Online Course


Fall 2020 Online Course

Finding Your Voice: The Art of the College Application Essay 

September 2 – October 14, 2020Finding Your Voice Camp
Instructor: Isabel Henderson, BA Princeton, MFA Iowa Writers' Workshop 

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As a high school junior or senior, you will get your test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation in order—but what about that last crucial item, the college application essay? How can you convey your goals, personality, and sense of self in just a few hundred words? This course will discuss the purpose, objective, and execution of the successful college application essay, demystifying the process and allowing you to put your best self onto the page. We will brainstorm topics, discuss structure, look at examples of extraordinary essays, and give feedback on ideas and drafts. The college application essay is an opportunity for you to speak about yourself and make an impression that goes beyond your grades and scores—this course will offer expert guidance and ease your anxiety about the process.



Isabel Henderson



Isabel Henderson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she received Truman Capote and Rydson fellowships. She earned her BA at Princeton University. She has worked for The Atlantic, Granta, and The American Reader; her work has appeared in The Atlantic, and is upcoming in Prairie Schooner






Students in "Finding Your Voice"“I needed an extra confidence boost in the college application process with my essay. This class gave me that. Isabel was very understanding and approachable which is really important for a seminar that centers around people’s whole high school career. I loved that I could ask as many questions as I needed to. This class helped me figure out a topic, have time to write, get one-on-one instruction, and know the steps to take so I wouldn’t be stressed. This was super-helpful. Thank you, IYWP!”   — Isabella H., July 2019 

“I learned a lot about how to showcase my experience and I got to read and analyze well-written essays.”   — Allen L., July 2019

“Definitely would recommend this workshop. Lots of good material covered, plus Isabel is a great instructor. She explains everything in detail and is willing to work one-on-one, as well.”  — Timothy C., July 2019



1) When is the deadline to register?

Course registration is open until Wednesday, August 19th, 2020, on a first-come, first-served basis. If the course fills before August 19th, then registration will close and a waitlist will open.

2) Are there any special requirements to register?

Students must be currently enrolled in high school. This does not feature Zoom calls. It is asychronous and self-paced within each week. Assignments are due on Sundays; feedback is given by Wednesdays. Each student receives individual one-on-one extensive written feedback from Isabel for their essays and responses.

3) Will taking this course ensure that I get into my top college?

Many factors go into the college application process, one of them being the submission of an effective personal essay. For this reason, we do not guarantee that you will be admitted to the college of your choice simply because you take this course. We can say that if you dedicate yourself to completing all course assignments and if you consult regularly with the instructor, you will be better prepared to write strong college application essays that you can submit as part of your application portfolio. This course will also better prepare you to write well at whatever college you do attend.

4) How many hours a week do you think I'll spend on the course? 

The instructor estimates that you will spend 2-3 hours each week completing short reading and writing assignments. The course is designed to fit into your busy schedule as a high school junior or senior. 

5) Will the instructor correct my grammar and syntax?

The instructor may highlight sentences in your work that you can improve through grammatical and syntactical revision. The course is not designed to focus on the fundamentals of English grammar and syntax. Students registering for this course should possess a basic proficiency in English.

6) What is the engagement level like?

It is best for students to follow along with the course. If students do not complete assignments by the weekly due date, including the final essay date, then they will not receive instructor feedback. However, they can still access lessons and prompts.


Early registration: Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 to Friday, July 31st, 2020. Course price, early registration: $450. 

Registration: Saturday, August 1st, 2020 to Wednesday, August 19th, 2020. Course price, regular registration: $475. 

PLEASE NOTE: Registration fees from "Finding Your Voice: The Art of the College Application Essay" will fund the IYWP's administrative costs in offering the course. Remaining funds will support the delivery of free IYWP programming of equal caliber to underserved youth in Iowa.

Finding Your Voice Camp



Cancellation policy: A $50 cancellation fee for cancellation received before Monday, August 3rd, 2020 will be applied to refund. A $150 cancellation fee for cancellations received between Monday, August 3rd, 2020 and Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 will be applied to refund. Beginning Wednesday, August 26th, 2020, no refunds.