Skip to Center for Reading and Writing site navigationSkip to main content

What to Expect from a Session


Center for Reading and Writing

Peter P. Mercer Learning Commons | Room 420 (4th floor)

p: 201-684-7557 | Summer: 201-684-7561

To begin with, as our name suggests, we aim to provide students with help specifically geared to assignments related to reading and writing.  Reading and writing, in our view, are not really separate things, although it’s possible to talk about them separately.  But it’s likely that, in a “writing session” you’ll be asked to read something, and that in a “reading session” you’ll be asked to write something.

We expect that if you come, you’ll have some work that you want to accomplish: that may be a paper that you need to write, or a presentation that you need to give, or a book or article that you need to read.  We can help you accomplish your goals, no matter where you may be in the process of getting on with them, but it will help us to help you if you have (and can articulate) a clear sense of what you want/need, where you are on the way to your goal, and what will define for you the criteria for success.  It helps, too, if you can bring along any/all materials related to the work that you’re doing: at the very least, a copy of the assignment, and any related materials (e.g., textbooks).  A copy of the syllabus or relevant course guidelines can be helpful, too.  We have computers in the Center that you can use to find these things online, if you have access to them that way.

Important things to know about what happens in a session:

  • We help, but you do the work: our consultants will never tell you what to think or what to write.
  • We help primarily by listening and asking questions, to help you unlock the knowledge and understanding that belong exclusively to you.
  • We also help by offering strategies for more effective reading and writing that you can adapt and use for other assignments.
  • During a session you will be given some work to do–we call that “the task”–that will ensure that you have something concrete to take away with you.
  • Sessions are 40 minutes long, and it’s best to take the full amount of time to allow the process to work: reading and writing are complex cognitive skills, and you can’t rush the brain–those mysterious neural pathways take time to establish themselves.
  • Also, because there is a time limit to sessions, we probably won’t be able to go over every bit of an assignment with you (unless it’s really short); and that’s a good thing.  We’re here to get you started, with a clear idea of where to go when you leave.  The work you do on your own, after the session, is where you prove to yourself that you’ve really learned what you came to learn.  And if you find you still need help, you can always come back.
  • At the end of the session, there will be no doubt that the work you have done is entirely yours, and reflects your unique intelligence and ability.

Student getting Ramapo Staff assistance

What you’ll need to put into a session:

As is true of so much of higher education, what you get out of a learning experience in the Center is largely determined by what you put into it.  If the consultant has to spend most of the 40 minutes trying to encourage you to work enthusiastically, or trying to help you find the materials you need, or coaching you to review assignments or materials that you could have familiarized yourself with before coming, then there won’t be so much time left over in which to do the real work of critical thinking.  Make no mistake: we will help you with these things, if that’s what’s necessary, and we don’t mind.  But the readier you are to get to work, the farther we can help you get in the time allotted.

Also, as is the classroom, the Center is a social learning environment.  This means that you need to cooperate not only with your consultant, but also with others in the room.  The same expectations that apply to the classroom apply to working in the Center: that is, you agree not to disrupt the environment by speaking or laughing loudly, that you respect others’ privacy and personal space, that you wait your turn if necessary, and that you do as directed by Center staff.

The following policies apply to all students who come for help in the Center:

  • Students may not receive assistance with a paper due on the day of the session, with the following exception: you may pursue follow-up work that you and a consultant planned during a previous tutorial.  If you are coming for a follow-up session, notify the desk attendant when you check in, and indicate which consultant you’re following up with.
  • Consultants do not proofread or edit papers. However, consultants may assist you in reviewing selected sections of the work, identifying patterns of error, and finding resources that you can use to correct the errors, and perhaps avoid or correct them in the future.
  • Students are not allowed to eat during sessions.  It’s only 40 minutes; please eat before or after.
  • Silence and put away your phone during the session.  If you are waiting for an important call, then wait before meeting with a consultant.  There’s no point in wasting your and the consultant’s time on a session if your attention will not be fully engaged for the full duration.  If you just can’t spend 40 minutes without looking at your phone, then you have bigger problems than can be solved in the Center.
  • The session notes that your consultant records are private.  We will share them with your instructor if you ask us to (this is generally required for CEC credit), but not otherwise, and under no circumstances will they be shared with your parents or other non-College-affiliated parties.
  • Any consultant who is made to feel uncomfortable by the verbal or physical behavior of a student is required to end the session immediately.  As is the case in any professional situation, you’re expected to be polite, and keep your hands to yourself.
  • Time allotted for the session is 40 minutes.  If, for any reason other than a pre-arranged follow-up visit, you decide to leave early, the consultant is required to record this in the session notes.
  • We cannot guarantee a higher grade on the assignment.  As noted above, we help you to do the best work you can; whatever grade that results in, you can be sure that it is something for you to be proud of (or not) all by yourself.