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Becoming a Writing Associate Fellow

WA Selection Process

Writing Associates are selected once a year in the spring of their freshman or sophomore year. If you are a first- or second-year who is thinking about applying, here are the steps:

  1. Attend an information session. All potential applicants must attend one of these sessions. They are hosted by the Lead Fellows for the WA Program and will include time for Q&A. At the end of the info session, potential applicants receive the application packet.

  2. Complete the application packet. this includes writing a cover letter explaining your interest in becoming a WA, submitting a sample of your writing, sharing the name of two faculty references (we will contact them, they do not have to write on your behalf) and commenting on a sample student paper we will provide to reflect the areas you would likely discuss with the writer if you were the WA. Completed packets are to be returned to the Writing Center (Trotter 120), at which point you can select an interview date and time from our interview calendar.

  3. Attend an interview, with a short mock-WA session. In addition to telling us a bit more about yourself and your reasons for applying, during the interview you will be asked to use the sample student paper with your comments as the roadmap for part of a mock-WA conference, where you will serve as the WA.

  4. Decisions and next steps. Students are informed of final decisions before pre-enrollment for the Fall semester. Selected students must then enroll that Fall for English/Education 1C: Writing Pedagogy, a required gateway course for all new WAs.

A note on Nominations:

In the past we required nominations as the first step in the application process. We no longer require them. We would like any Swarthmore student to consider applying. We still invite nominations, because we have learned that for some applicants, a nomination is what encourages them to come to the information session and apply; however, applicants with nominations will not be weighted more heavily than those without. All applicants will be asked to provide the names of two faculty members to serve as references when completing the application packet. 

For more information, please see the Writing Associate Position Description [pdf].

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a WA?

A WA is a "Writing Associate" - a peer tutor who works with fellow Swarthmore students on developing their writing process and revising their written work. WAs can be majors in any discipline. Key attributes of WAs include:

  • Intellectual curiosity about writing both as a process and product
  • The ability to make the student writers with whom they work feel welcome, listened to, and respected
  • The ability to engage with the writer's ideas and agenda for their writing through conversation and note taking/making
  • The ability to communicate proactively, to be responsive, and prioritize commitments to the WA Program
What does a WA do?

WAs work with students to help them at all stages of the writing process. We encourage you to explore our webpages, for a wealth of information, but briefly: There are two main components to a WA's responsibilities: working in the Writing Center and working as a Course WA. In both capacities, the WA can read a student's paper and then conference with the student for approximately 30 minutes to explain their comments on and impressions of the paper, or they may meet to brainstorm/outline in a "pre-writing" conference. Course WAs work with one specific academic course over an entire semester and conference with ten to twelve students in the course at least twice. In some classes, Course WAs may help facilitate peer review groups, in addition to holding one-on-one meetings. In the Writing Center, WAs meet individually with students who are writing papers for any course or subject.

How do WAs learn to be WAs?

All WAs take English/Education 1C: Writing Pedagogy during their first semester as a WA. This course provides the theoretical framework for the work WAs perform in the Program. Think of it as a course with a lab or practicum: students learn about writing pedagogy and theory in the course and then apply it to their work as WAs both in courses and in the Writing Center. During Engl/Educ 1C students are required to conduct observations of current writing conferences and look at their work and that of the Program from an inquiry-based perspective. The course focuses on the social processes of writing and WAing by asking students to identify and deconstruct the WA conference as a socially-constructed space. While in the course, we ask new WAs to carry a half load of course WAing (typically 5 students) and complete a few shifts in the Writing Center.

Engl/Educ 1C is given on a CR/NC basis (counting toward the CR/NC cap) and is worth one credit in the Humanities if taken as English 1C or one credit in the Social Sciences if taken as Education 1C and the student has also taken Education 14.

What do you gain from being a WA?

All sorts of things! Perhaps most importantly, most WAs believe that learning about writing has made them better writers themselves. As a student in English/Education 1C you will learn about writing pedagogy, tutoring styles, and writing across many academic disciplines. As a WA in the Writing Center you will have the ability to read papers on many disparate topics written for all of those courses you just couldn't manage to fit into your schedule. As a Course WA you will be able to work intensively with a particular professor and course. Many WAs also decide to work as WA Mentors (WAMs), meeting with the same student over an extended period of time and helping them develop as writers or as a Speaking Associate (SPAs) working with students on their oral assignments. The WA program also offers workshops, invites speakers, provides community service opportunities, and has sponsored specialized training for WAs in topics such as grant-writing and brochure-design. In all of your capacities—as a WA-in-training, a Course WA, and a Writing Center WA—you will be able to meet and interact with a wide group of Swarthmore College students. In addition to these benefits, after you complete the gateway course, you benefit from the stipend linked to Course-WAing and hourly pay in the Writing Center.​​​​

What challenges do you face as a WA?

While being a WA has a lot to offer, it isn't always easy. WAing can be time-intensive, and being a WA is a commitment, with responsibilities that can't be neglected when scheduling gets tight. WAs often are asked to function as a liaison between professors and students—a situation that gives WAs the opportunity to gain a unique perspective as they work with both professors and students on a given assignment. Further, as a WA-in-training, you will be asked to seriously study writing and learning processes and offer introspective analyses on these topics. Ultimately, WAs find that meeting these challenges is part of what makes being a WA such a rewarding experience.

WA Application-Specific FAQ

What qualities do you look for in a WA? The WA Program looks for intellectually curious writers with an interest in tutoring and peer mentoring. Strong communication skills (in writing and in person), interpersonal skills, and an appreciation for the writing and revising process are a must. We also are looking for students who want to reflect on and learn from their practice as a WA.

Can anyone apply to be a WA, even if they struggled with writing in the past? Yes. An important attribute of a good WA is insight into the effort of developing as a writer. Students who struggled with the transition to college writing, for instance, often have learned quite a bit about writing as an on-going learning process; we don't expect WAs to be perfect writers. Further, it takes more than strong writing to be an effective WA - effective communication and interpersonal skills are essential.

Can I still apply if I'm going abroad spring semester next year? Yes. There is no problem with your going abroad after you have completed Engl/Educ 1C.

Can I still apply if I'm going to be abroad in the fall? Unfortunately, no. At present, the gateway course is only available in the Fall semester. If you are a first-year student and would like to apply the following year, we invite you to do so. We can keep your nomination on file and reactivate it at that time.

Can I still apply if I have never met with a WA before? You can, but we would strongly encourage you to have at least one meeting with a WA before you decide to apply, so that you have personal experience with the process to call on in your application and interview.

I received a nomination from a faculty member. Can the person who nominated me also serve as a reference? Yes. Whether or not you received a nomination, please touch base with the faculty members who you feel can best describe your peer-to-peer work, and ask if they are willing to serve as references. The Director of the WA Program will reach out to the faculty as part of our decision making process. They do not need to write a letter on your behalf.

Should I include the courses I'm currently taking on my list of courses? Yes, please do. We ask for the list of courses to get a better sense for what disciplines you would be comfortable WAing, which is useful information when assigning WAs to a course.

Can I submit a paper that's over five pages long? I don't have any that are under seven. If you have none that are five pages, please submit the next shortest paper you have. We encourage shorter papers due to the large volume of papers we have to read during the review process.

For the sample paper, should it be an original draft or something I've revised? Do you want the professor's comments on it? A final paper submitted for a course will be fine. If possible, submit a clean copy without your professor's comments.

What should be included in my cover letter? The application packet will include specific instructions for the cover letter, including a list of questions we hope you will answer in your letter. We will also offer a Cover-Letter Write-In for students who haven’t written this genre before who would like to get some feedback. In general terms, your letter should include your reasons for applying to the Writing Associate Fellowship, what you hope to gain from the experience, and an explanation of why you are qualified for the position. For formatting tips and additional details on writing a cover letter, see these tips provided by Career Services (cover letters are covered on pg 3 of the guide).

For the mock WA paper, should I hand in a marked copy of the paper, or just write a paragraph or two on separate paper outlining what changes should be made?  Most writers prefer to receive some written comments on the document itself. With that in mind, we encourage you to make notes on the text and/or in the margins, just as if you were a WA and would be meeting later with a student to talk about their paper (which you will do in the interview). You don’t have to mark everything you see–be strategic. We are not looking to test your grammar knowledge. Consider, instead, what comments will help you to have a meaningful conversation with the writer? After the partial mock-WA conference during your interview, you’ll be able to explain your approach to both the written comments and the conference.

The application asks me to suggest "substantial constructive revisions" to the same paper. What do you mean by that? You will have to judge for yourself what this means in terms of this particular paper. WAs can work with writers on structure and organization, on supporting claims with reasoning on evidence, on sentence-level clarity. We usually ask the writer to tell us what they want us to work on, but sometimes they aren’t sure. In this case, the WA must decide where to focus and why. WAing is about assessment as much as anything else.

Does being available to take Engl/Educ 1C at either time it is offered increase my chances of being accepted? It could. We make every effort to keep the two classes balanced in number, and if we must, we may decide between finalists based on the section into which we can place them to keep the courses balanced. If you are offered the position, you will be assigned a class time. You will not need to register for the course; we will send class lists to the registrar. If for some reason you are unable to make the assigned class time, you will need to find someone in the other section who is willing to switch with you.

Should I be thinking of English/Education 1C as a fourth or fifth class for my fall semester? If you are accepted into the program, we recommend that you take it as a fourth class. Even though the class is a CR/NC course, there are a lot of outside responsibilities associated with it, such as working as a Course WA and in the Writing Center, observing other WAs' conferences, and meeting regularly with a small group of other WAs in training. Learning to be a WA provides its challenges as we ask you to think about writing and the WA conference as a social space. This type of inquiry-based learning requires time and head space to process the content of the course and your first experiences as a WA.

WA Interview-Specific FAQ

What is the WA interview like?  Interviews are approximately half-an-hour in length. You will interview with the program Director, together with one or two current WAs. The first part of the interview will focus on why you want to be a WA and what experiences you have had to prepare you for the fellowship. Then, the current WA will pretend to be the author of the mock paper and you will discuss the paper with them as if you are conducting a WA conference. Lastly, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the program.

It’s also worth recognizing that all your interactions with the WA Program, once you come into the Information Session inform our understanding of how you might perform or engage with others if you are selected as a WA. This is, in a sense, the-interview-before-the-interview. So, to the extent that you are able, we are hoping that your interactions–participation in the Info sessions, completing and dropping off the application, scheduling your interview, etc–will reflect your interest and curiosity, your willingness to read instructions, your ability to schedule an appointment and keep it, etc. 

We may not be able to reschedule missed interviews. You should email as soon as possible if you discover you will not be able to attend at the time you’d originally chosen, and we will let you know if another time is possible.

How should I prepare for the WA interview?

Know the position for which you are applying, Take time to learn about the program and how you might fit into it. Read over our website, talk to current WAs and Lead Fellows, and if you aren't yet familiar with the process, bring a piece of writing to the Writing Center to see WAs in action. Come to the interview with a mental (or physical) list of 2-3 specific aspects of the program you personally find exciting and can talk about.

Come into the interview prepared:

  • Look over your application materials before you arrive for your interview. It’s a good idea to make a copy of your comments on the mock WA paper, so you can refresh your memory before coming into the interview.
  • Be ready for an opening question that invites you to tell us more about yourself–what you are interested in, what you like to do, what experiences you’ve had, etc.–and explain to us how that connects with your potential to be a great WA.
  • Be prepared to talk about your strengths and also weaknesses. It’s important to us that WAs be self-reflective and have a plan to work on areas that are not their strengths. No one is perfect, so think ahead about the aspects of WAing you think might really be challenging for you, and talk with us about how you might navigate those challenges. You do not need to belabor your weakness–we’ll only be together in the interview a short time, and we want to make sure we spend the bulk of it on your interests, skills, and understanding of the program, so choose how much to share during our meeting. For instance, the WA position requires strong time-management skills. If that is not your strength, how do you plan to address it if you become a WA?
  • Prepare a question to ask at the end of the interview. Asking questions shows your interest in the position, and the kind of question you ask gives the interviewers more insight into what interests you or how you are thinking about the role of WA. Some good questions from last year were: "Can you tell me more about English/Education 1C?" "What do you think you’ve learned from being a WA?” “What have you liked best about being a WA, and what has been hardest for you?

Recognize that this is a formal opportunity and occasion.  Plan to arrive a few minutes early. You do not need to wear a dress or suit, but it should be clear to the interviewers that you realize you are at an interview and that you take the position seriously. Coming to your interview straight from the gym or your bed doesn't make a great first impression.

Consider asking Career Services for their help in preparing; this could include a partial mock interview to help get over jitters, particularly if this is your first time interviewing for a position on campus.


If you have any questions that aren't answered by our Frequently Asked Questions, please contact Joanne Mullin ( .

Why WA?

A video of Swarthmore WAlumni discussing what they learned by working with the Writing Associates Program.