Quite some of the problems that students run in to can be mended by distinguishing more clearly between normative and descriptive statements.
An overwhelming amount of guides can be found on the internet about how to write a proper paper. Most of them are quite useful, and probably most of them at least contain something that I do wrong all the time. Hence, this text is not written with the pretention to provide the conclusive guide to writing college papers. It is written because the things I see many of my students do wrong, are so stereotypical, and easy to prevent.
If the genie granted me one wish for a skill that I could send back to the past to my younger self, it would probably be: reading.