Applying to college these days – writing the perfect personal statement and a dozen or more supplementals – can feel like mounting a presidential campaign. Parents have to make elaborate long-term plans, learn their way around campuses and financial aid forms, pay attention to a dozen deadlines, and have nerves of titanium. All of this while maintaining good relationships with their college-bound children – who are not children anymore. But nor are they exactly adults.
It’s this in-between status that can make the college application process so fraught for so many families. Parents are often unfamiliar with this hyper-competitive system, and students, who may be just as unfamiliar, are sometimes certain they can figure everything out on their own. They might spend months discovering that they are not sure how to proceed after all.
Ninety-percent of the inquiries I get are from parents calling for their children. The other ten percent are the students themselves – whether they’re writing from Cairo, London, Norman, Oklahoma, or around the corner from me in Manhattan.
As I think back on the hundreds of parents who’ve called for help with their child’s college application essays, these are some of the reasons they’ve given for why they’re getting in touch:
“My son and I are very close, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that by trying to work with him on my own. I was enough of a nag with everything else we had to do.”
“This process is so different from when my husband and I were applying to college. We don’t feel qualified to help him, and his guidance counselor at school is responsible for 800 students.”
“My son is a STEM kid. He’s great at science and math but he hates to write, and he certainly doesn’t want to write about himself. He’sa seventeen-year-old boy.”
“My daughter’s English teacher gave them an assignment to write the Common Application essay, and she said what my daughter did is fine – but I can tell that it’s not. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but I just know it could be better.”
“My daughter is a top student but she got deferred on all of her early action applications. She’s spent the last two weeks frantically writing more essays. English is not my native language, and I don’t know how to help her.”
“There’s so much stress around this entire process, my husband and I need to be bystanders.”
“My son has been working on his essay all summer, and he just can’t come up with a topic he likes.”
“I’m not getting along well with my daughter, and the last thing she wants to do is talk to me about her college essays.”
“My son procrastinates. He won’t do anything until the night before it’s due, and I know he can’t get through these essays like that, and of course, he won’t listen to me.”
If you’re not sure how to help your child with his or her college application essays, please email me to talk about possibilities. Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com or call 1-855-99-ESSAY (East Coast time).