This blog post was written by Naomi Solomon, Girls Write Now Program Manager.
On three beautiful Wednesdays in July when New York City beaches, movie theaters, and parks were packed with teens…so was the Girls Write Now office! Over the course of three workshops, more than one hundred high school girls – some of them GWN mentees and most of them seniors – sat shoulder to shoulder in our workshop space attentively brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and peer-editing their college application essays as the summer sunlight streamed in.
In workshops on July 8 and 15, we forged ahead through every step of the college essay-writing process. To start, we reviewed sample essays from GWN mentees past and New York Times essay contest winners, breaking down their themes, structure, and strengths with the help of a few amazing mentors, College Prep Panelists, and community volunteers. Students brought up some tough questions for discussion: When can you write about family strife? Which stories are too personal, which are too boring?
This workshop showed me various ways to develop an idea for my college essay. I don’t think I would have known what to write about without this event.
With these great examples and debates in mind, we set about making lists – What do we want colleges to know about us? What life stories can we share? – and creating outlines. After a break for games and pizza, we launched into the real writing, and the room grew still as pens and pencils flew. With the first paragraphs down on paper, we turned to a round of peer feedback and revisions.
I really enjoyed receiving feedback from group members since it helped me improve my writing and the positive feedback boosted my confidence.
Lastly, we got to hear the results: lines about rowing on the Hudson in the early morning, about why you might eat chocolate pudding for breakfast, about emigrating and learning a second and third language, about leaving home and not knowing why. The room echoed with bursts of laughter and applause time and again as students celebrated their hard work and each other.
I am glad I attended this workshop because I received positive feedback on my essay. I received a lot of help and it helped me develop my work. If it weren’t for this workshop, I would not have had a well developed college essay for my application.
A week later, after taking some time to complete and refine their drafts, some students made the trip back to Girls Write Now for one-to-one intensive editing sessions with more mentors and volunteers. This time, the workshop room held scattered pairs of writers and editors quietly working out their final kinks and making tough decisions about what to cut to meet the Common Application’s tight word limit. By the end of the day, the essays were a step closer to completion, and the students were a step closer to college.
We are so grateful for all the girls that came out including those from our incredible partners PowerPlay NYC and Row New York!