High School 2 College

August 7, 2009

I Told You So: Another Person’s Advice About the College Essay

Here’s Newsweek‘s advice about the college essay.  Read this, and then go back and read my last blog posting.  Sound familiar?


One piece of advice that they had that I missed on my last blog entry was the bit about not letting your parents have too much input when it comes to your college essay.  It’s true. I can tell when a parent has “helped” a kid with his or her essay.

I’ve worked with kids on essays and we’ve crafted a great essay that really says what the student wants to tell the admissions people about himself in the most authentic way (sounds like a teenager but with much better grammar and a bit better vocab), and the mom will say, “I think this sounds like a teenager.  I think it should say this….”  As my kids would say, “FAIL!”  All of your essays should sound like an intelligent, thoughtful teenager, not like a parent.

I think I do quite a good job (if I must blow my own horn) at guiding kids to a topic that they’ll actually want to write about.  If you want to write it, it’s a pretty good bet that someone else might want to read it.  If the topic bores you to death, guess how the reader will react?  I look into a student’s face and see what makes them light up.

Once you have a topic, start writing. You’ll fix it up later.  Don’t worry about how to start.  Start in the middle if you must.  Start with what you heard, smelled, saw, felt when something happened.  Just start.

Write a few essays — or at least a paragraph or two of a few essays — and then put them aside for a week.  Then take another look.  Finish a few of them.

You’ve worked hard for at least 3 years in high school to get to the place where you are now, on the verge of applying to several colleges.  You’ve spent weeks on research projects that you didn’t really care about.  You’ve studied for tests knowing you’d forget the information the week after the test.  So why are so many of you reluctant to put in that time for the most important writing assignment of your high school career?

Get off Facebook and get going!

Wendy Segal

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