College Essay Camps: Powerful Stories, Results

A refugee’s story about realizing the value and importance of education in America.

It was as impactful of two weeks as I’ve seen,” ThreeSixty Executive Director Chad Caruthers.

A son’s story about the grit and determination he drew from his mother’s persistence to immigrate to the United States.

A student’s story about learning to keep a cool head despite the negative stereotypes aimed at her Islamic customs.

In ThreeSixty Journalism’s College Essay Boot Camp, more than 30 juniors from Minneapolis Roosevelt and St. Paul Harding high schools wrote these kinds of powerful, compelling personal narrative stories that they can now use in the competitive college and scholarship application process.

students and staff at ThreeSixty Journalism’s College Essay Boot Camp

The pilot program, which ran from March 28 to April 1 at Minneapolis Roosevelt and from April 4 to April 8 at St. Paul Harding, is part of ThreeSixty’s effort to enhance students’ college readiness, access and success by helping every student write an adaptable, polished essay to use for college and scholarship applications. The five-day workshop was comprised of mainly College Possible and/or AVID students from both schools, and took place during both schools’ spring breaks.

“It was as impactful of two weeks as I’ve seen,” said ThreeSixty Executive Director Chad Caruthers. “To hear our students’ stories, to work one-on-one with them on writing clear, concise essays, and to see the joy and accomplishment on their faces when after just one, albeit an intensive one, week, they have a polished college essay that will be hard to top.”

A collection of the essays will be published in a special insert in the May 2016 issue of ThreeSixty Magazine, which will be distributed in mid-May.

During the program, students worked with “writing coaches” – professional writers who each volunteered more than 10 hours of their time during the week – on writing their essays. Students also were taught a personal narrative writing curriculum, which included writing principles such as central idea, powerful introductions, outlining, strong verbs and tone, sensory details, specifics and dialogue, and editing. On the final day of camp, students traveled to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, where they had an opportunity to read their finished essays out loud during a final celebration and learn more about St. Thomas.

College Essay Boot Camp was modeled after an eight-week personal narrative writing program that ThreeSixty piloted over the 2014-15 school year at St. Paul Harding and Johnson high schools.

A special thanks to volunteer writing coaches Bob Franklin, Nicole Garrison, Beena Raghavendran, Chris Snowbeck, Beatrice Dupuy, Maggie LaMaack, Nancy Crotti, Jordan Osterman, Laurie Stern and Natalie Daher, as well as guest speaker Teron Buford.