📝 How to write a University Essay in 3 Hours
Against all advice, I did work full time during my 3 first years at university studying medicine. Now, I'm not going to argue as to whether that was the best decision in the world, but as you can imagine, I didn't always have the luxury of time when it came to studying or completing university projects.
So, whether I liked it or not, I did have to step it up and develop ways to get a lot done fast, easily and without procrastinating. Now, while I don't condone leaving things to the last minute and doing them in a rush, systems do help make not-so-enjoyable activities more efficient.
So here is how I would write good university essays in medical school in 3 hours.
First things first. I'm going to be using Notion. It's beautiful, clean, easy to use, generally brilliant and I keep everything in my life on it. I have a whole second brain on Notion if you're into that kind of a thing, have a video about it which will be linked somewhere.
I'll be breaking down every step so that's it's easy to replicate. Let's say our essay title is "The importance of teaching skills for the modern doctor", an essay I had to write last year.
Firstly, let's create a new page in Notion that has database. This sounds fancy, but it's super easy to navigate. I'm going to create multiple columns. The first one will have the essential three part structure of our essay.
We'll have to start it, write something and then end it, so it will have to have an intro, body and conclusion.
I don't like to write essays top to bottom, I like to build on components one by one, and slowly expand. I find this takes a lot less time and makes writing endlessly easier.
Here's where I'll start expanding a bit more on this basic structure.
I feel one of the ways people lose points easily with essays is when they miss out on key assessment points. No matter how fancy your essay is, how many quotes and studies you mention, if you don't have all the components in the assessment, you can't get full marks. So this is the easiest thing to get right and guarantee a pass.
Going to my assessment criteria for this essay, I see that they want me to refer to quite a few things. I'll start adding them in rows in my essay's body.
This essay has 10 assessment points. I check to see if I can merge any of these, but in the case of this essay, they work quite well on their own. That's 10 separate points I will need to make in the body, already done for me.
If you don't have assessment criteria that lend themselves easily to the content of the essay (which I've often had too), we need to make them up ourselves. This is where I will stop and brainstorm for about 5 minutes on different points I can make related to the essay's body.
This should all take 5-10 minutes max.
This is where we will begin to branch out a bit.
So, introduction. I'll need to set the scene for the essay itself. When writing introductions, I like to imagine I'm having a conversation with someone who doesn't know the title of my essay, and I'm not allowed to say it to them explicitly. What I do instead, is set the scene by putting the topic in context in such a way, that if they were to ask one question about it, it would be the title of my essay.
So in this case, the first thing I need to do is explain why it's important for a doctor to be a teacher, this in some form will be my first paragraph.
And something else I need to mention, because this is a reflective essay, is that I actually did some teaching of my own and explain the purpose of the essay itself.
With the body, I'm going to go to every assessment point, one by one, and see if they stand as a paragraph I can write on, or if I can merge any of them.
With the conclusion, I do the same. I want to end this essay by talking about the wider context of higher education and its implications for professional practice of medicine. And something about how this experience changed me.
Column two done. This should take about 10-20 minutes.
This is where we start to have fun. For every aim I created, I want to make a single point. In a good essay, every paragraph needs to put forward a clear argument. And this is what I'll need to find: a single sentence preferably, which will be the core of every paragraph, fulfilling the aims I've just written.
In my essays, these single points are either quotes, studies, personal experiences or thoughts. For example, if I want to set the scene on why it's important for a doctor to be a teacher, I'll use this quote from Richard Feynman which says: "A young man doesn’t realize how much time it takes to prepare good lectures, for the first time, especially—and to give the lectures, and to make up exam problems, and to check that they’re sensible ones." Isn't that beautiful. It's so appropriate for my essay, all I'll need to do is expand on it to create a full paragraph.
I continue this way for every main aim. I'll add some quotes from books (I keep these all in my notes, but you can google them). I'll search PubMed for relevant studies and keep note of of the results that are relevant to me. I'll use feedback others have given on my performance as a teacher, and add all this.
I'll keep a column for the sources (especially for studies, this is super important). So, in the same row, if I've mentioned a study, I have its resource saved for later.
This part usually takes me 30 minutes, but that's because I have a second brain, if you don't this might take an hour. So at this point, at worst, we're up to 1.5h of work done.
Only now, I'll actually start writing my essay. And although this is the dreaded part (and it's no serious fun in this case either) it is ENDLESSLY easier.
It feels like someone has already done all the research, all the planning, all the structuring for me. I don't feel like I need to write a WHOLE essay, I feel like I just need to create little paragraphs for various points, which is actually, quite an easy job to do.
So for every argument I've made, I'll just expand on it a bit more. Explaining why I'm talking about it, how it relates to this essay, to me, to my experience. I add some fancy words and numbers and that's my essay sorted.
This part usually takes me about an hour.
At this point, I leave my essay as is. It's hard for me to "see" what I've written if I've spent too long looking at it. So I like to rest my eyes and mind from the essay for at least a couple of hours, but hopefully a couple of days.
I then take all the paragraphs and just merge them together in one essay. I re-read it and make small changes for about 30 mins and then I just send it in.
Hope this helps :)