High School Papers vs. College Papers

on August 1, 2017

College papers are different from the reports you wrote in high school. Aside from the fact that they’re longer and focus on specific topics, there are some aspects of college papers that you should know before starting freshman year.

Here are some of the main differences between high school papers and college papers:


How Much They’re Worth


Although college might seem easier because of fewer assignments, consider the impact each assignment will have on your final grade. Your high school classes had more quizzes, homework and extra credit than college courses do, so your work on college papers has a greater weight in your grade. Take this into account before starting each college paper and treat them the same way you’d treat an exam.


Different Types


Unless you took AP writing courses that delved into different kinds of papers, it’s likely that the papers you wrote in high school had a standard five-paragraph structure and were similar. In college, you will write everything from history papers to music analysis essays to political science research proposals. If you feel unclear on how to write a new type of paper, consult the professor or a teaching assistant (TA). You also can visit your college’s writing center, which is staffed with people who can help you flesh out ideas and write papers.




Most students got away with using citation websites when making a bibliography for their high school papers. Although these sites are helpful resources in college, review your citations and be sure that you got them right, as they’re strictly graded. Additionally, prepare to cite more than just websites. Many college papers require you to include books, journals or news clips in your bibliographies. Luckily, many college libraries are now digitized, so you can still use a computer to find information in books while doing research.


Writing Strategies


College papers tend to be more rigorous than high school papers. They focus on more detailed topics and require more research. Identify the study methods that work best for you and apply them to your paper-writing sessions. Plan how much you want to write before the due date to keep yourself on track. You also will need time to do research. Depending on the topic, you might have to plan for a night in the library, even if you’re simply searching through its digital collection.


Leave plenty of time to proofread and edit.

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