Essay Writing Tips for Less Stress & More Success!

Helpful Essay Writing TipsAre you confident in your writing skills? If you’re worried about an upcoming essay assignment, take a look at these helpful essay writing tips from online tutor Natalie S.:

I’ve been a teacher and a tutor for many years. I have the knowledge base to instruct on many topics, but the subject that students most often seek out my help for is essay writing tips.

For students, writing an essay is often a daunting and even scary assignment. There tends to be a lot of emotion surrounding the act of writing. Students get anxious about writer’s block, or they worry they don’t have enough material to write about, or they are convinced they have no idea how to write a thesis statement. There are all kinds of excuses and concerns when it comes to essay writing. However, it doesn’t have to be such a difficult, time-consuming task. There is actually a clear process and formula for writing essays.

Check out these essay writing tips below, and you will be successfully and fearlessly crafting A+ papers in no time!

Pre-Writing Phase

This is a very important part of the process and one that often requires the most time and creative thinking. If you put the right amount of energy and effort into the pre-writing phase, the actual writing of the paper is very easy. Outlining your ideas before you start typing is incredibly beneficial when drafting an essay.

  • Step 1: Do You Have a Prompt?

If you have a writing prompt or essay question to work with, read over it more than once with a pencil in hand.  Underline, star, highlight, and write notes in the margin, so you are clear on what the prompt is asking you to address. Then, rewrite the question in your own words. This exercise ensures that you understand what your teacher is looking for, and it forces you to address the right questions as you begin to craft your thesis statement.

  • Step 2: Can You Choose Your Own Topic?

If you are asked to choose your own topic, then consider the top three subjects that you would like to focus on and write them down.

  • Step 3: Pick Your Favorite Topic

Under each topic, write your three supporting statements for each subject. Choose the topic that you have the most to say about.

Writing Phase

  • Step 4: Craft Your Thesis Statement

Now that you have your topic, you have to start crafting your thesis statement. This is usually the most time-consuming step. Your thesis statement is the most important sentence in the entire essay because it tells the reader the purpose of your essay.  It guides the reader in what they are supposed to look for and what they are supposed to gain from reading your essay.

Here is an example of a thesis statement formula for a literary analysis paper:

Title + Author + Active Verb (asserts, argues, suggests) that ______ (your argument)___________.

  • Step 5: Write the Intro

An introduction generally contains three elements: your hook sentence (the first sentence of the essay that grabs the reader’s attention), your thesis statement, and sometimes, one to two sentences of background information or a quick statement that explains how you will present your topic throughout the paper. If you spend the right amount of time and energy drafting a clear introduction, it will work as your guide for writing the rest of the paper.

  • Step 6: Write the Body Paragraphs

There is a very specific formula for writing body paragraphs, and it works for all body paragraphs regardless of the type of essay you are writing.

Here is the body paragraph formula:

Topic Sentence + Concrete Detail + Commentary + Closing Sentence

Your topic sentence orients the reader to the specific purpose of the paragraph. The concrete detail (example/quote/statistic) serves as a piece of evidence that supports the main point stated in your topic sentence. Your commentary makes it clear why you used the specific example you used. Your commentary answers the question, “So what?” When writing your commentary, consider these questions: “What does this example prove? Why is it relevant?” Then finish this sentence: “This example is important because it proves…” If you can do that, then you’ve found your commentary! Close the paragraph with a statement that reiterates how this paragraph works to support your thesis statement.

  • Step 7: Write your Conclusion

Reiterate your main argument, and then consider the question, “So What?” again. Answer that question in your conclusion and conclude the essay by expressing to your reader the significance of your thesis statement. Don’t just repeat your points, but rather challenge your reader to consider the purpose and significance of your essay.

Post-Writing Phase

  • Step 8: Proofread and Grammar Check

Reread your essay at least twice, and if possible, have someone else review it as well. Check for all spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Once you’re done reviewing, turn it in on time to your teacher and walk away knowing you’ve written a winner!

These essay writing tips are easy to follow and they work every time. If you feel like you need more clarification, I highly recommend taking the extra time now to work with a tutor who will dedicate one-on-one time with you in reviewing these essay writing tips and showing you how to implement them with your specific topic in mind. Going through this process with someone a few times ensures that you will more quickly get to a point where you can write essays on your own with less stress and more success!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online and in San Diego, CA, in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Your Complete Survival Guide for Finals Week

No matter what subjects you’re studying, finals week is guaranteed to be the most hectic and stressful week of classes. However, you don’t have to let the stress get to you. Follow these smart study tips, overcome your procrastination tendencies, and start kicking butt on your final exams!

Make a Game Plan

Before you start studying for finals, make a list of the things you need to review, and prioritize your time so you’re able to study the most important things. Next, schedule time to study without interruptions. If you’ve been struggling with a subject, give yourself extra time to study for that class. Also, don’t spread your study time across subjects by breaking up an hour into 20 minutes of three different subjects. Spending more time with each subject will help you deepen your focus and get a better understanding of the topic.

Turn Off Your Phone

Our phones are basically tiny procrastination machines. Overcoming procrastination is way easier with your phone either turned off or set to do not disturb. And remember: your phone is not the only thing distracting you! Make sure you’re logged out of chat on your computer and stay off of social media. Find a place to study where you won’t be interrupted by others, like at the library or a quiet coffee shop. You can also minimize distractions by listening to instrumental music while you study.

Get Enough Sleep

It can be tempting to put off studying until the night before exams, but pulling an all-nighter will hurt you in the end. When you’re sleep deprived, your memory and concentration are impaired. If you’re sleepy while you’re studying, you’re way less likely to absorb information. Even worse, if you’re exhausted on test day your performance on your exams will suffer. Set yourself up for success by getting plenty of sleep during finals week.

Take Advantage of Help

Go to your professor’s office hours and ask any lingering questions you have about the material. If your professor or TA offer to host a review session prior to the final, be sure to attend, and use any practice tests or other materials that your professor provides to prepare you for the test. If you still need extra help, ask a classmate to help you study or look into tutoring. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question! If something doesn’t make sense to you, others probably have the same question but might be afraid to speak up. There are so many different ways you can get help before exams, so take advantage of them.

Don’t Take on Extra Commitments

Remember that it’s okay to say no to other commitments so you’ll have the time you need to study. Sometimes in life things come up that you feel like you “have to” do.  Whether it’s your part-time job asking you to pick up an extra shift or friends asking you for help planning a party, you can kindly say no. Let them know that at another time you would be glad to help, but you need to focus on your studies this week. Most people will be very understanding when you let them know that at this point in your life, your education is the most important thing.

Go Back to the Beginning

Stuck on figuring out exactly what to study? Go back to your syllabus and course description for clues. The course description will outline the high-level ideas you should be taking away from the class, and the syllabus likely breaks down the material week by week. Oftentimes the introductory materials you got at the beginning of class can be used as an excellent study guide for the final.

Stay Positive

Don’t let the stressful finals week vibe get you down. Instead of dreading tests as a chance for you to fail, look at your finals as a time to show off how much you’ve learned. Additionally, if you do happen to struggle on a test, don’t let that negative feeling carry over to your other exams. You will perform much better on your finals if you’re happy and relaxed. Find little things to do to relax before a test, like taking a quick walk or checking in with a good friend.

Feed Your Brain

It’s easy to stress-eat a bunch of junk food, or get wrapped up in your studies and miss meals. Missing meals and poor nutrition can both negatively affect your focus and memory. Avoid overeating chips and cookies, and choose healthy foods instead. You will feel better and perform better on your tests too! To give your brain an extra push, try some of these brain-boosting super foods.

Celebrate Your Victories

Take pride in your achievements and celebrate your accomplishments! Savor that great feeling of walking out of an exam and knowing that you did well on your test. Even if you feel like a class was way outside your comfort zone and you barely made it through, be proud that you did. You’re in school to learn and grow, not because you’re already an expert in everything. When finals week is over, get yourself a treat and congratulate yourself on completing your classes. You did it!

How do you feel during finals week? What helps you study smarter and get the grades you want? What works for you for overcoming procrastination? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


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How to Find Scholarships & Avoid Scams

Tips On How To Find Worthy ScholarshipsSo, you’re on your way to a high school diploma and the next big step is a college education. Whether you’re headed off to a university, or exploring your local community college, it’s going to cost you money – a lot of money.

Perhaps by now you’ve heard the stories about starving college students who live off of Ramen noodles and pizza. Sounds kind of fun and adventurous for a few weeks, but worrying about money gets old pretty fast. Getting a scholarship can mean the difference of thousands of saved dollars that you can put to good use for other important things in your future.

However, applying for college scholarships can feel like trying to navigate your way through a maze of annoying paperwork that doesn’t often result in your desired outcome. But with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be that difficult!

Follow the following simple guidelines for how to find scholarships, and you can quickly apply for the right scholarships, and you can increase your chances of saving money on your education!

#1 Be Aware & Don’t Get Scammed

There are sites out there that love to prey on young people who are fresh out of high school and confused about where to start looking for scholarships. These scammers will promise to find you a scholarship if you pay a small fee and sign up for their short and (often confusing) seminar for just $2.99 a minute. Fee-based services and long-winded sales talks about your future are exactly what you want to avoid when searching for scholarships. Scam artists have developed fake search engines and seminar programs to trick young people into thinking that they are legitimate sources to find scholarships.

Fortunately, the United State Education Department keeps a Scholarship Scams list, so you can check companies out before you interact with them. The moment someone mentions a fee for finding or granting you a scholarship, ignore them and leave the website.

#2 Do Your Research

Remember that legitimate scholarships are always free to find by searching online resources like Scholarship Search. All 50 states also have different grant programs for students, so with rule #1 in mind, you only need this official Grant List to find them. The Federal Pell grant is one of them, which offers varying amounts based on financial need and a few other factors.

Scholarships and grants are NOT loans, so you do not have to pay them back after college. They are a free ticket (or, part of one, at least) to getting the education you deserve! While filling out scholarship forms can be a daunting and time-consuming task, if you actually receive one, you will save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run, and all of the initial work will be well worth it.

#3 Get to Know Your Financial Aid Offices

One of the easiest resources available to you is your school’s financial aid office. Unlike the scammers, financial aid workers come free and actually have your best interests in mind in showing you how to find scholarships that you qualify for. Visit the one on your college campus the moment you know where you’re going to school, and they can do all the footwork for you for free.

#4 Follow the Instructions

Once you’ve made your list of the best scholarships for you, print out all of the applications, so you can read through the requirements. Highlight the due date for each application and make a calendar of deadlines. The biggest problem most students face when applying for scholarships is getting the paperwork in on time, so make sure you read the instructions and stay organized!

Bonus Scholarship Tips

While requirements will vary based on the scholarship, below is a list of the typical materials required for scholarship applications:

  • Transcripts
  • Test scores (SAT or ACT)
  • Financial information, with tax returns
  • Essays or SOP (statement of purpose)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Proof of eligibility

Now you know the basics, and you’re equipped with all of the essentials on how to find scholarships! Good luck!


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How to Find Scholarships for the Best Acting Schools

How To Receive A Scholarship For Acting SchoolsBecoming an actor takes hard work, dedication, passion, and drive. For high school students thinking seriously about a career in acting, now is the time to prepare for the training you will need to help you succeed. After all, high school is a time when you have opportunities that may be harder to find or simply will not exist later on.

Most of the actors you see on television, film, and even the stage have gone through years of education and training, and getting into one of the best acting schools can tip the odds of success in your favor. It takes talent and passion to get into a good acting school – so it’s time to get to work!

What are Some of the Best Acting Schools?

The Hollywood Reporter has an excellent list of the best acting schools around the world. The criteria for the list include programs with top-notch training and an impressive list of alumni. Juilliard is one of the schools on the list, with famous alumni including Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Kevin Spacy, and Viola Davis – just to name a few!

Of course, the United States is not the only place to find excellent acting schools. The UK is also world-renowned for being home to some of the best acting schools, such as the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). These institutions boast alumni such as Rhys Ifans, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Orlando Bloom, and John Lithgow.

How Do You Get Accepted?

Most actor training programs have a limited number of spots, so admissions can be extremely competitive.  The best acting schools want to see talent. In fact, schools like the LAMDA and Oxford do not have academic requirements for their courses – entrance to their programs is based solely on auditions. These schools also want to see commitment. Recruiters want to know that the students they are admitting are going to take their training seriously.

To that end, high school is an excellent time to collect experience and develop the skills for which schools are looking. The best way to do this is to get involved with school plays and local theater.  Consider going to drama camps, or working one-on-one with an acting coach. Anything you can do to gain experience and improve your craft will be valuable to you.

How Will You Pay for Your Education?

The best acting schools are rarely inexpensive.  But luckily, most offer financial aid and scholarships. Finding scholarships may take some research on your part, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Irene Ryan Scholarship

The Irene Ryan Scholarship is awarded to outstanding performers at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, held both nationally and regionally. There are a host of scholarships associated with the Irene Ryan Scholarship also awarded at the KCACTF, so this is definitely a festival worth attending. For more information, visit the Irene Ryan Scholarship website.

  • Donna Reed Performing Arts Scholarship

The Donna Reed Scholarship was created for students who wish to pursue a career in acting. Scholarships are awarded to notable performers through a series of regional and national festivals. For more information visit the Donna Reed Scholarship website.

  • CBC Spouses Heineken USA Performing Arts Scholarship

Applicants must be pursuing full-time study in the performing arts, have a minimum GPA of 2.5, exhibit leadership skills, and show evidence of public service. For a full list of required application materials, visit their website.

  • Princess Grace Awards Program

Applicants for grants through the Princess Grace Foundation must be nominated through a non-profit organization by school department chair or dean, or by a company artistic director. For more information, visit the Princess Grace Foundation’s website.

You can also check out the following databases for more resources:

How to Increase Your Chances

Don’t think that because many arts scholarship and training programs base acceptance heavily on talent that you can allow your grades to slip! In order to round out your education and make you more appealing to scholarship committees, make sure to do the following while in high school:

  • Keep up your GPA.  Many performing arts scholarships may be based on artistic talent, but there are plenty of other types of scholarships that take your academic record into consideration.
  • Participate in productions.  Every production and performance is an opportunity to learn and expand — whether it’s a school play, community theater, or even semi-professional productions.
  • Study acting. You’ll need professional guidance and feedback to really develop your craft. Consider taking private acting lessons and attending theater camps in the summer.

Study hard, work hard, and maintain a positive attitude as you apply for scholarships and prepare for your college education. Good luck!


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