No teenager wants to think about writing college essays now. It is summertime, and for many families that means fun trips, enjoying local activities and NOT thinking about school or schoolwork. But, for students about to start their senior year of high school, the college application process is gearing up, and that means writing college essays. The simple thought of writing another essay causes some teenagers to crawl back into bed and to pull the covers up over their heads while curled up in the fetal position. To ease their pain and to get them out of bed, here are a few dos and don’ts for writing college essays.
Remember, the essay is just one part of a bigger process. Is it important? Yes. But, it is not the only thing universities look at when determining admission. There will be applications to fill out, test scores and transcripts to submit, and interviews to give. This does not mean your child can blow off the essay, but they don’t need to stress about it.
Make sure your child reads and follows the directions for the essay. Colleges are looking for something in the essays. Chances are, they give clues about what they are looking for in the directions. Have your child show they are capable of following directions.
Kids need to be themselves and be humble. (More about this in the next section)
Your child should use words they use in their everyday conversations. There is no need to use big, fancy words to impress the readers. That just shows them your child knows how to use a thesaurus.
Make sure your child has plenty of time. This is not a project they want to rush through. Waiting until the last minute causes stress, and they may not do their best writing under pressure.
Errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation are distracting. Readers begin to focus on the errors – not the message. Having a lot of errors in your child’s essay conveys the message that they don’t care or that they are not making an effort. These are not the messages your child wants to convey to the admissions officers.
Have someone proofread it. Have a family member or a trusted teacher review it. They should check it for errors and readability. Does it make sense? Does the story flow?
It is ok to use the same topic, and it is ok for the essays to be similar. But, your child needs to tailor each essay to the specific college they are sending it to. Don’t simply say, “I would like to attend your university because…” Instead, say, “I would be thrilled to attend Harvard because of it’s long-standing tradition of excellence.”
This is not the time for your child to go on and on about how wonderful they are or how the high school sports team could not have won the championship game if it weren’t for their off-the-chart athletic abilities. Coming across as arrogant does not help them.
Sure, your child has a lot of great stories to tell, but this is not the time to tell all of them. Your child needs to answer the questions outlined in the directions and stay on topic. Their story might be a great one, but if it is not relevant to the topic leave it out of the essay.
This goes back to the list of things to do on your essay – be you. Your child should not make things up in an attempt to impress the reader.
Have another set of eyes review it. Grammar. Spelling. Punctuation. Clarity. These things matter. It is difficult to edit your own work, so be sure your child has a family member, a teacher or even an editor take a look at it. Remember: Spellcheck does not catch everything.
The essay is your child’s chance to shine (in a humble way). It is their chance to show who they are, what they care about and how they will use those things in college.
Need an extra set of eyes to review your child’s college admissions essay? Let’s talk. Click here to connect with me.