4 tips for writing college application essays

Preparing teens to write solid essays during early high school will make them more comfortable with writing college application essays.

THOUGH IT’S been 14 years, it seems like only yesterday that my first college-bound child began filling out forms, submitting transcripts, making lists of extra-curricular activities, and yes—writing college application essays.

Each university had its own specific essay guidelines, so each essay she wrote had to be unique as well (not to mention engaging enough to set it apart from the rest of the applicants’ submissions).

Is your child preparing for university? The admissions essay doesn’t have to be a deterrent. Here are four things you can do to help teens prepare for this task:

1. Teach Essay Writing

I’m sure this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many parents have not begun teaching essay writing to their soon-to-graduate teens.

Whether writing is your weakest area or your strongest, it can easily take a back seat to other subjects in your homeschool. To keep writing at the forefront, make sure to schedule it into your weekly lesson plans. You may need to invest in a curriculum that lays a foundation and equips teens with tools to sharpen and enliven their writing.

In addition, regularly assign essays related to other subjects of study such as literature and history. Frequent practice with essay writing of all types will make the application-essay process that much less stressful.

2. Encourage Excellence

Lee Binz has made it her mission to help parents homeschool high school. In her article “What’s the Big Deal about a Little Essay?” she says, “Colleges want to know two things about your student – who they are and how well they communicate.”

The folks in admissions read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays every year. Many of these essays are poorly written, lacking in content, style, and creativity. It doesn’t have to be this way! When your students’ essays are lively, personal, and carefully edited, they will stand out from among their dull counterparts.

3. Promote Concise, Honest Writing

Admissions personnel are not impressed by pompous writing. Teach your teen—in all essay writing—to speak plainly, articulately, and honestly. While well-chosen, mature vocabulary words can certainly be tucked into the essay here and there, the text should be clearly written and easy to read.

4. Plan Ahead

Beginning in 9th or 10th grade, essay writing should be part of every high schooler’s language arts diet. Whatever you do, please don’t wait till they’re seniors to introduce this skill!

According to Lee, teens should start the actual college-application process on the day their senior year begins (though essay writing itself shoud be introduced well beforehand). She often suggests that students practice writing essays beginning on the first day of their junior year.

“Practice college application essays before senior year,” she says. “If you go to a college fair, grab some application packets and look at their essay topics. Use those for writing assignments.”

Admissions counselors really do read these essays. They want to see how students handle various topics and how well they express themselves in writing. Preparing your teens to write solid essays during their earlier high school years will make them more comfortable with the process and more confident in their ability to communicate—no matter what the topic.

. . . . .

WriteShop IIWriteShop II teaches advanced descriptive narration, persuasion, and beginning essay writing (including timed essays). To learn more about WriteShop II for your high schooler, visit our website at www.writeshop.com.

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