SASS Peers

Sticky note with a note about support students and helping them transition then achieve growth


Welcome! SASS peers help students develop skills to succeed at university. Our programs are free and confidential.

We can help students:

  • develop learning strategies and writing skills,
  • make the transition from high school to university,
  • overcome academic challenges, and
  • develop peer leadership skills.


Peer Learning AssistantsPeer Writing AssistantsBiology Peer Writing AssistantsVolunteer

Our programs would not be possible without the generosity, enthusiasm and commitment of our student volunteers. Known as Peer Learning Assistants (PLAs), these students promote learning strategies on campus through workshops, one-on-one coaching and promotional activities.

“Not only do we get that feeling of satisfaction when we help someone, but we also help ourselves by using the techniques we teach. It’s a win-win!” – PLA, 2012

Peer Learning Assistants Team Photo with caption, "Get SASS(y)"

“Out of every extracurricular thing I’ve been involved in at Queen’s, it’s the thing that I love to do the most.” – PLA 2016


We recruit in January for undergraduate students of all faculties and years to begin their work with the program the following September. Interviews generally occur in March.


I can honestly say that being a PLA was by far my favourite extra curricular experience at Queen’s! – PLA, 2015


Why Volunteer With Us?

“My confidence as a presenter and as a student is so much better now – plus my marks have gone up now that I am practising what I teach!” – PLA 2011


  • You will be trained extensively in many learning strategies (e.g. Time Management, Effective Studying, Exam Preparation, Note-making, Reading and Retention, Focus and Concentration).
  • You will learn how to plan and deliver workshops to Queen’s students.
  • You will learn about and practice group facilitation skills and presentation skills.
  • You will meet other fantastic students and enjoy leadership and student development opportunities.
  • You feel rewarded in your work with first year students and International students.
  • References and ongoing support are provided.

What is a Peer Writing Assistant?

Peer Writing Assistants (PWAs) at the Writing Centre are skilled upper-year and graduate student volunteers who enjoy helping others become better writers. They provide a vital component of our program, extending the service the Centre offers to students in developing their writing skills and confidence.


What do PWAs do?

PWAs are trained to work on-on-one with students taking first and second year courses, helping with clarifying the terms of the assignment, brainstorming, pre-writing and structuring, providing feedback, and directing students to the resources they need to produce good papers. For many students, this service makes a significant difference in their academic performance and confidence.

Sessions are always challenging, and no two are alike. They all, however, take a collaborative approach between the PWA and the student seeking assistance – i.e., PWAs do not proofread, or make writing decisions, for the students they help. Instead, they help students develop their own skills in writing, editing and critical thinking, in the context of working on a particular assignment.

PWAs also occasionally offer workshops on writing-related topics. Our program is evolving, and it is likely that new opportunities will arise in the near future.

I’m so grateful for my experience as a PWA. From the workshops, the training, and the support we received to the actual sessions with students, the program allowed me to help others while also strengthening my own skills (for example, I finally learned how to properly use a semicolon). Grammar is no longer as daunting as it first was when I joined the program. My favourite moments as a PWA came in sessions when I saw that an idea suddenly clicked with a student, and we’d both get really excited. Ending a session with a student knowing I’d really helped them was the best feeling. Because of my experience as a PWA, I was able to go into my publishing program with a renewed and strengthened confidence in my skills and abilities. My positive experience in the program has also opened me up to the wonderful and rewarding world of volunteering.”

Kirstie Turco, PWA 2014-2015 & 2015-2016

What kind of time commitment is required?

PWA sessions take place Monday-Thursday, 6:30-8:30 pm, and Saturdays 11:00 – 1:00 pm in four 25-minute sessions per evening. Currently, each PWA volunteers for two hours per week from mid-September to the end of November and from mid-January to the end of March.

In addition, we have an hour-long team meeting twice per term.

Training takes place:

  • in the summer: PWAs have short readings and online AODA training to complete (about 4-5 hours total)
  • on September 10, 2017: a full day of in-person training on campus (about 7 hours)
  • throughout the year: PWAs attend one or two hour-long sessions on topics related to their roles, and also choose two out of many possible additional sessions to complete over the academic year, to support their development (about 3-4 hours total)
  • online: PWAs complete a series of short lessons in grammar and style over the summer and fall term (about 8-10 hours).

Why become a Peer Writing Assistant?

Knowing that you’re helping others is a good feeling, but that’s not the only reason to become a PWA. You can also strengthen your own writing, editing, and communication skills, belong to a fun team of people from diverse faculties and backgrounds, and receive practical training in a variety of areas from professional staff. If you intend to pursue an academic, communications, or teaching career, this experience is a helpful addition to your CV, and perhaps a way to connect with professional staff who can challenge and support your growth and give you a great reference when you graduate.

Biology Peer Writing Assistants

“This program gave me more confidence for writing my lab.”

If you are a student in BIOL 102/103 and would like some writing assistance from an upper year Biology student, you might want to sign up for an appointment with a Biology Peer Writing Assistant.

What is a Biology Peer Writing Assistant?

The Biology Peer Writing Assistants (Bio PWAs) are Biology upper-year undergraduate and graduate students who are committed to helping other students become better writers. Specifically, the Bio PWAs assist students write their first year Biology lab reports.

“I just find it nice to get an opinion about my writing from someone who has a good idea of what the expectations are.”

What do Bio PWAs do?

Bio PWAs are trained to work one-on-one with students in Biology 102/103; they help with clarifying the terms of the assignment, brainstorming, pre-writing and structuring, providing feedback, and directing students to the resources they need to produce good lab reports. For many students, this service makes a significant difference in their academic performance and confidence.

Sessions are 25 minutes long and are based on a collaboration between the Bio PWA and the student seeking assistance – i.e., Bio PWAs do not proofread or make writing decisions for the students they help. Instead, they help students develop their own skills in writing, editing, and critical thinking, in the context of working on a particular assignment.

“Overall super helpful – set me on the right track and noticed flaws I wouldn’t have on my own.”

“I feel like I actually understand what to do now.”

When are Bio PWA appointments available?

Bio PWA sessions take place evenings and weekends when a BIOL 102/103 lab report has been assigned.

How do I book an appointment?

Students must register with MyWCOnline before booking an appointment. Appointments are free and confidential.

To book your appointment:

Click on an open (WHITE) appointment time to open the Reservation window. Select a date, timeslot, and consultant. NOTE: Available appointment timeslots are WHITE. RED indicates a timeslot is already taken, and BLACK indicates that appointments are not available during that time. A GREY timeslot indicates an appointment that has already occurred.

Please note:

  • students may sign up for only one appointment per evening and a maximum of two appointments per week (**I think this is only one appointment per assignment??**)
  • these appointments are for BIOL 102/103 assignments only
  • please bring your work in hard copy; our PWAs do not work on laptops

We look forward to seeing you here!


More information about this program is available from Dr. Barb Vanderbeld at

How can I apply?

Check out Volunteer with Student Affairs

Peer Learning Assistants

Sticky note that says, "Teach others what I learned and help them to use it and grow"

The job description, qualifications, and application form are available online through MyCareer; search for a position entitled “Peer Learning Assistant- Student Affairs.” You can find more details about the application process through Student Affairs > Find a Volunteer Opportunity.

To apply, please print off a cover letter, resume and a completed application form with typed responses (Download form, fill in all fields, Save As… “LAST NAME,FIRST NAME – PLA Application 2018,” print a copy), and submit them in person to Ian Garner in Stauffer 143.

In addition, please email a copy of these three documents to

We will begin taking applications for 2018-2019 positions in January. At that time, the new application form will be available.

Peer Writing Assistants

PWAs: To apply, email the Peer Coordinator at with a resume, cover letter, and two pages of a recent academic writing sample.

  • Emailed applications are due by [2018 deadline TBA].
  • In addition to your emailed application, please also drop off a hard copy of your cover letter, resume, and sample of academic writing at the Student Academic Success Services reception desk (Stauffer Library).

Applications are accepted in the Winter term (late January / early February) for team selection for the following September. We will sometimes accept applications at other times of the year, depending on programming needs, but we recommend you apply during our January / February recruitment period.

Please note that PWAs usually start volunteering with us in their third or fourth year; we also accept graduate students.

PWAs are required to provide a “vulnerable sector” police check, dated to within nine months of their start date, at their own expense.