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Whitman: incorporate college essay instruction to ease stress

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Graphic by Avery Johnston.

Graphic by Avery Johnston.

Graphic by Avery Johnston.

By Emma Sorkin

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There’s no way to get around it: the college application process, with its seemingly infinite requirements, is daunting and incredibly stressful.

To ease some of the application-related stress, Whitman should add a course that teaches students how to write college application essays. This course would teach a writing style that English classes don’t currently cover and help even the playing field for students who can’t afford professional help.

As college acceptance rates drop nationwide—Stanford’s acceptance rate is less than double what it was in 2006, The Washington Post reported—each element of the application process has become much more important in differentiating among many highly qualified students.

In particular, the significance of the main application essay has risen as more selective colleges place a greater emphasis on it, several admissions officers told the Boston Globe said. As one Harvard student noted in a blog post, through your essays, the admissions officers meet you—the you that encompasses more than just a list of extracurriculars or a transcript.

Unfortunately, this heavily weighted portion of the application is rarely taught in schools. While English 11 and Honors English 11 classes at Whitman do require students to write one practice college essay, the approximately 160 students taking AP Language & Composition don’t receive any college essay instruction, which puts them at a disadvantage.

College essay writing is vastly different from the type of writing taught in schools, college essay coach Reshma Memon Yaqub explained. Schools teach students to explain a subject and support their opinions with evidence, while colleges expect personal narratives about students’ own lives. This requires students to know how to soul-search and reflect, not just find academic sources on Google Scholar.

The main difficulties of college essay writing are deciding which event to discuss and relaying the information in an effective way; students receive little or no instruction about how to do either in school, Yaqub said. Teaching college essay writing as a separate subject is therefore essential to improve these skills.

Moreover, such a class will help ensure that students who can’t afford an essay tutor have essays that can rival those of wealthier students. Essay tutors can cost upwards of $500 per session, according to one local tutor’s published price. Colleges compare students from the same high school with each other, one Whitman counselor said, so providing a free option in schools will help to level the playing field for lower-income students.

Some say it’s not the school’s responsibility to help students get a leg up in the college process. Whitman, however, already offers a test-prep course, so it’s clear that the school takes responsibility for preparing students for the college process. Offering an essay writing class would further this mission.

Studentsespecially students from less privileged backgroundsdeserve as much support as their school can provide as they navigate one of the most stressful times in their lives. Whitman has a responsibility to offer a college essay writing class to teach a form of writing English classes don’t currently cover in detail and better prepare underserved students for the college process.

1 Comment

One Response to “Whitman: incorporate college essay instruction to ease stress”

  1. Danielle Fus, English teacher on May 24th, 2017 4:41 pm

    Why was the only source interviewed for this article an individual who has a commercial interest in helping students with their college essay writing?

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