It is safe to say that Rutgers is a big university. The University currently operates the second-largest bus system in the state of New Jersey, as well as the largest campus bus system in the nation. With the University's size, it is easy to feel very small in it.
Not to mention, it can be hard to stand out from the rest. Especially in intro-level classes that can often have more than 100 students, you would be lucky to have the professor even remember your name. I have found this hurts students the most when they come in asking for help.
This hurts first-years, especially as many are nervous about coming to the University. Many are still facing the power imbalance between professor and student, causing them to see the professor as an intimidating figure and making it hard for students to ask them for help. This is especially seen in introductory-level writing classes.
First-years come into Rutgers only having high school writing experience. This is a problem because most high school writing courses do not require the same level of critical thinking or analysis skills as college classes. Thus, students who did well in high school writing classes soon get their first bad grades, leading to confusion and resentment toward the professor.
This is where the writing center can come in.
The Rutgers Writing Center is a free tutoring service that is designed for students to help others with their writing classes. One of the biggest benefits of the writing center is that it is free.
Unfortunately, educational support and income are often tied together, especially given that wealthier students can afford to have fancy, private tutors, whereas lower-income students do not get access to those same resources. This can lead to educational disparities between wealthier and poorer students.
Having a writing center service that is high quality and free for students will allow lower-income students to improve their grades and reduce the educational gap between the two groups. There is an even larger impact in that if lower-income students are going to be able to succeed and obtain higher levels of education (not to mention develop reading comprehension and writing skills — useful in many fields), it can help reduce the wealth gap that is prevalent in the U.S.
The writing centers are also a great way to improve writing skills. As mentioned before, many first-year students come to Rutgers with only high school writing experience. Thus, many are blindsided by the level of critical thinking and analysis that is required. These skills are often quite difficult to develop without proper guidance and support.
The writing center can provide ample support. Many tutors have taken the same classes that trouble students and have done well. So, they know the ropes and can effectively support students in developing skills like reading comprehension, critical thinking and idea generation.
One of the major assumptions about writing center tutoring is that it is only for dumb students. This is simply not true. The writing center is made to support students in developing writing skills, regardless of current grades.
There is no limit to one's writing skills, so having a tutoring session can only help to improve existing strengths while correcting weaknesses. Not to mention, it is nice to have a second pair of eyes look over a paper to make sure that everything makes sense and sounds clear.
Writing is a crucial skill beyond the four walls of a classroom. In multiple employer surveys, communication skills are often ranked toward the top of the list of most sought-after skills. By developing these skills now, it can allow students to succeed in their future career paths.
If the goal of college is to help students earn more money and obtain good-quality jobs, it would not hurt to develop those skills at the Rutgers Writing Center.
But hey, whadda I know?
Kiran Subramanian is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in economics and political science. His column, "Whadda I Know," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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