Do you have a student who is steadfast that their college application essay is great but you, as a parent, think their essay could use some work but they don’t listen to you? Unfortunately, this is a common problem for parents and their high school students. The student will write their essay and not take any feedback from their parents, instead insisting that their essay is perfect the way it is.
My younger brother is an example of a student who did not want to edit his college essays: he wanted to be done with his applications after only writing one essay draft. My parents would read his essays and give him some comments on items that he could edit, yet my brother did not want to listen to their advice. It is ok for the student to pick and choose edits they want to change, since it is the student's essay, however, the problem occurs when the student wants to submit their essay after only one draft. Writing, re-writing, and editing your essay is a key part of the college application process. Having others read your essay can help you find grammar errors or areas where your story does not make sense.
Keep in mind that parents or other editors should not be writing the essay for the student, but you want the student’s voice to still shine through. College admission officers can tell when an essay is written by a parent versus when an essay is written by a 17 year old.
Say you, as a parent, read your student’s college essay, and it does not answer the college essay prompt, yet your student is adamant that the essay is amazing and does not want to continue spending time on it. How can you get your student to re-write and edit their essays if they are not willing to listen to your advice? In this blog I will discuss some ideas that you can pursue to hopefully get your student to think critically about their essays.
1. Have someone the student respects give feedback: You could ask someone who your student respects, like a coach or tutor, to read your student’s college essay. By asking someone who is not related to your student, this makes it so that the student will be more willing to hear the comments that this person has. Usually, students do not like listening to feedback from parents or older siblings.
2. Have someone who does not know the student give feedback: You can ask outside sources, like Study Hall College Consulting, to read your student’s essay. Having someone who does not know your student is a great way to make sure that the student’s essay flows and their story makes logical sense. Since this person does not know your student, they can not fill in the holes in the essay, versus someone who knows the student personally, may be able to guess what the student meant. These holes are super important to clarify as the college admissions officer reading the essay also does not know your student.
3. Ask a school teacher or counselor to give feedback: Asking a school teacher or counselor to read your essay is also a great way to have extra eyes on it. If you asked an English teacher to read it, they would be able to spot grammar errors that you may not have overlooked. Having a counselor read your essay is also helpful because your counselor may not know you that well, so they can help to spot holes in your story.
4. Ask a friend to give feedback: You could do a college essay editing swap with your school friends. Everyone in the group can review each other’s essays and give advice. This is useful if your friends give brutally honest advice. You do not want a friend to read your essay and tell you that they love everything about it, so make sure you ask a friend who will give you constructive feedback.
5. Read the essay aloud to find errors: This is super important to do! Since you are constantly reading your essay, you may skip words or know what sentences come next, so you are not actually proofreading the essay carefully. Reading the essay out loud forces the reader to actually read every word to see if the grammar makes sense and the ideas flow smoothly.
Rachel is the founder of Study Hall College Consulting. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley in the Class of 2020 where she double majored in Cognitive Science and Legal Studies. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.