What to Expect from a College English Class


Regardless of your major, your first college English class – often called English 101 -- is likely to be one of the most useful classes you’ll take. English 101 is a general education requirement, meaning it serves as a gateway to more advanced study. You can expect to acquire a solid foundation in writing, reading comprehension and introductory research that will support your success in virtually all other courses. Because every student must complete English 101, sections are typically large at big universities, and frequently taught by graduate students supervised by a professor who instructs upper-division English classes, such as Elizabethan poetry.

Reading and Writing Assignments

  • You’ll be expected to show steady improvement in your writing throughout the term. You’ll be taught how to develop an idea, organize supporting arguments and draw logical conclusions. You may be required to write journals, blogs, short essays, a personal autobiography, research papers, professional emails or Web content. The amount of writing required varies by school and instructor. For example, English 100 students at Western Kentucky University must write at least three 1,000-word essays in addition to supplementary writing assignments for a cumulative total of 4,500 words, and at least 15 typed pages, during the term.

Critical Thinking Emphasis

  • Besides reviewing grammar and complex sentence structure, you’ll be challenged to sharpen your analytical skills when reading essays in a textbook or articles provided by your instructor. For example, George Mason University’s website notes that the purpose of English 101 at the school is to help students develop critical thinking skills and learn to present their ideas in a clear and imaginative manner. Your task will be to identify how writers develop and express ideas to appropriately fit their intended audience. Students commonly study different forms of rhetoric, such as persuasive essays, argumentative editorials, informative nonfiction, descriptive works of creative writing and entertaining narratives.

Research Experience

  • English 101 provides valuable tools for finding library resources, critiquing sources and completing a research paper that you may be expected to write in fulfillment of course objectives. Your class may tour the library as a group and listen to a presentation by a reference librarian explaining how to search for information online and in the library. You may be required to write an annotated bibliography, which is an evaluative summary of sources for use in your paper. You’ll also be expected to learn to properly format material and cite sources in-text and on your Works Cited page using the instructor’s preferred style guide, such as Modern Language Association guidelines.

Strict Rules Against Plagiarsim

  • You will be expected to do your own work in English 101. To avoid dire consequences, such as failing the class or being suspended from school, do not copy and paste material from the Internet into your paper or paraphrase an idea without citing the author in the same paragraph. Amherst College further cautions that academic dishonesty includes asking a writing proficient friend or family member to redo your paper in hopes of receiving a higher grade. Additionally, instructors generally don’t allow students to submit material that was written for another class because you’re supposed to be acquiring new knowledge.


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