Core Skills for College and Beyond

I - June 28–July 16, 2021
Modality, Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 a.m.–11:00 a.m. and 1:10–3:00 p.m.

Deborah Aschkenes, Barbara Morris, Anne Summers

This class is intended for current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. Younger students should apply for Core Skills Fundamentals.

“I feel like I've become more analytical and can think outside the box.” – Abasiakan U. | Lekki, Nigeria

Course Description

Intended for students who are already strong academically, this curricular option enables participants to hone the core skills necessary to thrive not only at top-caliber American universities but also in any intellectually demanding profession and in personal life. Classroom environments are intimate and collaborative, and students learn by actively engaging with the subject matter, the instructors, and their peers. The emphasis throughout is on using reading, writing, and research as tools for thinking clearly and critically.

Close Reading and Critical Thinking

Students learn to identify and critically evaluate the intellectual content, both explicit and implied, of what they read and see. We read sophisticated texts and read into them, identifying rhetorical strategies, unstated assumptions, and hidden subtexts. We examine a variety of literary genres such as essays, fiction, poetry, journalism, and speeches and, time permitting, branch out into visual forms such as painting, graphic novels, and film. Participants become not only more insightful readers but also more nuanced thinkers.

Class time is largely spent examining and discussing the material as a group. Course participants also deliver oral presentations to the class, thereby honing public speaking and presentation skills.

Writing and Research Skills

This course provides an overview of the techniques essential for successful academic writing, with particular emphasis placed on argumentation and organization. While reviewing the basic components of strong writing through discussion of argument structure, essay organization, style, and mechanics, we also engage in creative activities and discussions aimed at strengthening analytic and rhetorical skills. The focus is on expository writing, the kind of writing called for in academic essays and term papers, but we also branch out into narrative and personal writing, as required for college admissions essays.

The course also offers an overview of the research process, with special attention given to library and online resources, source evaluation, and bibliographic format. Students practice research strategies both online and in Columbia’s main research library.


Deborah Aschkenes

After working in fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, Deborah Aschkenes received her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University, where she was awarded the English Department’s Miron Cristo-Loveanu prize for Best Master’s Essay. She teaches in the English and Interdisciplinary Studies departments at Riverdale Country School, integrating philosophy, visual art, and literature. Her research spans rhetorical theory, the neuroscience of perception, the Victorian novel, and classical ethics.  

Barbara Morris

Barbara Morris is a University of Chicago Ph.D. and the co-founder of a pioneering program in graduate research and writing at Parsons the New School for Design in the division of Art, Media and Technology. She has worked as a professor of film and literature at UCLA, Rutgers University, and Fordham University. Dr. Morris has received research fellowships from the Fulbright Committee, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the governments of Spain, the United States, and Argentina for her work in cinema studies.

Anne Summers

Anne Summers received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. She was a Graduate Council Fellowship recipient at Stony Brook and holds an additional graduate certificate in women's studies. Her research focuses on perception in nineteenth-century literature and her publications include articles on Vernon Lee, Olive Schreiner, and Henry James. Anne is currently a Lecturer in the Department of English and Communications at Norwich University, where she teaches first-year writing and literature. She has previously taught undergraduate courses at both Stony Brook University and Manhattan College.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.