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Foreign students who apply to US colleges are young and brave people who usually plan a big future ahead. If you are one of them, I want to congratulate you on your efforts and commitment. I emphasize this bravery because I am aware of all the obstacles that may come with studying abroad.

If you are an international student who just finished high school and have plans for America, you have to prepare for some tough aspects. Undergraduates often find the transition between high school and college quite challenging when it comes to an important aspect: academic writing.

It is not the social surroundings, the food, or the weather that makes foreign students worry. It is the academic writing. Most of them are not used to the style required for these types of essays and dissertations. With English not being their native language, they struggle with it. If you are reading this article there’s a big chance you fall into that category.

I strongly encourage you to put everything aside and start paying full attention to this article. You fill find out what academic writing is, and how you can become better at it.

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing can range from essays to dissertations, and it’s the writing style required by all colleges and universities. Writing a compelling academic paper is far away from easy, but not impossible.

These tasks take a lot of time and patience, and they require extensive research. A good academic writing must provide a comprehensive study related to a specific subject. When the reader finishes with it, they should have no difficulty in understanding the concepts written.

When it comes to international students, the bad part comes with the difficulty to grasp the English language. A native English speaker may find it much easier to put together a well-written essay, but that is not the case for foreign students.

Because most students that come from abroad are not very used to the academic style, it becomes their number one problem. Here are some useful tips on how to approach academic writing if you are an international student:

Tip #1: Improve your command of English   

No one will expect from you to be perfect at this language. But what a college or university actually expects from you is to do your best to get better. That means improving your vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and more aspects.

You can do so by consistently reading and writing every day. If you take the time to analyze great academic writings on your topic, you will learn more words and concepts. If you take the time to write a specific amount of words each day, using an academic style, it will all get easier.

You can also start reading books designed for your particular issue. If your writing sucks, get a book on the subject. If you do not know how to research for your topic, there are books for that, too. Start looking for them!

Tip #2: Read As Many How-to Guides as You Can

You can find almost everything online, so why not look for advice? This article is not enough for you to get better. You need hours of reading and practice, so you’d better start reading.

Start looking up for as many professional guides and start applying everything you learn. It is easier to learn from someone who is an expert rather than reinventing the wheel.

Tip #3: Avoid Plagiarism

Not a single student can avoid the issue of plagiarism. Everything is already out there, so it may seem difficult to write something of your own. What plagiarism means is taking an information or idea from someone else and declaring it as one of your own, without recognizing the original source.

To be honest, things will not turn out well for you if you get caught with plagiarism, especially for academic writing purposes. In order to avoid this issue, you should use the following technique when approaching a task:

  1. Gather extensive research using your own notes (use outlines).
  2. Organize your notes and ideas into a final outline for your task (using your own words).
  3. Write your essay using your own writing style, without ever looking back on the websites/books you got inspired from. Only use your notes when writing the final version.
  4. If you are using statistics, researches, or quotes, you should really cite the source. This is actually indicated, as your thesis will become more reliable.

Tip #4: Get Feedback 

Every writer needs to gather feedback around their work. Be it a fiction, non-fiction, or an academic writer, they need to understand how readers see their work.

The best choice is finding a mentor writer that will assist and teach you using their experience. Mentors carry a huge role in our lives, and it’s crucial to have mentors. In our case, you can start looking for friends or people that you know they are good at academic writing. Next, simply ask them what they would need from you in exchange for their mentorship.


Reaching a great academic level requires hard work, dedication, and consistency. Whether you are a foreign or a native student, you have to improve yourself. Obtaining good grades and passing requirements is supposed to be hard…that is why not everyone can do it.

If you are truly committed to improving your academic writing skills, begin using the four tips mentioned in this article and never cease to look for new useful materials. Continuous study and action leads to progress. 


Antonio is a hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world's brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he's blogging and teaching ESL. He will be happy to meet you on Facebook and Twitter.

27 Apr 2016

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