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How is College Writing Different from High School Writing?

When students make the leap from high school to college, there are a lot of new experiences in store for them. Dorm life, campus events, dining hall dinners and much more await the budding young pupil. This concept of new and different experiences extends into their college academics as well. College writing, for example, will seem vastly different to former high school students for many reasons. It’s important that, before students crash and burn beneath the unexpected expectations of college writing, that they understand the differences between college and high school writing. Here are some of the key differences that student’s can expect when they encounter college writing for the first time.

  1. The clear-cut thesis. In high school, you could often get away with having a pretty cookie-cutter thesis. If the question asked, ‘what is your view on creationism?’ you could always say, ‘my view on creationism is…’ This changes dramatically in college. First of all, there are far less obvious questions. You’re expected to develop your own interesting, pointed thesis question, which you’ll then attempt to answer. The key here is that the thesis must be clear, and it must also be interesting. Professors have no time for boring papers: when you write a college paper, make sure your claim will actually peak a reader’s interest.
  2. The evidence. In high school you could often get away using your own experiences or opinions in papers. Do not repeat this in college. Professors aren’t interested in your personal beliefs or past experiences. They want hard, clear-cut evidence that fully supports your thesis. This will include quotes from credible sources, data from scientific research, information for academic journals and other crucial evidence collected from scholarly sources. In college, you need to prove your point literally, and in an unbiased, highly educated fashion.
  3. The weaknesses. The other huge difference between college writing and essay writing is that college professors want you to address the possible weaknesses in your argument. This is crucial. In high school you could get away with just proving your point and disregarding others; in college, you can’t. If there are possible holes in your thesis support, you have to address them. You can’t just cover them up or pretend they aren’t there – this will make you appear less intelligent, not more. You also have to make sure that, if evidence exists that contrasts your thesis, you mention it. Talk about the whole picture – not just the small snippet you want to focus on.
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