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When it comes to producing original writing, there’s really no life hack you can lean on. Don’t get me wrong, giving your essay a whirl through your favorite grammar app can definitely keep simple mistakes at bay. Who among us hasn’t praised spellcheck? And, in the professional world, graphic designers have upped our style game by offering us visually stunning résumé templates. We’re pretty spoiled.
However, whether leaning on Adobe Illustrator or artificial intelligence, our best efforts haven’t replaced the ability to create compelling copy. Humans appear to have that market cornered—at least as of today. So, until you can tap your way out of a poorly written corner, you might as well learn a few basics.
Here are a handful of free online resources you can use to strengthen your writing chops and draft better college essays and résumés.
Resource #4: Grammar Girl
If textbook explanations make your head spin, Grammar Girl is the instructional Dramamine you’ve been looking for. Combining a playful approach with a command of the English language, Mignon Fogarty delivers the goods on punctuation, grammar, and usage in concise, easy-to-follow articles. Whether unsettled by who vs. whom, affect vs. effect, or which vs. that, you can rest assured that this navigator sails through grammatical tides with a steady hand.
Although the Grammar Girl Website if FREE, Fogarty has also written a superb, easy-to-follow writing guide for students. If you dig her style, you should consider buying her affordable book (about $16 in paperback or $9 used), The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students. You could also ask your local librarian to purchase it—requests like that usually make their day!
(BTW, Mignon, if ever you read this, please forgive my egregious preposition placement—it would be easy to pick on ; )
Resource #3: SUNY Empire State College Online Writing Center
Are you having trouble getting the old essay-ball rolling? The SUNY Empire State College Writing Center could give you a much-needed (virtual) push in the right direction.
Nicely outlined and easy to follow, the site’s section on the academic writing process provides some helpful insights into idea development, gathering information, shaping information, and building essay drafts.
Caveat—your college essay shouldn’t be written like an academic essay or research paper. Remember, admissions officers want to know who you are and what you’re all about, rather than if you can regurgitate a five-paragraph essay or work in some fancy SAT words, like abecedarian or fossick. With that said, linear thinkers can adapt this site’s step-by-step approach and use it for brainstorming.
Resource #2: The Harvard College Writing Center
The iconic Ivy League institution has assembled a concise, inviting overview of academic essay writing inside the Harvard College Writing Center. With its sections on structure and thesis development, this free resource carefully keeps the beginner in mind, refraining from employing verbose explanations (like this one).
Resource #1: The Purdue University Online Writing Lab
Published in 1995, the Purdue Owl has become the go-to online reference for English majors needing late-night MLA style suggestions. The tutorial powerhouse also includes instructional materials on grammar, punctuation, citation and format styles, academic writing, and subject-specific writing. If you really want nerd-out, take a look at their SITE MAP. It’ll blow your mind—seriously, bookmark it now!
BTW, I heard a single-tap, auto-fill, geolocation-friendly, selfie-résumé app is on the horizon. Yup, you heard it here first. (Actually, that’s a joke…Internet, please don’t create that!)
At Vested Academics, our professional college planning consultants and essay coaches help students draft creative, unique essays that resonate with admissions committees. Contact Our Team to learn more.
Attend our classes and events on this topic. From webinars to in-person events, guest speakers to professional instruction, our events calendar is filled with outstanding resources for parents and students alike. Go to the Events Calendar.
Tyler R. Vunk is the CEO of Vested Academics. With twenty years of experience mentoring, tutoring, and guiding students, Tyler has built an educational consulting company that supports families every step of the way, from grade school to college graduation.