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First-Year Writing Requirement: A Breakdown

Hey, Freshmen! With registration coming up, packing up your backpack (in the literal and metaphorical sense) may seem intricate and stressful.

Don’t worry; we’ve all been there.

As a First-Year student at the University of Michigan, another determinant of your course-selection is presumably prerequisites. For most freshmen, the First-Year Writing Requirement is a box to check in the long list of courses constructed with a knowledgeable and approachable advisor that makes everything seem doable until you’re sobbing in the UGLI at 8:00pm because you just completed class and have hours of effort left before you can return to the comfort of your dorm room.

So, I’m here to make your life a bit easier. Many freshmen recall picking a FYWR course based on availability and convenient timing which, don’t get me wrong, are super important, but why would you spend an entire semester writing papers on a topic you have no palpable connection to?

The University of Michigan First-Year Writing Requirement possesses a goal to “prepare students to write in diverse academic contexts.” Therefore, the University has created courses specifically designed to employ students’ writing in various contexts. Below are some recommendations to make your FYWR a choice, not a burden.

1. Check-in with yourself to decide between ENGLISH124 and ENGLISH125.

The two most popular categories that fulfill the FYWR warrant quite different course focuses. ENGLISH 124 (Academic Writing and Literature) focuses on fiction, meaning you will probably spend your nights reading segments of fiction that the course instructor chooses to focus on. Students learn to apply critical responses when urged and develop meaningful analytical skills. You will then write essays geared toward the pieces. Hence, if fiction is simply not “your thing,” take a look at ENGLISH 125 (Writing and Academic Inquiry), the non-fiction focused sections that focus on factual compositions. Students learn how to formulate strong cases that will help them react to non-fiction for the remainder of their lives, both in their education and in the workforce!

2. Remember that not every class is the same!

Though grammar and literature nerds (like myself) might enjoy English classes with typical analysis procedures and essay assignments, the University offers a plethora of options, making an unconventional English course feasible with just an iota of research. Liam (‘23), a student in STAMPS, takes COMPLIT141 with Professor Yopie Prins, and he raves about the opportunities the unique course has given him, noting, “Great Performances provides an opportunity to go see a variety of different performing arts events around Ann Arbor. I love learning more about what it means to experience a performance, and exploring that through writing has greatly enhanced my own appreciation for the arts.”

3. Take a risk, and you might surprise yourself! 

Even if a Writing course seems like the most intimidating thing on this planet to you, remember what college is all about: challenge. Especially at a place like Michigan, competition resides around basically every corner. But if you go here, you know that hard-work does not break you, it propels you toward success. I spoke to Josh (‘23) about his experience of taking the FYWR as a student with no passion for Writing. He recalled his class, ENGLISH 125 (Writing Weird: Section 8) with Professor David Ward, saying, “I don’t really like English, but I’m in an ENGLISH125 section that has interesting topics to write about instead of normal ones.” Students like Josh across campus are finding interest in things they never thought by sitting through classes they never thought could be so entertaining.

4. Learn about the professors.

Ratemyprofessors.com is certainly getting a lot of site visits as you read this, with students trying to get the best grade from the best professor; however, sometimes simply talking to people about their courses is enough to select the course that is right for you. For example, I spoke to two students who took their FYWR, and once I heard about their professors, I decided how to further my Writing course search. Joana (‘23) claimed that her class with Professor Wickham has been extremely constructive, especially due to his willingness to be, “Really positive and thoughtful. [He] checks up on his students and loves talking to you in office hours.” Likewise, Kristy (‘22) recalled Professor Burch’s love of fun debate. Honestly, hearing about professors through other students allows for much transparency that ratemyprofessor.com and atlas don’t guarantee. Make sure to investigate before you register! 

As the semester comes to a close, I wish you all much success and productivity. May your FYWR be the best class you take next semester! 


Images courtesy of bustle.com, cbn.com, thoughtco.com, dailymail.co, and dearenglishmajor.com

Hi! I'm a Sophomore at the University of Michigan studying Communications and Writing. I'm a South Florida native, so you can find me bundled up in the library studying when I'm not working out or reading books.
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