You see, we both have strongly held beliefs about college-admissions essays: A student's essay should be his or her own work. College essays -- whether the first draft or the polished, refined and perfected final version -- must be a high school applicant's own work, his or her own words, his or her own efforts.
Regardless of the help a student gets -- whether it's with the concept, the title, the writing or the editing -- the essay needs to reflect the student himself or herself. No admissions officer wants to read the work of a parent, a tutor or an essay editor like me.
"What message are we sending our young people if we over-edit their essays so much that their originality and authenticity fade away," Joseph asks, writing in The Huffington Post. "It is time to let the 17-year-old voice take center stage."
I couldn't agree more. In fact, browse the the website of The Center for Essay Excellence and you'll see phrases such as "Your words, only better," " . . . your work -- your words," "Your work remains your work. Your voice remains your voice . . " and our slogan, "Putting your best words forward."
It's an approach we've used successfully for years. "Anyone who helps students should be a mentor and a guide -- not a ghostwriter," Joseph writes. I believe in collaborative coaching and mentoring. It's the only way for students' college essays to be the recognition they truly deserve.
Your college essay can do more than just get you into college. The website Medium.com is sponsoring a contest to award $5,000 prizes to high school seniors with the winning essays. Along the way, a panel of professional writers -- including Anna Quindlen, Wally Lamb, Kelly Corrigan and Mary Roach -- will read all of the semi-finalist essays. Originality, creativity, ingenuity and use of language are among the selection criteria.
The three winners will be announced June 2 and recognized at Medium's San Francisco offices on June 12.
Submission deadline is May 19. Click here for all the rules.
"Get real" is one of the bullet points in the article "What I wish I'd known about applying to college" on the site USA Today college. "’Ive always been a gifted writer, and I figured I could throw together a great application essay that would wow admissions officers and make up for my average grades and slightly above-average test scores," writes a student identified at Matt from the University of California-Davis. "I was most definitely wrong.”
Most definitely, Matt.
Today, with college admission growing increasingly competitive and, to be honest, with the brightest of high school applicants growing increasingly brighter, universities are looking for something that sets their applicants apart. More and more, it's their essays.
Essays tell these college who you are and what makes you tick. They show what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. And they have a lot to say about your priorities.
If there's anyplace you spend your time and effort, emotion and energy, it's on your college essay. The spending will be well worth it.
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