Writing Center Title, The First Year
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High School to College: The TransitionWriter's Web
Content by Astoria Aviles and Gabrielle Pound, Site by Megan Venable

A special thank you to Keith Hjortshoj, whose book, The Transition to College Writing, inspired much of this project. We recommend it for further reading.

Hjortshoj, Keith. The Transition to College Writing. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. Print.

(printable version here)

Transitioning from high school to college is sort of like the prewriting stage of an essay. You have a lot of ideas about writing in general, but you may feel unsure about how to apply them to this new situation. It is important to use the skills that you have but to also ask questions, narrow your focus, and explore new techniques.

Q: "Dr. MacAllister, you have had a lot of experience with first-year students and with first-year writing. Could you briefly explain some of your expectations you have for a first-year writer and what you generally see in the structure of first-year writers' essays?"

A: Joyce MacAllister, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English:

Video Transcript

Key Points

1. First-year students are often shifting from "reflective papers, personal responses," and opinion-based writing to thesis-driven, analytical writing.

  • Check out this guide to understanding the types of critical thinking you will have to employ in college writing (moving beyond reflection).
  • Once you understand the nature of the assignment, check out these tips on getting started!

2. Break away from memorized formulas!

  • Hjortshoj's book covers the "false rules" many students learn in high school, including overuse of the five-paragraph essay and many sentence-level habits that do not work in college-level writing.

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