H.S. Applicants: Make Lemonade Outta Lemons

Use Admissions Essays To Practice Writing Skills

I could tell 8th and 9th graders applying to on-going schools that tackling private and boarding school admissions essays are an educationally enriching way to spend the first half of January. But they wouldn’t believe me even though it’s true.

My students want to know only one bit of information: how long will it take to complete their applications, upload, and submit. And like the clichéd scenario of parents driving and the children asking, “Are we there yet?”, I say, “Soon.”

Then I weave these tips into our on-going narrative:

High School Pre-Season

Think of writing application essays as one long practice session for high school. Warm up drills, endurance training, sprints. Some application questions ask for casual responses while others demand a 5-paragraph essay and still other prompts want compressed punchy short-answers where the student’s point-of-view and personality pop. Students should remember to “change up” their language and show off writing skills that they’ve spent years honing. Just as getting ready for a team sport season, a music recital or an art show can be an exhausting effort, perfecting their essays is fatiguing as well. The result, however, is almost always self-pride. Hard work yields good work. And good work makes a student feel good.

10,000 Hours of Practice

Though Malcom Gladwell’s rule has been questioned, there seems to be no denying that practice yields mastery, if not perfection. The quantity of hours spent drafting, reworking, editing and finalizing an essay seems to equate an increased quality of a student’s written words. At least for the middle and high school students I work with. The more a student writes, the better a writer they become. To that end, the essays that an 8th or 9th grader generates for on-going applications won’t be a fruitless task. The process of applying to high school inherently makes for much stronger high school writers.

Read the Prompts

Speaking of quantity and quality: Not only will these incoming high school freshmen be surprised by the quantity of assignments given to them but the quality of those essays will have an increased expectation quotient compared with middle school. Which means slow down and read the directions. I’ve had students have to redo application essays at the 11th hour because of a misunderstood prompt. It’s not always the student’s interpretation that’s wrong; it’s the wording of the prompt that’s ambiguous. In those instances, I encourage students to decide how they’d like to answer the question and make their response restate or clarify their approach. I’ve never had a student rejected for communicating their game plan and then flawlessly executing it!

Have any questions? Give me a holler or drop me a line: 917-863-2424 or Elizabeth@eecollegecoach.com.