Crawford makes a critical point: Some students are being steered away from emotion by their high school counselors. Others have been coached to hide their privilege. Yet both approaches do a disservice to the students trying to show admissions officers some of who they really are.
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"At the very moment when teenagers are invited to offer what they've learned and who they've become," Crawford writes in The Wall Street Journal, "their voices are hijacked by well-meaning adults who think kids can't possibly be allowed to risk answering these questions on their own."
Crawford's advice is straightforward and direct: "Tell a story in your own voice. Speak an opinion with care and focus. Claim that "I" and write the hell out of it."
When it comes to writing your college essay, everyone else knows best. Parents, relatives, friends, parents of friends, perfect strangers . . . they'll all have advice about what to say, how to say it, what to include and what not to include.
So who knows best?
College consultant Lynn O'Shaughnessy, writing for CBS Money Watch, asked essay expert Janine Robinson about the topics students should avoid when they begin brainstorming ideas for their essays.
Included in Robinson's Top 10 topics to avoid:
Inflammatory topics: It's unwise to write about politics or religion, two of the most polarizing topics, according to Robinson. Avoid any topic that makes people angry.
Do-good experiences: Forget your church or school trip to help the disadvantaged, she says. Instead, focus on a specific experience within the broader trip.
The most important thing or person in my life: Too broad and too loaded, whether you want to write about God, your mom or best friend. Robinson says these essays usually are painfully boring.
How early is too early to begin thinking about your college essay?
When it comes to getting ready and laying the groundwork, the time is now, according to Stacey Brook of College Essay Advisors.
Don't short-change your end-of-year school work by spending hours now drafting your essay, Brook writes on NewRochellePatch.com.
However, it's never too early to begin brainstorming and mapping out your "plan of attack," including a timeline for your essay work over the summer, she advises.
Also essential to do now -- hire an essay consultant. "The best essay consultants are always in high demand, and many advisors’ schedules fill up long before a student’s junior year comes to a close," Brook advises. "While students might not want to begin work on their essays until the summer arrives, it is never too early to lock down a coveted spot with an expert advisor who can help them set viable schedules, brainstorm fascinating topics and beat away writers’ block."
Arnie Rosenberg is the founder of The Center for Essay Excellence. He writes regularly about college essays and their importance to the college-admission process. Contact him at Arnie.Rosenberg.Editor@gmail.com.
© 2014 The Center for Essay Excellence