College Essay … Do it Now!

July 28, 2011

Picture this:  It’s the day after Thanksgiving.  Your extended family is staying at your house and everyone is kicking back and enjoying some downtime after a delightful holiday together.

Everyone, that is, except your high school senior.  He/she is close to tears from the stress of filling out college applications and trying to write a few decent essays, while everyone else in the family is having fun.

Good news: There is a way to avoid this scenario … do it now!

Now is the perfect time for your child to finish his or her personal statement essay.  Not in the fall when they are swamped with school work, applications and extracurricular activities.

Remember, it will take more than one re-write, so get an early start and come back to it until it feels just right.  The goal is to get the (weary) admissions person to read the entire essay and feel that they know your child better. The essay should be one that only your child could write.

It’s fine to have others assist with brainstorming ideas and proofreading but no one should do any writing except your student (an admissions counselor can always spot an essay that’s been worked over by an adult).

Some additional Do’s and Don’t’s…

Hook the reader with the opening line
Be yourself, be informal
Reveal what makes you special
Use humor (but only if you are funny)
Show why you would add to the campus
Keep it short – 500 words is a good target
Print your essay and read it aloud

Brag, complain or apologize
List your activities/accomplishments
Write about world peace, poverty, or other common global issues
Write anything offensive
Address the topic without revealing things about yourself
Use clichés or SAT-type big words
Send your first draft as the final essay

Remember, it especially important to finish the main essay now.  The fall is a busy time and there are often supplemental essays required from individual schools that your child will need to complete. A rushed essay is never as good as one that you’ve had time to sit with and tweak!

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