What to Expect

The Oberlin College Writing Center operates on a drop-in basis. When you come into the Writing Center, you’ll be greeted by peer staff Writing Associates (WAs), and an available WA will begin a session with you. If the Writing Center is experiencing a high volume of visitors, you may be asked to put your name on a waitlist, and you will be contacted when the next available WA is free to work with you.

When you begin a session, your WA may offer you the option of moving to a quieter space to conduct the session, but if they don’t, feel free to ask for this. Sessions typically begin with a WA asking you a bit about the assignment and what you are hoping to work on, and then you may be asked to read some or all of your work out loud (depending on length or what you have written).

This sometimes makes people feel awkward or uncomfortable, but we promise there’s a reason! It helps to hear your work read out loud because this often reveals places in the text where there is a lack of clarity or meaning. If you are not comfortable reading out loud for any reason, the Writing Associate may read your work out loud instead.

Sessions typically last 30-40 minutes, and more or less consist of a conversation between you and the WA about your writing. We believe talking about your ideas and concerns is a vital way of thinking and making progress towards your final piece. As a session wraps up, you should leave feeling like you have a clear idea of what you want to work on next. If you don’t, then you should directly address your WA and ask them to help you clarify this.

The most important thing to know is that your questions and priorities drive the session; WAs are interested in talking about what you want to work on, and we have no set agenda for what we will cover in each session. If at any point a strategy or activity that a WA is using with you is not working, let them know—it’s not rude or disrespectful to do so, and we really encourage it!

It’s important to know that WAs are trained to focus more on such things as  clarity of concepts and ideas, organization, overall coherence and logical flow, and strength of argument and analysis, rather than sentence-level grammatical issues, typos, or punctuation errors. If you’re seeking someone to proofread your paper only for these latter types of concerns, the Writing Center may not be the best resource for you. However, if you’re interested in learning how to develop the skill of proofreading your own work, we can certainly help you learn how to recognize and correct patterns of errors, so feel free to bring this up with the WA.

Writing Associates strive to find ways to support and respect students, and we ask that students give them the same courtesy. During a session ,we ask that you please refrain from using your cell phones or engaging in activities that are not focused on the piece of writing you brought in to the Writing Center.

What to Bring to a Session

It’s best to come to a session with the following:

  • A copy of the assignment and the syllabus. 
  • Hard copy of any writing you’ve done so far.
  • Questions or reflections on your writing, or the writing process in general.

My experiences working with Writing Associates have helped me in making the transition to Oberlin. The close-knit peer mentoring model has greatly benefited me as a writer. I have particularly enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with Writing Associates these first two semesters.

Whether it’s with crafting a thesis statement, improving my paper organization, or even figuring out when to use a semicolon, I have found the Writing Center to be a useful resource on campus. Although I first learned of the Writing Center from my first-year seminar professor, now I’m the one telling my peers about it!

—Eli ’20