Colleges Taking over where High Schools have Failed Trends in Freshman Writing

College freshmen’s writing reveals quite a bit about them during a huge transition in their academic lives. They are crossing the bridge from high school writing courses to the college level, where the expectations of them change quite a bit.

Typical high school writing classes focus on building up young adults’ confidence as writers, but colleges have a different focus. High schoolers may be applauded for fleshing out their thoughts even if it involves flowery, verbose writing. Therefore, some new college freshmen may be in for a shock when their first college composition assignments take a beating.

Since many upper-level high school writing courses revolve around preparation for standardized tests, such as the AP exams and/or college admissions essays, young students learn the basics of crafting an essay and are encouraged to string their arguments together eloquently.

As a result, most college freshman writing shows the student grappling with a thesis and striving to sound knowledgeable. Their paragraphs may lack seamless transitions in an effort to fit into, for example, the five paragraph essay formula. Flowery phrases show up where a leaner sentence construction would suffice to get the same point across. These young students aren’t as concerned with not bogging down the reader as they are with just putting together a solid argument.

Composition and rhetoric classes in college take these freshmen’s writing development to the next level. The best college-level writing classes will help prepare students to whittle their essays down to a smooth, lean composition with sound argumentation and support. The all-important thesis statement is still there, as are the supporting examples that back it up. But the goal of the writing style is to become smoother and clearer so that the argumentation can take center stage.

Once a student masters conciseness and clarity, their writing will be fit for any of their assignments in college and beyond: all those researched papers for the political science major, lab write-ups for the aspiring engineer, and poetry explications for the creative writer will help prepare them for their post-college career path.

High school courses greatly emphasize eloquent writing, as typical college freshman essays clearly show. But college courses teach them how to convey their thoughts simply and effectively, without letting all the mechanics underneath their argument get in the way of their main point. In a world where more and more communication is written, these basic skills are essential no matter what the path their education and eventual career follows.