College essay writing: using provocative questions
Make your college essays stand out
When you are working on an essay for class (or for a term requirement or honor’s thesis), keep in mind that your instructor will be reading a large pile of essay from your fellow students. You should also keep in mind that most instructors teach multiple courses per semester, and teach the same course over and over again for many years. Therefore, it stands to reason that your average college professor has read dozens, if not hundreds of essays on a given topic, and tends to glaze over when a cliched writing topic comes up yet again.
You want to write essays that provoke thought and stay with the reader long after they are over. This is no small feat, when you are competing with literally hundreds of other undergraduates. But writing a memorable essay is worth the trouble. A strong essay can get a student noticed, which can lead to scholarships, fellowship programs, internships, and fantastic letters of recommendation for jobs or graduate school programs.
How do you write a memorable essay?
If you want your writing to be remembered, you must do two things. First, you must write well. Your paper will not be memorable if it is fraught with grammatical errors, is sloppily organized, and lacks intellectual rigor and good organization. But writing well is just the foundation to creating an impressive paper. Second, you must choose a provocative essay topic, one that snares the reader’s interest and keeps them reading (and paying attention), dying to find out what you will say next.
How do you choose a provocative essay topic?
A unique and thought provoking essay topic is one that is not overplayed. It is current (it may even be inspired by current events), relevant to important issues, novel, interesting, and perhaps even a little controversial. You should choose a topic that is somewhat counterintuitive, or even surprising. If you can, choose a central thesis that is not expected by your readers.
Do not be afraid to pick a position that is hard to defend, or that is unpopular (as long as it isn’t inflammatory). Think of a controversial thesis as a challenge. If you rise to meet the challenge, your professor will be deeply impressed with the paper, and with you as a result. You may have to advocate for a position that you do not necessarily agree with, of course, but being able to argue a case you do not believe in is a fantastic sign of writing ability.
Published on November 26th, 2014