Well, that depends on mostly your COMPASS score. But it also depends on your experience as a writer, your class load, and your other responsibilities outside of school. You should consider all these factors before you sign up for a composition class.
If you score between 47 and 69 on the COMPASS, you should sign up for English 090. In this class you will learn the writing skills that will prepare you to take and successfully pass English 101.
English 090 is a developmental class. That means that while it's considered a three-credit class in terms of a student's status for financial aid and in terms of the work it requires, those three credits do not count toward graduation. Because the credits don't count, students sometimes think that developmental classes are a waste of time. Students sometimes think that developmental classes slow them down and prevent them from graduating in the time they think they should. So, it's often tempting for students to skip 090 and jump right in to 101. But most students probably shouldn't.
CSI is a two-year school, so sometimes students assume they will, or should, graduate in just two years. But that doesn't always happen. In fact, it's common for students to take longer than two years to graduate. Therefore, there is no need for students to skip 090 and jump right in to 101 just stay "on schedule." Further, if you skip 090 and fail to pass 101, you'll be in the same place you would have been had you taken the developmental class, but without the success of passing a composition class to your credit.
If you decide to bypass 090 and take 101 instead, and if you fail to pass the Outcomes Assessment process in English 101, you will receive a grade of "NC," or no credit, for the course. While the "NC" grade does not affect your GPA, it does affect your full-time status with regard to financial aid. So, if you don't pass 101, then you risk eventually losing some of your financial aid. And keep in mind--passing 101 is a real challenge for a student whose test scores indicate she should take 090.
Taking English 090 might "slow you down" a bit, but the skills you will learn in the class will make you a better writer and will help you to more easily pass the English 101/102 requirement.
If you score between a 70 and 94 on the COMPASS, you should sign up for English 101. In this class you will learn the process and strategies of college-level writing.
You can expect to do a lot of reading and a lot of writing in your 101 class. Plan on producing a three- to five- page essay every two to three weeks, with lots of small writing assignments mixed in. If these demands seem particularly challenging to you, depending on your writing experience in the past, you might plan to take 101 when you have a light class load. English 101 is offered every semester and in the summer, so you should be able to fit it into your schedule whenever it's most convenient for you.
If you score between a 95 and 99 on the COMPASS, you can sign up for English 102, but think carefully about it before you do.
English 101 and 102 are writing courses, but the test that places you in those courses isn't a comprehensive one. It does not really test your ability as a writer; a multiple choice test can't sufficiently do that. Think about it like this: the written portion of the test you take to get a driver's license doesn't really test your ability to drive, so before you are given a license you must also pass an actual driving test. When you take the COMPASS, it's like only taking the written portion of the driver's test, but getting the license to sign up for 102 anyway without having actually written.
The demands of English 102 are more stringent than those of English 101. Students write longer, more sophisticated essays. Less class time is spent learning the mechanics of writing. Students are expected already to have some knowledge of MLA documentation style. English 102 builds on the writing skills taught in English 101, and if students enter 102 without those skills, the experience can be arduous and frustrating.
We feel most students, even those with high COMPASS scores, are better off starting with English 101. If your COMPASS score places you in 102, you still can sign up for 101.