Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the University Writing Center located?

Our main space is located in Stevenson South. We also have satellite locations in Founders Memorial Library (room 260), the Engineering Building (room 358), the Center for Black Studies and the School of Nursing. Find our hours for each location.

Please note: Stevenson South is locked 24/7. Be sure to bring your OneCard to access the building. If you can't get in that way, please call 815-753-6636, and we'll let you in.

How much does a session cost?

Our standard session services are free. Our dissertation/thesis boot camps are fee-based. Contact Gail Jacky at for further information.

Do I have to be an NIU student?

NIU students, faculty and staff members receive first priority in scheduling. Others in the NIU community can schedule appointments, if openings are available.

If you're an NIU student, you can use our online scheduling system to make an appointment. You'll need to use your Z-ID to access the system.

If you're an NIU faculty/staff member or otherwise part of the NIU community, please call 815-753-6636 or contact Gail Jacky at to discuss your options.

Where can I park?

You can park in Lot PS when you're headed to our Stevenson South location. Lot PS is the smaller of the two parking lots to the west of Stevenson South. It has blue, yellow and orange parking, as well as a few metered and handicapped-accessible spots. The handicapped-accessible spaces also require a valid NIU parking permit.

Metered spots allow for up to two hours of parking time, and the meters take quarters, dimes and nickels. A quarter secures 15 minutes, a dime six minutes and a nickel three minutes. An hour-long appointment might require $1.10.

Please note: Part of Lot PS is blue-only at all times, so please park in the center spaces.

Can I walk in, or do I need an appointment?

Most of the sessions in Stevenson South are appointment based. However, if we are not completely booked, you might be able to do a walk-in. We strongly recommend making an appointment in advance.

Founders Memorial Library 260: We will have drop-in sessions. All sessions will be conducted on a first come, first served basis. Each day a schedule will be placed on the reception desk. Stop by to put your name on the list for an appointment that day. Appointments can only be made for that day and will not be held if you are not present when it is time for your appointment.

How do I make an appointment?

Most of the University Writing Center sessions are conducted face-to-face one-on-one. Each session generally lasts 30 or 60 minutes; however, no more than two sessions can be scheduled each day and no sessions can be back to back with the same coach.

Stevenson South: To set up an appointment at Stevenson South, give us a call at 815-753-6636 or stop by in person. Our receptionists will be glad to help. If you do not reach a receptionist, try calling again in a few minutes or leave a detailed message on the voicemail. We also do scheduled 60 minute Google Hangout sessions. You will need to do a set up session prior to the writing-focused sessions.

Satellite spaces: We will have drop-in sessions in our satellite site, Founders Memorial Library 260. All sessions will be conducted on a first come, first served basis. Stop by the selected location to put your name on the list for an appointment that day. Appointments can only be made for that day and will not be held if you are not available when it is time for your appointment.

Can I request a specific coach?

All of our writing coaches are highly trained, friendly and ready to help. That said, if you want to work with a particular coach, we will try to accommodate your preference.

What kind of writing can I bring in?

We can help you with any type of writing, from academic to informal. This includes essays for class, blog posts, resumes, scholarship essays and more.

What's the late policy?

For a half-hour appointment, you have a five-minute grace period. If you arrive during the grace period, you get to keep your appointment. If you arrive later, there won't be enough time for the appointment, and you'll be asked to reschedule.

For an hour appointment, you have a 10-minute grace period. If you arrive during the grace period, you get to keep your appointment. However, if you are more than 10 minutes late, your appointment may be given to someone else. Being late does not automatically forfeit your appointment, but we won't hold the slot for you.

What will happen during my session?

You'll walk into the University Writing Center location, give your name to the receptionist or swipe your OneCard in the card reader, and take a seat. You'll be given a session form to fill out. We need to know what class you're there for and your instructor's name. If you're not there for a class, use the class line to write the type of writing you have brought with you, such as scholarship essay or resume.

At the appointed time, your coach will show you to a table and guide you through your session. Depending on your preference, either you or your coach will read your paper out loud, and you'll both discuss the document and your writing. This is a collaborative process focused on helping you improve your writing skills. While the coach is there to work with you, you're responsible for marking your paper and making changes.

At the end of the session, the coach can make a copy of the session form for your instructor. Some instructors require proof of your visit, and this stamped/signed session sheet will suffice.

Do I have to fill out the session sheet?

Yes. We have to track every session, so we need all of the information filled out. While the first session form for each year is long, subsequent session forms are half-sheets and pertain only to the session, rather than including the demographics.

In addition, if you need proof that you came to the UWC, your instructor will want to know the session details.

How many copies of my paper will I need?

In a perfect world, we would like two hard copies: one for you and one for us. However, we understand that printing is not always possible, so we can work with one hard copy and an electronic copy. If you only have one hard copy and no electronic copy, you'll have to take notes on the hard copy. If the coach writes on the hard copy, we have to keep it as our work product. You may not take our notes with you, you may not copy it after the session, and you may not take pictures of it. No exceptions will be made.

If you bring in a digital copy, please be prepared to work on a computer. This means you'll need to email yourself a copy of the paper, save the file on a USB, or place the file in a digital dropbox that you can access from the UWC. We have computers available in Stevenson South, but not in the satellite locations. We encourage you to bring your own laptop.

Can I make an appointment for a group project?

Yes. When you make your appointment, you must specify that your appointment is for a group project. We'll need to know how many members are in your group and the names of all members. Be sure to schedule an appointment that everybody can attend, as a session cannot occur unless all group members are present. We cannot make exceptions to this rule.

Can I meet with a coach over the weekend?

No. The UWC is not open on weekends.

Is the UWC open during spring break, the winter holidays or the summer?

The UWC director, Gail Jacky, is sometimes available during breaks. Email to determine her availability. The UWC is open during the summer semester, although there are limited hours and a small staff.

Is the UWC open on nights with a home football game?

Yes, but we generally close at 4 p.m. on those days, since it's difficult to get to Stevenson once tailgating starts. Additionally, parking is restricted for yellow and blue permits because Lot PS is a tailgate location.

I don't really need a session, but my instructor requires me to come in. Can I just have a sheet stamped?

No. The purpose of the UWC is to help you develop your writing skills as a means of communication and self-expression, which is probably why your instructor recommended you come in the first place. If all we provided you was a stamped paper, we would be doing both you and your work a disservice. We're interested in your development as a writer and as a student, so doing anything but coaching you through a session would be dishonest. Come prepared to work!

Can I just email you my paper?

The short answer is not really. Working with the UWC is a collaborative process, and you're a big part of that process. We do have Google Hangout appointments. During these sessions, you and your coach view a Google Doc at the same time and discuss your writing. These sessions can only be scheduled through our Stevenson South location.

What if there are no available appointments and I need my paper looked at by a certain day?

If there are no available appointments, all of our coaches are booked to work with other students, faculty or community members. We recommend making your appointments early in the semester to avoid running out of time. The system is set up to allow scheduling throughout the entire semester. Plan ahead!

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