How to Pass College English
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How to Pass College English

Some tips on passing college English.

Getting ready to take that first college English class? College English may seem challenging at first, but there are good reasons why that is.

Good writing skills are essential in college. All your college English courses will require a lot of writing. You'll also have to write papers in most or all of your humanities classes. You'll have to write papers in psychology, and even in your science classes you'll have to write lab reports.

The level of writing skill you'll be expected to meet in college is fairly high. You'll have to be able to determine a purpose or main point of each paper, and you'll have to stick to it. You'll have to explain that main point fully with further points, which you support with research and reason. You'll have to organize all your points in a logical order. And you'll be expected to write an interesting and relevant introduction and conclusion to your paper.

Along with writing skills you'll need good word processing ability. Colleges by and large use Microsoft products. You'll almost certainly have to become proficient in Microsoft Word 2007, or the current Microsoft Office word processing program.

That sounds like a lot to learn, but it's not impossible by any means. I've been a college writing tutor for twelve years. I've seen adult students start their freshman English class with no high school writing courses and no computer skills at all, and they've still passed.

You can be successful in college English, too, and you can learn writing skills you'll use in other classes. Don't miss any English classes. Pay close attention to the lectures and take careful notes. Read all the assignments over at least twice. You may not understand what the instructor wants at first, so ask as many questions as you need to.

Do all the practice writing assignments. Even if the assignment is only worth a few points, try your hardest on it, anyway. It's designed to teach you a skill you'll need.

If you need to brush up on your computer skills, use the computer as often as possible. Do all your short assignments and early drafts on it. Do this even if you're more comfortable writing them out longhand. The more you use the computer, the sooner you'll become proficient at it. And you'll need a fairly high level of word processing ability by the time you're ready to type your paper's final draft.

Start working on your papers early. There are two reasons for this. One is that research for your paper will take up a lot of time. It's sometimes difficult to find just the right sources to support your paper's main point. Pay attention to your instructor's advice on how and where to do research. This will save you some time hunting around for your sources.

Another reason to start early is that your first draft will be awful. Don't get discouraged, that's the way it's supposed to be. I hear students say, "I'm going to do it right the first time." It doesn't work that way! The best writers need to rewrite, because there are just too many aspects of writing to get it all right the first time. You'll need to rewrite your paper at least twice before it's in good shape. You'll learn by doing, but give yourself plenty of time.

When the instructor explains how to format your paper, pay close attention. College English papers are generally formatted in MLA, or Modern Language Association, style. The best way to accomplish formatting is to have good examples to follow. Use the examples your instructor gives you to be sure they're up to date, since MLA changes a lot. Don't use the bibliography feature in Word 2007 because it's been out of date for a while now.

Take advantage of all the help that's available. Meet with your instructor. Visit the English tutors. Every college has a free tutoring service. The English tutors are not just there to check your grammar and spelling. They can help with every aspect of your paper, including selecting a main point, organizing your paper, research, formatting, and the required computer skills.

The first week of English class may be a bit unsettling. Okay, it may make you freak out. But with determination and some help you can master college English, and, after all, you came to college to learn.

Picture from MorgueFile

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