Students: get your writing ready for university or colllege with this great new series

Writing at university: an introduction

HTWB Students logo 3Making the transition from school to university can be one of the most challenging experiences you’ll face in early life.

Aside from the lifestyle factor (living in a new place away from home, making new friends, deciding whether to wake up at 2 or 3pm etc.), it’s the enormous academic step-up which is most daunting.

In school, you’ve had someone holding your hand all the way; there’s always been a safety net to catch you and a teacher’s metaphorical boot up the backside when you slack off. That might sound crass and oversimplified, and well, it is a bit… but I’m trying to emphasise how difficult you’ll find things at uni, no matter how bright or hard-working you are.

That’s not me trying to put you off though. As you’ve probably heard from everyone from your Mum to your neighbour’s Uncle’s Sister-in –law, university will be the best time of your life. Not just because of the wild parties, not just because of the weird and wonderful characters you’ll meet and not just because of all the lovely, attractive males/females you’ll… encounter, but because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll love learning.

Learning is kind of what uni’s supposed to be all about. That and perfecting your own pitch-perfect cover version of the Countdown theme-tune.

So yes, university will be hard but it will also be just about the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do (apart from having kids I’m told; although I fail to see how cleaning up dirty nappies compares to an 8-hour, Tesco Value Whiskey-fuelled ‘Risk’ session).

HTWB studentThe point of this series

As much as I’d love to guide you through strategies for playing board games while inebriated, there are much more important things you need to know when starting Uni that you won’t have learnt about much in school; namely how to write a solid academic essay, report, dissertation or whatever bit of writing you need to complete to pass those modules.

So with this series, I will aim to go through some the biggest issues faced when writing at uni, the biggest differences between school and uni writing, and plenty of tips, tricks and personal pointers to make things that bit easier and more manageable.

Now you might be thinking, ‘this is all very well, but who does this guy think he is? What makes him think he knows what he’s talking about?’ That would be a very cynical and critical viewpoint. Well done, you’ll need those skills at uni (more on that later in the series).

Seriously though, why do I think I can help? Because I’ve been there. Not 20 years ago, not even 5 years ago, but last year. That’s right, I graduated last year, making 2012 my favourite year so far. Also the world didn’t end, so that helped.

All these pearls of wisdom (and it is wisdom; I’ve been told I’m like a young Dumbledore) come from my own experiences and are still fresh as a daisy in my mind.

Biggest problems faced while writing at uni

So what are the topics that I’ll be tackling over the course of series? Well, let’s take a look:

  • Writing in an academic ‘voice’ and how to get out of the ‘A-Level tone’.
  • Planning and structuring – why it’s more important than the writing itself.
  • Avoiding plagiarism, both accidental and intentional – why you shouldn’t ‘buy’ essays online.
  • Time management, balancing beer with Baudelaire and writing an essay in a hurry (can it and should it be done?)
  • Making the most of the resources available – from the library to online.
  • What makes a good uni essay – the key things your tutor is looking for.
  • How to think and write critically – analysis and evaluation.
  • How to pick yourself up after a poor grade – studying feedback for what went wrong and how to put it right.
  • How your writing will need to develop and change each year, getting better not worse and how a first year essay is different to one in third year.
  • Your Dissertation: how to approach the biggest, most daunting piece of writing in your life so far.
  • The pros and cons of learning to write ‘proper academic like’ and how to leave it behind.

These are just some of the things I’ll be addressing, hopefully with all the wit and charm of something witty and charming.

So if you’re starting uni this year or even if you’re already there, this series is for you. I can’t promise you’ll get a First, but I can promise that you’ll be getting your best. And your best is the best you can do. Obviously.

Jackson Rawlings on

Jackson Rawlings

Come along for the ride. It’s going to be fun and  useful; like learning Karate I guess. Stick with me and you’ll be a black-belt, uni-wordsmith in no time.

Can’t wait until next week! See you all then folks.




While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by Suze’s Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family – from just $2.50