Is Your Student’s Essay Good Enough?

Last fall, I had an email exchange with a mom who questioned her daughter’s Common App personal statement.

How are you feeling about its quality?  the mom asked.

Her daughter is a very smart girl. Driven by causes. Great mind. Incredibly mature. She wrote an excellent essay showcasing her interest in social justice; she focused her story on one conversation about food insecurity at a progressive summer camp.

Any admissions reader would know she was kind, compassionate and driven, fueled by progressive causes.

Still, the mom wasn’t so sure.

Has this ever happened to you? (No need to answer… I know the answer is yes!!!)

We’ve been in this business for a long time, and yes, this still happens to us. Even though we set expectations upfront. Even though we keep parents in the loop throughout the entire process. It’s just part of the job.

At Wow, we are respectful, but we have learned how to stand our ground.

We help our students write the best essays they are able and willing to write. We supervise our coaches; we also trust them completely. We all follow the same process, and that helps us determine when students are done. And when essays are good enough.

We judge a finished essay by its theme – and improvement. Which does not mean sentences are better.  Or that the writing is tighter.

Improvement can mean more clarity. Additional insight. Or more focus.

Our goal is to help every student answer the prompt and show insight. Using their own story. Their own words. And their own voice.

When I read a second draft or a final essay, I pay attention to how a story has changed and improved, not if it is perfect.

This girl’s essay was done! I told the mom. And I told her why. Confidently.

This is a quality essay. The story answers the prompt, shows insight into who she is and is reflective. It improved phenomenally from the first draft till the last draft. It sounds like your daughter. That’s what colleges want. Best of all, she is really happy with it.

And guess what? The mom backed off.

When parents say they don’t like a student’s final essay, or it is not good enough, stand your ground. Respectfully. With confidence. Explain why the essay works, how it has improved and what it shows colleges about the student.

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop. Perceptive, resourceful and curious, Kim can get a story out of anyone. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager. With Susan Knoppow, Wow’s CEO, Kim developed the Wow Method by combining her journalistic training with Susan’s organization and instructional design skills. She holds a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. Kim’s articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines and online publications. Kim and Susan have co-authored three books – How to Write an Effective College Application Essay (The Inside Scoop for Parents, Students, Counselors). They are members/affiliates of the Michigan Association of College Admission Counseling (MACAC), the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA).
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