How Do You Write A College Essay: Avoid Over-Generalizations

When you are writing a paper for a college level course, the precision of your language is key. The kind of vague literary flourishes that may have been acceptable in high school will simply not fly. In particular, it is imperative that you avoid making hasty, unsupported generalizations. Critical thinking is an essential skill to display at the college level, after all, and needless generalizing is anathema to thinking critically.

What sorts of over-generalizations should you be on the lookout for? There are many kinds that students commonly commit. Below are a few descriptions of the most popular over-generalizations that students make, and some pointers for how to avoid them.

Generalizations About People

Never speak in a general way about groups of people. Each individual person has a variety of traits, motivations, strengths, and flaws, and group differences are much more subtle and unimportant than most of us are led to believe. Furthermore, generalizing about people on the basis of their group memberships can be extremely offensive. You should avoid statements about groups or types of people at all costs in your essays.

How to Avoid Over-Generalizing About People?

How can you avoid this error? Do not speak generally about races of people, genders, age groups, ethnic groups, or groups of nationalities. Do not assume that all people with the same education or income level are the same in any way; do not assume that people with the same careers or family backgrounds share traits, either. Describe people as individuals.

Generalizations About Facts or Beliefs

Many college students come into school with a great deal of confidence about their opinions and the way the world works. While youthful confidence is admirable in many ways, it is likely that some of your beliefs are unsupported by evidence. Furthermore, it is likely that some of your opinions will change over time, as you age and learn more.

How to Avoid Over-Generalizing About Facts and Beliefs?

Never take any fact or belief system for granted in your essays. Never state that “everyone knows” that something is the case. If you do not have a peer reviewed source that supports your position, you should not make a claim. Do not assume that people reading your papers will hold the same values or factual beliefs that you do. Instead, pretend you are always in a court case; you must always persuasively support your own position. Open your mind and expose yourself to writing from people you might disagree with.