Undergraduate Writing Program FAQ
Who can visit the Writing Center?Any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in a Columbia University course, as well as Columbia faculty and staff. Barnard College, Teachers College, and School of Social Work students working on projects for courses in their colleges must use the writing centers in their respective colleges.
What does the Writing Center offer?Writing consultations: 45-minute, one-on-one sessions with a writing consultant to discuss your writing project. We also lead writing groups and present workshops on various writing topics.
What kind of writers use the Writing Center?Research suggests that the more experienced a writer is, the more he/she seeks feedback. Why? Experienced writers are highly attuned to their audiences’ needs. They use writing consultants as sounding boards to discover how readers will respond to their writing.
Why should I visit?To improve as a reader, writer, and thinker. We attend to both the short-term goal of improved papers and the long-term goal of improved writing, critical thinking, and reading. Consider your session an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion about your work with a helpful, expert reader.
What happens in a consultation?The session usually begins with the consultant asking you “What are you working on?” “Where are you in the project?” and “What would you like to focus on today?” Together, you’ll talk about the goals of the project and whatever writing you bring in. Then you’ll discuss your areas of concern and develop strategies that will work best for you.
What doesn’t happen?Quick fixes. Instead, we focus on long-term improvement. Thus, we leave proofreading up to you (though we’re happy to teach you the skills to proofread your own work). And because grades are between you and your professor, we don’t discuss them.
What kind of writing can I bring in?Any kind. You’re welcome to bring in any academic or non-academic writing project.
What can you help me with?You name it. We can help you develop and structure ideas, find and employ research, connect thoughts, keep your reader’s attention, understand a genre’s conventions, cite sources, polish prose, and strengthen your understanding of grammar and mechanics.
Should I wait to come in until I have a polished draft?No. Come in at any stage of the writing process—even before you’ve started writing. We’re happy to look at notes, outlines, or very early drafts. Often our feedback can be most helpful in a project’s early stages.
How often can I visit?Because our services are in high demand, we limit visits to one per day and to one scheduled appointment and one drop-in per week in that order, or to two drop-in appointments per week. Non-native English speakers may also call or stop by 310 Philosophy to talk with the director or assistant directors about setting up standing, weekly appointments with a consultant.
How much can I cover in a session?Expect to focus on 2 or 3 areas of concern during one visit. Our goal is not to show you how to perfect your project but how to help it progress to the next step. We find that writers are most effective when they tackle just a few issues in one set of revisions.
What if I’m working on a long project, like a thesis or dissertation?Unfortunately, consultants can no longer read work outside of scheduled sessions. However, if you have a big project you’d like to work on over the course of the semester, you can call or stop by the Writing Center and ask the director or assistant director to set up a regular appointment for you with one of our consultants.
Who are the consultants?Graduate students who care about writers and writing and are experienced instructors. You can view their bios here.
Can I request a particular consultant?Yes. If you find a consultant with whom you work well, make an appointment with her again. Developing long-term relationships tends to be fruitful for both the student and the consultant. You may also find a consultant whose expertise matches your area of study by looking at the consultant specialties list here.
Can I bring take-home exams to the Writing Center?You may only bring take-home exams to the Writing Center if you have received written permission from your instructor.
Where is the Writing Center located?The main Writing Center is located at 310 Philosophy Hall (the first floor when you come in the main entrance) in the far back right. We also hold sessions on the third floor of Butler Library at the Reference Desk.
When is the Writing Center open?Every semester, the Writing Center is open from the first week of class through final exams: Monday-Thursday 10 am-8 pm and Friday 10 am -5 pm. The Butler desk is also open Sunday 12-8pm.
How do I make an appointment?Go to our website and use our online scheduler or come to our office for a drop-in appointment.
What should I do if no appointments are available?Add your name to the day’s waitlist (click on the clock icon at the top left of each day’s schedule grid). You will receive an email informing you if an appointment opens up.
What should I do if I need to cancel an appointment?In the scheduler, click on the appointment you want to cancel. In the window that opens, scroll to the bottom and check the box labeled “Cancel this appointment;” then click the “Save changes” button below.
Please try to cancel as soon as you know you can’t make it to your appointment so that someone else can take the session in your place. You may cancel up to two hours before your scheduled appointment following the above procedure. If you must cancel after that you will need to call us at 212-854-3141, or at 212-854-3141 after 5pm, in order to do so. We reserve the right to mark a very late cancelation as a "no-show."
What happens if I do not show up or I am late for my appointment? If you are more than ten minutes late, you risk losing your session. Please call us at 212-854-3886 (or at 212-854-3141 after 5pm) if you are going to be more than ten minutes late. If you miss two appointments without canceling at least two hours in advance, you will not be allowed to make further appointments at the Writing Center.
Is my visit confidential?Your consultation is confidential unless you ask us to notify your instructor. Otherwise, what happens in the Writing Center stays in the Writing Center.