If you are a great writer, college essays might not be much of a problem. However, if you’re more of a “math or science person,” the countless essays required by your college can turn into a nightmare. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to write an A-quality essay in 1/3rd the time, even if you don’t consider yourself a talented writer. I spent years developing this process during my English Major at Columbia, and I have spent the last decade teaching it to hundreds of my students. Just follow the steps below and you’ll never worry about your college essays again.
1. Treat each class session like a spy.
Whenever you sit in class, you should have one goal: make a note of every single quote, fact, and article that your teacher mentions during class. Make a huge collection of these – they’ll come in very handy later on.
2. Evidence first, thesis later.
Most students come up with their thesis, then try to find the evidence to support it. As a result, they spend a ridiculous amount of time doing research for their papers. Often, even after hours of searching, the evidence they find only slightly supports their thesis. If you want to save enormous amounts of time, try the following instead:
A. Lay out all of your notes and citations that you have collected from your teacher.
If you have been collecting them during class, you should have a nice pile.
B. Read all of them, and find out something that most of them have in common.
Whatever theme they all share, that’s what you should be writing about.
C. Craft a thesis that most of them loosely prove.
If a bunch of the evidence you have collected proves a certain point, then that point should be your thesis!
If you already have a bunch of evidence that your teacher has given you, and if you can come up with some sort of point that most of it proves, then you have already done your research! You can just use the evidence in front of you to reverse engineer a thesis that has already been proven! No further work is necessary.
3. Write your paper with one piece of evidence per paragraph, two paragraphs per page, and reverse engineer your topic sentences based on the evidence you’re already using.
If you need to write 8 pages, you need about 16 paragraphs – one opening, one closing, and 14 body paragraphs. This means you’ll need 14 pieces of evidence.
Fortunately, writing these paragraphs will be insanely easy because you already have the evidence to prove them. So if you have a Bill Clinton quote that says, “candy is delicious” – then your topic sentence can just be, “Many eminent politicians believe that sweets taste good.” Warm up a bit, provide some filler, and then use the Bill Clinton quote to support your topic sentence and drive it home!
If you “reverse engineer” your essays this way, the entire process becomes incredibly easy. You don’t need to figure out what to say, and you don’t need to find the evidence to prove it – both are already done for you. All you need to do is pay attention in class!
Give this method a try and see how it works – it might just save your life!
Anthony-James Green is world-renowned SAT and ACT tutor with over 10,000 hours of experience teaching these tests, crafting curriculum, and training other tutors to teach their own students. He is also the founder of TestPrepAuthority.com. CNN recently named Anthony: “The SAT tutor to the 1%“