Five Tips to Help You Assist Your Child With College Application Essays

  1. Make a date with your teen to discuss his or her chosen colleges' application essay requirements. During your date, chat about a system you and your teen together can put in place to structure writing time and complete the essays, as well as handle privacy issues during the drafting process. Agree to and write down a timeline for developing the essays.
  2. Don't nag your teen about completing first and later essay drafts. First ask for his or her suggestions about how you can help. Write those suggestions down and thank your teen for helping you understand the kind of help required. Ask if you might add a few ideas to the list for your teen to think about. These might include hooking your teen up with sources of help--books, professional college admissions counselors, relatives and neighbors who write well or are easy to talk with, as well as reputable editing services that work with high school kids, honoring their abilities to write and coaching them one-on-one.
  3. Instead of worrying because you think your teen is taking too long to write the essays, read writers on writing, and then offer your teen advice in the form of articles from websites and writers' magazines. He or she will be able to use the advice authors give on writing, since they are now engaged in either writing or procrastinating about writing. Both are activities professional writers expound upon frequently. Caution: pass on only what inspires you.
  4. Don't judge your young writer's ideas when he or she bounces them off of you. Often the least developed of the bunch, the one that seems hardest to get a handle on, or the one that seems almost silly will yield the most interesting application essay. Ask your child what interests him or her about the idea and what he or she thinks might be included in writing about it, no matter how personal or unusual it might seem. Engage in conversation that elicits details that might add to the young writer's information and memories.
  5. If you are your teen's first reader as the drafts develop, be sure to let him or her know what you've heard by repeating words and phrases you find memorable and by revealing where the writing engaged you and why and where you felt disappointed not to learn more. Knowing what is going on inside a reader emotionally really helps a writer bring more onto the page--writers want to please readers, even if they are parents!

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