Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Writing Center?
The SJU Writing Center was created in 1996, and we are devoted to helping you become a stronger and more confident writer. We hold one-to-one writing sessions with you, the writers at St. John’s University. Our goals are to help you express your ideas and knowledge effectively in written form while also helping you to develop the ability to independently evaluate and revise your own writing. We are writing-driven, not content-based, so our sessions are focused on discussions of writing and the writing process. We leave you to be the expert on the content. We help at any stage of the writing process – planning, drafting, revising, editing – and work with all forms of writing, including non-traditional ones like creative pieces and professional writing. We encourage you to practice and give yourself plenty of time to discover the power of your voice.
Who are the Consultants?
Our consultants can mentor and guide you; they are not ‘tutors’ who will dispense a specific formula, template, or answer (writing doesn’t work that way). The consultants at the University Writing Center are students from the St. John’s community. Our consultants come from a variety of cultural and academic backgrounds, as we believe that diversity fosters enriched experiences and ideologies around writing. Our consultants are both undergraduate and graduate students from various majors and programs. Regardless of background or academic level, all of our consultants are trained in the same way – through the completion of academic modules on writing center theory and practice as well as through hands-on experience working with senior consultants. Consultants apply to work in the WC by submitting multiple writing samples, requesting reference letters from two faculty members, and completing a multi-tiered interview process.
What types of applicants are you looking for?
We are always looking for students who are passionate about writing and working with/helping others. The Writing Center welcomes applicants from all academic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds (so that means students from ALL majors, non-native English speakers, etc.). We prefer to hire first/second-year students since our training process takes about a full year, and that means juniors and seniors may not have enough time to train and develop as consultants. You don’t have to be a perfect ‘A’ student to apply, though that usually doesn’t hurt. Please give your faculty references enough time to write you a letter (two weeks is a good minimum). You can direct them to this site for more information. After applying, give us a few weeks to receive your reference letters, and then check-in with us via email to confirm that you’re still interested in the position (we get dozens of applications each semester for limited openings).
***If you’re interested in applying: we accept applications on a rolling basis. First, make sure you’ve had two or more appointments in the Writing Center so you know what it’s like to be a client here. Then, email a cover letter (including your year, major, experiences in the Writing Center, why you want to work here, etc.) and three recent academic writing samples from any SJU courses to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com. Also have two SJU faculty members (who know you and your writing) email us as well. They can view the ‘FAQ For Faculty’ page for more info. You should also view the rest of this site to get an understanding of our center. Note: we typically don’t hire students with less than two years left at SJU since the initial training/development period in itself takes a full year.
What types of appointments are there?
Face-to-face: Face-to-face appointments are just what they sound like—face-to-face! In these sessions, you will meet with a consultant at the Writing Center (located in St. Augustine Hall on Queens and in the Student Success Center on Staten Island) to discuss your writing.
E-tutoring: E-tutoring appointments are a good alternative for those students who do not have time in their schedules to come to the Writing Center during operating hours. In these sessions, you can schedule an appointment and attach your document file to the appointment box. During the appointment, your consultant will make comments along the margin of your file, addressing the specific concerns you had about your writing. You’ll also receive an endnote or emailed comments regarding your piece as a whole.
Online: Online sessions are useful if you have the time for a session, but you cannot or do not want to come to campus. This appointment type utilizes a “chatroom” that you and your consultant will sign into at the designated appointment time. Upon logging into the SJU writing center schedule, you will click your appointment box (highlighted in light blue). You’ll then click on the red link that says, “start or join online consultation”. This allows you to enter the chatroom with your consultant. To the right is a text box where you can communicate with the consultant, and to the left is a list of instructions explaining how to show the consultant your writing. You may copy and paste your work into this box. Once you have done so, both you and your consultant will be able to toggle through your paper and work together to address your concerns.
What does a typical appointment look like?
No appointment at the writing center is “typical.” Each session varies and depends on the stage of writing, the type of writing you bring, and the nature of your concerns, as well as the style of your consultant, though you can expect there to be a lot of discussion about your assignment and your writing. Every session has to be scheduled for 1 hour, as we believe that anything less does not give us enough time to adequately address your writing concerns. Up to 50 minutes of that hour is devoted to working on the writing. You do not have to use the whole 50 minutes, but you would be surprised by how fast the time goes when you are in a session. The last ten minutes are used by the consultant to write a Client Report Form, which is an email summary of the work that was done.
Where are you located?
St. John’s University, Queens Campus – St. Augustine Hall.
When you walk in, we’re to the right, behind the security desk. Don’t go through the turnstiles! You will need your StormCard, X-Number, or 9-Number to sign in.
We also now have face-to-face sessions available in the Student Success Center on the Staten Island campus (all appointments still made via stj.mywconline.com).
Who can come to the writing center?
The Writing Center is open to St. John’s students, staff, and faculty.
How often can I come to the writing center?
Up to 2 times per week, 1 session in a day.
Do you take walk-ins?
We strongly encourage you to use our online appointment system located at stj.mywconline.com. We occasionally accept walk-ins, but more often than not we do not have enough consultants on schedule to support this service. Planning ahead is an essential part of writing, so we also suggest you do the same when looking for help with writing.
I see a bunch of people sitting around. Why can’t they take me as a walk-in?
There are a number of reasons why you may see people “sitting around” at the Writing Center. One, many students come in to work independently on their writing; these students are not consultants. Two, consultants often come in during off-schedule hours to work on their own papers; if you see consultants sitting and working, they are not necessarily on schedule to take walk-ins. They have come in on their own time to do their own work. Three, you could be coming in at a time when a lot of sessions are ending and new sessions will be beginning shortly. At this point, consultants may be waiting for their next appointment to come in, and thus cannot take a walk-in. Four, a consultant may be working on an online or e-tutoring session and not just ‘looking at a laptop.’ And finally, consultants need breaks. Sessions are very demanding, and often our consultants will have multiple sessions in a row. You may have come in at a time when the consultant needs to regroup in order to be functional for upcoming sessions.
Can I come in to work independently?
Yes! We encourage it. Students are free to come into the writing center to work on writing independently. We also have an abundance of writing resources, such as style guides and writing reference works. Come in and use them!
That being said, please do not ask our consultants to work on your paper with you if you have come to work independently. Our consultants keep very busy schedules, often with back-to-back sessions, and they need the little time they have to decompress, prep for their next session, or do other administrative work for the WC.
Why aren’t all the consultants English majors?
All disciplines require good writing; therefore, good writers come from all disciplines. In keeping with this philosophy, we find that we can best serve our clients by the incorporating knowledge and expertise of our consultants across disciplines. Further, we are writing-driven, not content-based, so we are here to help you effectively communicate your ideas in written form. The content comes from you.
Will you edit my paper for me?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: Sort of. Here at the Writing Center, we are devoted to making better writers, not just better writing. What that means is we will help you to identify the areas that need revising or editing and then help you to brainstorm and implement the necessary changes. However, we will not take your paper and edit it for you with no effort on your part, as that does not help you develop your abilities as a writer.
Is it just about grammar?
No! We look at higher order concerns (e.g., thesis/focus, audience, organization, development) as well as lower order concerns (e.g., grammar, word choice, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation). We can also help you if you are struggling with avoiding plagiarism and properly citing your sources.
Do I need a finished draft to come in for an appointment?
No. You can come in at any stage of the writing process, whether that’s before you get a word on the page or after you have a refined draft. Some students have even come in before they have an assignment, just so they can become acquainted with the Center and the writing process. We find the best time to come in is as soon as you get an assignment so you can start planning early and bounce ideas off of someone else as you begin your writing project/paper.
What’s the best way to prepare for an appointment?
If you have your assignment sheet, bring it. It is very helpful for us consultants to be able to see directly what your professor is expecting from you. It is also very helpful for you to have a clear idea of what you want to work on. Are you concerned about the organization? The grammar? Whether you’ve met the assignment requirements? Knowing what you want to work on will help us to focus the session for optimized productivity.
Will coming to the Writing Center guarantee me an A?
We wish everyone could get an A, but there’s no guarantee that that will happen since all faculty grade differently.
I’m a good writer, so why should I use the writing center?
No one is a perfect writer, and while we do not strive for perfection, we can help you to build upon the abilities you already have. If you want to improve as a writer, we can help you. Sometimes just a second pair of eyes on your writing will make all the difference. ALL writers share their work with others, from seasoned/professional writers to WC consultants making appointments with each other.
I’m a graduate student. Will you be able to help me?
Yes. All of our consultants, regardless of academic background, are trained in the same way: to be writing-driven, not content based. In other words, we expect that you, the writer, come in as the expert on your subject matter. We will then help you to effectively communicate that expertise in written form. Most graduate students (and staff/faculty) assume they need to work with a graduate student or faculty member, but we usually find that most of the writing issues we see in here are quite universal and our well-trained and experienced consultants can provide the guidance our clients need.
How many pages will we be able to get through in a session?
That largely depends on the nature of your concerns. If you want to do a line-by-line close-read (which is not usually recommended since it often leads to a too-narrow view of your writing), it is possible that we will only get to a few pages or even a few paragraphs of your assignment. If you are concerned with higher-order concerns (e.g., organization, general flow, argumentation), we may be able to get through more of your essay by forgoing a line-by-line close-read. However, these types of sessions can often turn into in-depth discussions about your conceptualization of your paper, and there is no guarantee that we will be able to read through it in its entirety. Importantly though, our goal is to help you develop the skills to independently revise your writing, so we will also give suggestions of techniques and strategies you can use (most likely strategies we have used in the session) to revise/edit the rest of your paper.
Can we work on a few of my assignments in one session?
Because we want to ensure that we have enough time to adequately address your writing concerns, we will only work on one assignment per session.
What’s the Client Report Form?
The Client Report Form is an email that your consultant writes during the last ten minutes of your session. It is a summary of the work that was done and often contains a few tips for you to keep in mind for future writing. If your professors require you to come to the Writing Center, you can forward them the Client Report Forms.
My professor requires me to come to the Writing Center. How do I prove that I came?
After visiting the Writing Center, you will receive a Client Report Form via email. Forward this email to your professor.
Do you have handouts to help me write my papers?
A workshop, handout, or lecture may give you some good tips, but we’d rather spend our time connecting with you and the specialized task you have in front of you. In that setting, we can also account for your own style/approach/thoughts instead of us trying to prepare a blanket presentation for a generic audience. On this website, you’ll see us link to several resources where you can get additional information; we urge you to combine one-to-one efforts with seeking out information to become the strongest writer you can be.
We hope you’ll appreciate all of our efforts to help you empower yourself and develop your voice…from us asking you to make your own appointment online (so you can personalize each aspect) to us focusing on meeting you where you are as a writer and thinker in a session.
So if you want to talk about organizing a term paper, plagiarism, grammar, citations or anything else you’re concerned with, please make an appointment with us so we can plan a one-person workshop–just for you.
How can I help keep the Writing Center running?
Come in! Make appointments! Use the space! The more students we help, the more effective our writing community is. One way you can give back is by filling out client feedback forms, which help us monitor our progress by highlighting what things are working and what we need to improve upon.
(Thanks to Kristan M. for drafting our FAQs page)