For high school students, the complexity level of studying is getting higher and higher as they prepare for college. Writing is an essential part of a student’s college life when studying liberal arts. Moreover, everything done in class has to be reflected through the perception and writing of a student, whether classes are discussion-based or lecture-focused.
Below, we gathered 6 major differences between high school and college writing. This article will help high school students be fully prepared for writing college papers. Keep in mind that there are crucial differences between high school and college writing.
High school writing often means teachers will provide comprehensive approaches and rules to direct you throughout the writing process. Nonetheless, college writing is more difficult than that. Professors don’t generally provide students with guidelines or rules that you can follow when planning and writing a college paper. It’s necessary to forget all the rules that you’ve been taught in high school and meet the requirements of university writing. This will let you be more efficient in perfecting strong argumentative writing skills and a more grown writing style.
The structure of an essay
- High School:
Considering essay structure, high school teachers suggest that students have to follow the five-paragraph or five-point essay structure. This structure includes an introduction, three main points, and a conclusion. According to this structure, an essay has to begin and end with general information. The introduction has to lead to the specific details of a topic and then branch out to general information at the end. A standard five-paragraph essay usually means that the form will take control over the content rather than content will control the form. Students are required to fit their content into every paragraph because each paragraph is assigned a certain purpose. This structure indirectly makes students limit and control their thoughts, observations, and analysis to only three main points. It results in an effort to tailor and reduce other crucial points that might be necessary to the essay development and content delivery.
Considering college essay writing, there’s no certain structure or number of points that a college essay must include. It’s a no-brainer that the topics of discussion in college writing are more complex if we compare them to high school essays. That’s why students are allowed to have as many paragraphs as they need to express all of their ideas, viewpoints, and thoughts related to the topic of discussion. The flow lack is one of the main reasons why five-paragraph essays don’t generally work in college writing. The style of placing the arguments allows students to treat each paragraph and its main idea as a separate thing. It means that there’s no need to connect all of your paragraphs to form an argument. However, professors will expect you to know the facts and make a clear, coherent argument. College writing assignments are all about focusing on analyzing and interpreting the topic. As you can see, the difference in the writing styles is obvious.
- High School:
In high school essays, as we previously found out, the main arguments are narrowed down to specific paragraphs, so students should begin with a topic sentence that illustrates the thesis statement and presents the planned idea. After that step, students need to end each paragraph with a conclusion that restates the point in the topic sentence or end with a transitional sentence that will introduce the next paragraph. The next paragraphs follow the same structure.
Compared to the high school essay structure, college professors don’t expect you to limit your ideas and thoughts when expressing them. Paragraphs can vary anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of a page. This aspect of essay writing depends on the idea of your essay and how well-delivered evidence in your essay is. The sole purpose of college writing is to ask students to provide highlights, evidence, and analysis to satisfy their main points. That’s why college writing commonly has fewer restrictions on content and paragraph length. However, we can see one similarity in paragraphs between high school and college writing. The beginning of the paragraph comes with a topic sentence that has to summarize the paragraph’s main point and only then moves on to provide supporting claims and arguments. The new structure in college writing gives students the ability to write more coherent, easy-to-understand, and clear paragraphs.
However, it’s uncommon for college essays to have a concluding sentence regarding the structure. College tutors have vast experience in reading long research papers and complex essays. Because of that, students shouldn’t repeat the topic sentence at the end of every paragraph of their paper. Instead, students can use free space in the essay to give the last bit of evidence and analysis to support the topic and improve the essay. A high level of writing abilities will let you complete a clear analysis and make your paragraphs easier to read for your readers even without writing a transition.
- High School:
As mentioned above, in the thesis statement for high school writing, students are required to end the opening paragraph with a thesis statement that has to be summarized in one sentence. It has to be mentioned that there’re special nuances between thesis statements and topic sentences. Thus, students usually create a general thesis statement that may correspond with a topic sentence. More than that, the thesis statement has to be supported by three main points. Let’s take a look at a standard example of “listing” the argument in high school writing:
“I will show how the Romans lost their empire in Britain and Gaul by examining military technology, religion, and politics.” (UNC)
According to college writing techniques, the opening paragraph can end with a thesis statement. Nonetheless, it isn’t a hard requirement for college writing. Because the topics for college papers are quite complex, the thesis statement isn’t usually supported by three main points. There can be even more than three points when it comes to discussing the topic described in a paper. Also, a thesis statement can be two or even three sentences long. A thesis statement has to be complex, well-developed, and not restate the topic sentence. Let’s take a look at an example of a typical thesis statement in college writing:
“The Romans lost their empire in Britain and Gaul because their opponents’ military technology caught up with their own at the same time as religious upheaval and political conflict was weakening the sense of common purpose on the home front.” (UNC)
Introduction and Conclusion
- High School:
I think you might recall your high school teacher telling you that your introduction should be general and comprehensive to glue the reader to your paper before narrowing it down to precise points. Your teacher probably said that the conclusion should provide a summary of the central points discussed in the paper as well. See, this type of writing an introduction and conclusion is highly typical in high school because teachers try their best to help students think in a well-structured, logical, and strict way since we’re all guilty of falling into the rabbit hole of discussing arguments that may not be related to the topic.
Nevertheless, college professors require their students to be straight to the point. Students are required to determine their arguments in concrete terms instead of simply paraphrasing the facts and topics the moment they receive the writing prompt. Don’t forget that the conclusion is there for a reason. Your reader is already aware of what was earlier in the essay, so instead of summarizing, you should focus on refining the conclusion to reflect the topic of a personal story, maybe even raise a question of curiosity or make readers think of insights for further discussion.
- High School:
Even on the SAT, teachers suggest that students need to stick to one side or other when making an argument. It lets students provide examples and evidence to support their claims better. Students who didn’t receive comprehensive writing training find it difficult to bring up two opposing and counter-argue points. Also, high school students tend to make arguments that are based on personal experience or opinion because they may not fully understand the subject to make a persuasive argument.
Evidence is the key to a successful paper. Professors expect to read a claim that would encourage them to keep on reading. Students usually spend an enormous amount of time researching the information that could support or oppose their arguments, so argumentative essays should be supported by strong evidence from scholarly and journal sources. As the great Edwards Deming once said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Moreover, college professors want their students to think about “limits and objections to the claim” because all interesting claims can be “reasonably challenged.” Professors consider an essay that addresses counterarguments and the supporting arguments as strong and persuasive. The University of Chicago’s guide to writing states that students should think of giving arguments similar to “an amiable and lively conversation with someone whom you respect and who respects you; someone who is interested in what you’ve to say but won’t agree with your claims just because you state them; someone who wants to hear your reasons for believing your claims and also wants to hear answers to their questions.”
- High School:
Formatting is essential for numerous high school essays, especially ones with research or argumentative essays. High school teachers usually go for such style guide standards as the MLA and APA because they’re simple and easy to instruct. There’s no strict control over style guides in high school because the essay’s focus is to teach students how to create arguments, provide evidence, and write a clear, coherent essay. Furthermore, high school topics are way less complex than college topics. Thus students don’t have to do deep research to understand the subject matter.
In college, writing formatting and citations take up a notable amount of the grade for a research paper. The problem is that different professors have different formatting requirements, varying from APA to AMA to Chicago. If you don’t bother considering this, your papers may be marked down because formatting guidelines aren’t met.
Those were our top major differences between high school and college writing. Take this information into account, try the tips mentioned above and enjoy the results.