I took a page from my earlier reading of Writing Without Teachers for this one. I mean that literally — I dug out the photocopies I made in the fall, when we were doing messy personal narrative essays responding to “The Things They Carried,” — only this time it was in preparation for college application essays.
I’ve got some great slideshows and prompts for getting their brains started on writing a good college essay, but I wanted to shift gears a little bit with the final product. I will read mediocre essays, but I certainly don’t want admissions committees reading the stuff that students turn into me when they haven’t done their best work. This needed to be an all-or-nothing deal, one where students got down and dirty with the writing process until something really great came forth.
In the spirit of that process, my instructions to them are messier but also simpler than usual:
On Monday, 5/6 you need to bring a complete draft of your college essay to class.
That draft may be messy, and disorganized, and too long — but it needs to feel complete. An incomplete paper will make class on Monday very difficult for you.
Once you have conferenced in class, I will then set you up with an appointment with an outside expert editor. This might be in person or via e-mail.
Once you send your draft to your editor, you are on their schedule — so the final deadline for this assignment is several weeks away, and you will have to maintain communication with them and then revise on your own.
Here’s the checklist for what you will be turning in as your final product:
- Complete draft on Monday 5/6
- Copy of the draft edited by your expert editor (don’t delete the comments!)
- Revised essay which reflect editor’s comments to the fullest
- Separate written reflection describing how your writing changed — what were you trying to say at the beginning, and how has the message changed? How has your writing changed?
This assignment will also be graded differently from typical high school writing assignments — there is no such thing as “not good enough” or “just-so-so-because-I-slacked” for your college application essay. There’s either excellent, or not ready to be turned in yet.
This assignment is worth 25 points total — and will be marked either “credit” or “missing” in the grade book.
When you have accomplished all of the items on the list (to a level that satisfies Ms. Pahomov when she looks it over) then it will be marked credit.
If you do not achieve all the items on the list by Monday, 5/20, it will be marked “missing” (0/25) until you successfully turn it all in, at which point it will be marked “credit.”
I feel like this is a classic “try to make the grade book as though it’s not there” move. I hope it works.
Oh, and those outside expert editors? All people from my PWN — professional writerly network.
Not sure if you know about Collegewise–it’s a private counseling firm based in L.A. I did part-time work for them briefly as an essay specialist helping students with their essays. They had great tips from the best audience–actual former admissions officers from University of Chicago, etc. I use their materials still with my students and their blog is great: http://www.wiselikeus.com/