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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Writing for College Success

What do college professors look for when evaluating student writing? This course teaches practical and effective strategies for meeting professors' expectations when writing at the college level. You will learn about the conventions of writing in a range of academic disciplines and in different types of papers, such as close readings of texts, reflective responses, and research-based persuasive essays. Through creative exercises, intensive in-class writing, and discussion of thought-provoking articles, you will develop your critical thinking skills and learn to communicate your ideas clearly and persuasively. In addition to preparing yourself for writing papers in college, you will have the opportunity to work on producing a draft of your college admission essay.

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  • Dates: July 17 - 28, 2017
  • Instructor: Charles Yarnoff, Ph.D , Associate Professor of Instruction in Writing, The Writing Program, Northwestern University
  • Enrollment Capacity:  24 


Class sessions will include brief lectures on writing topics, discussion of readings, peer editing of students’ writing, and in-class writing. Through these methods, you will learn about the different kinds of papers you will write in college, and techniques for drafting and editing your own papers. You will also learn how to use the Northwestern University Library’s extensive databases in order to do research. Finally, you will read examples of college admission essays, draft your own, receive feedback on it, and write a revision.


Through this course you will:

  • become familiar with the types of papers you will write in college
  • learn about the expectations professors have for writing
  • learn strategies for drafting and revising college papers
  • learn how to do research using a university library’s databases and primary source material
  • produce a draft and revision of your college admission essay


This seminar is appropriate for high school students who are interested in improving their writing to help prepare themselves for college. No previous knowledge of college writing is required.

A Typical Classroom Session

The seminar will be a mixture of half days and full days. On the full days, there will be field trips or other seminar activities that will require attendance beyond the typical classroom schedule, such as student research.


Lecture and discussion on the topic for the day


Follow-up on previous day’s activities, e.g., peer editing of a paper followed by time to work on revision




In-class writing, e.g., starting to work on a paper or practicing editing techniques


Introduction of next day’s topics

Resources and Materials

Readings will include examples of writing assignments from various Northwestern University courses; articles about effective writing; readings for analysis and critical reflection; handouts on editing techniques; and examples of college admission essays.