College students are held to a much higher standard than high school students, even those who are enrolled in an AP course. So many new college students who got top grades on writing assignments in high school are shocked to find that what may have been an "A" paper in a high school English class is only "mediocre" or "average" when it's handed back by the college professor.
Fortunately, there are strategies that college students can employ to write better papers at the college level.
Hint One: Understand the Purpose of The Essay or Other College Paper
Understanding the purpose of an assignment is vital, particularly at the college level where professors will assign a broader range of paper styles. Students should understand the precise type of writing assignment, as there are many different styles and types of academic writing.
There's vast differences between an argumentative essay, a reflective essay, scientific writing, a compare and contrast writing assignment, thesis writing, an analytical essay and a persuasive essay.
There's a wide array of academic writing styles and it's vital that students understand the purpose of a writing assignment before they begin researching and writing the paper. When in doubt, visit the college professor during office hours to discuss the assignment, or send an e-mail asking for additional clarification.
Hint Two: Complete Research for the College Writing Assignment Before Starting the Writing Process
Impatient and eager to "get it over with," many college students will write an academic paper or essay as they perform their research for the assignment. And while it can be easier to write while the information is fresh in a student's mind, starting an assignment before research is complete can result in a paper with poorly formed arguments and weak claims.
Completing research for a college writing assignment or academic paper before the actual writing process begins will also help students to avoid time-consuming revisions that may be required if new and important information is uncovered later in the assignment's researching process.
Hint Three: Create an Outline for the Assignment
Outlines should serve as a map or guide for the student's work on a writing assignment. Begin by establishing the main purpose of the writing assignment and sum it up in one sentence. Then outline the main points or arguments that will be discussed in the body of the paper.
Often, academic writers find it easier to write the paper's introduction after the body of the paper has been completed, as the emphasis can shift slightly during the writing process. The student will also have a better grasp on the main point of the writing assignment once the body of the paper has been written, and this makes it easier to write a strong introduction and thorough paper conclusion.
Hint Four: Learn from Mistakes by Meeting With the Professor After and Assignment is Returned
A poor college paper grade is usually filled with many areas of weak writing, weak arguments or other mistakes. And while mistakes of this sort are a often frustrating, they can be a very effective method to learn and improve a student's writing at a college level. Students should meet with their professor to review strong points and the weak points of an assignment. Coeds should seek to determine how they could improve a weak area, as this will help guide students to write better college papers in the future.
For additional tips on writing, check out the Resources for Writers Page for articles like How to Write a Great Essay, along with How to Write a College-Level Philosophy Paper.