Developing college-level writing skills in high school

by | Apr 1, 2019 | College Prep, High school

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Everyone knows the importance of developing solid, college level writing skills. Writing is a key job skill, after all.

More and more universities are incorporating writing across the curriculum. So your college-bound students—no matter their major—will end up in several courses requiring them to write research papers and essays.

The Price of Unpreparedness

Even though we tout the importance of writing in high school, parents and educators often pay it lip service. Writing standards in high school are so far below college standards that many freshmen are shocked to discover how little they’ve learned.

Alisa homeschooled throughout her elementary years, after which she attended public high school. Teachers graded her high school writing assignments, even in advanced English courses, on a completion basis. Aside from correcting a few of the more glaring spelling and grammar errors, teachers paid little attention to anything beyond very basic writing no-no’s.

When Alisa started college, she felt confident enough in her writing ability to consider majoring in English. Imagine her surprise when she received Bs and Cs on her papers, all dripping in red ink. She eventually unlearned those bad writing habits that had gone unnoticed in high school. But she regrets not learning how to write well years before.

Developing college level writing skills during high school will better prepare teens for academic writing. What can you do to help?

What Can You Do?

Alisa was lucky enough to take courses with a few professors who really cared, and who took the time to teach her what good writing looks like. If your teens are still in high school, you too can help them develop those important college-level writing skills while there’s still time.

Teach Proofreading Skills

Writing isn’t like math, where you either understand it or you don’t. Writing is an ever-evolving process; it never reaches a stage of “perfection.” Also, learning to revise rigorously, reading over every sentence to ensure stylistic clarity and logical soundness, is just as important as checking for grammar and spelling errors.

Unfortunately, schools generally don’t stress developing strong writing on an institutional level simply because it’s expensive. It takes time to teach writing skills. And many teachers aren’t up to the task of working with each individual student to improve their writing. Simply, it’s logistically impossible. This is where homeschooling comes in.

Encourage Well-Rounded Reading

If you want your teens to learn to write well, they should read as much as they can. Encourage them to read books that interest them. And point them toward books that force them to expand their vocabulary and ways of thinking. Have your students practice writing beyond school assignments and read books to help improve writing.

Most importantly, before you dismiss the importance of developing college-level writing skills because “that’s for English majors,” consider this: Written communication is one of the key skills employers cite as deficient among recent graduates.

Writeshop II 5th Edition Front

Writing may have taken a back seat to other subjects in the past, but it’s not too late to fill in the gaps to prepare your high schooler for the writing rigors of college.

WriteShop II gives teens the basics of writing descriptive narration and solid 5-paragraph essays.


  1. rodelia bueno

    Good day! Thank you for sharing this kind of information with us. For me,it is true based on my observation. I am on the process of writing a study (about writing skills) for academic purposes. I would like to take this opportunity to ask your permission (if you will allow me)to use this as one of my reference. thank you!

  2. Kim

    Thank you for stopping by, Erica!

  3. Erica

    this was really helpful and now i know i need to work on my writing skills.

  4. Kim

    I appreciate that you made this post even more personal by sharing your own experience, Janet!

  5. Janet

    I appreciate the above-mentioned fact about logistics. Parents can teach powerful writing development, one-to-one, with their children on a more frequent and consistent basis than a public or private school educator who is given the responsibility of developing up to 150 teen-aged writers during a school day!

    I had the good fortune of enrollment in an excellent Honors English program throughout high school. Our senior research paper was a thirty-page persuasive project on a contemporary issue of our choice. I wrote and researched and revised all spring before graduation. When I journeyed away to college that fall, my composition class focused exclusively on persuasive writing.

    Boy, was I thankful for my high school preparation! Parents of teen-agers, take note! 🙂



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