Freshman Composition

Student working on paper.



EH 101 and EH 102 are not only required of all USA students but also prerequisites for all subsequent English courses. The courses are taught by full-time professors as well as staff and graduate assistants. Some students with certain ACT scores may be exempt from taking EH 101. To find more about exemption and scores as well as to see the CLEP requirements for being exempt from EH 102 see the Credit Transfers and Course Exemptions below. For further information about the English Composition Program, please contact program director, Dr. Patrick Shaw.

EH 101 and EH 102

While the two courses that constitute the Composition Program share some general objectives, each course has a more specific purpose.  EH 101 is a general introduction to academic discourse. EH 102 focuses on helping students develop their skills in research-supported argument.

▼   Objectives and Requirements of EH 101 and EH 102

EH 101:  Objectives and Requirements

The primary goal of EH 101 is to prepare you to write in other courses at USA. Therefore, EH 101 seeks

  • to help you with specific academic genres assigned at USA and most colleges;
  • to help you develop your writing process and adapt it to particular writing situations;
  • to familiarize you with the rhetorical situation and its importance to writing;
  • to help you develop your identity as a writer.

To achieve these goals, EH 101 has the following minimum requirements:

  • rhetorical analysis;
  • writing as a process (planning, drafting, and revising your ideas and writing);
  • lectures, readings, and assignments that give you an understanding of the Composition Program’s Shared Criteria for Evaluating Writing;
  • realistic purposes for writing actually used across campus (summarizing, analyzing, evaluating, informing, persuading);
  • a minimum of 5,000 words of formal, revised prose; 
  • each formal paper will require students to practice one or more of the following academic genres: summary, exposition, analysis, critique, evaluation, argument;  
  • at least one paper that incorporates outside research;
  • at least one paper with a primary aim of presenting an effective argument; 
  • at least one assignment that requires students to reflect on their development as writers;
  • opportunities for student/teacher conferences;
  • collaborative learning throughout the writing process; and 
  • sample readings that support and reflect the requirements above.

EH 102 & EH 105:  Objectives and Requirements

The ultimate goal of EH 102 and EH 105 (Honors Composition) is to prepare you to write across the curriculum. Consequently, it will further your understanding of some elements of writing covered in EH 101, such as helping you

  • plan, draft, and revise writing based on your analysis of the rhetorical situation, your knowledge of the subject matter, and feedback from your peers and your instructor;
  • understand a variety academic genres by examining the basic characteristics that define each type;
  • evaluate your writing and others’ by drawing on criteria that apply to most writing;
  • conduct credible academic research and use it support carefully planned, developed, and organized arguments; 
  • reflect on and evaluate your development as a writer; 
  • explore a range of ideas through writing, reading, and discussion in order for you to grow intellectually.

To achieve the aforementioned goals, EH 102 and EH 105 courses focus on the following center around the following skills, tasks, and requirements:

  • rhetorical analysis, emphasizing several elements of the rhetorical situation;
  • writing as a process of planning, drafting, and revising your ideas and writing;
  • lectures, readings, and assignments that provide an understanding of the Composition Program’s Shared Criteria for Evaluating Writing;
  • student/teacher conferences;
  • collaborative learning throughout the writing process;
  • readings that reflect and encourage the above skills and tasks and that encourage and model academic inquiry;
  • a minimum of 6,500 words of formal, revised prose – at least two papers with a primary aim of argumentation;
  • an emphasis on genres related to and supportive of argumentation; 
  • substantial practice in academic research in support of arguments and other academic genres.

EH 101 CompPALs

EH 101 CompPAL sections of EH 101 are reserved for students who would benefit from a little added support in making the transition from writing in high school to writing in college.  Students in these sections are required to commit on average an extra 45 minutes every week to their EH 101 courses, and they are mentored by advanced students with strong backgrounds in English.  The added support comes at no extra cost to the student.

▼   More on the CompPAL Program

Information for Students

CompPAL classes are designated EH 101 sections that serve students who have slightly lower ACT English scores and who in the past would have been required to remediate through a writing and/or reading course. Instead, students receive the additional instruction and support they need while getting the opportunity to complete EH 101 on schedule.  

CompPALs (Composition Peer Academic Leaders) generally attend the class and meet with students outside the class meeting time, in small groups and individually. Small groups workshop material from class; individual meetings include consultation and coaching targeting individual student needs.  CompPAL students are required to attend the weekly group meetings and at least four one-to-one sessions with their CompPAL. Success rates for students in these courses are similar to those for students in EH 101 non-CompPAL sections.

Information for Prospective CompPALs

CompPALs (Composition Peer Academic Leaders) are advanced undergraduates (usually juniors and seniors) who assist composition instructors in class and tutor composition students outside of class on a weekly schedule.  

As a CompPAL, you’ll conduct weekly small group sessions and individual tutorials with students from specialized Composition I sections. Some students in these classes may have confidence issues with their writing, and most students may have scored below a 19 on the English section of the ACT test. Some of these students may struggle with “how to college” issues like understanding time management or showing up to class or at workshops.

A CompPAL's role is to act as a facilitator, mentor, and peer leader to help students improve their writing and learn appropriate academic behavior. As a CompPAL, you’ll also attend class, participate, assist the instructor with in-class activities, and stay in touch with your instructor, letting them know about workshops, students, and attendance. 

Being a CompPAL is an excellent experience for those interested in teaching or attending graduate school. Pervious CompPALs have gone on to pursue teaching at the secondary level, and some have gone on to graduate programs in English literature, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, and library sciences.

To apply for a CompPAL position, send an email to Dr. Patrick Shaw. Attach the following to it:

Also, contact your references and ask them to send a brief letter of recommendation to Dr. Patrick Shaw.

Composition Contest

Each academic year, the Freshman Composition Program within the USA English Department hosts a best paper contest for all Comp I and Comp II students. Winners receive a cash prize and a certificate of honor.  Our Contest Release Form for Students includes instructions on how to enter!

▼   Recent Contest Winners

2023-2024 Contest Winners

2022-2023 Contest Winners

2021-2022 Contest Winners

2020-2021 Contest Winners

Credit Transfers and Course Exemptions

Some students may have already met the requirements for one or both of the courses in the Composition Program.  Credit for EH 101 may be granted based on ACT score.  Credit also may be transferred in from other accredited institutions, and the University of South Alabama accepts CLEP credit.

▼   More on Credit Transfers and Course Exemptions

Credit Transfers

In most cases, if you have taken a first-year writing course equivalent to either EH 101 or EH 102, you will be awarded credit automatically when you enroll at the university.  In some cases, however, students may have taken a first-year writing course at another institution and do not automatically receive credit for EH 101 or EH 102.  In such cases, students can request to have the course or courses they completed elsewhere evaluated by the Composition Program.  

To have a course or courses evaluated, please email Dr. Patrick Shaw, Associate Professor of English and Director of First-Year Writing. Include in your email

  • Your Jag Number
  • The institution’s name
  • The title, number, and course description of each course you want to have considered for transfer credit
  • A copy of the syllabus, with the course outcomes/objectives and general requirements included in it
  • Copies of assignment sheets
  • Copies of essays written for the course
  • An unofficial copy of your transcript, showing that you completed the course(s)

Course Exemptions

You can receive an exemption from the EH 101 requirement by meeting one of the scores below:

  • 4 or higher on the AP Language and Literature Exam
  • 4 or higher on the AP Language and Composition Exam
  • 27 or higher on the ACT English Exam
  • 610 or higher on the SAT Verbal Exam
  • 50 or higher on the CLEP College Composition Exam

You can receive an exemption from the EH 102 requirement by of the score below:

  • 50 or higher on the CLEP College Composition Exam

USA Writing Center

The USA Writing Center is part of the USA Center for Academic Excellence and offers free one-on-one consulting to all USA students wishing to improve their writing.  Schedule an appointment with a consultant via the CAE web portal.