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College Essay Prep

High school seniors, looking to get a jumpstart on your college essay? Register today for NHHEAF’s College Essay Prep! In this interactive workshop, you will hear how the essay is utilized in the admission process, gain insight directly from college admission representatives, learn critical essay writing strategies, participate in essay topic brainstorming activities, and begin drafting your college essay.

College Essay Prep

This is a FREE workshop open to all NH high school seniors. 

Registration is required.

October 3 (5:30pm - 7:30pm) - VIRTUAL



The college essay can strike fear in a student’s heart, and for good reason. It’s a pretty critical piece of the college application process, and there’s no formula for getting it just right.

“The essay is such a hang-up for students. This is something that they really haven’t done before,” said Karen Collins, a college counselor at NHHEAF’s Center for College Planning.

With more than 25 years’ experience in college counseling and admissions, Karen is skilled at taming essay fears and helping students find their voices. This summer, she and other counselors are leading college essay prep workshops around the state. Here’s a taste of what they’ll talk about.

How important is the college essay, really? 
It varies somewhat between schools in how they'll use the essay in the admissions review. I think with SATs becoming optional at some schools, this has kind of bumped up the importance of the essay. It's their biggest chance to get to learn more about the student’s passions and see how well they can write. Some schools take a ‘holistic’  approach to admissions. These schools definitely put more emphasis on the essay.


I hear a lot of people say, ‘I’m just not a writer,’ and I suspect you’ve heard that too. What do you say to encourage someone who has that mentality?  
This is totally different than writing an English essay. There's not that specific format of the introduction, the three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. It's much more creative, and it's much more about being yourself. Be open and honest and authentic. Certainly have somebody check it for grammar and spelling, but it's much more important to tell admissions something about you that only you can tell. Have confidence! You can do that. 

Getting started is often the hardest part, right? How do you help students with that? 
They have to write about something that they love, or it’s just impossible. One of the things I have them do is pretend it’s their first day at college, and they meet someone new. What’s the one thing they want that person to know about them right away? When admissions counselors are reading essays, they’re trying to create a community. They’re imagining, ‘Would this person be a good roommate and would they be an active member of the college community?’

In your work with hundreds – thousands?—of students over the years, what would you say is one thing almost everyone could improve in their essay? 
Being vulnerable. Being more willing to share their feelings and how they’ve grown from the experience rather than just sharing a story. That critical thinking piece is so important. When I read essays, I write down the one thing I get from it and then ask, ‘Is that what you wanted me to get?’ If not, they probably need to keep working on it. 

Tell us about this year’s workshop? It sounds really fun and interactive. What can students expect? 
One of the activities helps students identify objects that are really important to them. Another will help narrow a long list of values to one core value. These will be a fun way for students to find details to share their story and their reason for telling it. 

We’ll also have college admissions counselors at the workshops. Having their direct input is really helpful.

We have sessions on six different campuses, and students can go on a tour of the campus after the workshop. It should be a lot of fun.