The Transition from High School to University Writing (link/handout)

At the beginning of the semester, in my 105 classes (and sometimes, to a lesser degree, in 106), I make sure to emphasize that the writing expected from students at university level will be substantially different from what they likely were asked to produce in high school. Rather than giving them a long list, I usually introduce the differences piecemeal, in a hopefully organic manner that arises from the subject matter that we are dealing with in class.

However, I have been looking for such a list, to bolster what I mention in class and to serve as a handy reminder. I just came across one on the University of Toronto website here, which hits on virtually everything that I would want it to.  It’s also available as a printable PDF and free to print and distribute, according to their Fair-Use policy.

Hopefully other people will find it useful too.


5 thoughts on “The Transition from High School to University Writing (link/handout)

  1. Thanks for this, Shil! I’m really glad to be able to show my students that some of the writing quirks I flag on their papers — such as repeating the topic sentence at the conclusion of a paragraph, or transitioning to the next paragraph at the end of the preceding one — may be staples of high-school writing but are not the stuff of college-level prose. I’ve been concerned that they take these objections to be my own idiosyncrasies, just another set of random rules they have to adjust to as they move from instructor to instructor. Now I can show them — in black and white!

    The only “university expectation” I’m leery of is that “not every essay needs a thesis statement.” While I know this to be true, I fear that unless students have to explicitly articulate their essential argument (in however many sentences), they’ll be likely to leave it unformulated even in their own minds. So I’ll black out that line, but happily distribute the rest.

    Many thanks!

  2. I totally love this. Thank you, Shil! I am so sharing this with my students tomorrow! I half agree with Joanmarie. I know I will not have or take the time to discuss every point on the list. However, the thesis one is something I would draw particular attention to. I try to emphasize how some structural elements of an academic essay are as helpful for the writer as they are for the reader. Thesis statements (statements of central claim) are an excellent and perhaps the best example of that. Perhaps I can make parts of this list do double-duty. Even have a quick conversation of items they might see as also being useful for the writer as well as the reader, how, why, etc. Hummmm….

    Again, thanks, Shil!

    • Maria, we do agree. The presence of an explicit thesis statement IS the one piece of the high-school formula that I endorse in college essays. As you say, it not only enlightens the reader, but also forces the writer to crystallize his or her own thoughts. Apart from that one issue, the list is a gem!

      • I agree with both of you. I also disagree on the purpose of the last sentence in a paragraph. It should reemphasize the point; however, it should not be a mere restatement of the topic sentence.

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