Educational Resource Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What To Expect

Where do I go for my appointment?

The ERC is located in the Center for Student Services at 100 Bay State Road. Please report to the fifth floor of the Center for Student Services prior to the start time of your appointment. Your confirmation email will include the room number you need to report to.

How long will the appointment last?

You will meet one-on-one with a Writing Fellow for up to 45 minutes (for a traditional appointment) or up to 30 minutes (for an ESL Writing Skills appointment). Drop-In appointments vary, but can last up to 20 minutes.

What should I bring? Can I use my laptop?

Laptops are permitted, but meetings are generally most effective when you bring a printed, double-spaced copy of the writing piece you’d like to work on, as well as a copy of the assignment sheet. It is also often helpful to bring your class syllabus, application form/essay prompts, outline/notes (especially if your draft is still rough), professor’s comments, and/or previous assignments (especially if you hope to identify recurring patterns of issues in your writing).

Who decides what we’ll work on during the appointment?

You do. Your appointment will be a judgment-free space for you to ask any and all questions. You will also be challenged to work through your writing process with the guidance of your Writing Fellow. We will talk with you about your writing and what you’re trying to accomplish, ask about the problems that you’re already aware of, read through your composition with you, and present our feedback on how you might resolve your concerns and improve your own work. We will respond to any issues you have identified and offer insights based on our experience. You tell us what you hope to accomplish during your appointment, and we’ll do our best to help.

How will the Writing Fellow help me? What if I haven’t written anything yet?

It’s okay if you haven’t written anything yet, or what you have is not as polished as you’d like. The Writing Fellow can help you with all stages of the writing process: time management and organization, brainstorming, confusion over the reading or prompts, outlining, thesis formulation, building an effective argument, drafting, presenting and integrating evidence/quotations, revising, style and voice, patterns of error at the sentence level, citations/avoiding plagiarism, and techniques for editing and self-proofreading.

What’s the difference between a regular appointment and an ESL Writing Skills appointment?

Traditional appointments tend to focus on the writing process, while ESL Writing Skills usually have an intensive focus on foundational issues of language and academic writing. Just as with a traditional appointment, the ESL Writing Fellow will not fix your grammar for you (please don’t expect to walk out with an error-free paper). Instead, we will focus on skill development. For example, we will try to help you identify and self-correct grammar errors such as agreement, tense, word forms, and articles and prepositions; we can also help with common ESL issues such as word choice/vocabulary expansion, punctuation, sentence structure/syntax, citations/avoiding plagiarism, and critical reading for comprehension, engagement, and analysis.

Please note that native speakers and non-native speakers alike are welcome to use all three kinds of appointments!

Are there things the Writing Fellow won’t help me with?

Please note that our Writing Fellows will NOT do the following:

  • Proofread your writing for mistakes
  • Edit your writing for you
  • Correct your English
  • Work with you on take-home exams without the permission of your instructor
  • Have a lesson plan prepared ahead of time

Any other tips or advice to have a productive appointment?

  • Arrive on time ready with your writing and related material.
  • You are the expert: Writing Fellows are generally not familiar with the content of your classes. We can help you articulate your own ideas effectively and structure your arguments, but in the end, you know more, both about your course material and about what you’re trying to say.
  • Help us help you! Come with a goal of what you want to accomplish in your session and let us know what that is. Remember you only have a limited amount of time in your appointment, so make the best use of your time by coming as prepared as possible.
  • Keep an open mind: Students sometimes misdiagnose their own writing. We may direct your attention to new aspects of your work.
  • Go easy on yourself: Remember, very few people are 100% happy with their writing. You may be a stronger writer than you think! Don’t think about coming to us as a spotlight on your weaknesses, but as a search for your strengths.

Cancellations and Missed Appointments

How do I cancel my Writing Assistance appointment?

If you have signed up for a Writing Assistance appointment and later realize you are not able to attend, you must cancel your appointment. You can then book a new appointment.

To cancel an appointment, send an email to wfellows@bu.edu at least 24 hours prior to the start of your scheduled appointment. Include the word “cancel” in the subject heading and tell us your name and the date and time of your appointment. If you cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice, we appreciate the notification, but you will still be marked as Missed. As long as you cancel at least 24 hours prior to the start of the scheduled Writing Assistance appointment, you will not be marked as Missed.

What does it mean to be marked Missed?

Missed means that you did not attend an appointment as scheduled (either you did not come to the appointment, or you were more than 15 minutes late). It is the policy of the ERC that once you have two Missed appointments, you will be unable to make or attend any future appointments until you have come to the office and spoken with one of the ERC’s professional staff about your attendance. If you feel you have received a Missed notification in error, please see the next question.

What do I do if I get a Missed appointment email, but I was at the Writing Assistance appointment?

If you feel you have received a Missed appointment notification in error, or if you have any questions regarding Missed appointment emails, please email wfellows@bu.edu.

If I had any Missed appointments last semester, will they be counted against me this semester?

Your Missed appointments only count against you for the current semester; all Missed appointment records are reset to zero once the new semester begins.

Scheduling an Appointment

How do I schedule a Writing Assistance appointment?

Instructions to schedule a Writing Assistance appointment.

How do I know if I scheduled my appointment correctly?

Shortly after you have scheduled your appointment, you will receive a confirmation email from the ERC that will contain the following information:

  • The date of your scheduled appointment.
  • The time of your scheduled appointment.
  • The location of your scheduled appointment.
  • Reminders about ERC policy.

You will also know you have scheduled your appointment correctly if you refresh your home screen in TutorTrac and see Upcoming Appointments.

upcoming appointments wa

How many appointments can I schedule?

You can have one appointment of each kind in a week (which means that you can schedule your next appointment on the seventh day after your first appointment). You may schedule nine appointments of each kind per semester.

I am a commuter student/BU student who is currently studying abroad. Can I still use the ERC’s Writing Assistance program?

The Writing Assistance program can work with these students through our Online Writing Support service.

I’m an alumna/alumnus. I want to use Writing Assistance, but I can’t log in. What do I do?

Alumni are encouraged to use ERC Writing Assistance. Alumni graduating in 2011 or later can simply use their BU IDs and Kerberos passwords to log on. If you graduated prior to 2011, please use the Writing Assistance Special Request Form to request a TutorTrac login. You will receive an email when your account is set up.

What if I can’t make an appointment because I’ve hit my appointment limit for the semester, or because none of the available times work with my schedule?

You might want to try Drop-In Writing Assistance hours, which are offered when fall or spring classes are in session on Wednesdays from 7-9pm in the 5th floor lobby of 100 Bay State Road. Alternatively, try waiting for a day or so and then re-checking TutorTrac for appointments; sometimes new availabilities open up.

If you have exhausted these options, you may use the Writing Assistance Special Request Form to request that an appointment be made available to you.

  • Please note that we do not guarantee your request will be met, but we will make every attempt to help you.

General Questions

Who are the Writing Fellows?

ERC Writing Fellows are graduate students with a strong background in effective writing who offer writing advice and troubleshooting strategies for your projects.

Why don’t Writing Fellows proofread or correct my mistakes?

To understand the reasons behind why our Writing Fellows do not proofread, you should understand the difference between proofreading and revision.

  • When proofreading, a writer reads through a paper line by line and corrects things like typos and grammatical errors. Generally, proofreading occurs when the paper is almost a finished product.
  • Revision, on the other hand, is the process of seeing a paper again, as if it were something new (re-vision). During this process, the writer looks at the paper as a work in progress and considers the structure and meaning. Does the paper have a unifying main idea? Do the examples and details in the paper support this idea? Are the examples and details developed enough, or do they leave the reader to figure things out? Is there a logical connection between the supporting ideas, or do some parts of the paper seem unrelated to the rest? Is the introduction interesting? Is the conclusion consistent with the content of the paper? Does it remind readers of the thesis and address the implications of the argument? (Source: Emory University’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Writing Center)

The goal of Writing Assistance is not to fix your paper; it is to help you become a better writer. Thus, Writing Fellows will offer advice about revision and strategies for self-proofing so that writers learn what sorts of problems to look for in future papers and discover strategies to correct or avoid them.

Can the Writing Fellows help with any course, school, or type of writing?

We are not content experts, but we can usually offer some sort of assistance with any type of academic writing, and we serve all BU students, staff, faculty, and alumni. We commonly assist with research papers, thesis-driven essays, personal statements, graduate theses, and application essays. If you are concerned about an unusual project, feel free to email us at wfellows@bu.edu with questions.

Can the Writing Fellows help me with my resume, cover letter, or application essay?

Writing Fellows are not specifically trained to review career-related documents such as resumes and cover letters. We strongly recommend that students visit the Center for Career Development for assistance with these documents. However, we can help you with your application essay.

What do I do if I can’t log into TutorTrac to make an appointment?

If you’re trying to log into TutorTrac and it is slow to respond, please be patient and take a look at your web-browser’s progress icon. If it is loading, it might take a few extra seconds. If you still can’t log in, please email wfellows@bu.edu or stop at the front desk and the ERC Student Desk Assistants will assist you.

I am looking for other writing assistance on campus—can you help me?

Please explore the following options to discover the resources that will best meet your academic needs. You may also wish to look at our Online Writing Resources page. If you have any questions, or you would like help determining which resource will be a good fit for you, please make an appointment with one of our professional staff members.

Do you have additional questions that were not listed on this page? Please contact the ERC at 617-353-7077 or erc@bu.edu or e-mail the Writing Fellows at wfellows@bu.edu.

Career Development Cycle