Motivating Your Resistant Teen to Write Their College Essay

My Ideal College shares how to get your teen to write their college essay.

It’s time to start putting together everything you need for college applications – high school transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, lists of all the volunteer and paid jobs, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, copies of driver’s license and social security card, medical records, college aid forms, etc. Getting this information can be time-consuming but relatively easy, especially if you have been keeping track and staying organized through high-school.

But there is still one daunting task that your child needs to do for the college application – writing the essay. Having to write an essay can be a stress-inducing, anxiety-filled task for a teen.

I know parents who said their kids wouldn’t apply to schools that required an essay. Yes, that is an option but do you really want your child to limit themselves from a great school just because they don’t want to write an essay?

I can empathize with these kids. Writing is not something I naturally like to do. I always wrote my papers at the last minute when I was in school. When I started my blogs, I had someone else write them. The thought of writing left me paralyzed. However, as I got more into my work, my comfort level and ideas on what to write about grew. Now I have written my own weekly blogs for almost a year.

Why am I talking about writing a college essay now? College applications are not due for several months. College admission experts advise that it takes approximately two months to draft the essay. This takes into consideration coming up with what you want to write about it, drafting, editing, rewrites, etc. Summertime is an ideal time for your teen to start creating their essay. They have much more time to reflect, come up with ideas, and write the essay now than they will once school starts. If you are considering hiring someone to write your teen’s essay, DON’T. The experts also advise not to pay someone to write your essay for you. Admissions staff can usually tell if the student didn’t write it themselves.

Here are two tips your teen can use to help get them started. I use them to help me when I have to write:

Start Talking – It’s much easier for me to talk something through than write it out. I will open my Notes app on my iPhone and press on the microphone. It will automatically transcribe what I am saying. Then I email the notes to myself, copy it into a Microsoft Word document, and start editing. This has saved me a lot of anxiety and time of staring at a blank computer screen wondering what to write.

Draw It – If your teen is more visual, they can create a mind map. I have an example in my blog image. In the center, you start with a central idea. For example, your teen may put challenging experiences. Then around it, they create branches of thoughts and ideas that tie to the central idea – failing a test, not getting the job, not being picked for a team, struggling in a class. These can be one or two words in a branch off the central idea or they can draw an image. They can also draw additional branches off each thought to go deeper. For example, how the challenge felt, how they reacted, what they did. The mind map forms an outline for your teen to write their essay.

These tips are useful not only for the college essay but for any time your teen has a writing project. These tips can make any writing task feel less daunting. I know because I use them.

I have a bonus tip for you. Once your teen drafts their essay, they can use Grammarly. It will help check for spelling, grammar, tone, etc. There is a free version and a paid version. However, I still suggest having a person review the essay. But using Grammarly can reduce the amount of time it takes someone to review it.

Next week, I will share what are common essay questions and how to help your child identify and share their strengths in their essay.

What questions do you have about creating the college essay? Ask me in the comments below.

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