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College of Arts & Sciences
First-Year English


Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to take ENGL101 and ENGL102?

English 101 and 102 fulfill the general education writing requirement, which every undergraduate student at USC must complete in order to graduate. So, yes:  if you haven’t placed out of these courses, you are right where you need to be--in ENGL101 or 102.
If you have questions about whether or not you've placed out of First-Year English, please contact the university testing office.

Do I have to buy the required textbooks?

Yes, you do. Some students think they can share texts with friends or roommates; others try to photocopy textbooks. The first tactic can present problems: what if, for example, your roommate drops out and sells the book for beach trip money? The second violates federal copyright law.  

I’m enrolled in one class section, but would like to switch to a different one. Is this possible?

You’re free to switch to another section of English 101 or 102 during the add-drop period, which runs through the first week of classes. Just go to VIP, and as long as there is an open seat in the new section, you can add it and drop your original class.  However, you can only switch into a section if seats are available; if the class is already full, unfortunately, you’re out of luck.  We hold English 101 and 102 sections to a strict class-size limit so that students can get plenty of individual feedback, and so we ask instructors not to grant overrides once their classes are full. If, however, you feel that your situation is extraordinary enough to warrant special consideration, please contact the First-Year English office at (803)777-2137 to request an exception; unfortunately, we can only rarely grant exceptions.

What will I be doing in English 101? How about in 102?

Improving your writing skills takes practice, so you'll do a good deal of reading and even more writing. You can expect to write at least 20-30 pages of finished, formal writing, including short papers and longer essays. For more details, check the course descriptions and read your course policies and syllabus.

How will my 101 or 102 teacher decide what grades I get?

We've listed our general grading standards in the grades section, but your best source of information is your teacher and the course policies he or she will give you at the start of the semester.  Your instructor will discuss specific expectations for each major writing assignment.  

May I use old essays from high school or from other college courses for my English 101 or 102 assignments?

No. We encourage revision, but not recycling. You need to give English 101 and 102 assignments your full attention and effort in order to learn.

May I get someone to help me with my papers?

There's nothing wrong with getting assistance - we, in fact, encourage peer revision and fully support the work done in the Writing Center. You, however, are responsible for understanding the difference between permissible assistance and collusion or plagiarism, both of which are serious offenses in college (see the Academic Responsibility page).

How many absences do I get? Can absences be excused?

English 101 and 102 instructors follow the University’s attendance policy, which recommends a grade penalty for students who miss more than 10% of the scheduled class meetings, and an automatic “F” for students who miss more than 25% of the class meetings.  Although the University policy doesn’t make a formal distinction between excused and unexcused absences, most instructors are willing to work with students who exceed the absence limit by one or two classes because of pressing extenuating circumstances, such as a serious illness or family emergency.  Here again, consult your instructor’s syllabus and course policies for more details.

What happens if I'm late to class a lot? How many tardies equal one absence?

Several things can happen when you're tardy: you might interrupt the teacher or disrupt your classmates; you could miss a quiz or some other assignment; and, if you're late a lot, you might send a message to your instructor that you don't really care about the class. Some teachers count tardies as absences, while others allow you to accumulate a couple before they penalize you. Check your instructor’s course policies to be sure.

What are office hours?

You should think of office hours as an extension of your instructor's teaching time. It's a period of time, usually about three hours a week, when your teacher is available in his or her office to help you. Visiting your instructor during office hours is not an intrusion. It's a smart thing to do if you have questions that aren't covered in class or if you need extra help.

How will my work be graded in ENGL101 and ENGL102?

Writing, like any complex skill, improves with practice. For this reason, your instructor will ask to write frequently, and a portion of the course grade will be based on these daily assignments—quizzes, freewriting exercises, reading responses, topic proposals, group activities, and the like. However, the majority of your course grade will be determined by the quality of your major essays. To reinforce careful development, revision, and editing processes, your instructor will typically ask you to prepare a topic proposal, draft and other materials before submitting the final version of each essay.  You’ll receive feedback on essay drafts from your instructor and one or more classmates, and you’ll be expected to    use these suggestions to revise and polish the final versions.
Most of our instructors use a portfolio grading model to evaluate students’ major essays in English 101 and 102.  This means that your final essay grades will be based on the revised, final versions.  In other words, you’ll have opportunities to improve each paper through two or more drafts before you submit it for a final grade.

Do most students enjoy ENGL101 and ENGL102?

Absolutely.  Students frequently rank English 101 and 102 among their favorite first-year courses, though they also say that they’re some of the most challenging.  Our small class sizes and emphasis on student-teacher interaction help to build a sense of classroom community, and the skills you’ll learn in class help to prepare you for more advanced coursework.