Rising Seniors in Valley Stream Get a Jump Start on College Prep

Rising Seniors in Valley Stream Get a Jump Start on College Prep photo
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This summer was the first for a new College Writing seminar in the Valley Stream Central High School District, housed at Central and open to students entering their senior year at Central, North and South high schools. The three-week long initiative, now in its final week, concentrates on the college essay, which students typically begin when they return to school in September. Approximately 33 students divided across three sections have been spending their weekday mornings delving into research components, building resumes, working on writing the essay itself, studying colleges online and working on aspects of the common application.

Based on Central’s College Clinic program during the school year, the summer seminar was initiated by Guidance Counselor Amy La Personerie and English teacher Cristina Canle, who developed the curriculum with support from Central Principal Dr. Joseph Pompilio and members of the Administration. 

The goal is to strengthen college essay writing skills and provide students with a head start on the application process before their schedules become busy with academics and extra-curricular activities during the school year.  

“The kids seem to be very happy with it and very responsive,” said Ms. La Personerie. 

On the first day, students completed an introductory survey that prompted them to think about their goals and feelings about writing in general. Some came in with essay drafts already in the works and went right into editing and other supplemental components, while others started from scratch in determining topics and brainstorming about anecdotes. To guide them in the early phases, free writing exercises presented students with different themes that they wrote about for ten minutes before moving on to the next. In doing so, many realized they had found their niche as, despite changing questions, their writing centered around similar ideas. 

The students are writing about a wide range of topics – some are educational, some are very personal and all are unique. Ms. Canle has stressed to the groups that sometimes it takes multiple attempts to find the right topic and advised them on taking unique angles to make their work stand out. Using sample essays from the New York Times, students have reviewed different approaches and formats and practiced reverse outlining as a precursor to composing their own pieces. 

The program also provides tips for the common application questions and organizers. Students have been downloading applications and becoming familiar with the college process in general. They also completed “brag sheets” that helped steer them in the right direction when requesting recommendation letters and identifying resume-worthy achievements.  

“The students did their best work and represented themselves well in a way a transcript couldn't,” said Ms. Canle.