School’s out for summer! Wait, not so fast. The 2012-13 school year ended on Monday, and the very next afternoon rising seniors were back on campus to begin working on their college essays. Required for all seniors, the college essay-writing course meets eight afternoons from 3:30-6:00. And, yes, there’s homework, which is no surprise if you’ve made it to senior year at CCSC.
The goal: For students to write two polished, 650-word personal essays by July 5. They will choose, and likely further revise, one essay to submit with their college applications next fall. It’s a tight turnaround, but doable with careful scaffolding and close support from CCSC faculty and staff.
Coordinated by College Counselor Nadira Hairston, the writing workshops are led by teachers Erin Morin, Ann Cheng, and Colin Bereth, and former college counseling intern Annabelle Bozin. Each class session includes: periods of sustained silent writing when students can practice writing to prompts; reading and discussion of exemplary personal essays by both published authors and successful college students; peer work-shopping of drafts; and time for individual conferencing with teachers.
Students start by reflecting on the personal qualities and life experiences that might make them unique in the eyes of a college admission officer reading hundreds of essays. They learn the necessity of churning out many bad drafts, and how to apply the maxim of “show, not tell” by framing their narratives around a specific moment that significantly shaped their development or goals. Most important, they learn to revise, revise, revise; in a 650-word essay virtually every word matters, and students must learn that good editing is more than a quick check for spelling and punctuation errors.
It’s hard work coming right on the heels of the rigor and pressure of junior year, but by the end of next week the Class of 2014 will have tackled the most daunting part of the application process. With their essays under their belts, they can spend the rest of the summer researching colleges and scholarship opportunities, so that when senior year officially starts on August 28 they will have a head start on the road to college.