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College Application Essay - HELP


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#1 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 10:50 AM

My son has many wonderful qualities, but he is a concrete thinker and creative writing is just not his thing.  He is now in the midst of his second college essay class since he was unable to produce something he was happy with in the first class.  In both of the classes, the essays that have been given as examples are for students who were admitted to highly selective schools such as Harvard or Hopkins.  Here are the examples that were given for the current class:

 

 

He is applying to schools where the average ACT scores are in the 23 - 27 range and his score is above that.  Do people still just write straightforward 5 paragraph essays on something like what scouting (or some other activity) has done for them?  And would that be good enough for the type of college he is looking at?  I really don't want him spending a lot more time on this if he doesn't need to.

 

 


Edited by OnMyOwn, 12 September 2017 - 10:51 AM.

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#2 regentrude

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 11:14 AM

Do his colleges even require essays? Not all do.

I think a predictable formulaic five paragraph essay will not impress admissions officials, and neither will being the thousandth person to write about scouting or football. So either would be a waste of time.

 

Not being into creative writing is no obstacle, because the essay is not supposed to be fiction. Concrete thinkers can write well thought out essays.


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#3 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 11:36 AM

How silly of me! I'll go and tell him that there is no obstacle here after all and he can just simply do it. Lol!

And I will let him know that the one activity he has had a passion for all throughout high school is completely predictable and isn't worth writing about because it won't impress anyone.

I know you can't help it, but you really make me laugh sometimes. 😜

Anyone else with maybe more average students that just wrote an average essay for an average college have any advice or commiseration for me? Feel free to pm me.
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#4 regentrude

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:00 PM

Sorry if you find my reply offensive. It is based on all the advice I have read in the books, blogs and articles on college admissions essays when I researched the process. I don't decide what's a good essay and what's not; I am reporting the findings I have gleaned from college admissions officials who do not seem fond of reading five paragraph essays about predictable topics.

 

It has nothing to do with being average. An average student can write in a different format than the five paragraph essay (which is a crutch that is rarely appropriate for a topic anyway.)

It also has nothing to do with the activity not being impressive. You don't have to have "impressive" activities. It has to do with many students writing their essay about their favorite extracurricular.

If he wants to write about scouting, he needs to find an angle that is unusual, incorporate anecdote, go beyond the standard scouting-made-me-a-responsible-person-and-team-player-and-I-overcame-obstacles.

 

ETA; And really, it does not have to be creative writing; he can write an expository essay and can have that stand out.

 

 


Edited by regentrude, 12 September 2017 - 12:07 PM.

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#5 jdahlquist

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:05 PM

I have a family member who is director of admissions at a university that has ACT scores is in the 23-29 range for its 25-75 percentile, with an admissions rate less than 50%.  He says that he thinks many applicants are over thinking and over stressing regarding essays.  He says he is really not interested in seeing what a student can produce after months of polishing with the help of essay coaches; he says that he is really looking for something that expresses who the student is and is about something important to the student.  He said that he is interesting in seeing students who are curious, eager to learn, eager to be part of the college community, are questioning values in a way that is age appropriate, etc.  


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#6 dirty ethel rackham

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:33 PM

If he is passionate about scouting, he could write about scouting.  But, the warning is to not make it a general "scouting was great for me in 5 paragraphs."  Like regentrude said, he needs to pick a unique angle to focus on.  My oldest son wrote about karate and getting his black belt.  It could have been a boring essay saying "rah rah karate."   But, instead, he wrote about his battle with insecurity and framed with within one day of karate ... his black belt test, which was a metaphor for his battle against insecurity. This was a hard essay for my oldest to do because he could write about anything factual, but really had trouble writing about anything requiring personal reflection.  I had to sit with him and basically interview him.  When he said something introspective and insightful, I had him write that down.  After about 3 days of 30 minute interview sessions, I had him look over his notes and arrange them into topics.  That is when he saw an authentic essay come to him. 

 

My second child wrote about their "battle" with the homeschool stereotype and feeling ostracized by many in our local homeschool community because we are not evangelical Christians (my other two were able to experience more community with like-minded families mostly due to the ages of their children and how there was a dearth of kids K's age) and how that led to a strong sense of independence as a survival tool.  The theme was independence.  It took lots of talking and writing down ideas for a theme to become apparent. 

 

I'm not saying that my kids would have gotten into Harvard with these essays.  But that they took some seemingly mundane topics and made them personal, original, and engaging.


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#7 Hilltopmom

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:38 PM

Ds just wrote a pretty basic essay for state schools, about his biggest interest- how he got started & what's he's been working on recently & hopes to do in the future (coding). It's not witty or impressive, TBH, but what he loves came through and he's not trying to get into MIT.

He also struggles with writing about personal topics.

I think it's adequate for his school choices with his test scores, & transcripts. Heck, he's already finished English 101.

Everything should be submitted by next week, so fingers crossed.

Good luck!

Edited by Hilltopmom, 12 September 2017 - 12:41 PM.

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#8 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:51 PM

Sorry if you find my reply offensive. It is based on all the advice I have read in the books, blogs and articles on college admissions essays when I researched the process. I don't decide what's a good essay and what's not; I am reporting the findings I have gleaned from college admissions officials who do not seem fond of reading five paragraph essays about predictable topics.

 

It has nothing to do with being average. An average student can write in a different format than the five paragraph essay (which is a crutch that is rarely appropriate for a topic anyway.)

It also has nothing to do with the activity not being impressive. You don't have to have "impressive" activities. It has to do with many students writing their essay about their favorite extracurricular.

If he wants to write about scouting, he needs to find an angle that is unusual, incorporate anecdote, go beyond the standard scouting-made-me-a-responsible-person-and-team-player-and-I-overcame-obstacles.

 

ETA; And really, it does not have to be creative writing; he can write an expository essay and can have that stand out.

 

Honestly, I'm not offended.   It did actually make me laugh.  If you were truly trying to be helpful, well, then, thanks.  :001_smile:



#9 Hilltopmom

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:52 PM

Here's a thread I started about the essay last year


http://forums.welltr...rd#entry7295395
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#10 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:53 PM

If he is passionate about scouting, he could write about scouting.  But, the warning is to not make it a general "scouting was great for me in 5 paragraphs."  Like regentrude said, he needs to pick a unique angle to focus on.  My oldest son wrote about karate and getting his black belt.  It could have been a boring essay saying "rah rah karate."   But, instead, he wrote about his battle with insecurity and framed with within one day of karate ... his black belt test, which was a metaphor for his battle against insecurity. This was a hard essay for my oldest to do because he could write about anything factual, but really had trouble writing about anything requiring personal reflection.  I had to sit with him and basically interview him.  When he said something introspective and insightful, I had him write that down.  After about 3 days of 30 minute interview sessions, I had him look over his notes and arrange them into topics.  That is when he saw an authentic essay come to him. 

 

My second child wrote about their "battle" with the homeschool stereotype and feeling ostracized by many in our local homeschool community because we are not evangelical Christians (my other two were able to experience more community with like-minded families mostly due to the ages of their children and how there was a dearth of kids K's age) and how that led to a strong sense of independence as a survival tool.  The theme was independence.  It took lots of talking and writing down ideas for a theme to become apparent. 

 

I'm not saying that my kids would have gotten into Harvard with these essays.  But that they took some seemingly mundane topics and made them personal, original, and engaging.

 

Yes, this is exactly the problem.  Thanks for your insight.



#11 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:01 PM

Here's a thread I started about the essay last year


http://forums.welltr...rd#entry7295395

 

Thank you!  That was helpful.  My ds is taking the BW class right now and there are lots of encouraging words about it in that thread.  He has his first draft due today, though, and he's got the deer in the headlights look, so I'm not sure how it's going to work for him.  I have my fingers crossed, though.


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#12 regentrude

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:06 PM

What exactly are the essay topics set by his colleges?

Some topics are more conducive to a factual approach and can be approached without baring one's soul and delving into deep introspection, if those are not his "thing".



#13 teachermom2834

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:19 PM

What are the admission rates at the schools he is applying to?

For my kids who were applying to pretty average schools and had test scores above the 75th percentile, I encouraged them to get something down that would show they had basic writing skills. I did not want them agonizing over an essay that I did not believe would make or break their application. From what you describe I would have him write about scouting and how it has impacted him and make sure it is free of spelling and grammar errors.

Now, I don't think their essays likely impressed anyone but I didn't think they really needed to. They were more than well qualified and were not applying to schools that students above the 75th percentile were being rejected from.

I think the answer is in how competitive admissions at the school it. I think with many of these questions the answer is completely different depending on the admission rate at the school. In my opinion, applying to the highly competitive schools is a completely different ballgame than the rest of them. So much so that I don't even feel like advice can be given across the board.
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#14 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:27 PM

What are the admission rates at the schools he is applying to?

For my kids who were applying to pretty average schools and had test scores above the 75th percentile, I encouraged them to get something down that would show they had basic writing skills. I did not want them agonizing over an essay that I did not believe would make or break their application. From what you describe I would have him write about scouting and how it has impacted him and make sure it is free of spelling and grammar errors.

Now, I don't think their essays likely impressed anyone but I didn't think they really needed to. They were more than well qualified and were not applying to schools that students above the 75th percentile were being rejected from.

I think the answer is in how competitive admissions at the school it. I think with many of these questions the answer is completely different depending on the admission rate at the school. In my opinion, applying to the highly competitive schools is a completely different ballgame than the rest of them. So much so that I don't even feel like advice can be given across the board.

 

Yes, this was kind of where I was going with my original question.  If a quick google search is accurate, the lowest admission rate of the colleges he is looking at is 55%, and the others are at 70%, 75% and the last, I think, is even higher.  I doubt that his essay is actually going to impress anyone because I'm thinking very few essays do, but I was thinking if he can just show that he can write intelligently and that he has a good vocabulary and a good heart, that might really be all he needs.


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#15 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:31 PM

What exactly are the essay topics set by his colleges?

Some topics are more conducive to a factual approach and can be approached without baring one's soul and delving into deep introspection, if those are not his "thing".

 

All, but two, just require the common app essay.  The two that require an additional essay have topics he can easily handle.  One is -- Why does he want to go to college?  The other is something similar.

 

He just sent his first draft in for his class on the common app essay.  Hopefully, he will gets lots of feedback from the teacher and be able to continue to move forward with this.


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#16 regentrude

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 01:33 PM

All, but two, just require the common app essay.  The two that require an additional essay have topics he can easily handle.  One is -- Why does he want to go to college?  The other is something similar.

 

He just sent his first draft in for his class on the common app essay.  Hopefully, he will gets lots of feedback from the teacher and be able to continue to move forward with this.

 

which CA prompt did he choose? For somebody who does not want to write personally, the open topic #7 would be idea.



#17 whitestavern

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 02:06 PM

Have him read this; it may help. It's an easy read and I thought it was full of great suggestions.

 

http://www.hacktheco..._essay_2017.pdf


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#18 Lori D.

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 02:26 PM

I highly recommend Tania Runyan's quick-reading book How To Write A College Application Essay. Very clear, specific, step-by-step help, with actual examples from 21 students applying to state universities all the way up to top tier schools.


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#19 Julie of KY

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 03:32 PM

Hopefully, he'll get good feedback on his current draft.

 

An essay certainly doesn't have to be the formulaic five paragraph essay, and for most personal essays I think they best don't fit this format.

 

As far as scouting, you don't want just another scouting taught me so much and I grew up and learned x,y,z... However, it certainly doesn't mean you can't write about scouting. You DO want it to be about you and not just another essay that any scout could have written.

 

My oldest (who took the BW College Admission Essay class) did do his essay on scouting. It was certainly not a general scouting essay, but reflected WHO he was and his growing up experiences in scouting. It was very simply written, but had an honesty that brought many to tears (of the people we did share it with). I think it really helped him get into the school he is now at.

 

As far as examples of essays written, I think it is very appropriate to give examples of top essays as this is what you want to strive for. What you can learn from these essays will apply to any personal essay that you are writing for any level college.

 

Edited to say that after my son got his first draft  back it came with LOTS of questions. I basically sat down with him and interviewed him using these questions and sometimes adding a few. I jotted down notes as he talked to me about the answers. From there he had a lot more material to work with in crafting his next draft. Hopefully it'll work well for your son also.


Edited by Julie of KY, 15 September 2017 - 07:27 AM.

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#20 freesia

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 03:51 PM

You know, I think for most schools an essay like all the rest on what scouting taught me would be fine. Really I have a ds for whom the college essay was extremely difficult for him to write. I was happy to get anything. Some kids are like that. All things being equal I'm not sure it matters for most schools.
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#21 Alice

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 04:02 PM

I've been part of admissions committees at my college, med school and then residency. And also for some scholarship type of programs. I would say that essays usually either stand out for being really bad or really good.

 

Really bad would be: 1) Full of grammar and spelling mistakes. One or two are understandable but if someone can't take the time to use spell-check on an admissions essay you have to wonder about work ethic in general. or 2) Wildly inappropriate. Using foul language for example or being crude or way too jokey. 

 

Really good is anything that is different. When you are reading through stacks of essays, anything that is unique is good. If it makes you laugh, extra bonus points. 

 

Most essays are kind of in the middle. Fine but nothing memorable. I can't ever think of a time where a fine but dull essay kept a kid out of a school or program. On the flip side, it won't get them in either. 

 

 


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#22 freesia

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 04:30 PM



 

Most essays are kind of in the middle. Fine but nothing memorable. I can't ever think of a time where a fine but dull essay kept a kid out of a school or program. On the flip side, it won't get them in either. 

 

 

This is kind of what I meant to say.  You can't squeeze blood from a stone.  My dd will be able to write and wonderful, creative, stand out essay. That is who she is and it may win her a scholarship or admittance to a school that is a stretch.  My ds is a strong writer, but not an adventurous one nor is he very introspective and he finds the entire process embarassing and uncomfortable (writing about himself even in  a regular way, much less a creative one!)  He wrote a good essay.  But I don't think it will stand out particularly.  I had to give that up--there's no way I could get more than I got from him on this type of essay.


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#23 Milknhoney

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 04:48 PM

I work in admissions at a university and our average ACT score is about what you're looking at. Admissions rate is around 80%. Although in all honesty, the majority of the 20% who were not admitted didn't ever complete their applications. We very rarely deny admission. Essay is optional. I can tell you that the majority of essays I read are very dull and boring. Many of them show that the student put very little effort and thought into it. Some of them were not even proofread. Some of them the student didn't even bother to turn spell checker on. I wonder how they ever made it through high school (but that's a whole other topic... also I could say the same for many letters of recommendation - also a whole other topic...) Since the student usually still meets GPA requirements and math prerequisites, bad essay writers are usually still admitted. 

 

There are certain topics that I've read on SOOOOO many times it's pathetic. If I read one more essay on how the student's goal in life is to be on the first manned mission to Mars I'm going to scream (I'm sure that is specific to my school and not the most popular topic in general). There was a period of time when every essay I read was "How 9/11 impacted my life" (that was a while ago... this year's applicants were still babies then so it doesn't come up anymore). Probably worth a google to find out what the most common essay topics are and avoid those, if only for the sanity of the poor admissions rep that has to read it.

 

I think the very best essays are the ones where the student shared about an event that really changed their life. For some it was something really huge like a divorce or a family death. For others it was something very simple, such as overcoming a challenging situation at school. Any situation where the student can talk about how they walked away as a better person at some level would make a good topic. I think scouting probably gave your son one of those experiences that he could write about. "Scouting" might be generic, but a personal experience will always be unique.

 

Of course we don't do common app so I'm out of the loop on what their topics are... but I would bet a lot of the essays we get were originally written for that. 


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#24 OnMyOwn

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 05:15 PM

Wow!  Thanks for all the wonderful responses.  It's really great to hear from people that have been involved in admissions or that have had children in a similar situation as my son.  What I'm taking away from it all is that it will be okay.  My son's essay is not going to be perfect, but it will be good enough and that is okay.  And, honestly, that's what I needed to hear.

 

After reading some of the comments about how other moms helped their kids, I thought maybe I should get a bit more involved in this process with him.  Prior to today, I was really just trying to stay out of this project.  So, I read what he had written on Friday, which he was supposed to revise into a draft today.  He was unsure about how to turn it into a complete draft, but what he had written was done very beautifully.  It was about a special experience he had on one of his scouting trips.  I showed it to my husband and he teared up while reading it.  So, he's not done and he's got a ways to go with it, but I have to give Bravewriter an A+ for getting him to write something on such a personal level.


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#25 GoodGrief

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 05:36 PM

It sounds to me like the essay he is working on right now is perfect! That what I was going to suggest...not writing about scouting broadly, but writing about an experience within that topic. My daughter is really passionate about mountain running. She wrote an essay about a specific run, and made an analogy to transitioning to adulthood. It was quite beautiful at the end.

 

But for the schools that interest him, I don't think you need to stress too much about the essay. However, I wanted the entire college app process to be educational, rather than just a series of chores, so we looked at the essays as part of language arts for the year. Quite a bit of work went into them for that reason, in part.


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#26 WoolySocks

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 05:51 PM

I have a family member who is director of admissions at a university that has ACT scores is in the 23-29 range for its 25-75 percentile, with an admissions rate less than 50%.  He says that he thinks many applicants are over thinking and over stressing regarding essays.  He says he is really not interested in seeing what a student can produce after months of polishing with the help of essay coaches; he says that he is really looking for something that expresses who the student is and is about something important to the student.  He said that he is interesting in seeing students who are curious, eager to learn, eager to be part of the college community, are questioning values in a way that is age appropriate, etc.  

 

:iagree: Just heard a similar story from someone working in admissions in a moderately competitive college (ACT 27-31 middle 50th).  They want to connect to you as a person and find out what makes you tick.  So that shouldn't necessarily be formulaic. But on the other hand if scouts is a passion, I think sharing a particular story or moment about how scouting was formative and meaningful to HIM and his path in particular is more the direction and less just generic talking about why scouts is good. 

 

This admissions guy gave us a couple great examples of some of his favorite essay topics and some were completely unexpected. 


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#27 daijobu

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 10:36 PM

The essays I've written that have gotten me into competitive undergrad and med school were not creative at all.  I'm just not a creative person.  They were very concrete and specific about my personality and my life.  I decided what about myself I wanted these schools to know, and I told them, using specific examples.  

 

I'll backtrack a bit and say that I deliberately write my introduction in a way that's designed to lure in the reader, so I suppose that could be considered creative.  I began my med school essay with "Last week I graduated from second grade."  

 

If your ds is tired of essay writing classes (who wouldn't be?), I recommend he read sections of these books.  They often have a nice process of going from brainstorming ideas, rough draft, to final polish.  One book even helps you "recycle" one essay for different prompts.  I thought all these books were helpful:

 

On Writing the College Application Essay

How to Get Into the Top Colleges

How to Prepare a Standout College Application

Get Into Any College: Secrets of Harvard Students


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#28 daijobu

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 10:39 PM

A rule of thumb I've read in all these books is your student should write an essay about an experience that no other student could write.    I could write about being on the basketball team and how that helped me learn teamwork.  Trouble is, there are probably 300,000 other basketball players who could write the same thing.  

 

As long as his scouting experience is unique to him, he's in a good place with his topic.  


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#29 secretgarden

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 11:53 AM

 I showed it to my husband and he teared up while reading it.  So, he's not done and he's got a ways to go with it, but I have to give Bravewriter an A+ for getting him to write something on such a personal level.

My favorite part of college app essays is the insight it provides into the student's mind and heart.  

 

It sounds to me like the essay he is working on right now is perfect! That what I was going to suggest...not writing about scouting broadly, but writing about an experience within that topic. My daughter is really passionate about mountain running. She wrote an essay about a specific run, and made an analogy to transitioning to adulthood. It was quite beautiful at the end.

 

But for the schools that interest him, I don't think you need to stress too much about the essay. However, I wanted the entire college app process to be educational, rather than just a series of chores, so we looked at the essays as part of language arts for the year. Quite a bit of work went into them for that reason, in part.

 

Couldn't agree with this more.

 

To OP, our dc begin with the 5 paragraph model and build from there if necessary.  Do not let him stress over it.  If his scores are above the school's average, and he has been an active teen, those factors are going to pull the most weight, not so much the essay.


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#30 secretgarden

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 12:05 PM

Yes, this is exactly the problem.  Thanks for your insight.

 

I understand what you mean about the personal angle being difficult.  Our eldest son had a particularly hard time writing from a personal perspective.  

 

I was not having success drawing him out myself.  Realizing that I wasn't going to be able to draw him out, and my gregarious self would both annoy him and put words in his mouth, I hired a writing tutor.  She only worked with him for the preliminary part -- organizing his thoughts into an outline.  

 

Listening to their discussions, where she asked questions and reiterated his own thoughts back to him (so he could make notes) was a treasured part of the process to me!


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#31 plansrme

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 12:16 PM

Have you read about the girl who got into Yale on the strength of an essay about how much she loves Papa John's pizza?  She did not accept the Yale offer because she also got into Auburn and, not being stupid, chose Auburn.  BUT, the point is that she wrote a funny, creative essay on something not the least bit deep or intensely personal.  It just made her sound like someone you'd want to hang out with.  There are other articles floating around that talk a little bit more about the substance of the essay (and it did have a personal aspect to it, as I recall, just not much), but it had to have appealed to the adcoms because it stood out from the massive numbers of serious essays they must receive.  (The Auburn article on this girl note that she scored a "Bo Jackson" on her ACT, which is good news for future Yale applicants, because Bo's number was not 36.)

 

That's not much help, I know, but I did find it encouraging, as I have an eighth grader who is likely to be applying to schools (not Yale, though) for which the essay will be taken into account.

 

 

 

 

 



#32 JanetC

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 12:18 PM

And I will let him know that the one activity he has had a passion for all throughout high school is completely predictable and isn't worth writing about because it won't impress anyone.
 

 

The point when choosing a predictable topic is not to say something predictable about it.

 

"How basketball taught be the value of teamwork and sticking together over wins and losses" is predictable. "How basketball made me a better jazz musician" is not.

 

There are no bad topics, just forced, canned conclusions about those topics.


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#33 yvonne

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 02:26 PM


I was not having success drawing him out myself.  Realizing that I wasn't going to be able to draw him out, and my gregarious self would both annoy him and put words in his mouth, I hired a writing tutor.  She only worked with him for the preliminary part -- organizing his thoughts into an outline.  

 

Listening to their discussions, where she asked questions and reiterated his own thoughts back to him (so he could make notes) was a treasured part of the process to me!

 

Where did you find a good tutor to help with the essay?  (Please say she's online! :)  )



#34 secretgarden

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 03:38 PM

Where did you find a good tutor to help with the essay?  (Please say she's online! :)  )

No, I'm sorry, she was local.  You may know someone who could help - someone familiar with the value and process of making a good outline.  A co-op teacher, a professional who writes, another homeschool mom?

 

For us, the discussion and note taking was the value.  DS could write well; I could edit.  So, in our situation, we needed someone who was good at asking questions and reiterating, "So you are saying that......."  


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#35 yvonne

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 04:22 PM

 

For us, the discussion and note taking was the value.  DS could write well; I could edit.  So, in our situation, we needed someone who was good at asking questions and reiterating, "So you are saying that......."  

 

Here, too. I think we could do all right with the actual writing. It's the gathering of content for the writing that is harder. Some people are so amazingly good at drawing teens out and really getting them to reflect on themselves. I'm not. Even with my own kids.

 

Hm. Now that I think about it, I do know a debate mom who knows them who is really good at that. Maybe I'll try her.

Thank you!


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#36 Lori D.

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 05:54 PM

Where did you find a good tutor to help with the essay?  (Please say she's online! :)  )

 

I don't know if she is still doing Skype tutoring, but in the past, Tania Runyan (author of the book I linked above) has done a lot of one-on-one distance tutoring of writing college application essays.


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#37 Sebastian (a lady)

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 06:16 PM

Just as a couple examples.

One son wrote about open water swimming and a sea turtle. He described a swim where his goggles filled with water and he couldn't see. He swam right into a turtle and thought it was a shark attack.

Another kid wrote about all the things he did with cardboard boxes during a childhood full of military moves. He pointed out that he both loved and hated cardboard for various reason related to what it reminded him of.

Fwiw I encourage a zero draft. This is the really bad draft before the first draft. You might discard a lot of it, but it gets you around to the right topic.
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#38 mirabillis

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 07:31 PM

If he is passionate about scouting, he could write about scouting.  But, the warning is to not make it a general "scouting was great for me in 5 paragraphs."  Like regentrude said, he needs to pick a unique angle to focus on.  My oldest son wrote about karate and getting his black belt.  It could have been a boring essay saying "rah rah karate."   But, instead, he wrote about his battle with insecurity and framed with within one day of karate ... his black belt test, which was a metaphor for his battle against insecurity. This was a hard essay for my oldest to do because he could write about anything factual, but really had trouble writing about anything requiring personal reflection.  I had to sit with him and basically interview him.  When he said something introspective and insightful, I had him write that down.  After about 3 days of 30 minute interview sessions, I had him look over his notes and arrange them into topics.  That is when he saw an authentic essay come to him. 

 

My second child wrote about their "battle" with the homeschool stereotype and feeling ostracized by many in our local homeschool community because we are not evangelical Christians (my other two were able to experience more community with like-minded families mostly due to the ages of their children and how there was a dearth of kids K's age) and how that led to a strong sense of independence as a survival tool.  The theme was independence.  It took lots of talking and writing down ideas for a theme to become apparent. 

 

I'm not saying that my kids would have gotten into Harvard with these essays.  But that they took some seemingly mundane topics and made them personal, original, and engaging.

 

i like them! i also like how you helped with the interviewing. interesting idea!


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#39 DawnM

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Posted 16 September 2017 - 11:56 AM

My son is AGONIZING over this.  I keep telling him to STOP and just focus on his portfolio as that will make or break him, not the essay.

 

But he has Asperger's and wants to keep it concrete and accurate.  They don't want that!  They want passion.  UGH.