Many high schoolers are surprised when they discover the challenges of college. Even though they have been warned for their four years of high school that college will be difficult, they do not realize it until they actually start doing the work. Regardless of their academic majors, student will have to write essays and research papers. Some will have to write lab reports, proofs, and other written reports that are specific to each major or minor. College students not only need to be able to write high quality papers, but they need to format them appropriately.
In most cases, students do not come to college knowing how to format every type of paper. Most high school students have had practice writing documented research papers in MLA or APA formatting. They also have usually written short lab reports and mathematics proofs. Because professors find that students get to college with a mixture of skills, they usually have to teach their students exactly how to format their essays and papers. Some professors will require their students to buy or download a book that explains the variety of formatting options. For example, students majoring in an English related major, like literature, journalism, or teaching, will need to buy an MLA handbook. Psychology majors will need to buy APA handbooks. The books include everything that a student would need to know about formatting.
The formatting skills are usually taught in the early 100-level courses. Students are expected to follow the formatting rules all the way through their time in college. In many cases, students will remember how to format their essays because they have to do it so frequently. The idea of practice making perfect really does happen when students learn how to format and repeat the process on a weekly or even nightly basis.
While some students memorize formatting very quickly, there are always some students who never quite get the idea of formatting. Some students do not understand the idea behind common formatting and they never get it right. Formatting was developed so that readers know what they are looking at, so a lab report always looks the same, regardless of the topic. Research papers in MLA have formatted works cited pages so the readers know what source was a magazine or a website. Mathematical proofs are structured in the same way so readers know it is a proof and not a lab report. Fortunately, students can go to study centers to get help with formatting.