Why the College Essay Can Make or Break Your Teen’s Chances for Admissions

The dreaded college essay. It is one of the top three things (in addition to GPA and SAT/ACT scores) that college admissions officers use to consider for admissions, so it’s vital that your teen gets this right.


Why Is The College Essay So Important?

The goal of the essay is to set your teen apart from other students. When comparing students with similar GPAs and test scores, the essay can be the catalyst that makes or breaks it with admissions officers. Students need to demonstrate why they’re a good fit for the school and how they’ll contribute. They’re selling themselves here in a big way.

Imagine that Jade and Delilah each have similar GPAs, academic rigor and SAT scores. That essay will be the determining factor that sets them apart from each other.

What Should My Teen Write About?

When the Common Application announced the 2019-2020 prompts, they shared that they were actually re-using the 2018-2019’s prompts. And this is not the first time they’ve done this, either. For this reason, I always encourage my juniors to start thinking of topics they’d like to include in their essays right now, even if the questions end up changing slightly before they start their application process.

There are one of two themes your teen should consider including on the college essay – be sure to know what these are before choosing a topic!

When Should It Be Written?

The ideal time to have your teen complete the essay(s) is during the summer before their senior year. Don’t wait! There are too many distractions once school starts again and, with everything else that your kid will need on that application, it’s best to get it done sooner rather than later.

Remember This…

Some colleges require essays in addition to those found on the Common Application and others only require responses to their school’s essay prompts. Be sure to check directly with each college’s website or admissions office to verify what they require. You don’t want to find out that your teen missed an important piece of the application after the fact!

HOT TIP: I know it’s going to be tempting to help your high schooler write their essay. DON’T DO IT! Sure – you can help with brainstorming topics, creating an outline, and proofreading, but don’t write the thing! College admission officers can smell a parent’s involvement from a mile away and it’s a huge detriment to your teen in the long run.

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