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You’re Never Too Smart for the Writing Center

February 23, 2015

UWC Photoby: Jenn Holcomb

For all the graduate students out there, you may be wondering what the University Writing Center can do for you. Truthfully, I think that is a fair question. By the time you are in graduate school, it feels like your writing assignments are so specialized that the UWC staff would not be equipped to really give you meaningful feedback. I will admit that I originally made those same assumptions when I started working on my M.A. in English at ASU; however, last semester was so stressful that I went outside of my normal comfort zone and got help at the UWC.

I took in two of my graduate papers (one about 12 pages and the other around 20), and I met with two fabulous consultants. Neither of these two consultants were English students, and one was even an undergraduate, but I was floored with how helpful they both were to me. I had spent so long being completely immersed in my program and my field, that there were simple issues that I could no longer see. Having someone who is outside of your field look at your work can actually provide you with new insights that you may not get by asking your classmates to look over a paper for you. These consultants pointed out things, like entire paragraphs, that did not make sense in the context of my papers, ideas that I repeated and explained multiple times, and connections between ideas that I was no longer able to see. Honestly, more than anything else, those consultants gave me confidence. They were positive, encouraging, and made me feel that, with a little more work, my papers had the potential to truly be excellent!

So take it from me fellow graduate students, use this writing center! If you feel like it is too early in the semester to be taking in final drafts, let me give you a little list of some other things the UWC can do for you and things that I wish I had taken advantage of earlier:

  1. Brainstorming: UWC consultants are fully prepared to help you through the process of brainstorming. Again, having to explain your paper or project idea to someone who is outside of your immediate program can do wonders for you. When you can no longer assume that your audience knows certain information, you will have to process and explain everything in a new way. They can ask probing questions and help you narrow in on some ideas. Overall, a conversation with a consultant will help you feel prepared to really dive into an assignment.
  2. Organization: If you have some basic ideas figured out or even have a few pages of an early draft written, you can go in and get help with organizing your paper. Consultants can make you explain and think about things in a new way and help you organize your thoughts in an effective and meaningful manner.
  3. Projects other than papers: Okay, this is more for people not in an English program, but the UWC consultants are totally prepared and capable of helping with other projects. Bring in your cover letters for job interviews, video assignments, multi-media projects, or any other assignment that has an intended audience and about which you could use feedback. The UWC tends to be thought of as the place with writing experts, but we can help you with many other kinds of projects!
  4. You can request the same consultant: Okay, so this is not technically a service the UWC provides, but it is something definitely worth knowing. If you come in for a brainstorming session (or any other kind of session), you can request to have the same consultant again for future visits. That way you are creating a relationship with someone who will understand what you are doing in your project and you can jump in deeper to work faster!

All this is to say that the UWC is much more than a “grammar fix-it” shop for remedial writers. It is truly a valuable resource for all students on campus, including graduate. Don’t make the same mistake I did by waiting until you are overwhelmed and completely stressing out; come in early in the semester and get cracking on those end-of-the-semester assignments, ASAP. At the very least, drop in and have a conversation with one of the consultants! You may find that this wonderful (and free!) campus resource is something that can make your life a lot easier for the duration of your grad program. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all any of us grad students really want?

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