Why is Writing the Most Important Skill for Students?


Writing is the academic skill most linked to college success. It’s also one of the top skills employers seek, though one they report most often missing in their new-hires.

Why is writing so important?

Colleges and employers value good writing skills in part because they recognize that people who write well possess an array of high-level competencies that apply across many varieties of subject matter and types of projects.

What do these transferable skills look like?

In composing a successful extended, source-based academic essay, students:

  • Demonstrate that they understand a complex task and their purpose for working on it; Recognize the needs and expectations of people who will evaluate their work;
  • Generate productive ideas that are well suited to a given task, audience, and purpose;
  • Demonstrate that they can successfully scope and plan a complex intellectual project;
  • Find relevant, credible information, analyze it, and make discerning use of it in their own work;
  • Identify and define a specific, relevant problem residing within a broad domain of information and debate;
  • Formulate a coherent response to a defined problem, based on their analysis of a range of information and perspectives;
  • Stake out a persuasive position on a debatable issue, and effectively support it with an argument grounded in evidence and logical reasoning;
  • Organize a collection of materials, information, and ideas into a coherent presentation;
  • Communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively;
  • Skillfully revise their work in response to feedback from others and their own self-critique;
  • Produce a polished final product.

An extended, research-supported academic essay provides an unmistakable demonstration of the author’s knowledge, the quality of their thinking, their capacity for executing a complex intellectual task, and their skill at communicating clearly and effectively. No wonder so many schools and employers want to see writing samples from their applicants.

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Dr. William Bryant is the Co-Founder and President of BetterRhetor Resources, an educational publishing & services company he and his wife, Becky, operate headquartered in Prescott, Arizona.

Dr. Bryant has created College-Ready Writing and authored his signature online writing program, College-Ready Writing Essentials, as well as several other free and paid resources designed to target the college-ready writing gap. He has written for Getting Smart and Curmudgication and worked for a decade at ACT Inc., lastly as Director of Writing Assessments.

In addition to college readiness, Dr. Bryant writes about education, equity, democracy—and how they fit together on his American-Educator blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn.