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student writing support
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Student Writing Support.Center for Writing's home page.

Student Writing Support

SWS is closed for summer break. We will reopen on Tuesday, September 7.

Welcome to Student Writing Support

consultationStudent Writing Support (SWS) offers collaborative one-to-one writing consultations to help student writers develop confidence and effective writing strategies. Our writing consultants will listen to your goals and concerns, read and respond to your written work, pose questions that help you clarify and articulate your ideas, and affirm the experiences and abilities you bring to your writing. We value your life experiences and languages, and we seek to provide a supportive space for you to share and develop your voice.

What is a writing consultation?

A writing consultation is a conversation between a writer and a consultant. During that conversation, the participants will set an agenda for the session, talk about the work in progress, and work together to meet the writer's goals.

SWS offers two kinds of consultations: face-to-face via Zoom and

In one-to-one sessions, writing consultants can help writers

  • Get started on assignments
  • Break through writer’s block
  • See their work from a reader’s perspective
  • Prepare questions to bring back to their instructor or advisor
  • Learn strategies for revising, editing, and proofreading
  • Access writing resources

In addition to writing consultations, we offer a variety of videos, printable handouts, and web pages in our Quick help section.

Sign up for a consultation

You can have an appointment for a Zoom consultation or an consultation. (Please know that our Appleby Hall walk-in location is closed during the spring 2021 semester; however, immediate openings for SWS-Zoom appointments are often available!) You can go to the mySWS webpage to make appointments (and more!). See Visit SWS for further information on each type of consultation.

Make and manage your appointments in the mySWS webpage

Log in to mySWS to:

  • make, reschedule, and cancel appointments for Zoom and appointments
  • join your SWS-Zoom consultation
  • join your chat
  • find a list of your upcoming and past SWS consultations
  • view schedules for walk-in visits (not available in fall 2020)
  • revise submissions
  • see consultant comments
  • download chat transcripts from consultations
  • update your student profile


How to get the most from SWS

Come in early
  • The earlier you come in before a writing project is due, the more work we can do together.
  • Even if you haven’t written anything, we can help you brainstorm and get started in a face-to-face consultation.
  • Make appointments in advance of the “last-minute rush” on SWS at peak paper due-date times (such as midterms and finals).
Come prepared
  • To help your consultant understand the context of your writing project, please bring your draft, assignment sheet, syllabus, notes, or any other materials you want to share with the consultant.
  • In a 40-minute session, consultants may only be able to read a few pages of your draft; to make the most effective use of your time, it can be helpful to decide before the consultation what parts of your paper or writing process you would most like to focus on.
Come in often
  • The more visits you make to SWS, the more you can develop as a writer.
  • Consider making regular appointments with the same writing consultant to receive writing instruction customized around your specific strengths and goals.

To learn more about what to expect and how to get the most from your visit to the Center, look at our general and graduate-student-focused informational handouts.

Please be aware of the Center's important policies related to appointments, privacy, and identification.


Two options for SWS consultations in spring semester 2021: SWS-Zoom and

Due to COVID-19, all SWS consultations are now offered remotely, with two options: SWS-Zoom consultations and consultations.

For either of these options, this UMN Wifi Coverage Map could be useful if you are on campus.

Make an SWS-Zoom consultation appointment

To make an SWS-Zoom appointment, follow the instructions on our Face-to-face Appointments in Zoom webpage.

Make an appointment

To make an appointment, follow the instructions on our webpage.

What are the differences between Zoom and consultations?

Zoom and consultations will both allow you to work on your writing with SWS consultants. However, there are several differences in how these two modes work. Depending on what your writing project is and what your goals are for the consultation, you may find that one mode fits your needs better than the other.


What is a Zoom consultation like?
A Zoom consultation is most similar to a regular, face-to-face consultation. You’ll be able to meet with a consultant over video and audio stream. If you like, you can share your screen with the consultant during the session so that they can see your document as you work. You can also chat with your consultant through the Zoom chat feature. Additionally, you can ask your consultant to use Zoom’s auto-transcription feature for closed captioning—if it is enabled, a live transcript of your conversation will appear at the bottom of the Zoom video.

For a Zoom consultation, you don’t need to have anything written, and you don’t need to upload anything ahead of time. (At the beginning of the appointment, you may share your Google Doc or PDF with your consultant at the email address the Zoom invitation was sent from.) However, this also means that your consultant will not be familiar with your writing or your goals for the consultation, so a portion of the consultation will likely be devoted to learning more about your writing and your goals.

What is a Zoom consultation best for?
A Zoom consultation may be a better choice if you’re just getting started on your project and don’t have anything written yet, if you’re interested in brainstorming more at any point in the writing process, or if you’d rather have the option to collaborate via audio and video instead of just text. Because you can screen-share in a Zoom consultation, this mode may also be a better choice if you want to talk about formatting or other visual elements of your written text. See below for a more thorough explanation of consultations.

What is an consultation like?
For an consultation, you reserve a 40-minute appointment time and are provided with a blank Google Doc that you can access through mySWS. A couple of hours ahead of that appointment time, you must enter your writing in the Google Doc so that the consultant will have time to read it before your appointment. At your appointment time, you meet with the consultant in Google Docs and discuss your writing through the document and the Google Docs chat feature. consultations are text only; while your consultant will give you feedback, answer questions, and collaborate with you through the Google Docs chat, there is no audio or video component. When you meet with your consultant for an consultation, the consultant has already read your writing and any background information that you provided. You’re able to jump right into discussing your writing and learning more about your consultant’s feedback.

What is an consultation best for? may be a better option if you already have some writing done or are in the later stages of the writing process, or if you prefer to work through writing/typing rather than audio/video. consultations sometimes have the added benefit of helping you write more during your consultation: since the chat with the consultant involves explaining your ideas through writing, it can generate more useful material for you to incorporate in your writing project. For example, you might find that you write the perfect topic sentence in your chat with the consultant, and since you can download the chat transcript after your appointment, you can then save that writing and copy/paste it into your paper.

Zoom is often a better option for brainstorming or getting help with understanding the expectations of an assignment or a writing prompt, or for anyone who prefers to collaborate via audio or video.