In 2003, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released the results of the college writing assessment test, which aimed at identification the level of writing proficiency and lexical competence of fourth-, eighth- and twelfth- graders. This report provided the information on how good students could write essays, communicate information and provide arguments.
The results showed that fourth- and eighth- graders have become better writers in comparison with the previous years, whilst, the level of twelfth-graders’ writing proficiency has significantly dropped, “the proportion of 12th-graders who reached at least the basic level dropped from 78 to 74 percent.” Undoubtedly, the declining performance among seniors reflected a deep problem, which every single English teacher faced as a serious challenge.
“By the time students graduate high school, they should be able to produce more than disorganized self-expression or Internet chat,” said Marilyn Whirry, former national teacher of the year and a member of the board that oversees the national assessment.
Perhaps, this situation has slightly changed in the recent years. Though, the bare fact that overwhelming majority of seniors can’t convey well-organized ideas remains. Therefore, the importance of good writing skills have not decreased lately, not to mention that with each year to come the significance of good writing and editing skills essentially augments. Now good writing skills are considered to be fundamental for success in college and the workplace.
This problem is especially acute for high school graduators who are going to apply to college and acquire higher education. No matter what faculty you have chosen, you have to be ready for writing-across-the curriculum. College professors and tutors suppose writing to be an indispensable part of thinking and learning. Technical reports, research papers, term papers, and essays will become your constant home assignments mainly in every subject. No wonder that at college good writing skills is a must until you don’t have a research paper guru who does all the rough work for you.
What is college writing all about?
Sure that the experience of a research paper writing etched indelibly into your memory from high school. However, at college it will significantly change and will be associated with: late nights before the paper is due, sitting in pale light in front of your computer, a huge stack of books propped next to your desk, drinking endless cups of coffee, and racking your brains on a good thesis statement appropriate for your paper.
Remember that a college education builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in early years. College writing and high-school writing have crucial differences, which every college applicant should be aware of. Indeed, the transition from high-school writing to college one is not always smooth, because standards at college are generally higher than in high school. It differs in several basic ways, at college you’ll be asked to analyze the reading, to make a worthwhile claim, to support your claim with good reasons that are organized to present your argument.
How to sharpen your writing skills and get ready for college
It is well-known that writing is an acquired skill that needs crafting. All you need to start writing and to write well is perseverance, passion, and a good sense of right and wrong. The bottom line here is never to think that writing is not your cup of tea. If you are armed with motivation, persistence, piles of paper, and a pen, consider you are quite ready for the writing process.
Remember what Alfred Kazin once said about writing: “In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, understand himself…” Stick to this principle throughout your preparation for college writing and use these simple strategies to conform your writing to the established patterns.
• Acquire the technique of x-ray reading. Reading will improve your writing style, help you learn new vocabulary, teach you how to use punctuation marks properly, enrich you with fresh and interesting ideas that you can further use in your writing assignment, and broaden your general outlook.
You should read for both form and content. Whenever you try to take big steps in writing, you will start with reading. If you are going to write about World War II, start with reading magazines and books from the 1940s’.
Bear in mind that reading of readers varies greatly from reading of writers. Good writers have to acquire the technique of x-ray reading. X-ray reading helps you see through the texts of the stories; it is all about reading the newspaper in search of under-developed story ideas and experience online a variety of new storytelling forms. X-ray reader always has a pen at hand and makes notes in the margins extensively, mark up interesting passages, ask questions to the text, return to these passages, and reflect upon the techniques used by the author.
• Practice writing on a regular basis. Sure you have already heard of this piece of advice, however, it will never become obsolete: practice makes perfect. When you are in a habit of writing, essays and research papers won’t seem so difficult to you. The more you write, the more perfect your writing becomes. There are several ways, which you can consider for regular writing:
– Keep the journal of your thoughts and the events of the day.
– Write the letters to the magazine and newspapers you read.
– Start a zine with your friends that are interesting to you.
• Experience with rough drafting. Some writers write fast and free, accepting the imperfection of early drafts and multiple revisions. While other writers write with meticulous precision, paragraph by paragraph, combining drafting and revising steps.
A draft is a more complete version of writing assignment written in a paragraph form. You will have to bring your drafting skills to perfection in order to write your college essays effortlessly. Break every piece of writing that you compose into meaningful paragraphs that convey separate ideas. A draft is the first variant of your complete writing assignment, where you briefly blueprint the main ideas that you are going to cover in your paper. When you draft, you should remember that you create a first version of your writing assignment that will be further filled out and polished.
• Master the craft of revising and clarifying. The novelist Balzac wrote dozens upon dozens of revisions in the margins of a corrected proof. Henry James crossed out 20 lines out of a 25-lines manuscript page. So, revision is a very good way to bring your writing to perfection.
Overall, there are two ways of revising and clarifying: changes that alter the meaning of the text and changes that leave the meaning impact. Remember that revision is generally a modification of the written assignment, rather than complete rewriting of the written assignment. Always conduct revisions of your pieces of writing and make sure to analyze your mistakes properly.
This set of guides for preparation for college writing will help you feel comfortable about writing essays and research papers for your college classes and boost your confidence as a writer.