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GTPulse: National Writers Series Helps Students Prepare For College Applications

Every aspect of college is tough. The constant homework, working with strangers that almost never end up doing their fair share on group projects, financial aid offices that don’t get you your money on time and so many more things. People get a taste of the tedious hoops that one must jump through in college from their very first contact with a school; the application. Applications take forever to fill out and on top of that, hopeful applicants must submit an essay as well. National Writers Series is trying to help high school students make the application process easier with their college essay bootcamp.

The college essay bootcamp is taught by local journalist Molly Korroch. Molly graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s in journalism. Molly’s extensive education in writing inspired Anne Stanton, co-founder and executive director of NWS, to ask if she would be willing to teach the three day bootcamp at Northern Michigan College. Molly has taught essay writing classes before in Washington D.C. She accepted Anne’s invitation to instruct the bootcamp and is the perfect person for the job. Molly is youthful and encouraging to the young, bootcamp attendees.

Molly encouraged dialogue in the bootcamp. An exercise I sat in on had Molly reading two copies of the same essay, a rough draft and a final, edited version. The essay was Molly’s own and some of her mid-read commentary on her first draft were humorously self-deprecating. Poking fun at a rough copy of her own writing provided an atmosphere where the students felt comfortable speaking up and giving feedback of their own. The second draft read through smoother and the students knew exactly why.

“You cut back on some of your musings,” one student noted.

“The words you chose the second time were shorter and more effective,” another student commented.

Molly had the class thinking about the hidden details that go into making an essay flow. Essays can be intimidating to write. Oftentimes they are meant to be moving or persuading. Molly said the best method is to build a structure and fill it in with powerful storytelling devices like sensory details. She also said that passion is easily detectable in essay writing. A reader can feel when the writer truly cares about something and that passion is a big part of what makes an impact on the admissions office people who read college essays. She also said that a big part of standing out is specificity, especially in experiences.

“I don’t think you need to necessarily break the mold or anything, but I think a lot of people do complete, generalized ‘this is everything great about me.’”

The kind of college admissions essays that stand out won’t be a laundry list of accomplishments, but rather a single important moment or accomplishment that was meaningful.

“An experience lends itself to showing and not telling and to see how the applicant as a character reacted in whatever the situation might be, in addition to good writing habits.”

Good writing habits are cultivated. Students getting ready to apply to colleges may treat the essay portion like an unfair step in the application process if they are weak in English classes, but writing a good essay is accessible to all. Once students understand how to structure an essay properly and add the right details, all they need to worry about is filling in the story from their own experience. Once the experience is conveyed through a well formatted essay structure, it only has to be tweaked a bit to fit most college essay prompts.

One student in the class had written an essay about his experience traveling throughout his life. Molly asked the class what that essay could be about and the class came up with several very good answers. The students decided the essay could be about making friends in new places, love of travel or meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. Being able to add a theme to an experience is key for memorable writing.

High school students face stress and challenges every day, challenges that people who graduated less than five years ago didn’t face, but preparing for college is always going to be a challenge for any high school student. Molly asked a student in class what the greatest challenges are to students who are writing college essays, to which the student replied, “everything.”

Writing college essays doesn’t have to be tough. The college essay writing bootcamp is done for this year, but local students have an opportunity to sharpen their writing skills year-round with NWS program Front Street Writers. Students will learn how to become better creative and technical writers through the weekday program. With the school year nearing it is a great time to consider joining.