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Any tips or stories on getting seniors to complete essays, applications, etc.?


Sonshine
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My son has tentatively decided on a college and is excited about going there. He knows he has to get scholarship money to be able to afford it. The college actually has lots of schol. money and he has a good chance of getting enough to go there. However, he will get nothing if he doesn't complete the schol app., including essay. I have nagged, explained the money and what he will make if he gets a schol. versus not, etc. Nothing has happened. This is a good kid who works hard for his outside classes. I know he is going through the male syndrome of wanting to be his own man. However, the don't tell me what to do versus I'm not getting it done on my own scenario is driving me crazy. Any btdt stories or tips?

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:lol:

 

Am there, doing that so no btdt advice! I tell you, this college application process will be the death of me :rolleyes: For ds this is not a case of "wanting to be his own man" but true procrastination. It doesn't help that his friends, but one, are at the same stage in the process. The guidance counselor told me that they really get on the boys after October 15.

 

At least I have the school for backup in our case. Do you have friends with older students who could help? Or does your son have someone in his life who is just ahead of him who could help prod?

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I know he is going through the male syndrome of wanting to be his own man. However, the don't tell me what to do versus I'm not getting it done on my own scenario is driving me crazy. Any btdt stories or tips?

 

You might have hit upon the problem. I've definitely seen my boys question my advice and guidance more as they get older, yet they will happily listen to the advice of others, especially other men. I think that deep down, they are trying to separate from mom. If your son has a good relationship with his dad, this might be a time for you to ask dad to step up and do the reminding. Maybe the two of them could go out for lunch so your dh can have some time to help your son see that his procrastination will not get him to where he ultimately wants to go.

 

Another thing I saw with my oldest is that while he wanted to go to college (and is there now), a part of him deep down was afraid of leaving home and that definitely aided the procrastination. Fear of the unknown is pretty powerful in a lot of folks. I definitely felt like I was walking on eggshells dealing with my son that year (and I still do a lot of the time). Just reading the thread about parents dealing with stubborn teens made me realize that I'm not alone in this, and it's not easy to find a way to parent/guide these older teens in a way that is receptive to them.

 

Best wishes,

Brenda

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His dad believes in letting them make their own bed and lie in it, and learn from the experience. So no help. from him. His dad always says he would be thrilled if they didn't get it together and had to go to community collgeg and stay home longer. That won't happen. Instead he would just have to work much harder at jobs in college taking away from his study time and possibly have to stay out of college some to work for a semester here and there. I see the aspect that his brain hasn't matured to the point that he can process all this in a mature way and it may cost him a lot - $40,000 or more.

I will see if one his older brothers will help out here.

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The thought of community college helped, til Texas A&M actually admitted him before he finished their paperwork!!!

 

I think the older brother is your best bet. You can't possibly work enough to get $40,000 in one year and older brother could explain exactly how little free time he would have left if he had to try.

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Another thing I saw with my oldest is that while he wanted to go to college (and is there now), a part of him deep down was afraid of leaving home and that definitely aided the procrastination. Fear of the unknown is pretty powerful in a lot of folks.
:iagree: As a procrastinator, I can say that this is a powerful force. DS20 was leaning strongly toward an online degree because of this (my best guess). In the end I INSISTED that he apply at VA Tech. We didn't force him to go, but he had to apply. Once he was accepted we went down for a visit. He could easily picture himself there and he currently doing great in his third year!
His dad believes in letting them make their own bed and lie in it, and learn from the experience.
I tend in that direction, as well. But with as much money on the line as there is regarding college selection and scholarships, I don't think it is a time to make mistakes. That money either comes out of our pockets or is debt which could burden them for decades to come. Either way, the expense of college is a big deal. We didn't do a great job on the scholarships with DS20, but that mistake was not repeated with DD17 and will not be repeated again if I have any say about it.
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With dd, since she was applying to a lot of nursing programs so the amount of writing was a bit overwhelming, we made it a part of the homeschool day. We'd spend one hour every day as part of her first semester and since she had an admission's essay to write for every college, I allowed her to continue her Great Books Study but without all of the writing. I figured, 20 essays is plenty of writing and we can keep up the good book discussions.

 

By putting it into the work day and letting up on other writing assignments, it was easier for her to get going on it and she wasn't burned out by doing all of her other school work first and then looking at the pile of applications and essays waiting to be attacked. Oh, and one institution required four essays with their admission's packet!

 

I also made sure she ate some protein and vegetables before tackling those applications. Empty stomach writing is not a good thing.

 

Faith

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I have some stories like this. College apps (and scholarship apps) are not a place I would let mine sink or swim. I think many students need lots of help with this particular thing, even older ones who have lived on their own awhile. Just because they can't manage the application process on their own does not seem to mean that they won't be able to manage college once they get there, or even that they won't want to go when the time comes.

-Nan

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Thanks for the help. I was just guessing with $40,000. The college costs $18,000 annually now, which includes books. Multiplied by 4 years and with prices almost certainly going up that's at least $72,000. If he completes the scholarship application He could get a full ride or anything in between. That's a lot of money. He really does all of his academic work himself or for many outside classes, so it's not he and I sitting down and I can add the essays to his schedule. I guess I'd better go call his brothers.

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I agree with Nan as well....help, help, help, help! This is a critical time for the student to present his/herself in their best light and with the stress of the senior year and piles of applications, essays, SAT and ACT study books around, etc. That stress can short circuit their brains....at some point, they may just start putting things on paper just to get it over with which is a VERY BAD THING when it comes to scholarships and being actively courted by colleges. In my own family, my brother and his wife have been real dodo heads. Their philosophy, "Hey the kid is turning 18. He's and adult...if he wants to go to college, let him figure it out." They never helped with the process and then wondered why their perfectly wonderful boys never got any scholarships and had to borrow loads of money to go to school on or didn't get into any of their favored schools. He still doesn't get it! UGH!

 

So, I vote for a lot of imput and for dd, it really did work to make it a part of the school work and lift a few English assignments here and there by giving credit for the admission's essays.

 

Faith

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Older brother agreed to give him a call. I suggested he give him a deadline for a rough draft. Hopefully, son won't figure out this is coming from me and dig in his heels even more. I tend to look to others for advice, etc. so this doing it only my way which is really not doing it at all stuff is really hard for me to understand, even though it is perfectly normal for his stage in life. He hasn't worked on any college stuff for over a month now, except for a very quick visit to his number one choice college, so it's not that he overwhelmed with applications, essays, etc.

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....we made it a part of the homeschool day. We'd spend one hour every day as part of her first semester...

 

We are doing the same. For the time being I have slowed Marine Bio, the class in which DD is most ahead, to a crawl. In its place we have inserted a 1/2 hour slot in which DD may write a couple of paragraphs of an essay, put together a list of extra-curricular, emails a request for recommendation letters...

 

I put the timer on the stove for 1/2 hour and away we go!

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I think the posters who said it had some to do with the fear of unknown hit the nail on the head. I sometimes can be a leave it to my son and let him suffer the consequences, but I felt the natural consequence was pretty tough. And he was a great student who normally worked hard, the essay/application just bogged him down. I ended up scheduling out part of our school time to devote to this. So, a couple of times a week he and I would meet, set goals together, and see how he was progresssing. I tried to be less naggy and more advisor. Breaking it down seemed to help him. And keeping a regular time to talk about it when each goal was set. He was rather grumpy at first- and we had a serious talk about whther he wanted to go to college (he did) and then he was mostly on board. But, honestly, if he had kept up the opposition I might have left him to himself as far as applying,and if didn't do then maybe he wasn't ready- sometimes that really is the only way to learn.

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My son (who went to public school for high school) thought, cavalierly, that he could just use a highly praised essay from an AP or Honors class for his college essays as needed. I finally got him to type the durn essays up (they were hand-written) to get a word count, as all the various college and scholarship essay requirements had lengths from 250 - 500 words.

 

The shortest high school essay he had was over 750 words! Plus, between his dad and I red was bled all over the essay, as we had more time than a high school teacher to pick it apart (spelling and grammar errors, awkward phrasing, etc.). DS had been the best writer in his classes, and the teachers did him no favor when they failed to criticize his work. DS was more willing to crack on and rewrite his essays (they were still usable) to fit the various requirements of both the college/scholarships AND the parents since he could still make use of the material.

 

We started this in August, as I wanted ds to get the essay grunt work over before school started.

 

Having to come up with topics and essays from scratch makes the job all the more overwhelming to a kid, I think.. If they have some essays written for school that can be reworked, that makes the job seem much easier to them. Offer to be their proofreader and help them edit - while finding ideas and wording in their work to praise ("Oh, I love how you concluded this paragraph! What a great simile" etc.)

 

Since the financial stakes are so high, college application season is NOT the time to sit back and let "a lesson be learned". It is, rather, the last time you can step in and show your soon-to-be-gone kid how to do something (edit material, fill out forms, meet deadlines, be organized, dress for interviews, etc.). Plus, if the kid wins enough money at YOUR EFC may be less!

Edited by JFSinIL
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Because of the way the family is structured - husband is big in them taking responsibility, not having to listen to mom, I can't just sit him down and have him do this. I've tried - he refuses and dad backs him up. However, big brother is having him over tomorrow to work on college stuff, so I am hoping he will at least get a rough draft of an essay written. But they may just have an afternoon of video games.

 

He did email two people asking for recommendations, and has heard back from one. Every little step is now a battle - he says "I'll do it in due time" and does nothing. Reminds me of Bartleby the Scrivener. He needs to fill out the online app for a scholarship for his first choice college - just filling in blanks with name, address, gpa, etc.- is separate from the essay. He doesn't get instructions on how to have the references do the recs until then - i.e. are they supposed to send them in or wait to be contacted by the college? The teacher who responded and agreed to do a rec for him asked what to do, and son hasn't answered him.

 

Somehow I have to find a way to separate myself from all this and not let it bother me. I'm not good at that. I appreciate the support and stories.

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I sat with my son to help him fill out apps at first. If you can use the common app, lots of schools accept this and you only have to fill out one app for all of them, instead of individual apps. Then some schools have some additional info they want filled out.

 

Honestly, the essays are so limited now in terms of total words (most are 250 - 500 words) that it's more like writing a paragraph than an essay. We saved his essays on our computer and he cut and pasted where he could use the same one again in different applications (or use it with modifications).

 

If you can do online apps, that will save a lot of time over paper and pen apps. Most schools do have these now, too....

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Well, according to my husband son is now mad at me for "siccing (sp?) his brother on him". Husband is mad at me for being manipulative and told son he was right to be mad at me. Dh had a full ride through college. I don't think he understands the costs involved because he didn't have to deal with that issue. I asked my oldest son, who is an English teacher, to help younger brother with his essays. If he had said no, I would have dropped the issue with older son. Anyway, I am about ready to go out of town for several months and avoid the 2 stubborn ones. If my girls didn't have a sport they need rides to, I would go visit my mother for several weeks just for a break. Why dh can't say yes, it's a good idea to work on your scholarships essays because you want a scholarship, I don't know. It's one thing to be so stubborn you hurt your own self, but to encourage someone else in that vein is another story. It's as if someone is out in 100 degree weather with nothing to drink you and offer them a bottle of cold water. Because it wasn't their idea, they won't take it. I wish I knew how to be manipulative, because being straightforward and helpful is rejected as telling someone what to do. I haven't spoken with my son myself yet. I'll see how he is in the morning,. If he is truly upset with me, I may just wash my hands of the whole matter and actually refuse to help him. It's not right to expect my help with things like his resume and be ugly about his part. I apologize for seeming so angry. I guess I need to totally step away from all of this.

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I hear your frustration, Sonshine, and I sympathize.

 

You mentioned earlier that

 

The college costs $18,000 annually now, which includes books. Multiplied by 4 years and with prices almost certainly going up that's at least $72,000. If he completes the scholarship application He could get a full ride or anything in between.

 

Would he live at home if he were to attend this college? Does the amount above include room and board?

 

Is your son aware of these amounts? Perhaps you might ask him how he intends to pay for college. If you and your husband intend to pay any of the amount, now is the time to talk numbers. If you and your husband do not intend to pay any amount at all, he needs to know that. Is he/are you comfortable with the idea of him taking on loan debt? It is possible to find calculators on line that show how long it takes to pay back a certain loan amount. Talk frankly about what your expectations are if he does NOT go to college. Will he be welcome to stay at home free of charge? Will he need to pay an amount towards his room and board?

 

Best wishes to you.

Regards,

Kareni

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Thank you for your support Kareni. The college he wants to go to is way out of town. He does not want to go to college and live at home. He would be welcome to live at home and get free room and board. He actually already has a free ride at a college based on his SAT and gpa, but it is not his top choice college or that great of a college. It is an okay college, but he would probably be one of the very brightest at the school and they only have an honors program, not an honors college, with maybe ten honors courses a year, only of which maybe two would in any way apply to his majors, and he has already learned most of what is in those two courses.

 

The $18,000 a year includes room and board. He will get enough from us to pay about half his expenses at that rate, but has stated that he wants to save that money for grad school. I like the idea of showing him the loan repayment timeline. I think he thinks he will magically get his essays done and doesn't want to deal with the reality of the work involved and fact that he has to do the work ahead of time. He's a bright kid who has been able to get A's in courses by doing the homework the night before. His short sightedness here is unfortunately backed up by dh. I have explained to him that it's not just the essays that have to get in on time, but the other things like the recommendations. There are hundreds of kids in line for these scholarships. If he misses a deadline, his app. is thrown out. They don't call and tell you that you forgot this, please get it in.

 

His first choice school has the earliest deadline, so it's a hard one to learn he didn't make a deadline and get all his ducks in a row on. I do take some solace in that I don't want to make something happen if God has another plan. So if my son doesn't make it happen for this school, maybe that's wasn't God's plan anyway. Maybe he would learn from that mistake and get it together enough to get a scholarship at one of his second or third choice schools.

 

My husband has told them they can't take student loans.

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My husband has told them they can't take student loans.

 

You've gotten a lot of really good advice from the other posters. What I haven't heard anyone say is that you and your dh need to be on the same page. From what you've said, that may be tough. My heartfelt sympathy, from one who has btdt on some issues!

 

Some thoughts:

 

- I wonder if your dh isn't somewhat naive in many areas--about the costs of college, about the stats regarding this college (IOW, your son will be one applicant for the high stakes money, out of how many applicants?), about the likelihood of your son being able to crank out something that will impress the scholarship committees without some encouragement and handholding along the way, and about the maturity of the teen brain. He needs to understand the financial realities of this day, this age/stage, and this generation.

 

Just like it is ridiculous to think that in our generation one can rest on one's laurels and expect to work for the same company for forty years, then retire with a full pension like many in the previous generation did, it is ridiculous for him to think that your son will succeed in this endevour without some prodding and encouragement. Times have changed!

 

- Here's another way to look at it: if your dh is right, what is there to lose in following his preferred way of parenting? The opportunity for a great school and lifechanging opportunities for your son. If you are right, what is there to be lost if you do it your way and require the kid to get the apps done? Nothing. Would it not be better to make the effort to hold open this door and get a better idea of where it leads, than to allow the door to close through laziness/fear/being overwhelmed? Your ds can always chose not to step through that door in the spring, once he has a better idea of what all is awaits through the door--both costs and opportunities--but to close that door now is a huge waste.

 

- Your dh might benefit from a reality check on the finances: if he has decreed that they will not take out student loans (in general, I agree), he also needs to realize that the stakes are too high on this one to allow the student to miss this opportunity. (Who lets an 18yo make a $40K decision without some oversight, for goodness' sake?) If the student gets to college and then does poorly, so be it: my kids know that the CC down the street is their fallback. But to step back at this point and not encourage, nay even demand, that the kid discipline himself to get the job done so that he has the opportunity to go to the good school, is ludicrous. Just as there are other areas in which you demand compliance--with laws, with family boundaries--this is an area in which you, the parents, know what is better for your not-quite-adult.

 

Regarding teens these days:

 

This weekend when we visited dd at her college's homecoming, she laughingly mentioned that she is such an "overachiever." She is not. She is simply surrounded by many whose standards/performance are comparatively low and a paltry few who value making the most of their gifts. She was whining a bit about the amount of work/college prep she had had to do in high school. I asked her how many of her friends were getting the perks she is now enjoying? how many had financial freedom? how many of them would get out of college debt free? how many of them would get subsidized study abroad, invitation-only chances to hear/speak with really interesting thinkers, mentoring and leadership opportunities? She sat silently afterward, so I have no idea what she thought, but I hope that someday she will thank us for the opportunities we enabled her to pursue.

 

Finally, on the topic of today's teens, I am seeing a lot of pipedreams in kids--they want the whole enchilada, but have no practical idea what it takes to get it. They just don't understand the work it takes to get what they want, and many of them have to have some handholding along the way while they learn what it takes to succeed. I'm really not in favor of the sink-or-swim method of parenting that many parents seems to feel is suddenly warranted when a young adult crosses the magic boundary out of highschool or from 17 to 18. Unless we have been doing the hard work of letting them go and teaching them self-discipline and self-reliance all along, it is an artificial boundary, and imho, a parenting cop-out. Woudln't it be better to move from walking behind them pushing them along a path, to walking alongside them--shoulder to shoulder with them on the path--still engaging with them, instead of simply stopping and saying, "There's the path. Your choice. My job is done. Good luck!" That's the analogy dh and I have used with our kids.

 

ETA: Two more strategy ideas with your son: 1) take him on campus visits if you can. From that, he should know whether the school really appeals. Can you let it sell itself to him? 2) If he is a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian, and yet you know that it would be a great place for him, you can play devil's advocate, quietly/subtly expressing a doubt or two about your impression of the campus.

 

 

Best wishes, Sonshine! And may God give you wisdom.

Edited by Valerie(TX)
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Thank you so much Valerie for the encouragement. I haven't posted in a few days because I know I am emotional about this and can get a little carried away.

 

The good news is son wasn't as upset with me as dh made out. We had a good talk. He was peaved with me about big brother stepping in at my request but it looks like he may cooperate with him. We'll see this weekend - big brother wanted a rough draft by Friday.

 

I don't know what to say abut dh. He has a very strong ability to see what he wants in a situation and ignore the inconvenient truths. This is great in many ways as he overlooks my many faults. However, I have to be the one who steps in and gets the kids to be in a better place to deal with reality. Often, over his objections. There usually is no way of getting him to see the light. So I don't anticipate changing his mind on this.

 

The points about the consequences of which approach to take is very encouraging.

 

Right now son is refusing to visit any more colleges. He did visit his first choice school a month age and liked it (obviously). It does seem like after talking with big brother he is a little more realistic about doing what he needs to do to keep the other schools as a possibility. Big brother went to his third choice school because they gave him the most money, so maybe he impressed on son the importance of keeping his options open. He is guaranteed free tuition at his second and third choice schools, with a chance at more money if he applies for scholarships. He is a strong applicant (but not outstanding) at his first choice school, but is guaranteed nothing there. After he gets the first choice school scholarship app, including essay, completed, I am hoping he may visit two - three more schools while driving with me to visit my mother. He tends to buy into whatever the colleges say so he may be a little more excited about the schools if he visits them.

 

i don't know if most kids appreciate what we have done for them until they are at the same stage of parenting in their lives. I have to admit, I have been this way in many areas with my mother.

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Woudln't it be better to move from walking behind them pushing them along a path, to walking alongside them--shoulder to shoulder with them on the path--still engaging with them, instead of simply stopping and saying, "There's the path. Your choice. My job is done. Good luck!" That's the analogy dh and I have used with our kids.

 

This is well-said. I struggle with this. One of my kids resists my help/instruction/direction. At times I would prefer to wash my hands of his education. But dh says we need to keep trying to engage him, keep trying all angles. It is hard work when they say they don't want our help. OTOH being teachable and willing to learn are important character qualities and I can't just give up.

 

Mostly it involves keeping my cool, believing the best in him, sticking to the consequences instead of bailing him out.

 

I think the transition from "pushing" to "shoulder to shoulder" is tough too. But this picture helps. Thanks.

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Progress is being made! One recommendation is in, and son called the third person to request a rec. and left message. Hopefully we will get the second rec. in soon - the teacher has been asked and agreed.

 

Son also completed online app to school I suggested and have been bugging him about. It meets his criteria, just doesn't have as known a name. I think he has an excellent chance for a good scholarship there so I wanted to include that school.

 

Son has apps to do for three more schools of his choice, which involve essays.

 

Speaking of essays, I don't think he has done anything about his essays. I think it is really hard for boys especially to write about themselves. Most people haven't had a life changing experience in high school to write about. The experiences he has had, such as a mission trip, are old hat to college admission and scholarship essay readers, so he is told to avoid that topic. I am prepared to accept a decent essay from him and not push for something more impressive. If he wants to put more into it and come up with something more original, that's his choice. Hopefully, big brother will be a help here.

 

Anyway, it is wonderful to see things moving in the right direction!

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Son has apps to do for three more schools of his choice, which involve essays.

 

Speaking of essays, I don't think he has done anything about his essays. I think it is really hard for boys especially to write about themselves. Most people haven't had a life changing experience in high school to write about. The experiences he has had, such as a mission trip, are old hat to college admission and scholarship essay readers, so he is told to avoid that topic. I am prepared to accept a decent essay from him and not push for something more impressive. If he wants to put more into it and come up with something more original, that's his choice. Hopefully, big brother will be a help here.

 

Anyway, it is wonderful to see things moving in the right direction!

 

Is there any one odd thing about that mission trip he could write about - having to try a new food? Learning how to do something very different from the way it is done at home? Getting out of his comfort zone on the trip? How he overcame the panic of lost luggage? ANYTHING? Any odd or fun little incident can be the basis of a fun-to-read, attention-getting college essay!

 

My kid used being placed by accident in AP World His. as a freshman (he went to public school for high) as the basis on one essay, his week as an initially reluctant camp counselor at the special needs camp his autistic twin attends as another - with editing both topics were shortened or expanded to fit the various college/scholarship length requirements. The camp counselor one would have been the same as any other essay except ds started his essay with how his twin brother irritates him, how Mom MADE him be a counselor - then how much he learned that the camp meant to the special needs kids attending it etc. etc. Beginning the essay with a short rant about his autistic twins Homer Simpson impersonations, etc. helped make the essay a bit different.

 

Good luck - I am winding up to prod kid #2 through the process. Number 3 is waiting in the wings.

Edited by JFSinIL
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Speaking of essays, I don't think he has done anything about his essays.....Most people haven't had a life changing experience in high school to write about....the experiences he has had, such as a mission trip, are old hat to college admission and scholarship essay readers, so he is told to avoid that topic.

 

I can attest firsthand that a life-changing experience won't help initiate an essay.

 

My DD has traveled all over the world, 40+ different countries, since a baby. She has seen and done things that most adults would never believe. She won a national award (with cash prize) and was featured in a national magazine. She has been on TV due to her (ad)ventures.

 

Yet her essay remains unwritten. She is a modest soul and is really uncomfortable about what she calls "bragging" (I call it promoting oneself). She is torn between writing what she wants to say about herself, versus what the college wants to hear.

 

So D has decided to write about a personal quality: her imagination, which has been both a blessing and a curse. It has been the catalyst for her adventures as well as the cause of her many life-impacting failures.

 

Good luck. We are having the same problem here at our house. If D doesn't write the essay then by default she knows she is off to the 3rd tier state U, not the school she really belongs in nor the one she wants to attend.

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My dd was having a really hard time writing about herself. So she looked again at the CA questions and ended up writing about the national, state or local issue that is important to her. She has done a lot of research on this issue since she not only did a science project about it but also written a debate case based on her research. We knew she could write a great research paper and also is very good at writing fiction but this was supposed to be a personal essay. So we advised her to write about the issue and how she became interested in it and talk about science fair and debating in the context of this issue.

 

I think for kids who are not comfortable writing about themselves, something like writing a regular essay but then adding in personal touches may be easier. I don't remember what my son did but somehow he managed to write his.

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My husband did this with my older son, too. He could have had a much better scholarship if only husband would have stuck by me in enforcing appropriate homework completion, studying for tests, etc. Son now admits this (too late, he's already in first semester of college).... I've already stated that we will NOT be going down the same road with younger son....

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mcconnellboys- I'm glad I'm not the only one who has dealt with this. Very frustrating to say the least.

 

JFS in Illinois - I have read many times that so many of these essays are about the experiences from mission trips that it is not advisable to write on this topic - it bores the essay readers. I personally love to read about mission trips.

 

Son told big brother that he would take next Sat. to write his essay. I'm going to try to take son out to eat (he never argues with that) and talk to him about what his favorite books were to read and anything else that may be good essay material, never once mentioning the word essay. I hope to prime the pump so to speak. One college admission book I read said that kids who read high level books are unusual and that colleges are impressed by that. He reads Aristotle, Plato, etc.

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