If you are in college, you are doubtlessly familiar with essays. Not only are they the most common assignment in college courses, they are also the most frequent type of writing that a student will do in his or her academic career. While no one keeps statistics on just how many essays the average college student completes, anecdotally it seems that the number has risen over the past ten years, particularly with renewed emphasis on writing across the discipline and with the rise of online courses, where essays are often the only way of evaluating student learning. As a result, it is not unusual for a student to complete two or more essays per week.
With so many essays facing down the average college student, it’s no wonder many look for creative ways to write a college essay, both to make the process of writing more interesting and also to make their essays stand out for their instructors. If done right, a creative essay can create a great impression with your instructor. That’s why we have a few tips to help you master the art of writing a great college essay.
- Start by telling yourself that your paper is interesting. Too many essays suffer from the boredom of their authors. If you don’t think that your subject is interesting, your readers are unlikely to discover excitement where you don’t see it yourself. So, the first step to an interesting and creative essay is to find a topic that you feel passionate about—or at least find interesting enough to put more than minimal effort into. The more passion you bring to the subject, the more your enthusiasm will help to make the essay creative and effective.
- Read what enthusiasts on the subject have to say. The best way to get infected with enthusiasm for your subject is to read what fans and passionate advocates have to say. How do they talk about the subject? What makes their point of view interesting? By seeing how those who love your topic talk about and advocate for it, you can infuse some of that same passion into your own paper. Just don’t go too far and turn a research paper into an opinion essay!
- Pepper your paper with colorful and interesting details. While academic writing is supposed to be serious and focus on the facts, a little bit of color, employed strategically, can make your paper much more interesting for the reader. For example, when you start a new section, start with a real-world example, an anecdote, or a dramatic fact that can break up long blocks of data and analysis, giving the reader a break and providing a bit of color to make your essay more interesting to read. Studies have found that readers are more likely to recall information when embedded in a narrative story than when it is simply presented in a boring block of text.
- Use a few novelistic techniques to give your paper an epic feel. Similar to employing colorful details, borrowing a few techniques from creative fiction writing can help your paper to feel more epic. Open your paper, for example, with a compelling and dramatic anecdote to set the stage for what is to follow. Of course, you shouldn’t go overboard with writing an academic paper like a novel—they are very different types of writing after all. But a little bit of artistry can turn an otherwise ordinary paper into something special.
- Cut out extraneous words. It might sound counterintuitive to say that writing less will make your writing more creative, but removing extraneous words, repetitive phrasing, and irrelevant digressions will make your paper stronger and more effective by cutting right to the point. It will also make your writing more creative. When you force yourself to say everything as clearly as possible with just the minimum number of words needed to say it right (note: this doesn’t mean cutting out words you actually need), you’ll force yourself to develop creative ways to express ideas and more effective turns of phrase and uses of language to get the job done. It’s a terrific way to make your paper stronger while actually writing less!
You likely won‘t use all of these tips in every essay you write, but keeping them in the back of your mind will let you pull out the tips that will work best for each new paper you produce. Putting a little extra effort into into writing original college essays creatively will help you enormously in the long run.