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Parents can help with college essays

I ask parents to sign the “LCS Essay Contract” before we start the essay process. They agree that they will not write the essays because admissions officers can discern the difference between parent and student writing. The other reason is that parents often focus on what a student has done rather than convey a reflection of what the experience meant. That can only come from the student.

Does that mean there is no role for parents in the essay process? No! Help by asking the right questions. Students often say that they cannot write. I respond, as I learned years ago in a writing workshop, “Can you think?” That answer is always yes.

The purpose of the essay is to show how students think and reflect about their actions more than what those literal actions are. If your student can share those thoughts and reflections with you, your input absolutely matters. Asking the right questions helps more than telling them “what to write about.”

We start with the video. Writing down what you love to do, what you know, and your defining qualities is just a springboard. The essay is not simply about fishing, doing puzzles, or playing hockey. Nor is it about resilience, compassion, leadership, or any other quality. Instead, it expresses what students glean from experiencing those traits when they reflect on them later in the essay.

This isn’t always easy, because students are not always comfortable talking about themselves, especially to their parents. But who knows them better than you? Now, as we begin the process, is the time to ask these questions (if you want to–I will if you don’t).

The LCS Essay Contract states that the student is welcome to share an essay we’ve agreed is effective with anyone they like. However, I will not re-edit the essay after it goes through other hands. Though the student’s reflection matters, one thing matters more. Before hitting “submit,” the student will check a box stating “this is my work.” Making an ethical choice is the most important lesson of the college application process.


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