Think like a writer. Write like a college student. Read like an editor.

Fall 2021: October 12th–December 16th | Tuesdays & Thursdays


The Columbia Pre-College Online Writing Workshop is designed for 11th and 12th grade students who want to use the power of writing to develop their own personal voice and style. Through a combination of lectures, workshops, and tutorials, students will learn new writing techniques and develop the skills and confidence to publish their work. Students will explore each stage in the writing process—brainstorming, drafting, revising—and will receive in-depth feedback from the teaching team at each stage of the process.

Students will be introduced to the art and craft of writing three assignments: the college application essay, academic argument, and opinion piece. As they write each assignment, students will study the techniques writers use to achieve their purpose, whether that is to gain admission to a college or to enter and influence academic and public debates. A particular focus of the Workshop will be learning how to deploy the power of language, specific details and precise words, to craft beautiful, powerful sentences to appeal to and persuade readers.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to do the following:

  • Think like a writer. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of texts, the rhetorical techniques writers commonly use in crafting them, and how such techniques affect and appeal to specific readers’ interests and expectations.
  • Write like a college student. Employ the conventions and expectations of the college application essay, the academic argument, and the opinion piece with skill and confidence.
  • Read like an editor. Use the feedback of peers and Seminar Leaders to write and revise successfully, and to examine one’s own writing decisions, preferences, strengths, and challenges.

Format & Expected Workload

The Workshop will be a lively, stimulating nine-week online course that requires six to eight hours of work each week, including reading, writing, participating in two weekly synchronous sessions via Zoom, and watching instructional videos. The synchronous sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00–8:00 p.m. ET, and will include lectures, seminar-style discussions, and writing workshops. Modules on each topic will feature various activities to help students learn and master their skills in college entrance essays, academic essays, and public opinion pieces, further preparing them for their future as college students and professionals.

Course Dates

Tuesdays & Thursdays,
7:00–8:00 p.m. ET

October 12th–December 16th, 2021


Nancy Sommers headshot

Nancy Sommers, Ed.D.

Nancy Sommers studies the writing development of college students. As principal investigator of the Harvard Study of Undergraduate Writing, she tracked the college writing experiences of 400 students from the Harvard Class of 2001 to understand the complex role writing plays in undergraduate education. For 20 years, Sommers led Harvard's Expository Writing Program, as the Sosland Chair in Expository Writing and as a senior lecturer. In addition to directing Harvard's college writing program, she established and directed the Harvard Writing Project, a cross-disciplinary writing program, and conducted a series of studies, sponsored by two Harvard presidents, to research Harvard's culture of undergraduate writing. Sommers is an internationally recognized leader in the field of writing studies and a prize-winning writer. Her articles "Revision Strategies of Student and Experienced Writers," "Responding to Student Writing," and "Between the Drafts" are three of the most widely read and anthologized articles in the field. Her films "Shaped by Writing, "Across the Drafts," and "Beyond the Red Ink" have received international recognition for their celebration of student writers. Sommers is a blogger for Huffington Post, and the author of four college writing handbooks: A Writer's Reference, Rules for Writers, A Pocket Style Manual, and The Bedford Handbook.

Registration Details

Please reach out to the Office of Admissions to confirm your eligibility and access your intent-to-enroll form. An admissions committee will determine which students are accepted. This pilot program is offered as a service to our neighbors in the community and is free of charge. The deadline for students to submit enrollment intent forms is October 6, 2021.


Contact Information

Office of Admissions