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Basic College English Requirements

by Joshua D. Shinn, studioD

Basic college English requirements vary depending on the college or university a student has chosen. A good rule of thumb for anyone interested in knowing exactly what those site-specific prerequisites are is to check with the college. However, if a student is uncertain as to which college he will be attending, methods exist to determine and be prepared for some of the most basic college English requirements for most American colleges and universities.

Read With Purpose

College English classes deal heavily in reading, much more so than high school. There will inevitably be a mixture of classical literature, contemporary poetry, social commentary, opinion pieces, academic articles and/or drama. To properly absorb these works, students need to develop a habit of reading with purpose. The Harvard Report on Reading explains how many students today read with “obedient purposelessness” -- they read to simply “get through” a text. However, students need to read by knowing what it is they want to get out of a reading assignment amd search for those points, according to the Harvard Report.

Build Vocabulary

Students should read to build a strong vocabulary. Colleges want students to have and develop a strong lexicon. The reasons for this are simple: Words represent ideas, and the more words students possess, the more ideas they can effectively communicate. For that purpose, students should be constantly learning and adding new words to their vocabulary. Word of the day apps exist for smartphones that can help students with this, or if students want to take a more low-tech approach, flashcards are helpful.

Purchase a Handbook

College English classes also deal heavily in writing. And one of the most difficult aspects of writing for college is grammar. Some English classes offer instruction on grammar, while some do not. All, however, expect their students to be able to display an understanding of the basic rules of grammar within their writing. Students should seek out and purchase the latest edition of a writer’s handbook. These handbooks contain all of the rules of grammar, syntax, citation, formatting and vocabulary. Students can easily carry these handbooks and refer to them as needed, and these guides typically come with online resources for writers. A few of the most well known and helpful handbooks are “The Bedford Handbook” by Diana Hacker, “Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White, and the “MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers” by the Modern Language Association.

Preparatory Courses

If students are truly dedicated to meeting and exceeding the basic college English requirements, they can enroll in a college preparatory course. Many colleges, such as Fisher College in Boston, York College in New York, the University of Colorado and the University of California, offer the option for incoming students to enroll in English prep courses. Some community and nonprofit organizations offer college preparatory programs. You can find a list of these preparatory programs on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

About the Author

Joshua D. Shinn holds a bachelor's degree in liberal studies and a master's degree in English composition from California State University, San Bernardino. He has served as an English instructor for CSUSB, Central Texas College and the US Navy.

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