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First-Year Focus

To demonstrate their proficiency in writing, Northwestern students must satisfy the writing requirements established by their individual schools.

In WCAS, students must show that they can write satisfactorily in two courses at Northwestern, typically during their two first-year seminars. There are two exceptions, for special program students. HPME and MMSS students, who are required to take only one first-year seminar, have only a one-course writing requirement. Although first-year seminars are taught by faculty from every discipline in WCAS, all of these seminars include writing instruction, and, as part of their teaching responsibilities, first-year seminar instructors are asked to evaluate the writing of their students. These evaluations reflect the instructors' assessments of students' writing skills only and do not necessarily correspond to the grades students earn in the seminar courses. These assessments are then forwarded to the Writing Program. A Writing Program adviser will work with any student who has not written satisfactorily in his or her courses to develop an alternate approach to fulfilling this requirement, which may include enrollment in an expository writing course such as English 105 or English 205.

In McCormick, all students are expected to take Design 106, Design Thinking and Communication, in their first or second year. This two-quarter course is taught concurrently as English 106, Writing in Special Contexts, and fulfills the writing requirement for all engineering students.

Students in other schools frequently take English 105, Expository Writing, English 205, Intermediate Composition, or English 105-6 (first-year WCAS seminars that have openings) to fulfill their writing requirements; most do so in their first or second year.

English 105, 205, and 305 are all designed to help individual writers gain more control over the writing process and improve largely at their own pace. All of these core WP courses emphasize analysis, argument, and style.

Some Writing Program courses, like first-year seminars, have a special focus, which is more "creative," such as autobiography or creative non-fiction. However, students interested in fiction and poetry should contact the English Department. They should particularly investigate that department's Major in Creative Writing.

Students can take each writing course twice for credit, as long as they take it with a different instructor (and can therefore demonstrate that the course content is different). This flexibility in University requirements ensures that students who desire ample help with their writing will be able to receive it. Undergraduates uncertain about whether or not to enroll in a Writing Program Course to improve their writing should consult Why Should I Take A Writing Program Course? on this site as well as our FAQs.

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