Each fall the JoeAnn Hart leads a program to help local high school seniors with their college essays. Volunteers from the community work one-on-one with students at Gloucester High School and at a College Essay Night at the Gloucester Writers Center.
JoeAnn Hart writes:
Tensions run high during college admissions season, and the Gloucester Writers Center is out there trying to soften the edges. GWC volunteers visit Gloucester High School in the fall to help seniors with their Common Application essays. The college essay—650 words, max—is the only part of the application where admissions officers get to hear the student’s own voice, and it is our job and our joy to tease that voice out. We read and we listen, encouraging students to clarify their thoughts and help determine what it is they are trying to say. The final step is getting the words on the page in their own natural manner. From a thank you letter from a senior: “Your guidance really helped me turn my essay around and add a level of sincere personality to it which made it one of the best parts of my application.”
Starting in early October, GWC volunteers sign up for classes, called blocks, working as many or as little as they would like. When we show up at the high school library, the librarian lets the English teachers know that a tutor or two is in residence. Students arrive with a draft, or not, and the work begins. Some seniors need just ten minutes, others twenty or more, then they go back to class and send in the next student. In this way, over the course of several weeks, we see most of the college-bound seniors, many of them multiple times with drafts in ever-refined stages. In early December, the students start submitting their applications for early admissions and our work is done until the following year.
Talking to the students about their lives and finding out what’s important to them is deeply rewarding work. We are honored that they trust us with their words. The GWC will hold an orientation for volunteers in September, and will announce the date in an email blast the end of summer.