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College Application Essay Writing Workshop

How to write an unforgettable college essay that reflects you

In this online workshop, high school students will practice and develop the skill of writing a college application essay. Students will brainstorm, draft, and revise a full-length college application essay by the conclusion of the workshop. Provided students attend all four sessions and complete the 1-2 hours of homework assigned each week, students can expect to leave the workshop with an essay that is ready or near-ready for submission. Together, we will investigate the central questions of application writing, including:

  • Who am I? As a student? As a writer?
  • What do I want out of my time in college?
  • Which of my experiences have most shaped who I am today, and why?
  • Where have I witnessed my ability to enact change in my community?

This workshop is for high school students at the beginning of their application writing process; all writers will start their essays from scratch. Our virtual classroom will function as a collaborative workshop, as well as an instructional space. Students will routinely read and analyze each other's work, as well as personal essays by published authors. Together, we will grow comfortable with: (1) the conventions of application writing, (2) vulnerably sharing our stories, and (3) a rigorous revision process involving peer review and instructor feedback. In order to create an open online writing community within the workshop, students will be asked to turn their Zoom cameras on.

Students will have the opportunity to join a generative collective of writers, to discuss their hopes and anxieties regarding the application process, and to connect firsthand with the UMass Amherst university level writing community. We will approach application writing both practically, and creatively: all students will leave with an essay they feel confident about, and will have also had the opportunity to challenge and hone their skills within the expansive personal writing genre.

Enrollment for this workshop is limited to give time for personalized attention. Questions? Email 

Workshop Format and Schedule

  • Section 1 (Registration closed): March 3 - 24, 2024 | Live synchronous sessions will meet Sundays from 1 - 2:30pm (EST). 
  • Section 2 (Open): March 3 - 24, 2024 | Live synchronous sessions will meet Sundays from 12:00 - 1:30pm (EST). 

This workshop consists of 4 online synchronous meeting. In addition, participants should plan for 1-2 hours of asynchronous assignments per week. 


Students attending the online program are expected to attend all class sessions live in real time. In order to prioritize the health and well-being of participants, eligibility is restricted to applicants residing in time zones where class hours do not extend beyond midnight. Please use a time zone converter to check when class sessions will meet in your time zone. 


Section 1: Alexandra Itzi is a Writing Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She holds both a BA and MA in English Literature, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Alexandra has developed her pedagogical practices through years of teaching essay writing, literary analysis, rhetorical analysis, research writing, and creative writing in a variety of classroom settings. She is passionate about speculative fiction, contemporary trends in fantasy, and the intersection between video games and literary criticism. She has a wealth of experience working with students writing across disciplines, as well as with students for whom English is an additional language. Alexandra has work published with PalabrasVoltEl Portal, and more. She is currently working on a fantasy novel. She lives in Amherst with her husband, their dog and cat, and has an unhealthy attachment to her gaming PC.

Section 2: Leah Barber is from Chicago. She holds an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she teaches college writing. She received the inaugural Peggy Woods Award for Innovative Teaching from the UMass Amherst Writing Program in 2023. At UMass, she has also been a Social Justice Fellow and is currently an Instructional Innovation Fellow. Her writing has appeared in Peach Mag, Reading in Translation, Winter Tangerine Review, and Salon