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The Writing Requirement

Writing students pose for picture in a classroom

All first-year students are required to take a First-Year Writing (FYW) Course. This page explains that requirement in detail.

The First-Year Writing Requirement

First-Year Writing (FYW) courses provide a common introductory experience in college-level thinking and writing for all students at Wellesley. These courses serve as a launching point for developing advanced writing skills, and students will continue to practice and enhance these skills in work they do across the curriculum throughout their college careers.

First-Year Writing courses are numbered WRIT 101 to WRIT 198. Students may choose to take a standard FYW course (meeting two periods a week and addressing a well-defined topic related to the instructor's expertise), or to study writing as part of an introductory course in another department. These latter are called combined courses and have departmental course numbers in their titles, for example, WRIT 107 / ARTH 100. The combined courses carry one unit of credit, fulfill distribution and/or major requirements, and meet for at least three periods each week.

All students are required to take their FYW course in either the fall or spring semester of their first year at Wellesley.

First-Year Writing courses are not open to auditors. Students may not take a second semester of FYW unless they have the written permission of the Director of the Writing Program. Writing courses offered during the summer session at Wellesley do not fulfill the writing requirement.


Writing Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete their first-year writing (FYW) course will have shifted their orientation as writers from an inward-facing mindset (writing as a perfunctory performance of competence, reliance on the five-paragraph essay, emphasis on the writer) to an outward-facing approach (writing as a form of learning and of teaching, use of more flexible and sophisticated forms of writing, emphasis on the reader).

This shift in orientation will be reflected in students being able to:

  • Approach writing as an evolving process that requires them to brainstorm, draft, share, reflect, and revise.
  • Understand the mechanisms of sentence structure and writing design that produce precise and reader-friendly prose.
  • Write with an attentiveness to genre, medium, and audience, and make appropriate choices regarding language, register, evidence, and argument.
  • Locate, analyze, and evaluate different types of sources, and integrate them effectively into evidence-based writing.
  • Write with purpose and have a stake in their ideas.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I substitute a course I took somewhere else for my first-year writing?

Unless you are a Davis Scholar or transfer student, you are required to take a FYW course at Wellesley during your first year at the College. AP credit courses or college-level writing courses taken at another institution do not fulfill the Writing Requirement. Davis Scholars and transfer students may, with the approval of the Director, substitute writing credit earned at another school for their FYW course.

What if I don't want to take Writing during my first year?

We require students to take their writing courses during their first year to ensure that they have the foundational skills necessary to succeed in later classes. Students who have not fulfilled the Writing Requirement by the end of their second semester at Wellesley will not be allowed to register until after everyone else in their class has registered; this penalty remains in effect until the student has completed the Writing Requirement. In addition, the Academic Review Board may impose other penalties, including academic probation, for students failing to complete this requirement successfully by the end of the first year.

I am a Davis Scholar who has transferred in a unit of credit for writing, but I want to learn more about writing. Can I take a writing course without losing my transfer unit?

Yes, you may take a semester of FYW at Wellesley for credit and keep the transfer unit for writing. If you would like to enroll in a FYW course, consult with the Director of the Writing Program.

I received a 5 on the AP Writing Test. Why do I need to take First-Year Writing?

We believe that writing is not a skill that can be taught once and for all. The writing that you studied in high school was appropriate for the writer you were then; FYW courses at Wellesley offer advanced-level instruction in academic writing to prepare you for the higher expectations you'll find at the college level. All professors at Wellesley College assume students have a vocabulary of writing that is taught in our first-year writing courses; they build on this base as they teach and assign writing in upper-level courses across the disciplines.

I'm very worried about my writing skills. Are there any courses that will provide extra help?

Yes, there are. Every year we offer a number of extra-support sections designed for students who need additional help making the transition from high school to college writing. These classes are smaller (12 students per class), move at a somewhat slower pace, and are taught by instructors who are experienced in helping students build skills and gain confidence in their writing. These are not remedial courses, and they are as intellectually demanding as other Writing classes. Some extra-support sections are reserved for students invited into the Wellesley Plus program (a program for first-generation college students), and the rest serve other students who need intensive writing instruction. The summer placement process will provide you with an opportunity to indicate your interest in these courses, and students are also encouraged to contact the program director, Professor Jeannine Johnson, at, to discuss what course would best suit them.

How do I get assigned to my Writing course?

Each year in early July, new students are asked to complete a Writing course preference form on the entering student's checklist. On the form, you will list your top 10 choices (out of more than 30 classes that we offer), and in late August placements will be made. Most students are assigned to one of their top 3 choices. You'll know your Writing course assignment before you register for fall classes. If you have questions about this process, or are looking for guidance regarding course selection and placement, contact the program director, Jeannine Johnson, at

How do I request a change to my Writing course?

We know that schedules and interests can change. If you would like to request a change to your assignment, please complete the First-Year Writing Course Change Request form. If you have questions about your FYW course or the form, contact the program director, Professor Jeannine Johnson, at

How are First-Year Writing courses graded?

In the fall, some writing courses are offered for a grade, and some are offered as "no letter grades given". All fall courses are shadow-graded for first-year students, and the official transcript for students who take FYW in the fall will indicate either a Pass or a No Pass for the class.

In the spring, some writing courses are offered for a grade, and some are offered as "mandatory credit / no credit". Students enrolled in a graded course may elect to take it credit / no credit by contacting the registrar's office before the deadline.

If a course is offered as either no letter grades given or as mandatory credit/non, a note to that effect will appear in the course browser. Graded courses have no such note.

What else does the Writing Program do besides offer First-Year Writing?

The Writing Program works with faculty across the disciplines at Wellesley to help them use writing effectively in their courses. We train and supervise writing tutors who can help you write papers in your other courses and we offer several advanced writing courses beyond FYW. We also sponsor readings and events that focus on writing, and we help student groups develop projects, events, and community service opportunities involving writing.