The study develops a better understanding of what is valued in L2 academic writing in IEP and FYC programs through a comparative case study approach, identifying the assumptions and underlying values of program directors and instructors in both types of instructional settings. The goal of the study is to understand more about second language writing pedagogy for international students in these programs, as well as to provide university administrators with a better understanding of how to improve writing instruction for multilingual students, who have become a key part of the U.S. higher education mission. Data include program-level mission statements, course descriptions and objectives, curricular materials, as well as interviews with teachers and program directors. Major findings show that there is a tension between language-focused vs. rhetoric-focused approaches to second language writing instruction in the two contexts. IEP instruction sought to build on students' language proficiency, and writing instruction was rooted in a conception of writing as language organized by structural principles, while the FYC program emphasized writing as a tool for communication and personal growth. Based on these findings, I provide recommendations for improving graduate education for all writing teachers, developing more comprehensive needs analysis procedures, and establishing administrative structures to support international multilingual students.