Writing and Learning

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Tips for Writing Under Pressure

  1. Read the question through twice, making sure you understand what you are being asked to write about.
  2. If, for example, the question asks you to describe the primary challenge facing parents in raising their children today, you might jot down some possibilities: making sure there is enough money; keeping children out of trouble; maintaining a strong family unit; allowing children just enough freedom, but not too much, etc.
  3. Choose the topic which you can support best with details. Remember to use what you know.
  4. Quickly make a list or cluster around the topic, finding as many details as you can. Perhaps jot down a few points that you might want to use to prove your position. For example, if you decide to write that keeping children out of trouble is the primary challenge for parents, you must choose points you would amplify in order to prove your point. Here might be some possible paragraph topics: try to have at least one parent at home when kids come home from school; keep communication channels open with your children; have family meetings to discuss problems; eat dinner together; have certain activities on a certain day I which everyone in the family participates; etc.
  5. Reread the topic more carefully, underlining the verbs (describe,explain, analyze, etc.).
  6. Begin to write: if you don't have an introduction in mind, don't labor over one. Just begin with the general point.
  7. Don't write too slowly or too quickly--just at a nice even pace. Trust that the critic (the grammar and spelling police) and the creator (your imagination) will work together for you.
  8. Sometimes a four or five-paragraph essay will effectively answer an essay question but beware! Not every topic has only two or three points on which to elaborate. Let the content of your essay drive the form, not the form drive the content.
  9. Paragraphing: Remember, your job is to make a general statement and then prove it by giving an example. Keep in mind the following two words: "for example." These two words will help you remember to give support to the statements you make.
  10. Here's a possible example: "Parents need to be a strong presence so that their children are not tempted to do something they shouldn't. For example, when parents aren't home, there is more freedom and temptation to explore forbidden medicine and liquor cabinets."
  11. Conclusions: do not merely summarize what you've already said; that insults the reader. Remember the conclusion contains the last words of your essay, so make them count! Give a solution, point to the future, say something eloquent. Have your words be memorable not dull.
  12. If possible, reread the question at some point mid-way through writing your essay to make sure you're on track and that you haven't forgotten something or gone off on a tangent.

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Academic Preparation and Transitions

The Academic Preparation and Transitions Department plays an integral role in help incoming first-year students prepare for a successful college experience through the Early Assessment Program and the Supportive Pathways for First-Year Students program. More information is available on the Academic Preparation and Transitions webpage

Learning Support Programs

The Learning Support Programs department offers a comprehensive menu of programs and resources designed to help you navigate course expectations and achieve your learning goals: free tutoring for subjects across the curriculum, peer-led supplemental workshops and study sessions provide support for STEM-specific courses, and an online study strategies library. More information is available on the Learning Support Programs webpage. 

Graduation Writing Requirement

All undergraduate students who are seeking a Cal Poly degree must fulfill the GWR before a diploma can be awarded. Students must have upp division standing (completed 90 units) before they can attempt to fulfill the requirement and should do so before the senior year. The two pathways to GWR completion are 1) in an approved upper-division course and 2) via the GWR Portfolio. More information is available on the GWR webpage