Last year, the pandemic pushed the workshops online, and the first session drew 250 participants, many of whom were high school juniors just beginning to think about college. Some weren’t even considering Oglethorpe as a possibility.
“The point of the workshop is to offer general help to students wherever they’re applying or not,” said Butler. “In some ways, it’s an event to increase knowledge of Oglethorpe, but we don’t talk too much about ourselves. The goal is to find a college that fits you well.”
Much of the information dispels myths about the process, Butler said.
“The stress comes because students think they have to write about something different that happened in their life, something unique that no one else has done. I’ve heard students express that nothing bad has ever happened to them, and they think something traumatic has to have happened for them to write about it. That is so not necessary. I’ve read good essays about simple things that have happened to everyone. How a student frames it is what makes it valuable.”
The sessions sometimes take on topics ranging from how many letters of recommendation are needed and whether it’s important to visit prospective schools.
“These sessions open a portal for questions,” said Butler. “Many times, students don’t have a family member to ask, or they think they’re bothering the admission reps to ask them. That could not be farther from the truth. We want to give them the tools to ask, even if they want to do that anonymously.”
The 90-minute sessions focus on getting started, introducing an interest or passion and what to do when a college doesn’t provide a specific writing prompt. Information on what not to do is also covered, such as not submitting the same essay to multiple schools and not writing the night before the deadline.
“An essay is one of the only things that tells us something personal about the student,” said Butler. “It tells me more about who they are than I can get from other limited elements like a GPA or test scores. It really helps us get to know them and build our community of students.”
Oglethorpe has two free virtual workshops scheduled this month.
Insider Tips for a Great College Application takes place Oct. 14 (oglethorpe.edu/insider-tips-for-a-great-college-application) followed by the College Essay Writing Workshop Oct. 20 (oglethorpe.edu/college-essay-writing-workshop). Both begin at 5:30 p.m.
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