IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP YOUR STUDENT GET STARTED ON THEIR ESSAYS, PLEASE READ THE TIPS BELOW. I USED THESE WITH MY KIDS TO HELP THEM FIGURE OUT THEIR TOPICS.
DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.
Get an idea of the essays your child will need to write by reading the Common App prompts, the UC PIQs and a few supplements.
CREATE YOUR OWN BANK OF POSSIBILITIES.
Reflect on your child’s past few years and jot down instances when they overcame obstacles, assumed responsibility, and handled difficult situations with good judgment. Next, make a list of your child’s interests and achievements in and out of school. Think about their quirks and daily routines. Whatever anecdotes that illustrate your child's strengths and personality could be developed into essay material.
SYNC UP THE POSSIBILITIES WITH PROMPTS.
Correlate the items in your bank with the essay questions. For example, if your student taught swimming at a public pool or camp, they might use a story from that experience for this essay question: “How do you participate in the life of your community?”
READ GREAT ADMISSIONS ESSAYS.
Some colleges post their admissions staffs’ favorite essays online. Check Connecticut College and Johns Hopkins to get started.
KEEP IT LIGHT.
When you speak with your student about the essays do it casually, in response to something else. For example, if your child is complaining about how hard it is to nail that Mozart violin solo, you might reply, “your commitment to the violin is really impressive. Sweating over this solo might actually make a good college essay.” If they roll their eyes, drop it. It’s enough to have planted a seed.
"THAT TOTALLY SUCKS!"
If your child says this about your ideas, please let it go. Your dreadful suggestions might spur your child to think up some ideas on their own.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS IDEA?"
If your child asks your opinion, respond with questions that encourage more conversation. For example: “What impression do you think that story would give an admissions officer?” "What details could you use to make that interesting?"
When your child starts planning their summer, encourage them (with all available leverage) to set aside a specific block of time to work on the essays. Students do their best writing over the summer without the demands of school robbing their time, energy and focus. Do the same with upcoming vacations and long weekends.