Advice from Students

Hello to all ‘W’ students,

First off I want to wish you all the best of luck in your ‘W’ course this semester. I earned my ‘W’ last spring in Dr. Seabaugh’s class. The first piece of advice I want to give about earning your ‘W’ is this: do not stress over it. We have some of the greatest professors here at Saint Mary’s College, and they will do everything possible to make sure you do the best you can do. That being said, if you have any questions or problems with any of your papers, do not hesitate to ask them for help.

Okay, you are all wondering, what do I have to do in order to receive a ‘W’? Well, throughout the semester you will be assigned papers to write. At the end of the semester you will choose pieces of writing to submit to a board of teachers. The teachers will evaluate your work and decide whether or not it is at a proficient level according to Saint Mary’s standards. Your teacher will tell you more about this throughout the semester.

Obviously a good paper has to have proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing. In order to earn a ‘W’, though, papers need to go the extra mile. Many of the comments I received on my papers said that my papers were well organized and clear. The big difference that made my papers stand out was that my ideas were original. Many of the papers you write will have to do with books you read or movies you watch. Usually a class discussion will take place and many ideas will be thrown around. Use those ideas for a base and then add your own interpretations and opinions. This will show that your writing expresses your own ideas and that you are capable of creating those ideas. It will also show that your writing is your writing, and that is what the evaluators want to see.

The last thing I want to say is that, if you do not receive your ‘W’ at the end of this semester, do not be disappointed. Not everyone receives their ‘W’ on their first attempt. It does not mean your writing is bad; it just means that there are a few things you can still work on. Keep your chin up and try again. Remember, your professors are here to help you, so ask them for help when you need it. I wish you all the best of luck this semester!

Meagan Temple

At times the W process can certainly be intimidating, but with a bit of hardwork and a little determination, you can soon use these ingredients to whip up an excellent W portfolio!

The best advice I can offer is to make use of the writing center. Those working in the center are accomplished writers, who attend multiple training sessions in order to help you. Make use of this incredible resource!

Also, never give up on your struggle. You must envision yourself succeeding as an intelligent and capable young writer, just as you would envision the plot of the world's next great novel.

Courtney P.


I received my W during my freshman year, in my Intro to Communication class. My advice would be to visit the Writing Center on a regular basis. I made the mistake of waiting until December, so I was rushing at the end of the semester to perfect my papers. Another piece of advice would be to meet with your professor regularly just to touch base. I met with my professor Susan Baxter, and she was awesome. She was able to help me one on one and was honest about my work– if she had a concern about my papers, we would work on it. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for's worth it! I hope this is helpful; good luck to everyone!!

Caitlin Morrison (Jr.)

Sara R. O’Connor

Painters have mastered the art of the brush, transforming a white canvas into a masterpiece of breathtaking scenery.

Writers, however, do not need elaborate brush strokes or paints to create beautiful scenes. They use the power of the pen, painting pictures in words instead of pigments.

As a freshman student two years ago, I was introduced to a professor who insisted that his students use what he called “colorful words.” He demanded that we replace weak statements with metaphors, imagery, context, and colors, to inspire the imagination. He asked that we take the reader by the hand, letting her feel and see what we would like her to experience.

Since then, I have applied this approach to essays and short writing assignments. Not only has it completely eliminated those pesky “weak adjectives,” but it also delivered me from the confines of my comfort zone and allowed for more inquisitive brainstorming. It also has led to better marks on my papers.

So my best advice to you is this: dare to be imaginative. Experiment with words as the painter would experiment with the colors on his palette. The pen is a powerful tool!

"All there is to writing is having ideas. To learn to write is to learn to have ideas.”

-Robert Frost

Dear Future/Current W Student,

Hang in there! Meeting the W requirement can be a painstaking process, but it is worth it! Know that it is okay to make mistakes, or not to do as well as you expected on a paper---as long as you are learning from those mistakes. Professors and evaluators will be looking at how well your writing DEVELOPED during your W course. So, do not lose hope if your first couple assignments/essays were not perfect.

Writing is a process of revising. Nobody ever writes a perfect essay in the first draft. It takes many redrafts before a paper is strong. There are many things you can do to improve your writing technique while you are going through this process.

I found it very beneficial to visit the Writing Center often. Sometimes all it takes is an outside perspective to point out errors that you were overlooking.

Also, developing a wide vocabulary is extremely beneficial. However, this cannot be done overnight. You should not try to use words that you are not familiar with. If you do not know the contextual meaning of a word, you probably will misuse it within your paper. The best way to develop your vocabulary is to READ, READ, and READ some more! Read anything! When you come across unusual words, look up their definitions, and try to incorporate them into your everyday speech.

It is also important to manage your time well, so that you can write your papers with a clear mind. Staying up all night the day before a paper is due is NOT the way to write an effective paper. You need to space out your writing sessions. Do not try to write a seven page paper all in one sitting. Several smaller increments of time are more effective than one crammed session. You need to write with a clear mind to get your ideas across effectively.

Lastly, do not be afraid to ask for help! Your professors are here to help!

Good luck with the process!

Jenna Hansen


One of the goals of a college education is to develop the skills to communicate effectively in writing. In a college setting you are constantly challenged not only to verbalize your thoughts but to transform them into written words. The W course prepares you for the challenging written assignments in all your courses. I think W courses are foundational to the development of our writing capacity.

I would like to share some important skills I acquired in my W course and some experiences that helped me to develop as a writer. We had a well staged process for doing a written assignment. First, we had reading and discussion to develop our ideas. Once you develop enough ideas, through the reading, watching a film or class discussions, you can form a good understanding of the multiple facets of your theme. However, the challenge for me was how to organize my ideas and build coherence in my paper. I have found that coherence, an important characteristic of an essay, can be developed through persistent efforts and feedback. Therefore, it was a relief to know that we could do an initial draft. We did not allow fears of writing to hinder the flow of our thoughts because we felt reassured that we could refine our first draft in response to the feedback from our professor.

There are different ways that the professor provided us with feedback.

  • By writing comments on our paper
  • Through individual or group meetings.
  • Peers’ feedback

I really liked the individual meetings with our professor. In this setting, students can share their specific challenges individually with the professor. I really appreciated the personal attention I could get for my particular needs. It made integrating feedback very easy.

I enjoyed the activities in which we shared our written work with our classmates and could read their papers. It is so interesting to find out how your classmates write. I learned to be more creative when I saw other students’ papers and learned about their experiences. Talking with other students really helps because one learns that as students we have shared challenges. I grew in confidence through these various activities.

Please do not hesitate to use the Writing Center. The first time I used the Writing Center, it helped me tremendously. I felt that my paper was trimmed as we weeded out the irrelevant parts as well as addressed the grammatical and punctuation mistakes. It really helps to have someone else who is not in your class look at your paper with fresh eyes.

I believe writing is a very important skill. With our writing we can convey our thoughts across time and space. We can contribute to a dialogue for a just world locally and internationally. It is at the college level that we have the opportunity and resources to develop the writing skills that will serve us all our life.

Razia Stanikzai 08