College Essay Examples: Writing Essays in College


When faced with the task of writing your first ever university paper, there are some key differences between high school and university level essay writing that should be taken into account. Moreover, it may be useful to examine several college essay examples as a way of preparing for university level essay writing.

How College Essays Differ from High School

Typically, high school students are taught to follow a fairly rigid and formulaic form of essay writing known colloquially as the sandwich method. The sandwich method essentially states that your essay should consist of a one paragraph lead or intro, followed by three to four paragraphs of body text, each representing a distinct argument, and finally a conclusion that summarizes all of the points in the essay. While this template is not necessarily wrong, what new university students will typically discover, especially when entering an arts program with a heavy emphasis on writing, is that essays are much more free form and varied in nature.

The end goal with essay writing in university is to be able to successfully articulate your points in a lucid and convincing fashion. Given the wide array of topics that you might be covering, it becomes apparent that while one template may be appropriate for a class on comparative literature, you would be be better served following a different structure when writing a paper on Canadian history or contemporary media theory.

Moreover, there is a uniformity to the sandwich method taught in high school that can often be misleading. While the sandwich method would have you write three paragraphs of similar length to make up the argumentative section of the paper, in reality more flexibility is required when formulating a successful paper. One argument in your paper might involve a fairly complex idea that requires you to break it down into smaller pieces in order to communicate it effectively to the reader. Meanwhile, an equally valid argument might be more straight forward and would be more salient if written plainly in your paper with just a few lines.

Apart from conceptual differences between high school and university writing, another major difference that you have to adapt to is the use of fixed writing styles. The three major writing styles, MLA, APA,  and Chicago, all feature different conventions that you will often have to learn and rigorously apply based on your professors preference for a particular style. The best way to become accustomed to these styles is to consult official writing manuals that are available both online and in every campus bookstore.

How to Find Good College Essay Examples

Study Academic Journals

One of the best ways to get a gage on the type of writing that would be required of you in university is by doing the various readings that you are assigned in your first year courses. Although the wording in academic journals might initially appear intimidating, the point is not to imitate the vocabulary of the authors you are reading. In fact, doing so might make your papers appear pretentious, or give the impression that you do not understand what you are writing and are trying to impress the reader with flowery language. Instead the goal of carefully reading academic writing should be to gain a firm grasp on syntax and understand how academics formulate their arguments and express their ideas.

Visit Credible Sites

Most universities have extensive libraries of online and offline resources available to help student learn the craft of writing and to improve their essay skills. As a tuition paying student you should take advantage of the bulk of resources you have at your disposal from credible academic sources. Some universities even offer in-depth comprehensive guides to writing completely free of charge to the public through websites, such as the Harvard College Writing Center. Just be wary of dubious websites with questionable credentials, or sites that offer writing services for a fee. Most often these services are created to sucker students out of money and offer little in terms of actual educational value.

Consult with Older Students and High Performers

Another useful strategy would be to reach out to upper year students who are already seasoned university level essay writers and have clear understanding of what is too be expected from academic papers. That said it would be best to approach the students who are high achievers and are generally well regarded for their writing abilities, as they would more likely be more capable and willing to help out. There are many students in university that scrape by with sloppy writing, thus it is better to consult someone who cares about the craft as they will be more effective in giving you pointers.

Moving Past Examples of College Essays

Reaching out to Teaching Assistants and Professors

Yet perhaps the single best resources that you might have at your disposal in university are your professors and their teaching assistants. As these individuals have either completed, or are in the process of completing graduate school, they have proven their competency with high level academic writing.

In my experience during the first couple of months as a freshman at Western University, I initially noticed a considerable drop in my marks. While in high school I was accustomed to receiving eighties and nineties in many of my writing assignments, my first semester of university started off with a couple of sixties and one essay assignment that I barely passed. After spending a considerable amount of time going to the office hours of my teaching assistants and professors, not only did my marks subsequently rise, but the quality of writing that I produced dramatically improved after my first year of university. Often the best way to improve in the craft of writing is to  keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your instructors.

5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as a Freshman in University

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As a first year student in university, you will initially have to struggle with a wide variety of changes to both your lifestyle and your academic workload. The following is a list of the five biggest mistakes that many frosh, or first year students, commit as they enter university life after high school.

5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as a Freshman

1. The Freshman 15

For many students who are living away from home for the first time in their lives, one of the biggest adjustments they have to make revolves around not having ready made, and relatively healthier, home cooked meals at their disposal. Since most students who live in residence are provided with highly processed and fatty cafeteria food, they average person’s diet quality takes a nosedive when entering university. Coupled with the likelihood that many give into the drinking/partying lifestyle of being a college student, it is not uncommon for first years to gain the infamous freshman 15 (fifteen pounds of fat)

2. Blowing Money on Textbooks

Entering first year, you might not be aware that most campuses have a sizeable market for used textbooks. Not only do school bookstores often have a used section where you can purchase older copies of texts for a lower price, but many students use social media and sites like ebay or kijiji to offer their old books at a discount price. Moreover what you will often discover is that some of the books that are assigned in your course syllabus are not even mandatory and sometimes see no use whatsoever. Thus it is often best to wait it out a bit, and go to your first couple of lectures too find out what books you do and do not need.

3. Over-socializing/Under-socializing

A common pattern for many entering first year is to fully embrace their new found freedom and express it through an often reckless partying lifestyle. While it is great to make to new friends and have fun, it would be wise to keep in mind that you are a student and the primary goal of spending thousands of dollars at a post secondary institution is to further your education. First year is a crucial time to lay the foundations for the rest of your university career, thus it is better to start off strong so you do not live a life of regret and missed opportunities when you are older.

On the flip side, it is highly ill advised to focus solely on your studies and become a social hermit. Socializing and having a core group of friends to tide you over during your university is essential for reducing stress levels and ensuring that you are living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. After all you are human, and it is important to take care of your needs. Failing to do so might lead to a depressive state which ultimately might bring down your academic performance as well.

4. Not Adapting to the Work Load

This point is fairly blunt; university is tougher than high school, a lot tougher. As a result you must be prepared to put in more work if you are to succeed or maintain the same level of performance that you did in throughout your pervious academic career.

5. Believing Your Grades don’t Count

Closely related to the first half of point number three, some student decide early on that their first year marks are irrelevant as long as they preform well in their upper year courses. What many who think this way soon discover when applying for grad school or highly competitive programs such as law or medical school, is that a student’s entire academic career matters. If an admissions board notices that during your first year you barely passed a couple of your classes, it  might mean that you lose a competitive edge in limited enrolment programs against students with a more consistent record of performance.

Avoiding the Biggest Freshman Mistakes

If you are just heading off to university it would be wise to keep in mind the five points that were discussed in this article. However, regardless of the advice that we or any of your family and friends will give you, it is inevitable that you will end up making your own mistakes as you are adapting to your new environment in university. Therefore it is always good to use your own judgement and to be proactive about the choices that you make in university and always think ahead about how to improve yourself.