9 Tips for Avoiding Tensions with Teens Over Writing the College Essay
Parents, (there is advice for students below) have you heard yourself ask your teen the following:
You need to get started on your essays, dear.
You really need to make time for this.
You said that you would get to them today!
You’ll never finish the essays on time!
Maybe you have heard your teen respond:
What’s the rush?
Going over Dave’s.
Here are some tips to soothe tensions about writing the college essay:
1. Begin the process early – summer before the senior year is preferable.
2. Make sure your teen understands what’s required – think up an idea, write drafts of the essay, final edits.
3. Decide on deadlines for getting the work done with your child, then write these on a calendar.
4. Understand her stresses – schoolwork, extracurricular activities, volunteering, and maybe a job.
5. Arrange regular 10 “meetings” – in the car, for coffee – to check in on his progress (or lack of).
6. Be flexible: Alter deadlines, if needed. Tests, papers for school may be due – you don’t want an overload problem.
7. Get organized: Use an Excel sheet to write down what essays are required for which schools.
8. Be realistic: If writing is a task your child finds taxing, completing the 10 supplement essays needed to apply to 5 colleges may be too stressful – and require a reassessment of goals.
9. Have patience: The process will soon be over; your relationships with your child is forever.
How Not to Argue with Your Parents About Writing Your Essays
It can be very stressful when you have so many college essays to write, no idea how to approach them, and deadlines looming. Often, these pressures can result in tension between you and your “loved ones”. Your parents want you to get going on the essays and get them done, and you just want the whole mess to go away. After all, you have a lot of “stuff” going on – homework, tests, extracurricular obligations, and maybe even a part-time job. Let’s face it though, sooner than later, you will have to sit down and get to work. Here’s some suggestions for making the experience easier for everyone involved:
1. Think about realistic deadlines, hopefully, earlier in the fall semester before you get busy in school. Discuss these with your parents.
2. Use a calendar to write down information – early acceptance, early action, and regular deadlines.
3. If possible, use an Excel sheet to list the essays you have to complete
5. Leave enough time to think up an essay idea, create a first draft, write a second draft, and do final edits (yes, you need to all that work before you essay is in tip top shape – you want to make an impression on admissions officers, don’t you?).
4. If you can’t complete work on agreed-upon deadlines, let your parents know why and then set new goals.
Remember, your family wants the best for you.
Which Essay Should I Choose?
There are pros and cons to each type of essay on the college application:
1. The You Question:
“Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.”
“Celebrate your nerdy side” (a supplement question).
Advantages: An opportunity to “plead your case”, show your “stuff”.
Disadvantages: It’s difficult to talk about yourself. You may sound too distant.
2. The Creative Question:
“Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.”
Advantages: Has a focus, can show off your talents.
Disadvantages: Writing without being well informed – get your facts right!
3.The Why Us question:
“Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompts your application? In short: Why Tufts?” (one of this year’s supplements)
Advantages: Has a focus, you know why you want to go there.
Disadvantages: You might not know the school or the curriculum thoroughly enough.
How Am I Going to Write All Those Essays?
I’m often asked by students how they will possibly complete all those essay. After all, there is the personal statement and anywhere from one to five supplement questions for each college. There is no doubt that this is an enormous task. However, many of the essays are similar. For example, most colleges ask “Why _” – your reasons for applying. If you think about it, you have researched the college, so you found something that attracted you to it. Liking the dorms, the “environment”, or because a friend attended are not reasons. Connect your interests/classes you’ve had in high school to the programs/majors at your college of choice. So start by writing down all the essays and find the ones that have similar topics and begin writing those.
Essential Elements of a College Essay
In the next couple of blogs, I will be giving you pointers on how to write an essay that will be noticed by admissions officers. What elements will make your essay memorable? One essential element is incorporating transitions between ideas and paragraphs. What do I mean by transitions? These are connector sentences/words that make your essay “flow” smoothly. One idea leads to another – they aren’t isolated thoughts. To read more about using transitions, go to this resource offered by Hamilton College: http://www.hamilton.edu/writing/writing-resources/transitions
BLOG ENTRY #4: MARKETING TIPS FOR BUSINESSES
Why You Should Tweet to Promote Your Business
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BLOG ENTRY #3: WRITING THE COLLEGE ESSAY
What Does a Great Essay Look Like?
I’m often asked by students how to write a standout essay – what does it take? My answer is that you need to feel excited – passionate – about the topic of your essay. That’s why it has to come from your own experiences. Bottom line – you can’t make this up. It can be a grade you never thought you’d get, a compliment you received from a boss, a race you ran and got your best time, etc. Not all of us can be president of the class or editor in chief. Be yourself, describe what the experience meant to you, focus on one event (not your whole summer vacation), and think about what you learned. Good luck.
How Not to Panic If You Haven’t Finished Your College Essays
Your deadlines are approaching to apply for early action or early acceptance. You are nervous and even panicked about getting your essay finished on time. Stop right there! Take a deep breath and know that you can do this. If you have a rough draft, ask someone to read it – a family member, teacher, coach. Ask them for constructive criticism. Do you need to narrow your topic, add more detail, make the introduction stronger, etc? Make the changes/additions. Now put it away for a day or two. You need the test of time. Take it out a few days later, and read it out loud. How does it sound? If there are “issues”, you will be able to find them this way. You can do it!
Avoid These Mistakes on Your Essay
• Don’t write on a topic no one knows. You are the only original topic, so your primary goal is to let colleges know what you care about and why.
• Don’t go over 500 words. You are showing that you can’t follow instructions. Also admissions counselors have limited time to read your essay.
• Make sure that you answer the question – stick to the topic.
• Avoid saying something like “I want to go to X college, because X college emphasizes learning and I want to learn.”
• Use your own voice. Don’t look words up in a dictionary and use them.
Helpful Brainstorming Websites:
Brainstorming to Find the Right Topic for Your College Essay
Many students have difficulty finding a topic for their essay. How do you get started? You’ve had many experiences in high school, but you aren’t sure which one will be the right one. There are several prewriting exercises that will help – one is called brainstorming. Here’s how:
1. Write down all possible ideas – experiences, challenges, etc.
2. Set a timer – 10 min. or so.
3. Don’t stop writing to reread.
3. Add descriptive words about your strengths.
4. Ask your parents/family members to try this too.
If there is an overlapping experience, then this is the one you should write about. Pick one moment in this experience and describe it.
Admissions officers have heard it all before:
Seven Essay Topics to Avoid
5. Sports Injuries
6. Family trips
7. Boy/girl break ups
What an effective personal statement does:
Shows your writing style and English language use.
Demonstrates your analytical thinking.
Gives a personal, human element to the app.
Explains an issue: a change in school, improved grades.
What the personal statement doesn’t do:
Can’t make up for poor grades, low GPA.
Isn’t a substitute for high SAT or ACT scores.
Not a résumé.