The Final Draft: A Guide to Writing Centers

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Regardless of your major, every college student has to write; even in subjects like mathematics, science, and technology, the fine arts, writing is required by all disciplines. Writing assignments like essays, research papers, reports, and creative pieces are all part of the college experience and to some students, the sheer volume of writing that is required can feel overwhelming or exhausting.

Because college students today are stretched thinner than ever, writing centers are increasingly becoming significant and necessary resources in colleges across the United States. When so much of a student’s success in college depends on their ability to write and to write well, it’s no surprise that more and more pupils of all disciplines are turning to writing centers for help every year.

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What Are Writing Centers?

A writing center is much more than a study hall or classroom where you can go to write or get advice on your writing. They are institution-run, on-campus centers where students of all disciplines can go to get assistance with any and all of their college writing assignments. The assistance is all-inclusive when it comes to the subject matter, area of study, and type of writing assignment the student needs help with. The service is free and offered to the entirety of the college’s student body. Many writing centers are located within their own private office, classroom, or computer lab, or within the school’s library.

Writing centers strive to collaborate with their college’s students in order to instill formidable writing habits that can be carried into adulthood and eventually, the work force.

In the same manner, most centers aim to strengthen their pupils’ editing and time management skills so that students can successfully complete their assignments and score well on their writing base projects and papers throughout their college careers. As writing center director Dr. Gabriel Sealey-Morris explains, “Good writing centers teach students to help themselves and grow as writers and thinkers – not just fix their “mistakes” for them” – they are places for instruction just like classes.

In addition, oftentimes writing centers can help non-native English speakers by advising them on their English language skills through peer-to-peer teaching moments while reviewing assignments. They are also great resources for students who may have special needs or requests because of a special learning disability.

Writing Centers Are For Everyone

Writing Centers are open for use by all registered students and include all graduate levels, undergrad and beyond, including ESL and Continuing Education students. When you walk into the writing center at your college for the first time you should expect to see more than just English majors at the table. You’ll find a mix of students from a range of disciplines with a variety of assignments in hand. Maybe a physics graduate student is working on her final dissertation, maybe a senior needs help to tidy up his resume, or perhaps a freshman is trying to grasp an understanding of APA. Because the services are open to all students writing in all subjects, finding the right tutor is an easy process with a wide range of personalities and approaches available for each student.

Oftentimes writing centers have opening and closing hours and can require appointments. Others will allow you to drop in at your convenience. Be sure to check in at your own college’s writing center to find out when and how you can receive help. There are also many online writing centers available and the International Writing Centers Association is a great place to learn more about all the options available to you.

The People Who Can Help

No matter what types of tutoring your writing center chooses to employ, it’s important to remember that all the tutors in the center are trained in what they do and ready to help you. There is no need to feel nervous. Trained and experienced writing tutors will be available to help you. These tutors will go through a training process that ensures they know how to provide the right kind of writing assistance, and also to ensure that the assistance you are receiving is consistent from one tutor to the next. One-on-one consultations from peers allow students the option to find a tutor that fits their needs, and ensure the writer feels free in asking for assistance where and when needed.

Typically using peer-to-peer assistance, writing centers provide students with tutors to aid them in all facets of college writing assignments. The benefits of peer-to-peer tutoring are many and oftentimes the tutors themselves are interested in growing their own knowledge of writing through helping others. Sealey-Morris calls the writing center “an apprenticeship in writing, where you work alongside the staff.” Collaborative learning is one of the main missions of most writing centers and in this way, both the student and the tutor excel.

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Understanding the Help You’ll Receive

It’s important to understand that writing centers are not there to write your paper for you, nor are they an editing center where you turn your work in to be returned polished and error free. Rather, writing centers are places where students can get free, continued aid in not only completing their college writing assignments but also in becoming better all around writers themselves.

By using peer-to-peer or other tutoring methods, students work through their assignments in all levels of the process if they prefer, from idea conception to final copy. And feedback on papers can be provided at any stage of the process. From research and outlining, to first drafts and final copies, trained tutors are able to guide students regardless of their writing proficiency.

Tutors help in preparing essays and major papers for any course in any department, literature reviews and research projects. They can additionally assist with transcripts for important speeches or presentations and review applications, scholarship or grant materials.

The stages at which they can assist you are many, beginning with simply understanding the facets of your assignment and how to approach the work. Additionally, they may help with finding a topic or identifying an audience or purpose for your assignment. They can help with planning and organizing your information and with writing your rough draft, revisions, final copies, and final edits.

However, it’s important to realize that writing tutors are trained in writing, not specialists in every discipline. They may know no more about geography or biology than you – while they may not be able to be your fact-checkers, they can still help you organize a paper or clarify your language. In other words, they can help you know if you’re writing correctly, but they can’t tell you if what you’re saying is correct.

Some of the stages students can expect to receive help in are:

  • concept and ideas
  • research
  • structure of the assignment
  • flow or syntax and grammar
  • spelling and punctuation
  • overall delivery of the final project or paper

The Benefits Are Many

Sometimes students feel intimidated by their professors and may even struggle to talk with them or ask for help. Since writing centers are primarily peer-run, students can comfortably approach their peers for help. The trained tutors attempt to create a comfortable environment especially for these students that may feel intimidated to ask for help elsewhere.

Since getting the most out of the college experience is important to most students, it is no surprise that many students find the writing centers on campus to be invaluable. Writing centers take some of the stress off your shoulders, helping you to manage your writing assignments in an approachable, timely manner, while also helping you to improve your writing skills overall.

Dr. Sealey-Morris counsels students that “going to the writing center is nothing to be ashamed of;” instead when a professor suggests you go to the writing center, “it means that your professor sees that you have potential and just need some direction.” For that reason, Sealey-Morris says, “don’t apologize for your writing; the writing center is there for you.”

No matter what job you’re interested in obtaining or what goals you have for college and life after college, writing is important. The ability to confidently and effectively toggle between different kinds of communication, and different kinds of writing, can make a huge difference in success in your career. Business managers and entrepreneurs have to write; nurses, counselors, and therapists have to write; police officers, firefighters, and rescue workers have to write; almost every professional has to write, and college is the time to build those skills. The Writing Center is the place.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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