Help Your Senior Hit Essays Out of the Ballpark

By Kim Lifton
Wow Writing Workshop

Help Your SeniorParents often ask us, “What’s the best way to help my senior with a college application essay?”

Many college admissions experts will advise you to keep your hands off everything; after all, it’s your child’s journey, not yours.

There’s a fine line between helping your child grow into an independent adult, and doing too much. We get it; we are parents too. We understand that you want to help your senior grow into a successful adult.

I’ve taught thousands of kids how to write college application essays. This is my first season working with my own rising senior, Sarah. She’s pretty relaxed about the whole college journey, and I don’t make a big deal about it.

Mom and Dad, you cannot freak out on your kids if you want them to focus on getting into college. There’s not much else left for them to do at this point beyond filling out applications and writing meaningful essays.

This is the really hard part of the journey. Remember to breathe, and think about the three C’s: Cool, Calm and Collected. Colleges want reflection, and most of our rising seniors have very little experience looking back and reflecting. At Wow, we break the process down for our students into simple, manageable steps so they can reflect and stay calm. You may not be able to do everything we do on your own, but you can at least try these three things to reduce stress and help your child feel confident:

1) Slow them down. Our students come to us all the time with story ideas. Wrong approach. The essay topic is secondary; the subject (your child) is most important. Before your teen begins writing anything, do what we do with our students. Before considering topics, we ask this question: “What do you want colleges to know about you that they wouldn’t otherwise find out from the rest of your application package?” Do you want them to know you are smart? Resilient? A self-starter? Funny?

You know your son or daughter better than anyone. Once your child has an answer to that question, it’s time to start exploring topics that illustrate what he wants colleges to know. Asking this question is one thing you can do to really make a difference.

2) Offer encouragement. Be a cheerleader rather than the coach on the field. When it comes time to start the writing process, encourage your child to express herself in her own voice, in her own words. We give our students writing activities that help them hear their own voices and feel good about their word choices; their final essays reflect that confidence. Be supportive, not critical.

3) Be realistic. We talk to admissions officers all the time, and we know what they are looking for. Sometimes well-meaning parents (just like you!) expect even more from an application essay than admissions officers do. Find out what colleges really want from an essay tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET during Wow’s first Parent Call-in Chat. It’s FREE. All you need to do is register and call in! I’ll be on the line for 30 minutes to answer questions and share tips so you can help your child with that essay without taking over.

We’ll be hosting parent chats all summer. Email me any time with questions you’d like answered during our parent calls. Let me know how Wow can help you navigate this journey so your child stands out and gets results!