There were three important factors for my joy in participating in a Communities in Schools program Saturday morning, one of which has something to do with the view from Grandfather Mountain.
That I’m contacted for this is optimal “Social Capital” (time, effort, “being”), and to utilize my professional skills for a specific four-hour gig, working with already accepted HS students to write better essays as part of scholarship money applications, is right at the top of Satisfying.
I’m not a parent, but seeing my suggestions immediately and directly acted on, is affirming. That those changes *will* make a difference, that floats my boat.
The short time commitment shows both the respect CIS has for professional availability, and is a testament to how focused on the difference they recognize this time – essentially 1.5 hours online – can make.
The two dozen or so students who attended the Access Granted Workshop at Philllip O. Berry – Academy of Technology, also learned about online sites that described available scholarships for another important aspect, “Where?” such money might be.
Essays often ask for response to ‘catastrophic’
The standard 500 word essays scholarship applicants are asked for usually focus on something catastrophic that happened in their lives, and what they did about it. The standard throughout most of my writing career has been “a good hook” in that first paragraph, and that’s more important in essays than the click value that emphasizes titles and subheads for readability now.
One simple step to improve almost everyone’s letter writing is to break up huge blocks of print. Yes, reading train-of-thought style for 26 lines will always look daunting, and people who have to do it LOTS of times for their jobs might miss whats in the sauce…
It’s just a good idea to start a new paragraph for visual relief, and its not a bad thing to even add an extra line. Knowing how ‘real world’ applications for company sites can be very unfriendly to submissions that are less than pro forma, be willing to go back through and edit. The extra effort to go back and change 6-comma, run-on sentences into two real ones with periods, plus that comment you thought of after finishing, usually feels like a small reward.
New thought, new paragraph, even if its only a significant one liner.
“I intend to go to Howard or some other HBC (Historically Black Colleges), because several people I respect a lot have talked about what it meant to them.” -Kai.
Confidence in the communicating
Having discussed the last line of the business card I gave several kids, they were amused about “Smarter than the average bear” writer, which is explained at the top of my landing page. While I hold Matt Damon in “The Martian” as a high end example, I state that having done a variety of projects, I’m confident about being better than Yogi, the one-trick bear, who only stole picnic baskets. Its a sense of self 17-18 years olds don’t easily recognize.
The “catastrophic” change for Kai was his mother – who he’d always lived with – taking a job in Maryland when he was twelve, and he stayed in Charlotte with his Dad, who he saw frequently, but only stayed with periodically. He said the change in parental styles was a very different world, that it affected him to the point where he got his first ever C’s before he finally figured things out.
So how long did that take? “Like a whole semester!”
I told him about going from Catholic grade school to public school in 8th grade, also getting my first C’s ever. I sloughed off instead of excelling, because I was way ahead at that point. The challenge had been going against the same peer group for better grades – get one wrong on a test, they had a better A.
In Kai’s case, he didn’t recognize the strength of having gotten BACK to all A’s in half a year. I was not the same student in that environment, but in his self-grading, he’d messed up. In describing how he put together a booklet for National Honor Society, he breezed past the fact 1) He did the app early, so it wouldn’t be hanging over him and 2) once he knew what they were looking for and how the process went, he began helping others put their stuff together.
Those he helped referred him to others, sometimes he gets paid for tutoring.
There HAS to be room in any essay for something like that.
Note to others: Just because you’re writing *about* yourself, doesn’t mean you need to include extraneous material that causes readers to think negatively. Keep any story simple, centered.
Something to help everyone
A Scoring Rubric for Scholarship Essay Questions was such a good, specific thing to have handed out, I don’t think there can be anything wrong with including it here.
There are four categories, based on point values (10,5,1,0). The “quality” of the content is considered in terms of progressive excellence in structure and story-telling
’10’ is for what would be considered an Exceptional answer, based on five criteria, such as having a strong central focus to the answer, with sentences clear and varied, using appropriate vocabulary, complete sentences, and minimal mechanical errors.
5 point “qualities” would include using appropriate details, with clear and correct sentence structure and revealing some “character,” again with few mechanical errors.
0 Points, not meeting expectations – Not answering the question, little development of the topic (short answers), the POV is confusing instead of recognizing the sense of “audience” they might be writing to, and punctuation, slang, text style, undeniably not proofread.
While consistently making myself available for events like this and some elementary school reading programs, it still feels great to impart long-term expertise so cleanly with a one-one focus.
A personal philosophy is to not try lifting all of society a gazillionth of an inch, but when kids put in extra time to improve their skills – and its the reason I love Hugh O’Brian Youth’s three-day leadership program – I’ll try passing along some best practices.
In Yogi’s words, “Hey hey, Boo-Boo, now you’re smarter than the average writer too!”