"They talk in terms of generalities as opposed to specifics," says essay coach Debbie Merion of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Merion -- who entered the coaching field when her daughter realized how tough crafting her own essay would be -- admits that "No one's explaining how to write a college essay."
According to Merion, students first must "understand why colleges want essays and how admissions officers evaluate essays," then keep on track, and "edit and proofread their essay to a level of excellence."
"Sometimes it's very hard to learn what's special about you," she tells Detroit's WXYZ-TV.
Hear more from Debbie Merion in this video:
Most seniors can relate to this statement: "When it comes to writing college essays . . . students tend to freeze."
The astute (and obvious) observation come from the years of experience Gabrielle Glancy has coaching students with their essays.
Students "have preconceptions about what they think a college essay should be," writes Glancy, on the New Vision Learning blog. "In an effort to sound sophisticated and intelligent, students often abandon their own natural style of writing in favor of a style that they think (wrongly) will make them look good. As a result, student essays are often stilted and stiff."
Don't rule out anything as a source of inspiration for your essay, Glancy advises. Look to the unconventional, such as poetry, dreams or snippets of random prose. If it lights your creative fire, it's a valuable resource.
"Inspiration can come from anywhere," she says. "But you must be willing to go anywhere to look for it — even into the dark and mysterious worlds of poetry and dreams. You never know what you will find!"
Everybody's got Top 10 lists. But the Magoosh SAT Blog offers it's own take: Four tips to becoming a better college-essay writer:
1. Fully understand the prompt: "Not really understanding the prompt is an all-too-common mistake."
2. Make time to brainstorm: "This does not mean starting at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. the night before your deadline. Start as soon as possible. If you haven’t started already, start now! Taking three minutes right now can get your mind moving in the direction of the essay."
3. Accept the limits set forward by the school: Many applicants use a good portion of the essay to tell a story but don't save enough space "to explain the meaning of the story or how it relates to readiness for college."
4. Don’t demand immediate perfection: "Are you waiting to begin your essay until you’ve got everything ‘just right?' Does it seem like wasting time to go ahead and start now because you’ll have to make so many changes later? Sorry, but revisions are part of the writing process, and you can actually take a lot of the pressure off by simply getting some ideas out of your head and onto the page."
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.