College Writing Center 101
Make multiple trips to the writing center.
If you come to the writing center looking for quick
fix, youre likely to be disappointed. But if you
realize that becoming a better writer takes time and
dedication, youll probably get a lot more out
of your visits. Thats right, I said visits. As
in more than one. No one starts turning out Hemingway-esque
prose overnight, and if you really want to become a
better writer, making multiple trips to the writing
center to talk about your work will be helpful. Some
centers might even allow you to schedule a weekly, recurring
appointment with the same tutor. Meeting with the same
tutor is a great strategy, because you get to work with
someone who, over time, develops an understanding of
your unique needs and writing style.
Be prepared. First, if you have a
draft of your paper, print it out and bring it with
you. Having a hard copy for the tutor to look over is
a lot faster (and easier on the tutors eyes) than
looking at a file on your laptops 13-inch screen.
This also allows you to jot down quick notes in the
margins of your paper. And, if you have the assignment,
bring that with you as well. Knowing what the professor
is looking for will help your tutor guide you in the
right direction. Youd be surprised how many problems
with academic writing can be traced directly to a simple
problem - a students confusion about what their
professor is really asking them to do.
Finally, keep an open mind. As an
older student arriving on campus, you bring a significantly
different set of skills and experiences to the classroom
than do your younger counterparts. You may be returning
to school after many years in a job that required extensive
writing. Or you may be unnerved at the idea of being
tutored by a graduate or undergraduate student many
years younger than yourself. But rather than view these
situations as negative, think about ways to turn them
into positives. If youre already an accomplished
writer in one field, a meeting with a tutor may help
you to identify ways to apply the skills that made you
successful in your career to your academic writing.
A younger tutor may be able to advise you on new trends
in academia, such as using gender-neutral language,
or the most effective ways to use the Internet for research.
In my experience as a writing tutor, older students
were among the most dedicated and receptive individuals
I worked with, since they usually came to the center
with specific goals in mind and eager to learn. As an
handout available from the
University of Kansas Writing Center points out,
for returning students, sentence-level skills
may be superior to those of traditional students, but
that is small consolation when trying to juggle real-world
writing experiences with the expectations of academia.
A good tutor will be aware of the unique needs of non-traditional
students, and find ways to address those needs in a
tutoring session so the student can develop as a successful
writer. As Robyn Parry noted in an article for Writing
Lab Newsletter, adult students should realize that the
writing center is a useful tool that can help
them make a smooth transition to formal education -
and to writing.
Universitys Online Writing Lab.
Features numerous handouts on frequently asked questions
about academic writing.
to Prepare for a Trip to the Writing Center.
A former tutor offers some tips about how to make the
most of your trip to the writing center.
Handbook from the University of Wisconsin, Madison Writing
Center. Covers common types of writing assignments,
as well as grammar, style, and citing sources.
Megan Elliott is a freelance writer and editor living
in Brooklyn, and a former writing tutor.
See also Proofreading
Your Writing Assignments and
Mastering the Writing Process.