A rite of passage, the required English composition courses for first-year students at Rutgers are an introduction to the caliber of academic performance expected of this university's students.
The Expos Five
The First Draft
Rutgers–New Brunswick's required "Expository Writing" course is the stuff of legend. It's also the stuff of a fine documentary.
In the The Expos Five clip below, the students, Yasmeen Fahmy, Michael Cotton, Jeniffer Jung, Nneka Emenaka, and Arpan Mukherjee receive their grades for their first essays.
The Expos Five Reflect
Now seniors, the students filmed for The Expos Five share some thoughts and advice for current and future "Expository Writing" participants.
Majors: Political Science, Economics
Hometown: Sewell, New Jersey
There are pretty much only two choices you have to make. One: either try to do everything your professor asks and believe in your own ability to succeed just the way the program is meant, or don't try at all. Two: either budget your time a decent amount or don't budget your time at all.
By being forced to truly understand the various authors' messages and critically utilize those messages in your own writing, you are able to take that same process of understanding and critical thinking with you into the rest of your future college classes. Regardless of your major, critical reading skills are a huge asset to have in college.
It was actually a little funny when some of the freshmen on my rugby team saw the video in class and asked me about it. You don't exactly expect a rugby player to be videotaping himself talking about writing.
Major: Public Health
Hometown: Maplewood, New Jersey
Before taking the course, English was my favorite subject in school. I absolutely adored reading and writing. "Expos" taught me the more traditional method of writing papers. The rigid format helped me through a number of research papers in courses that followed.
My advice [to students currently taking the course] would be to keep up with the deadlines and refrain from procrastinating. Pulling all-nighters trying to formulate coherent ideas from a string of quotes plucked from skimmed readings at 3 in the morning can't be worth it.
"Expository Writing" is nowhere near as bad as students and teachers make it seem. It is very DOABLE. The real struggle is sitting down to actually DO IT.
Majors: Economics, Geography
Hometown: Hightstown, New Jersey
I think I had a big ego back then and I thought I could handle any sort of writing assignment. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be, not necessarily because I wasn't capable but because it required more critical engagement with the material than students are used to in high school.
College is a tremendous opportunity that not a lot of people have access to, so treat it with care and really derive the most value you can from the overall experience. Looking back 50 years from now, I think your older self will appreciate your hard work.
Majors: Criminal Justice, Sociology
Hometown: River Vale, New Jersey
Looking back on "Expos" now, I see the difficulty I had transitioning into college life. It took me awhile, but I'm graduating on time and maintained a 3.4 GPA last year. In high school, I was always in Honors English but "Expos" was completely different.
Being filmed for a semester was a little bizarre at first. It all happened so fast! I didn't like how my struggles and hardships with the class were filmed for the whole school to see, but now I'm really proud of the film and see how much dedication it took from a lot of people.
Major: Journalism and Media Studies, English
Hometown: Bellerose, New York
Back then I felt like I was a pretty solid writer, however "Expos" proved to me pretty quickly that I was delusional. The class helped me tighten up my writing style, not because of the work we did in class but rather because of the sheer volume of writing we had to do. "Expos" writing built the framework for all my future academic papers. I am still using the same techniques.
My advice? Don't be lazy. That is all. It may not seem like it initially but it will help you in the end. The passing grade will be worth it.