Essays

, ,

If You’re a Parent of a College Applicant, Please Follow These Rules

dobler college consulting, college applicationWhen I first meet with new families, I make sure they know it’s the student who needs to be in the driver’s seat if they expect the college application process to go well. Some parents are relieved to hear this while I can tell that others aren’t so sure what to think.

They’ve been so involved with everything their son or daughter has been doing since birth that the idea of not being actively involved is, frankly, quite terrifying.

As a parent myself, I get it. But what I also get is that kids have to take responsibility for their college search. They have to figure out what matters most to them and which colleges (note the plural form here) fit them the best.

So while this is the drum I beat along the way, I also make sure parents know it’s okay to be involved. It’s okay to talk about college and it’s okay to have feelings about how the process is going.

It’s just not okay to do any of the following:

  1. Calling the admissions office

Parents should not call the admissions office to ask questions about their daughter’s application. Nor should they call to share their view on an unfavorable grade. Or to try and explain why their son only volunteered so many hours at the local soup kitchen. Parents can and should call a college if they have questions on financial aid or anything to do with costs, but that’s where it should end.

Admissions counselors want to hear from the applicants, not the parents. Having sat on their side of the desk for a number of years, I agree. Show me an applicant who has questions or is willing to have a conversation and I’ll show you someone who is demonstrating maturity, responsibility and accountability.

  1. Saying “we’ll figure it out” when it comes to paying for college

Unless parents are sure they can pay for a school through some combination of means, saying otherwise never ends well.

Never.

There’s just too much emotion, effort and energy invested in this process to allow students to believe in a falsehood like this. For many parents, yes, it may be hard to talk about finances and affordability. None of us want to say “no” or “we can’t”. But, as hard as these things are to say, it will be so much better for their son or daughter to understand what is and what is not realistic up front rather than after months of having fallen in love with a college that will never be affordable.

  1. Making changes to their college essay

Depending on the kid, parents can sometimes be a great sounding board for essay ideas. But at the end of the day, this is their essay and it should sound like a 17-year old wrote it. That means it won’t be perfect.

Admissions counselors aren’t sitting there questioning every last word choice. Instead, they are trying to learn more about who the student is through the story he or she is telling. Yes, an essay should be well written but in no way does that mean it should sound like a doctoral dissertation.

  1. Making this about you

All too frequently I hear from parents that someone they know said their kid did THIS or was accepted THERE or was being recruited by THEM. Many of them feel the need to compete. I try to remind them that this process is not a competition. It’s never about bragging rights. It’s not a prize to be won. What it is about is helping their child connect with a college where they will grow while creating a path into a happy and successful life.

If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact me today for a free consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


Read More
,

Making Sure Your Essay Matters

Making Sure Your Essay Matters

Essay Hell’s Writing Survival Kit

Over the past couple weeks I’ve talked about tips for writing your college essay for each of the Common Application prompts. If you haven’t seen the posts, here they are:

How To Write Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #1

How To Write Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #2

How To Write Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #3

How To Write Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #4

How To Write Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #5

And while these tips can help anyone get started, writing the college essay is a tough gig. Students have to identify that one moment they feel says something of significance about them knowing that at least part of the decision being made on whether or not they are being admitted is riding on what they have to say and how they say it. To stand out in a crowded field of competitive applicants they often think that their topic has to be so over the top and out of this world but, as I tell my students all the time, what they really need to do is find a creative way to talk about everyday experiences that say something about their personality, character, drive, motivation, etc.

Let’s be honest here. It’s just not an easy thing to do.

And that’s why I’m relying on someone I both trust and respect to shed some additional light on how to make your college essay matter. Janine Robinson is the creator of one of my favorite websites, Essay Hell. She’s a journalist and English teacher who just gets it when it comes to writing college essays. Her philosophy is to treat the essay like a personal statement, keeping it specific, personal and conversational.

In the introduction to her new writing guide, Essay Hell’s Writing Survival Kit, she says the following:

“The best personal statements use what are called “slice-of-life” essays, which explore and share one part of a student’s life experience rather than trying to cover everything. The writing style is called “narrative” because it uses real-life stories to illuminate the writer’s personality, talents, skills, experience and character. The structure is less formal, the tone is lighter and the voice is familiar.”

And I couldn’t agree more. I tell my students all the time that the best approach they can take with their essay is to find a quality about themselves that can be showcased through a story. Not just any story, but rather a personal one that is enlightening and truly speaks to who they are as individuals.

Don’t just say you’re a problem-solver, use a specific example to show how you solved a problem.

Don’t just say you’re a caring person, show how you have gone out of your way to put others first.

From there, they need to be able to explain to the reader why this story and why this quality about them matters. This requires some reflection and analysis and can take some time to flesh out. But the result, a demonstration of deeper, more complex thinking, is what colleges are after.

If you’re struggling to get your essay off the ground, I highly recommend you check out Janine’s website, Essay Hell. She shares some great tips and advice and I promise the time you spend will be well worth it.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


Read More
,

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #5

Writing Your Essay for Common App Prompt #5This is the final installment in a series of posts I’m doing about the Common Application essay prompts. Now that summer is here, it’s a great time to work on your essay so that you can take your time, let your mind wander and put together something that truly compliments your applications.

I’ve already talked about the first four essay prompts and what they’re asking you to do. If you missed them, here they are:

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #1

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #2

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #3

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #4

Today, I wanted to talk about the fifth and final prompt:

Prompt #5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

This prompt allows you a lot of flexibility because the keywords are so broad. Having said that, it’s the transition part of this prompt that is important here. Transition means there was a before (the childhood piece) and an after (the adult piece). There was a change. Without it, your essay will not fully answer what this prompt is asking of you and will fall flat.

Because while we’ve all had accomplishments, not each of them has helped us to think and act more like an adult. And that’s the key here: you need to show that whatever it was that you achieved, completed, performed or produced – it was an important event in your process of becoming more mature, more responsible and more dependable. It doesn’t mean you have to be an adult, just that you are on your way to being more adult-like.

Going to college is a major transition in your life and one that will rapidly draw you into adulthood as you face critical decisions about your immediate and long-term future. An admission counselor will be pleased to see that you’ve gone through other transitional phases in your life and that you are on your way to becoming the person you were meant to be.

One former student wrote about her experiences as an EMT and how, as a young teenager, she remembered getting frustrated when a car accident had caused a traffic delay and she ended up missing the first couple minutes of a new movie. Several years later, after earning her EMT license and going out on emergency calls, she was faced with life and death situations and had to think quickly and clearly in order to help injured people in need. She had most definitely transitioned from an inwardly thinking child to a more mature, outwardly thinking adult-in-the-making.

So, if you’ve ever experienced a change in your life where you realized that you were thinking or acting more adult-like, this could be a great prompt for you to explore. If not, I’ve already covered the other four essay prompts, so consider going in another direction with your essay.

If you would like some assistance with it or any other aspects of your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


Read More
,

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #4

Writing Your Essay for Common App Prompt #4This is the fourth installment in a series of posts I’m doing about the Common Application essay prompts. Now that summer is here, it’s a great time to work on your essay so that you can take your time, let your mind wander and put together something that truly compliments your applications.

I’ve already talked about the first three essay prompts and what they’re asking you to do. If you missed them, here they are:

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #1

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #2

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #3

Today, I wanted to talk about the fourth prompt:

Prompt #4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

This prompt is brand-new this year and I love it! It’s so open-ended and allows you the room to really get into something that has personal significance for you.

Of course, you have to start out by talking about a problem. Whether you’ve solved it or you are trying to solve it, this prompt is all about your effort to effect change. Now, you have to be careful not to dwell on something that’s too big or vague like poverty or racism – an approach like that will sink your essay quickly – and, instead, focus on something specific and, as the essay asks you to do, get PERSONAL.

I think college admission counselors will like this prompt as it allows you room to talk about your problem-solving skills and what’s college if not one series of problems to solve after another? The prompt also allows you to shed light on your values and your willingness to take action for something you believe in.

So, if you’ve ever taken the initiative to do something about a problem or are even in the process of doing it, this could be a great prompt for you to explore. If not, there’s five essay prompts, so consider going in another direction with your essay.

In my next post, I’m going to talk about the fifth Common Application essay prompt which asks you to write about a transition from childhood to adulthood. Stay tuned…

If you would like some assistance with your college essay or any other aspects of your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


Read More
,

How To Write Your Essay for Common Application Prompt #3

How To Write Your Essay For Common Application Prompt 3This is the third installment in a series of posts I’m doing about the Common Application essay prompts. Now that summer is here, it’s a great time to work on your essay so that you can take your time, let your mind wander and put together something that truly compliments your applications.

I’ve already talked about the first two essay prompts and what they’re asking you to do. If you missed them, here they are:

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #1

Writing Your Essay For Common Application Prompt #2

Today, I wanted to talk about the third prompt:

Prompt #3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

This prompt is a tricky one because you have to hit on three key aspects. First, in a reflective way, you have to retell a story where you challenged a belief or idea. Second, you have to provide insight as to why you challenged this belief or idea in the first place. What was your motivation to do what you did? Last, you have to make a judgment on whether or not you would do it again. And this part most definitely has to include perspective on WHY you would do it again. Just saying you would isn’t going to cut it.

This prompt gives you a chance to talk about your VIPS and can show that you have the ability to think critically about things that are bigger than you and that you possess the gumption to take action. Too many people fail to act on things simply because they aren’t strong enough to take the risk of standing up for what they truly believe in.

One student wrote about how she developed confidence through her involvement with an outdoors club. She wrote about how she perceived herself to be the least likely person to ever be considered a leader but as she learned to tackle daunting hikes and mountain climbs, she become more willing to get outside of her comfort zone. She started to feel differently about herself and, before she graduated, she had become head of her school’s handbell ensemble and captain of the outdoors club. She proved to herself and her entire school community that she was a leader, and a very capable one at that.

So, if you’ve ever encountered a situation where you took a chance and made a choice or did something that impacted you or someone else in a positive way, this could be a great prompt for you to explore. If not, there’s five essay prompts, so if you’re not sure you can write to all three aspects of this option, then consider going in another direction with your essay.

In my next post, I’m going to talk about the fourth Common Application essay prompt which asks you to write about a problem you’ve solved or would like to solve. Stay tuned…

If you would like some assistance with your college essay or any other aspects of your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


Read More