Episode 19: The Writing Process (What Happens in the G12 College Counseling Seminar?)

Episode 19: The Writing Process (What Happens in the G12 College Counseling Seminar?)

Date of Publication/发布日期
January 8, 2021
Jonathan Helland
Files & media
Volume 1 2020-2021

The Writing Process: What Happens in the G12 College Writing Seminar?

Rising 12 graders at BIPH are given the opportunity to participate in a seminar lead by the college counseling team on how to write college application essays.

I’ll use this space to describe the seminar and the writing process students will go through as they begin to write their college essays.

We cover a few aspects of the application process in the seminar, but the focus is on how to write the college application essays. The factors that are most important in determining college results—GPA, test scores, and extra-curricular activities—are mostly set in stone by 12th grade. All that remains is the application itself, and the essays are by far the most time-consuming and demanding part of that application.

College application essays can play a very important by giving college admission counselors a window into the unique personality of a student, and often, they can be the one thing that sets a student apart from other students with similar grades, test scores, and activities. However, many Chinese students are at a disadvantage when it comes to writing application essays, both because most will be writing in a second language and because of differences in the Chinese and American education systems. College applications essays are essentially in the literary genre of memoir or “creative non-fiction.” Students in American schools have, on average, been exposed to more creative writing tasks and have more experience writing about themselves than Chinese students do. We strive to make up for this deficiency during the college counseling seminar.

Every student should leave the seminar with a 1st draft of their Personal Statement, a 1st draft of their activity list, and, very likely, drafts of some other essays as well (most universities require supplemental essays in addition to the personal statement).

The most important essay your students will write is their Personal Statement, which will be sent to every college they apply to through Common App. A personal statement is a very open-ended writing assignment. The only solid rule is that it has to reveal something of your personality to the reader. Students can write their personal statement about almost anything. Such freedom can be intimidating.

Students need to equip themselves with the basics so as to go further. The writing process for our rising 12th graders will begin with some basic instruction on the importance of college essays, the varieties of essays they will have to write, what makes a good essay (which will be the topic of a future blog post), and some of the misconceptions people have about college essay writing.

Then we will guide them through the brainstorming process to come up with good personal statement topics. Students will need to come up with several possible topics for their personal statement and start writing those essays so they can get feedback from their counselors about which of these topics they should pursue.

Only then are they ready to work on writing the essay itself. Again, the college counselors will play an active part in planning, outlining, writing, and revising the essay. While most of the class-time will be set aside for students to work, counselors will be constantly meeting and consulting with students about their writing.

The writing process can be laborious and repetitive, especially with the personal statement. Even after students have competed a full draft of their essay, they will (under guidance from their counselor) rewrite and revise numerous times. It’s not uncommon for a student to completely start over with a new topic when an essay isn’t working. This can seem daunting, but it’s the reason we dedicate so much time in the seminar and the G12 college counseling class to the writing process.

Writing an application essay is easy. Writing a good application essay is hard. Writing a great application essay takes hard work, perseverance, thoughtfulness, insight, emotional vulnerability, and courage. Fortunately, your student won’t have to do it alone.