Dear Future College Writing 112 Students,
Welcome to UMass Amherst! Now that you’re taking this class, I hope you’re really ready to work on you writing skills. I know that some of us have gotten used to just skating by in our high school writing courses; As long as it was the right length and had correct grammar you would do fine, right? Well that’s not how this course will be for you at all. Along with each unit’s final essay come a number of generative writing prompts and some type of homework assignment for each class period. These may seem unnecessary and more like busy work to you, but when you’re up all night doing them last minute, trust me when I say that it really does help your writing process. And one thing that I have learned in this class is the importance of the process itself. Without organizing your ideas slowly but surely, the end product will be less of an A-worthy essay and more of a careless mess. We all know that anything that can be called a careless mess won’t get you anywhere in life, and it certainly won’t get you any sort of good grades in class, so just do yourself a favor and go along with everything your professor says.
Before this course I had always enjoyed writing, but I was extremely picky about what I wrote. I thought I was really only good at creative writing so that was all I wanted to do. Give me a research paper and I would spend weeks stressing about it only to end up doing it at the last minute. What this class taught me was that you can make all types of writing interesting. I liked creative writing because that was when I could use my own tone and style and say what I really wanted to say. Well, nobody said that research papers had to be boring. In high school we were taught the basic five paragraph essay style: You had an intro, three body paragraphs, and a summary. If you happened to choose your own approach and stray from this format at all you would only lose points. Sure, this style may be perfect for SAT’s and other strictly academic tests that can never keep your attention, but nobody wants to read something that dry and boring in real life. As a writer, it’s up to you to make the reader want to continue reading to see what you have to say.
Along with a broader sense of how to write, one thing that was really drilled into our heads was the importance of revision. Peer revision, teacher revision, self-revision, almost anyone you can get to read your essay and give you feedback will only help you in the end. I’ll admit that I was never much into the whole peer editing and revising thing. I was always proud of my own writing and I didn’t appreciate when other people told me how they thought it should be. I was especially irritated at the idea of having separate due dates for each draft. I thought this was completely unnecessary, and that I would have been just fine getting the whole essay done once and for all instead of slowly editing it step by step. Back in high school, there were even a few times when I would write the whole final essay the night before it was due and then go back and write versions that I would pass off as the drafts if those would also be collected. Take my word for it, though, that kind of thing is not going to fly in this class. If you fall behind with one draft, or even one assignment for that matter, you will have a world of trouble trying to catch up and keep up with the rest of the class. Not only that, but if you don’t take the time to revise properly, your writing won’t end up being all that it could possibly be. College Writing 112 has taught me that peer reviews and revision in general really are important and helpful. After all, what better way is there to know how your audience is going to perceive your writing than by having an actual audience member tell you exactly what they think about it? To be honest, at first I will still so put off by the intensive peer editing that I would stubbornly only change the slightest details in my essay. It wasn’t long before I realized the critiques were actually spot-on, though, and that that it really was all worth it. Each draft goes through intensive editing, both by your peers and yourself, and this is necessary because there will be no leniency on the grading of your final essay. It definitely doesn’t come easy, but with lessons on sentence structure, context, narrowing for a specific audience, concision, and of course grammar, there’s no excuse not to have a suitable essay in the end.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t think this class improved my writing skills. I always thought of myself as a skilled writer before, but now I can say that I’m skilled at more than just one type of writing. I can even write a research paper without it sounding long and drawn out, which is something I never thought I would be saying about myself. I can honestly say that this class, and specifically the different styles of each unit essay, have defined and varied my writing skills. I’m not one to brag, but I’d like to think that all of my finished essays were as they should have been in the end. My mom literally put one of my final essays on the fridge. Still getting work put on the fridge in college? I’d like to think that in a way I earned these good essays, considering all the work that was put into each and every one. Though I may have initially complained about all of the work, College Writing 112 brought the true writer back out in me.
Now that you’ve heard all about College Writing 112, you probably have some concerns. As long as you do all of your work on time and pay attention to the lessons and feedback you get, I can assure you that you’ll do fine. I will warn you though, Freshman English classes may seem like no big deal, but you really have to take this one seriously to get out of it in one piece in the end. I hope I didn’t scare you too much, and I hope that what I said can really help you. I wish you all the best in this course and all of your others in your freshman year!