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College of Arts & Sciences
First-Year English


Most problems that students encounter in First-Year English are the result of misunderstandings. To help stay ahead of such issues, we've compiled a list of general policies for First-Year English. Please note that all sections of First-Year English are a little different, and thus you need to pay close attention to the specificpolicies your instructor lists on his or her syllabus.

General Expectations

In English 101 and 102, you can expect your instructor to:

  1. Give you a set of course policies, a syllabus, and specific instructions for assignments.
  2. Be punctual and well-prepared for class.
  3. Return your major written assignments in a timely manner--usually within two weeks and before your next major assignment.
  4. Provide comments on major written assignments.
  5. Be impartial in grading and in administering class policies.
  6. Keep announced office hours and be willing to set appointments at other times to help you with your writing.
  7. Interact with you in a conscientious, professional manner. 

Your English 101 or 102 instructor will expect you to:

  1. Attend class and arrive in class on time.
  2. Participate constructively in class discussions and activities.
  3. Perform research and writing activities responsibly, abiding by the university’s policies on academic honesty.
  4. Respect the rights and opinions of others.
  5. Attend scheduled conferences.
  6. Complete writing and reading assignments on time and come to class prepared.
  7. Pay close attention to his or her comments and suggestions.
  8. Communicate with him or her about classroom issues and assignments. 

Student Code of Conduct

In addition, you are expected to follow USC's student code of conduct. If you haven't already, please read Section 5.10 (Disorderly Conduct) under the heading Student Code of Conduct General Provisions in the Carolina Community: USC Columbia Student Handbook and Policy Guide:

Disorderly Conduct: Individual or group behavior that interferes with the freedom of expression, movement or activity of others, or with the educational mission of the University is prohibited. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome physical contact, harassment, or classroom behavior that interferes with either:
    (a) the instructor's ability to conduct the class or instructional program; or
    (b) the ability of other students to profit from the class or instructional program.


English 101 and 102 (or equivalent credit) are required of all USC undergraduates. However, the university allows students to exempt one or both courses

  • By earning an appropriate score on the Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam. 
  • By completing  an equivalent course or courses at another institution. The Dean's Office must approve transfer credits.    

Even if you qualify to exempt the course(s), note that you are not required to do so.  You may still take ENGL101 or 102 if you feel the course would be beneficial to you.  Please contact the First-Year English office if you have questions about placement.


Your learning and your grades suffer when you miss class. If you miss too many classes you're likely to fail.
Because much of the learning that takes place in writing classes is experiential, you can't make it up or get notes from someone. You have to be there to learn. Also, part of your final grade might be determined by your contributions to small-group activities or other in-class assignments.. And, of course, you can't contribute if you aren't there.  Frequent absences send a message to your instructor about the seriousness of your commitment to the course. The First-Year English attendance policy is as follows:

  • Absence from more than 10% of the scheduled class sessions, whether excused or unexcused, is excessive. According to University regulations, instructors may exact a grade penalty for these absences. Check your instructor’s course policies for more details.
  • A student who misses more than 25% of class sessions will automatically receive an F in the course. If the absences are the result of illness or other compelling circumstances, students may petition for a withdrawal (a W on transcripts).  

Your instructor is under no obligation to accept or grade assignments that you turn in late with no prior explanation, so plan ahead and be responsible. Talk with your instructor in advance concerning an absence or promptly after an emergency that keeps you from class.  Note that if you are absent or tardy, you are responsible for finding out what you have missed and for catching up.

Submitting Papers

All assignments completed outside of class should be written on a computer, be saved  for revision and for your records, and be printed for comments and grading (unless your instructor requires you to submit essays via BlackBoard; check the course syllabus and policies for details.)
Unless your teacher says otherwise, double-space your papers, use margins of one inch, and use a type size no larger than 12 points. Finally, include the following information on the first page of all your papers (upper left-hand corner):
     1--Your name
     2--Your instructor’s name
     3--The date
     4--Identification of the paper (Paper #2, 1st Draft)

Late Papers
In most classes, papers must be turned in at the beginning of the class on the day they are due.  Contact your teacher before the due date if you encounter a problem that might cause your paper to be late. Your teacher will exact a grade penalty on unexcused late papers.  Check your instructor's course policies for details.

Writing and Revision
English composition classes stress both skills and content. That means that instead of just accumulating a body of data, you will also be learning how to do something. Just as a tennis coach carefully watches how you swing the racket and move around the court, making occasional suggestions about what you might change, so too will your English 101 and 102 teachers study your writing process and make suggestions.  Learning any skill takes practice. In tennis, you need to hit the ball many, many times; likewise, in First-Year English, you need to write as frequently as you can.  But simply writing a million words won't necessarily improve your ability; you’ll also need advice and direction. Therefore, you need to be willing to listen to your teacher’s suggestions.  You should be as receptive as you can; your teacher is commenting on your writing, not on your personality or intelligence. Your instructor will require you to revise each of your major essays. Because revision involves critical effort and openness to change, expect to spend a good deal of class time talking about different ways to revise. Also expect that when your instructor asks you to revise a paper, he or she does not mean that you should simply correct errors in grammar and spelling. (Indeed, subsequent drafts that are merely corrected, but not truly revised, may receive lower marks than the originals.) Instead, your teacher wants you to look at the text as a whole: perhaps to judge the validity of your argument, to reorganize the whole piece or some paragraphs or sentences in it, to redraft the introduction or conclusion, or maybe even to throw out certain parts of the essay and begin again—in addition to editing for grammar and mechanics. Remember, all writing can stand to be revised. So make sure you refer to the comments your instructor writes at the end of your essays and ask him or her how to proceed with revision if it's unclear to you.

At the end of each semester of First-Year English, you will turn in a portfolio—a file containing all your papers (original drafts and any revisions). He or she will then turn your file in to the First-Year English Office. The papers become the property of the University and will be kept to confirm the grades you earned in English 101 and 102. They will not be returned! For this reason, you should save copies of all your essays before you turn them in.


Most problems that students encounter in First-Year English result from misunderstandings. Anytime you don't understand an assignment, a grade, a class discussion, or anything else about the course, arrange a conference with your instructor or stop by during office hours.  Often, even a brief discussion after class can clear up a minor problem that might otherwise grow into something significant. Remember that your English 101 and 102 instructors are there to help you, but they can do so only if they know what is troubling you. Occasionally, a problem can't be resolved through discussions with your instructor. If you encounter such a situation, contact the First-Year English office at 777-2137 and speak to one of the program administrators about the situation. Your conversation will be kept strictly confidential.