Those Important College Essays

Chief among the most important things on your college application check list is the application essay. Students are typically asked to write a self-reflective, personal, descriptive essay, that is supposed to describe who they are. Oh–and it also has to be technically perfect, too. This is a big deal! Colleges use a student’s essay to tell a great deal about them, such as how well they can write, what their thought process is like, and whether they’d fit in well with the college. Each college has unique questions–usually several different topics that they give, which they ask a student to write about. The ultimate question colleges are asking within these essay questions is, “Why should we admit you?”

When you realize that the average student applies to six different colleges, and writes approximately three essays for each college, you’ll quickly see that there just isn’t enough time in the day to write all those essays! When they’re in 10th grade, you think your children are just as busy as they could ever possibly be, but they actually get busier and busier in 11th and 12th grade, and it gets more and more difficult for them to get through the process of college application essays. That’s why it’s important to learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle your essays, so that you can do as little writing as possible in order to get this job done.

The big problem, of course, is that a self-reflective, technically perfect, descriptive essay can be a completely overwhelming assignment for teenagers. It can even be overwhelming for an adult to create a technically perfect essay. I have two boys who are not known for being self-reflective, and it was most challenging for them. One of my children doesn’t really enjoy writing and certainly doesn’t enjoy writing about feelings. He doesn’t mind so much writing about science, engineering, or chess, but writing down feelings is certainly overwhelming, and can be a difficult task. It’s important that we, as parents, understand that it can be difficult for children to do this sort of assignment; so writing them one at a time is better.

Fortunately, college topic questions often overlap significantly. If you have the option, you can carefully choose which topics you write about, and reuse the same essay for multiple college applications. This will help you significantly cut back on how much you must write. An easy way to do this is to lay out all the questions from the colleges you’re interested in, and find which ones are similar enough that you could write one essay to be used for both (or more) of them. This planning ahead will save you time, energy, and arguing with your teen! It’s a good idea to have another person review the essay too, so that it’s ‘technically perfect’ before you send it off to the colleges.

College preparation takes a lot of time, but if you put careful thought and energy into the process, it will pay off with college admittance, and hopefully some great scholarships too!

Students With College Potential Need Active Parenting

I have been hearing things from College Leaders, Career Services Professionals, College Professors and Adjunct Instructors that should concern you. Those comments have to do with college students and the way they think and operate. They make me wonder if recent high school graduates can survive in college and in the real world.

Parents are responsible for teaching, guiding and coaching their children, while giving them a broad range of opportunities and experiences. The best parents help their children learn and grow, so they can function effectively and succeed in their adult lives.

Areas of concern include:

Short Attention Span – Do your children quickly lose interest in most things, lack concentration and move too quickly from one thing to another? To operate effectively in college and in the work world, many assignments require students to pay close attention for long periods of time.

Electronic Devices – Are your children only interested in their electronic devices and ignore opportunities for physical, cooperative or interpersonal activities with friends? Team efforts and face to face communication are still required at most colleges and in most organizations.

Printed Material – Are your children unwilling to read stories and books, even short ones? In college and in the work world papers, reports, manuals, proposals and books still exist. Libraries exist too. Are you helping your children learn to utilize all of the resources that are available?

Correct English – In this day of electronic devices, symbols, emoticons and abbreviations have taken over. However, correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and a good vocabulary are still necessary in college and beyond. Are you helping your children learn to write and speak properly?

Communication – All students will need to communicate effectively. People with good communication skills will generally do better in college and in their careers than people with poor communication skills. Since verbal, writing and listening skills are learned at an early age, parents should be aware of the role they play.

Social Skills – Students today spend so much time on their electronic devices, some are losing the ability to interact with and build relationships or friendships with the people around them. That is not good. People with poor social skills are often left behind.

Entertainment & Fun – If your child must be constantly entertained and things must be made fun before they will participate or contribute, that may become a problem. Few colleges and employers go out of their way to entertain students or make the work fun and exciting. Students are generally treated as adults and expected to get things done, no matter what.

Perseverance – Do your children give up easily and avoid things that are long, difficult or complex? Colleges expect students to handle the complex assignments that are required in their coursework. Additionally, employers need people who will stick with the difficult challenges, overcome the obstacles and find ways to get the work done well.

Work Ethic – Is your child determined to succeed, dependable, on time and willing to work hard, in order to take care of his/her responsibilities? Who will hire a student who doesn’t care whether he/she succeeds, is not dependable, is frequently late and will not stick with it to get the job done?

Immediate Gratification – Do your children expect some kind of appreciation, encouragement, recognition or reward for every little thing they do, even halfhearted efforts or mediocre results? If no reward is given what happens? Have they been successful with any difficult or complex long-term goals? Colleges and employers expect people to pursue and accomplish long-term goals with little immediate recognition and few short-term rewards.

Sensitivity – Are your children considered to be fragile, sensitive and easily offended? Can they handle criticism, disappointment and being corrected? These things are all part of college and employment life.

Flexibility – Are your children willing to consider alternatives, opposing views and willing to compromise or are they stubborn and inflexible, even in the face of solid arguments and evidence? In a learning environment, students and employees are expected to be flexible, accept new ideas and continuous change, work with a diverse group of people and constantly look for new ways to do things better.

Self-confidence – Are your children able to stand up for themselves, speak out, take action with self-confidence, go against the thinking of their peers and take a few calculated risks, when necessary? On the other hand, do they frequently get bulldozed by stronger personalities?

Anger – Are your children quick to anger, often intolerant, demanding of others or take irrational actions? Do they lack self-restraint and empathy and always expect others to adjust to them? That behavior will not get students very far in college.

Personality – Are your children friendly, positive and outgoing? Students with great personalities make friends easily and are well-liked. That is important both in college and after graduation.

Clear Thinking – Do other people see your children as being illogical and unrealistic or clear thinking and right on target? Fuzzy thinkers do not do well in college or in the work environment.

See The Future – Do your children understand what it takes to be successful in college and in their careers? Are they thinking about and preparing for their futures? Successful students can see what will be needed and take steps to get prepared.

As parents, your job is to shape the way your children think and behave. To do that, you will need to give your children opportunities to experience, learn, perform and make mistakes in a wide variety of situations. Along the way, you should be the ones to coach and guide them. That is called active parenting.