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:
- 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.
- 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.*
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.