Five Steps to Transition from High School to College Writing

By Jordan Dynes


Imagine this: it’s your first day of college. You’re enjoying yourself and making tons of new friends. Then, on the very first day, your professor assigns an essay. You don’t sweat it because you aced all of your high school essays without trying too hard. You proceed to procrastinate until the night that the paper is due only to find out that the writing that you did in high school was almost entirely different than what the prompt sitting right in front of you requires. After visiting your university’s writing center website, you stumble upon this blog. Lucky for you, I’m here to give you some tips for transitioning from high school to college writing.

  1. Organization

In high school, do you remember your teacher telling you that all essays should be five paragraphs? In college, the organization of your paper is different than that. Limiting yourself to five paragraphs can cause you to suppress some of your best ideas. Take as many paragraphs as you need to answer the prompt (making sure you stay within page requirements for that assignment). Furthermore, everything in your essay has a purpose. Each sentence should be placed strategically to defend your argument, also known as your thesis statement. 

  1. Thesis Statements

A thesis statement for a paper in college might look different than the ones you created in high school. For example, in high school you may remember assembling a three-pronged thesis statement similar to this one: “Pizza is great because it is easy to eat, can have many toppings, and is inexpensive.” Now that you are in college, all of the ideas in your thesis statement should fall under one argument or one idea. Here is a thesis statement that might be more acceptable in college: “Although many food critics argue that pizza has its drawbacks, pizza is ultimately the best food.” This thesis statement is argumentative because food critics say that pizza has its drawbacks, and you can argue why pizza is the best food in your body paragraphs.

  1. Conclusion

Now that the first draft of your paper is drawing to a close, it is time to write the conclusion. You might remember your teacher in high school telling you that you should summarize the entire essay in your conclusion. While you can reiterate some of your key points, the conclusion is much more than that. In your conclusion, you should restate your thesis statement and then say why the idea that you have been arguing was worth reading and why it is important to the world. Bring a call to action to the audience. Why should pizza be recognized as the best food?

  1. Revising/Editing

If you’ve only ever completed one draft of a paper and turned it in for grading, then it is time to consider changing that habit. Revising and editing your paper  is crucial to the success of your essay. Revision is important because you might discover a new point that could enhance your argument. You could also go back through your paper and realize that one point just does not fit. It is also wise to check your paper for simple mistakes. Spell check cannot catch every error, so it is important to go back and look for sentence structure flaws, in addition to making sure that your ideas as crisp and concise as possible.

  1. MLA Formatting

Congratulations! Your final essay is almost complete. Now you have to make sure that you followed correct MLA formatting. Most of your English essays will require MLA formatting, so here are a couple of tips. Make sure that your paper is double spaced, has 1 inch margins, and is typed in size 12 Times New Roman font. Also, make sure that you obtained quality sources from places such as Google Scholars and the UNR Library Website. For your works cited page, Purdue Owl is a good resource to make sure that you are following correct citing rules. Now go complete your essay, and happy writing!

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