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Common Essay Mistakes Made by College Students

Common Essay Mistakes Made by College Students

Friday February 17, 2017,

6 min Read


Managing to write professional essays is one of the hardest tasks for most of the students. As teachers put a lot of emphasis on essay assignments, their students must learn and get used to providing quality essays.

Writing an essay may take a lot of effort, and when you think you’re done with it, you soon realize that there is still a lot of place for corrections and improvements.

In this article, we will examine some very common essay mistakes that most students commit. Learn from them, and try to stay away from them. You can improve your essay writing skills if you are paying attention!

1. Not Sticking to the Point/Topic

When you receive the essay requirements, you get them for a reason: to follow and respect them. If you’re required to write about a specific topic, try to stick to the point as much as possible.

Of course, you can give good examples or change the subject for a while, but the overall essay should respect the essay’s guidelines.

Tip: Every two or three paragraphs stop and re-read your essay. Are you sticking to the point? If not, get to it immediately.

2. Using Ideas Which Can’t Be Proven with Examples

If it is an opinion essay, this is not a mistake. Otherwise, and in most of the cases, you will have to prove your statements with facts. You can’t just go and spread ideas and expect the reader to believe you.

Essays need to be informative and authoritative. It’s better not to write any ideas if you can not sustain them with concrete examples. Ideas are opinions, and opinions are not facts.

Tip: Do your research first and make sure that you’ll be able to give some references and quotes during your essays.

3. Forgetting Introduction and/or Conclusion

An essay has a fixed structure: introduction, body, and conclusion. That’s it. If you don’t respect this format, your essay won’t look professional, neither will it be accepted by your teachers.

Or, they will accept it and punish you for that mistake. It’s not hard – never forget to start your essay with a clear introduction and end it by summing up your ideas and giving your final thoughts. 

Tip: Make a plan of your essay with all necessary parts before you start writing.

4. Non-standard Words and Expressions

Teachers actually hate the new vocabulary terms and expressions that were conceived during the last decade. Words such as “wanna”, “dunno”, “lol”, “idk” ( I don’t care), and so many others are not suited for essays.

Jack Kerouac, American novelist and poet once said: “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple”. This quote is quite inspiring and it should be a guidance for your essay writing.

Tip: At least until you’re in college, try getting used to the normal words even outside of class. Also, proofread your text and scout for these mistakes.

5. Confused Words

Confusing words is bad. It may turn your essay upside down because it might give some important ideas different meanings. If you mistake words such as “affect – effect” or “efficient – effective”, you may create the wrong meaning.

Figuring out whether you used the right words or not is not so hard. You will have to read those sentences who sound a little bit wrong twice. Read them out loud if you can, and something will spark inside your brain.

Tip: Every time you confuse words, note them down and keep reading them until you fully corrected their meaning. Proofread your text twice before handing it to the teacher.

6. Too Much Passive Voice

Passive voice is sometimes welcome, but it shouldn’t be used too frequent. The moment you fill your text with passive voice structures, the moment it will become harder to read and understand.

Expert and essay writing tutor Emily Waldman from Essayontime suggests sticking to the active voice, as it’s the best way of transmitting the information. Teachers also prefer it more.

Tip: Write every day for 30 minutes. Do not write any single passive voice sentence during your texts. Get used to the active one.

7. Too Long & Too Short Sentences

In order to maintain a good balance, try sticking to medium sentences. Do not write two or three words sentences, and don’t create hard to read long sentences. Your professors have a lot of papers to get through.

If you make their job harder by writing disproportionate sentences, they will be a little harsher with your grades. Same applies to college application essays; you can’t afford not having a readable essay!

Tip: Look for some great essay writers and model their work. Start looking at how they put sentences in the text, how many words they use, how they structure it, and so on.

8. Plagiarizing

Out of every possible tip, this might be the most self-understandable and important advice. Do not plagiarize. They will catch you and burn you real bad. In college, plagiarizing is considered to be a serious act. Most of the teachers are experienced and resourceful enough to catch you with plagiarized content. 

Tip: Do not even consider plagiarizing. Include references if you copy something.

9. Not Planning Your Essay Time & Structure

Whether you’re in class, having a test, or at home writing a big essay, you need to manage your time. You should first begin writing an outline, as it’s going to help you structure your ideas better and have a map.

Then, start allocating a specific time limitation in which you should be done with the introduction. Then plan the first two ideas, then the second two ideas, and then the conclusion.

Tip: “Ten minutes of planning equals one hour in acting”

10. Not Preparing Enough

If you want to write a quality essay, you should have all the necessary knowledge for the topic. Take the time to prepare your facts, your sources, and your ideas. Get some sleep, eat some healthy food, and become mentally prepared for coming up with an amazing essay.

Tip: Start working on your essay as soon as you get the assignment. 

Committing some essay mistakes is normal; it happens to everybody. But the moment it becomes a habit, it can definitely drag you and your grades down. Start fixing your most common essay writing mistakes and you’ll see your college performances improving.