Tip #1 Know What is Expected
When you first have to write a college essay, you may be unsure about many things - how should it be set out, how long should it be, should I write a straightforward essay or a report? And how should I quote references?
The way in which you are expected to set out your written work will vary according to the subject you are studying. In addition to this, each college, and in many cases individual tutors or professors, will have their preferred style.
So before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you need to know what is expected of you. Ask your tutor, refer to any study notes you have been given and if you can, have a look at some examples. You can do this by talking to students who are a year ahead of you and took your course last year. However, this brings us nicely to the next tip
Tip #2 Don't Plagiarize
Copying work which someone else has written and passing it off as your own is known as plagiarism and is a big crime in academic circles. This does not just apply to work written by other students, but also to information you find on the internet. Many students think they can just copy chunks of information they found online and use them to build their essays.
This has become such a problem that colleges now use sophisticated software to identify plagiarized work. So beware, you could end up in a lot of trouble and even be thrown out of your course for copying. But you can still make reference to other people's work.
Tip #3 Reference Correctly
You are probably wondering how on earth you can write a knowledgeable essay without referring to something someone else wrote. Don't worry, this is allowed, as long as you reference it correctly.
And there is more than one way to reference your sources in an essay! So you have to make sure you know which one the college prefers and learn how to use it correctly. The university I used to teach at used the Harvard style and one of my students insisted on using footnotes because she thought this was easier to follow. Don't make the same mistake! Use the style your college tells you to use, even if you disagree.