College Essay Tips for Parents and Students


It’s college essay time. That dreaded stretch of the college admission process that high school seniors AND their parents often hate.

I feel for everyone going through this right now, which is why I want to help.

In this post, you’ll see a video that provides college-essay tips for high school seniors and another video that gives parents advice on how they can help with the college essay. And by helping, I don’t mean just writing the darn thing, as tempting as that might be.

I interviewed Susan Knoppow, a co-founder of WOW Writing Workshop in Detroit, who has helped hundreds of high school seniors across the country and overseas with their admission essays.

College Essay Tips for Teenagers

Here are some of the college essay tips for teenagers that Knoppow shared with me:

1. When considering essay topics, don’t focus on activities, accomplishment and awards.

2. Ask yourself this question: What do you want colleges to know about you that you can’t find out about in the rest of the application? What is meaningful about you?

3. In the essay, colleges are interested in your characteristics, not what you’ve done.

4. When you’ve settled on a characteristic you want to write about, find stories and details to illustrate it.

5. If you can’t decide among a lot of great topics, pick the topic that you can write about most easily.

6. When you’ve written a draft, put it aside for a day. Then read it again before showing it to someone else.

7. When you share your essay with someone, ask this person this question:  “Do you know why I told the story?’ If that matches with why you picked this topic then you know you’re on track.

8. You can learn more tips by visiting WOW Writing Workshop.

College Essay Tips for Parents

Here is a preview of some of the parent tips that Knoppow shared in the video:

1. Before the essay process starts in earnest, do some reflecting with your teenager. Help them look at themselves in a different light.

2. During the conversation, don’t focus on achievements and accomplishments.

3. Talk about your child’s characteristics. Once you’ve discussed characteristics, explore with your teenager how to illustrate them. For instance, if a child is persistent, what story could he/she tell that would convey that doggedness?

4. When a child has written a draft, read it with a sense of generosity. The first time you read it, put away your red pen or the computer keyboard. Focus on what your child is conveying in the essay and whether a sense of himself or herself is coming through.

5. You can discover more tips by checking out this article on Wow Writing Workshop’s website – How to Help Without Taking Over.








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