David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]
Why does my colleague insist that every college application be submitted from her office? Is there something special about her school’s location? Why can’t the children submit the applications from their homes? Why is my colleague vehement that the applications be submitted in her office under her watchful eye? She’s a high school college admissions advisor. Why would she care? What difference could it make?
Does she want to make sure that the students have filled in the forms correctly? Possibly. Certainly it is in my colleague’s interest that the students have been attentive to grammar, punctuation, syntax, and sentence structure. But having ensured that the applications are correct, couldn’t my colleague allow the students to submit their applications from anywhere? An electron is an electron after all. The children could submit their applications from home. For that matter the students could send in their applications from Neptune–taking into account the four-hour delay, the time it takes for a signal, traveling at the speed of light, to reach earth. Why does my colleague insist that she see the applications in real time as they are being submitted?
Does my colleague have to add her counselor recommendation at the time of submission? No, she does not. Indeed, the high school college counselor typically has all of her recommendations written early in the senior year. Applications are frequently not submitted until December. Indeed, all the different electronic forms–recommendations, transcripts, applications, test scores–assemble in an “electronic box” in the sky. No admissions officer at the college looks at the collected pieces of the application until months later, after all the forms are completed.
My hard-working colleague has 34 years at her private school. No one knows admissions better than she. She has cordial relationships with folks on the college side. She has visited hundreds of campuses across the country. Why does she insist that students submit their electronic applications from her office?
Because she has to make sure that the parents haven’t rewritten the student essays. That’s right. Parents writing college essays for their kids is a thing. Not an occasional, once-in-a-lifetime, only-crazy-people write college essays for their kids thing, but a ho-hum, commonplace, happens-all-the-time thing.
Here’s why parents writing college admissions essays for their kids is wrong, Capital W:
  1. College admissions essays can be about self-disclosure and insight. The “why do you want to come here?” forces a student to focus on what she wants out of the college experience. Parents writing essays deny kids their chance to think this through.
  2. College admissions people can tell. They read 800 essays each year. Your fake essay is hardly their first rodeo. Parent essays stick out like a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.*
  3. At the risk of referencing the morality of a bygone era, parents writing essays for kids is just wrong. There will be more essays in first-year English courses. Are the parents going to write those weekly compositions as well? (Maybe I shouldn’t ask.)
  4. If your kid has trouble writing, wouldn’t you rather make that determination NOW? In high school rather than college? So your kid can get the help he needs? Pretending that the issue doesn’t exist doesn’t make the issue go away. Pretending that the issue doesn’t exist makes the issue worse.
  5. Wouldn’t it be nice if my colleague could trust the parents of her students? Wouldn’t it be nice if students could trust their parents?
I’m not suggesting that all the evil in the world starts with parents writing college admissions essays for their children. But someone is going to be picking out your nursing home some years down the road. Wouldn’t it be nice if that someone was someone whom you could trust, someone who had reason to trust you? Letting your kids write their own essays might be one step in developing that trust.
* Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely, 1940


4 thoughts on “Stumper

  1. Catherine Lestrange

    My daughter’s adviser, on the other hand, made changes to her essay and made something not make sense by removing the basic lead statement and then there was a glaring grammatical error that was not there before when we submitted it to her. I was livid. This was also at a private school and my daughter did not get into any of her schools. It turned out well, she went on to community college and it graduating from the school of her dreams now. UCONN!

  2. ellen

    It never would have occurred to me to write my kids’ college essays!! I’m sure they did a MUCH better job than I could ever do. And I had no idea how to answer the “why do you want to come here” essay — as I had no idea why they picked some of their schools!

    Yes, I hired a counselor to help them sort out which schools to apply to, get focused, and get the most out of their essays. She was great at pointing out where they should focus and helping them hone things down, but I know for a fact she didn’t write it for them.

  3. Anonymous

    I loved this blog post. It reminded me of a personal event that occurred some 25+ years ago, while attending a prestigious private high school school here in Miami. As an ambitious student, I had decisively applied to a university that I knew was within my range, and relied heavily on the advice and guidance from our school’s well-respected college counselor. When college responses were received, I learned I had been rejected from this university but a few of my classmates (with lower boards and less interest) had been accepted. Although I had been accepted to other schools, possibly more prestigious or better fits for our high-school, the college I had decided on early in the process was the one I was rejected from. I approached our counselor with this issue and the response was to move on and focus on what opportunities I had been given. I was young, ambitious, independent-minded so I took to pen and wrote a very emotional letter to the admissions office citing every reason that university needed to reconsider. I did this with no parent involvement, no school approval, did not advise my counselor, but miraculously the university responded with a letter advising me I had been accepted. I was overjoyed! My school counselor learned the news at the same time as I learned the news. This did not go over well with administration. I had done something that had gone completely outside school policy and every standard the prestigious private institution had put in place for decades before me. They felt it was not only disrespectful, but they considered expelling me due to my insolence. I was so frustrated and confused at 18 years old and could not make sense how this had happened. Looking back, I understand that my actions were impulsive, emotional and probably not the best judgement, but the result was exactly what I had hoped for. I had been accepted to the school of my choice. I was eventually allowed to graduate but had to pay a penance for my insubordination. I do not regret what I did. I went on to graduate with honors from that University, met my husband there and many lifelong friends. 30 years later it still shocks me that school counseling departments are the gatekeepers in this process. I just can’t believe anyone would have as much motivation, interest or passion than a student who has a clear focus on what they want to achieve. Maybe someday this process will evolve. I believe it should. Through that one defining moment 30 years ago, I learned to never give up on something you truly want. I learned that with passion, merit, determination and a voice, you can create opportunities that may not exist otherwise, even if that means going outside the lines.

  4. David Lerman

    To whom it may concern. I really wanna come to your school as it would get me out of the house and away from my totally backward parents. I know I can excel at drinking beer and playing Frisbee on the quad. I can bring my own gaming system too. It is such a pain when you cannot play the shoot, shoot, shoot, kill, kill, kill game you want because someone else owns the gaming system and they want to play space invaders.

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