National Writing Project

"It Sounds Like Me": Using Creative Nonfiction to Teach College Admissions Essays

By: Jennifer Wells
Date: April 5, 2010

Summary: Jennifer Wells, a teacher-consultant with the Central California Writing Project, describes a process in which she systematically introduces students to creative nonfiction as they craft college admissions essays that detail and reflect on telling experiences from their lives.



Admissions essays should reveal the student's voice, personality, and unique way of looking at the world. Since most essay prompts ask students to "Tell us about X and explain what it shows about you," the essay should tell the story while also showing the student's reflections on and analysis of that experience. Often, the best essays are ones that tell a big story in a small way: By focusing on a small event, the essayist shows how that reflects something larger. The essays don't need to be funny, or sad, or controversial, but they do need to engage the reader."

This article was one of two winners of NCTE's Paul and Kate Furmen English Journal Writing Award for 2008. In 2011, Teachers College Press will publish Literacy Lives in the High School Writing Center, which Wells is co-editing with Dawn Fells.

Copyright © 2008 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Posted with permission.
Wells, Jennifer. 2008. "'It Sounds Like Me': Using Creative Nonfiction to Teach College Admissions Essays." English Journal 98 (1): 47–52.

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