College admissions folks are serious about the essays they read on applications. After checking out your teen’s GPA, academic rigor, and SAT/ACT scores, they’ll look at that very important essay to be sure he or she is the right fit for their school.

There are 2 themes that I always recommend a student considers gearing their writing toward, because either one of these will help showcase exactly what officials want to see:

1. How your teen has developed as a leader over time.

Admissions folks want students with a go-get-’em attitude who will be a leader at their school.

My youngest daughter has been passionate about theatre since she could walk. When she was in high school, she was taking voice, dance, and acting lessons, fundraising for the school theatre and choir departments, and costuming, choreographing, and rehearsing for shows both at school and at our community theater. It was pretty clear that she was dedicated and had developed as a leader in this area, which made her really shine on applications.

Your high schooler likely has something he or she’s been involved in for quite some time, either in school or out of it. Think of any volunteer work done over time, passions pursued, activities or sports participated in. Are there themes that can be linked to show growth in that area? How has your student grown in maturity and become a leader?


2. How your teen has overcome adversity.

Successfully getting through tough times almost inevitably builds character and allows a person to develop in maturity. College officials consider students who show this kind of grit in the face of hardship as leaders and doers – and they want them for their schools.I’ve worked with students who’ve overcome a variety of hardships, such as taking care of a terminally ill parent or grandparent, overcoming a learning difference, recovering after a severe injury or illness, taking care of a younger sibling while a single parent worked. Even with these challenges, the students conquered and came out better on the other side in some way.

Regardless of the essay prompt your teen chooses to write about on the application, applying one of these themes to it will ensure they’re looked at seriously by colleges. Talk to your teen about their experiences so far to get their minds churning!

How has your teen developed as a leader or overcome diversity? Share your story in the comments below!

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