Is Your Child’s College Essay Good to Go?

By Kim LiftoN
Wow Writing Workshop
Get a college essay review now
The November college admission deadline is just around the corner.

It’s Nov. 1, or deadline day for early decision and early action college applications! Have you done a thorough  review of your child’s college essay? Do you think their college essay is good?

This time of year, parents, counselors and professionals sometimes overstep their roles in the college essay review process. Everyone means well, but it can be tempting to suggest too much or to over-edit. No worries. We’re going to share our simple approach to handle a college essay review the right way, and on a tight deadline.

How to Do a college essay Review

Begin the college essay review process by letting go of any preconceived notions about what makes a good essay. We suggest replacing the word “good” with the word “effective.” It’s important to let your child write their story in their own voice using their own words.

There is no rubric for an effective college essay, but the ones that stand out all share a few common features. Regardless of the prompt, they:

  • Answer the question.
  • Showcase a positive trait or characteristic.
  • Sound like a high school student.
  • Illustrate something meaningful about the student.
  • Demonstrate reflection.

You will know if an essay is effective if it has a theme, which answers these two questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why does it matter?

We recommend reading without a red pen in hand, and without your hands on the computer keyboard. Just read. Make sure you know what the essay is about and why the student chose this topic. Then ask two key questions:

  • Is anything missing?
  • Is the college essay’s purpose clear?

When you review, double-check the prompt. If the prompt asks the writer to reflect on an experience and its influence on them, be sure your child has talked about both the experience and its effect.

Use the essay review checklist below to evaluate a traditional personal statement, such as the Common Application essay, the Coalition application, the University of California personal insight questions, ApplyTexas or any primary prompt from schools that use their own applications.

College Essay Review Checklist
Content Review
  • Does the essay answer the prompt?
  • Can you tell why the writer chose this topic?
  • Is the essay about the student, or is it really about the place, person or experience featured in the essay?
  • Does it illustrate a trait the student wants to share with colleges?
  • Does it tell colleges something meaningful about the writer that is not clear from the rest of the application package?
  • Does the essay sound like the person who wrote it?
 Structure Review
  • Does the first paragraph make you want to keep reading?
  • Does the essay move smoothly from beginning to end?
Polish Review
  • Does the essay use the same verb tense throughout?
  • Has the writer avoided sentence fragments and run-on sentences?
  • Is the punctuation correct and consistent?
  • Is every word spelled correctly?
  • Does the student feel confident and proud of the work?

That’s it. No magic. No special tricks.

If you would like a professional to review your child’s essay before submitting any application, we’ll read it carefully and offer specific instructions to help them make the deadline. Just submit the essay(s) before noon on Nov. 1, click “rush”, and you’ll get it back by 8 p.m.

Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essay
Wow President Kim Lifton
Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. The Wow Method helps business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials. It also helps students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. If it involves words, Wow can help.