It can be a serious problem for students to transition from high school to college academic writing. The change in format and style can be rather confusing. Sometimes you may even be asked to write papers that are beyond your grasp. And while in high school, you can easily and quickly deal with various tasks, writing an essay in college requires more time, effort, and skills.
Similarly, much of what is “good” or “perfect” in high school tasks can be “weak” or “poor” when it comes to writing an essay in college. The reason is not the professors who are more demanding, but because of the higher expectations in academic writing.
It is important to keep in mind the difference between college and high school writing. Of course, the more correct word is not difference, but differences. They are:
- The general approach to writing and necessary skills.
- The time needed to complete the task.
- Researching and coming up with good thesis statements and arguments.
- Paragraphs, structure, and formatting the paper.
Let’s discuss the main differences between high school and college writing at different stages of education.
Main Changes Expected at Different Levels
Students may feel a little confused while writing their first college essay. There may be several reasons for this.
For some students, college-level requirements may be too difficult. In high school, you should submit an essay with the correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and stick to general guidelines. But in college, the teacher will not be impressed with a standard essay. Here you should pay more attention and try harder to write a paper that will impress the professor. Make strong statements, confirm your arguments with extensive evidence, present non-trivial facts, and draw convincing conclusions. This is not just a story. You will encounter more complex problems, thorough research and analyses, and written assignments that focus on a particular field of study.
Below you will find a list of some expectations you need to meet on your way to impress college teachers.
- Show critical and analytical skills.
- Present new thoughts and ideas that are related to the topic.
- Express interesting viewpoints on the main problems and concerns.
- Use analysis and evaluation techniques when researching a subject.
- Give convincing arguments that are reflected in the text.
- Provide proper evidence that protects your claim.
Teachers in high school may also require some or all of these – it depends on the instructor. But the key difference between high school and college writing is usually related to the degree to which some of these elements are needed.
For example, English teachers in high school usually encourage their students to apply their best skills and find new ideas in lots of classroom and homework tasks. However, a high school teacher can be satisfied with several original ideas and concepts. It can be a few sentences or a paragraph. A professor in college may need not only a few points for discussion, but also that they are analyzed in more than one paragraph.
Format and Structure
Some other differences between high school and college writing that may arise are related to the structure and format. High school teachers, as a rule, present interesting abbreviations, schemes, and useful tips and tricks which can help students to come up with great ideas and formulate various types of papers.
In college, lots of these “tips” don’t work because they reflect a formalized approach to writing, which many professors condemn. Many more paragraphs and sections can be assigned, and formatting here can go far beyond ordinary MLA.
What are the differences between high school and college writing related to structure and formatting?
- An essay of five paragraphs. College writing is not compatible with the basic essay of five paragraphs because it limits analysis to three points, or three paragraphs.
- The content of a paragraph. High school students are advised to add a limited number of points in every paragraph. Writing in college has less restrictions on the content of the paragraph and encourages long paragraphs to fully meet a specific goal (this may require a few proofs, key points, etc.).
- The format of the paper. High school teachers may ask students to submit essays that comply loosely with the basic standards of style guides, like MLA and APA. These guidelines may not be necessary in high school; however, it is standard for writing papers at other academic institutions. Papers can be significantly discounted or rejected if formatting rules are not followed.
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