Many teens want to quit the college application process when they get to the essay section, but parents can help their teens through it with a few simple steps.
This is a contributed post by Angelina Nguyen from Write the World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is committed to fostering the growth of young writers.
What is the College Admissions Essay?
Most college applicants submit a Common App essay, a personal statement in response to a given prompt. Applicants may also need to prepare Supplemental Essays that answer college-specific questions.
These written responses allow admissions officers to learn about candidates beyond their grades and test scores and is the singular opportunity your teen will have to communicate the stories and motivations informing their decision to pursue college.
For your teen, writing the college admissions essay may be the greatest challenge they will face during the application process, but there are ways you can ease their stress.
Here are seven ways you can offer support as they write their essays:
#1 Ask Them Questions
You may not have all the answers for your teen when they begin their college admissions essay, but questions are really what they need to get started.
Many students believe that they need exceptional lives or a novel idea to stand out. However, your teen will enjoy answering the prompt more if they write about what they know and care about.
Ask them what interests, accomplishments, and memories they think make them who they are. You can even collaboratively brainstorm and generate a few possible topics with them before your teen decides on one that best represents them.
#2 Break Down the Prompt
Your teen will then need to deconstruct a prompt that aligns with their topic by turning the key words into focus questions.
For example, the fourth Common App prompt, “Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?” could be approached with the following focus questions:
- Who is someone who has made you feel happy or thankful?
- What was surprising about their action/s?
- Why are you grateful for what they have done?
- What effect or motivation has this person inspired in you?
This deeper questioning procedure will ensure that their college admissions essay effectively addresses all aspects of the prompt.
#3 Read Sample College Essays
After choosing a topic, your teen can officially start their college application essay writing journey. When structuring their essay, your teen should personalize the flow to tell their story logically.
Examining exemplary college essays with your teen can be beneficial to map out how past applicants have narrated their personal experiences and to assist them in considering an appropriate structure for theirs.
#4 Nurture Their Unique Voice
Your teen may feel tempted to write to impress, but admissions officers are more interested in receiving essays that are authentic and alive. In their initial drafting phases, encourage them to be proud in how they already write. Help them find creative ways to express themselves by using nuanced word choices, descriptive devices, and figurative language. This is how they will develop and demonstrate personal voice in their essay.
#5 Encourage Self-Reflection
Your teen will also need to engage in self-reflection throughout the essay to reveal the newfound knowledge or understandings they have gained.
Identify areas as they are drafting that only summarize or recount what happened. Ask your teen to show how they felt during, and the growth they have experienced from the events.
Admissions officers will want to see that your teen recognizes the impact the story has had on them currently, and what this change will mean for them as prospective college students.
#6 Support Them Beyond the Page
If your teen is stressed out about the process, that is completely normal. Many teens often struggle with time management when navigating high school and the college application process simultaneously, which can be overwhelming.
Negotiate a timeline that accounts for your teen’s other life commitments to hold them accountable. You can help keep your teen stay on track by setting realistic goals for completing certain sections of the essay, and give them checklists with concrete targets to aim for during the process.
#7 Review and Offer Feedback
Once they are finalizing their application, your teen will need to proofread and edit their essay before it is ready for submission. You can both read the essay aloud to locate errors and phrasings that they can revise. This strategy will ensure the essay is polished.
Finally, you can refer your teen with available resources to have a set of fresh eyes. Write the World’s College Essay Review Service offers students detailed feedback on their drafts. You can also contact their school teachers and college counselors to ask whether they would be willing to review their essays. You and your teen are certainly not alone!
The College Essay Process Doesn’t Have to Be the Worst
Your involvement can have an immense influence. The college admissions essay can be a vehicle for you to have meaningful conversations and connect with your teen’s passions as they look towards the future. Together, you and your teen can produce an essay that truly embodies the college student they aspire to be, and that they can submit to the admissions officers with confidence.
This is a contributed post by Angelina Nguyen from Write the World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is committed to fostering the growth of young writers. Check out their affordable college essay courses and review classes here.