Too Many Cooks May Spoil the Essay

As our students embark on the essay portion of their college admissions journey, one of my coaches gives a little speech. She reminds the student that the essay is just one part of their application. Since transcripts and teacher recommendations speak to the student’s academic success and the resume or activities section highlight the student’s extracurricular experiences, like clubs, volunteering, and sports, the essay reveals the student’s “heart.” It is usually a very personal project, and what we end up with may not read like an essay created for English class; it’s just a different kind of animal.

So, that’s why we let our students know that when they take a completed essay to teachers, family members, and/or guidance counselors, they will inevitably weigh in with something to add, to delete, or change. You show something to 10 people, and you will get 10 different opinions.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t profess to be the wizards of college essays, but we use creative writing techniques, dig for specific details, and implement a writing style that creates a thoughtful piece, and more than satisfies the essay prompt, and most importantly, in the students’ voice. To bring in a host of new suggestions may confuse the student, potentially dilute the meaningfulness of the work, and possibly delays and frustration all around.

I always say the essay is the students and they can choose to do with it what they please. It is ultimately theirs to submit and decide on it being in its final form. My best advice is, if you feel confident with the person you are working with and the process that you went through to complete your essay, you may want to think about keeping it between you, your writing coach, and, if they ask, your parents.

Our final words of wisdom: for any writing that you do on your own, please have at least one other pair of eyes review it for spelling errors, run-on sentences, and clarity of subject, i.e., did the student answer the essay question. You will be so glad you did.
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