No matter how much students and parents may talk about “working on college applications,” the majority of the pull-out-your-hair, bang-your-head-on-the-desk, don’t-slam-the-door-when-you-leave-the-room craziness comes from trying to write the essays.
Real world quotes follow:
“Oh. These are really bad.” My husband, an admittedly tough critic, after reading Mod Squad Pete’s first drafts.
“My favorite one is about why I want to attend ABC University, but I’m not applying there now.” Pete, evaluating his own work.
“I tried to get him to start in the summer, but nothing’s done yet.” Heard on October 26th from a parent; the student is planning to apply Early Action by November 1st.
“He does not want us to read them. I’m fine with that, but someone has to read them.” Parent, about urging her student to ask HS guidance counselor to provide feedback.
“Whoa! That’s the worst!” Parent describing one college’s supplementary questions; only one required, but both about the same deadly topic.
“Wait. There’s a 1000 character question on the? How come I haven’t seen that?” Parent at a soccer game, mid October.
“I’m still trying to figure out if my kid has seen that 1000 character question.” Same parent, later in the game.
“I told him to decide what he wants to write and then just bridge the gap between what he wants to write and what they asked.” Parent of student with no favorite question.
For last minute help on essays forapplications…
See How to Write A College Essay (in 10 Steps), with tips from Alan Gelb’s book, Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps. I did not
require ask that Pete read this book, but I’m already planning that Mod Squad Julie should read it before starting to write.
Also, see 12 Tips to Ace Your College Application Essays, by Carol Barash, posted on Student Advisor. Her tips are brief enough to scan quickly and could provide some inspiration.
3. Turn scripts into stories.
Anyone can say, “The environment matters to me,” or even, “I joined the Environmental Club with my best friend and stayed after she left.” Replace those generic scripts with specific details that only you can tell. For instance, “I worked with 15 local eighth graders. We planned and planted a garden in Orange where an old hat factory was torn down. Three years later it’s an overgrown jungle of purple, yellow and green.”
4. Choose a moment.
Most students try to pack everything into each essay. Instead, make a list of your defining moments – the moments when you learned, grew, changed or made a difference. Use each essay to show your reader one moment of change and transformation.
Good luck to all the seniors sweating it out this weekend. And to those of us parents sweating out the CSS Profile.
- Juniors: In the Quiet of Summer, Start Your Essays (thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com)