Is College Writing Different from High School Writing?
Yes, college writing is definitely qualitatively different from high school writing. The college student who is assigned a writing assignment has many resources. One of the best is The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). Here you’ll find general resources to guide you in the writing process: the common college writing assignments, such as coming up with a topic, brainstorming to make the topic more specific, developing a thesis statement, and academic writing. If you need to understand the different types of academic writing, check out the SUNY Empire State writing center.
But, you say, I don’t understand what my professor wants. He or she keeps talking about political structure or social theory, and asking us to challenge him, and I don’t want to sound stupid.
I would answer that first, professors were also questioning undergraduates at one time just like you, being asked to assemble facts, make observations, and develop theories or frameworks to explain the world. Second, professors are not gods, and they both want and expect you to ask questions about expectations and assignments. Moreover, they may be unaware they have not clearly defined terms they are using. Third, and most important, you
should TALK to the professor and ask him or her about the assignment. In my first years as a professor, I would wait during office hours for students to show up. Inevitably, the most diligent and motivated students would be there, but not the less prepared, perhaps underachieving students. I soon learned to require appointments as part of the assignment, where the student could suggest paper topics or we could review an essay. Your professors (well, most of the time) want to get to know you and have an authentic intellectual dialogue with you. Besides, they could use the company.