With the early launch of applications, many motivated seniors have already received acceptance letters from colleges. But for those who have little desire to be first, the college application essays are still a hurdle to be cleared.
Every year I explain to parents, students and colleagues my approach to helping students write their essays. My goal is to have as few fingerprints on their finished essay as possible. That requires me to continually remind myself that the essay is not mine and that my name is not on the application. Even with all the knowing and reminding, it is still difficult to allow some of the convoluted expressions to remain a part of an essay.
After reading the sentence, “Through my life I have been blessed with the opportunity to grow up and learn in many amazing and varied worlds,” my suggestion looked something like this. “I have been blessed with the opportunity to grow up and learn in many amazing and varied places.” The teaching point accompanying my suggestion was the need for word efficiency when we have a limit of 650 words. Also, that there is no need to make the situation appear larger than it is… Thankfully, these suggestions and others were well received by the student.
With every new essay the internal battle begins again. How much help is too much help? This is a key reason that I attempt to begin working with my clients during their freshman year in high school. If I can get to them early, they are required to write a college application-styled essay for me each semester. After the first couple essays, they typically begin to get the idea that being yourself and telling real-life story that is an appropriate response to the prompt is the best way to go.
Still there are those who arrive late to the party and my first glimpse of their writing style is a required essay. Looking down at sentences like, “That was my thinking because my whole life my grandparents had taught me that the pageant world was only about being the prettiest,” and coaxing out a revised comment like, “I thought this because my grandparents taught me that the pageant world was only about being the prettiest,” remain a challenge. What is the old saying? “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Thank goodness, it isn’t easy because I enjoy a challenge and I love helping teens grow into competent young adults.