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Katherine Gerberich / Senior Staff Photographer

It’s 11 p.m. the night before your 10-page research paper is due, and you’re sitting in the stacks, bleary-eyed, with a cup of Blue Java coffee, wondering how you’re going to turn the two pages’ worth of incoherent ramblings in front of you into a coherent essay by tomorrow morning.

Sound familiar? We’ve definitely all been there as well, but next time, consider visiting the Columbia Writing Center at 310 Philosophy Hall to get all your writing-related queries straightened out.

If you’ve never used the Writing Center or are simply wondering how to avoid the notoriously long waits for drop-in appointments, here are all the tips, tricks, and hacks to both making appointments and getting the most out of them.

Where is the Writing Center?

The Writing Center’s official home is 310 Philosophy Hall, but Sunday appointments are in Butler 303A. Check the schedule here for more details.

Who can use the Writing Center?

The Writing Center is open to all schools except Barnard, Teachers College, and School of Social Work students, since these schools have their own respective writing centers. The exception is if a student is taking a Columbia course not offered by their respective schools. Additionally, Columbia undergraduates taking Barnard courses can also use the Barnard Writing Center for their Barnard course(s).

How do I sign up for an appointment?

The best strategy for making an appointment is to book online through this link, because wait times for drop-in appointments can last for hours. If it’s your first visit, follow the directions on the screen and register for an account. When you get to the scheduler page, choose any slot that’s empty and a page will pop up. You’ll be asked to indicate the class that you’re writing for, the name of your professor, the stage your piece is at, and two or three aspects of your writing that you want to focus on so the consultant can have an idea of what you’re working on before your meeting.

What’s the best time to sign up for an assignment?

The portal releases new appointments for five days in advance between midnight and 2 a.m. any given night, so we suggest checking the portal then for the best chance of getting an appointment.

I missed the 12-2 a.m. window. Can I still get an appointment?

Yes! Two consultants a day are responsible for catering to drop-ins. To drop in, visit the Writing Center (the earlier the better—oftentimes the line starts forming before the center opens), and put down your name on the drop-in sheet. If there are several other people in front of you, we suggest making use of the time you spend waiting by doing other things on your to-do list. (Perhaps that Calc III problem set you’ve been putting off?) Generally, consultations take an hour, so multiply the number of people in front of you by 25 minutes each to get a sense of how long you’ll need to wait and be gone for. Be sure to be present when it’s nearing your turn, because if a consultant calls your name and you’re not there, your name is crossed off and you have to sign up all over again.

What stage does my paper need to be at?

You can visit the Writing Center no matter what point of the process your paper is at! If you’re brainstorming, your consultant can help you form a coherent outline from your mess of ideas. If you just want another pair of eyes to read your paper before turning it in, that’s perfectly fine as well.

How do I prepare for my appointment:

Congratulations! After staying up past midnight refreshing the sign up page, you’ve finally got your precious writing center appointment. Now all you have to do is make sure to make the most of your time.

Since you only have an hour with your consultant, finding a coherent way to describe your paper and noting a few specific places that you want to work on during your meeting beforehand is what we recommend to get the most of you time.

What is an appointment like?

If you signed up for a consultation because you want someone to tell you that you’re the next Ernest Hemingway, you’ll probably be disappointed because writing center consultations are generally constructive in nature. If you come in with a draft, it’s likely that you’ll be asked to read it aloud; and if you’re just exploring ideas, you should expect to have to talk about your thought process and the vision you have for your paper. Rather than providing you with the answers, the consultant will most likely talk to you about your piece through their experience as a reader and ask you guided questions so that you’re the one coming to the conclusions.

What’s a repeating appointment? Who qualifies?

If you’re an international student or a first-generation college student, registered with the Office of Disability Services, or are currently writing a thesis or dissertation, you may qualify for a six-week repeating appointment at the Writing Center. To learn more about whether or not you are eligible, talk to your CSA advisor.

How do I cancel an appointment? How often can I visit the writing center? Is my visit confidential?

Still have more questions? Visit the official Undergraduate Writing Program FAQ, found here, for more answers!

Staff writer Michelle Zhuang can be contacted at

Writing Center Consultants Appointment Drop-in
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