Student FAQ's

What's a SWA? Do I need an appointment? We have the answers.

Frequently asked questions

Yes! Help yourself.

Student Writing Assistant: They are New College students, like you, but they’ve had instruction and training in working with writers.

They combine their own experiences as a student writer together with writing expertise and strategies in order to help guide you through your writing process. Their job is not to judge or evaluate, but rather to offer feedback, resources, and support.

A conference with a SWA is a conversation about your writing. That conversation can last up to 50 minutes, but doesn’t have to.

You’ll sit down with the SWA, tell them where you are in your writing process and what concerns you have, and they’ll offer guidance and resources to help you develop as a writer. You may be asked to read your work aloud or use a whiteboard or play with legos, but really the structure of the conversation is completely up to you!

If you’re only looking for a proofread, chances are the SWA will still invite you to have a conversation. They won’t take your paper read it and hand it back with editor’s marks. They’ll read through the paper with you, help you identify patterns of error, and make sure that everything else looks good, too!

If you don’t feel like having an appointment, you can also just grab some coffee, take a seat, and work on your writing alone. We’ll try our best not to bother you.

We recommend that you bring your assignment prompt. You can also bring your laptop, a paper draft, notes, the course textbook, or anything you need to complete your paper. We have a computer in the WRC, so if you don’t bring a laptop, you can still look up any resources you need.

We also have highlighters, sticky-notes, markers, rulers, tape, staples and other supplies to help jump-start your creativity!

If you’d like some coffee, feel free to bring your own mug. We have mugs in the WRC, but it can be a good idea to bring your own in case all of ours are in use.

Nope. But we do highly recommend it. The online schedule lets you choose a day and time that work best for you. Feel free to look at the SWA bios if you want to learn a little bit more about who you can work with.

That being said, if you find yourself our way, feel free to pop in and see if there’s a SWA available; we take drop-ins, too.

Currently, we have 13 well-trained SWAs. Because there are more than 13 AOCs, we unfortunately cannot have a SWA for each field. We try to have a few SWAs from each division, and everyone receives training in how to identify different writing styles, strategies for different writing in different areas, and knowing how to guide you through all the stages of writing any paper.

That being said, there are many benefits to working with a SWA who is outside of your discipline, and we have many student visitors, including thesisers, who specifically seek out SWAs who have no experience in their field. This way, the writer receives feedback that isn’t bogged down in personal opinion, and the SWA isn’t tempted to “teach” rather than “assist.”

In the end, it’s really better to work with a SWA with whom you feel comfortable and who has a SWAing style that meshes well with your own learning style. We recommend you make appointments with a few different SWAs until you find someone you love!

Since SWAs are students, any New College student can potentially apply to be a SWA! That being said, there are some requirements: you must have taken the course Writing Studies: Pedagogy in Practice (currently offered every spring semester), must be in good academic standing, and must apply and interview with the Assistant Director of Writing. Hiring takes place at the end of the spring semester for the following academic year. And, SWA positions are like Supreme Court justices in that they serve until they decide to serve no more (or, more likely, they graduate). This means that the potential open slots vary each year based on how many SWAs graduated the year before.