The Sudden Increased Significance of The College Essay by Tanya Green of @5T_collegeessaycoach
If you’re a parent of a high schooler, you have certainly heard about the anxiety and stress the college process induces in teens.
They’re constantly told by adults that they need to not only figure out what to do with their lives in the long term, but also study for the ACTs/SATs, pick the college of their choice, and write the perfect college essay. And of course focus on their grades concurrently. Too much to ask?
So the question is how do we, as parents, help guide our college-bound kids to get them to a place of confidence and calm in this whole college process?
The Sudden Increased Significance of The College Essay
In the world of 2020 the testing portion of the process has taken a back seat. Many colleges are going test-blind, while others are test-optional. The number of schools falling into these categories is changing daily, which means the student’s GPA, extra-curriculars, recommendation letters, and their personal essay is front and center.
To college admission officers, all applicants look the same on paper. Their personal statement tells the admissions officers who they are and it is not something anywhere else on the college application. This is why the essay becomes so important!
Although many of your kids may be good writers in school papers it doesn’t necessarily translate into a great college essay. So let’s talk about how your child can get there.
What are the goals of a personal statement?
◦ Show, don’t tell (show who you are through anecdotes of your life)
◦ Take a risk (whether in topic, formatting, or style of writing)
◦ Come across as likable (we want to root for you!)
◦ Depict growth and self-reflection (you don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to have a traumatic experience; we all have a story)
Which character traits are colleges looking for in a student?
• Critical thinking
• Ability to take criticism
• Room to grow academically and mentally
• Accepting of challenges
• Interest in the world
• Desire to learn
• Their ability to help guide you to success
Looking at this list you might think this is a difficult task, but don’t get nervous! The main thing to do is get your child to start brainstorming and remembering small moments in their life that showcase these traits. Ask them questions to get them started. Have them create graphic organizers, freewrite, and just start writing paragraphs. Drafting is a huge part of this process! Great essays come about from simple conversations and stories.
Here are some questions to get them to start thinking:
1. What bothers you in this world and you would love to fix if you had the opportunity?
2. What most recent realization have you come to about yourself, people, or the world in general?
3. What is your favorite, or most engaging activity during the day?
4. What is different about the world you come from in comparison to the average teenager?
Once they start answering these questions in detail use this time to draw out conversations and more stories are surely to follow. Write them all down! After gathering a bunch of anecdotes check out some of the successful college essays online (there are a ton!) and read through them with your child. Talk about what you observe and how this matches up with the lists above. If your child is ready – start writing!
Don’t be afraid of the essay. Instead, see this as the perfect opportunity to show the college the true personality of your child. Help the admissions officer know exactly who is applying that’s beyond the pile of papers they’re looking at. See this as a chance for your child to think back, reflect, and remember. This could be a great bonding experience for you both!
High School English Teacher
College Essay Coach
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