Writing Program & Requirements

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At Occidental College, we believe that regardless of the specific academic path you 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 you with opportunities to improve both your writing processes and products, as you 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 you to college-level writing expectations, as you learn to enter a scholarly conversation, enhance your 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 you for more complex writing tasks within an academic discipline. Thus, it is expected that you will complete the First-Stage Writing requirement before completing the Second-Stage in your major. (See the College Catalog for more information about the Two-Stage Writing Proficiency Requirement.)

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. Students who receive an assessment of “Completed” on their portfolio and who pass both CSP seminars have completed the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement. Students who receive an assessment determination of “Not Completed,” 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 in their sophomore year.

ALL WRITING PORTFOLIOS ARE DUE BY 5:00 P.M. ON MARCH 1st

What is the Writing Portfolio?

The portfolio serves to demonstrate your writing knowledge and abilities as developed by early spring semester of your first year; the portfolio is a “snapshot” of where you are as a writer at this particular moment. This portfolio assessment will thus inform your next steps in your writing development.   

The main purposes of the portfolio are:

  • To provide you with the opportunity to select and present work that demonstrates your writing proficiency.
  • To provide readers with evidence of your writing development and ability to write in response to varied tasks and situations.
  • To allow readers to evaluate how you have applied and reflected on writing processes, strategies, and knowledge gained through CSP.

Complete instructions for the first-stage writing portfolio (PDF)

First-Stage Writing Requirement for Transfer Students