General FAQs

Who is required to enroll in College Writing?

All first-year students must complete College Writing with a grade of C- or better in order to satisfy the University’s first-year writing requirement. Additionally, some transfer students may be required to enroll in the course.

Engineering students should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

Does it matter which semester I enroll in College Writing?

Yes. Since College Writing courses have high volume, limited seats, and no wait lists, first-year students are randomly assigned either a fall or spring semester placement. We carefully balance the number of students placed each semester, so we ask that students enroll in the course during the semester they've been placed. Students can contact their four year advisors to determine their semester placement.

Why do I have to take this course if I've already done a lot of writing and have high test scores?

Despite its number at the 100-level, College Writing is not a remedial course, nor is it an introduction to writing. In fact, it is designed for students just like you: well-prepared, competent writers who are ready to be challenged to write differently and think more analytically in this new, collegiate environment.

Can I receive disability-related accommodations for College Writing?

Yes. Please share a copy of your WashU Accommodation letter from Disability Resources with your instructor. If you have not yet registered with Disability Resources you can do so through their website or email them with any questions at disabilityresources@wustl.edu

Full website address: https://students.wustl.edu/requesting-academic-accommodations/

What happens if I don't earn a grade of C- or better in College Writing?

Most students complete College Writing with a grade of C- or better and satisfy the first-year writing requirement. However, in cases where they don’t, students are usually required to re-take the course the following semester.

Is College Writing a literature course?

No – in fact, students are sometimes surprised to find that work in class focuses less on discussion of the readings’ content and more on the particular strategies the writers of those texts have employed. Our goal in examining written texts in this way is to increase students’ awareness of the wide variety of choices open to them as writers, and to empower them to make new and more informed choices in their own writing. In College Writing, we work with texts from a variety of disciplines, and we consider the ways in which a text’s situation in a particular discipline informs its construction.

When is College Writing offered? How big are the classes?

College Writing sections are held on MWF, beginning at every hour of the day (except 11 a.m.) from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and TR, at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The sections are kept at a very low enrollment (12 students) in an effort to maintain small writing communities. 

To find out when College Writng is offered in a specific semester, consult the online course listings.

I’ve heard that College Writing sections are “standardized.” What does that mean?

All College Writing sections share standard curricular elements, including course objectives, grade weights, and policies; major assignments; major concepts; and deadlines for the final research project. Additionally, every section will be assigned a class reference librarian.

These shared elements provide the backbone of the course, and using them, individual instructors design their own syllabi, making decisions about such things as which of the shared readings to assign (and when), how much homework to assign, and when major assignments are due.

What kinds of things will we do in College Writing? What kinds of essays will we write?

In College Writing, the writing you do in class is as important as the writing you do outside of class. Class time is often spent on exercises designed to help you practice new writing strategies, experiment with alternative writing strategies, and prepare to write longer assignments. You will write formal, argumentative essays, but you will also spend time on shorter, less-formal and more-process-oriented writing. Additionally, you will work on a research project, through which you'll learn the academic conventions of scholarship at the university.

Who teaches College Writing?

The College Writing Program employs a range of instructors including part- and full-time lecturers, senior lecturers, post-doctoral fellows, practitioners in the field of journalism, graduate students, and occasionally, members of the English Department faculty. All instructors are trained to teach writing, and all are well-supported and -supervised. To view a listing of College Writing faculty, consult Our People page.

Can I choose my College Writing section based on the instructor?

No. Given the challenges of staffing so many classes and finding seats for so many students each year, it simply isn’t possible to allow students to enroll by instructor.

Are there required preparatory courses for College Writing?

In certain instances, students may be required to complete preparatory coursework prior to taking College Writing and may be placed into either Critical Reading and Analytical Writing (1511) or Fundamentals of Academic Writing (1001).

Students in 1511 must successfully complete the course with a grade of C- or better before enrolling in 1001. Students in 1001 must successfully complete the course with a grade of C- or better before enrolling in College Writing. Students in College Writing must successfuly complete the course with a grade of C- or better in order to satisfy the University's first-year writing requirement.

Test Scores & Exemption

I have a high AP score, am I exempt from taking College Writing?

No, test scores cannot exempt students from taking College Writing. Students entering the university with an AP English score of 5 can earn 3 credits of elective credit, contingent upon completing College Writing with a grade of B or better. Students are encouraged to verify that their AP scores have been communicated to the university and that it appears on their record. Contact the Office of Student Records with any questions.

Engineering students should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

Does my IB score exempt me from taking College Writing?

No, test scores cannot exempt students from taking College Writing. Students entering the university with an IB score of 7 can earn 3 credits of elective credit, contingent upon completing College Writing with a grade of B or better. Students are encouraged to verify that their scores have been communicated to the university and that it appears on their record. Contact the Office of Student Records with any questions.

Engineering students should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

Can my ACT/SAT Writing scores exempt me from taking College Writing?

No, test scores cannot exempt students from taking College Writing.

Engineering students should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

Writing Placement Exam

Why didn't I receive an email about the placement exam?

Not all incoming students are required to complete the Writing Placement Exam. We send multiple emails and reminders to students who are required to take the exam, so you'll know if it's required of you. If you are not required to complete the placement exam, you're approved to enroll in College Writing.

I'm in engineering. Why am I receiving different information about the exam?

Engineering students take a different exam than students in the other schools and should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

How was it determined that I needed to take the placement exam?

Students who may benefit from preparatory course work before enrolling in College Writing are required to take the Writing Placement Exam. These individuals are identified from standardized test scores, English language status, recommendations from a program or academic advisor, etc. The resulting placement of this exam is not meant to disrupt your academic plans at Washington University. Instead, the placement measures your strengths in writing and figures your best sequence of writing courses to fulfill the University's first-year writing requirement.

How do I complete the Writing Placement Exam?

If you're required to complete the exam, you'll be able to access it through Canvas. Full instructions can be found on the Writing Placement Exam page.

Can I receive disability-related accommodations for the placement exam?

Students wanting to use their disability-related accommodations for the writing placement exam need to email a copy of the WashU Accommodation Letter from Disability Resources to collegewriting@wustl.edu and we will implement your accommodations accordingly.

If you have not yet registered with Disability Resources you can do so through their website or email them with any questions at disabilityresources@wustl.edu

Full website address: https://students.wustl.edu/requesting-academic-accommodations/

Instead of taking the placement exam, can I submit a writing sample?

While student writing from high school or prior experience does not supersede evaluation of the Writing Placement Exam, you may upload a portfolio of supplementary writing that we will review in conjunction with your exam response.

Shouldn't my AP English score place me in College Writing?

No. While we appreciate that you successfully completed the AP exam, unfortunately we don't offer exemptions based on AP scores. Taking the exam will ensure your proper writing course placement.

I have a high ACT/SAT Writing score, why do I have to take the exam?

Please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

Will the Writing Placement Exam interfere with Orientation?

No. The placement exam should be completed online during the summer prior to arriving on campus.

What do I do if I have trouble accessing the exam outside of the United States?

We understand that Canvas may not be fully accessible outside of the United States. If you experience problems accessing the exam or Canvas, please contact Student Technology Services at student.technology@wustl.edu or the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

I'm using the Canvas Student app; why isn't the exam loading properly?

Make sure you're using the most updated version of the Canvas Student app. If your app is up-to-date, try accessing the exam from a web browser instead of using the app. If you're still having troubles, please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

My exam submitted before I was finished writing, what do I do?

Please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

What do I do if my exam submits before I can copy my writing over from Word, etc.?

It's recommended that stduents type their response directly into the text box. As you take the exam, Canvas will auto-save your response. If your exam submitted without any text because you were writing your response in another program, please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

How do I fix the formatting of my writing I copied over from Word, etc.?

It's recommended that stduents type their response directly into the text box to avoid formatting issues. In making placement decisions, we consider grammar, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, and paragraphing. We also look for: clarity and development of ideas; statement of argumentative purpose; structure and organization; coherence; the ability to support claims by providing evidence from a text; the ability to analyze / comment on the significance of that evidence; and the integration of source material into your own writing. Minor formatting issues will not be counted against you.

How do I know which writing class I should enroll in?

You will be notified via email of your placement within 14 business days of completing the Writing Placement Exam. If you are not required to complete the placement exam, you're approved to enroll in College Writing.

What if I don't agree with my writing course placement?

In addition to the online exam, your instructor will administer a writing diagnostic in the first week of classes to ensure proper course placement. You are always welcome to discuss your placement with your instructor or College Writing Program administration.

Transfer Students

Do transfer students have to take College Writing?

All students at Washington University must satisfy a first-year writing requirement; most do so by taking College Writing. If you have not taken an equivalent course at your previous college or university, you must take College Writing during your first year of study at Washington University. If you have taken an equivalent course, you may be eligible to submit a writing portfolio, which will help us to determine whether or not you are required to take another writing course. Note: Those who transfer in as first-year students are not eligible for portfolio submission.

Engineering students should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

How do I know if I'm eligible to submit a writing portfolio?

To find out whether you are eligible to submit a portfolio, complete the Writing Portfolio Eligibility Form. If you're eligible, the form will redirect you to a webpage that allows you to submit a writing portfolio for our review. On this page you will provide information about your previous course and writing samples from it.

Is there a deadline to submit a transfer writing portfolio?

Yes. If you are deemed eligible, the deadline to submit a writing portfolio is August 1.  Students who miss this deadline will be required to take College Writing in their first year of study.

What should be included in a writing portfolio?

Portfolios should include 3-5 analytical, argumentative essays (minimum of 4 pages each) from previous college coursework, including one researched essay, and a brief description of the original assignment / goals for each essay submitted. Essays should be ones written for college (preferably writing) courses. They should have analytical or argumentative thesis statements; use evidence to support claims; integrate and cite researched sources responsibly; and engage critically with sources. (The following items should not be submitted: responses to essay examinations, personal or creative writing, book reviews, journalism articles, response papers, or writing done during high school.) Where possible, essays should not be marked or graded; grades received in previous courses have no bearing on the portfolio review process.

Who do I contact if I'm having trouble submitting my portfolio online?

Please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

My portfolio doesn't have everything that's needed, what do I do?

If you do not have a complete portfolio, you should contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu or (314) 935-4899 as soon as possible. In most cases, students who do not have complete portfolios are required to take College Writing. 

I'm transferring into engineering, do I still need to submit a writing portfolio?

Students transferring into engineering should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

What do I need to do if I'm not eligible to submit a writing portfolio?

If you are not eligible to submit a portfolio, plan to take College Writing in your first year of study at Washington University.

Course Themes

What are the theme options for College Writing?

The current theme offerings for College Writing include: Ampersand Ireland (L59 111), Citizen Scientist (L59 112), Dreams & Nightmares (L59 113), Writing Identity (L59 114), Place & Perspective (L59 116), Power & Commodity Culture (L59 117), Technology and Selfhood (L59 118), When I'm 64 (L59 119), and Text & Traditions (L59 120). More information on the themes, including short descriptions and links to the theme web pages, can be found on our Course Overview page.

Can I choose the College Writing theme I take?

Yes, you may enroll in any course with available seats.

There are no seats open in my preferred theme, what do I do?

Since College Writing sections are capped at 12 seats and there's no guarantee that a seat will open, you should enroll in any College Writing section that fits in your schedule. While it may not be your preferred theme, each theme emphasizes interdisciplinary inquiry. You’ll read dynamic material from across fields, and you might just discover an interest you didn’t know you had. Also, the small class size provides a built-in community for lively discussion and peer-driven writing support.

After enrolling in a course, contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

What's the difference between the themes?

The only difference between the themes is the content. The assignment sequence, grading policies, and curricular goals are identical for all College Writing courses.

More information on the themes, including short descriptions and links to the theme web pages, can be found on our Course Overview page.

What if I don't like my theme after classes start?

While your chosen theme may differ from your expectations, each theme emphasizes interdisciplinary inquiry. You’ll self-select a research project, read dynamic material from across fields, and you might just discover an interest you didn’t know you had.

Do all of the themes count as College Writing?

Yes, any of the themed College Writing courses (L59 111-120) can satisfy the first-year writing requirement. All themed courses are also considered equivalent for the purposes of retakes, including retakes of L59 100: College Writing 1.

How do I get into a theme linked to a first-year program?

Ampersand Ireland (L59 111): you must be a participant in the Literary Culture of Modern Ireland Ampersand program.

When I'm 64 (L59 119): you must also be enrolled in the Beyond Boundaries course When I'm Sixty-Four: Transforming Your Future.

Text & Traditions (L59 120): you must be a participant in the Text & Traditions Ampersand program. 

Can I enroll in multiple themes and decide which I like best when classes start?

No. College Writing courses have high volume, limited seats, and no wait lists, so to ensure available space for students who are yet to register, we cannot allow anyone to enroll in multiple sections. All of the course themes have the same learning objectives & assignment sequence, and will satisfy your first-year writing requirement, so it isn't appropriate to be enrolled in multiple sections.

Enrollments are closely monitored and you will be dropped from all but one section of College Writing should you enroll in multiple sections.