As we all know, summer is the time to relax. For many students, this means turning off our brains completely and only writing tweets and Instagram captions. Even if you planned to have an extremely productive summer, reading books relevant to your education, you probably ended up by the pool somewhere, reading a blog post.

Well, the new semester is only a few weeks away, and nothing is as important as impressing your new professors early on. Here’s how you reset your beach brain and kick your writing into gear so you can dazzle everyone with the very first thing you write this year:

Start with the basics. Remember all that stuff that you learned in school about essay composition and mapping it out before you put pen to paper? Time to brush up on it. If you’ve forgotten everything you’ve ever been taught, a good rule of thumb is to divide your essay into thirds, each with a singular mission: describing a phenomenon, dissecting it from your perspective and discerning what the implications of it are.

Review what you’ve written before. Hopefully, you’re not one of those people who delete everything they’ve written during the semester once finals are over. Read the work you’ve submitted in the past and look at the feedback you got on it. What do you want to change? If you were writing the same thing now, what would you do differently? Look at the feedback you received once more and note what issues keep coming up again and again.

Remind yourself what proper sourcing means. When you’re making a point, which is essential in a college essay, always remember to have at least one significant source. A great way to please your professor is having one of each: an expert opinion, a reputable study, and a historical example or analogy. And try to avoid the common mistake of just following your sources’ outline. This usually results in something that reads as a list of things tied together by “and then…”.


Remember the motive. In college, you’re probably writing because it’s your homework assignment, but that’s not where good writing comes from. Before starting your outline and even before you start compiling sources, think about the things you want to accomplish, what point of view you want to show and how you want to show it. A good essay is someone’s original thought framed by some expertise in the subject, backed up by good sources and framed by strong argumentation. Some jokes wouldn’t hurt, either, but use them sparringly.

Learn how to read something closely. The best writers are attentive readers, so commit some time to learning how to read in a way that would be productive to your work. Take out a book, pick up a pencil and underline everything that strikes you as interesting, surprising or useful. Look for useful patterns like repetitions, contradictions or similarities and see if their combination tells you anything.

Get inspired. Even motivated writers need to look for something to drive them from time to time. Pick out a few authors whose work you are fond of and mine the Interned for previously undiscovered work of theirs (trust me, there’s always something). I guarantee that, after reading the work of someone you admire, your motivation will revitalize.

Write a practice essay. No doubt, there’s a story in the news right now that’s getting your attention. After brushing up on everything you’re supposed to remember before college starts, put it to good use and solidify your knowledge by writing a practice essay. Look at how writing without all that pressure treats you and you might even enjoy writing, who knows? Maybe it won’t be such a labor now that you don’t have to write for a grade. And if it doesn’t go so well, just remember the advice most professional writers give to people who are just starting out: the only way to become a good writer is to write more bad stuff.

Hopefully, this guide will be helpful to all you students getting ready to start the semester in a productive way. In any case, nothing you do will be better for your writing than reading constantly and thinking about what you read. Ask any professional writer and they’d tell you the same thing.

Janice Kersh is a blogger, writing expert at and freelance writer with 4+ years of experience. She helps students and young authors to develop their writing skills and provides tips for editing and thorough research. Follow her on Twitter.


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