How to Prepare for College Writing

Whatever you choose for a major, there will be specific key skills you need to master. However, the most vital of these will be writing. In college, the only way to communicate your knowledge in any subject will be through the magical power of words. Nearly everything you do to communicate your understanding and aptitude for any given topic will be done through this medium.

Writing is probably the most fundamental skill set to master if you want to set yourself up for success. And this skill will not only serve you through your college years, but it will also become a vital component of your overall career experience throughout life. Critical thinking, the ability to analyze words, and your capacity to communicate depend on it.

It won’t matter whether you choose to become a scientist or an English major. Learning essential writing skills will be paramount from this point forward. In this article, we will talk about how to hone your skills best to prepare for college-level writing.

Understand the Difference Between High School and College Writing

In high school, the writing was all about showing your understanding of grammar, sentence structure, and formatting. You likely did a lot of summarizing of information already provided to craft your essays and papers.

However, college is where that all ends. Your professors don’t want to see you spit out a neat summary of what has been covered in each lecture. They want to hear your own analysis of the materials. They want to know you have looked critically at the provided documents and can express your own viewpoint with clarity and forethought.

Your professors are eager to hear your own ideas and arguments based on the research you have conducted. Cookie-cutter papers might help you pass, but they won’t impress. It’s vital to demonstrate that you have absorbed the ideas presented in class and can think critically about all the information presented. 

Of course, in conversation, you may well be able to do this. However, its essential you learn how to do it on paper.

Start by Reading

One of the best ways to ensure you become the best writer you can is to be an avid reader. Every piece ever written came from someone’s mind, whether it is the highest caliber novel or the humblest of poems. Learn to analyze each thing you read with several critical factors in mind.

There is excellent writing, mediocre writing, and just plain terrible writing available from a variety of sources. Newspapers, magazines, blog posts, menus, advertisements, novels, and more all contain the words someone else has written.

Become a critical thinker of these sources. Look at everything you read to see if it conveys the intended message. Imagine the writer doing their work and try to envision what they were thinking. From the lowliest newsletter to the loftiest piece of literature, look at everything in a new light. Realize that somebody, someplace, for some reason, wrote these words, and try to analyze what their intentions were.

By doing this, you will start to understand the language of the written word in a whole new way.

Study the Writing Process

In the digital age, you have zero excuses for not understanding or studying the writing process. There are quite literally thousands of resources available at the tip of your fingers that are just one click away. Use these resources to your advantage.

While college-level writing is different than what you have produced in the past, the process is still the same, so this is where you should begin:

Rough Draft

You know what this is. Brainstorm your ideas and get them out on paper. Don’t worry about how things are formatted and ignore spelling and grammar errors at this point. The point is to write as much as you can about the subject at hand. Get it out of your mind and into a concrete format.

Revise and Polish

Once your basic idea starts to take shape, it’s time to revise your work, so it reflects the thoughts you want to convey. At this point, you still don’t need to concern yourself with how the paper looks, but with how you construct your thoughts. Keep revising your ideas as you go along. Sometimes you will find you come up with newer and better views during the creative process. Don’t be afraid to scratch your original argument in favor of a more poignant statement.

Edit and Format

The final part of your writing will be editing and formatting. This is where you will need to fix any typos, spelling errors, or grammar mistakes. You will also want to look over your work several times to ensure it portrays your ideas effectively. It can be helpful to have a friend or teacher critique things at this point.

Finally, make sure you format your paper using the proper headers, fonts, and sizes. Depending on the course you are taking, you should check your syllabus to see what any individual requirements are for final formatting.

Be Open to Constructive Criticism

The most celebrated writers in the world didn’t get there by accident. Although you might feel your work is well-written, understand that there is still so much to learn. Being humble and open to constructive criticism will ensure that each successive writing project you undertake will be better than the last.

Make Solid Writing Skills a Number One Priority

Whether you are still in high school or are just beginning your first year of college, realize that your success will depend largely upon your ability to write a compelling paper. Practice often and build on your skills so you can become the most persuasive writer you can be. Doing so will not only ensure good grades but an excellent transition into your higher education and beyond.

Terrific writing skills are also going to serve you well when it comes to college applications, essays, scholarship applications, and the many other documents you will need to complete to gain entry into the college of your choice. Learning the best techniques and methods will give you a competitive edge you never thought possible.