Next up for Seniors: Post-Acceptance: Now What?
Why Workshops Work
Come June, it’s time for me to enjoy one of the highlights of my year: running my summer essay writing workshops for the next season of college applicants. Today, after a decade of teaching these workshops, my belief in the value of this experience is stronger than ever. Although the workshop is just 5 hours long, yet students complete many weeks’ worth of work and emerge from the immersion knowing themselves better. Here are the reasons that the workshop format is so powerful:
If a workshop isn’t possible for you, then try creating these elements yourself.
1. Create a space and time away somewhere. Creating a space is likely the most important because it forces you to find a time when you can step away from your daily routine and behaviors and go think and write somewhere. The best way to do this is to make a date with yourself and put it on your calendar. Choose a space that you can get to without too much trouble. Cafes, libraries, bookstores, casual restaurants, and parks are all great places to write. If you really cannot leave home, then look for a place in your backyard or occupy an unfamiliar space in your home. Build a fort in your room and write there. Set a timer for two hours. Or, even better, set the timer for 4 hours. This will be your workshop time. Turn off all distractions and get ready to write.
2. Get reflective. This step is easy. Go online and pull up the University of California Personal Insight Questions. These essay questions ask you to reflect on who you are and what you do. The website version includes guiding questions to help you develop your thoughts and ideas. You can also look at the Common Application Essay Prompts. I especially like the new question #6. This is a great one to start with. Alternatively, sit down and ask yourself any one of these questions: What has been meaningful or important to me in my life so far? What do I care about? Or come up with a question that you want to ask yourself. Write whatever comes to mind. Write for as long as you can. Whatever path you choose, allow yourself to explore. Don’t decide that this will be your essay or that it has to be done during this session. Just use the time to think and write about the questions and who you are.
Pulling these first two steps off is no small feat, mainly because you will have to fight the inertia to stay in your routine and busied by the repetitions and distractions of daily life. But it can be done! Today, I wrote this blog from Blue Bottle Cafe, my favorite getaway when I need to hunker down and complete a bunch of work. It may even spark a new desire to be creative on a regular basis.
A Tip: If you think you’ll have trouble committing, then get a friend involved. Make a writing date and be sure to set clear expectations that you will each work for the assigned time (no less than 2 hours!).
3. Share. Finally, have a conversation with someone you trust about your essay topic(s). Think of someone that you can speak with openly, someone who accepts you and your ideas without judgment. Once you have an idea or a draft, reach out to that person. Ask that person to listen to you talk and ask good questions that will help you develop your writing. Write down anything in that conversation that inspires you further.
By the time you have completed step C, you will already feel relief and believe in yourself and your ability to overcome the stress of writing these essays for your college applications. Repeat this writing routine regularly, and you’ll develop a practice that will also benefit you in college when you will have to self-manage your own study habits. You can do it and I promise you it will be worth your while!
Felicia Fahey PhD
Felicia is a comprehensive educational consultant. She works with college bound students of all ages close to home, across the country and around the globe.