How to Earn an A in COM 1101

Every semester, students enroll in Composition and Rhetoric, COM 1101, as part of their required curriculum for their major. Every semester, some students wish they could have earned a better grade. At the ASC, we work with students enrolled in “Comp & Rhet” to help them improve their writing skills, but it takes more than just a few tutoring appointments. Here are six ways that students can plan to earn strong grades in this first-year course.

1. Attend every single class.

While it’s important to attend every single class, COM 1101 counts attendance as part of the grade. “You could fail for attendance,” notes Dr. Natalie Dorfeld, who teaches COM 1101 during the Fall semester. Even if you perform well on essays and exams, missing enough classes will earn you an F.

2. Buy the books.

Many students try to get by without purchasing the textbooks, which can hurt them in the long run. “Buy the books,” says Dr. Michael Finnegan, a COM 1101 instructor. If cost is an issue, look at textbook rental services or ask the instructor if using an earlier edition of the textbook is appropriate. Don’t rely upon the library having a copy of the most recent edition, and never pirate the textbook online.

3. Pay attention to grammar and spelling.

This is one of those common-sense bits of advice, but writing essays and research papers relies upon your ability to effectively communicate via the written word. Read your work and check your spelling. If you’ve never been good with your grammar, now is the time to ask for help. “Learn the difference between the comma and the semi-colon,” advises Dr. Finnegan. Careful attention can avoid common mistakes and help you communicate your thoughts and ideas.

4. Seek out your professor for help

Instructors post office hours and provide email addresses on the syllabus so that students can reach them. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek an appointment, especially if you need assistance on an assignment. Dr. Dorfeld recommends that students see their professors before every paper is due. “He or she will be more than happy to help you out,” she says. Just make sure that you don’t wait until the night before.

5. Learn how to cite sources and avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism isn’t just copying someone else’s work and passing it off as your own; it includes failing to properly cite passages and sources in essays and research papers. To avoid the very serious charge of plagiarism, learn how to properly cite sources in the format required by your instructor. Attend Library workshops on citation methods for additional help, or seek out a librarian who can assist you.

6. Get writing assistance early and often.

Improving your writing requires practice as well as constructive feedback. The Academic Support Center provides assistance via English instructors who can work with students on the finer points of grammar and essay construction, while the student-staffed Writer’s Den offers peer-to-peer help for writing assignments. For key assignments, set an appointment with a writing instructor at least a week before the paper is due to review your first draft and have time for revision.

Ready to make an appointment now? You can do it online at

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