If you’re like me, writing a paper is anything but a piece of cake. English was never my strong point in university, however, in high school it was a different story. I did very well in English class throughout my high school years. English was actually one of my favourite subjects during the time. By the time I hit university however, I was not prepared for the expectations that came with writing a strong paper.
I remember writing my first college paper and much to my surprise, I was not happy with my mark. I worked so hard on the paper and dedicated many hours of my time perfecting it. I was so accustomed to receiving good marks in high school so getting a bad mark in a university class was unacceptable. I wanted grades that I was proud of, that I could show my parents with confidence like I used to in high school. My grades did improve as I advanced throughout university which was the result of a lot of hard work and dedication to my studies.
For all of those freshman students who are entering university for the first time in the fall, be aware that your Professors will expect more from you. They are not there to baby you like your high school teachers were. If you receive a grade that you are not satisfied with, learn from your mistakes, and try harder next time.
Below is a list of tips that will help you to ace your college papers. I had learned these tips throughout my university experience and looking back, I wish I had someone to guide me through my academic struggles.
1. AVOID PROCRASTINATION: If you like to leave things until the last minute, DON’T do this in university. There are so many steps that go into writing a paper – from research to writing your first draft to editing your paper – all of these steps take up a big chunk of your time. If you start early, you can spread these steps over a span of say a month or two, or however long you think you need to write a great paper. The more time you have to write a paper, the less stress you’ll have.
2. WRITE AND RE-WRITE: The easiest way to start a paper is to write anything that comes to mind about your topic. Don’t worry too much about grammar errors – it’s only your first draft. Write it down then come back to your draft in a few days and look for ways to improve it. Don’t be afraid to cut anything out that doesn’t relate to the topic – this is where you should make your major changes.
3. GET A SECOND PAIR OF EYES TO LOOK IT OVER: If you know someone who is an excellent English student, ask them to do you a favour and look over your paper for grammatical errors. I often asked my Mom to edit my papers because she used to be an English teacher. I trusted her opinion and most of the time took her advice on ways to improve my paper.
4. “THE WRITING CENTRE”: I wasn’t even aware that my university had such a service, but I discovered the “Writing Centre” in my second year of university. Their services are free – all you have to do is make an appointment at your convenience. They will review your work, edit it with you, and show you your strengths and weaknesses. I swear that just by visiting them weekly, I improved my writing skills in a month! Most universities have services such as this, though the name may be slightly different.
5. WATCH OUT FOR PLAGIARISM: Copying someone else’s work, whether intentional or not, is not taken lightly in university. At my school if a student was caught plagiarising, they would either receive a grade of 0 on that assignment, fail the class, and/or be kicked out of the university. Yes, the consequences are severe, so don’t do it!
Remember to visit your Professor during office hours if you have any questions about your paper topic. Don’t be afraid to ask your Professor for clarification. They’d rather have you do it right the first time then have you re-write the paper for a second time.
Follow this advice and I know you’ll ace your first college paper. You’ll improve your writing skills, have less stress, and may even start to enjoy writing papers. Make sure you take your time and ask for help if you are unsure about any aspect of the assignment. Good luck!