The Essay

Many high schools and some middle schools will ask your child to write an essay, complete a short-answer questionnaire, or submit a writing sample with the application. Here are some tips to help your child approach this task with confidence.
  • Read the instructions. If the school requests a page, don’t submit five lines or five pages. If answers are to be written by hand, don’t type.
  • Start early. Writing under the pressure of a deadline only increases the tension.
  • Brainstorm. Ask a teacher, tutor, or neighbor to help the student generate and clarify ideas.
  • Tell stories. Vivid anecdotes that illustrate something about the child’s initiative, work ethic, and compassion make the strongest submissions.
  • Be creative. If your child has special talents, ask if the school will accept fiction, poetry, or lyrics in place of an essay.
  • Repurpose ideas. If you’re applying to several schools, look for common threads among the essay questions. A strong answer for one school could be adapted for another application.
  • Proofread carefully. In particular, make sure the essay doesn’t say, “I have always wanted to attend School X,” if the application is for School Y.
  • Be honest. Submit the student’s work, not a parent’s. You can make suggestions, and you can certainly proofread the final product, but let your child do the work.