Writing is hard. Even students who have been learning how to write for years can struggle to articulate even a simple idea. I am one of them. As an international student whose first language is not English, I was extremely anxious when I first arrived at Swarthmore: could I adjust to such a writing-intensive liberal arts college? Fortunately, I survived (at least my freshman year). Here are some things that Swarthmore students can do to hone their writing skills.
1. Take a first-year seminar. Every first-year seminar (FYS)is capped at 12 students and is designed to help incoming students adjust to the learning environment at Swarthmore (e.g. what professors typically expect from students, how to prepare for classes, etc.). Many of these are writing courses as well, which means the class also helps fulfill your writing requirement. For those interested in the process of writing, take FYS: Transition to College Writing. For those wishing to explore quirkier topics, take such classes as Meaning of Life or Love and Sex in Russian Literature. Pick whatever class you are interested in. My favorite is Intro to Education.
2. Meet the Writing Associates. A Writing Associate (WA) is a student assigned to help professors provide feedback on each student’s essay. For instance, in my FYS: Intro to Education class, one week before an essay is due, I would submit its rough draft for the WA to review. Since every WA is rigorously trained for a semester in terms of how to critique an essay, their advice can help you polish your paper. Aside from classes, if you write something and want an extra pair of eyes to critique your work, meet with a WA.
3. Ask your professors for detailed feedback. One perk of attending a small liberal arts college like Swarthmore is that professors have time for you. If you do not understand a reading (and thus cannot critique it) or cannot ground your arguments, Swarthmore professors can help you. Discrete Math challenged me in these aspects the most because the class requires students present crystal-clear, well-warranted mathematical arguments to proof a theorem. Even if I knew how to proof a theorem, I would still visit my math professor to see whether my arguments could be better presented. Thanks to these experiences, I realized that writers cannot foresee who their readers will be, they must write as clearly as possible. Here at Swarthmore, professors care enough to provide an in-depth critique of your essays.
4. Do writing-related extracurricular activities. At Swarthmore, you have ample opportunities to write outside of class. Avenues for enthusiastic writers include The Phoenix, Swatstories (what you are reading right now), Visibility Zine, and so on. As these publications differ in what they write, it is easy to find one that suits you. Or if pondering philosophical questions piques your interest, submit a 3000-word paper to earn the Brand Blanshard Prize from Swarthmore Philosophy Department.
The more you write, the more accustomed you are to the writing process. Swarthmore students have many opportunities to graduate as better writers.