(UN) Common App. - Personal Essay Workshops

Every summer, I offer a limited number of three day writing workshops that guide students through the entire college essay process in a dynamic, small group setting. From the development of an original and compelling idea, to the drafting and revision process, every student will benefit from both professional and peer review, and will leave the workshop not only with a vivid and meaningful Common App. Essay, but also with a better understanding and appreciation of the art of composition.

Day 1:  the nuts and bolts  of persuasive essay writing. Topics covered include:

  • How the Personal Essay is truly a medium through which character, potential, prowess, insight, leadership ability, and passion can be persuasively revealed

  • How to construct a strong opening sentence that draws the reader in, and how to create interest and tension to make them want to keep reading. How and when to take risks; the importance of empathy, awareness, and humor.

  • Mechanics and usage; grammar, organization and style.

  • Avoiding cliché, weak phrasing, sentimentality, redundancy, and contradiction.

  • A thorough review of both successful and unsuccessful essays.

Students benefit greatly from having one or two prompts in mind and some initial thoughts in order for me to better understand their intent and writing style. The Common App. has released its 2019-2020 prompts:


Ideas will be generated and drafts will be worked over during collaborative and individual writing sessions. Constructive criticism, diverse opinions, and immediate feedback will guide and refine each essays development. Specific instruction/homework will be given between each session to further advance and improve the narratives.


Individual read-throughs, real-time feedback, and line editing. The small group setting allows students the opportunity to effectively evaluate the essays of their peers, thereby leading to a more robust and meaningful assessment of their own writing. Drafts are refined with an emphasis on impression, style, and precision.

Day 3

Essays will be polished and reviewed for clarity, organization, authenticity of voice, and level of insight. We’ll discuss approaches and rough draft ideas for Supplemental and Short Answer Essays, as well as how to “customize” the Personal Statement for multiple applications. College lists will be reviewed and additional prompts will catalogued and studied.

Students will also learn how to effectively organize their extracurriculars and use concise, impactful writing when filling out their Common App. Activities List.


I am committed to working with each student until the application essays are as polished and as fully realized as they can be.  To that end, I will continue to correspond with students via email in order to provide prompt, in-depth feedback on each and every draft the student sends me.  I will review and annotate the drafts with an eye toward grammatical, structural, and thematic concerns up to the moment the application is finished and the student clicks 'Submit'.

In order to maximize individual attention, enrollment is limited to 5 students per workshop.   

DaTes for Summer 2019 Workshops:

July 9th, 10th and 11th from 1:00-4:00pm @ the Kenmore LIbrary

August dates for the workshop@ the Audubon Library in Amherst will be posted soon.

These workshops fill quickly every year. To secure a spot, please fill out the form below. If you are interested in putting together a small group and/or discussing an alternative set-up/location, please let me know.

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