AMCULT 103 - First Year Seminar in American Studies
Section: 002 Getting In
Term: WN 2011
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Who is college for? What are the rituals of "getting in"? How does the college application system affect individuals, families, high schools, and colleges?

This interdisciplinary class draws on work in the Humanities and Social Sciences to examine the college admission process. Throughout, we will keep returning to the college application essay, that peculiarly American institution. Why do colleges solicit stories of the self? What role do these stories play in admissions?

Readings will provide the critical tools that we need to address these questions historically, culturally, and in the context of public policy. Students will write in response to the readings; they will also write about their own college application experiences while studying relevant national trends and debates. A field trip to the Bentley Historical Library will introduce students to a research assignment using documents that reveal the history of applying to the University of Michigan from the nineteenth-century to the present.

In the second half of the term, we will shift to a more practical approach, as we locate, learn about, and help to support programs in our immediate community that mentor high school students through the college application process. At the end of the term, students will evaluate what they learned from their reading, writing, and community engagement. These reflections will lead to group presentations and an individual final paper.

Reading assignments will be drawn from a digital course pack posted on CTools and from three required paperback books. Readings include all or parts of:

  • Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House;
  • Dewey “The School as Social Centre”;
  • Cintron, "A Boy and His Wall";
  • Dunbar-Odom, Defying the Odds;
  • Lemann, The Big Test;
  • Stevens, Creating a Class;
  • Elbow, Writing Without Teachers; and
  • Brandt, Literacy in American Lives.

Written work may include individual and group assignments such as reports on community-based activities, critical response assignments, in-class freewrites, ethnographic interview with introduction, critical analysis of college admissions web sites or "how to get into college" books, and oral presentations. A draft of your integrative final paper will be revised for submission in final form. Attendance required.

AMCULT 103 - First Year Seminar in American Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
002 (SEM)
TuTh 6:00PM - 7:30PM
003 (SEM)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
004 (SEM)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

The rest of the readings will be posted on CTools, with the exception of a small, privately published book by local teacher and poet, Jeff Kass called Wrestle the Great Fear. Details to follow on that.
ISBN: 0521003067
Literacy in American lives, Author: Deborah Brandt., Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press 2001
ISBN: 9780195120165
Writing without teachers, Author: Elbow, Peter., Publisher: Oxford University Press 1998
ISBN: 0465019153
The Jane Addams reader, Author: edited by Jean Bethke Elshtain., Publisher: Basic Books 2002
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for AMCULT 103 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi
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CourseProfile (ART)