The college admissions process can be both expensive and stressful for students, but a free program at New College of Florida aims to demystify the writing process for those personal essays with hands-on workshops.
Among the many hurdles in the transition from high school to college is mastering the essay portion of the college application.
Jennifer Wells, director of New College’s writing program, has been helping struggling students with their essays for 15-20 years, and has now established a free workshop at New College of Florida. She said students typically freeze up when it is time to switch from the standard third-person in academic writing to writing about themselves.
“But even something like that, I think students have sometimes internalized these rules that they hear in high school about academic writing,” Wells noted. “And then need permission, in a sense, to set those rules aside and use ‘I,’ and write about themselves.”
Wells gives them permission through her workshop, which teaches students how to write for different genres. It is funded by a grant which helps the college boost its efforts to engage with transfer and first-generation college students. Wells argued other colleges and school districts should consider doing the same, in light of a growing for-profit essay-writing industry.
The program covers topics including generating ideas, writing reflectively and approaching rewrites. Wells added it targets first-generation students who do not often have a relative or mentor to help distinguish writing styles.
“I do point out that with any writing situation, you want to ask yourself, ‘Well, who is reading this? Who is my audience, what are they expecting? And are there samples of this genre that I should look at?’ And so, we do that in the workshops,” Wells outlined.
Since its launch, the program has grown to offer support to faculty and staff at New College, in addition to working with high school students to transfer their reading and writing knowledge into their first year of collegiate writing and beyond.