Essay-writing is a funny thing. Before you dive into your MBA applications, 400 or 500 words can seem like the equivalent of a doorstop-size Russian novel. But once you really get going on your first drafts, you quickly realize just how little space you have to work with. We’re familiar with the pit that can form in your stomach when you’ve written the perfect essay—but it’s more than three times the word-count limit. Tinker with your essay. Think of it not as an essay in the academic sense, but an unlined blank canvas you can use to present whatever you want.
1. Help your student tell their story
It can be so tempting to really hold your child’s hand or even write the essay for them, but this will definitely backfire. The essay has to tell the admissions committee something the rest of the application doesn’t. Instead of telling your child what to write about, talk through some stories with them Don’t focus on what seems like “profound” stories. Instead focus on the qualities and values that are unique to your student and encourage them to think of stories surrounding those. The most important thing for you to do as a parent during this process is listen and give honest feedback.
2. Help with editing
Editing can sometimes be the hardest part, especially if your student has grown attached to particular wording. Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, shared with me on the Dream College Summit some amazing essay editing tips. One that really sticks out is that it’s important to sacrifice the essay of today for the essay of tomorrow. In other words, editing is going to make for a better essay, so don’t let your child get to hung up on particular language. Encourage your student to first do their own editing and then to do peer editing with a friend before you even look at the essay to edit it. Sometimes parents can be too close to be objective when it comes to editing. Some things for you to keep in mind, though, are to look for places where your student could be more concise or vivid. Look for typos and grammatical errors, but also look at the bigger picture like if there are parts of the story that don’t fit.