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Tips for the New College Semester

September is here, and you know what that means - School!


You’re probably feeling anxious about beginning your semester at a U.S. college or university.  Let’s face it, this can be a stressful time for American students, let alone for au pairs whose first language isn’t English? Chances are you'll be asked to write one or more essays this semester, and maybe this is the cause of some of your fears. 


Don't worry.  Help is on the way!  All essays, no matter what the topic, follow the same basic format.  Here are some handy tips for essay writing.


Step 1.  Write the thesis statement.

A thesis statement tells the reader what the essay will be about.  There are two parts: The first part states the topic and the second part states the points you will make about the topic.  It is good to have about three main points you will discuss.


Step 2.  Write the introduction.

The introduction is the first paragraph of the essay.  The very first sentence should grab the reader’s attention (for example, you might begin with a question or a shocking statistic).  If the 'attention grabber' is only a sentence or two, add a couple more sentences to lead to your thesis statement.  Then finish the introduction paragraph with your thesis statement.


Step 3.   Write the body paragraphs.

The body of the essay is where you explain your topic.  Your essay should have at least three main body paragraphs (one for each point you wish to make about your topic).  The first sentence should state the point of the paragraph.  From there, you will use the information and examples you have to support this point.


Step 4.  Write the conclusion.

The conclusion is the last paragraph of the essay.  All the conclusion needs are three or four sentences that sum up your main points and bring closure to the essay.  You may even choose to end by briefly describing your views on the topic.


Step 5.  Check the instructions for the assignment. 

Make sure you follow all the instructions the professor gave you. Are your margins correct?  Did you double-space the lines?  Do you need a title?  What other information (name, date, etc.) should be included? 


After writing your essay, it’s important to check for mistakes.  The spelling and grammar check option on the computer is a helpful tool.  However, it’s a good idea to have someone review your work to help you improve any weak points and make sure the essay makes sense.  Although your host family will be willing to help, many colleges and universities have writing centers or student tutors who can also assist you with your assignments.  This is a great option for au pairs. You’ll meet American students and improve your English skills at the same time! 


Good luck for the new semester.  We hope you have a great time and enjoy studying at an American college!