If you’re about to go through the college application process as a parent of a teenager, you’re probably worried. Maybe you’ve gone through it yourself, and you know just how unforgiving the system can be.
Applying to college has changed so much since you went through the process. It’s even harder today than it was in your time.
The worst part is that even though they have changed the application process for students, they haven’t changed the way colleges choose their students. Even though it’s harder for students to apply, colleges are still using the same criteria to decide who gets in.
This means that it’s not enough for your child to get good grades and write essays today. They need more if they want to stand out from the crowd. And with how much pressure there is from everyone around them, including themselves, this is a hard thing to pull off.
Your child will make mistakes along the way—we all do when we learn something new—but they don’t have time to make many mistakes because they only get one shot at applying to college!
Before you decide to help your child write his essay, think about what exactly a college essay is.
What is an admission essay?
Admissions essays are a very important part of college applications. Admissions officers read these essays to get a sense of who you are and what you might bring to their campus. They want to see that your ideas, voice, and opinions are unique and well-developed, but they also want to see that you can write in a clear and organized way.
The admissions essay is usually 500 words long (but not always), and most schools give you the freedom to choose your topic. While this may sound intimidating, it’s actually great news: it means you get to write about whatever you want! It’s a chance for you to tell your own story, in your own words.
Although there are guidelines for how to structure your admissions essay, every school is different in its requirements, so make sure that you read them carefully before writing. Some schools want only one short essay from applicants, while others require two or three longer essays. In other cases, schools will ask for multiple short answers instead of an essay. In any case, the best thing you can do when writing an admissions essay is completely honest and show them who you really are as a person!
What to include in a good essay?
When it comes to filling out college applications, there’s a lot of pressure surrounding the essay. For many students, it can be hard to know what you should include in your essay—and just as important, what you shouldn’t. Here are some tips for making sure you’re on the right track with your essay:
1. Don’t forget to connect with the school and its values. If you’re applying to a school that places emphasis on sustainability and social justice, but you write about how much you love hiking, you’re missing an opportunity! Don’t just talk about yourself: Talk about how your interests connect with and relate to the school.
This is a great way to show the admissions committee that you’ve done the research and that you know what the school is all about—plus, it’ll help them see how your interests will contribute to their community.
2. Avoid clichéd topics and themes. You can write about sports if that’s really important to you, but make sure you’re writing a unique take on the subject that shows your reader who you are and how you think uniquely.
3. Make it personal. A good essay is one that shares something personal about who you are—otherwise, why would a college want to admit YOU?
4. Be honest! Colleges want to admit real people—not perfect people—so don’t feel like your essay needs to paint a picture of someone perfect. Share something honest about yourself!
Now that you have an idea of how to write a strong essay, let’s dive more into how you, as a parent, can help your child construct a good essay.
The first thing you want to keep in mind is that this is not your essay. Your child’s essay may be about anything, and it will probably be about something you didn’t expect.
How to help your child write a strong essay?
Helping your child write a strong admissions essay is just one of the many ways you can help your child get into the college of their dreams.
While it might seem natural to try and help your child as much as possible in crafting their college admissions essays, it’s important that you let the essay be their essay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t support them along the way!
The admissions essay is so important because it is one of the only ways for your child to really stand out amongst the countless other applicants with similar test scores, grades, and ECs. The admissions essay gives the school insight into what makes your child special, and inspires a desire in the school to have your child as part of their campus community.
Here are a few ways you can help your child write a strong admissions essay:
1. Let them take the lead. This is their essay to write and send off into the world. Although you will probably have ideas about what they should say and how they should say it, try not to be too controlling. Be an encouraging cheerleader who offers support and comfort when they get stuck or frustrated.
2. Get them thinking about what they want to write about. It’s important that your child is the one who picks their topic—after all, this is their essay! Whatever it is, make sure it’s something they feel comfortable sharing! Once they’ve come up with a topic or two, have them talk through their ideas with you. Explain why they feel strongly about these things or what they hope to achieve in relation to those topics in the future. This will help you get a sense of where they’re at with their essay before you move on to the next step.
3. Let them tell you what they need from you. If you aren’t sure how to help or what kind of feedback, they would like from you, ask them! Your child has likely been working on essays for some time now and may have already identified areas where they need help. Asking for guidance may be all it takes for your child to feel comfortable asking for help.
4. Be their coach. You know your child better than anyone else, so use your knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses to guide them toward success. Help them figure out what makes sense for their writing style and personality as well as what works best with the prompt/question they’re answering.
5. Work on a structure together. Help your child come up with a skeleton for their essay so they have something they can fill in as they go along. You could try using the “dear diary” method: start by telling a story in chronological order (this could be the story of their favorite movie).
6. Keep your editing light. It’s fine to point out minor grammatical errors or typos, but otherwise it’s best to keep your feedback high-level—for example, if there’s a place where the argumentative thread is broken or missing, tell your child to complete the ideas. This is not your essay, so resist the urge to rewrite the entire structure your child has written.
Always keep in mind!
As a parent, you might be tempted to jump in and help your child write their admission essay. After all, you know them better than anyone else, right?
It can be tough to see your child struggle with writing an admission essay, especially when they’re applying to a school you think they’d do well at. But here’s the thing: if you overdo it and get too involved in your child’s essay, they could end up getting rejected from the schools they want to go to.
It might sound crazy—after all, colleges know that parents are very involved in their children’s lives! And sometimes that involvement is absolutely needed. But when it comes to a child’s application essays, it’s important for parents to take a step back and let their kids do the talking.
This is because colleges have gotten really good at spotting the difference between an essay that was written by a kid and one that was written by a parent who had too much input. Colleges don’t like this kind of parental influence because it interferes with their ability to evaluate students based on their own merit and skills. They want to get a sense of who kids are as people through their applications, not just how great their parents are at being writers or editors!
The best thing is probably just giving them moral support during this time and maybe offering some gentle tips or advice if necessary—but never taking over!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
We’ve all been there: it’s the night before the deadline, and your child is still working on their essay for an upcoming college application. They’re stressed, you’re stressed… we know the struggle. We also know that you want to help them, but it can be hard to know how.
At Groza Learning Center, we’ve helped students write high-quality essays and prepare for college applications for years. Our expert tutors can help your child write a strong essay that showcases who they are and what they have to offer. We’ll help them tell their own story, so they can have the best chance of being accepted at the school of their dreams.
We understand that you want to help your child get into college—it’s just as important to us as it is to you! Whether or not you’ve done this before, we will be with you every step of the way and make sure everything goes smoothly. With our tutoring service, you won’t have to worry about your child’s essay preparation.To learn more about how we can help your child with his or her college applications, please contact us.