This time of year, every year, many moms and dads with high school juniors (and even sophomores!) start to get nervous. Seniors are either done, or at the end of the college admissions process; some have been admitted to their dream schools, while others were deferred or rejected. College talk is all the rage.
It can be overwhelming. Confusing. Distressing. But there’s no need to panic. We want you to get through this process with minimal stress inside your home.
Here’s our No. 1 tip to share with students to start preparing them for the application journey: Writing a college essay is all about reflection. Students need to learn how to reflect!
How to Teach Reflection
Despite what you might believe, writing is not the most challenging part of the essay. The tough part comes at the beginning, when we ask our students what matters to them and why. You can help your son or daughter explore how they exhibit their most significant traits or characteristics. That’s the first step toward reflection.
We know that most high school students spend a lot of time thinking and talking about friends, moving out of the house, figuring out life, choosing a career and deciding which college to attend. If you teach your child how to reflect before the next admission cycle starts in late spring, you will all be better prepared for the last phase of this journey to college. Find out what’s important to them and why.
The good news: You are more than ready for this challenge.
At Wow, when we help our students reflect and focus up front, the rest of the process moves much more smoothly. Too many students start in the wrong place. They come to us full of ideas about topics, with little consideration of the essay’s purpose.
All too often, students look for activities that might lead to stories, and they waste a lot of time talking about their experiences and their accomplishments. When they do this, they do not answer the prompt, which, no matter how it’s worded, is really asking students to show some insight into those experiences or accomplishments. That’s reflection.
Encourage your child to start at the beginning of the process – a conversation with you. You know what’s amazing about your child; help your child figure this out, too.
Make a list
What makes your child so wonderful?
What do you love about this person you’ve raised?
Is your son kind? Resourceful? Compassionate?
Is your daughter industrious? Funny? Patient?
Think about qualities and characteristics, not accomplishments.
What are you waiting for?
Find a time to sit down with your son or daughter, then share and listen with an open mind and heart. This is a journey into self-discovery to teach your future college student how to be introspective and find meaning in life experiences.
This is a key conversation to help your child answer the one question that can really help hit that essay out of the ballpark: What do you want to share with colleges that they don’t already know about you, beyond grades, test scores and extracurricular activities?
Once your child can answer this question with a specific trait or characteristic, he or she will be able to find a meaningful story that illustrates that trait and also answers the prompt.
If you can get your child to this point, your son or daughter will be ready to continue the process of discovery – and will be prepared to write those essays this spring or summer.
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About Kim Lifton
Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim is a former journalist who has made it her mission to know EVERYTHING about college admissions. She speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges almost every day. Wow works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants who want to improve their essay-coaching skills.
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