Best use of English class: To apply or not to apply?

Students+in+Ms.+Dinus+English+classes+keep+their+computers+open.+Some+work+on+classwork+but+some+do+their+college+applications+during+that+time+instead.

Photo by Rachel Mattison

Students in Ms. Dinu’s English classes keep their computers open. Some work on classwork but some do their college applications during that time instead.

WCHS prides themself on their elite academics alongside its positive student culture. They boast an impressive 98% college attendance rate post graduation and emphasize the need to prioritize mental health through initiatives and presentations. But as it currently stands, many seniors don’t see how both of these priorities can coincide in their life.

The college application process is a rigorous, multifaceted conglomeration for students: deciding which colleges are the right fit, countless essays, creation of an activity list, linking Naviance and Common App accounts, securing teacher recommendations and more. Unfortunately, the brunt of this work falls for most seniors from September to December. During this time, students are adjusting back to school and working to get good grades in their classes in addition to everything above. Seniors are expected to be showing progression in difficulty of their schedule and maintaining a high GPA while checking off all these tasks – which is not a feat that many are finding feasible to do while also staying sane and maintaining a social calendar.

In order for WCHS to allow students the time they desperately need to complete college applications as well as providing them support in order to achieve optimal success, they should make 12th grade english classes designated work periods for college applications during the month of September. 

Seniors are drowning in college applications as it currently is, working hard to stay afloat as school, work, extracurriculars and social obligations also fill their schedules. Granting them 45 minutes every day of work time would allow them to focus and be in a productive environment.

Additionally, many students are already using class time to work on their applications. A look around a class’ chromebook screens will show many are writing supplemental essays or filling out application questions. Permitting that time to be used for college applications would not be succumbing to those not on task, it would be respecting the current prioritizations of seniors and not making them miss out on instruction for their choices. Having the time of english class used for college applications would also reduce additional workload burden on students by not getting anything new for one period a day.

In addition to providing students a designated time to work on college applications, giving them their english period to do it would also give them necessary support. While WCHS boasts the elite colleges that students will be attending, getting accepted to them is no easy task. Giving students resources such as help from their english teacher, writing workshops, editing and tips, will improve students’ essay writing and therefore their odds, though. This will not only improve their essays for college, but practicing and developing these writing skills will help them for their entire life, and is what english class is supposed to be teaching anyways. 

At WCHS some students receive private help on their essays in the form of a college counselor or college essay consultants. The benefit of this is individual support and guidance on a student’s essay, but it is not cheap – often costing over $100 an hour. This makes it so that the opportunity to write great essays is harder for lower income students to attain. Offering english teachers as resources will level the playing field and allow students of all socioeconomic statuses the same opportunities in the college admissions process. If english teachers are not spending their time creating lesson plans and grading Hamlet papers, they will have the time to invest in mentoring each student’s essay development.

WCHS would not be the first school to implement this proposition. Many other schools in the area see the benefit of support through english classes. At Wootton High School they do this during a student’s junior year. In May, after the AP exam students brainstorm essay ideas, work through graphic organizers and write a draft of their personal statement. This process is all done during class and with the feedback from their english teachers.

Private schools in the area also offer this service. Georgetown Visitation, St. Andrews and Bullis also use time in english class to help students – McLean School focuses a big effort on supporting their college applicants. Starting in February of junior year they begin writing and receiving edits on their personal statement and supplemental essays. At JDS, the student’s writing assignments towards the end of junior year are personal narratives so that they can learn the style of writing and even end up using those essays. In addition, JDS has a day off of school in October which serves as a designated work day.

Letting students use the time of September english classes for college applications would detract from time used on the english 12 curriculum or AP Literature course work. While this would be an adjustment, classes would be able to adapt and students would not be missing out on life english skills. English classes often have extra time throughout the year. Going at a faster pace is not ideal but it is doable, and by removing multiple days allotted for the same assignment, teachers would still be able to get through all the instruction they normally would. On top of that, getting into college has more long term implications than an AP score does, and writing supplemental essays isn’t necessarily taking away from learning time – students are still practicing writing.

In order for WCHS students to be able to relieve stress and succeed with their college applications, english classes should transition to support students in their applications during the month of September. The guidance from teachers on their writing will cause essays to greatly improve. Time allotted during school hours will help students manage their time and be productive. The results for WCHS and the wellbeing of seniors will greatly improve with the modification to senior English classes in the month of September.