Writing college-level papers is one of the greatest challenges freshmen must learn to overcome. Students who received top marks in high school are often disheartened by initial professorial critiques and even further intimidated by the idea of producing a real research paper.

Georgetown attempts to soften that blow by requiring all undergraduate students to complete an intensive writing seminar as the first half of their humanities and writing core requirement. The seminar is intended to provide a baseline for college writing that students can build on throughout their Georgetown careers.

All four undergraduate schools, however, maintain a policy stating that students can pass out of the seminar with a score of four or five on either high school Advanced Placement English test. Most eligible students choose to take full advantage of this clause and forgo the freshman writing seminar, completely undermining the university’s attempt to ease new students into higher writing standards.

Unfortunately, the AP English exams only test limited writing styles in a rushed environment. When the score is the only number that matters, English teachers frequently teach to the test rather than prepare students to write at a more mature level. So while an incoming freshman may have scored a five, there is no guarantee that he or she will have garnered the same writing skills as those who complete a bona fide college-level intensive seminar.

Judging a new student’s writing ability based on one three-hour exam during the junior or senior year of high school is simply unrealistic. As ambitious as some freshmen may be, the expectations of Georgetown professors ultimately makes a required writing seminar necessary.

Granted, mandating that all students complete a course will require more professors and put a strain on students’ four-year plans. Yet there are ways around these concerns. The seminar could, for example, be remodeled after the Map of the Modern World course in the School of Foreign Service. Instituting a one-credit, weekly class (rather than the current three-credit format) would circumvent scheduling problems; it would also allow freshmen to write frequently and have at least a general overview of the different types of writing expected of them over the next four years. By providing a foundation for writing courses in the future, the university could help students to excel early rather than fumble as they try to compensate for insufficient training.

Good writing is critical to success, both in the classroom and in the professional world. Many, however, lack the fundamental skills to produce satisfactory work early in their college career. All students should be required to take a writing-intensive first-year seminar to put them on the right track for the future.

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