Proficiency in Writing: Two-Stage Requirement

At Occidental College, we believe that regardless of the specific academic path students choose, it is necessary to be able to write well. To encourage academic excellence – one of the cornerstones of Occidental’s mission – across disciplines, we have a Two-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement of all students. The writing requirements provide students with opportunities to improve both their writing processes and products, while students gain knowledge about writing as a key feature of a liberal arts education and within a specific discipline. Completion of this two-stage requirement is a graduation requirement for all students, and is in addition to completion of Core requirements and other departmental requirements in the majors.

The First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement is designed to introduce students to college-level writing expectations, as they learn to enter a scholarly conversation, enhance their abilities in expository essays, develop skills in expressing critical analysis, and communicate knowledge to an audience using specific conventions. In the courses offered to fulfill the First-Stage Writing requirement, students will write at least 20 pages of finished expository/thesis-driven prose, distributed over multiple assignments throughout the semester, with opportunities for revision, peer review, and self-assessment of their writing. The First-Stage Writing requirement aims to prepare students for more complex writing tasks within an academic discipline. Thus, it is expected that students will complete the First-Stage Writing requirement before they complete the Second-Stage in their major. For frosh-entering students, this requirement should be completed by the end of the sophomore year; for transfer students, within the first year of matriculation to Oxy (see below instructions and timelines for transfer students).

Clearance holds will be placed on student records each semester (for frosh-entering and transfer students) until the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement is completed.   

The Second-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement is designed to teach students about writing in a specific discipline and its discourse community. In these writing-in-the-disciplines courses designated in each department, students learn how members of a discipline use writing to effectively communicate knowledge in the field: their specific research and writing processes, the forms and conventions they use to deliver knowledge, the purpose of those forms and conventions, the ways to appeal to disciplinary audiences, and the ways to position themselves as members of the discipline in a piece of writing. The expectation is that students will complete their First-Stage Writing requirement before their Second-Stage requirement. Typically, the Second-Stage Writing requirement is completed by the end of the junior year. Students should consult the requirements for the major in the college catalog for information about how and when to complete the requirement.

Frosh-Entering Students: How to Complete the First-Stage Writing Proficiency Requirement

For all frosh entering students, the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement will be determined through their performance in both CSP seminars and an evaluation of their writing three times during the first year, using the same Six-Point Rubric (1-6 scale with “4” or above considered proficient): 1) the fall semester CSP instructor evaluates the writing of each student in their seminar; 2) the spring semester CSP instructor evaluates the writing of each student in their seminar; and 3) students will be administered a Timed Writing Exercise in the spring semester, which will be evaluated by a faculty committee using the same Six-Point Rubric. Students who score a “4” or above on two of these three evaluations and who pass both CSP seminars will fulfill the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement.

Students who score a “3” or below on two of these three evaluations, or who fail at least one CSP seminar, will be required to pass with a “C” or higher a writing course in the Writing and Rhetoric department: WRD 201: The Art of Essay Writing. WRD 201 may be repeated once for credit in order to fulfill the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement. If a student is unable to achieve a “C” in WRD 201, they will need to consult with the Writing Programs Director and the Core Program Director to determine how they will complete their First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement. Frosh entering students must complete their First-Stage Writing requirement through WRD 201. Writing courses taken outside of Oxy will not count to fulfill the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement.

All Students: How to Complete the Second-Stage Writing Proficiency Requirement

Both frosh-entering and transfer students will typically fulfill their Second-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement through a designated course in their academic major department. Please note: students with double majors should consult the college catalog for information about completing the requirement for two majors. The requirement for the major in the catalog will also include information about which course(s) can be taken to fulfill the Second-Stage Writing requirement, or other ways the requirement can be completed, and the timeline for completing this requirement. Department information about the requirement will also explain what students must do if they do not pass their Second-Stage Writing requirement the first time.

A department may also require that a student take and pass with a “C” or higher WRD 201: The Art of Essay Writing to complete the Second-Stage Writing requirement. If a student does not pass the Second-Stage Writing requirement in the department, and has already taken 201 to fulfill the First-Stage requirement, the Writing Programs Director will coordinate with the major department chair to determine how the student will fulfill their Second-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement.

Transfer Students: How to Complete the First-Stage Writing Proficiency Requirement

A student transferring from another college or university may complete their First-Stage Writing requirement by:

  1. Transferring two expository writing-composition courses passed with a “C” or higher from a previous college or university. These courses must be approved by the Writing Programs Director and the College Registrar. Transfer students must request a review and potential approval of these courses in their first semester at Oxy. If a student does not request this review in their first semester, they may be required to fulfill the requirement through options 2 or 3 below. Please note: literature courses (even in an English department) or other courses where papers were required (even if numerous) will not fulfill the transfer course option.
  2. Demonstrating writing proficiency through the submission of a Writing Portfolio. This option is available only to students who have taken and passed (with a “C” or higher) at least one expository writing-composition course at a previous college or university. This course must be approved by the Writing Programs Director and the College Registrar prior to the student’s submission of a portfolio. If a student meets the one-course stipulation and requests the portfolio option, the portfolio must be submitted no later than March 1st of their junior year. If a student does not meet all deadlines to request and submit the portfolio or does not submit a complete portfolio, they will be required to take WRD 201 to fulfill their First Stage writing requirement. To request a portfolio submission and for more detailed information, students must contact the Writing Programs Director by February 1st of the junior year.
  3. Completing WRD 201 with a passing grade of “C” or higher. If a student does not meet the above criteria to complete the First-Stage requirement by transferring two courses or transferring one course plus submission of a passing portfolio, they must take WRD 201. Transfer students must take WRD 201 no later than the end of their first year after matriculation to Oxy. Students are also advised to work with their academic adviser to ensure the completion of 201 along with any other Core and major requirements. Please note: excuses such as “not enough room in the schedule” or “waited too long to take this course” will not exempt a student from the requirement to take WRD 201. If a student does not pass 201, they must re-take 201 and pass it with a “C” (with a different instructor, approved by the Writing Programs Director) to complete the First-Stage Writing requirement. If a student takes 201 twice and does not pass, the Writing Programs Director and Director of Core will consult to determine how the student will fulfill this requirement.