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Articles / Applying to College / Will my writing be a problem in college?

Will my writing be a problem in college?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 11, 2002

Question: I'm not a very good writer. Will my writing difficulties be a problem for me in college?

Some of the scariest headlines in the newspaper these days aren't about war, terrorism, or killer viruses. Maybe that's why we don't notice them. Take this one, for instance: "Students failing to master skills in grammar, writing."

By themselves those words don't seem to ring any alarm bells. When you combine them with the bulk of our nation's incoming college freshman every year, though, there is ample cause for concern. The article that follows beneath this headline from two years ago cites anecdotes about struggling college freshman. Their struggle is not with calculus, physics, chemistry, or computer science. It's with written English.

Compounding this situation is the identity of the particular student body highlighted in the article. The struggling students are not from an obscure institution of higher learning located in some where-is-that town. These students are freshman at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

MIT is one of the best schools of its kind in the world and only admits three of ten applicants each year. So why do freshman at the 'Tute, as it's affectionately known, have so much trouble with the written English language? Only 17 percent of that year's freshman class scored well enough on placement exams to exempt the freshman writing study course requirement. That means 83 percent of the freshmen couldn't meet the school's minimum standard for written communications skills. Now when you're dealing with a class whose majority SAT score is between 1290 and 1470, that's scary.

Why should this concern any of you who are still in high school? Well, the truth is that college work centers on writing. You write papers for English, history, anthropology, physics, music, and--yes--even computer science and sometimes math. Consider for a moment where civilization would be if all the great minds from days gone by had shrugged off their study of

English grammar and writing skills. Our libraries would be filled with boring, difficult-to-understand, and perhaps useless books. This is not to imply that each of us will be a researcher, professor, or novelist. It only means that it's vitally important to learn how to get your point across clearly in writing.

Take your English classes seriously. Look at learning writing skills as an investment in your college future.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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