College Level Writing Skills

According to the National Commission on Writing, “A recent survey of American corporations and government entities found that good writing skills are vital to gaining a job and advancing in one’s place of employment.” [Writing, Technology, and Teens, 2008]

Yet, research suggests that American students are in an educational crisis, marked by low levels of writing skills. A survey of college administrators showed that students are “failing to produce good writing defined by clarity, accuracy and logical thinking.”

Students in many public high schools are spending less and less time writing research papers these days. This is true of students in regular level classes, as well as honors and AP class students. A growing number of teachers are asking students to create powerpoint presentations or do short writing assignments instead of in-depth research papers that require critical thinking and writing skills.

According to the research detailed in Writing, Technology, and Teens, 82% of teens surveyed reported “that their typical school writing assignment is a paragraph to one page in length.” Only 3% of teens surveyed said that “most of their school writing involves major writing assignments of 5 pages or more in length.”

One of the reasons for this is that teachers don’t have the time to read and evaluate student papers anymore. As a result, many students are at a disadvantage when they enter college. The Institute for Writing and Rhetoric at Dartmouth College offers suggestions to help students to make a successful transition to from high school writing to college academic writing. The Institute describes three important things for students to understand about college level writing:

(1) “Academic writing is writing done by scholars for other scholars.”
(2) “Academic writing is devoted to topics and questions that are of interest to the academic community.”
(3) “Academic writing should present the reader with an informed argument.”

Most colleges have a writing or tutoring center similar to the one at Dartmouth. However, it’s neither necessary nor advisable to wait until college to develop these higher level writing skills. Students in high school are capable of researching and writing college-level academic papers with proper guidance.

High school students understand the importance of writing well for their future and welcome further development of their writing skills. They may have only a few opportunities to write papers, so it’s ideal if they can put in ample time and develop their research and writing skills with guidance from credentialed and experienced writing tutors.