What You Should Know About Essay Writing in College to Succeed
Many students come to college believing that the writing skills they acquired in high school are more than enough to get them all the way through college and beyond. They think that they were taught certain techniques because these techniques are universally used, and at the very most, they will have to polish them a little bit. Unfortunately, they can hardly be more wrong. Academic writing in high school and academic writing in college are two completely different things, and before you can learn the latter you have to firmly un-learn most of what you have been taught in high school.
So what is so different about writing essays and other types of academic assignments in college? Let us find out.
1. Greater Emphasis on Formatting
If you were given any instructions related to formatting in high school, they were most likely more of recommendations than straight-on instructions. Even if you failed to follow them completely, your teachers most likely paid more attention to what you had to say than to how you formatted it. In college, the formatting gets serious. Even if you write a brilliant essay but fail to use the prescribed citation style or organize your headers incorrectly, you will most likely get your grade decreased. In other words, if you want to succeed, get ready to review every piece of writing looking for deviations from the prescribed formatting style, as well as to look up doubtful moments in your style guide.
2. It Does not Have to Follow the 5-Paragraph Structure
In high school, you most likely learned the traditional 5-paragraph essay structure. According to it, your essay should be exactly 5 paragraphs long, with one dedicated to the introduction, one to a conclusion, and three to individual arguments constituting the body of the essay. When you get to college, the faster you forget about these conventions, the better. The truth is, this “traditional” 5-paragraph structure is completely arbitrary and serves exactly one purpose – to create a framework to teach you how to express your thoughts in written form. It does not represent any rule that is set in stone or commonly accepted convention – it is simply a tool used to teach newbies to write.
A college essay does not have to follow this pattern. It can have more than three body paragraphs; it can creatively approach the way it handles introduction and conclusion; it does not have to follow any other rules imposed on you in high school. The only requirement is that what you write should work – if you feel that you’ve managed to express your thoughts in a satisfactory manner, then everything is alright.
3. It Is More Attentive to Research
When you had to do any research in high school, it most likely was a token effort aimed to show that you know how to work with your sources and organize them in the bibliography section. In college, things get serious. You have to look for your own sources of information, study and analyze them, uncover evidence that would support your point of view even if it is not mentioned in any of the commonly known books on the subject, and so on. In other words, when you say, “Do my essay review
” to somebody, you should be ready to answer pertinent questions about any and all of the sources you used when writing it.
4. It Has to Be Original
Again, in high school, your teachers were mostly concerned with how you organized your writing and whether you were capable to express your thoughts in a more or less coherent manner. They were not particularly interested in what you had to say – after all, they read hundreds of essays written by other teenagers, and it is highly unlikely that most of them had anything significant to say.
In college, things are different. Not only do you have to master the rules of building your argument and structuring your writing; you also have to offer something meaningful to say. You can no longer offer a generic argument repeating something you read somewhere; you have to form your own opinion, find a way to back it up with evidence, and provide an argument that would both build upon the existing body of research and offer something new to say about the subject matter.
5. You Have to Show Your Work
“What do you mean, my work? I do write an essay, is it not work enough?” If it is what you think right now, then we are bound to disappoint you. Work in terms of college academic writing generally refers to the research you carry out: sources you find, people you survey, statistics you study. The more individual, independent, and reliable sources you use in your writing, the better. Of course, you have to consider the size of your paper: for example, an essay a few pages long does not need to have more than 5 to 7 sources. However, if we are talking about a term paper or something larger, you can easily use 10 sources or more – there is no real upper limit.
6. You Have to Demonstrate Analytical Skills
In high school, it was enough for you to show that you understand what you are talking about. In college, you have to demonstrate that you can analyze the topic and make conclusions based on the information you get. You cannot simply repeat what you read somewhere – you have to use your own mind to make meaningful conclusions about what you read.
As you can see, there is a world of difference between writing in high school and in college, although both formally belong to academic writing. If you learned certain writing practices in high school, you should by definition treat them with a bit of suspicion – not all of them are viable at higher academic levels. Pay attention to the points we have mentioned, and we believe you will be able to learn how to write college-level papers in no time.