What We Need for an Essay Session: Prepare for Success

As a Humanities tutor, I see a lot of essay drafts in any given week: AP tests, college essays, job and scholarship applications, and even one-offs for particular classes or assignments. The one thing they seem to have in common is that students aren’t sure what to bring to an essay writing or editing session. Hopefully this list of “dos and don’ts” will clear up a few things.

The Don’ts are very simple:

  • Don’t think that you need to come in with a full, perfectly polished draft. I get a lot of students who come in apologizing if they don’t have a complete product. Think about it for a moment: that’s not the point of an essay session at all. It’s for us to build up your argument and your structure together.

  • On the other hand, don’t come in with nothing. You should at the very least be acquainted with the prompt, any writing it is based off of, and have a sheet of paper with your thoughts on the subject and prompt as well as possible directions you want to take the piece.

The Dos vary by what type of essay you’re writing, but these can generally be applied to all writing:

  • Do the research. If this is a research essay and you show up without having done any research, we are both going to be in for a very awkward session. Nothing says “bonding time” like skimming through the internet for resources or trying to cobble together an outline from vague ideas without any facts to back them up. This isn’t going to help you with your assignment at all and that’s the whole point of us meeting!

  • Do read the assigned material. While we can read the material together if it’s a short story or poem, it is so much more useful for you and for me if you read the material ahead of time (and send it to me ahead of time!). Not only does it prevent us from wasting time, but it let’s us jump right on into the analysis and the writing- the parts that you truly want a tutor’s help for.

  • Do consider your essay’s position. This can be a thesis, a theme, an anecdote that you want the essay to center on, or anything else of the sort. If you come in with a direction, then I can more quickly get to the heart of what your essay needs to fulfil and support your vision.

  • Do feel free to write ahead of time even if they are disjointed parts. Again this hearkens back to students’ ideas that they need to bring in a full essay to me. Disjointed paragraphs, outlines, stray sentences, and half-baked thoughts are not only okay but encouraged. The point of a first draft is not to be excellent. No first draft is. The point of a first draft is simply to get your thoughts on the paper.

I hope these thoughts both soothe your nerves and give you some inspiration the next time you see me (or any of our lovely tutors!) for a writing session. Happy Writing!

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