Summer break is a great time to kick back, relax and enjoy yourself and, if you’re lucky, to go on an awesome trip! But how can you translate your amazing vacation into a narrative essay for English class or work it to fit a common application prompt? Here’s some tips to help you out:
Save Mementos From Your Summer
Even if you’re not the sentimental type, make sure to document your summer travels. Take pictures, write diary entries, save train stubs. This is the best way to ensure that you’ll remember your summer well enough to look back and write about it later.
Write an Outline Before Writing Your Essay
Regardless of whether you spent your summer break in Madison, Wisconsin or Madrid, Spain, you should plan out what you’re going to write before diving in. Make a list of what you’ve done over the summer so that you can later narrow down a focus for the essay itself. Keep in mind that the best essay topics aren’t always on the most exciting activities an essay about getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport on the way to Denver could work better than an essay on hiking the Grand Canyon and looking out at the incredible view.
Since you’re going to keep a record of your trip and come up with an outline before writing your essay, you should be able to put some detail into your essay. Be as specific as possible when it comes to your word choice. If you’re talking about some gelato that you ate in Italy, don’t say that it was “delicious.” Instead, say that it was “creamy and chocolatey, with a note of vanilla.”
Focus on Feelings About Your Trip, Not What You Did
If you spent the summer on the beach in Cape Cod, you shouldn’t write about what you did. You should write instead about how you felt while there. An essay that reads “I went to beach, then had lobster for dinner” is not quite as exciting as one that goes, “As I went for a walk on the beach, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to enjoy nature.” Feelings translate better into text than events, and you should try to place those feelings into context.
Stick to Writing About a Small Moment
With any essay you write especially a short one it’s important to focus a narrow moment in time. Don’t write about your entire week in Paris. Instead, write about the moment you got lost in the city at midnight and fumbled your way home in the dark. You don’t have to pick a particularly glamorous moment from your trip, but you should pick one that meant something to you.
Edit Your Essay Carefully
The shorter the essay, the more important precision is. Regardless of length, make sure to carefully read over what you’ve written to make sure every sentence conveys the message you most want displayed. The editing process matters just as much as the writing process, even if it seems less so.
Writing a research or persuasive essay and need to track your sources? Create citations easily in MLA format, APA format, and more via our guides and citation tools. Click here to try it!
Have you ever written an essay in 25 minutes? You have if you have ever sat for the SAT. While the stakes may be higher for a last-minute academic essay, the point is this: do not panic! Instead, read this six-step guide to writing an essay in a day:
1. Understand your goals
Whether you are writing a personal statement for a college or graduate school application, or an essay for a high school or college class, your assignment will have specific goals. Before you begin to write, review these goals. Clearly understanding your objective is essential when working with a shortened timeline.
2. Choose a topic
Under normal circumstances, you might devote several days to brainstorming a promising topic, and then you might write a detailed outline before writing and revising your essay over a week or two. When you are on a tight schedule, this is not possible.
So—write down the first three or four ideas that occur to you. If you cannot think of an appropriate topic, ask a parent or a friend to review the assignment with you. Do not spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on this part of your essay, as the execution ultimately matters more than the idea itself.
In addition, do not stress yourself about selecting the “perfect” topic. Without a topic, you will have no essay to turn in, and any essay is better than no essay. (It naturally follows that any topic is also better than no topic at all.)
3. Set deadlines
Establishing deadlines for a one-day essay is key. Budget 5-10 minutes for brainstorming, 15-20 minutes for creating an outline, and several hours for writing. You can also set aside an hour for feedback and review, and another hour for any necessary revisions. You should also allow for an hour-long break to recharge your mind. Finally, plan to submit your essay several hours before the deadline. A schedule with some flexibility will allow you to adapt to any unforeseen complications.
4. Arrange for reviewers in advance
Whenever possible, arrange for reviewers (such as your parents or friends) first thing in the morning, and let them know when they can expect a draft. When your deadline is in several days or weeks, you have the luxury of finding reviewers after you have finished your draft. With a shorter deadline, you will not have this ability. Be clear on the short turnaround time to ensure as smooth a review period as possible.
5. Outline your essay
There are many resources that can advise you on how to write a wonderful essay, but the purpose of this article is to shape that advice to the demands of a very short timeline. This includes resisting the urge to abandon the outline. Having an outline is even more important for a one-day essay than for a week-long project with a similar word count. A strong outline will keep your essay focused and organized from the start—which is critical when time constraints will limit your rewrites.
Your outline should not be detailed, and it should take no more than 15 or 20 minutes to complete. Determine your hook (see below for more information), and then jot down the threads that connect this moment to your central argument or idea.
6. Stay organized
When you are under pressure, your tendency may be to start writing and to see where your essay goes. Try instead to use a brief anecdote or emotional impact statement (i.e. the “hook” in your opening paragraph) to set the stakes for your essay. This is essentially your opportunity to state why your argument or idea is worth your reader’s attention.
Finally, remember that “perfect is the enemy of good.” Manage your expectations. Your goal should be to write a good essay, not a perfect one. If you have a compelling hook and a well-organized flow of ideas, check your writing for errors, and then send it in.
Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University
More from Varsity Tutors: