Writing Portfolio

The writing portfolio consists of three pieces of writing that you have done during your time at COA. The purpose of the writing portfolio is to demonstrate your ability to write effectively in a range of contexts with different audiences and for different purposes. When selecting those three pieces of writing, instead of simply thinking about what essays showcase your “best” writing, consider including pieces that showcase the breadth of writing you have done at college.

We strongly encourage you to come to the writing center before submitting your portfolio. A tutor can help you select three pieces of writing that showcase your breadth as a writer. 

The types of genres of papers that you can submit include short and long essays that demonstrate your ability to, for instance, support a position or argument, but you can also submit research papers, reports, narratives, and ethnographic writing. You can also submit a collection of shorter responses/texts that you have written, such as responses to readings, videos, and other prompts, if you don’t have multiple longer papers to choose from.

Writing Portfolio Requirements:

  • At least one piece must be an expository essay that demonstrates an ability to research a topic and analyze ideas on an in-depth level.
  • At least one piece must be a persuasive essay that uses logic and evidence to give an informed, unique perspective on a particular topic.
  • You may submit a nonfiction narrative essay that tells a story and incorporates clear and concise language and vivid detail. (Fiction and poetry WILL NOT be accepted.)

If you are a transfer student, you can include 1 piece of writing from your previous institution, but at least 2 must be from COA classes.

Writing Portfolio submission form.

Guided Self-Placement for the First-Year Writing Requirement

To support students’ academic and professional activities at COA and beyond, every student must take a writing course during their first year to develop their writing, literacy, and research skills. Our writing courses are designed to increase students’ understanding of writing, literacy, and research as a social practice: what do we do with writing in various contexts to accomplish social actions? In what ways are genres (types of texts) that we produce shaped by purpose, audience, and context, in other words, rhetorical situations? What is the connection between rhetorical situations and language structures in different genres? How is writing and language connected to our identities and communities we come from? How do we use multiple modes of meaning-making beyond written words, including visuals, design choices, and sounds? How do we identify, locate, and evaluate the credibility of information and sources? These questions, and many others, are addressed in our courses.

 Our writing courses focus on teaching and developing transferable skills by building students’ genre knowledge and rhetorical awareness. We do not teach fixed writing rules because writing is dynamic, complex, and ever-changing. To help students navigate the evolving nature of writing and different expectations across contexts, our courses develop students’ abilities to recognize the fluidity of writing practices. Our courses refine literacy skills that students need in order to help them understand writing from a broader perspective and in a contextualized manner.

Our courses also help students understand writing as a process. It’s through revisions that students refine their ideas, engage critically with texts, and support their overall learning. By participating in writing workshops and individual conferences, students will develop their abilities to articulate complex ideas, familiarize themselves with nuances of writing across various genres, and achieve social actions and goals. Our writing courses sharpen students’ rhetorical awareness and genre knowledge and refine their overall understanding of writing as embedded in social activities and discourse communities.

This guided self-placement creates space for students to select the courses that fit their interests and needs. Please read through the entire document and then consult with your advisor about what course would best fit your interests and needs. Courses are listed chronologically based on when they are offered. Note that courses listed as a College Seminar indicate that there’s one extra writing lab/class each week to give you more time to engage with the material and hone the craft of writing. If you have any questions, please contact WritingProgram@coa.edu.

 Download the Guided Self-Placement for the First-Year Writing Requirement PDF to view courses.


The goal of the first part of the writing requirement is to ensure that all students take a writing class during their first year at COA. All entering students must take one writing class (designated W). Courses that meet the writing requirement include regular writing courses taught by the Literature & Writing faculty, lecturers, and adjuncts. College Seminars are taught by both Writing & Literature professors and others non-writing professors, such as Food Studies and History. College Seminars include a weekly workshop and peer-review session.