Carnegie Mellon University

Writing & Communication Program

Writing & Communication at Carnegie Mellon offers unique, cutting-edge course options designed to help students develop and apply foundational writing knowledge across diverse academic and professional contexts.

All Carnegie Mellon undergraduates take First-Year Writing—any Advanced Placement exemptions are not accepted. However, First-Year Writing empowers students to choose among multiple paths in their fulfillment of the requirement.

Students may decide to take two out of three half-semester mini courses, each focused on specific kinds of writing and organizational strategies. Alternatively, students might decide to take one of several immersive full-semester courses built around specific themes and research areas. No matter the path, students learn to adapt to new writing situations and connect their learning to future communication tasks—both in later coursework at CMU and beyond.

To learn more about our mini and full-semester course offerings, please visit the Course Options and Topics page.

Some students whose first or primary language is not English may be required to take a placement exam and/or complete a prerequisite course during their first semester. To learn more about the placement process, please visit the Course Placement page.

Spotlight: Jungwan Yoon

Professor Jungwan Yoon Teaches Writing in Context

Jungwan Yoon brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the Department of English. In her academic research, Yoon focuses on second language (L2) education and analyzes the linguistic features of academic texts such as proposals and research articles. She studies the linguistic and rhetorical choices writers make in academic discourse and applies this research to her students in the classroom. Yoon considers language “a meaning-making resource and social practice,” not a “fixed set of rules.” Yoon teaches her students to analyze genre and linguistic features in context. “By guiding students to pay more attention to the connection between form and function, I try to help them develop more sophisticated genre knowledge and make an informed decision in the way they write,” she says. Yoon also shapes the Writing and Communication curriculum, encouraging professors to teach writing in context.

Jungwan Spotlight

Frequently Asked Questions:

These options have been carefully designed to be equally challenging. In fact, despite the structural differences between taking two shorter courses and taking one longer course, the overarching curriculum and learning objectives are equivalent across both options. CMU English prioritizes student ability to choose a course structure that is the best fit for their learning preferences. Plus, since all First-Year Writing courses help students to gain exposure to diverse kinds of writing and learn how to transfer their writing knowledge to new situations, students can feel confident about any course options they choose.
If a student prefers a fresh start in the middle of the semester, taking two mini courses might be a good option. The "minis" offer students the opportunity to focus upon strategies for particular types of communication situations and target genres. By taking two minis, students gain exposure to more than one kind of writing (arts and humanities-based, technical, and professional). Minis also offer ways of adapting to new and different communication situations. Some students report a more dynamic structure and pace taking minis, driven by the break at mid-semester.
If a student prefers engaging in a sustained focus throughout the semester, a full-semester course may be a good option. The full semester First-Year Writing courses offer students the opportunity to read deeply about a controversial issue or topic. Students acquire strategies for reading, forming research questions, and writing research proposals and articles, in order to contribute an original argument to an ongoing field of inquiry. Some students report a flexible, "marathon" pace throughout the course, driven by the lack of a mid-semester break.
If incoming students are non-native or second-language English speakers, they will receive an email from the Department of English in June with instructions for completing an essay-based placement exam over the summer. CMU English will review every exam carefully and report back whether or not each student is required to take the pre-requisite course, 76-100. Under some conditions, students may be exempted from taking this exam or the 76-100 course. To learn more about the placement and exemption process, visit our Course Placement page.
Unless a student is in one of the first two or three positions on the waitlist for a First-Year Writing course, it is unlikely a student will be able to get in to that particular course. Our Department wishes it were possible to enroll everyone in their first choice, but the reality is that there are more popular and less popular options, and the more popular ones do fill up. CMu English recommends each student determine top three course options prior to registration, and to be prepared to register for what is available if plan A or plan B does not work out. If a student is unable to find any available options, or if a student could register for one mini course but still need a second one, please email Mike Brokos at for assistance.

Yes! There are a few things First-Year Writing students should keep in mind, to ensure they understand proper enrollment and their schedules:

  1. The minis are designed to be taken consecutively within a single semester. If students register for the Fall semester, they will take a "mini 1" and a "mini 2." If registering for the Spring semester, they will take a "mini 3" and a "mini 4." The available course sections will include these numbers. For example, if  registering for the Fall semester, one valid option would be sign up for 76-106 A1 and 76-107 B2. If registering for the Spring, one valid option would be 76-106 A3 and 76-107 A4. Students cannot sign up for two sections ending in the same number (e.g., 76-108 A1 and 76-107 A1).
  2. First-Year Writing Students should make sure to sign up for two out of the three separate courses: 76-106, 76-107, and 76-108. Do not sign up for two sections of the same course (e.g., 76-106 A1 and 76-106 B2).
Possibly. The Department of English will need to review the syllabus and other materials from any outside composition course in order to determine whether it is commensurate with a First-Year Writing course or courses at CMU. The Department does adhere to a particular set of curricular features and learning objectives; some outside courses are quite consistent with these, and others are not.