Skip Navigation
Read Smith’s COVID-19 guidelines for the spring 2022 semester.

First-Year Seminars & the Writing Intensive Requirement

Student taking notes on a laptop in a small seminar course

One of Smith’s strengths is its open curriculum, where students are agents of their curricular experience. Because writing is so central to intellectual growth and accomplishment, the college does require the completion of a Writing Intensive (WI) course during either your first or second semester. For more information on the purpose of this requirement, and on what to expect from your WI course, see the Writing Intensive Requirement.

Writing Intensive (WI) courses embrace the responsibility to prepare students for the writing tasks they will encounter as their intellectual careers at Smith unfold. Accordingly, first-year students in WI courses learn how to ask questions; to observe closely; to interrogate assumptions; to gather, analyze and present evidence; and to make careful, evidence-based arguments through writing. They hone these skills by engaging in a process of drafting and revising facilitated by timely, discriminating feedback from peers and instructors.

Ways to Fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement

  • Take a First-Year Seminar. From exploring religious diversity in the United States to engaging the lives of “Rebellious Women,” these courses cover a wide range of inventive topics. In each seminar, a faculty member introduces students to college-level learning through seminar-style investigation, typically by exploring an issue or topic in the instructor’s discipline. First-year seminars incorporate all the capacities of a successful liberal arts education, and help students develop their skills in writing, speaking, research, and critical thinking. Most first-years complete the WI requirement via a First-Year Seminar, which are designed for small groups of 16 to 20 first-year students. Fall semester offerings can be found in the Smith College Course Catalog. A small number of seminars will be offered in the spring term. For a list of those, contact Richard Millington, director of the First-Year Seminar program (
  • Take a section of English 118. The sections of English 118 share the same goals as the first-year seminars, and offer students a similarly rich intellectual experience by exploring a variety of pressing issues and themes. The key difference is that English 118 is taught by instructors who specialize in the teaching of writing itself; English 118 is thus a great choice for students who wish to focus on improving their writing. Several of the sections of English 118 each semester are specially designed for students who are bilingual or who speak a language other than English as their first language. Here are the sections of English 118 offered. For more information on WI offerings, contact Julio Alves, director of the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching, and Learning ( Note: Courses numbered 200 and above are generally not recommended for a student’s first WI course. 
  • Take Philosophy 102, Valid and Invalid Reasoning: What Follows from What? This fall term course helps students to build the analytical reading, writing, and debating skills they will need in college and beyond by investigating the structure of arguments and inferences and the use of formal techniques to demonstrate the validity and invalidity of arguments. The discussion sections of this lecture course are designed to give students ample opportunities for intensive work on their skills as writers and as logicians, and regular exercises develop reading, writing, and formal skills. Go to the Course Search to see the description of the course. For questions or to learn more, contact Jay Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Buddhist Studies,
  • Explore a few other courses that are also designated as WI. If you are interested in taking one of them to meet the Writing Intensive requirement, discuss the matter with your adviser to ensure that the course is a good fit for you. The full range of fall term WI options can be found by selecting the “Writing Intensive” box on the “Course Search” page.

The required WI course is the beginning, not the culmination of a student’s writing life at the college. Just as one’s thinking and learning is never finished, working on the writing that enables that thinking and learning will continue across each student’s years at Smith, whether within the major or in the curriculum at large.
From The Writing Intensive Requirement