Why Every Essay You Write Matters…Yes, Even In the First Year (Guest Post)


I’m excited to welcome Rachael from Joined Up Writing in today’s post. I’m no stranger to going on about how much the first year counts. It’s a myth to think that you can scrape by on a pass and save your effort for next year. There are many great reasons why the first year counts far more than it seems.

Rachael gives you three of those reasons why it’s time to take your first year coursework seriously. And be sure to check her site for two more reasons after that.

Over to Rachael!

Hello, it’s Rachael here from and I’m excited to be sharing my thoughts with you today on why every essay counts towards your degree!

Why Every Essay You Write Matters

One phrase I often hear students say is that “first-year essays don’t matter” or “first-year essays don’t count towards your final degree”.  It’s maybe something that you’ve heard people say too. Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself?

But if you choose to ignore your first-year essays it does make a difference to your results. I’ll explain three reasons why your essays count right from day one and three pro tips you can employ right away to help you nail them from the beginning!


#1 You learn to write

Every time you write an essay, you have the chance to improve. If you don’t take those early essays seriously, then you’ll miss opportunities to hone your research and writing skills.

Even if you’ve hit it out of the ballpark with your A-Level results, you’ll find there is a big jump upward in standard when you begin to write at University.

School and college are tightly focused on the outcome of passing assessments. Teachers provide multiple occasions to practice for your final assessment through tests, mock exams, and revision classes.

It’s different at University. Here the focus is on developing critical thinking skills so you learn to evaluate research independent of your tutor. Often you’ll simply be supplied with an outline of what is required to pass the module and how marks are allocated. You may get a rubric showing what the marker is looking for, or you may be given a previous year’s exam paper or essays as examples. Generally, though you’ll need to figure out what, when and how to pass the assessment by yourself.

Your lecturer or tutor wants you to be successful, but they’ll assume you can already craft an essay that reflects your intellect and ability.

Pro tip: Every time you write an essay, set yourself some objectives for learning the process of writing alongside your main outcome of answering the essay question. Your process objective could be to: improve essay structure, apply theory correctly, or cite better evidence. This allows you to use each of those essays that ‘don’t count’ to learn to write better.


#2 You write to learn

The actual process of writing, if done correctly, can also improve your ability to learn. Writing enables you to improve the clarity of your thought process AND the precision of how you express ideas.

When you begin to research an essay topic, initially you think about your subject matter using the words of the scholars you have read. Subconsciously, you’ll think along the same lines as them too. The process of writing forces you to push beyond what you’ve read and make decisions about what is important, relevant and best supports your argument.

It is only when you begin to write that you really pull apart the different ideas and evidence you’ve read, and start to piece it together in an order that answers your essay question. It’s this two-part process of separation and synthesis that helps you comprehend, critique and commit the material to memory.

Writing also improves your ability to express your thoughts in a concise, coherent manner.  Submitting an essay that your tutor can easily understand will bring in those higher marks from the start, and those first half-dozen essays are ideal to practice new vocabulary, definitions, and terms that are important in your field too.

Pro tip: Create your own mini-dictionary for each subject that you study. Every time you find a word in a book or article that you don’t understand, make a note of it in a spreadsheet or notebook. Take time later to look them up and write what they mean in your ‘dictionary’ using words that you can easily understand.


#3 You write to access opportunities

As student numbers continue to rise, employers look for different ways to differentiate candidates, not only for jobs after graduation but for internships and industrial placements too.

Understandably, these opportunities are hotly contested because there is a strong correlation between students who complete placements and those that are offered graduate positions after they conclude their studies.

What employability factors do employers look for in applicants? Creativity? Confidence? Competence? Yes, all of those are obvious qualities that employers look for. One attribute that’s often overlooked by students, but highly relevant to companies is consistency. Employers know past performance is one of the biggest predictors of future achievement.

Think about it. It makes sense.

An internship or industrial placement is secured partly based on results from your initial year. Fortunately, this gives you a head start over those people who proclaim that first-year results don’t count. You’ll approach your essays with the knowledge that consistently achieving good marks (and working towards great marks!) shows you take your academic work seriously. To an employer, this suggests you’ll take their internship or industrial placement seriously too.

Pro tip: Examine the modules you’re due to take this semester. What assessment methods are used? Essays? Reports? A presentation? Now look at the marks assigned to each element. Are some parts of the assessment worth more than another? Then split your time accordingly. If 70% of your mark is an individual essay and 30% is a group presentation, focus your attention on the essay – tempting though it is to hang out with your group over coffee!

There you have it: first-year essays count because they help you write better, learn better, and have better opportunities!

Which reason resonates with you? Be sure to comment on TheUniversityBlog below!

Now, here’s your homework. Hop across to to grab a download with two further reasons why you should take first-year essays seriously and two extra Pro Tips.