In September, the Blue Ridge Writing Project sponsored a very important event: the College Essay Outreach Project, for three consecutive nights, Sept 11th, 12th, and 13th. Faculty and graduate students from Virginia Tech’s Department of English and School of Education, along with Teacher-Consultants from the BRWP traveled to three high schools in our service area to meet with high school seniors and help them with their application essays for colleges, universities, and scholarships.
In November of 2011, the BRWP ran the first College Essay Outreach Project on the campus of Virginia Tech. It was a success, but was difficult for students to get to. They came from Roanoke and Giles and other surrounding towns. We decided that it would be much better if we could take it on the road and go to where it was more convenient for the students to attend–their own schools, or schools closer to them.
We saw 65 high school seniors in all, at Blacksburg High School, Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke, and Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount. The students who attended saw an overview presentation about how to put yourself into your writing, and some sample essays that were successful. Then they met one-on-one with a mentor to work on ideas for their own essays. Some came with drafts, others came with just the writing prompts, and some came with nothing. All of them got enormous help and left their session with solid plans and ideas for their application essays and statements.
One student from Blacksburg High School wrote of the experience, “I had just started on my essay the morning of the workshop and I really didn’t feel good about what I had written. Seeing the other essays, and getting help and ideas from the available teacher really helped me a lot. I feel more confident working on my other prompts for college and have several good ideas to put in the essays now.”
A student from Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke wrote, “I genuinely enjoyed discussing my potential essay and receiving advice from my mentor! I could tell he was passionate about writing, and was interested in/knowledgeable about the subjects on which I desired to write. I feel much more confidant and prepared to write the remainder of my essays. Thank you very much!
From a student who attended the Franklin County High School session: “My essay was ok, but didn’t describe me as a person. My mentor and I discussed writing another essay which I think was really helpful. He gave me his email address so I could send drafts of my new essay for him to evaluate.”
In September, 2013, we hope to run this event again, in some new and some repeat locations—possibly Giles or Pulaski County, Blacksburg again, and likely the same or another school in Roanoke, since the higher population there brings a lot of interest.