An Essay Push for Winter Break


essayIt’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Some parents out there might be feeling this song right about now. Like Joni Mitchell, they “wish they had a river to skate away on.” Regular decision deadlines are approaching, and your student still hasn’t finished her essay. She is stumped, and you don’t know how to help.

Essays are possibly the most stressful part of the college application. The essay is the “window into your soul” for the admissions officer. There’s a reason why colleges ask for essays and it’s not just to see a writing sample. With thousands of applicants possessing similar qualifications, something must tip the scales toward a positive decision and the essay could be the tipping point.

While content is certainly important, the tone and focus of the essay are equally important. If your student is stumped and can’t seem to move past the first paragraph, this list of 10 “don’ts” might help her move forward toward completion.

  1. DON’T write about controversial subjects.

The essays are not the place to take a stand on a personal issue, unless that issue has shaped who you are. It can be tempting to discuss attention-grabbing hot topics, but doing so can have consequences. Controversial topics are contentious for a reason. And while some on a review board may applaud such a choice of essay, others might not find it appropriate for students entering their institution, even if it catches their attention.

  1. DON’T focus on what you want to do, but on what you have already done.

How have you gone above and beyond? What is your scholarly niche? What have you done that can show admissions officers who you are and why you have accomplished your goals. The best topics for college essays allow you to tout an accomplishment.

  1. DON’T be a generalist, make it personal.

Colleges and universities aren’t looking for well-rounded students, they are looking for a well- rounded student body. Show them where you stand out and how you complement the mix they are going for. Talk about what you love and find a way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Admissions officers want to know who you are and what you can contribute to their college student body.

  1. DON’T use “SAT words.”

Admissions officers are unimpressed by those trying to show off their vocabulary, they much prefer clear, concise essays.

  1. DON’T use clichés.

Clichés are the quickest way to come across as inauthentic and unexceptional. What is a cliche? Phrases like “time will tell” and “alls well that ends well” are cliches.

For the last 5 don’t’s, read the original article I wrote for TeenLife Media: Don’t Make These 10 College Essay Mistakes.

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