In the last post we looked at the college essay from the parent's viewpoint. Today, we hear from panel member Lauren Fazzio. She is a high school English teacher who is currently teaching a unit on "reflective/personal/college admissions essay writing" with her senior writing students. She has studied the subject of college essays at length and also advises students individually. Here's what she has to say.
"The admissions essay is the only chance admissions counselors have to see who an applicant really is. I ask students these questions (among many others), and have them journal about them:
-- What’s your passion?
-- What makes you weird?
-- What do friends make fun of you for?
-- What has your life taught you, and how?
Once they have some of these ideas, I tell them to start the essay in a story or a moment. For example, if a student’s passion is piano-playing, put us on the piano bench. If a student’s quirk is a messy room, she should walk into the room and write what she sees. If a student’s life has taught him that fear can be conquered, put us in a scenario with description and dialogue where he's facing a fear."
She also provides guidance on the set up for the essay:
"For students who really need structure, I tell them roughly the first third (a paragraph or two) of the essay should be a specific moment or story, the second third should be a more general explanation of the situation (for instance, how typical it was of their life or what it meant to them)and the last third should be how they are now changed as a person because of it." She adds that, "Everyone loves when last lines come full circle, so an echo of the intro paragraph is always nice."
Her conclusion: "As a teacher, the best essays I’ve seen for college admissions (are candid and genuine. They sound human. I think they reflect the kind of student admissions officers would want to admit to their school."
Many schools, through their English departments or guidance counselors, offer sessions on the essay. Make sure your student is taking full advantage of them. The fear of essays can be conquered.
Next post: an admissions officer comments. Meanwhile, here is a recent look at the essay situation.