Mastering Writing in College

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Mastering Writing in College

April 4, 2012

Writing is an essential skill for college success. Even the best high school writers find themselves challenged by the new demands of college research papers, essays, and projects. This post by Julie Moore, associate professor of English, introduces you to the free resources and services provided to Cedarville students by the University's Writing Center. Julie's most recent published book of poetry, Slipping Out of Bloom, may be ordered through Amazon or other retailers.

When students enroll at Cedarville University, they have to write papers ... often. Indeed, as Cedarville begins a "Writing Across the Curriculum" program this fall, new students will be writing more than ever before during their four years of education. Thankfully, the University's Writing Center can help your student succeed in all those assignments.

Thanks to the design of the University's Tyler Digital Communications Center on the south side of campus, the Writing Center enjoys a large and relaxed space equipped with comfortable sofas and swivel chairs as well as work tables and tutor carrels.

The Writing Center assists students with all kinds of writing! If they're working on an outline for speech, they can come see us. If they're working on essays for a scholarship or graduate school application, they can seek our guidance. And of course, if they're working on one of the dozens of papers they'll be composing as part of their academic experience — whether two pages or twenty pages long — they can make appointments to work with writing consultants who are their peers.

Writing Center tutors are excellent writers and communicators from a wide variety of majors, including business, criminal justice, English, history, psychology, social work, Spanish, and technical and professional communication. I train these students to become effective writing consultants in the required, 3000-level course, Writing Center Theory and Training. Thus, they are knowledgeable about effective tutoring techniques and are as adept at working with freshmen in composition as with seniors in capstone courses. In fact, because they recognize the value of discourse and a fresh perspective on their work, they even consult with each other!

We work especially closely with first-year students, many of whom struggle to adjust to university-level expectations for their writing. Students who earned As on essays in high school and those inexperienced with paper-writing find Cedarville's writing assignments challenging. How relieved and excited they all are to discover the Writing Center! Their peers are here — the same students they sit with in chapel, eat lunch with in Chuck's, and live beside in the residence halls. So the Writing Center is a welcoming place where students can explore ideas, take risks in their writing, and learn successful strategies for composing complex and effective essays.

Writing Center consultants also effectively assist students with special needs and writers who are English Language Learners. The writing consultants truly care about every student who meets with them, and they come alongside all writers, helping them to develop ideas thoroughly, clearly, and accurately so that they become better writers overall. For that reason, the students who often visit the Writing Center are the same ones who improve the most over time.

Students can visit us as soon as they get an assignment to start brainstorming ideas, and they can come as often as they want for help on the same paper. We start where the writer is — at the moment an assignment is given, the point when students are in the midst of writing a draft, or the time when they may be revising it. In addition, if students really like the consultant they work with, they can check the schedule online to see when that tutor works again and make their next appointment(s) with the same person.

During the consultation, the writing tutor will read your student's paper and help set up an agenda for the session to follow. In the next thirty minutes, they will work through that agenda together, the tutor offering guidance on how to build upon strengths and improve weaknesses. But even at this stage, your son or daughter will be actively involved in the conference. They might free-write for five or ten minutes, do some outlining or revising, and even consult a manual.

The Writing Center isn't bound by a building, however. Its website also provides many helpful resources for students. For example, information about the center's mission and objectives, a description of what students can expect from our services, and even directions about how to make an appointment via our online system are all on our website.

Because the Writing Center also conducts workshops weekly, the PowerPoint presentations and, in some cases, the videos of those workshops are posted online. In addition, we house many links to discipline-specific writing guides and documentation styles as well as grammar resources and style tips. Please encourage your student to access these useful resources.

By discussing ideas and goals with a trained tutor who both enjoys writing and understands how to reach an audience, every writer, no matter the level of proficiency, discovers paths toward successful revisions and credible, persuasive writing. For that reason, even I sought the assistance of one of my tutors on this very piece! And the guidance she provided helped me reorganize this blog and polish my sentences. Your student can also benefit from such valuable services and resources, and we truly hope we get the chance to work with your student in the fall!

Posted in Academics