Frequently Asked Questions

How to use the writing center

What services does the Writing Center offer?

We offer writing consultations.

These are 45-minute, one-on-one sessions with a writing consultant to discuss your writing project. You may use our online scheduling system to make an in-person appointment or a Zoom appointment. We also offer a limited number of in-person drop-in consultations for writers who don't have appointments. All in-person appointments and drop-in consultations take place in 310 Philosophy Hall.

We offer writing workshops.

These are hands-on Zoom workshops taught on various writing topics. Reserve your spot in a workshop using our online scheduling system. Select "Workshops" in the pull-down menu at the top of the calendar.

Can I use the Writing Center? How much does it cost?

Any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in a Columbia University course use the Writing Center. 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. Unfortunately we cannot work with alumni, faculty, or staff.

Our services are free to current Columbia undergraduate and graduate students.

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 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 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 one per week. We also offer 6-week repeating appointments to non-native English speakers, first-generation college students, thesis and dissertation writers, Mellon Mays fellows, Justice in Education students, and students referred by the Office of Disability Services. A limited number of repeating appointments are available for eligible students. The request form goes up on our website on the first day of classes each semester, and repeating appointments usually fill up by the first or second week of classes.

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, those writing a thesis or dissertation can request a 6-week repeating appointment with the same consultant.

Who are the consultants?

Graduate students, undergraduate students, and professional staff who care about writers and writing. You can view their bios here.

Can I request a particular consultant?

Yes. If you find a consultant with whom you work well, you may make an appointment with them again. Developing long-term relationships tends to be fruitful for both the writer 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 offer appointments on Zoom.

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.

How do I make an appointment?

Use our online scheduling tool to schedule an appointment. Appointments for 4 days in advance open around midnight or 1 am each evening.

What should I do if no appointments are available?

Add your name to the day’s waitlist (click on the link on the lower right corner 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 click the button "Cancel Appointment" on the lower right side of the page.

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 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 or we have a concern about health or safety.

What is a repeating appointment?

We can pre-book regularly scheduled appointments in 6-week blocks to run from the first or second half of term, with the same consultant, on the same day/time. Because demand is so high, we cannot extend the appointments for the entire semester.

Who is eligible for a repeating appointment?

We offer repeating appointments to international students, thesis and dissertation writers, first-generation college students, Mellon Mays fellows, Justice in Education students, military veterans, Pell Grant recipients, and those referred by the Office of Disability Services.

How do I schedule a repeating appointment?

We schedule repeating appointments from the first day of classes each semester until they run out, usually during the second week of the semester. If eligible, you can request one by filling out the form on the Writing Center's homepage. Please note: If a writer misses two appointments in a semester, the remainder of the repeating appointments will be canceled to make room for other writers.