The College Essay

The College Essay
The only distressing moments in my occupation as a college admissions coach is reading a student’s essay drafts. Very few are brilliant (read: perfect grammar and flow of thought), others a disaster (read: Have they ever written anything?), and most are mediocre (read: texting is the new religion). Forget about writing for college. How about just writing a single paragraph where a single thought is developed?

The bar is getting lower.
Over the past ten years of reading such essays, I’ve noted a trend: students’ grades are either inflating, or the writing quality is getting worse, or both. I suspect the worst. So do many of my clients. One client told me recently that she is distressed enough about her 14-year-old’s communication skills that she wants to hire a private tutor.

Private tutor
This is a person who can help a student eliminate – I dream – reduce usage of the following words: “stuff,” “dunno,” “awesome,” “like,” or add your own icons of Awful Language Shorthand. A tutor can work directly with your student to teach basic writing skills. Are you thinking I’m out of touch to even suggest the schools are not teaching basic writing skills? Some are, many aren’t. What’s your local high school doing to make sure your child is on the road to mastering good writing habits? Take a look at your student’s latest writing sample….
Note: My best student writers attend Ursuline Academy in Dedham, Massachusetts, and my worst writers attend a public high school that is rated one of the best high schools in the nation.
Parent Involvement
One thing that really impressed me with my client’s concern was her no-hesitation behavior to take away the children’s computer screens; she won’t tolerate her kids being on Facebook for hours at a time. Teachers will tell you that many parents don’t care, that they leave it up to the teachers to do what a parent is supposed to do. Parents will counter that the teachers don’t care. The blame game continues in a culture where victimhood is a sacred right and responsibility is someone else’s concern.

Facebook and other lovely instruments
I love Facebook. I use it to communicate with people I know who want to know what I’m doing. I’m happy to keep in touch with old and new friends, but I won’t establish permanent residence on Facebook. Kids, if not supervised, will abuse Facebook and any other instrument that is distracting them from their little obligations, however they are defind.

What does every employer treasure in an employee? Good communication skills. What do I treasure in my wife, my sons, my clients, my friends and acquaintances? Good communication skills. Before I sent my two sons off to college, this was my only advice: “I don’t care what you major in, but I want you to develop three skills: learn how to think, how to write, and how to speak.” It’s not too much to ask, but getting it in a culture of lower expectations and greater distractions is a daunting challenge. Finger-pointing doesn’t work, but taking the initiative does. The solutions are out there. We need to start looking. I suspect my conscientious client with her 14-year-old started in front of a mirror.
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One Response to “The College Essay”

  1. Marie Rasmussen Says:

    Love it!!!

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