For city students, a helping hand with college essays

Jasmine Jackson and Gregory Massey, both 17, take part in a workshop at the University of Pennsylvania designed to help students with the college application process.
Jasmine Jackson and Gregory Massey, both 17, take part in a workshop at the University of Pennsylvania designed to help students with the college application process. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 28, 2013

PHILADELPHIA With their guidance counselors laid off or overworked, city high school students on Saturday turned to workshops at universities and libraries for help with their college-entrance essays.

They included Tyzhay Scott, a senior who watched the number of his school's counselors dwindle from three to one this year.

"She tries her best to get to each individual student, but it's hard," Scott said of the only guidance counselor at the High School of Engineering and Science.

"The people she can't talk to personally, she talks to us through e-mail," he said. "So I've been going to college fairs on my own."

On Saturday, he went to the University of Pennsylvania's "Ivy in the Backyard," a college-application seminar that was expanded this year after the Philadelphia School District's layoffs.

St. Joseph's University had a similar workshop. And the Community College of Philadelphia last week had several days of open houses offering guidance with the application process.

To help, the Mayor's Office and a group of nonprofits also kicked off a two-month initiative at some libraries.

"I really want to emphasize that this is just a stopgap," said Barbara Mattleman, director of the mayoral initiative PhillyGoes2College, "because school counselors do so much more than help students with their college-application essays."

Elijah Kendall, a senior at Boys' Latin Charter, was one of the students who showed up at the Lucien E. Blackwell library branch in West Philadelphia. He said the school's college adviser would help edit a finished draft, but he wanted help getting started.

He plans to study journalism and become a television news anchor.

He and Walter DeShields, one of the libraries' college-prep specialists, discussed some ideas. And then DeShields told him to "just write. No format. Nothing. Free-write," to begin the process.

Kendall punched out several hundred words about an Outward Bound trip that helped him build leadership skills.

"I had to carry a 60-pound bag and had to walk about three miles before I was able to rest," he wrote about the start of the trip. "At this point, I said, 'TAKE ME HOME!!!!' "

Scott, who wants to study engineering, based his essay on his first cross-country track meet. After Saturday's seminar, he said, he realized it should be more personal.

"You need to make it seem like you're a real person," he said, "instead of someone you think they want you to be."


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118

@Ben_Finley

www.inquirer.com/bucksinq

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|