A Student's Perspective on First-year Writing Courses

By Jenelle Sombret-Waggoner '10

The First-year Writing classes at Cornell are more important and arguably more interesting than your standard college composition course. Not only do they teach you how to write for college, but they also teach you how to write on the block plan. Considering that almost all classes (even math and business classes) require you to write at least one and sometimes two or three papers within the 18-day block, you should not underestimate the value of your First-year Writing course.

Don't be scared off or intimidated; if you are not an English person, you can take your First-year Writing course in departments ranging from Art and Art History to Computer Science and more. Also, the introductory writing courses in the Department of English and Creative Writing deal not only with classic literature but also with film, contemporary writing, and even pop culture topics, such as the World of Disney.

Just as the First-year Writing classes themselves differ in topic and department, so they differ in structure. Some will require several short essays or daily writing assignments, and others-like the one I took-will consist of lots of free-writing, three major papers, and several writing days. You can typically expect, though, to write at least two papers and go through some lengthy revisions. More importantly, you can count on support. Professors usually arrange one-on-one conferences with students for each major paper, and the Cornell College Writing Studio is available until 11 PM Sunday through Thursday and until 5 PM on Friday to help you with brainstorming, revision, organization, developing a thesis, etc. Furthermore, library consultants are frequently brought in to class to help familiarize you with whatever citation style you are using and to teach you how to conduct research using Cornell's online database and course catalogue.

The First-year Writing classes can sometimes be stressful and a lot of work, but let's face it: that's true of every class. What you should remember is that your First-year Writing course can be and often is fun. You learn valuable writing skills, and you get to do so with the support of pretty much the entire campus. After all, First-year Writing courses are a rite of passage at Cornell, and though you'll probably be very excited about block break when it's over, you'll also come out unscathed, not to mention a better writer.

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