Parent College Coach Tip #37: 5 Quick Tips for the College Essay

college essayAccording to an article in the NY Times–The Choice, the college essay should be looked at like “a first date”. Chad Hemmelgarn, an English teacher at Bexley High School, in Columbus Ohio, said, “It’s kind of like a first date. You’re telling us the stuff that makes you special.” He was speaking as part of a panel at an annual forum in New York sponsored by The College Board.

When you think about it, that’s a great analogy. The college essay is a way for your teen to let the admissions committee get to know them and an opportunity for them to focus on their strengths. Here are some tips that your teen can use when approaching the essay:

  1. Write some sample essays using actual questions from college applications–Look at the actual college applications for those questions and topics.
  2. Divide the essays into two categories: Why you? and Why us?–Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you (Why you?); Why are you considering our University (Why us?).
  3. Write as many essays as you can for practice–Have them evaluated by a teacher, your parents, and/or your counselor.
  4. Do your research if necessary and always answer the question–The college is looking to find something out about you and ascertain how you will be a good fit for their community of students.
  5. Don’t let your parents write the essay–Admissions counselors can spot those immediately and it’s a good way to have your application put in the “rejection” stack. (Note: Parents, as tempting as it might be, keep your hands off!)

As a parent college coach, it’s your responsibility to guide your teen throughout the application process. Offer encouragement and feedback on their essay content. Help them brainstorm about a topic to use. Encourage them to spend some time thinking about what they want colleges to know about them.


Need more help with the college essay? Check out this post: Top 5 College Application Essay Writing Mistakes

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