FWS Pre-Enrollment

For first-year students, the Knight Institute offers First-Year Writing Seminars (FWS) in one of the country's largest and most diverse programs in writing in the disciplines: each semester, over 100 different courses are taught in more than 30 departments and programs located in the humanities, social sciences, expressive arts, and sciences. Through introductory work in each seminar's particular field of study, students learn to write in a range of genres and in ways that emphasize clarity, coherence, intellectual force, and stylistic control. Our Spotlight FWS Work webpage highlights some of the exciting projects students are doing in FWSs, as does our student publication Discoveries.


First-year students and first-semester transfer students can select First-Year Writing Seminar during the pre-enrollment period beginning at 12:00pm on July 17 and ending at 4:00pm on July 20. 

If a student is not able to participate in pre-enroll or seeks changes to their schedule, they must await the Add-Drop period for First-Year Writing Seminars, which begins for sophomores and freshmen on August 18, 2023 at 9:00 am. Please visit the website of the Office of the University Registrar, or consult with your college’s Advising/Student Services office, for official information and dates regarding the enrollment process.

Many seminars are likely to fill to capacity very quickly after incoming freshmen pre-enrollment opens on July 17.  Students may enroll only in a seminar with open spots in it. No student can be registered for more than one FWS at a time.  Please do not contact FWS instructors, who have no control over the enrollment process; there are no waiting lists, and you will not be allowed to “sit in” on any seminar if you are not on the roster.  No registrar can enroll you in a FWS. All FWS enrollment takes place electronically only, via Student Center.

Juniors, seniors, and transfer students:

A preferable alternative for you is ENGL 2880 (fall) / Engl 2890 (spring), Expository Writing, which can substitute for FWS credit.

First-year students and sophomores:

Enrollments for First-Year Writing Seminars are strictly capped; no over-enrollments are permitted. Seminars could fill to capacity very quickly after the incoming first-year pre-enrollment window for students opens on July 17.  

Therefore, the Knight Institute recommends that you plan accordingly, taking your entire schedule into account.   

The Knight Institute will not oversee the FWS enrollment process this year, so we urge you to consult with your college’s Advising/Student Services Office or the University Registrar for guidance on registration.


Fa23 First-Year Writing Seminar Brochure PDF (printable)

Fa23 First-Year Writing Seminar SEARCHABLE Brochure

Here is our advice about FWS enrollment:

  1. Incoming First-year students: If your FWS selection is a high priority for you, be ready to seek it immediately when your enrollment window opens at 12:00 PM on July 17, following the process set by the Office of the University Registrar.
  1. We further recommend that you prepare a prioritized list of several FWSs that fit in open time slots in your schedule, in case your top preference(s) have filled already.  You will not want to waste time returning to the course roster to ponder alternatives, since these too may be filling up meanwhile.
  1. You may not create any time-conflict or overlap between your FWS and any other classes on your schedule.  You may not create an “overload” beyond the credit limit set by your college.  You may not enroll in more than one First-Year Writing Seminar. Once the incoming freshmen enrollment period ends on July 20, at 4:00 pm, you cannot drop or change until August 18 at the earliest.
  1. Once a First-Year Writing Seminar is filled to capacity, it is unalterably closed until at least the opening of the Add-Drop process; even then, it would become “open” only if one or more enrolled students were to drop it.  Please do not contact your college registrar, who has no power to lift the enrollment cap.   Please do not contact the instructor, who has no control over enrollments.  There are no waiting lists for First-Year Writing Seminars, no “shopping,” and no forms to sign or stamp. Add-Drop for FWSs takes place electronically only, via Student Center.  See item #6 below.
  2. Add-Drop for first-year students and sophomores begins at 9:00 AM on August 18: this will be the first opportunity for first-year students to change their FWS enrollment, or to enroll if they did not do so in July. This is the first opportunity for continuing freshmen and sophomores to enroll in a First-Year Writing Seminar for FA23. This process is subject to the constraints explained above: students can only add a seminar that has open spots in it (i.e., an enrollment below the designated cap).   Please be aware that at this point capacity and choice will be limited. 
  3. Add-Drop process for First-Year Writing Seminars: To see the list of seminars that retain open spots after incoming freshmen pre-enrollment, log in to Student Center. Click “Search for Classes,” then “Additional Search Criteria.”  In the “Session” field, choose “FWS Session.”  This will show you the list of open seminars.  Once the Add-Drop window opens, you may make changes from here.  Remember that the list of open seminars can change as students drop and add, so you should check frequently.  Please be aware that at this point capacity and choice will be limited.  See #4 above.

FWS Writing Consultation

Because Cornell’s writing seminars may expect a greater range of writing abilities than many students have exposure to in high school, the Knight Institute offers a FWS Writing Consultation to give students an opportunity to discover how well current writing skills fit into what Cornell expects.

Learn more about writing the FWS Writing Consultation on the Writing Workshop page.

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