This blog was written by mentee Ria Parker who participated in Girls Write Now’s Writing Works workshop with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
On a snowy Thursday afternoon, I walked into the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) headquarters for a Girls Write Now college essay workshop. When I first got there I was nervous and without an essay, but once the workshop finished, I came out more confident about my ideas for my personal essay. This workshop also got me interested in the publishing industry—something that never even grazed my mind as a possible career.
A highlight from the workshop included listening to publishing professionals at HMH speak about their jobs as editor, director of content marketing, director of editorial trade, and more. My favorite part was when we separated into small groups and/or one-to-one sessions to talk to these professionals about our soon-to-be essays for college. I enjoyed this part because we were getting an opportunity to hear from them about what they wrote for their college essays when they were in our position, and we were given advice by people who legitimately know what makes a story worth paying attention to.
I worked with Reynaldo Vargas, an HMH product manager, and his advice proved helpful. When I first started talking to him, it was difficult thinking of something to write for my essay. Soon we started brainstorming a list of what I wanted colleges to know about me and my life story. Once I finished making the list, Reynaldo realized that a majority of what I wanted colleges to know surrounded my love of writing. From there he suggested we create a new prompt in which I write a story inside my essay that showcases who I am, what I do, and what I care about.
This advice about having a story as my essay resonated with me the most because it seemed interesting, challenging, and unprecedented. Additionally, Reynaldo said this will possibly show colleges how passionate I am about my goal of being an author and writing in general. And this helped me answer the big question I needed to answer: What can colleges read that will convince them that I am a great fit for their school? The answer is writing about my ambitions, influences, and myself in a story format since it will most likely hook them into knowing who I am without the barriers of the application.