The Writing Requirement

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

1. The First-Year Writing Requirement
2. Frequently Asked Questions

The First-Year Writing Requirement

First-Year Writing courses provide a common introductory experience in college-level thinking and writing for all students at Wellesley, and they serve as the base for writing assigned in later classes. Writing faculty are committed to helping Wellesley students learn to use writing as a powerful tool of thought and expression and as a means of engaging with and influencing the world. First-Year Writing courses are numbered WRIT 101 to WRIT 198.

All FYW courses have the primary goal of helping students establish a useful writing process, from developing ideas through drafting and revision. All sections provide instruction in argument and the use of evidence; in organization, style, and structure; and in the conventions of academic writing, including writing with sources. 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 105 / ENG 120. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Writing Requirement

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 need 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 Dean Susan Cohen or 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 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-division 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) 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 we expect students to engage intellectually with the material to the same degree as in other Writing courses. Three extra-support sections are reserved for students invited into the Wellesley Plus program (a program for first-generation college students), and four more serve other students who need intensive writing instruction. Placement into these courses is based on a review of admissions materials and is also driven by students themselves. The 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 Johnson, at to discuss their writing needs.

How do I get assigned to my Writing course?

Entering students will receive a mailing in early June describing the summer registration procedures for first-year writing and first-year seminar courses. This mailing will describe the requirements and the courses and provide instructions for filling out the preference form on the entering students checklist. If you have questions about this process, or are looking for guidance regarding course selection and placement, please contact Professor Johnson at In late August, students will be informed of their WRIT course assignment. If you would like to request a change to your assignment before the first day of registration, contact Professor Johnson. After registration opens, you may use the waitlist function in the course browser to submit that request.

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

The Writing Program serves your writing needs in a variety of ways beyond the FYW courses. We work 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. We offer several advanced writing courses beyond FYW, which are listed in the course catalogue. We also sponsor readings and events that focus on writing, and we are happy to help student groups develop projects, events, and community service opportunities involving writing.