from your sources.

Like the five sentence trick, this technique makes the writing process simpler. Instead of putting the main focus on writing well, it instead forces you to research  well, which some students find easier.

6. Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last.

Introductions are often the hardest part to write because you're trying to summarize your entire essay before you've even written it yet. Instead, try writing your introduction last, giving yourself the body of the paper to figure out the main point of your essay.

This is especially important with an essay topic you are not personally interested in. I definitely recommend this in classes you either don't excel in or care much for. Take plenty of time to draft and revise your body paragraphs before  attempting to craft a meaningful introductory paragraph.

Otherwise your opening may sound awkward, wooden, and bland.

7. Most essays answer the question, “What?” Good essays answer the “Why?” The best essays answer the “How?”

If you get stuck trying to make your argument, or you're struggling to reach the required word count, try focusing on the question, “How?”

For example:

  • How did J.D. Salinger convey the theme of inauthenticity in  The Catcher In the Rye ?
  • How did Napoleon restore stability in France after the French Revolution?
  • How does the research prove girls really do rule and boys really do drool?

If you focus on how, you'll always have enough to write about.

8. Don't be afraid to jump around.

Essay writing can be a dance. You don't have to stay in one place and write from beginning to end.

For the same reasons listed in point #6, give yourself the freedom to write as if you're circling around your topic rather than making a single, straightforward argument. Then, when you edit and proofread, you can make sure everything lines up correctly.

In fact, now is the perfect time to mention that proofreading your essay isn't just about spelling and commas.

It's about making sure your analysis or argument flows smoothly from one idea to another. (Okay, technically this comprises editing, but most students writing a high school or college essay don't take the time to complete every step of the writing process. Let's be honest.)

So as you clean up your mechanics and sentence structure, make sure your ideas flow smoothly, logically, and naturally from one to the next as you finish proofreading.

9. Here are some words and phrases you don't want to use.

  • You  (You'll notice I use a lot of you's, which is great for a blog post. However, in an academic essay, it's better to omit the second-person.)
  • To Be verbs (is, are, was, were, am)

Don't have time to edit? Here's a lightning-quick editing technique .

A note about “I”: Some teachers say you shouldn't use “I” statements in your writing, but the truth is that professional, academic papers often use phrases like “I believe” and “in my opinion,” especially in their introductions.

10. It's okay to use Wikipedia, if…

Wikipedia is one of the top five websites in the world for a reason: it can be a great tool for research. However, most teachers and professors don't consider Wikipedia a valid source for use in essays.

Don't totally discount it, though! Here are two ways you can use Wikipedia in your essay writing:

  • Background research. If you don't know enough about your topic, Wikipedia can be a great resource to quickly learn everything you need to know to get started.
  • Find sources . Check the reference section of Wikipedia's articles on your topic. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia itself, you can often find those original sources and cite them . You can locate the links to primary and secondary sources at the bottom of any Wikipedia page under the headings “Further Reading” and “References.”

You Can Enjoy Essay Writing

The thing I regret most about high school and college is that I treated it like something I had  to do rather than something I wanted  to do.

The truth is, education is an opportunity many people in the world don't have access to.

It's a gift, not just something that makes your life more difficult. I don't want you to make the mistake of just “getting by” through school, waiting desperately for summer breaks and, eventually, graduation.

How would your life be better if you actively enjoyed writing an essay? What would school look like if you wanted to suck it dry of all the gifts it has to give you?

All I'm saying is, don't miss out!

Looking for More Essay Writing Tips?

Looking for more essay tips to strengthen your essay writing? Try some of these resources:

  • 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay
  • Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

How about you? Do you have any tips for writing an essay?  Let us know in the  comments .

Need more grammar help?  My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates reports to help improve my writing is ProWritingAid . Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 20 percent off: WritePractice20

Coupon Code:WritePractice20 »

Ready to try out these ten essay tips to make your essay assignment fun? Spend fifteen minutes using tip #4 and write five original sentences that could be turned into an essay.

When you're finished, share your five sentences in the comments section. And don't forget to give feedback to your fellow writers!


How to Write Like Louise Penny

Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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  • College essay

How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples

The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

  • A unique, personal topic
  • A compelling, well-structured narrative
  • A clear, creative writing style
  • Evidence of self-reflection and insight

To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.

Table of contents

Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

What do colleges look for in an essay?

Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :

  • Demonstrated values and qualities
  • Vulnerability and authenticity
  • Self-reflection and insight
  • Creative, clear, and concise writing skills

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.

Create an essay tracker sheet

If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

  • Deadlines and number of essays needed
  • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

College essay tracker template

Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.

If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.

What makes a good topic?

  • Meaningful and personal to you
  • Uncommon or has an unusual angle
  • Reveals something different from the rest of your application

Brainstorming questions

You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:

  • What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
  • What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
  • What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
  • What makes you different from your classmates?
  • What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
  • Whom do you admire most? Why?
  • What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?

How to identify your topic

Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:

  • Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.

After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.

Vignettes structure

The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.

This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.

Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences

  • Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
  • Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
  • Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
  • Story: Broadway musical interests
  • Lesson: Finding my voice
  • Story: Smells from family dinner table
  • Lesson: Appreciating home and family
  • Story: Washing dishes
  • Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
  • Story: Biking with Ava
  • Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
  • Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.

Single story structure

The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.

Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.

Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person

  • Situation: Football injury
  • Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
  • Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
  • My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
  • Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.

Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.

Common insight Unique insight
Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying “no” to other interests
Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself
Choir tour → a chance to see a new part of the world Choir tour → a chance to serve in leading younger students
Volunteering → learning to help my community and care about others Volunteering → learning to be critical of insincere resume-building
Turning a friend in for using drugs →  choosing the moral high ground Turning a friend in for using drugs →  realizing the hypocrisy of hiding your secrets

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..

Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).

While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.

Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.

A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .

Show, don’t tell

“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”

First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.

  • What are the most prominent images?
  • Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
  • What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.

Use appropriate style and tone

Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:

  • Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
  • Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
  • Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
  • Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
  • Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).

You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:

  • Summarizing what you already wrote
  • Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
  • Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.

In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.

Option 2: Revealing your insight

You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.

Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.

It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.

Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.

Respect the word count

Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.

Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Check your content, style, and grammar

  • First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
  • Then, check for style and tone issues.
  • Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Get feedback

Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.

  • Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
  • Friends and family can check for authenticity.
  • An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.

The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.

College admissions essay checklist

I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.

I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.

I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.

I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.


It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

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How To Write When You Don’t Want To Write

Show information about the snippet editorYou can click on each element in the preview to jump to the Snippet Editor. SEO title preview:How To Write When You Don't Want To Write - Writer's

Let’s face it, no matter how much we’d like to think we are at our most creative and imaginative all the time, and often the last thing writers want to do is, well, write.

This can be particularly problematic if you are trying to stick to your writing schedule. We are told how important it is to do so. Yet, if you sit down at your computer one day and you just do not feel like you can possibly be productive, then how can you get past this? Should you even bother, or simply accept that you can’t feel like writing all the time, and try again tomorrow?

Trying to write when you don’t feel like it can be incredibly frustrating. So is there anything that writers can do to combat this, and rather than skipping a writing session, or two, or three, can we find ways to switch on our creativity and make sure that every time we write we feel excited, productive and happy to be there?

What’s perhaps most crucial to firstly point out is that it is entirely normal to not feel like writing sometimes. Writers can often get themselves into a panic when it happens to them, for, surely if they were real writers they wouldn’t have this problem? Well, no. It happens to everyone, and you can’t expect to bring your A game every single time.

What you can do, however, is push through it, and at least try before you give up and spend the rest of the day feeling like you have skipped school or pulled a sick day at work just because it was raining and you couldn’t be bothered.

Here’s how:

Reading is a fantastic way to ignite your creativity and feel ready to tackle your own work again. Allow yourself 15 minutes before you start a writing session to read something fantastic and relevant to your work. This might be all you need to get those creative juices flowing.

Think of writing as a job not a hobby

Be strict with yourself. If you treat your writing like the job that it is, you’ll stop making excuses. You can’t just not turn up to work because you don’t feel like it. The same applies to your writing. Sometimes just getting through the first bit, just showing up is the worst part, and once you start, you’ll soon get in the flow. So don’t give up before you’ve even given it a go.

Free writing can be a great way to loosen those creative cogs and help clear your mind of clutter before you start for real. So just spend ten minutes writing whatever comes into your head - don’t block anything, this isn’t going to be Shakespeare, it’s just the warm up before you start practicing properly.

Take some exercise

Exercise can be a great boost to help clear your mind, increase your focus and release endorphins to make you feel more positive and upbeat. So if you are really stuck. Get up from your computer, take a walk, and bring your notebook with you in case inspiration strikes.

Hang out with other writers

Fellow writers can not only be great listeners but are also the perfect people to bounce ideas off, to test out new ideas and to generally get creative with. Hanging out with like-minded people will help you feel more focused, and if you have another person holding you accountable it's harder to make excuses or procrastinate.

Stop with the pressure

Remember, sometimes your writing is going to be bad, and that’s OK. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to write perfectly all the time, and the more fun you can have with it the better. Remember you can always return to your writing and cut things out and edit them. So just get the words on the page for now.

Stick with the routine

Above all else, try to stick to your writing routine. If you can you can train your mind to expect to write at certain times, and so it will get easier - we promise!

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6 Tips on How to Write an Essay You Don’t Want to Write

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Remember the time when you had to write that one essay but simply did not want to? Most of us have gone through that initial period of frustration, thinking inside “ I don’t want to write my essay .” These are six tips to get you going when you do not feel like it.

Also, in such cases, many students use online services, such as Bestessayservicesradar , which help to do this as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

1. Develop Interest in the Topic of the Essay

To compose a good essay, you should enjoy the writing process and devote more energy to your work . Bear in mind that the journey matters more than your destination! One of the ways to do that is to develop interest in the topic of your essay. If you can connect with the topic on a personal level, you will find that your initial disinterest in writing the essay will start to diminish. By relating the theme to the experiences in your personal life, you will feel keener to write on that particular topic.

2. The Panacea for Writer’s Block: Do Some Free Writing

Even the most competent writers go through the phase of writer’s block occasionally in which they genuinely struggle to put words on paper. As a result, most of them lose interest in writing. However, do not fret if you are facing the same issue!

Give yourself some time to write about anything that comes to your mind. At this point, do not bother focusing on being productive and allow your writing to be completely random. The purpose of this freewriting is to get those creative juices flowing again in your body that would prompt you to write your essay.

3. Create an Outline for Your Essay

You might have heard this piece of advice numerous times before from your schoolteacher. If you are having difficulty in devoting yourself to writing the essay, take some time to outline the content that you intend to put down in your writing piece. Creating a solid outline for your essay works to your advantage and makes the writing process a whole lot easier. Moreover, you might get excited about the writing itself after you have jotted down the outline. A solid outline encompasses all the important elements you wish to include in your essay.

4. Start Where Your Passion Lies A useful tip to write an essay you are not interested in writing is to start working on the part of the essay that you feel most enthusiastic about. For example, you can start with the conclusion first if you already know how you would like to conclude your essay. Alternately, if there is a portion of the essay, which you think you will enjoy writing more, you can begin with that! Writing that particular portion first will get your motivation back. Once you get the momentum going, you can work on the other portions of the essay easily. Also, you can find some examples of essays on free sources like to find more information and to compare them to your materials.

5. Take Regular Breaks

You do not have to complete your essay at one stretch. Take short breaks every now and then. This is important to reinvigorate yourself from time to time. There are several activities you can engage in to unwind and boost your energy such as taking a quick nap, chatting with your friend, watching your favorite TV program, getting some exercise done and so forth. Just ensure that you give yourself a deadline to return to your essay writing. When you return, you will feel recharged and ready to devote more energy to your work.

6. Get Rid of Distractions and Reward Yourself for Good Work

Distractions galore are a core reason why you might be struggling to commit yourself to the essay or any other task generally. Find yourself a quiet place where you can concentrate on writing on your essay. Refrain from surfing the internet aimlessly and ensure that the only time you access the internet is when you have to do research for your writing piece. Furthermore, put your phone in silent mode. The last thing you need is for it to ring incessantly when you are trying to focus on the essay.

It is also important to reward yourself and give yourself small incentives throughout the writing process. Make sure the incentive is personal and something you will actually enjoy. It has to be something that will keep you motivated to complete the essay. For instance, if you have a sweet tooth, you can give yourself a piece of cake after you have completed one section of the essay.

Bottom Line

It happens often to most of us when we do not feel remotely interested in writing an article that we have to. The aforementioned strategies are just some of the many effective tips you can follow to motivate yourself to write an essay you do not feel like writing. The key is to get past that initial obstacle which is the proverbial wall between you and the essay that you have to write.

I Don’t Have The Motivation To Write My Essay , What To Do Now?

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Table of Contents

Are you there staring at your essay? Not even sure of where to start from, not to talk about completing it. Sometimes it feels like you have hit the wall, and you don’t have the motivation to write.

If you are demotivated to start your essay writing and are overwhelmed, ask yourself, ‘how do I write my essay’ or ‘should I possibly get help to write my essay online?’. You are not the only student who has found themselves in this situation.

Writing can be so thrilling when we have all our thoughts well penned down in our writings. But sometimes, our minds blank out, finding it difficult to write. I have discovered and organized a list of tips in this article that will help you be motivated and enthusiastic about starting working on your essay.

Watching this video before reading the post really helps you:

Tips for finding the motivation to write your essay

Writing an essay is part of college life; however, many students dread writing because having a good essay requires a lot of research, time, and concentration. After facing some challenges on this part, many students are quick to “throw in the towel”.

1. Know the cause of the lack of motivation

The first step to staying motivated is to ascertain why you are not motivated to write your essay there are many reasons and factors that could have possibly led to these, some of which include;

  • Lack of interest in the Essay topic: this often happens when the given essay assignment doesn’t interest you. 
  • Lack of confidence: When you don’t trust your writing abilities and are already viewing your essay as “a piece of trash”, this can jolt your motivation.  
  • Feeling overwhelmed: Because of the nature of essay writing, which requires a lot of effort and time, it can take over your mind and make you feel intimidated. Hence, make you lose the motivation to write your essay.

2. Choose an interesting topic

One of the primary ways to keep your motivation to write an essay is to choose a topic that you find interesting. Some articles don’t afford you the luxury to select the subject, but when you do, don’t choose a topic you aren’t interested in.

Writing an essay on a topic that interests you is enough motivation because you genuinely want to know more about what you are writing about, making it more fun and exciting.

3. Minimize distractions

Create the right environment by shedding off extra tasks that take most of your time to focus on writing your essay, including music, noise, your mobile device, and the internet. You can block some websites that might distract you.

4. Find a conducive environment to write your essay

Find an environment that is convenient and comfortable to write your essay. The less distracted you are, the better it is for you to focus on what you want to write, getting a serene, quiet, and clean place that won’t drain your energy due to discomfort.

The feeling of being relaxed and in a conducive place would be an excellent motivation for you to write.

Read more:  When You Focus On The Good The Good Gets Better

5. Gather all the necessary materials you need to write the essay

Have your necessary tools and resources at hand when writing your essay, including articles, writing materials, or your computer system, as this also eases unnecessary stress that can demotivate you.

You can also plan to reward your effort with snacks or coffee; you can have them available also as you will need to be energized and comfortable as you write your essay.

6. Break down the writing process

You don’t necessarily have to rush the whole essay assignment at once; we spoke earlier about being overwhelmed by the essay assignment as one of the reasons for being demotivated. So, take it a step at a time.

To avoid being intimidated by the workload of doing it all at once. You can break down the writing process by setting aside time for research, writing, editing, and proofreading. Don’t rush to finish the essay; you will maintain motivation if you take it gradually.

7. Create an outline

Creating an outline helps you write clearly and efficiently; it gives a sense of direction and gives your writing a focus.

An essay comprises the introduction, body, and conclusion.

The outline does not have to be extensive but should include the main points your essay will make. It helps you follow a particular format and save the article from rambling. 

8. Divide the word count for each section of the essay

You should determine the number of words in each section of the essay.

For instance, in an essay of 1500 words,  I would have 150 words for my introduction and conclusion and 300 words each for four body paragraphs.

Breaking down the number of words for each section depends on your choice. The closer you get to each word target for the units, it also serves as motivation and encourages you to continue.

9. You don’t have to begin with the introduction

Yes, in every essay, the introduction section comes first. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be written first; people often get stuck at the introductory part, not knowing what to start with. 

The introduction section is an essential part of an essay, so you tend to face a lot of pressure because you have to ensure you start with something that can get your reader’s attention.

It’s not a bad idea to start with the body paragraphs before you decide to write the introductory part. In fact, writing the introductory part after the body makes it relatively easier.

10. Take breaks

Taking regular breaks is quite crucial in staying motivated. Take a break from your writing and do other activities aside from writing, like taking a walk down the street; it helps refresh your mind.

You can also get a few drinks and snacks to keep your energy level up; you are advised not to consume too much as it can slow down your pace.

11. Reward yourself

In every field, reward boosts motivation. Creating a reward system for yourself when you finally complete the essay will motivate you to push yourself to write the article to get the compensation at the end. It can be something as simple as eating at your favorite restaurant or going to a cinema.

We also have found this awesome podcast that teaches you how to start writing an essay:

Getting a writer motivated to write an essay might be pretty tricky, but it’s not impossible, especially if it’s not a topic of interest. However, follow the tips we have put together for you above on how to be motivated and make it easier for you to approach your essay efficiently.

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Written by Saeed Ahmadi

Who am I? A blogger, mindset mentor, personal development coach, content creator, SEO Specialist, digital marketer, entrepreneur, reader by night, and writer by day.

Mindsetopia, my brainchild, is more than a platform, its my vision of a world where everyone has access to the tools and knowledge necessary for personal growth and self-growing.

What really makes me excited is helping people to unlock their true potential. So,I am here to give you the kick you need to change your mind and then your life :)

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7 Ideas for Writers Who Have No Idea What to Write About

  • June 27, 2023

How do you write an essay, article or blog post when you have no ideas and nothing to write about? When I taught Language Arts and Journalism, I often watched students stare at their blank pages, bewildered. They knew they had to write – and they even wanted to write – but they had nothing to write about.

Welcome to the club! It’s illustrious and teeming with authors, bloggers, scriptwriters and freelancers. All writers get stuck sometimes. Even professional journalists on assignment, published book authors with an editor breathing down their neck, and Oscar-winning screenwriters who have a swiftly-approaching deadline. Even unknown bloggers like me get stuck even though I typically write more than 2,000 words a day. Actually, my problem is a little different: I have too many ideas, too much to write about …and I get paralyzed. I feel like I have nothing to write about because of my jumbled thoughts and ideas and plans.

But even though I often have ideas for blog posts and even magazine articles (which I never pitch because I’d rather be blogging), I know the feeling of having nothing to write about. So you’ve come to the right place, fellow scribe. Put your feet up; my seven writing tips will give you something to write about. I guarantee it! Because even if you still aren’t motivated and have no ideas at the end of this blog post, you can write about how bored and tired you were while reading. And then you can write about that .

Yes, I was an annoying teacher. When students came to me and said, “I have nothing to write about” I’d tell them to write about that (being bored and uninspired). Where does your mind go when it’s unoccupied? How often are you bored? What do you think about and feel most often? Who do you think about when you have nothing to do? What is the most boring activity in the world? Write about stuff like that.

But read these tips first. You may find more ideas than you can shake a pen at.

7 Ways to Get Ideas to Write About

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open,” says Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within .

Easier said than done, Natalie.

You may be perfectly happy – and willing – to write about ideas that disturb and scare you. The problem is you have no ideas . Word of warning: Don’t fall into the trap of believing you have “writer’s block.” That will become a self-fulfilling downward spiral and you really will have no ideas to write about. Instead, focus on  writing a rough first draft  of your project.

1. Don’t drown in discouragement

Discouragement is a death knell for successful writers because once it sets in, it suffocates your motivation to write. Discouraging thoughts will kill your creativity and suffocate even the smallest spark of a good idea. Instead of sitting and staring at your blank paper or screen (like I forced my students to do), get up. Go somewhere. Talk a walk, run, bike ride or swim. If you’re in class, ask your teacher if you can walk around the school. The most important thing is to fight the discouragement.

The best way to fight discouragement is to get specific . Are you discouraged because, say, you’re not get­ting enough traffic to your blog right now? Or many you have nothing to write about because you feel pressured to make money as a freelance writer. Or maybe you’re trying to find an essay topic. I don’t know what your situation is…but you do. And that means you need to dig around inside you .

Took a long break? Read How to Motivate Yourself to Start Writing Again .

2. Stop thinking about what to write about

Take a deep breath. Settle your bum in your chair. Close your phone or laptop. Get off the internet; it’s a distracting, not an idea-generating machine.

Instead of trying to find something to write about, just start writing whatever comes into your head. Let your thoughts flow, your imagination rise, your emotions bubble to the surface. Don’t think. Just write whatever is in your head. What made you mad last night? Who are you worried about? Why are you looking for ideas to write about? Where are you going tomorrow? Write about it all.

3. Do the “Write ~ Reward” dance

To force myself to write when I think I have nothing to write about , I say: “Laurie, after you’ve worked on the editor’s assignment client’s stuff for 30 minutes, then you can reward yourself by blogging for an hour.” I don’t consider blogging writing . This is play. To me, real writing involves books, magazine articles, church articles and copy for clients. After I do my real writing, I reward myself by blogging.

What’s your idea of real writing? What’s your idea of a reward for coming up with ideas to write about, writing for 20 minutes, then taking a little break? This dance can take you miles down the road…and you’ll barely notice how far you’ve come. Until you arrive at your destination. Then you’ll be a happy writer.

4. Put a new spin on an old theme

Some writers have more ideas than they can use; other writers struggle to come up with ideas they think editors, agents, or publishers will buy. One way to write despite “idea block” is to spice up what’s already been written. For example, there are a million articles on how to write a book. How can you spin this idea and make it more unique?

Here’s an example from earlier this morning: a couple years ago I wrote an article for alive magazine about women’s circles (which I called “girl gangs”). This morning I used some of the research and interview excerpts to answer a reader’s comment. I called this new blog post How Women’s Circles Help You Stop Feeling Bad About Yourself . Learn how to rewrite previously successful (or boring) themes and ideas in fresh new ways.

5. Allow yourself to start write bad, boring stuff with bad, boring ideas

“All of us who do creative work … get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good,” says American public radio personality Ira Glass. He won lots of awards, including the Peabody, and wrote the forward of Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Abel.

“A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that .

6. Remember how fast words add up!

Write a lot…one word at a time. “The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work,” says Natalie Goldberg. “Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap.”

If you’re a new freelance writer, you’ll hate spending hours writing and pitching article query letters, and hearing nothing back from magazine editors. Find a writing buddy to help you through the dry spells. He/she can be another freelance writer or an entrepreneur. Find someone who has career goals similar to yours, and work together to achieve your goals. Make a pact to share your progress – and figure out effective “punishments” if you don’t perform satisfactorily. Be there for each other.

7. Say yes to writer’s slump (but not writer’s block)

“Writing is elemental,” said Natalie in Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within . “Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water.”

Natalie Goldberg also said:

“A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.”

Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children.

We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.”

What do you think, fellow scribe? I hope one of these ideas will give you something to write about…or at least something to think about. Eventually your thoughts will lead to something worth writing down. And all will be well!

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16 thoughts on “7 Ideas for Writers Who Have No Idea What to Write About”

Your points are interesting. When I hit that wall where I’m completely stuck and feel almost “stalled”, what I do is I go out to ezine articles and start looking at what others have written about the subjects that I’m interested in. While I’m doing that I jot down the ideas that come to my mind so that I can remember them later.

I split my research time from my writing time too. That way I can let my creative juices flow without getting bogged down in trying to produce something right then.

The other thing that I do is I break my ideas into sub-sections and write about each sub-section. Typically I shoot for writing 350 to 550 words per sub-section and make 3 to 4 points.

There’s my 2 cents.

It’s not JUST that I think it’s pointless to spend so much time writing rubbish and am scared to try or whatever, and I didn’t understand what you even meant by the last part about it being stupid to go to a cafe or something… – I don’t have anything to say at all! Not ‘my ideas are bad’ or ‘I can’t write’ (although that’s true too – whenever I want to say something I often can’t find the words and am unable to get across exactly what I mean, and it’s SO frustrating), but I don’t have ideas at all! I literally do not know how to have ideas. People just say ‘well think’, like it’s that easy and obvious and I must be stupid to not have any. I think constantly. I can’t understand anyone who doesn’t. But I think about things, not think of new things. There is nothing I have to say that wouldn’t be a copy of something that’s already been said. And why would one copy something almost word for word? That’s copying, not creating. I just feel like I must be stupid because all the so-called advice still means nothing to me. I want to be able to create things, I just don’t know what. Any of my so-called thoughts are just ‘oh, that book was good, that film was good, that idea that so and so was talking about was good’. Not ‘oh wouldn’t it be cool if ***stuff that I’ve not been told directly by someone else before at some point***’. I just feel so stupid. And if its a case of ‘oh you’re just not meant to be creative’.. well apparently my life has been telling me I’m not meant to do anything. I seem to fail at anything I try, or want to do, and I feel so pathetic seeing people talk like it’s obvious and easy and even the ‘problems’ are solvable. Nobody seems able to tell me how to have something to say, only that I should start saying it.

Hey. I want to write. When i was in school I wrote a lot. I wrote some songs for my ex. I don’t know if I i can write or not but sometimes it feels like I really should write. i had ideas butI then seem to disagree with them. this post of yours in a way guided me. I am looking forward to you and myself. Maybe I don’t know this is gonna help me in many ways.

Ah! Laurie, you just prodded me to action. Thank you very much. Do you know that for several months now, I’ve not been able to write a word? Now I’m beginning to do something. If I become any kind of a writer one day, you will be the first person on my mind that has really encouraged me. Thank you.

Thanks for your comments! I’ve learned that it’s crucial to write down my ideas at the exact moment I have them, or I’ll forget…and then I’ll be stuck. That’s how I write a blog post – and sometime two – every weekday.

More From Forbes

How to write when you really don't want to.


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By Syed Balkhi, the founder of WPBeginner , the largest free WordPress resource site that helps small businesses start their websites.

If you carry out marketing, then it’s very likely that you’re writing content. Whether you’re working on blog posts, social media content or publishing articles on guest blog sites , writing is a continuous activity. There isn’t really a way to scale your content writing, and you have to come up with unique and interesting content every time you write. 

The process can be demanding, and it’s a common experience for writers to get overwhelmed. Being able to continue writing even when you don’t feel good about it is an experience that you need to learn to contend with if you do any kind of writing at all.

Here are my tips for writing even when you really don’t want to. 

Try freewriting.

We often resist writing because, at a subconscious level, we worry about getting the words perfectly right. Freewriting is a technique that can help overcome this mental block by getting you to perform the act of writing without any pressure. 

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Set a timer for twenty minutes; you can also choose the time interval you like. During this time, start writing anything at all, and don’t stop for any reason. Don’t edit or pause to think. You’ll get words down on paper or on a word processor. This is a great start because you’ll have your material down — parts of it will be usable, and other parts will need editing. 

When your timer runs out, stop. Now you can focus on editing your content, rearranging paragraphs, correcting grammar and punctuation mistakes, and making other changes.

By the time you’re done writing, you will have overcome your mental block and will find yourself in a state of flow. Make sure that you ride this feeling and get your work done. 

Work on ‘chunks’ of writing.

If you have to write a large amount of content every day — for example, 1,000 or more words — it’s common to feel intimidated. To make your writing goals seem less overwhelming, work on a single "chunk" of your content at first — and do this without thinking about the rest of the work you have to do. 

Usually, this is the introductory paragraph, although if you feel more confident about expanding on your main theme, then that’s where you should begin. 

When you’ve worked on even one part of your writing, you’ll feel closer to finishing. This small sense of accomplishment will remove resistance, and as in freewriting, you’ll find it easier to enter a state where you’re ready to get down to work. 

Change your environment.

One helpful tip is to change your work environment. If it’s safe to do so in your area, you could go to a cafe and write while maintaining social distance from others. The smell of coffee, listening to light music playing and sitting in a place with tasteful decor can help change your frame of mind. At the very least, you’ll get a much-needed mental break that will put you in a better frame of mind for working. If you aren’t keen to go out, just working outdoors or moving to a different place in your home can help. 

Give yourself permission to do a ‘bad’ job.

More often than not, the reason you can’t write is that you’re dealing with a mental block, often the desire to do a good job or even a perfect job. If you’re sleeping well and generally taking care of yourself, then this type of block is resistance — something that is very common to any type of creative person. 

I find that the best thing to do is to work through it, giving yourself permission to do a "bad" job. It’s important to note that the word bad is in quotation marks because it is unlikely that you will write poorly. And even if you do, you’ve given yourself permission to make mistakes and create a draft that you can improve on. 

The fear of not getting things right can stop you from doing your best work or any work at all. Be aware of this and start to feel comfortable with doing a so-called bad write-up. 

The very act of writing in spite of feeling resistance will help you clear your mind and focus on improving the material you’ve worked on. You’ll even find that your draft is better than you expected. 

We’ve all been in a space where we need to write for personal or professional reasons and simply don’t want to. In this post, we’ve looked at a few helpful ways to overcome this resistance without making it a grueling process. 

Use these techniques individually or combine them to help you write. The important thing to remember is that it is unlikely that you’ll ever stop feeling resistance because that is just part of the creative process, according to many writers, including Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin. 

As you practice writing with these tips, you’ll push through mental blocks and deliver content in a timely way, impacting your business and professional life to create growth.

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What Do I Do if I Can’t Write My Paper?

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I've been there, staring at a blank document, the cursor blinking mockingly at me. Trust me, I get it. You're thinking, "I can't write my essay, and I have no idea how to move forward." I’ve felt the same frustration during my time as a student. If you're seeking guidance and assistance, services like Paper Coach can provide valuable support. Let’s take a deep breath together and break down some simple but effective solutions to help you navigate this situation.

3 Main Reasons Why You Might Be Struggling with Essay Writing

Let's first look at why you're stuck. Saying, "I don't want to write my paper," usually hides deeper issues. From my experience, three main roadblocks can stand in your way: writer’s block, lack of resources, or lack of time. Identifying the real problem is the first step toward effective problem-solving.

You Have Writer’s Block

The classic culprit: writer's block. You're not alone if you're asking, "Why can't I write?" Writer's block is a mental barricade that stifles creativity and makes even the first sentence seem like climbing Mount Everest. During my student years, I found reviewing examples and seeking support from friends or writing centers and services like WritePaperforMe helpful. A fresh perspective can sometimes knock down the wall holding you back.

Facing writer's block is tough but not unmanageable. I used several strategies when I was in that "I can't write" rut. A simple change of scenery worked wonders for me. Go to a park or café. Fresh air and new environments can stimulate your brain. Engage in physical activity; even a quick jog can reboot your thought process. Last but not least, free-writing exercises can help you get those creative juices flowing again.

Your Essay Topic Is Terrible

Have you ever considered your essay prompt and thought, "How long to write my paper on this horrific topic?" A terrible or uninspiring subject can be another roadblock. I've often stared at the screen, my outline mocking me, unable to move past this mental block. The lack of passion for the topic affects your thinking and ability to tackle the assignment.

Stuck with a topic you despise? I've been there. The thought, "I don't want to write my essay," buzzes in your head. Here's what helped me:

  • Reframe the Topic: Make it interesting for you.
  • Seek Guidance: Talk to your instructor about modifying the topic.
  • Brainstorm: Jot down any idea, however silly it may seem.

After you've considered these steps, the original horror of the topic often lessens. This way, the essay becomes a challenge to conquer rather than a nightmare to endure.

You’re Struggling with Distractions While Essay Writing

Ah, distractions, the silent killers of productivity. Distractions can derail your focus quickly, whether your phone buzzing with notifications or a noisy roommate. Trust me, during my college days, distractions seemed to multiply when I sat down to write my paper college level or otherwise. These interruptions waste time and break your concentration, making it hard to regain momentum.

So how did I cope? When I wondered, "Can someone write my paper because I can't deal with these distractions," I knew it was time for action. Set up a dedicated workspace devoid of distractions. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode or use apps that block distracting websites. Tell your friends or family that you need some quiet time to focus. Setting boundaries and minimizing distractions will make the writing process much smoother.

So, What Do I Do When I Can’t Start Writing?

Even after overcoming these hurdles, you might still struggle to start. I've been there. You're stuck in a loop of rating different ideas, unable to choose a topic, or unsure of the quality of your thoughts. The paralysis of analysis is real.

Just Get Started

If you've reached this point, my advice is simple: just start. This strategy may sound naive, but it's effective. Whenever I thought, "Help me write my paper," I realized the main issue was inaction. Write down your initial thoughts; they don't have to be perfect. You can always revise it later. Once you have something – anything – on the page, you've won half the battle. Starting creates momentum, and that, more often than not, is enough to carry you through to the end.

Create a Detailed Outline

As a student, I found that a well-crafted outline could be a game-changer in essay writing. When you're staring at the screen, a detailed outline becomes the roadmap showing you the way.

i don't wanna write an essay

When I say detailed, I mean jotting down main points, sub-points, and even some key phrases or quotations you might want to include. By breaking down the monumental task of writing an essay into smaller, manageable tasks, an outline can often write paper for you.

Not only does this practice result in time savings, but it also introduces a sense of flow to your essay. Every idea naturally progresses to the next one, simplifying the process of comprehending your arguments for you and your reader. I strongly advise dedicating ample time to this stage – an investment that proves its worth over time.

Remember to Take Breaks

Let's talk about the underestimated power of taking breaks. I can't stress enough how important this is. When fully engrossed in essay writing, it's easy to forget the world around you. The truth is, even the most seasoned writers need a break to recharge their brains. Take it from me; you don't want to be that student who starts scouring review pages or visits unrelated sites as a form of procrastination. The key is to schedule short, productive breaks.

During these intervals, get up and stretch, make a quick snack, or even take a brisk walk outside. Avoid visiting social media sites; the aim is to refresh your mind, not overload it. Think of these breaks as mini-reviews for yourself. They pause momentarily to assess your progress, refocus, and dive back into writing with renewed energy. Trust me, your future self will thank you for these little breaks.

Hire a Professional Writer

Sometimes, you just can't finish that essay despite your best efforts. When I hit an insurmountable wall, I considered hiring a professional writer. If time is against you or you simply can't give the paper the attention it needs, turning to a reputable writing service may be a viable solution. It isn't an option to take lightly; it comes with ethical considerations, but sometimes it's the only practical way out.

Before taking this step, do your due diligence. Research the service you're considering, read reviews, and ensure they deliver quality work. Be clear about your deadline, the paper's requirements, and other specifics. The last thing you want is to pay for a service that doesn't meet your standards. In my experience, hiring a professional writer can be a lifesaver, but it should be your last resort when you've exhausted all other options.

Useful Writing Tips for Students

You might seek quick, actionable advice to improve your essay writing. I get it; sometimes, you just need a cheat sheet to get things rolling. The essentials of good essay writing are quite straightforward.

  • Brainstorm Beforehand: Never underestimate the power of a good brainstorming session.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state what your essay is about.
  • Transition Sentences: Make sure each paragraph flows smoothly into the next.
  • Edit, Edit, Edit: Once you write your essay, proofreading is a must.

Integrate these tips into your writing routine, and you'll see a marked improvement. Each tip is a tool in your writing toolkit, equipping you to craft engaging and insightful essays.

If you're struggling to start, try creating a detailed outline first. It will serve as your roadmap and make the writing process less daunting.

Absolutely. You can change your environment, engage in physical activity, or try free-writing exercises to get your creative juices flowing again.

Visit your school's library or use academic search engines like Google Scholar. If you're still having trouble, don't hesitate to ask your instructor or a librarian for guidance.

Set specific goals for each writing session and work in time blocks, like the Pomodoro Technique, to maintain focus. Remember to take short breaks to recharge.

You might consider hiring a professional writing service you've researched and trusted as a last resort. Communicate your paper's requirements clearly to ensure the end product meets your expectations.

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How to Write When You Don’t Want To: An Uncommon Approach

Today’s guest post is by Michelle Boyd.

It’s early. The apartment is quiet. My calendar’s clear and my phone’s on Do Not Disturb. I’ve got all the time in the world to write … but I don’t want to.

It doesn’t matter that the conditions are perfect, or that I’ve been looking forward to this quiet time for days. The fact is, I’m dreaming of my winter garden. I’m busy planning holiday menus. And there’s a knitting project calling to me from the comfy chair in my living room.

It all adds up to the same old thing: I want the writing to be done. But I don’t want to have to do it.

When this happens, I sometimes go down a dreadful path, berating and judging myself, wondering why I’m being so “lazy.” I do this even though I know, from research, personal experience, and a decade coaching other writers that there are kinder, more effective strategies for getting ourselves to write when we don’t want to.

The one I’d like to suggest? Lie.

I first learned this trick from my running self, who is also quite “lazy,” especially when the weather turns cold. On the days I don’t want run, I swing my legs over the side of the bed and say to myself, “I’m not going running, I’m just getting out of bed.”

Then I put on my running clothes and tell myself, “I’m not going running, I just put on my tights ’cause I’m cold.”

Then I put on my running shoes and walk out the door and assure myself, “I’m not going running, I’m just seeing how cold it is out there.”

You get the idea, right?

Two minutes later I’m on the pavement. It’s cold and it’s dark—just as it was ten minutes ago when I was hating on the idea of running from the warmth of my bed. The difference is I’m already outside and it’s getting lighter by the minute, so why don’t I just go on ahead and go for a run?

Fifteen minutes after that, I’m warmed up, gliding along next to Lake Michigan, and—I won’t lie—I’m feeling myself. The cold weather clouds are billowing out in endless shades of gray, and I remember, Oh right. I actually like running once I get into it .

Same thing with writing.

I wanted to have written this blog post to you, but I didn’t want to write it. So, to get myself to do so, I walked into my office and said, “I’m not writing, I’m just going in my office to see if it’s messy or not.”

Then I opened the draft of this post and muttered to myself, “I’m not writing, I’m just going to see what the draft looks like.”

Then I wandered across a troublesome sentence and thought, “Mggh. That would sound so much better if I just—”

Bam! All of a sudden I’m writing.

Why does this strategy work? What’s happening that makes it so powerful for so many people? It’s not because I’m a great liar. Obviously, I know I’m lying to myself, so no one’s being fooled.

The reason this strategy works is because “lying” is an easy way to do two things that the research on productivity says will ease our way into writing.

First, “lying” helps us take small, manageable, incomplete steps toward the dreaded activity we don’t want to do.

Notice I said “toward” the activity. Not “of” the activity. So, we don’t want to just plunk ourselves down on the couch and pop open the laptop. Good heavens, no. That might cause us to run away.

Instead, we want to break down the approach to the laptop into infinitesimally small pieces. The idea here is that nothing is happening—that each step is so miniscule and inconsequential that there’s nothing for us to revolt against.

Scholars who study habits and goal setting all tell a similar story: one of the best strategies for getting started on a dreaded activity is to break it down into parts so small and so manageable that getting them done feels like no trouble at all. We sorta sneak up on ourselves until we’re past our own defenses and helpless against the attack.

The second reason this strategy works is that, while taking those small, incomplete steps, I keep up a steady stream of internal reassurances that these steps do not, under any circumstances, constitute a commitment to the activity itself.

This internal dialogue replaces other forms of self-talk that research shows us are death to writing: complaints about having to write, cataloguing of our writing fears, assertions that we’re not smart/creative/experienced enough, questions about whether we can write at all.

Once we start these dialogues, our chances of actually getting writing done is significantly diminished. Fear and anxiety can hijack our capacity to reason, so that even if we do get to the writing, the cognitive work we need to do is much harder.

But if we can head off those agitating voices with a less threatening form of self-talk, our chances of getting our butts in the chair and our minds in the game are a lot higher.

So, the next time you have the time and means to write but none of the motivation, try this strategy:

Step 1 : Identify three tasks you’d need to take to be “ready” to write. These tasks don’t have to be anything special. They might be as preliminary as “Turn on the computer” or “Open the file with my notes on Chapter 1.” Avoid the temptation to jump ahead to big tasks like “Read the first paragraph.” I know that seems strange, but when you really don’t want to write, a task like that might scare you off.

Step 2 : Assess these tasks to make sure you can complete them. Ask yourself: Are they doable? Are they laughably small? Are they so manageable and unthreatening that you’d almost be insulted if someone said you couldn’t do them? Congratulations: your tasks are perfectly sized for you. You can move on to Step 3.

Step 3 : Complete the first task, assuring yourself the whole time that “I’m not writing, I’m just [insert lie].” Say this to yourself over and over again if you need to. Remember, this is a substitute for “Ugh, I really don’t want to do this/this thing is crap anyway/I’m not a real writer” or whatever feeling is getting in your way.

Step 4 : Look up thirty minutes later and realize you’ve been writing.

It’s OK  if you don’t want to write. Feeling “lazy” doesn’t mean anything about who you are as a person. It just means you’re a human being, one who sometimes needs a way to prompt themselves to work.

You might be tempted to boss yourself into writing. But, it turns out, subterfuge is equally effective—and definitely way more fun. Try it out and see what happens to your writing. Then, you can get on with enjoying the rest of your life.

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Excellent post — In my world (of writing coaching, with a subspecialty of clients who have interesting neurologies, e.g., ADHD), we call this “sneaking up on the work.” For ADHD-ers and ADD-ers, “trying harder” and “just do it” actually make it *more* difficult to get going (and keep going) on writing (and pretty much anything else, for that matter).

Exactly right! I am ADD (non-hyperactive). Over years, I’ve learned to sneak up on dishwashing like this, even though I don’t hate washing dishes. I definitely need to extend this more deliberately to writing.

What an interesting technique! I will be trying this very soon because I have words waiting for me but I can’t seem to make myself capture them. Sneaking up on them sounds way more fun!

Excellent post! Just what I need. Thank you.

I’ve done something similar that has worked for me. I have a goal of writing for 30 minutes, but instead of “writing” I have to just sit down and DO NOTHING ELSE for 30 minutes. I can’t look at my phone, or check FB, or answer emails. I can only just SIT THERE for 30 minutes. If I don’t want to write, fine, I don’t write, but I still have to sit there and do nothing else. Out of boredom I find I look at my writing notes or what I wrote yesterday, or I start going through a scene in my head then maybe jot down a note about it… And that finally puts my foot through that horrid door called procrastination.

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Articles & Advice > College Admission > Blog

5 Questions to Ask if a College Doesn't Require an Essay

So one or more of your colleges don't require an application essay. One less thing to worry about, right? Well, not quite. Here's what you should know.

by Ryan Hickey Managing Editor, Peterson's

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Originally Posted: Apr 30, 2016

There are changes to the college application process every year—especially where essays are concerned. The SAT is going back to an “optional” Writing section, and many elite colleges—including Cornell, Columbia, and UPenn—have announced that they will no longer require applicants to complete the optional Writing section on standardized tests.

I bring this up because there's a larger trend of colleges that no longer require essay writing as part of their application process. (These include several state schools that work under the assumption that a combination of transcripts and increasingly effective standardized tests will provide an admission “matrix” that is strong enough to assess candidates without considering an essay.) The hope is that doing away with the college application essay allows more accessibility to applicants, not to mention that it saves admission officers time as well. However, before you get excited about the idea that you don’t have to write an essay to impress the school of your choice, there are several questions you need to ask yourself.

1. Is the essay actually not required?

First things first: Make sure that the essay is, in fact, not required of you. Some “no essay” colleges will still ask for an essay if you are below certain metrics in GPA and standardized testing, so check on this to make sure of their requirements before applying. Admission statistics are usually available in the admission section of a college website and will give you a clear indication of where you rank.

Related: Easy No-Essay Scholarships You Need to Know About Right Now

2. The college specifically says no essay, but should I send an essay anyway?

In general the answer is no. For many colleges that do not ask for an application essay, this would be a waste of time at best, and, at worst, would suggest that you’re not capable of following directions. Follow the guidelines carefully—don’t send an essay if a college doesn’t want one. The exception: many “no essay” colleges still require essays in order to apply for scholarships, so don’t think you’re off the hook if you need financial assistance.

3. The college says the essay is optional—can I not send an essay?

If a college says the essay is “optional,” you should still send one. It can only help you. The reason essay optional schools include that option is so when they are deciding between students with similar qualifications, they can look to see if there are other possible factors to judge. If you’ve sent an application essay, it shows the college you have initiative, and it might give you a leg up over your competition.

Related:  How to Write a Great College Admission Essay, Step-by-Step

4. What can I do to stand out if I don’t have an application essay?

You’re right to think of the application essay as a good way to stand out to college admission reps . But there are other ways of achieving this too.

  • Focus on writing in your high school classes. The best thing to do is excel in your classes—particularly those in English and literature. These are seen as placeholders for your essay-writing skills. Basically by foregoing your essay, the school is looking more closely at your grades in classes where you have done some writing to prove that you are adept enough to join their program.
  • Secure solid recommendations. Though some colleges do not require recommendations either, if they do, figure out who and how to ask for them . Find people who know you well and can speak to who you really are as well as your accomplishments (it doesn’t hurt if those people also happen to be community MVPs—but remember that a good, personal recommendation is way better than a generic one from a state senator who doesn’t know you at all). Without an application essay, you don’t have a place to really talk about your extracurricular leadership, so make sure your recommenders discuss this aspect of your life.
  • Have a killer résumé. Another aspect of the essay is that it allows you to promote your extracurricular prowess—something that is left out of a standardized test score. Many students have the option of submitting a résumé with their college applications as a supplement, but they still submit pretty weak ones, often because they either don’t know how to put one together or they feel it’s not important. Do some research, get a solid template and make sure your résumé is well balanced with accomplishments, not too long (one page is best), and free of typos and construction errors. If the college asks only for an “activity listing,” make sure your accomplishments shine through.

5. What else can I do?

If you have the option of submitting supplemental information, make this a priority. That includes any samples of your high school work or portfolios that relate directly to the field that interests you. Be sure to contact the college to see if adding something like this to your application is appropriate.

Related: Do I Need to Submit Supplemental Materials With My College Applications?

Though it’s true that it may be “easier” to apply to a school that doesn’t require an application essay, you're also more likely to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t highlight your unique qualifications. Take care to get a handle on the factors you can control—getting good grades and high test scores, having excellent recommendations and a nice résumé—and the admission office will be more likely to have a good impression of who you are and why you should be accepted.

What other questions are on your mind about essay-optional or no-essay schools? Let us know on Twitter @CollegeXpress !

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Tags: admission essays application essays college admission college applications essays writing

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About Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is the former Managing Editor of  Peterson's and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admission. A graduate of Yale University , Ryan has worked in various admission capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and the TOEFL; editing essays and personal statements; and consulting directly with applicants. He now works as a Law Clerk in the Tenth Judicial District for the State of Montana.

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Hannah Nelsen

Hannah Nelsen

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me look at colleges that fit my interests by taking my profile and matching it to colleges that have the programs I'm looking for. It has the ability to connect me to colleges so I can be contacted by them and look at them more in-depth to find what's right for me. Additionally, the scholarship database is super beneficial for getting scholarships for college. Not only does it help lift the financial burden of college but it shows all the opportunities available. Overall, CollegeXpress has been very helpful to me.

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Donald J. Trump, wearing a blue suit and a red tie, walks down from an airplane with a large American flag painted onto its tail.

Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025

The former president and his backers aim to strengthen the power of the White House and limit the independence of federal agencies.

Donald J. Trump intends to bring independent regulatory agencies under direct presidential control. Credit... Doug Mills/The New York Times

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Jonathan Swan

By Jonathan Swan ,  Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman

  • Published July 17, 2023 Updated July 18, 2023

Donald J. Trump and his allies are planning a sweeping expansion of presidential power over the machinery of government if voters return him to the White House in 2025, reshaping the structure of the executive branch to concentrate far greater authority directly in his hands.

Their plans to centralize more power in the Oval Office stretch far beyond the former president’s recent remarks that he would order a criminal investigation into his political rival, President Biden, signaling his intent to end the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence from White House political control.

Mr. Trump and his associates have a broader goal: to alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House, according to a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him.

Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control.

He wants to revive the practice of “impounding” funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.

He intends to strip employment protections from tens of thousands of career civil servants, making it easier to replace them if they are deemed obstacles to his agenda. And he plans to scour the intelligence agencies, the State Department and the defense bureaucracies to remove officials he has vilified as “the sick political class that hates our country.”

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    Here's how: Read first. Reading is a fantastic way to ignite your creativity and feel ready to tackle your own work again. Allow yourself 15 minutes before you start a writing session to read something fantastic and relevant to your work. This might be all you need to get those creative juices flowing.

  11. 6 Tips on How to Write an Essay You Don't Want to Write

    1. Develop Interest in the Topic of the Essay. To compose a good essay, you should enjoy the writing process and devote more energy to your work. Bear in mind that the journey matters more than your destination! One of the ways to do that is to develop interest in the topic of your essay.

  12. I Don't Have The Motivation To Write My Essay , What To Do Now?

    11. Reward yourself. In every field, reward boosts motivation. Creating a reward system for yourself when you finally complete the essay will motivate you to push yourself to write the article to get the compensation at the end. It can be something as simple as eating at your favorite restaurant or going to a cinema.

  13. 7 Ideas for Writers Who Have No Idea What to Write About

    2. Stop thinking about what to write about. Take a deep breath. Settle your bum in your chair. Close your phone or laptop. Get off the internet; it's a distracting, not an idea-generating machine. Instead of trying to find something to write about, just start writing whatever comes into your head.

  14. How To Write When You Really Don't Want To

    Here are my tips for writing even when you really don't want to. Try freewriting. We often resist writing because, at a subconscious level, we worry about getting the words perfectly right ...

  15. How to Write a College Essay Step-by-Step

    Step 2: Pick one of the things you wrote down, flip your paper over, and write it at the top of your paper, like this: This is your thread, or a potential thread. Step 3: Underneath what you wrote down, name 5-6 values you could connect to this. These will serve as the beads of your essay.

  16. I Don't Want to Write My Paper

    3 Main Reasons Why You Might Be Struggling with Essay Writing. Let's first look at why you're stuck. Saying, "I don't want to write my paper," usually hides deeper issues. From my experience, three main roadblocks can stand in your way: writer's block, lack of resources, or lack of time. Identifying the real problem is the first step toward ...

  17. The Do's and Don'ts of Writing an Essay

    Advertisements. 5. Don't: Overthink. College can be overwhelming at times, especially when you have a lot of assignments due at once. If you are feeling frazzled or cannot think clearly enough to write, it's okay to take a break and come back to it when your head is clear. Writer's block will not produce a good essay.

  18. How to Write When You Don't Want To: An Uncommon Approach

    Step 1: Identify three tasks you'd need to take to be "ready" to write. These tasks don't have to be anything special. They might be as preliminary as "Turn on the computer" or "Open the file with my notes on Chapter 1.". Avoid the temptation to jump ahead to big tasks like "Read the first paragraph.". I know that seems ...

  19. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. ... Please don't hesitate to contact us via our contact page if ...

  20. 5 Questions to Ask if a College Doesn't Require an Essay

    Follow the guidelines carefully—don't send an essay if a college doesn't want one. The exception: many "no essay" colleges still require essays in order to apply for scholarships, so don't think you're off the hook if you need financial assistance. 3. The college says the essay is optional—can I not send an essay? If a college ...

  21. I Don't Want to Do My Essay! What Should I Do?

    Students are always affected in one way or another. This is seen when assignments are given of different kinds and most probably those that involve writing and research. The essay is the most convenient way to impart certain skills into students, skills that they will use later in life. However many students dread writing the essay and other ...

  22. 20 Online Gold Mines for Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

    15. Upwork. Although Upwork has a bit of a reputation for offering low-rate jobs, it's definitely possible to find postings offering livable wages for writing jobs online. When this article was published, a job to write a finance/trading article for $500 and a ghostwriter gig for $600 were both listed.

  23. A Conversation With Bing's Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled

    Last week, after testing the new, A.I.-powered Bing search engine from Microsoft, I wrote that, much to my shock, it had replaced Google as my favorite search engine.. But a week later, I've ...

  24. We tested Turnitin's ChatGPT-detector for teachers. It got some wrong

    It flagged an innocent student. Five high school students helped our tech columnist test a ChatGPT detector coming from Turnitin to 2.1 million teachers. It missed enough to get someone in trouble ...

  25. Discover the superior Essay Writing App available for iPhone, iPad, and

    1. Give task guidelines. Download our app and complete the task instructions form with the necessary information. 2. Pick a suitable expert. Select your preferred expert by reviewing their portfolios and chatting with them through the app, then deposit funds to initiate the process. 3. Get paper & pay.

  26. Miss Manners: Anxious diners want their orders written down

    Jacobina Martin. June 8, 2024 at 12:00 a.m. EDT. 3 min. 0. Dear Miss Manners: I have noticed that many restaurant servers take orders without writing them down. This includes orders with several ...

  27. Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025

    Doug Mills/The New York Times. Donald J. Trump and his allies are planning a sweeping expansion of presidential power over the machinery of government if voters return him to the White House in ...