Student FAQ's

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

Frequently asked questions

We are highly committed to supporting our students, especially during this difficult time. We are following all mandates and guidelines of the school, which means we are requiring all visitors to wear masks at all times and social distance 6ft. We are also limiting the number of visitors in the space to 3, so unfortunately that means no hanging out in the WRC until it becomes safer to gather (we know, we’re bummed about it, too).

Students can still have one-on-one digital appointments or meet “mask-to-mask” in the WRC space by visiting our scheduling page  and creating a remote or in-person SWA appointment. Remote appointments are primarily conducted using Google Meet, but the SWA may adapt the appointment format to best work with the resources the student has available to them.

Students can also still attend Virtual Writing Groups! The days and times of these group meetings can also be accessed on our online scheduling page. Group meetings also take place via Hangout Meet, and students can choose if they want to join with audio and/or video. These groups are providing some structure and accountability, as well as solidarity, to students trying to stay on track with their coursework.

We are also updating our Facebook and Instagram pages more frequently with new resources, strategies, and fun topics. Please follow us (@NCFWRC) and join in!

Well… usually. Dr. Coffee is currently on sabbatical, catching up on some much needed travel and research until it’s safe for visitors to take of their masks in the WRC.

However, Dr. Coffee has a growing interest in social media and may check in from time to time.

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.

Interested in becoming a SWA in the future? Great! Reach out to AD of Writing, Allie Maass ( to chat about how you can help your fellow students with writing.

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!


For in-person appointments, we highly recommend that you bring your own laptop or tablet, if possible, so that you and the SWA can digitally look at the paper on different devices, since you won’t be able to sit right next to each other. You can also bring your assignment prompt, a paper draft, notes, the course textbook, or anything you need to complete your paper.

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

We currently highly recommend making an appointment before visiting to make sure there’s low risk of the space reaching capacity (stayin’ safe!).

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 15 well-trained SWAs. Because there are more than 15 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 Rhetoric and Writing: 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.