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The Common Application: Find Uncommon Ground
A College Application Essay Bootcamp
Dates (choose one): October 9 (Monday, Columbus Day)
Time: 10 am-4 pm, plus 1-hour private consultation follow-up
Instructor: Rachel Richardson 
Ages: High School, Early College
Genre: Essay 
Price: $275

You've been asked to describe yourself in 650 words to an anonymous committee. There are thousands of other applicants vying for spots in the same small first-year class. What can you say to distinguish yourself? How can you get across your true strengths and personality? How can you make them want to say yes? 

This intimate workshop will prepare students to write the college admissions essay, but can also be used by anyone seeking to improve their personal and persuasive writing for high school, college, and beyond. Over one intensive day, the workshop immerses students in the creative writing process, honing their authentic voices and plying their stories to find the most compelling elements.


This class is ideal for the student who doesn’t know where to begin, or who feels anxious or creatively blocked by the essay process. Though there may be a concrete goal (to get into the perfect college!), the best way to approach the task of the Common Application is to excavate and experiment like writers. Students should discover something about themselves in the process of writing, rather than simply relaying an already-known list of strengths. 


During the workshop day, we’ll look critically at what makes an essay work and what makes one flop. We'll freewrite, draft, and revise in class. We’ll discuss finding the story within the story, and then whittling away the fluff. Students will leave after a day of immersion in creative practice with a better sense of themselves as writers and people—and with a solid start on the essay that will communicate them brilliantly to the admissions committee.

As an Ivy League graduate, instructor at top-ranked universities, and alumni interviewer, Rachel has insights from across the academic landscape to help students present themselves in the best light, and find the road less traveled.


Course structure:

This workshop is limited to 5 students to guarantee close attention to everyone’s story and process. Students need not have begun the essay before the workshop. The intensive structure of the day-long writing workshop is intended to bring students the benefit of immersion in writing and to generate the momentum that will fuel their later revisions.


Students will make a 1-hour individual appointment with the instructor in the weeks following the workshop to discuss their developed draft in detail and make a plan for next steps as they head into application season.


Rachel is also available for one-on-one consultations in addition to this group workshop. For further information, or for future dates for the college essay workshop, contact her here

Common Application, Uncommon Ground

Rachel Richardson has taught English and Creative Writing for 15 years at some of the best colleges in the country: Stanford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan. She currently teaches graduate students in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of San Francisco. Rachel is also the author of two award-winning books of poetry, Hundred Year Wave and Copperhead, both published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her poetry has been featured in the New York Times, New England Review, and Slate.

Rachel grew up in Berkeley, attending Prospect-Sierra, Bentley, and Berkeley High School. She also holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, an MA from UNC-Chapel Hill, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. She is a long-time alumni interviewer and Class Officer for her alma mater, Dartmouth College.

More about Rachel:

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