College Application Essays: Should I hire a coach?

College and scholarship applications and deadlines often overwhelm students and parents alike, with essay writing almost always at the top of the list of stress factors. Is it worth it to hire a writing coach? In the most recent State of College Admissions Report from the National Association of College Admissions Counseling,  grades, high school curriculum, and test scores continue to be the top factors considered in college admissions, with “essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank” following.

That said, there are still those who want a professional opinion and coach for all those pesky essays. In that case here are four things a writing coach should never do.

  1. Drive the process. A coach should set an initial session, during which expectations are set, schedules are discussed and deadlines are agreed-upon. From there, the student should be in the driver’s seat. Think of it in terms of sports — coaches are on the sidelines; they don’t play the game
  2. Determine the essay topic. Writing coaches should help facilitate brainstorming if needed, not develop a list of topics and ideas. Ideas should be from the person who is actually applying for admission or scholarship, not the coach.
  3. Write the essay. Seems obvious, right? Sadly, it happens. This rule goes for editing in-line within the document. Accepting tracked changes from a coach is accepting the coach’s writing. A good coach will give feedback on voice, idea development and overall direction. The goal is for an authentic piece from the applicant. A little polish is okay, but a complete tear-down and renovation is not.
  4. Guarantee acceptance. The only thing any consultant in the college admissions process should guarantee is their professionalism and ethics. Walk away from anyone who promises more.

 

 

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