English Honors Theses

Date of Creation


Document Type

Departmental Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Kristina Reardon


This study explores how first year students transition to college writing, especially in a pandemic with an online format, and how students use transfer, if at all. It focuses on the following research questions: How do students transition to college writing, college norms, and online classes in a pandemic, and how can Holy Cross first-year writing courses support students in this transition? The methods used to investigate these questions included the administration of two surveys sent to first-year students in a first-year writing course, as well as 10 interviews with students. After transcribing, collating, and coding the data, the following results emerged: students were often able to talk about their writing processes using language that was specific to writing and which was taught in first-year writing classes, and students also showed that their confidence levels in writing increased over the course of the year. Additionally, while students had a hard time talking in specific detail about the exact way that they transferred skills from their first-year writing classes to other disciplines, students did find that transfer occurred; 80 percent reported using skills from first-year writing in other courses. Further, students acknowledged that writing assignments in college varied from course to course and from their high school experiences, leading them to believe that college writing was challenging. Based on these findings, the following recommendations were made: faculty and students at Holy Cross should continue to develop conversations about writing across disciplines, as students often felt like writing expectations differed across courses and professors. Students should be encouraged to access writing support outside the classroom throughout their college careers, as they understood college writing assignments to be more complex than high school assignments.


Reader: Sarah Klotz