Compare and Contrast: College Essay vs. High School Essay

College essay pic

You're about to enter your final year in high school, so it shouldn't be surprising that you've been looking for a university that would suit your capability and personality. You might be forgetting about paper writing, though.

You're aware that your college application would include a personal statement and an application essay, yet you're not aware of the time or the lack of. You have all the time for your college application, which your mother would remind you of. Paper writing is a different ball game, where procrastination is a skill that must be mastered in a few months. You don't have to panic about it, as you're about to find out about the difference between writing a high school essay and a college essay. Let's consider "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", which your parents (and grandparents) have read at least once. Huck and Jim would travel along Mississippi River, and you won't have a problem about describing it. You have been to Illinois. (It would surprise you to know someone who hasn't been to the Prairie Sate.) Your grandfather has taught you about fly fishing, even mentioned Norman Maclean on one occasion. You don't know if you would write an essay on "A River Runs Through It", but you're not overthinking about it. It's not too early to learn about the difference between a high school essay and college essay. It could help you in finishing your homework in a shorter time, which should give you more hours in your college application.

Understanding Essay Writing: 3 Ways to Distinguish a High School Essay from a College Essay

What is the purpose of writing an essay? The illustration of Huck and Jim would show that your English instructor like to see what you know about Mark Twain's novel and its background. This won't be sufficient to meet the word count that is required in a college essay, as you must demonstrate your ability in critical thinking. It would reveal a little (or a lot) about you, which is what your professors would expect from you. It shouldn't terrify you, as the literary analysis is about perspective. Your soon-to-be coursemate may not have set foot on the bank of a Mississippi River, but he (or she) could still write a compelling essay on Twain's masterpiece. Think about the flow of the river, where the width doesn’t make any difference at all.

Do you know whom you write for? Some students would insist on grades and meeting the requirements, but it would take hours to do research on your paper and write about it. This is a repetitive exercise, where you would reach a point when you're about to lose your enthusiasm in it. And it wouldn't be an uncommon case. You must think about the author and the dedication that he (or she) must show to sustain his (or her) craft. English literature would be your main staple during your first year (in college), so expect to study "Pilgrim's Progress". John Bunyan may have written his novel to relive his imprisonment (after refusing to abandon his faith), but you won't relate to it. There's nothing wrong about it, as you can look at this allegory in a different light. Does it remind you of your favorite fairy tale? Is it a fantasy? Is faith restricted to church? The answers to these questions would give you an idea for an outline for your essay (on "Pilgrim's Progress"). You would use a similar approach for the other classics. It's not the case in high school, but be grateful to your (high school) instructor for teaching you about literary analysis.

Show me what? You don't have a problem with high school essays, as you summarize the story and then add what you know about the book. It looks like a closed case, which is the opposite in college essay writing. The themes would prompt you to reflect on your personal experiences, and how you can relate to the plot (or character). It could be a walk in a park in some cases (e.g. Adventure fiction) while it might be a daunting task in others (e.g. Victorian literature). It's an open-ended case, so what do you have to hold back. There’s no such thing as randomness or coincidence in essay topics, as you would have a pick on the list of topics that your professors would present to you and your coursemates. You also have the option to suggest one, which your high school instructors wouldn’t do. The difference is clear as night and day.

Originality Counts

It wouldn’t dawn on you that you and your high school classmates are writing about the same thing, more or less. And your (high school) instructors wouldn’t mind at all. This is not the case with college writing, as details would make a difference. You might not estimate the hours that you would spend on research and proofreading, but you should guess that college essay writing is more than stating the obvious. You won’t comprehend it until you write one. Try on your favorite book, which must be an American classic. Don’t hesitate to ask your high school instructor. You may find out that you have a gift for words.

 
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