High School vs College Writing

Phoenix1

Member
Take a look at this post that was written about the differences between high school and college. It's got a lot of great information that pertains to what I'm about to write about below. Actually, the two posts are quite intertwined in that they both reference the general and writing aspects and differences of high school and college. While high school teaches the more mechanical aspects of studying and writing, college introduces the student to true academia. It assumes that the college student has a desire to become a junior scholar and because of that, the bar is raised and those who attend both colleges and universities are expected to research, write, and submit work at that scholarly level.

College will push you further than you've ever been pushed. It'll expect you to take your writing to the next level - a step above what you're used to. If you read the post I referenced above, you'll see why this is necessary. When it comes to writing, what you'll need to complete high school level assignments are simply different that what you'll need to complete college level assignments. Teachers in high school expect, again, the more formal of the written communication skills and practices, while college professors expect students to take what they've learned and to run with it.

If you've already graduated high school and if you paid close attention to what your English and writing teachers have been assigning and looking for as it pertains to your work, you may have noticed that what was desired was more mechanical in nature. Can you set up and express ideas coherently in well formed paragraphs? How well do you know your grammar? When and where do you utilize certain tools and rules of the English language? Can you form sentences well? Do you know what a thesis statement is and can you create one that compels a reader to continue on? Does it make sense and does it do what it's intended to do? These foundational skills are actually what's measured on the essay portion of the SAT. Basically, can a student at the high school level organize their ideas into clear and coherent paragraphs? Is their thesis consistent with the rest of their writing? Do their sentences and ideas flow well and are they structured in such a way as to effectively communicate the meaning and intention of the overall piece? All of these skills create the foundation of good writing. High school teachers (if they're worth their salt) spend an inordinate amount of time pounding good form into students' heads. The primary desire of a high school teacher is that their students leave them with the tools needed for application at the college level. As mentioned above, college writing is more demanding than high school writing. College writing is demanding in that it requires a student to think back to all those purely functional lessons they leaned in high school and to apply them to an entirely different type of work. While in high school, students are expected to adhere to much more of a formula-based writing, but while in college, students are expected to take that formula and apply it to a rigorous and deep analysis of a particular area. College professors what their students to answer questions. They want students to delve into ideas and explore them, not merely read about them from someone else's writing and regurgitate them while using different words. High schoolers may feel like they're on top of the world after they ace the writing portion of the SAT. But if they sit on their laurels and remain complacent in college, their professors won't generously reward them for their past successes. Professors are notorious for handing out Cs and Ds to students who fail to demonstrate original and ambitious thought.

College level writing is sort of like debating, but it's not. If that makes any sense. While engaging in a debate, the debater is oftentimes assigned a predetermined position or premise that they must work from. When it comes to writing, a college student isn't expected to have formulated a predetermined thesis. That's actually the point of the writing. As an independent junior scholar, a college student must take a genuine and driving interest in a topic to take on a complex question with full vigor. Students must begin the writing assignment with no assumptions and must approach the topic and question with an unbiased view. Then, they must consider many different positions and alternatives, pieces of evidence, and the various alternative explanations to offer an argument that makes sense to both themselves and the professor or whomever it is who will be reading the paper. In this way, writing is similar to debating in that research and evidence must be evaluated and positions taken in an effort to ultimately persuade.

Many brand new college students aren't prepared for what professors expect from them and fail to meet the requirements. It's not unheard of to see an entire class fail the first few assigned papers, merely because expectations weren't met. It's tough to grapple with how much work is actually required to write a thoughtful and complete college level paper. Think rough draft that includes a thesis and scope of an argument. Then think about working from the original rough draft, but starting over on a new draft that includes an almost well defined argument and a much more refined thesis. It's usually in this second round that the student finds their faults in the first round. And even in the second round. It's in the third writing of the paper that all the shortcomings are addressed, the argument perfected, and the thesis refined to such a level as to impress. And it's only when the writing has something of substance to offer that it can be considered complete. It's only when the professor is actually challenged or learns something that the paper is finished. College level papers are expected add to the conversation with originality and rigor.

It's a shame really. So many college students are so bent on accepting assignments and simply completing them as quickly and effortlessly as possible. They think about what they'd like their conclusions to be before even putting finger to keyboard and then become extremely attached to their final work product. If a round of proof reading is called for, that's fine. They'll do that and then hand their papers in to their professors. Many students will get the grades they deserve, which aren't great. Most will leave it at that, even if the professor suggests a rewrite. Perhaps the student will correct a few grammatical errors here or there and then hand the paper back in, expecting a markedly improved grade. When that doesn't materialize, they become upset. What's actually called for is an entire rewrite due to the fact that the writing assignment wasn't approached with the intellectual and academic vigor that was expected by college and university level scholars. Imagine the frustration these professors face. Imagine attempting to stimulate true academic growth and learning within a student who doesn't have an interest in that. After all, the purpose of attending secondary education is to learn and to grow, not to merely express and regurgitate. It's not about only researching and taking what others have done previously and working from that, it's about formulating unique and original ideas and exploring them to come to sensible conclusions. It's about challenging the professor and what's been previously accepted. It's about enticing the professor to take a second and a third look at the paper and to set it aside to reread later on. It's about getting an A, not a B. And if that takes a complete and utter rewrite and then another one after that, then so be it. After a few of those types of experiences, the student will come to understand what's expected and what it takes to truly become a scholar.
 
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