From the new Common App essay questions to a novel based on the “frenzy” of applying, college essay coaching has been in the news lately. I really like this article, “Confessions of a College Essay Coach,” by Elizabeth Benedict, which looks at some myths about essay coaches. (No, we’re not going to write the essay for your kid.)
Most high schools seniors — even at some of our nation’s best schools — have little experience writing a personal essay. They can write DBQ’s for AP history classes and literary analysis for AP English classes, but they don’t know how to tell their own story in vivid detail. That’s where a good essay coach can step in and teach them how to bring their own experiences to life.
College admission officers also want to be assured that prospective students are reflective. A good essay coach can nudge a writer to think more deeply about why, out of 18 years of life, he or she has chosen that one experience or place or failure to highlight. Usually, a student knows why it’s important but may need some help articulating it. In almost every coaching session, I tell one of my students, “Write that down! Just as you said it. That’s powerful.” Like all good coaches, an essay coach is something of a cheerleader.
According to an admission officer at Georgia Tech, only one in 20 college application essays are any good. The rest are dull and predictable, like many of the first drafts I see from my students. Again, it’s not that the students can’t write well. It’s that they don’t really understand what a good essay looks like and how to get there. (The Georgia Tech admissions officer was featured on the radio show, This American Life.)
(Writing should be a happy experience. Truly.)