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If you are a non-native speaker of English, the Jacobson Center’s array of individualized services can help support you in your academic endeavors. You can use the Jacobson Center services as often as you want, and all services are free.

Writing Counseling

Welcome to the Writing Services Offered at the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching and Learning

The Jacobson Center is a place where you can bring any writing you are working on—not just papers—at any stage of the writing process and receive expert, professional advice from Writing Counselors on all aspects of the writing.

A writing conference typically lasts half an hour, during which time you and a Writing Counselor discuss the writing you bring for discussion; you may also meet with a counselor to discuss an assignment and plan an approach before you do any writing. If you have a draft (and most students do), you should get a copy of it to your Writing Counselor ahead of time, so s/he can read it before your conference. This way you and your Counselor can use the full half hour for discussion. (If you cannot drop your writing off ahead of time, you may bring it in with you to the conference.) Longer pieces of writing (of eight or more pages) should be dropped off the day before the conference.

A conference may focus on one or more aspects of your writing, depending on what needs most attention: argument development, organization, style, grammar, mechanics. A single conference cannot focus on all aspects of your writing at once, however. A more productive way to work is to focus on the two or three aspects that need most attention and proceed to other aspects later as the initial ones are mastered. Talk to your Writing Counselor about the need for follow-up visits. Working with the same Writing Counselor for a period of time may be most helpful to you.

A Writing Counselor’s job is to train you to become a better, more independent writer, not to edit your papers for you. You can expect a Writing Counselor to point out the strengths and weaknesses of your paper, and to give you revision and editing strategies for you to improve both your writing and yourself as a writer. You cannot, however, expect a Writing Counselor to go through your papers and correct all the errors for you, or for a Writing Counselor to offer you an individualized course in English as a Second Language. What a Writing Counselor is more likely to do is point out kinds of errors or patterns of errors in your writing, make revising/editing suggestions by working through a few examples with you, and then leave the rest of the revising/editing for you to do at home.

Bring your writing to the Jacobson Center while you are in the process of writing, so we can focus on improvement rather than correction.

As a non-native speaker, remember the following:

Learning to speak and write (especially academic essays) in a second language is a long-term, difficult undertaking.

Errors are a natural part of language learning.

It may be unrealistic for non-native speakers to expect to be able to write like native speakers, certainly not without a lot of effort. Research shows that even non-native speakers who have lived in English-speaking countries for many years and write regularly in English maintain a written accent (like a foreign accent in pronunciation).

Focus on substance; do not worry constantly about style and mechanics.

If you have any questions about writing services for non-native speakers, call Holly Davis, Smith College’s English as a Second Language specialist, at extension 3034.

Study Skills

The Jacobson Center offers workshops and individualized meetings in study skills and exam preparation. For more information about study skills, call Gail Thomas at extension 3037.


The Jacobson Center offers peer-tutoring to help you get through challenging course material. For more information about tutoring, call Gail Thomas at extension 3037.




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