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How to Prepare for College Level Writing in High School
No matter what your intended major is, there are going to be certain fundamental skills that you need in order to succeed in college. You’ll need to be able to consider and weigh evidence from various sources. You’ll need to be able to think critically and read analytically. And you’ll need to be able to write well.
In fact, writing well is often the only way that you will be able to communicate the validity and the power of your work. Whether you’re an aspiring mathematician, scientist, sociologist, teacher, doctor, historian, entrepreneur – basically whatever career path you choose – writing will be critical to your life’s work. In this post we discuss how you can prepare in high school for college level writing.
1. Read A Ton
The easiest way to become a better writer is to become a student of writing. While some people might think that this means studying writing, it actually means reading voraciously. After all, everything you read was written by someone, and everything you read from a quality source was written by someone published by that source.
Not only does reading build your vocabulary and fine-tune your ear for tone, it also builds awareness of both style and grammar. As you read, always keep the intended audience and the purpose of the written work in mind. Consider what choices the author made in light of these. Thinking about what you read from the writer’s frame of mind will open up a whole new level of learning from your everyday reading.
2. Learn the Writing Process
You’re probably familiar with the scientific method used for conducting scientific experiments, but many people aren’t aware of a similar process used to produce written work. It’s called the Writing Process and it can employed at any level, from elementary schools all the way up to professional publications and novels.
To ensure that your written work is as good as it can be, you should learn and employ the following steps:
In this phase, you are essentially brainstorming. Write lists of ideas, create word banks, sketch an outline, or take notes as you research. Prewriting is all of the work that needs to happen before you can begin the actual writing phase. Don’t skip out on this step. Many writers think of it as the most important part of the writing process.
Here, you write your very first rough draft. It’s never perfect and it’s rarely even pretty, but getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper is an essential step to take. Usually, you will need to repeat this phase several times, polishing your work as you go, to create a product that is nearly done and is something to be proud of.
Revisions are the bigger changes that need to happen before you move towards a final draft. Usually with the help of a teacher, editor, or peer, you’ll be able to identify structural changes, including large sections that need to be moved or even removed completely. This phase focuses on large scale improvements like organization and style or tone. Be sure to get these just right and consistently so before you move forward.
Editing is the nitty gritty of the publishing process. Here you fix spelling, grammar, and typos. Read your work aloud to be sure it makes sense. Even better, have a friend edit it and read it aloud back to you.
Finally, take all of your edits and revisions into account as you polish your piece into a final product. Be sure to consider formatting and how you want your final product to appear to your readers.
3. Learn From Your Mistakes
Often, there is so much going on in high school that when a piece of work is returned to you, you skim its contents, often skipping straight to your grade, and then shove it into the depths of your backpack. When you do this, you miss out on the opportunity to learn from your teachers’ comments and critique.
Each time you receive a piece of written work back from your teachers, whether its a lab report, a history essay, or an essay on Shakespearean literary elements, you should review your teacher’s comments carefully. If you don’t understand some of the feedback, make a point to go out of your way and find out what he or she meant.
Pay particular attention to emerging patterns in the work you review. If the same recurring grammatical errors are consistently pointed out or your conclusions repeatedly need to be restructured for clarity, these are areas that you can target for improvement. Don’t let the chance to improve your writing pass you by.
4. Make It a Priority
Building writing skills in high school is an important way to ensure that you’re ready to tackle college level work and to succeed in your intended career over the long run. In fact, developing strong writing skills shouldn’t just be a priority for students who plan to pursue a career in the humanities.
Many other fields require strong written abilities, including law, scientific research, and even mathematics. By developing your writing skills while you’re still in high school, you’ll impress college admissions committees and enter college ready to hit the ground running in your college-level coursework.
If you’re feeling less than confident about your writing skills and your readiness for college level writing, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more information about writing in high school, check out these CollegeVine posts: