CofC Logo

First-Year Writing Exemption Information

Who May Apply

Students eligible to apply for First-Year Writing exemption include the following:

  • Students who transfer in 3 credit hours of First­-Year Writing from another institution.


  • Students with the following test scores.
AP English Language & Composition 4
AP Capstone Research 4
AP Capstone Seminar 4
IB Extended Essay + Higher Level English Language 1A 6 or better
Cambridge International A Level Global Perspectives and Research A or B


Students who come to the college with no prior college-­level writing experience and students who earn scores lower than those listed may not apply for exemption and will be placed in English 110. Students admitted to the Honors College are not eligible for exemption and will be placed in Honors 110. 

How to Apply

Within two semesters of enrolling at the college, email the English department Associate Chair, Professor Bill Russell, a portfolio of your academic writing, formatted as a single pdf file, that includes

  1. A 2-­3 page cover letter that explains how the writing sample meets the general education writing goals
  2. At least 10 pages of formal writing that demonstrates completion of the general education writing goals:
    • Students will be able to articulate clear analytical theses
    • Students will be able to effectively situate their ideas in relation to sources
    • Students will be able to select and correctly document relevant credible sources

Portfolios are reviewed on a rolling basis. To be considered for exemption for the fall 2018 semester, portfolios must be received by Wednesday, August 1st, 2018. For the spring 2019 semester, portfolios must be received by Wednesday, December 5th, 2018.

Once a portfolio is submitted, two members of the First-­Year Writing Committee will review it and notify the Associate Chair of their decision. If the two readers should disagree, a third reader will review it and cast the deciding vote. The decision of the First­-Year Writing Committee is final and cannot be appealed.

When submitting a portfolio, enroll in the appropriate writing course for the next semester as if your portfolio will not pass. This will ensure you a seat in the course should you not be granted an exemption. Once a decision has been reached, you will be notified by the Associate Chair of the English Department, typically within 3 to 4 weeks after submitting your portfolio.

Tips For Creating Your Portfolio

On average, approximately 30% of the portfolios submitted each year are awarded exemption. Below are suggestions to keep in mind when creating your portfolio.

  • The cover essay should do more than simply repeat the general education goals. It should instead focus on how the writing sample meets these goals. In your cover letter, quote relevant passages from your writing sample and explain how these passages demonstrate the required goals. Portfolios whose cover letters fail to provide adequate evidence of meeting the general education writing outcomes will not be awarded exemption.
  • The 10+ pages of formal writing may consist of more than one essay. However, since English 110 and English 215 require students to complete at least one substantial writing project, portfolios are judged more favorably if they demonstrate a student’s ability to complete a longer, more sustained writing project.
  • Only include in your portfolio writing that showcases your ability to analyze sources, whether these sources are books, articles, images, films, song lyrics, experimental data, interviews, ethnographies, or similar types of sources. Avoid submitting creative writing, personal narratives that do not engage with sources, 5­-paragraph essays that offer a cursory examination of a topic, or research papers whose purpose is to report on a topic. 
  • Make sure the writing conforms to an accepted standard of documentation, even if the original assignment didn’t require you to cite sources. The most commonly used documentation styles are MLA, APA, or Chicago.
  • All writing submitted for the portfolios should meet the College of Charleston’s Honor Code for academic integrity. Submissions suspected of violating the Honor Code will be referred to the Honor Board.

Printable version of this page available here.