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 of writing as part of a liberal arts education and within a specific discipline. Completion of this Two-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement is a college degree requirement.

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 writing expository essays, develop skills in expressing critical analysis, and communicate knowledge to an audience using specific rhetorical conventions. 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 students who enter Oxy as first-time first-years, the 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 (except for first-year first-time 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 or program major, 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, how to appeal to disciplinary audiences, and how to position themselves as members of the discipline through their 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.

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

For all students who enter Oxy as first-time first-year students, the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement will be determined through their performance in both Cultural Studies Program (CSP) seminars and through an evaluation of a writing portfolio, which includes essays written in the fall and spring CSP seminars. Information about the writing portfolio will be sent to all first-time first-year students at the start of fall semester. Students who receive an assessment of “Completed” (C) on their portfolio and who pass both CSP seminars will complete the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement.

Students who receive an assessment determination of “Not Completed” (NC), or who fail at least one CSP seminar, will be required to take and pass with a grade of “C” or higher WRD 201: The Art of Essay Writing. WRD 201 may be repeated once for credit (taken with a different instructor and approved by the Writing Programs Director). If a student takes 201 twice and does not pass with a grade of “C” or higher, the Writing Programs Director and Director of Core will consult to determine how the student will fulfill this requirement. For first-time first-year students, transfer courses may not substitute for 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

All degree-seeking students, regardless of any college experience prior to arrival at Oxy, will typically fulfill their Second-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement through a designated course in their academic major department or program. 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. If a student does not complete the Second-Stage Writing requirement in the department, the Writing Programs Director may be consulted 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 Proficiency 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 as there are no exemptions for schedule conflicts. If a student does not pass WRD 201, they must retake 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.