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How my A&I Helped me Transition to Carleton

Katie talks about how her Argument and Inquiry seminar helped her transition to Carleton.

Katie talks about how her Argument and Inquiry seminar helped her transition to Carleton.

As a rising senior, I’ve been thinking about my beginnings at Carleton. A shared beginning for all first year students is the Argument and Inquiry Seminar (which we call an A&I).

A&Is are small, writing-rich classes held specifically for first year students. A&Is aim to teach us about the liberal arts and help us transition from high school to college. In this post, I want to share with you some of the the ways my A&I, Drama, Film, and Society helped me see and handle some of the differences between high school and college.

The College Workload

One of the things my A&I helped me ease into was a greater amount of homework done at the trimester pace. We went over more material in my 10 weeks in Drama, Film, and Society (DFS) than I did in any single semester of high school. While this may seem intimidating, the lessons in my A&I were often more modern, fun, and varied than those I had seen in high school. This made learning a lot easier.

As a class we took multiple trips to the twin cities to see theatrical performances such as In the Heights and Romeo and Juliet. We also watched films like Do the Right Thing and Dr. Strangelove. There were many viewings and reading beyond this, but resources like office hours, conversations with the classmates, and personal time management made the workload manageable.

Picture of theatrical performance
Photo by Linnea Bullion

The Type of Work

It is not just the level of work that is different in college, but the type of work. In high school my classes were mostly test or worksheet based. My A&I, on the other hand, had very few quizzes. Instead we focused on discussions, presentations, and papers.


My A&I shied away from lectures and instead gave students the opportunity to lead the conversation. While this is true for many college classes, being with only other first years made talking in class less intimidating, and I felt like I could really make my voice heard. I learned the confidence to bring these communication skills to my other classes moving forward.


We had to give multiple presentations in my A&I. Having so many presentations helped me learn how to teach as well as learn. These presentations also helped me be more comfortable with public speaking. All the presentations for my A&I were partner projects, and working with other students helped me adjust to the collaborative learning atmosphere at Carleton. Doing presentations also helped me get more experience with research and using resources in the libe.


My A&I helped me be better prepared for the large amount of writing that was heading my way throughout my next four years at Carleton (especially as an English major). It wasn’t just that there were more papers to write. But, the length of the papers was longer and the topics were more open ended than what I was used to in high school. Our final paper for my A&I was to write about any film or play in discussion with a social issue. Some topics I pondered were: sexual education in Juno, feminism in Easy A, and mental health in Thirteen Reasons Why. Looking at such a large topic mixed with a specific TV show meant I needed to hone my skills of structuring papers and getting my ideas across. My professor was great for this process as well as the writing center!

Argument and Inquiry Seminar
Here I am with my A&I classmates!

The Friends

It’s not only the academic transition to college that matters, but the social transition as well. Being with only a few other first years in our small class made getting to know the students a lot easier. Through discussions, bus rides to the twin cities, and late-night screenings of required films, we became not only classmates but friends. I still talk to and hang out with many of my A&I peers 3 years later! During my year I will even rooming with one of my classmates from my A&I!


When first hearing about A&Is, I was unsure of why they were mandatory and how they could be helpful to me. Now looking back as a senior, I can see how much I gained from a class specifically geared to me and other first years.


Katie is a senior English Major from Chisholm, MN. She is a Resident Assistant (RA) and loves to act in student theatre productions. When she isn’t busy with those you can catch her hanging out with friends in Sayles, drawing in the Arb, reading a cheesy Young Adult novel on the Bald Spot, or spending too much time playing Animal Crossing: New HorizonsMeet the other bloggers!