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#BacktoSchool: Avoid “Grade Shock”

Avoid “Grade Shock:” How Not to Lose Grades in the Transition from High School to University

grid-857865_640.jpgFor #backtoschool, it's important to note that research shows that “A” students in high school are most likely to suffer grade-shock or a drop of nearly two grade levels when they transition from high school to university. Our Knowledge Ambassador, Dr. Anthony Cantor, offered advice to students making this difficult adjustment here, but with the start of the shool year, it's worth revisiting this topic.

Grade shock can lead to anxiety and depression. And it can produce serious financial consequences, including the loss of scholarships or funding. Some students may even withdraw from University completely.

Grade shock happens, because many students who first enter university do not understand the expectations of academic writing at the university level. The major problem is that they do not know how to write in a way that displays critical thinking.

With the excitement of being a first-year student, orientation week fun, freshmen frivolities, it is worth thinking about how the rest of your first semester might unfold.

Good high school students are especially likely to suffer grade shock, because you study hard to develop a good grasp of facts, concepts, and ideas learned in your courses, yet often receive poor grades for your essays, and by that time, you're already halfway or all the way through a full semester. You know a lot of information, but do not now how to present that information in a way that displays critical thinking and analysis appropriate to a University standard.

To make things worse, most professors do not teach these expectations. They are subject area experts who focus on teaching content, not writing. They expect students to already know how to write.

Imagine showing up to a first year Calculus class and not knowing how to add or subtract. You'd expect to do poorly. However, you might show up in a first year History or Philosophy class (or Literature, Religion, etc.) and not know how to write appropriately, but you might expect your History or Philosophy prof to teach you. It just might happen, though, that your History or Philosophy prof is an expert in a particular area of his or her field and not a writing expert. He or she will teach you about History or Philosophy, not writing. Yet, you will still need to know how to write. 

Professors of this type may comment about your writing and observe that the essays lack an arguable thesis or that an essay does not properly justify its claims. You may then be made aware of problems with your writing, but you will not necessarily have any meaningful idea as to how to overcome them.

The result is "grade shock" and a feeling of desperation. This feeling can lead some students to make poor decisions like buying future essays from an essay-mill or some may decide to plagiarize. Some risk their academic and professional futures by making these kinds of bad decisions.

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The good news is that there is a solution to the challenge of writing essays in a way that displays critical thinking. The key lies in the word “display” or “to show.” Effective academic writing is all about “location, location, location” – knowing how to state and place relevant facts, ideas, and information within the structure of an academic essay to show your Professors your critical thinking in the places they are expecting to see it displayed.

EssayJack is a web-application that builds from this philosophy of academic writing. By breaking the essay into its component parts and then using focus questions, useful phrases, and tips to guide the writing process, students will know where to place relevant facts, ideas, and information within the structure of the essay to display critical thinking.

Of course, in the end, the thinking is all your own, but EssayJack decodes the correct locations for academic writing. Indeed, 90% of students who use EssayJack improve grades. 80% reduce writing stress. The data shows that it is a powerful defense against the risk of "grade shock."

Don't risk your academic career by receiving bad grades on your permanent transcript; don't risk your academic standing by buying an essay or plagiarizing; don't take classes with "easier" professors or subject areas that aren't really your interest. Be prepared; you will enjoy your first year, and you can avoid "grade shock." 

And until you start writing, enjoy orientation, meeting new friends and professors, and get ready for your university or college experience. Who knows who you'll be by the time you graduate! 

Good luck!

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