Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mindful Parenting: The College Essay

With the odds of your high school senior getting into one of America’s leading universities less than 10 percent, it comes as little surprise that parents are often tempted to help their child craft their personal essay to increase their odds of admission.
Author and college professor Jay Douglas warns against this mindset in his new book: Make Them Want You: How to Write a Standout Personal Statement 15 Minutes at a Time.` As a college professor who has worked with high school students across the United States, Douglas describes the essay writing process in terms both students and parents can appreciate.
“College application essays are a student’s one opportunity to tell his story in his own words. But telling it well – and sometimes just getting it done – can be a challenge,” points out Douglas.
Parents, says Douglas, should think of themselves as playing the role of a movie producer in this process. “Producers don’t write, direct or act. They influence the people who do,” Douglas says. “They make sure the work gets done.”
To accomplish this, says Douglas, there should be three ironclad rules:
Rule Number One: Your child is writing this essay, not you. You don’t choose the topic, you don’t choose the words.
Rule Number Two: It’s acceptable to ask questions; but not to make decisions. When your child asks for your help, ask him to give you the pros and cons of his alternatives. If he doesn’t have any alternatives, help him find them.
Rule Number Three: Remember that your job is to provide encouragement, remove obstacles, offer incentives, and set boundaries.
In Make Them Want You, Douglas offers useful tips for applying these three rules with wisdom and grace. In the book parents will find:
  • A sample contract – an agreement between the parent and child, outlining the intended process for completing the essay
  • Suggestions for rewards and incentives to keep the student motivated
  • 15 minute exercises to help students identify a compelling topic, get ideas on paper, and turn rough drafts into an attention-grabbing essay
  • Tools and tips for strengthening the essay to make it show the child’s full potential.
With Douglas’ guidance, parents can help “produce” their student’s essay, turning raw footage into sparkling prose that wows college administrators and earns the ultimate reward: an acceptance letter.

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