New College of Florida Expands Free College Essay Workshops for High School Students, Boosts Efforts to Support First-Time College Students

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- by Marty Katz


While the move to drop testing requirements across the country has been an intentional effort to boost enrollment and allow for a greater composition of applicants, the importance of personal essays has provided a challenge for first-generation college students (who often don’t have a relative or mentor to help them with the process).

A local writing program at New College of Florida is offering help for high school students. Offered free of charge, and remotely or in person, the program covers topics including how to generate ideas, write reflectively and approach rewrites.

“We have already held our first two workshops this summer, and students have shared how different this style of writing is from what they typically write at their schools,” said Jennifer Wells, Ph.D., the director of New College’s Writing Program. “Being able to guide them through this unfamiliar genre and see them produce something they are proud of is extremely rewarding.”

The program was launched last year in partnership with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. New College recently received an additional $103,341 grant from the Foundation to expand on the work and provide additional resources for the College to boost its efforts to engage with transfer and first-generation college students.

For first-generation college students, the transition to college can be both exciting and daunting. The opportunity to pursue their dreams also comes with the challenge of adjusting to college life. One of the biggest hurdles is simply figuring out how everything works—from getting to college to navigating financial aid systems, academic advising, and student life.

“It’s a big transition for young adults who don’t have a parent or relative to talk them through the process,” said Suzanne Sherman, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at New College. “Many, at first, don’t feel like they belong, so we are committed to enhancing equity and access for both our local high school students and our newly admitted New College students.”

Over the summer, faculty and staff members at New College take workshops to learn how to ease the transition for transfer students. Weeks before students arrive on campus, they are paired with a dedicated faculty adviser who is trained to guide them through the system. This summer, New College was able to extend this concept to students coming directly from high school.

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