Don’t Ruin Thanksgiving! College Essay Tips for Parents


College essay tips to help parents survive Thanksgiving

By Kim Lifton

Are your child’s college essays stressing you out? Is the computer screen still blank? Do the essays look messy?

We don’t want your child’s journey to college to ruin Thanksgiving. So here are some tips (and a recording of a parent webinar of this same title) to help your college-bound son or daughter master the college essay, arguably the most daunting task of the application process.

First, you need to understand why students are being asked to write essays. Admissions officers tell us repeatedly they want to:

1)    Get to know the student

2)    Find out whether the student can write to fit the school’s standards

3)    See if that student is a good fit for the university

 Admissions Insider Offers College Essay Perspective

“There’s a misconception about what we do inside the admissions office,” Johns Hopkins University’s Associate Director of Admissions Calvin Wise explained during a Wow Writing Workshop webinar last week, Hands Off That Essay! How to Help Without Overdoing it. “We are trying to predict future potential. We need to dig deeper where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student.”

Wise (and every admissions officer we’ve ever asked) says he can always tell when college essays are over-edited or written by someone else.

“They don’t shine through the process as well because we’re not hearing their voice,” Wise added. “The essay is a students’ opportunity to speak directly to the admissions office, and we want to hear a 17-year-old’s voice.

When you read your child’s college essay, or when you try and help your son or daughter come up with a topic, remember that they should not start with a preconceived notion of where they will end up.

Students can have vision and ideas, but they need to be willing to be surprised and open to ending up somewhere they didn’t expect. You need to let yourself be surprised, too.

How do you do that? Set expectations. Help your child present the best possible version of himself or herself, not a vision you imagine. If your child is not a stellar writer, this is not the time to change that.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the real goal?
  • Am I too invested in the beautiful essay?
  • What are the schools looking for?

Next, make sure your voice does not show up in the college essay. Leave it alone. Drop the word “editing” from your vocabulary. You are a reviewer, not an editor. This is a challenging distinction. It involves sitting on your hands and hiding your red pen.

FREE Don’t Ruin Thanksgiving Webinar

If you want to take it a step further, watch last week’s popular webinar, Don’t Ruin Thanksgiving: College Essay Tips for Parents. In it, Wow’s Susan Knoppow touches on these points:

  • How to proofread without changing your student’s words
  • What to do about poor spelling
  • How to handle uninspired, dull writing
  • How to help your child feel proud of the essay, while making sure he or she has crossed every t and dotted every i

Still need help? Wow can take the task off your plate.  We know how to help you untangle that messy essay  Contact us today!  We can work with your sons and daughters no matter where they are in the process. We’re the national experts – the ones teachers, educational consultants and professional writers call when they need help for their own children.

Wherever your child is in the application process, we wish you and your family a peaceful Thanksgiving.

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches college application essay writing using Wow Online – College Essay, the first step-by-step online system for writing the college essay.  Read Kim’s blogs and get writing tips by signing up for Wow’s newsletter; Wow is on Facebook and Twitter. Check Wow’s calendar for webinars and online course information.