Sunday, November 13, 2016
Conquering the College Essay
It's November, and that means anxiety is rising for the high achieving and aspirational high school seniors who are completing college applications and stressing about getting into their dream school. November 1 marks the early decision deadlines, while most schools will be accepting college apps through the winter. It's all such a game - and one that most students and parents have figured out that you just can't really play. Yet, they will continue to try, and there is a multi-million dollar business of prep classes and private college counselors who have convinced anxious parents there are shortcuts and insider info available to anyone who's willing to pay. Depending on the high school a kid attends, the assistance offered by these college planners may be of some to absolutely no value. The key support they generally provide is working with kids on the dreaded college essay. Now, any senior English teacher or high school counselor ought to be able to give all the necessary help, and the essay really should be written by the kid. But there are certainly tips any high schooler could benefit from.
One of the best - and most succinct - pieces I've seen recently on the college essay was featured in the Denver Post this morning by high school English teacher Emmet Rosenfeld. The piece was originally submitted to and published as a special submission to the Washington Post, and it leads by example. Rosenfeld simply discusses the parameters of the assignment, and then she reprints with commentary two drafts of a college essay submitted by one of her students. This piece is definitely worth reading - though it won't magically reveal how to write a winning college essay. The best advice in these examples is how the use of narrative and specific "telling details" enhance an adequate piece of writing into an engaging and memorable essay.