On behalf of all of us at the Marian E. Wright Writing Center, welcome to the University of Michigan – Flint! For returning students, welcome back! In addition, welcome to the Writing Center’s fancy new(ish) blog. Set up by Writing Center tutors Scott Atkinson and Roger Austin, we will be using this blog throughout the semester to post short articles written by the Writing Center staff. Each week, a new tutor will address a topic that we hope students will find useful.
This week, we know all of you are settling in and adjusting to the demands of a new academic year. This early in the semester, you may not even be thinking about your writing assignments yet. However, there are a number of steps you can take right now that may help you write better papers later, and avoid becoming overwhelmed around mid-terms and finals when most large writing assignments are due.
For starters, getting (and staying) organized is very important. If the dog eats your syllabus, you don’t want the unpleasant surprise of finding out you have a 10-page paper due in a week. I highly recommend heading over to the bookstore and picking up a planner for the 2011-2012 academic year. In it, you can record your class schedule, contact information for your instructors, and assignment due dates. Keeping track of all your class information in this way will allow you to quickly glance over upcoming obligations, plan out your study time, and look for overlaps where multiple assignments are due in the same week. Alternately, if you have a smart phone, you can use the calendar feature to keep track of important dates, and even set an alert to remind you ahead of time.
My second suggestion may seem like a no-brainer, but give yourself plenty of time to complete assignments. We all have lives outside of school and other obligations that place demands on our time. The sooner you get started on an assignment, the more flexibility you will have if work, family, or social obligations pop up unexpectedly. An added bonus to getting started on assignments early is that if you finish ahead of schedule, your professor may be willing to look over your work and point out problems, allowing you to make changes before submitting the assignment for a grade.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Don’t wait to get help. If you feel that the class material is too difficult, it’s better to meet with a tutor now than it is to wait until after you receive a bad grade. If you’re struggling with the material, it may be easier to prevent a bad grade than to bounce back after the grade is on the books. The Student Development Center, located in UCEN 264, has tutors available to help you with courses in all academic areas. And of course, the Writing Center staff is happy to assist you with any and all writing projects as well as speaking assignments—such as those dreaded PowerPoint presentations.
The Writing Center can help you at any phase of your writing or speaking assignments, from picking a topic and planning your paper to polishing and revision. Bring a copy of your assignment sheet, and be sure to print out any work you’ve done before your scheduled appointment time. Don’t wait until the day before your assignment is due! You’ll get the most out of your Writing Center experience if you give yourself time to revise and to meet with a tutor more than once.
We hope these simple suggestions will help you prepare for academic success. Have a great semester!