5 Ways to Make Use of Your Campus’s Writing Center


One of the most difficult challenges even the best students can face in college is adjusting to college-level writing. It’s the reason why most colleges and universities require a composition course during the first semester. It’s also the reason that many colleges and universities (but not all) have a special center that specializes in helping students improve their writing.

You shouldn’t think of your school’s writing center as some sort of remedial or tutoring resource for low achievers. The very best students ask for help, and even experienced, published writers need editors to review their work. Any composition instructor will tell you that feedback and revisions are the keys to good writing.

Writing centers are typically staffed with a number of high-achieving students majoring in subjects like English or education. Consulting with experienced writers who are peers often makes the process of getting assistance much easier. Most writing centers have a handful of professional staff as well, who often hold higher degrees in writing or education fields. Consultation with staff members is usually one on one, but it can also be in small groups. However you make use of this resource, you should abide by the rule that your professor should never be the first person to read your paper.

  1. Find it! This may seem obvious, but writing centers and other academic support resources can be in very different locations on different campuses; on some campuses they’re a small room in the basement of the student center, and others they’re a whole floor of the main library. And of course, not every school even has one. Grab a brochure or business card and take down the center’s phone number, website/email address, and hours of operation.

  2. Schedule a visit the first week or two of school. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, you don’t need to bring in a paper to meet the staff; it can alleviate a lot of anxiety if you introduce yourself early. Additionally, getting to know one or two staff members very well will help because they’ll be able to see your writing progress throughout the semester and advise you accordingly. And it never hurts to get on top of things even if it’s just a one-page essay you did for homework the first week. It’s a good idea to make an appointment, although many centers accept walk-ins.

  3. Be prepared. Depending on what part of the writing process you are in, you should bring the appropriate materials with you. That includes anything the assignment prompts, your notes, research materials, outlines, and drafts. If possible, send your paper in advance to the staff member with whom you will be working.

  4. Know what to ask. Many times, the quality of your writing center consultation is dependent upon knowing what you need help with. Do you have sentence-level issues? Need help strengthening your thesis? Don’t understand inductive versus deductive reasoning? Helping the staff member understand what you need help with will save time and help you get more value out of each visit.

  5. Writing center staff can help you with more than just term papers. Many students use their school’s writing centers for things like resumes, graduate school applications, lab reports, and so on. If it involves words, it’s probably covered.

  6. One very important thing to note is writing center staff members are not proofreaders; they may help you go through your paper, but it is not acceptable to simply drop off your paper and ask for their edits.

  7. Go regularly. Students often view their campus’s writing center as a crisis resource. It’s rarely useful for that purpose. Writing takes time, especially if it’s not your forte. It is there to help cure your writer’s block, overcome your writing anxiety, and guide you through the writing and revision process. Although they’ll usually try to help, a writing center staff member is limited in what they can do when your paper is due the next day.