How well-constructed and thoroughly-tested does my paper have to be?: More so than your papers ever had to be in high school.
Standards for paper construction vary with what is at stake. If your paper is being imagined entirely within a school system preparing you for further education, the instructors' goals will be to reward writing that would persuade college teachers of the writer's promise to be a good college student. If your paper is being imagined within the context of actual, real-world decision making, the stakes are higher, much higher. Before you decide that college is really just an extension of high school, consider that a significant proportion of each year's college graduates go directly into the work force as managers of other people, decision makers whose opinions will change the world we all live in. Even those who defer to graduate school the inevitable transition to "real world" applications of their ideas already are being judged by their college and grad school teachers as if their writing was going to make things happen. "What would be the consequences if this thesis were accepted by the audience for which it was intended?"--this is a standard question college and graduate school teachers ask themselves before evaluating a paper's success. "Do I like it?" rarely enters into the process except subliminally.