The Student Essay

This is the sixth in a series of posts about how a homeschooling student can put together a persuasive college application.  In this series, I talk about

• Standardized Tests
• Outside Letter of Reference
• Letter of Reference from a Parent
• Transcripts
• Student essay
• Some general things to keep in mind

In this post I would like to offer just a couple of thoughts about the student essay.  The essay contributes something very important to an application, because it is the only time the admissions committee gets to see your child’s work directly rather than as reported by a teacher or parent.  It goes without saying that it should really be your child’s work—anything else would make this part of the application pointless!  But assuming your child writes his or her own essay, here are some suggestions you can make as a parent.

First and foremost, the student needs to be told, “Show your own thought!”  Most colleges ask for an essay about why the student wants to come to this particular college, and I don’t know how many essays I have read that basically said, “I want to come to Wyoming Catholic College because this is what the College website says.”  Repeating what the website says is not helpful:  we’re already convinced by our website, but we’re still waiting to be convinced by the applicant!

This problem comes up in more than one way.  Our application form also asks the student to write an essay on some book that he or she considers good and to argue that people should read the book.  All too often, the applicant writes an essay that is just a summary of the book:  “In this book, Frodo goes on a long journey.  He travels with friends.”  It is good to know that the student can read a book and summarize it, but it would be even more helpful if the student would let us in on what she is thinking.  She needs to show her own thought.  Let us watch her mind in action:  the essay should open the hood and let us see the engine running.

Second, tell your student to think about the admissions committee and how they will perceive things.  This is just the age-old rhetorical truth that you need to think about your audience.  Try to be different:  guess what the admissions committee probably sees all the time and then write something else.  For example, we ask students to write about a good book, so how many applications do you think we get that say, “My favorite book is The Lord of the Rings”?  And try to sound like someone the admissions committee will perceive as ready for college.  I recall reading an application in which the student wrote, “I think that every college student should read Where the Red Fern Grows.”  I love that book, but my ten-year-old has read it.  I wish the applicant had told me about a book that requires maturity of judgment and sensibility.

And with these few thoughts about the essay, we have finished my walk through the parts of the application.  In my last post, I will offer a few concluding thoughts about home schoolers and the persuasive college application.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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