Writing Seminar

April 1, 2016

Be the Tortoise!

What does this mysterious motto of the Princeton Writing Program mean?

Before you arrived at Princeton, you might have thought that writing was best accomplished in a single, intense bout of typing. But to continue growing as a writer and a thinker, you’ll need to develop your process, making more time for reflection and revision. Your writing seminar gives you the opportunity to slow down and learn to write like the tortoise: carefully, thoughtfully, and patiently.

Every Princeton freshman takes a writing seminar, an important milestone on a college career marked by writing assignments of increasing length and complexity, culminating in your senior thesis. The skills you gain in writing seminar—how to craft an original argument, how to work within and across academic fields, how to tap into the vast resources of Princeton’s libraries, and how to collaborate with your peers—will help prepare you for more advanced research at Princeton and beyond.

You can check out what Princeton students have to say about their writing seminars here: 

How do you pick your writing seminar? At the end of the summer before your freshman year, you’ll receive a notice telling you whether you’re taking writing seminar in the spring or fall. Peruse the seminar offerings. Make a list of the courses that interest you most (and fit your schedule). Past seminars have explored a vast array of topics, including “Contagion,” “Being and Becoming,” and “Your Life in Numbers.”

Can you take a freshman seminar in the same semester you take your writing seminar? Certainly! Many students do. Both courses are small and allow you to work closely with a professor, but your freshman seminar will be focused primarily on the course topic and accompanying texts, whereas your writing seminar will explore strategies for effective reading and essay construction in any academic discipline.  

So, tortoises, get out your computers: on your marks, get set, slow! Great writing isn’t achieved in one sitting or born of sudden inspiration. Writing improves over time and follows many paths. Writing seminar is an essential first step on your journey.