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Parents and the College Essay: How to Help

Welcome to the beginning of college essay season! If I've learned anything in over 20 years of working with high school seniors on theirs, it's that parents are eager to get this beast done tomorrow while most seniors don't feel the impulse until around the end of September. Thus starts the tension.

For many parents this summer before senior year is the beginning of what feels like a never ending nightmare of college application begging, nagging, secrecy, meltdowns, and approaching deadlines. It doesn't have to be. For many students, their summer focus is on paid work or internships or friends, and their academic mindset needs some time to kick back in, particularly in a year after pandemic schooling. This is normal.

Excellent school counselors and English teachers are experts at the college application process and know how (and when) to get it done quickly. I know because I'm one of them. But even if you and yours aren't lucky enough to benefit from such gems at your child's school, there are certainly proven things you as a parent can do to ease parental/child anxiety and tension around the college essay.

Like what?

For starters, too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. Student anxiety and confusion skyrocket when more than 3 editors start chiming in on their drafts. I know you mean well and you likely went to college yourself and wrote an essay, but that doesn't mean you are the best consultant for your child. I know this feels counterintuitive. You just want to help but hear me out.

By leaving it to the professionals--that English teacher, that school counselor, or a consulting specialist in the college essay, you can enjoy keeping your hands off and rest assured.

Not editing your child's essay is the ultimate act of generosity. Why?

Because even though you think you know how to write an essay, you probably don't read hundreds of college admissions essay.

College essays are not academic essays. They shouldn't even have introductions, gasp! Did you know that?


You also probably don't talk to admissions counselors on a regular basis and unlike the pros, you probably don't intimately know what these prompts are designed to elicit from your child nor the common mistakes and pitfalls students make. We do.

Let us help you reduce anxiety, reduce tension, and enjoy the time you have left with your child before they leave the nest. Fledging, learning to fly solo, this is what you've been hoping for all along.


Next post: more tips on helping your kid with the college essay by not helping

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