There is an old saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. While this is true in many aspects of life, it is also very true when it comes to the college admissions essay.
I have had several instances each year where a student shows one or more of their essays to a guidance counselor, teacher, parent, friend, mentor etc. And almost always that person has some great suggestions on how to improve the essay. If the student would just write about this, or use this language or use this example the essay would be much better.
Almost always, the result is a mess and a much poorer essay than the student started with.
I understand that all of these people are trying to help. But college essays are not like most other essays. Yes, grammar and spelling are important. But what the student writes about, or how they structure the essay, may be very different for a college essay. Most people don’t have a clue about what colleges are looking for in these essays.
So who should see your college essays? It depends on your particular circumstance. If you are working with an independent college counselor, I would suggest not showing the essay to anyone but the counselor. You are paying them for their expertise so don’t undermine their recommendations by having others look at the essay.
If you don’t have a college counselor, then your best bet is a two pronged approach. First, get a good book on writing the college essay. One I often suggest is “On Writing the College Application Essay” by Harry Bauld. This is not a new book but has some of the best advice I have seen for writing these essays. This is not a book of so called winning essays. That type of book might be alright but you need to understand what colleges are looking for before you actually look at actual essays. Second, once you have written the essay, have your English teacher look at the essay for grammar issues.
I am sure that your parents will also want to see the essay and once it is written it is fine to show them the essay. If they don’t like the essay because you haven’t written about a serious topic or explained your research experience, just hand them Harry’s book to read.
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