Helping seniors with College Essays

I wish I had more time for blogging, but I don’t. I’ve been busy since May and done many things that I’ve wanted to write about. But the pressure of work, now I’m no longer a full-time student on my MFA at UNH, has been too great for the longish posts I’ve always written. With my MFA thesis coming due in the middle of October, every spare minute for writing (not enough!) has gone into poetry.

But this week I’ve had a brainwave. The answer to me problem is—microblogging! Short posts that at least let me say what I’m up to and what I’m thinking, even if they’re not as detailed as I would like. Little and often beats a theoretical perfection that never happens. So here’s the first.

On Tuesday night, I ran a short session at South Berwick library on how to write the college application essay. Seven local seniors and two parents joined me for a run-through of why the college essay matters and ways to write it well. It was rather a rapid journey, trying to cover in an hour what ideally I’d like to cover in three with homework time as well, but everyone joined in enthusiastically and made progress. My main message was to start by thinking about you, not about the prompts. The prompts rarely seem to me like they’re going to lead to inspired, exciting writing. But every person can be exciting and inspiring, so if you look deep into yourself, you can find good materials. Then I helped the students think how to do that creatively. Lastly, we looked at specific techniques you can borrow from creative writing to make your actual writing sparkle, such as using details, scenes, voice, and an innovative structure.

When I was a high school teacher in 2006-10 I used to love working with seniors on their essays and seeing them get the places they wanted at college, so it was a huge pleasure to be doing that again with some students from my area. I’m sure they’ll do well.

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