Good Writing Skills Are Essential to College Success

College students are expected to use writing to show in-depth knowledge. To be successful writers in college, students need strong skills in documented research writing, and they must practice editing and revision. Students are supposed to learn how to write in elementary, middle, and high school, but not all students are adequately prepared to write a well organized, logical essay. For whatever reason, in many of today's middle and high schools, students graduate without ever being required to write a formal paper complete with footnotes or in-text citations, bibliography, and a well-organized presentation of the material. Without good writing skills, those students who go on to college will struggle to succeed academically.

In fact, Dr. David Conley, Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Oregon, stated in one of his many papers on college readiness: "The ability to write well is the single academic skill most closely associated with college success..."

Often, middle and high school teachers feel pressed just to cover the required material, much less assign a documented research paper. It takes a long time to grade 80 to 130 multiple-page essays and give adequate feedback for the student. Sometimes teachers have to choose between assigning a paper and covering all the required material for a unit.

When middle or high school students are assigned a paper, they sometimes take several weeks to write it; the teacher often takes them through the process step by step. Even so, many student put off any writing until the last minute, then rush to get the assignment done, and seldom proofread or edit-unless that process is covered in class-a process that definitely will not happen in college. In college, students are often given multiple papers to write per semester in more than one class. College students must write in an academic style that requires critical thinking with ideas and supporting detail clearly expressed, all grammatically correct at the time it is turned in. Students need to learn, while still in middle and high school, to use both spell-check and grammar-check, but understand that the computer does not catch all errors (is it there, their, or they're?). They must proofread the final document before turning it in.

One serious problem in college writing, and even in high school, is the temptation to plagiarize. Too many students are tempted by the increasing availability of papers for purchase from online sources. Students that plagiarize are cheating themselves of the learning experiences involved in developing and using his or her writing skills-skills that they will need to succeed in whatever occupation they find themselves.