Essay Writing Blog

How to Help your Child Write the Best Possible Admissions Essays

Once the SAT scores are in, grades are calculated, and recommendations written, many parents assume that the battle for college acceptance is over. They forget that the struggle to write the best admissions essay remains. This essential part of the process can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Admissions officers rely on essays in order to learn about the student as more than just a number. Otherwise, they would have to arbitrarily choose between two (or two hundred) applicants with nearly identical profiles. Writing the admissions essay is a battle indeed, but unlike other forms of academic competition, this battle is not fought among classmates, but between a solitary student and a blank sheet of paper. In the areas of planning and revision, parents can go a long way in helping their children write the best possible essay and reach their admissions goals.

Sometimes, a topic that truly inspires the student will make the writing process easy. Young writers labor over the choice of topic almost as much as they do over the writing itself. “Should I write about the basketball team?” they ask, “or my love of piano?” When talking to your child about these possibilities, ask the following questions: How does this subject distinguish you from other people your age? What does this subject say about your personality? Does it avoid mention of your weaknesses? A good brainstorming session with these questions in mind will help kick the creative processes into gear.

Students should not write about what they think the committee wants to hear. Some applicants resort to bragging about themselves or trying extra hard to sound intelligent. An experienced essay reader can see right past the exaggeration. A successful essay tells a unique story, one that is true to the writer, one that makes the admissions officer like and remember the applicant. (It is difficult to reject a student who makes herself truly likeable.) A good essay avoids vague statements. Rather than spelling out the main points of the essay, such as, “the value of hard work and perseverance,” students should steer clear of such clichés by allowing the details of the story to make the statement for them.

Any essay as important as this one should be revised and proofread thoroughly. Parents can pinpoint embarrassing mistakes and help their children rethink content choices by giving constructive feedback. Young writers struggle with how to precisely convey their thoughts in words; few can even imagine how their writing will be interpreted by strangers. Parents can provide this link in understanding by answering key questions: What is this essay about? Which of the student’s positive traits does it highlight? And most importantly, what about this essay makes it memorable? The great value of a second opinion-or twelfth, as the case may be-means that a student has many chances at improvement. With a parent’s help, there is no excuse for submitting an essay that is not a student’s best possible effort.

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