English instructor Deborah Banner returns to her classroom after a well-deserved lunch, only to find herself bombarded with 25 e-mails from members of the Class of 2012. One girl asks her to delete 50 words from a 600-word college essay, another doesn’t know how to end what she’s written and a third can’t figure out which of her many extracurriculars to write about in order to make herself sound most attractive to some of the best schools in the nation.
For the past three years, Banner has been in charge of helping the senior class develop and revise their college essays in both one-on-one meetings and at a week-long workshop held over the summer between 11th and 12th Grade. In the final days before early college applications were due on Nov. 1, frantic seniors contacted Banner multiple times a day, asking for help and scheduling appointments.
“Her help is absolutely useful and arguably invaluable. She is a savior,” Alana ’12 said.
Each year, more than 50% of the senior class reaches out to her for help. Many members of the Class of 2012 have said they greatly value her constructive criticism.
According to Banner, personal essays are vital components of college applications.
“[The essays are] the only place where you get to demonstrate your individuality in your own words, as opposed to listing your accomplishments and honors, explaining jobs or extracurricular experience or forwarding transcripts,” Banner said.
At the beginning of the school year, Banner typically comes to class meeting to announce that she is available to help girls brainstorm, revise and proofread their Common Application essays, as well as any additional personal statements or short answer responses required by individual schools. A student will then e-mail Banner her essay directly and either ask for edits to be sent back electronically or set up a meeting to discuss potential revisions in person.
Although Banner had no previous experience working with college admissions, the College Office recognizes and values the considerable help she gives the seniors. Co-Directors of College Counseling Michael Heeter and Monica DePriest said they recommend students go to Banner for more detailed writing advice because they are busy talking to girls about other hectic college application issues.
“Dr. Banner helps [us] maintain sanity. We treat her to lunch, but she deserves so much more, considering she is helping the girls in ways we cannot. We are truly grateful for the things she has done for us and the girls,” Heeter said.
Banner said that she enjoys meeting the seniors and working with them on their essays, and that she is happy to contribute and get more involved with the School.
“The relationships with students I gain while working with them on their essays are always worthwhile.” Banner said. “I love it. It’s a chance to work on writing without the anxiety about grades. And it is always super fun when college acceptances start to roll in.”