Choosing and Pre-Registering for Writing Courses and Seminars

During the summer before your arrival, you will have the opportunity to pre-register for two kinds of courses intended exclusively for first-year students.  At Wellesley, First-Year Writing courses are required of all students, while First-Year Seminars are optional, but strongly encouraged.  As an entering student, you will have the opportunity to express your preferences and be placed in a writing course and, if you choose, a seminar as well. You will tell us about your preferences by completing the pre-registration form on MyWellesley, and the information here will help you start thinking about these opportunities. Before anything else, please watch the video posted here .  It describes the form and more importantly, the thought process behind the choices you will make.  You must watch the video before completing the form.  Then, take a look at our course offerings:

First-Year Writing Courses are listed here

First-Year Seminars are listed here

First-Year Seminars

The First-Year Seminar Program is intended to ease your transition from high school to college by offering you the option of taking a small class (capped at 15) in which you will work closely with a faculty member and other first-year students.   The classes are called “seminars” because they are designed to foster active and collaborative learning—the emphasis is on discussions, group projects, field trips, simulations and other experiences rather than lectures and exams.  Wellesley students who have taken first-year seminars report that they are a good way to get to know their fellow students and to their professors.

What makes FYS courses so special?

College, as compared to high school, requires you to go beyond rote learning to become a critical and creative thinker.  Because first year seminars are small and first-year only, they offer a comfortable environment in which to develop those college-level skills.  Some seminars are on introductory topics, but in a format quite different from the traditional lecture-oriented introductory class; others give you a chance to explore more advanced topics early in your college career, subjects you might pursue further in upper-division courses.  Some students choose seminars on subjects in which they are planning to major, but many take seminars in topics totally unconnected with their major interest, just to explore something new and fun. 

Are you required to take a FYS?

First year seminars are entirely optional.  Take a look at the roster of courses and see if there’s something you might enjoy.  The topics range widely, from “The Story of Mars” to “1913: A Year in the Life of the World" to “The Cities of Italy.” Keep in mind that seminars often count towards Wellesley’s distribution requirements and can also count toward majors. Also, as you read the course descriptions you will see that some instructors have made their seminars “mandatory credit/noncredit.”  This means that students in these courses will have their work closely evaluated by the instructor, but that no grade will show up on student transcripts.   Whether graded or not, first-year seminars encourage you to be adventurous--to try new topics, to build new skills, and to make new friends as you begin your life in college.

First-Year Writing Courses

The starting point for writing at Wellesley is the First-Year Writing Requirement.  All students are required to fulfill the First-Year Writing Requirement by taking an introductory course in expository writing in either the fall or spring semester of their first year at Wellesley.  Courses fulfilling this requirement, numbered WRIT 100 to WRIT 198, are offered through the Writing Program.  These courses are drawn from across the curriculum, from Chemistry to Anthropology to Literature, and taught by faculty from departments across campus.  There is a lot to choose from, and we feel sure there are several courses that you will find interesting.

First-Year Writing courses have the primary goal of helping students establish a useful writing process, from developing ideas through revision. Each section provides instruction in analysis and interpretation, in argument and the use of evidence, in the development of voice, and in the conventions of academic writing, including writing from sources.

What are the First-Year Writing course options?

There are three basic types of writing courses:

·      Standard  First-Year Writing courses, numbered WRIT 130 and above, meet twice a week, fulfill no requirements other than the First-Year Writing Requirement, and generally focus half their time on discussion of the topic of the course and half on writing instruction.  Most students will select from among these courses.

·      Combination First-Year Writing courses, numbered WRIT 105 to WRIT 114, combine writing instruction with full introductory courses in particular disciplines.  We always offer sections that combine Writing with English 120 (WRIT 105), the required introductory course in the English major, and with Art History 100 (WRIT 107) and 101 (WRIT 108), the introduction to the study of Art History.  For 2013-14 we will also offer courses that serve as introductions to Women’s Studies (WRIT 110), Cinema and Media Studies (WRIT 111), Economics (WRIT 112) (this course requires students to have AP or IB credit in economics), Anthropology (WRIT 113), Education (WRIT 114), and Studio Art (WRIT 115).  These courses fulfill distribution requirements in their disciplinary areas and count toward the major in those fields.  Because they enable students to fill two requirements at once, they include additional class meeting time, either as one double period a week, or as an extra meeting on Wednesdays.

·      Extra Support First-Year Writing courses, numbered WRIT 120 to WRIT 124, are intended for students who need additional support as they make the transition from high school to college writing.  Like all of our other courses, these are sophisticated in subject matter and in expectations, but they are a bit smaller than our other courses and taught by faculty members with experience helping students who need more intensive and focused instruction.  Students are placed in those sections on the basis of their admissions materials.  Students with verbal, critical reasoning, or writing SAT scores of 580 or less, students who have limited experience writing in English or students whose SAT essays show a need for intensive instruction may be placed in those sections by the writing program, even if they have expressed preferences for other courses. 

You may also request consideration for one of these sections on the pre-registration form.  That’s a good option for you if your high school education did not involve long and deep exposure to analytical writing, if your grades in writing-based courses are significantly lower than in your other courses, or if you simply feel that you have difficulty with writing.  The Director of the Writing Program, Ann Velenchik, would be happy to discuss this placement with you.

Choosing Your Seminar and Writing Courses

We hope to be able to place students in the Seminars and Writing courses they prefer. We also want to give as many students as possible the opportunity to take their Writing course in the semester they request.   We will be placing students in courses based on a preference questionnaire that is found in the Entering Student Checklist on MyWellesley

As you consider your options, remember that there is no single “right” First-Year Writing course for any student.  While it can be helpful to choose a course that is in a discipline you plan to study further, you can also use your writing course as a chance to explore topics that you had previously not considered. Keep an open mind.  You will be able to rank up to five courses in each semester, and we are confident you will find a lot of our courses appealing. 

There is also no general advantage to choosing the fall or spring semester for writing.  We offer similar numbers and types of Writing courses in both semesters, and the semester you choose may depend on the other courses you are planning to take (students trying to fulfill pre-med requirements often choose to wait until spring, for example), your choices about first year seminars, and the relative attractiveness of each semester’s offerings to you.  Remember that many seminars and other courses will give you good training in college-level writing, so you can start to build this skill regardless of which semester you take your First-Year Writing Course.  We will ask you if you have a preference for one semester over the other when you rank your course selections.

To prepare for completing the questionnaire, we suggest you take the following steps:

1.     Review the course descriptions for both programs (Seminars are posted here and Writing courses are posted here), decide whether you are interested in a First-Year Seminar, and think about which Writing courses appeal to you. 

2.    Use the Course Browser to see all our fall courses, their descriptions, and their meeting times.  This will give you an idea of other courses you may add to your schedule when you arrive in the fall, and may help you narrow down your list of First-Year Courses. While you are not ready now to build your entire schedule (since you haven't taken placement exams yet or had the chance to talk with an advisor), it is useful to begin thinking about the range of courses you might take.  Remember that you will be building your full schedule around your writing course and seminar; we think these courses are very important for making a good start, and this is why we want to help you settle those into your schedule first.      

3.    Think about some of the other activities and factors that might affect your choices.  For example, if you will be a varsity athlete you may want to arrange your required courses around your anticipated afternoon practice schedule.  Or, if you are a night owl, you may want to avoid an 8:30 a.m. class.   

4.     Once you have reviewed your options,  go to MyWellesley and fill out the on-line form with your preferences.  When you arrive on campus in August you will already be registered for a writing course, and if you listed seminars you wished to take you will likely be enrolled in one of them as well. 

Questions?  Please feel free to contact the program directors if you have questions about registering for these programs.  Colleagues in the Deans’ Office are also available to consult about your questions. 

Professor Ann Velenchik, Director of the Writing Program and of the First-Year Seminar Program,

Lori Tenser, Dean of First-Year Students,

John O’Keefe, Director of Advising and Academic Support Services,