One hundred and fifty juniors and sophomores representing each high school in Surry County — including Mount Airy and Elkin — recently gathered in the Surry Community College Viticulture Center for a College Essay Workshop hosted by the Carolina College Advising Corps.
Jeremy Jones, professor of creative writing at Western Carolina University, led the workshop as the keynote speaker. Jones opened by instructing the students to write a bad poem about their shoes and then share their poems. He then explained the purpose of the activity.
“You have to write a bad first draft,” said Jones. Then, he argued, you hone in and revise, multiple times. “It’s like going into the Goodwill and finding the best stuff there.”
Following his opening activity, Jones had the students write about the same experience three times: first by “showing” what happened, in the present tense, then by “telling” what happened, in the past tense, and, finally, by both showing and telling combined.
This, Jones argued, should be the best of the three drafts, the one that “shows” the reader what happened through dialogue and action and “tells” the reader the information he or she needs to know through exposition or reflection.
After the workshop, he took questions from the students and waited to speak with them individually. Jones is a western North Carolina native and the author of the memoir “Bearwallow.”
Allee Olive, an assistant director of admissions from UNC Chapel Hill, opened the event by introducing students to the college essay and its purpose. Olive posed the following question: “If you dropped your essay in the hall at school and someone found it, would they know it was your essay?”
She emphasized the importance of students giving admissions’ committees information about themselves in their college essays that they may not otherwise know from the students’ GPAs and test scores. Olive previously served with the Carolina College Advising Corps in Chatham County.
Carson Todd, a junior at North Surry High School, left the program with a full page of notes. “It turned out to be really interesting, Carson said. “I liked hearing that we should write our own stories and not try to be someone else.”
The Carolina College Advising Corps aims to help low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students from North Carolina attend college by placing recent UNC-Chapel Hill graduates as college advisers in selected public high schools throughout the state.
Advisers assist students with admission, financial aid, and scholarship applications. They also work at the county level to plan college access events like the College Essay Workshop, aiming to increase the college-going culture in the region. There are three advisers serving the six high schools in Surry County.