Abused and overused SAT words bit the dust as writers and other grown-ups helped two dozen high school students polish their college application essays.
The mentoring took place Sunday at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School. The event was called “College Essay Liftoff Weekend.”
Through her organization, called Co-op Center for Creativity, Kauder paired high schoolers (mostly from New Haven public schools) with a group of volunteer Higher One employees, college English majors, and professional writers, like author Katharine Weber (at right in photo) ...
... and author and New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer, who’s pictured at right in the photo above and at the top of the story, with Hillhouse senior Frank Mitchell.
The event fit into a broader mission: Improving New Haven students’ chances of getting into college. That’s a central goal of New Haven’s school-reform drive, Dolores Garcia-Blocker (pictured), the public schools’ guidance supervisor, told the mentors at a prep session before the tutoring began Sunday. So is involving adults in the lives of New Haven’s schoolchildren, she said—not just parents and teachers, but administrators, custodians, school resource officers, and “people in this room.”
She also told mentors that their relationship with their new mentees could last only as long as Sunday’s session. No email afterwards. No Facebook messages. No re-examining their essays. That’s because the school system didn’t have mentors go through background checks to participate in Sunday’s session; more extensive contact with students requires those checks. (College essay topic, anyone?)
The writing coaches received a training packet to help prepare them for Sunday’s session. Page six included this tip: “Avoid using words that sound like they were plucked out of the thesaurus. The admission officers know you’re a high school senior, and they want to hear your words. (Two example words that are overused in college essay applications: plethora and epiphany.)”
That was an epiphany indeed for this tutor. (Though not one of a plethora, alas.) Who knew that 35 years after those SAT words seemed all the rage, they are still fouling so many college essays?