In my previous job as a college admissions officer, reading application essays often provided the best glimpse into who the applicant was (not simply what he or she had accomplished). Having read thousands upon thousands of those essays, it was easy to spot ones that weren’t written by the applicant or were over-edited by someone else. This took away from my ability to get to know the applicant, but also made me question the authenticity of the application as a whole. Admissions officers know what capabilities high school students have as writers, and, in the case of extraordinary written craftsmanship, know where else to look to see if that ability is the norm for that applicant. As the article below says, “Let the 17-year-old voice take center stage.” As much as parents, relatives, friends, and college counselors want to help edit these essays, we all need to find a balance between helping and letting the student “talk.” Other than an interview, a student doesn’t have a better opportunity for his or her “voice” to be heard.
In the spring, we recommended to our rising seniors that they write a couple drafts of their application essays this summer. For help, remember what you learned from the essay writing workshop and make sure you are writing according to this year’s essay topics.