A colleague asked me what happens at College Essay Night. Well, several things. In addition to time spent at the beginning of the school year in English class devoted specifically to college essay writing, College Essay Night provides a milieu–a workshop of sorts–for undivided attention to the inner self. Three hours are spent receiving feedback from VMS faculty, but mostly the time is spent writing. Make no mistake, faculty are not rewriting essays, but merely sharing what is inferred and learned from reading the essay. Jennie Harris, a college admissions counselor from Wake Forest, encourages students to receive feedback on their essays as a way to be sure the message is clear. Here are the essential questions guiding each tutorial:
- Does your essay answer the prompt?
- What did the reader learn about you? Is this the intended meaning of the essay?
- Is it authentically your essay, your voice?
- Does your essay need to be edited for mechanics, grammar?
What I like most about this time is the freedom given to the seniors to find a “quiet spot” with their laptop (scrunched under a cubicle, spread out on the stage, curled up on a couch, propped in front of the fireplace). Most importantly, when schedules are jam-packed it is valuable time awarded to them–along with a peaceful setting–to encourage positive thinking, self-reflection, and writing from an honest place. Writing is often an individual endeavor, but despite this, and together with a common goal, all of the seniors in attendance created unspoken camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment.
After being offered varied opinion and much food for thought, the final question to be asked of the senior should be: whether or not they feel proudly obliged to share their story – most likely with strangers? And at the end of the evening, when the final touches have been made and the homemade cupcakes have been consumed, the senior’s name on the personal statement can be only one.