College Essay Workshop
Location: Bryn Mawr
First session: July 7, 9, 12
Second session: July 13, 15, 17
Instructor: Bob Finegan
This course will help students develop essay topics and drafts for the Common Application. Since narrative is the most effective form for the Common App personal statement, we’ll focus on storytelling skills. Students will learn to use elements of nonfiction craft to engage the audience’s sympathies by dramatizing compelling events.
Every student has personal experience that can be translated into a winning essay, but most high schools don’t spend enough time teaching this kind of writing. It can be hard to recognize the best essay material even when you spend days scanning your memory for it. Shaping that material to snare and sustain a reader’s interest isn’t easy either. Applying the principles and methods of creative nonfiction to this process can help students at every stage, from early brainstorming to final edits.
The college admissions essay is an early and pivotal opportunity to reflect on your character strengths and to introduce yourself using personal narrative. In this way it prefigures career-related storytelling occasions like the common (and daunting) interview question, “Tell me about yourself.” Developing a strong personal narrative for your college application not only helps you prepare for such challenges, but can itself be a mode of illuminating self-discovery.
The course will be conducted in workshop format. That is, we’ll review drafts as a class, starting with exemplary college essays, and then we’ll spend time brainstorming topics and discussing ways to refine class members’ drafts. The class limit of five students will ensure that each student’s drafts will receive plenty of attention, including detailed feedback on content, style and focus.