When faced with the task of writing your first ever university paper, there are some key differences between high school and university level essay writing that should be taken into account. Moreover, it may be useful to examine several college essay examples as a way of preparing for university level essay writing.
How College Essays Differ from High School
Typically, high school students are taught to follow a fairly rigid and formulaic form of essay writing known colloquially as the sandwich method. The sandwich method essentially states that your essay should consist of a one paragraph lead or intro, followed by three to four paragraphs of body text, each representing a distinct argument, and finally a conclusion that summarizes all of the points in the essay. While this template is not necessarily wrong, what new university students will typically discover, especially when entering an arts program with a heavy emphasis on writing, is that essays are much more free form and varied in nature.
The end goal with essay writing in university is to be able to successfully articulate your points in a lucid and convincing fashion. Given the wide array of topics that you might be covering, it becomes apparent that while one template may be appropriate for a class on comparative literature, you would be be better served following a different structure when writing a paper on Canadian history or contemporary media theory.
Moreover, there is a uniformity to the sandwich method taught in high school that can often be misleading. While the sandwich method would have you write three paragraphs of similar length to make up the argumentative section of the paper, in reality more flexibility is required when formulating a successful paper. One argument in your paper might involve a fairly complex idea that requires you to break it down into smaller pieces in order to communicate it effectively to the reader. Meanwhile, an equally valid argument might be more straight forward and would be more salient if written plainly in your paper with just a few lines.
Apart from conceptual differences between high school and university writing, another major difference that you have to adapt to is the use of fixed writing styles. The three major writing styles, MLA, APA, and Chicago, all feature different conventions that you will often have to learn and rigorously apply based on your professors preference for a particular style. The best way to become accustomed to these styles is to consult official writing manuals that are available both online and in every campus bookstore.
How to Find Good College Essay Examples
Study Academic Journals
One of the best ways to get a gage on the type of writing that would be required of you in university is by doing the various readings that you are assigned in your first year courses. Although the wording in academic journals might initially appear intimidating, the point is not to imitate the vocabulary of the authors you are reading. In fact, doing so might make your papers appear pretentious, or give the impression that you do not understand what you are writing and are trying to impress the reader with flowery language. Instead the goal of carefully reading academic writing should be to gain a firm grasp on syntax and understand how academics formulate their arguments and express their ideas.
Visit Credible Sites
Most universities have extensive libraries of online and offline resources available to help student learn the craft of writing and to improve their essay skills. As a tuition paying student you should take advantage of the bulk of resources you have at your disposal from credible academic sources. Some universities even offer in-depth comprehensive guides to writing completely free of charge to the public through websites, such as the Harvard College Writing Center. Just be wary of dubious websites with questionable credentials, or sites that offer writing services for a fee. Most often these services are created to sucker students out of money and offer little in terms of actual educational value.
Consult with Older Students and High Performers
Another useful strategy would be to reach out to upper year students who are already seasoned university level essay writers and have clear understanding of what is too be expected from academic papers. That said it would be best to approach the students who are high achievers and are generally well regarded for their writing abilities, as they would more likely be more capable and willing to help out. There are many students in university that scrape by with sloppy writing, thus it is better to consult someone who cares about the craft as they will be more effective in giving you pointers.
Moving Past Examples of College Essays
Reaching out to Teaching Assistants and Professors
Yet perhaps the single best resources that you might have at your disposal in university are your professors and their teaching assistants. As these individuals have either completed, or are in the process of completing graduate school, they have proven their competency with high level academic writing.
In my experience during the first couple of months as a freshman at Western University, I initially noticed a considerable drop in my marks. While in high school I was accustomed to receiving eighties and nineties in many of my writing assignments, my first semester of university started off with a couple of sixties and one essay assignment that I barely passed. After spending a considerable amount of time going to the office hours of my teaching assistants and professors, not only did my marks subsequently rise, but the quality of writing that I produced dramatically improved after my first year of university. Often the best way to improve in the craft of writing is to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your instructors.