smooth transitions



Some students seem make very smooth transitions from their writing in high school to writing in college, and we all heartily wish that all of us find college writing easy and compatible to what we have been used to. But other students are usually puzzled and also frustrated by their experiences in writing for their college classes. Only months earlier, their writing was winning praise; but now the instructors are dissatisfied, and are constantly saying that the writing isn’t quite “there” yet, and also saying that the writing is “lacking something.” We haven’t changed in college–our writing is still excellent and mechanically sound, while our descriptions are accurate, and we are saying smart things.

But the instructors are still not happy. Some of the criticism comes in a way that is easy to understand as it is easy to predict that the standards at college are going to be somehow higher than in high school. It is not just a matter of higher standards: As often, what our instructors are asking of us is not just something better, but something very different. If that is the case, then we won’t succeed merely by being more or extra intelligent or more skillful at doing what we did in high school. Instead, we will need to direct our skills and intelligence to a new task.

Most of the times, this struggle occurs because college professors have varying expectations regarding the structure and the argument of writing than those that are usually found in high schools. College writing usually differs significantly from high school writing in several ways that will be explored below.

In high school, you are taught to construct five paragraph essays and many other short forms of writing. College writing strongly and aggressively discourages this five-paragraph essay format, and instead pushes the students to break out of these limits that have been imposed by such a rigid structure. This introduction, three-supporting-points/, and conclusion strategy is simply not practical and applicable for college assignments. College students should be prepared to explore the alternative strategies in writing. Generally, there exists fewer rules and regulations that are imposed in college. We will be expected to make and stick to our own schedule, and keep up on all our work. Professors expect us to be in class to learn. And whether or not we learn is our responsibility. Many students, after a short period of adjustment, settle into a balanced lifestyle of good work and play. Those who do not usually do not make it through their first year.

In high school, we learnt to include a thesis statement in papers, and usually somewhere near the end of the first paragraph. Likewise, most college writing also depends on thesis statements, but they usually look very different from the statements we were used to seeing and writing. A typical high school thesis statement looks like this: In this paper, I am going to discuss Abigail Williams’ motive in The Crucible. On the other hand, a typical college thesis might look more like this: In The Crucible, Abigail Williams strongly denounces Elizabeth Proctor and the other women from her village in one attempt to win John Proctor for herself.

This shows that the sample college thesis statement acts to set up a specific argument and also takes a position on the argument. Additionally, it gives the reader some warning that regard the kind of evidence expected in the remainder of the paper. Readers expect, at minimum, the information about the relationship between Abigail and John, relationship between Elizabeth and John, and also between Abigail and Elizabeth.  College thesis statements should always be specific and opinionated, as well as deniable.  

A paper in high school might have involved the collection of information from Yahoo! or from Google and also re-presenting the information in one book-report format–that is, research for sake of research. College research papers are usually nearly always argument-based: meaning you collect evidence so that you can make a point, and not just to prove that you found five sources. Moreover, all college papers require a different and more scholarly level of source material. While the Internet is a great research tool, college students should and must learn the difference between the unreliable “free web” sources and the more reliable “scholarly” sources. Anything the library pays for through all subscription services is generally an acceptable research source. Scholarly and also professional-level books, websites and all peer-reviewed journals are even better.

Though it varies by professor, most of the college papers are usually typed, double-spaced, and with standard margins. They are usually in the 12-point font, and in either Times New Roman or Arial. Unless the professors specifically ask for one, papers are generally submitted without a cover page; and similarly, college papers rarely include the plastic binders or other types of folders. Graphics, such as charts or clipart, maybe permitted, but they should be professional looking and not count as page space.


Vincennes University, (2009). Some Differences between Writing in High School and In

College. Retrieved from -high-school on 5 August, 2013.