Ways to Use a Campus Writing Center

The writing center at Skidmore college is a versatile tool that can be very beneficial for every kind of student. I sat down with writing center tutor Chloe Kimberlin, class of 2017, to discuss some of the ways student writers can utilize their campus writing center. Chloe is an English major and an education and sociology minor. While this is Chloe’s first year being a student tutor in the Skidmore writing center, she spent time tutoring a certain number of hours per week for EN 303 last fall. EN 303 is an upper lever English course at Skidmore that involves tutoring students in EN 103 classes, which is very helpful in my case for learning more about how I can make use of the writing center as an EN 103 student. Chloe had never been to the writing center to be tutored before she became a tutor herself. She says she regrets this because there are so many useful tools available at a campus writing center, and it is so much more than just editing papers. In fact, tutors are taught to steer clear of getting in the habit of simply editing a paper for a student and then returning it. Instead they are taught to initiate conversations with students about their work, and be someone who the student can bounce ideas off of. Another big part of the writing center is that tutors never do work for students, which is presumable on a college campus.

The Skidmore writing center sees a lot of ELL students getting help on their papers. ELL students in particular work on a lot of grammar, sentence structure, and idea development, since the English language is very complex and intricate in these areas. It is comforting to be able have a network of peers that can help with the writing process, and work as a support system through academic writing. The space that occupies the fourth floor of the library is unintimidating and allows students to really get down to the “nitty gritty” when working on their writing. The writing center is not limited only to papers for an English class. Students bring in a variety of academic writing such as lab reports, papers for a sociology class, or a creative writing class. Different kinds of writing require different kinds of attention to detail and structure. Some students bring in completed papers to receive feedback, while others bring in a single idea with the intent to brainstorm and sketch an outline. A student’s experience at the writing center is tailored to their own needs and desires.

Many first year writers struggle with citations; how to use them correctly, when and where to put them in a paper. The writing center helps students maneuver through formatting papers correctly and giving credit where credit is due. First years also seem to have trouble with moving from one point to the next in a swift fashion, rather than gradually building from a certain point. Strong academic papers use arguments as a support system for one another, and avoid dwelling on a writer’s own ideas or information. Grammar topics that we have discussed in my EN 103 class (comma issues, passive voice, sentence fragments, etc.) are prevalent when editing a college paper. The main goal of the writing center is to focus on the meat of a paper and the bigger picture, while the grammatical errors are not heavily emphasized — except for students who need them to be.

During my interview, Chloe told me how it’s always nice to see students return multiple times with the same paper, and see how the paper comes together. Each time a student comes in, they will receive insight from another tutor’s perspective, which can only benefit a writer. If a student struggles with a certain writing concept in particular, multiple tutors over various sessions will help “cement” the correction, while simultaneously implementing new writing wisdom into a student’s brain. A campus writing center is beneficial in so many ways to every kind of student, no matter where they are on their academic writing journey.

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