I recently wrote a message to our team in anticipation of our summer work with students who will be writing out of their life experiences for their college applications. I share my reflection here because it provides a look inside our coaching for those who are curious to know who we are, what we do, how we think, what we talk about.
Sentence x Sentence Dispatches from the Pursuit of Good Writing
We emphasize student ownership of the writing process, and choosing a coach is a great place to start! Our best advice is to have the student visit our coach profiles to learn about our creative projects, our experiences, our curiosities, and our quirks!
I’ve been tickled by the arrival of Chat GPT, the sleek, A.I. algorithm that can transform our jumbled brainstorms into pristine sentences. I’ve been asked if I was worried, but I’m not terribly concerned. In fact, Chat GPT and I have something in common: the “chat” element.
A student of mine once wrote about an art assignment that involved a blank canvas, paint, and a salt shaker. These were his tools. His purpose: to let process dictate a subject — what would he see by experimenting with these materials?
The first thing she saw was the open kitchen cupboards. Then she heard a crunch underfoot. She looked up and saw the window — which opened onto a fire escape — ajar. And she knew, with a shiver, that she had a problem.
I once helped a college applicant who wrote beautifully about a terrible place to swim. It was a stretch of bay marked by strong currents, stinging sea lice, and a pungent smell when the tide stole the water altogether.
I’ve always known how overwhelming the college application process can be, but this is the first time I’ve experienced it firsthand with my own child. I’m continually struck by the level of accompanying stress, but what I didn’t see coming? The stress I would feel as her parent.
At our new online home, we’re delighted to share how we look at writing and what it can mean for the writer. Our decade of coaching has deepened our belief in the enduring personal growth a writer experiences in the journey between the blank page and the final draft.
I tend to ask a lot of questions, especially of college-application writers. If you’re talking about preparing for a robotics competition, then I want to know where your team gathered, what songs you jammed to while you drew the designs, and the fact that you nicknamed the robot “Sparky.”
Early in the writing process, performing is my worst enemy. The cursor keeps blinking while I keep staring. The problem in these moments is that I’ve leapfrogged over writing, straight to publishing, and to what I think the audience wants from the final draft. And then … I’m frozen.
As we come face-to-face with the anxiety of where this essay is going, I’m reminded of trying to walk my son to school on time. Once we hit the street, he’s fascinated by everything he sees. Don’t tell my son, or I'll despair of ever getting him to school on time, but college essay writers should be like him!
I often imagine college essays as first-impression outfits. Sure, it’s nice to be stylish, but college admissions officers don’t need to see you in your wildest clothes. If you look in your closet, though, and see no wild outfits at all, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to wear.