“My husband and I have no idea what colleges are looking for when evaluating the college essays.”
“My daughter has no idea how to start her college essay.”
“I told my son to complete his college essay by the end of the summer. It’s still not done.”
That’s how many of College Counseling Connecticut’s clients start conversations with our expert college counselors.
In our college counseling work, we have found the college essay to be the most puzzling piece for most clients. The importance of grades, SAT/ACT scores, and extracurricular activities is reasonably well known and well understood by most clients. Grades and test scores are objective criteria. Extracurricular activities are more subjective. But still college applicants understand how to list their activities.
Moreover, at the time that students are working on their essays, they have already created their general college admissions profile.
The college essay is one opportunity for students to catch the attention of college admissions officials during senior year.
The potential importance of the college essay often creates analysis-paralysis for both students and parents. Many write about something without revealing much about themselves. Some students are worried that they do not have a heartbreaking story.
The importance is clear. Competitive colleges have an abundance of students who meet their general criteria. To separate those in the batch of possible admits, subjective criteria, such as the essay, become important.
“Thank you for making the college essay process so easy.” That’s the satisfying comment that our clients make at the end of our meetings.
Due to our years of experience helping our students craft essays, we start the session with an informational interview designed to pull out the student’s most significant themes.
Initially, this is confusing to our young clients. The college admissions essay is a marketing piece for the student. Most students have never had to sell themselves before and are unsure how to proceed. While the presentation is ultimately “a soft-sell”, students have to identify what they want to present to an admissions committee.
We then commence with the first draft. Quite often, the student needs to “show, rather than tell” the qualities that they wish to express. So, for example, students need not open an essay with a declarative statement: “I work hard.” Instead, students should relay a short anecdote showing them working hard.
We get the “core” of the essay by developing the best anecdotes and narrative to present our students effectively. From there, we begin the editing process. Students craft their first draft essays. We then help the student edit their own work to completion.
We have noticed the added benefit of alleviating the stress of both parent and student.