Our Facebook posts this week have a common thread—utilize assistance from others to help your student.  The posts include information on parent-teacher conferences and changes in ACT accommodations for students who qualify for extended time.

To that point, in last week’s blog about what teens need from their parents, we mentioned the importance of multiple people in a teen’s life able to provide support and guidance.  Parents are primary, of course, but others can lend assistance in ways that parents cannot—and sometimes should not.

For example, parents, let your students complete their college applications.  For your child, college is a move to the next level– of responsibility, maturity and investment in his or her future.  Proofread and check spelling if you must.  But don’t cross the line and input application information YOU feel best represents your student and his or her accomplishments.  And most importantly, let your student write his or her own essays.  Proofing is fine, but stay away from the actual writing.

Colleges Can Identify Essays Written by Parents

Let’s take a step back.  Many schools use a rubric commonly known as 6 Traits or 6 + 1 Traits to evaluate writing.  The traits include ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and voice.  (Presentation is the +1 trait.)  That last of the writing traits, voice, is the reason kids need to write their own essays.

Not surprisingly, a 17-year-old says things differently than a 40-something parent.  Parents use different words and tend to sound more formal in their writing (particularly if they are very well-educated) than a teenager.  While even tutors discourage students from using idioms, a teen is still likely to describe anything differently than an adult would.

Full disclosure:  I went back to school (after having sent two kids to college) and became an English teacher.  I read hundreds of essays written by high schoolers and started working with students writing college essays.  After all that, I could tell when one of my students’ parents had written an essay.   College admissions people can do that too.  As experienced readers, they can distinguish a student voice from that of an adult.  They can also look at the applicant’s grades in English classes and may have other essays or correspondence from the applicant to compare.

How does a tutor help a student write an essay?

A good tutor assists a student by focusing primarily on ideas and organization.   Just by asking questions, a tutor can help a student identify a key event or idea that becomes a basis for the essay.  The student does the writing, using his or her own voice to express the significance of what transpired.  A tutor also helps with proofreading—but lets the student tell the story.

While your student’s sense of urgency in completing his college applications may not match your own, don’t let your frustration lead you to take control.  If the essay is a challenge, a tutor may be the answer.   But parents, let your students complete their college applications.  In the end, these are his applications and his future.

Knowledge Edge is an important resource for parents and students.  See our website for information about ACT prep, or contact us at Mequon@Knowledge-Edge.net if your student needs assistance with his or her application essays.