What are College Writing Centers?

What is a college writing center and how do students benefit from it?

Flickr user Caleb Roenigk

If you think that college writing centers are only for those who dream of becoming the next romantic William Shakespeare or horrifying Stephen King, you are on the wrong track. A college student’s journey entails a lot of writing tasks, whether it is a lab report, research paper, or essay. Having a friend or classmate peer review your paper won’t always work effectively though, since some essential details may be left out. That’s when a writing center can come in handy.

Maintained by educational institutions or created as part of a writing program, writing centers aim to help students find their writing voice and tackle each writing challenge. They assist for free and are ready to help students regardless of their writing proficiency.

As a rule, most of them offer individual tutoring without evaluation of students. The key idea behind this personalized coaching is to detect weaknesses that hold students back as writers, provide them with detailed feedback, and let them figure out what further improvements are required.

Do You Need to Prepare for a Writing Center Visit?

Yes, but this doesn’t mean that you should spend hours googling what academic or creative writing is about. Tutors will neither lecture you nor check what you’ve learned so far. Their purpose is to answer your questions and clarify things. This is why

No matter how minor your doubts may be, whether it is a particular word meaning or a punctuation dilemma, ask a tutor about it. Never be afraid of saying “I don’t know what it means.” Your willingness to satisfy your hunger for knowledge is far more important. So, whenever in doubt, appoint a meeting and talk to your personal tutor. Don’t know what to start with? Just take a look at what writing tasks await you, and think of difficulties you might encounter along the way. Be well-armed in advance and you will definitely succeed.

What is Typical Session Like?

First off, you will get acquainted with your tutor. Your writing consultants may be graduates, part- or full-time instructors, or even professional writers—or even undergraduates. They will ask you about what writing project you are currently working on or going to work on. If you’ve already written a draft, you will have a chance to discuss it and make all necessary corrections. The latter may include shortening too long and complex passages or sentences, changing narration style, improving paper structure, and more.

Tutors can help you learn how to avoid violating citation rules and find credible sources of information, which is crucial for creating a substantial work. A typical tutorial length is 45 minutes. Upon completion of each session, it’s your turn to implement all the suggested recommendations. Editing and proofreading should also be done by you, not writing centers’ consultants.

Why Should You Go to a Writing Center?

Here you can get expert advice on planning, drafting and proofreading your writing. Tutors recommend what activities and resources to use to help you cope with the research process. Research/citation/genre guides, video tutorials, online consultations, librarian assistance, as well as a series of exercises are at your disposal. And that is not all, of course. Some writing centers also have online writing labs, which serve the same purpose as face-to-face tutorials.

If you’re struggling to come up with a topic or what direction you should take your paper in, brainstorming with someone from the center can be a great way to come up with new ideas. Even just talking about the prompt or assignment can help get the gears turning.

And finally, the writing center is the place where you can learn to collaborate and establish friendly relationships. Well, whenever you have such a nice opportunity to join a writing center, seize it!

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