As a college student, you have some exciting challenges ahead of you. Whether you’re in your first or last year, and regardless of your area of study, you’re undoubtedly writing a ton. From papers to lab reports to short-form written assignments to even emails to your professors, you’re communicating constantly—and you’re expected to write at a certain caliber. In fact, your grades depend on it. But don’t worry—you’ve got this. We’ve pulled together some hints and tips to help you get a handle on what to to expect and how to navigate college-level writing demands at every stage of your college career.
Take the time to polish your work
In high school, your teachers may have spent time commenting on your writing itself (grammar, spelling, etc.) in addition to the substance of what you were writing about. College instructors tend to spend less time doing that. They want to focus on your ideas and the information you present to support them. Generally, they’ll expect to see strong writing. Grammarly can help polish issues with grammar and punctuation, and it can also help you rewrite unclear sentences, identify the passive voice, and strengthen your word choice. With that built-in help from Grammarly, you can focus on the substance of your writing, and your professors won’t be distracted by mistakes or confusing sentences.
Keep track of your sources
Writing your first college research paper can feel intimidating. One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to keep careful notes about the sources you use when writing your paper. Including ideas and information from other sources in your paper is fine—that’s the whole point of a research paper! The key is to credit them properly.
Grammarly’s built-in plagiarism checker can compare your paper to billions of online sources to help flag passages that may need citations. But remember, even if you’re paraphrasing a source, you’ll still need to credit it. That’s where your notes come in!
Planning your work
Managing your workload in college may feel a bit different. Instead of daily homework assignments, each class may require just one or two long and in-depth papers over the course of the semester. Usually, you’ll receive a syllabus for each class at the beginning of the semester, which will tell you what kind of assignments to expect and when they’ll be due. Spend a few minutes blocking out time in your calendar to work on them, so you don’t end up pulling a series of stressful all-nighters later on.
When it comes to sitting down and writing those papers, give yourself permission to work in stages. Start by jotting down ideas, then arranging them into a loose outline. Visit your instructor’s office hours and share what you’re thinking about. Often, you’ll end up having a conversation that sparks even more ideas for your paper.
Beyond your first year
Made it through your first year? Congratulations! Now that you’ve completed your intro classes, it’s time to get into some of the really challenging (and interesting!) coursework.
Choose a path
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 30% of college students change their major at least once. So if you’re finding that the classes you really love aren’t the ones required for your major, consider making a change. And if you haven’t declared a major at all, now’s the time to start thinking about it. As you start taking more specialized classes, the types of writing you do will become more specialized, too.
Raise the bar
As you advance in your studies, you’ll need to continue refining your writing skills. Writing clearly is a must, of course, but you should also be writing in an appropriate style. If you’re using Grammarly, you can set your writing style to match what you’re working on. When you set writing goals with Grammarly, choosing “Academic” will tailor Grammarly’s suggestions to help you find the right level of formality in your assignments. Switch over to the “Business” setting when you’re applying for internships to ensure your writing is appropriate for a professional context.
Write with purpose
Speaking of internships, writing a strong cover letter can put you at the front of the pack. But it’s a different kind of writing than what you might be used to for your classes. In a cover letter, focus on what you can contribute to the role or internship you’re applying for and what your goals are—learning a particular skill, for instance—and be concise. Grammarly’s tone detector can help you make sure you sound professional before you hit the send button.
Eventually, you’ll look up and realize your graduation date isn’t actually too far off. Welcome to your final year!
Appreciate your progress
Every now and then, take a moment to appreciate how you’ve grown as a student and a writer. Compare your writing now to your work from your first year—you’ll see a difference! If you need more proof, just take a look at your Weekly Insights email from Grammarly (which you receive once you sign up for a Grammarly account). You’ll see just how much you’re writing, how you use vocabulary, and how your writing has improved over time.
Work on your thesis
If your major requires a thesis or senior project, start planning now. As this is your culminating writing project, you’ll want to produce your best work yet. You’ll draw on all the skills you’ve developed over the last few years, including researching, drafting, outlining, and of course, writing.
Plan your next move
Whether you’re heading to grad school, a job, or somewhere else, you have a new adventure waiting for you. Now’s the time to start gathering writing samples you’re proud of and organizing them into a writing portfolio. Writing samples can come in lots of different forms—papers you’ve written for class, lab reports, articles you’ve written for your school paper, and even letters or emails on important topics. All of these clips will serve to demonstrate your communication strengths, regardless of your area of specialty.
Best of luck! We know you’re going to do (and write) amazing things!