University Applicants Gain a Competitive Edge at NU-Q Workshop

First Get Ready! Workshop Focuses on Writing Strong Application Essays

More than a hundred high school students in Qatar gathered last Thursday night for a writing aid workshop that promised to hone their university application skills.

The workshop, hosted by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) on December 8 and streamed live online, taught students techniques for writing college application essays.

Titled “Application Essays 101,” the event was held at the NU-Q campus in Education City and is the first in a series of college admission workshops that the school is organizing until February 9, with an aim to provide students with a competitive edge when applying to university.

NU-Q’s ESL (English as a Second Language) specialist, Trish Seapy, led the nearly 150 students participating into the nitty-gritty of writing compelling personal statements and essays, which are at the core of a complete and successful admissions application.

Seapy opened the proceedings with an interactive trivia game –an effective approach to channeling the youthful exuberance of the audience into focused attention.

Students discussed the questions in a true/false quiz that included statements such as “Longer is better,” “Always start an essay with the personal ‘I’ since it is all about you” and “Always say what you think your audience wants to hear,” before Seapy announced that there was only one correct answer to all the questions in the quiz – FALSE.

“Longer does not mean better…don’t start with an ’I’…do not say what you think the admissions officers want to hear,” cautioned Seapy, as she explained a series of do’s and don’ts for the personal statement.

Applicants, she said, simply need to be themselves and make their case with honesty and integrity, thoughtful consideration of their audience, a bit of confidence (“not arrogance”) and creativity.

Seapy also urged the students to write clearly, succinctly and logically using correct punctuation and an actual Thesaurus (“avoid relying on a computer to fix your writing”). Other tips included unifying the essay with one theme, using concrete examples and paying attention to details.

“Know your grammar and proof read what you write a thousand times. Grammar mistakes are not well received,” warned Seapy.

The workshop went on to review a few strong sample essays, essay structure, tips for controlled writing exercises and related activities.

By the end of the session, students were visibly more comfortable with the essay portion of the application process.

“I was thrilled to find out that NU-Q was hosting a free public event of this nature. I’ve been so lost since I graduated from high school. I didn’t know how to apply or write application essays, but now I’ve soaked up as much information and knowledge from the instructor here as possible,” said Salman Hamad Al-Muhannadi, a first-semester student at The Community College of Qatar.

“I finished high school in 2009 and lacked the guidance that sessions like this provide. It was great that NU-Q opened it to all rather than only for those interested in NU-Q,” added Al-Muhannadi.

Like many others, parent Mir Arifuddin Hussain attended the event alongside his wife for their 12th grader, Syed Adnan Arif, and said the points discussed were useful.

“The essay and personal statement are important aspects of admissions criteria. We didn’t want to miss an event like this led by officials who are part of admissions. Now we know what their expectations are,” said Hussain.

“The do’s and don’ts were very clear and enlightening,” added Hussain.

The next workshop titled “A Decision Maker’s Perspective” will be held on Thursday, January 12, 2012. This workshop will provide insight on what admissions officers look for, with students being given the opportunity to sit with Northwestern’s own admissions officers for advice on the application process.

During the next workshop, titled “Discover Northwestern University in Qatar,” on Thursday, January 26, 2012, students and parents will learn about Northwestern’s Communication and Journalism programs in Qatar, and the various career opportunities that are available to NU-Q graduates.

The workshop series will close with its final session on Thursday, February 9, 2012, titled “Financing Your Education.”  This workshop will help parents and students understand financing opportunities at NU-Q and the financial aid application process. Attendees will have an opportunity to speak with a financial services representative about merit and need-based financial aid.