What Do College Professors Want In A College Essay?

What Do College Professors Want In A College Essay?
Writing for college is tricky. For one, the level of writing expected is higher than in high school. For another, you usually have to deal with the personality of the professor and/or graduate assistant reading your essay. Technically, this should not come into play, but it will at some point. So what can you do to get your essay past your professor as easily and with the highest grade you can?
First, put your thesis statement in the first sentence or two. Professors read a lot of papers and it becomes a routine; an almost automatic activity. They want to know what it is you think you are going to argue for very early on, because once they see that, they are going to read the rest of your essay looking for support. Trust me, professors do not read every single word of your paper. They skim and find the elements they want, the phrases that attract their attention and make comments on those items. Seeing a clear thesis statement early makes reading your essay easier. Nothing is more irritating to a teacher than looking all over the place to try and figure out what you think you are arguing for. An irritated professor is not what you want reading your paper.

Second, take your paper to a writing center on campus, or hire an editor to get all the small glitches out of your writing. Errors in usage and/or awkward sentences make your essay frustrating to follow. Be sure that your essay is organized in a way that makes sense and flows naturally. For most of you, your essays are not competing for a Pulitzer Prize. Get over yourself and write in a way that is efficient and makes your argument well. Keep in mind what the purpose of the assignment is. Usually, it is a capstone project of some kind to show how well you can apply an idea in an original way. Avoid elusive metaphors and analogies.

Remember that being a college professor means hours and hours of reading student papers. Granted, it is their job, but any honest professor will tell you that often, reading papers is not something they enjoy. This is especially true for undergraduate courses that satisfy a general education requirement. Most of the students in these courses are only moderately interested in the topic. Or they took the course because it fit in their schedule. Most students are not going to write in a way or say anything that the instructor has not read before. It can be laborious and tiresome to read paper after paper that has many errors, shows a lack of enthusiasm, does not argue well for a thesis or is simply all over the place. A tired and bored professor is one who is more likely to give a lower grade on a paper.

There is an old saying a teacher once told me: Never ask a supervisor a question they do not already know the answer to. In other words, make their job easier and make them feel like they know something. It is a very similar situation when writing for your college teacher. Make their job easy so you can learn something. Nothing is more refreshing than a paper in the stack that does its job well. Make yours that paper.

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