College-Level Essay Sample

Student Writing Samples



The following samples are meant to provide new college students with some helpful context. New students to MCC, some who may have been away from school environments for a period of time, often wonder about the expectations for writing as they enter a college environment. And although schools districts and states in this country have curriculum guidelines and assessments for writing for Kindergarten through high school graduation, some students entering MCC may not have had the many years of ongoing writing experiences needed to develop their writing abilities as others entering college. Below are some links to writing samples gathered from students at a variety of academic levels and written for a) a variety of college courses across the academic disciplines, b) first-year college English Composition courses, c) basic writing or pre-college level writing courses taken on a college campus, d) high school courses and/or assessments, as well as e) middle school classes and/or assessments, and f) elementary school classes and/or assessments.

COLLEGE LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES

Writing Samples In a Variety of Disciplines and Courses

MCC Writing Samples from a variety of courses across the curriculum
Writing Across the Curriculum & In the Disciplines: A Journal of Student Writing from Middlesex Community College provides student writing samples from the following classes: Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Anatomy & Physiology 1, Art on the Web, Child Growth and Development, Early Childhood Education–Supervised Field Placement and Seminar, Film Analysis & Production, Microcomputer Applications, Music Appreciation, Nursing Care of the Adult 1, Introduction to Philosophy, Piano III, Popular Culture and Society, Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Statistics, and Tourism Geography. Follow this link to an electronic copy of this complete journal.

CONNECT Writing Outcomes and Rubric for First-Year Writing
CONNECT is "A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership" of Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. The following outcomes and rubric grid was created by the CONNECT First-Year Writing Group and is used across these public colleges in southeastern Massachusetts
http://www.connectsemass.org/writing/pdfs/revisedrubric2.09.pdf

Freshman English Composition– 2nd semester level (equivalent to ENG 102 at MCC)

Victimized Against Her Will in Naguib Mahfouz's "The Answer is No" by Doris Osiimwe-Johnson (a literary research paper)
(This paper can be found in Writing Across the Curriculum & In the Disciplines: A Journal of Student Writing from Middlesex Community College; available in electronic form)

Tiara Trudelle: All for Love (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)

Sue Mechler: Finding Cape Cod (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)

Freshman English Composition– 1st semester level (equivalent to ENG 101 at MCC)

Deborah Marcelonis: Overspending is Responsible for the College Cost Crisis

NOTE : Some colleges teach the researched essay and/or the research paper in the second semester of English Composition. This student's research paper was written in her second semester composition course at a college in southeastern Massachusetts (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth).

ENTERING COLLEGE: WRITING PLACEMENT ESSAYS

The ACT system is one that many colleges around the country use for placement testing. Here are the detailed scoring guidelines that indicate level of writing proficiency, from 1 (low) to 6 (high):
http://www.actstudent.org/writing/scores/guidelines.html

Although these scores may be used by individual colleges in a variety of ways and at times in combination with reading placement scores, generally a score of 1 or 2 would place a student in a basic writing or pre-college level writing course, 3 - 5 would place a student into an English Composition course, and a 6 might place a student beyond English Composition 1. 

The following link provides sample student essays, one sample at each of these 6 different levels: http://www.actstudent.org/writing/sample/index.html

BASIC WRITING or PRE-COLLEGE LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES

The following samples are from MCC Basic Writing (ENG 071) students who completed their essays in a proctored environment in two blocks of time. Students are given 50 minutes during the final class to read the assignment options and begin their essays; all writing and materials are collected and then redistributed during final exam period where students have two additional hours to complete their essays. The essays are then read by two different English instructors who grade it as passing or not passing based on the following Basic Writing essay criteria for an in-class or timed essay:

  • A relatively well-developed and expressed main idea
  • A sense of introduction, conclusion, and organization
  • Most paragraphs developed around appropriate topic sentences
  • Sufficient relevant supporting details
  • Few if any fragments or run-ons that suggest lack of sentence sense
  • Appropriate capitals and end marks
  • A reasonable grasp of rules for commas and apostrophes
  • Few serious spelling errors

NOTE: Sample Essays #1, 2, & 6 below were in response to the following assignment option:
Though opinions may vary greatly, after at least twelve years of school, most college students know an excellent teacher from a poor one. Drawing from your personal experiences, knowledge, observations, and analysis, state and explain what you believe are the main qualities of a good teacher. Use specific examples (but please no names) and clear explanations to support your general ideas about what makes a good teacher.

NOTE: Sample Essay #5 below was in response to the following assignment option:
Write an essay giving advice to high school students on what they can do to be best prepared for the academic and personal challenges of college.

Basic Writing Sample Essay #1 (meets the above Exit Criteria; Passing)

Basic Writing Sample Essay #2 (meets the above Exit Criteria; Passing)

Basic Writing Sample Essay #5 (does not meet the above Exit Criteria; Not Passing
on Exit Criteria #1, #2, #5, #7)

Basic Writing Sample Essay #6 (does not meet the above Exit Criteria; Not Passing
on Exit Criteria #3, #5, #6, #7, #8)

HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES

Samples from local high school - 10th Grade Classes (Acton – Boxborough High School)

"Penalty! 10 Yards on the Offense for Lack of Integrity!: Editorial on Cheating in Professional Sports Today" (persuasive essay)

"The 7th and 8th Grade Boys Football Team. But By "Boys", I Mean Boys and a Girl" (narrative essay)

MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES

8th Grade Writing Samples

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES

Grade 4 Writing Samples

  • 1

    Research: First, choose a topic. Then, make sure to research it as much as possible. Know the material inside and out and become an expert on it. This will help connect the dots between various points in order to form a compelling argument.
    • Some essays in school require academic sources. These can sometimes be tricky to pick out because not everything is considered academic. For help in this area, you can refer to L. Lennie Irvin’s piece, “What Is ‘Academic’ Writing?” where he eases the student’s fear of the unknown and guides them to understand what academic writing is, how to pick it out, and discusses the benefits of using academic writing. [1]
  • 2

    Analyze. After immersing yourself in your research and learning all there is to know about the topic, analyze the information. Don’t think just surface level- what is the author actually saying? What is his or her argument and why is he or she trying to prove that point? Is the author accurate? Credible? Dissect their piece and read like the author.
    • Conventions are methods used in writing to enhance the product and make it more readable and understandable. They also determine what category or genre the piece belongs in. Types of conventions include but are not limited to mechanics, format, sentence structure, and word usage. So consider the following questions as well: What genre is the work and what conventions are used? Why did the author pick that genre and include those specific conventions?
    • Reading Mike Bunn’s “How to Read Like a Writer” will help you understand how this can be done.[2] He discusses in his piece how to notice decisions the author makes and the conventions used in their work so you can make similar decisions in your own.
  • 3

    Take your stance and form your argument. While researching and your argument is forming, mark pieces of evidence in the research that could be useful pieces of evidence for your paper. Don’t be afraid to mark more than you need because it’ll give you more options later on when you finalize what evidence you’re using.

  • 4

    Free write. This is a part of brainstorming. At this point, a million different ideas and connections are forming in your head and it is important to get them all out. Don't pay attention to the format or flow. In fact, use a pen to keep yourself from erasing anything because everything that comes out is important. Just write and write for ten minutes straight and get everything in your head on paper. Later, you will shift through it all and pick out the most important points that fit together the best.

  • 5

    Construct your thesis. Synthesize your main points and argument of the paper into a coherent sentence or two. This doesn’t need to be permanent and is subject to change. It will serve as a guideline for the paper in the time being. Incorporate it into the introduction and when the essay is complete, it will inform the reader what you are writing about and what you are arguing.

  • 6

    Create an outline. Next, make an outline of your essay. Separate your points into appropriate paragraphs and write notes about what you are going to include. After you have this all written down, ensure your ideas flow and you have enough points by picking evidence for each point.
    • Go back through the evidence you marked earlier or flip through your research again to find additional evidence if it does not sufficiently back up your claims. After this is complete and your outline logically flows, you are ready to begin writing!
  • 7

    Write your introduction. Compose your introduction that starts with a hook to capture the reader’s attention. In the paragraph, include your sources, thesis, and a “road map” for your essay. The “road map” is to give the reader a sense of where you are taking the subject and how you are going to prove your point without specifically stating, “First, I will talk about this. Then, about that”, etc.

  • 8

    Expand with body paragraphs. Make sure each body paragraph has a single main idea. If there are more than one, the paragraph can get confusing and one point will get overpowered by the other. Each paragraph should also have a topic sentence that tells the reader what that paragraph is going to tell them. Once again, don’t explicitly say, “In this paragraph I will explain...”.
    • Also, incorporate your evidence into appropriate places and ensure they flow. Evidence can be used in a quote but don’t forget that you can paraphrase too. Change it up so your essay doesn’t seem repetitive and make sure to use each of your sources equally.
  • 9

    Form your conclusion. Tie together your essay with a final conclusion of your argument. Give your reader something to walk away with after reading your essay. For example, have a call to action, leave them pondering a question or with something memorable, or maybe you’ll even end up blowing the reader's minds with something they’ve never thought of or considered. Just make sure they don’t finish your essay thinking “so what?” or “what was the point?”.

  • 10

    Cite your sources. Cite your sources in the appropriate format. Don’t forget this step- no plagiarizing! If you have any questions on citations, you can refer to Diana Hacker's "A Pocket Style Manual" which provide a plethora of information on citations, grammar, and formatting.[3]

  • 11

    Revise your piece. First, set your paper aside. Give yourself a little break to refresh your mind and then come back to revise. One helpful technique is to slowly read your essay out loud to yourself. The key is to read it out loud because you will catch more mistakes that way.
    • If you have a peer to revise with, trading with them and getting their opinion can be very helpful. If there are multiple people to trade with, go for it! The more opinions the better. Then you can pick and choose what revisions you agree with. You can repeat this step a few times by stepping away from it and coming back to ensure you caught all your mistakes.
  • 12

    Take time to reflect. Reflect on your writing, the process of how you completed it, and how you feel about your work. This process identifies the positives and the negatives of the paper, which could help improve it. Write down what you consider to be the downfalls of your paper and you can even go back to the revision stage and fix these once they are identified.

  • 13

    Done! When you are satisfied with your paper and you have fixed everything that you possibly can, you have completed your essay!

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