Letter to the Adult-student Writer

Dear Working-Adult Student,

Hi, my (likely) stressed out friend. If you’re anything like I was when I decided to attend college at the ripe old age of 39, you have a family, one or more jobs (I had three), bills to pay, a home to clean, laundry piling up around you, a vehicle that needs regular maintenance, perhaps parents who need attention or care, and a myriad of other concerns that distract you from the business of classwork and study. In addition to those responsibilities, most of us have concerns about how things within the classroom have changed. Many of us feel like a duck in a forest: we’re old enough to be parents to those sitting by us, and that creates discomfort. There were times I felt that I couldn’t participate effectively because my background and ideas seemed so out of step with my younger classmates. I was flabbergasted at the expectations of and formatting used for papers, and I was terrified of using a computer for my written work. In fact, I spent much of my time feeling pretty overwhelmed, underprepared, and inadequate. Maybe you are feeling some of those things, too.

Friends, let me assure you that you can successfully earn that degree. You may have to delegate some chores at home and let some things slide, but you can juggle the most important things, and you can be a successful essay and research-paper writer. How do I know that? Because I was, and I hadn’t written a thing since my last English class in high school 20 years earlier! The truth is that sentence structure and the meaning of words haven’t changed over the course of our lifetimes. The shifts in language are so gradual as to be almost invisible to all but professional linguists, and that makes writing easier than we think it will be.

Oh sure, we may not be as up-to-date on slang or texting styles as our younger classmates, but they may not understand how to be formal in the same ways we do. We’ve worked in various settings. We know that talking with a prospective employer or current boss requires a formality that is foreign to most young people. We know how to persuade others: we persuade spouses and children, we persuade colleagues, and we persuade aging parents. So, we got this.

It’s likely that you don’t recall all the writing, grammar, or other academic terminology you learned in school. I sure didn’t. Nevertheless, we do know important things. Things like complete sentences. Things like how to successfully navigate the unknown or new. Things like negotiation. Things like how to meet deadlines. Things like how to organize time. Things like how to put the important stuff first. Things like not procrastinating until the last minute. All those things we know serve us well when writing essays and papers. We already know how to order activities; ordering thoughts comes easily when considering how well we already order work and family life.

What we may not know is that most universities have Writing Centers. (Yes, this may be a bit of a commercial, but bear with me because it will matter to you, too.) In these facilities, there are well-trained people who know the mechanics of writing, grammar, and formatting. They are there to help all students, faculty, and staff organize written class work. Most centers have extended hours and special tools to assist working-adult writers who find it difficult if not impossible to get to campus after working all day. Additionally, most writing-center people are willing to allow all students to decompress before diving into papers. Those writing helpers understand the pressures of writing papers, and they are all good listeners who are ready, willing, and able to give us time to talk and before helping make papers the best they can be. I used my own Writing Center staff for all my graduate papers, and you, too, should use your university writing center, my friend. You’ll be glad you did.

Sincerely shared from my personal experience,

DBU Students: For more information about the services offered by the Dallas Baptist University Writing Center, check out this link to our website. You’ll also find links to our various handouts and pamphlets on all things writing, as well as encouragement in your academic journey.


Letter to the Returning Writer

Hey, friend. I’m not sure how long it’s been since you’ve written for school or for fun. Whether it’s been a semester, a year, five years, or even twenty years, the effects of passing time can be reversed more quickly than you might suppose. Although writing is a skill which can always be improved upon, it’s also a bit like riding a bike; those who have learned will not forget how to do so just because they haven’t gone for a ride in a while. Once you’ve conquered the mental road block that you’ve “forgotten” how to write or “don’t know enough anymore,” you can adhere to the following tips in order to maximize your success.

  • Read over your old papers. Horror writer Stephen King is known to lock away his manuscripts for ten years before revisiting them to correct mistakes. Why? Because the passing of time enables us to notice more potential improvements in our projects than if we read our own paper we wrote yesterday. By laughing at the old mistakes you’ve made, you can enter the new semester feeling confident that you’ve learned since your last writing attempts.
  • Visit the Writing Center. Yes, this is the shameless plug. But I have no shame in it because I’ve seen students arrive at our center the first week of fall semester feeling rusty and unsure of their skills. Most of the time, after sitting down with a consultant, the worry vanishes from their face. A second opinion is sometimes all that is required to reignite the writing part of our brain that’s simply been dormant for a while.

As you enter the new semester with eagerness and hope to improve your skills and learn inside the classroom, remember that you are not alone. No matter what your writing skill level may be, perfection is impossible; this should grant you hope! You and every student around you can work toward improvement, but few of them do. By reading this blog, incorporating advice, and visiting the Writing Center, you are taking a greater charge of your education than many students ever feign to do. Give yourself a pat on the back; you’re already ahead of the game. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia E. Butler.

Written by Karoline

Image credit

Spring Renewal

It’s October as I write this blog post, so it’s strange to be thinking about the spring semester. The beginning of a new semester means that I have to start over at the beginning with a new set of classes, work, and a new schedule. I have to find my rhythm again and get back into the swing of things. After a long winter break, especially one spent lying around the house or on vacation with family, getting used to school and work again can seem unappealing at first glance. However, the spring semester can also be thrilling. Let me tell you why.

First, the new classes of the spring semester mean new subjects to learn. I usually find that the initial novelty and excitement I get from taking classes I want to take during fall semester wears off as the semester begins to close. I tend to get a little bored and weary of the material after all the assignments that are due around Thanksgiving break. However, after getting a chance to relax during winter break, I always feel thrilled all over again when spring semester rolls around. I’m excited by the prospect of new information and material I’ve been waiting to learn since registering for my spring classes in October. In this way, I never get too tired of my classes before I get the chance to take new ones.

Secondly, the spring semester comes with a chance to begin anew. Regardless of whether the fall semester was good, bad, or ugly for me, spring semester brings with it the chance to start fresh and be the excellent student I know I can be. I like to start the first few weeks of every new semester by putting all of my assignments in my planner and by attending my classes with a smile. Never mind that these aspirations to have a well-organized and positive attitude only seem to last for those first few weeks; it’s the thought that counts! Besides, making good impressions on my professors and classmates during the first class sessions reminds me of my ambition to excel in academics and helps me to endure, with a can-do spirit, the difficult assignments that come later in the semester.

Finally, the spring semester is different from the fall because it offers a light at the end of an academic tunnel. During the spring semester, I tend to feel that I have a concrete goal to work towards in my classes. Last spring, I was working to complete my freshman year, and this spring, I’ll be working to finish sophomore year. The specific and definite objective of completing one full year of school is motivational to me. I find I work in my classes more efficiently with the clear view of the end of my academic career that comes with the spring semester. I can only imagine how my class work will be affected by this burst of spring motivation when my last spring semester rolls around and I can envision my graduation.


Spring is a season of renewal. Though the beginning of the spring semester means all new classes and schedules to adjust to, it also brings new opportunities to reinvigorate my excitement to learn, begin fresh with my organizational skills and a positive attitude, and have a concrete goal to look forward to and work toward. Spring is a wonderful season with a plethora of opportunities, and I intend to make the most out of each and every one.

Written by Becca

Image credits: Header image, Fluffy Duckling

Frazzled but Saved by Grace

While sitting at my desk in the Writing Center this morning, I stared at my schedule in confusion. “I only work two hours today,” I said to my colleagues, “That can’t be right.” Since I made my work schedule for the fall semester several weeks ago, I could not remember my reasoning behind working so few hours on Tuesdays, so I pulled out my class schedule in a frenzy. Sure enough, my brain had completely blocked out two of my classes. “Man, the first weekstressed of the semester is full of surprises,” I exclaimed.

As a junior at DBU, this semester is surely not my first rodeo; however, I find myself feeling just as unprepared as I did when I was a freshman. I do not have all of my books. I have not met a single one of my professors.  And, believe it or not, I have yet to pay a dime of my first tuition installment.

Between work, class, campus life, and church, I feel as though I am completely in over my head at times. Unlike SpongeBob, I am not ready.

That being said, however, I know something that keeps me from drowning in all of this commotion:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (New International Version, Ps. 18:2).

No matter how crazy or difficult the beginning of the semester may feel, I know that my God is here to save me from the messiness. He hears my cries of concern and confusion and, in return, blankets a spirit of peace and tranquility over me just to get me through the day.

So, now, I ampraying writing this to encourage each and every one of you to realize the same. When the weight of the new semester begins to weigh down on you, have faith that the Lord will keep you from sinking. When your textbooks cost an arm and a leg more than what you have budgeted, lean on the Everlasting Rock for financial support. When the Wi-Fi is down and you cannot submit your homework, remember that the Lord’s plans for you are bigger than any one assignment. Embrace the sloppiness of crashing computers and missing student IDs and take on the surprises of the semester in full-force, trusting that God is with you every step of the way.

And from the University Writing Center, welcome back! We are so excited to see your bright, shiny, and somewhat frazzled faces this semester!

Written by Haley

Photo credit: uiowa.edu & youthalive.ag.org