Responding to Literature at the College Level

A new handout, based on the opening lecture I give in every literature class. I’m trying to uncouple this chunk of content, which never changes, from the “intro to the course” lecture, which is topic-specific.

Your high school teachers probably praised you for summarizing what you read and perhaps relating it to your own life in an engaging way. But your college professors will probably ask you to do a very different kind of work.

On a high school sports team, you earn points by playing according to high school rules, and in a high school class, your writing earns points for meeting high school standards. In sports and writing, the rules change from high school to college.

When I ask my students to give advice to future students, the most common responses include the importance of time management, not being afraid to ask for help, and recognizing that the writing strategies that got them through high school (relying on summary, personal opinion, and flowery filler to churn out the minimum required words the night before it’s due) will not cut it in college. —Responding to Literature at the College Level