Every fall, students from Detroit and surrounding communities come to the University of Michigan’s Detroit Center for free college essay writing workshops run by U-M’s Sweetland Center for Writing (SCW) in partnership with the Admissions Office and its counselors at the Detroit Center. The goal of these workshops has always been to create more access, particularly for those students who are first-generation and/or under-represented.
With these goals of access in mind, students can choose from workshops offered between September and December, with several offered before Michigan’s Early Action November 1st deadline. An undergraduate peer consultant from the SCW and a doctoral student from the Joint Program in English and Education (JPEE) run each workshop, which begins with general insights about the essay writing process, ranging from advice about choosing life events, to navigating how students can better “show” their experiences using voice and imagery. Students then participate in a collaborative peer-review of sample essays, before they are divided into smaller groups for more individualized essay attention on either the Common Application Essay or one of the three required U-M supplemental essays.
Elizabeth Tacke, a JPEE doctoral student who has participated in these workshops for several years, says about this experience:
I find myself most often helping students to see and articulate how the everyday aspects of their lives matter and are applicable to the content of Michigan’s required essays. I’m always most excited to talk with students one-on-one to hear how they are choosing to represent themselves through narrative, their aspirations for study at Michigan, and the sense of self the communities they write about have given them. I recognize the stakes of these workshops through each individual I encounter. For many students, admission to institutions like Michigan is often barred because of inequitable circumstances, yet every student I encounter has a voice, a story to tell, and experiences that would positively impact Michigan’s student population.