EdCuration Blog: Learning in Action

Are High School Students Equipped for College Writing? Why It Matters

Feb 4, 2022 1:07:06 PM / by EdCuration Staff Writer


What do college-bound students fear the most when it comes to academics? According to student surveys, being ready to meet the scholastic demands, maintain good grades and not fail classes are high on the list. What is behind their lack of confidence? Often, it’s fears and doubts about their writing skills and not knowing how to gain the skills necessary to succeed.

The Link Between College Readiness and Writing Skills

One of the most well-documented and longstanding problems in education is college readiness—with writing proven to be the skill most linked to postsecondary student success. Recent NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) assessments found that 72% of students coming out of high school are not ready for college-level writing. And guess what has become the most sought-after skill for employers? According to an Inc. report, it’s writing and communication skills.

William Bryant, Co-Founder and President of BetterRhetor and creator of College-Ready Writing Essentials, notes in his post, “Preparing High Schoolers for College Writing,” a study by Applebee and Langer (2011), that “…the actual writing that goes on in typical classrooms across the United States remains dominated by tasks in which the teacher does all the composing, and students are left only to fill in missing information, whether copying directly from a teacher’s presentation, completing worksheets and chapter summaries, replicating highly formulaic essay structures keyed to the high-stakes tests they will be taking, or writing the particular information the teacher is seeking” (p. 28).

Why the Gap in Preparedness?

Typically, high school writing instruction and college writing expectations have not aligned well. A complex issue, this misalignment may stem from an emphasis on writing short answers (easier for grading) and writing for assessments instead of rigorous instruction that would prepare students for thoughtful composition of full-length essays. AP exams require answers to timed DBQs (document-based questions) whereas, in college, students are assigned long research papers. Too often students are not prepared for what their college instructors may expect, which is college-ready writing.

What is College-Ready Writing?

Researchers have identified the knowledge, skills and abilities important to master college-ready writing. In essence, with proficiency, students will show the ability to write long essays and research papers backed by source materials and explore differing perspectives while using accepted academic rules of style and presentation.

Although there is no ideal template, many frameworks for college-ready writing have been developed. One framework has been outlined by The Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Writing Project (2011). In addition to reading, writing and critical analysis, the framework stresses the importance of students cultivating habits of mind (such as curiosity, engagement, persistence and more) that will serve them well in college and throughout their lives.

With a strong foundation in these key writing skills, students will be able to enter college and the workforce with confidence. Without them, many students begin college but fail to complete it or end up spending their precious time and money trying to catch up.

How can students improve their writing skills before college?

The good news is there are great resources to help bridge the gap.

William Bryant, PhD, formerly Director of Writing Assessments at ACT Inc. created College-Ready Writing Essentials from BetterRhetor Resources to create a “bridge” between high school and college writing instruction so that entering freshmen can arrive confident and fully prepared.

College-Ready Writing Essentials is a one-of-a-kind online writing course that guides writers and their teachers or parents step-by-step through the process of outlining, drafting, revising and finalizing a first-rate college-level essay. Based on deeply researched, evidence-centered principles, College-Ready Writing Essentials helps students develop the competencies most needed for college-level writing success.



Topics: Secondary Education, College & Career Readiness

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