The Ivy Coach Daily

October 16, 2017

Assistance on College Admissions Essays

If you’re seeking assistance on college admissions essays, know that good writing is about rewriting. Very rarely is a first draft of an essay or a book or a play the finished product. Good writing is all about starting over, revising, reordering, peppering in new details, starting over yet again, and more. This is true of all sorts of writing. It’s true of television writing. TV writers write first drafts, then production company executives give their notes on how to make that draft better, then studio executives give another round of notes before it goes into the network for network notes. Often times, there are multiple rounds of production company, studio, and network notes. While it drives TV writers mad (and sometimes the notes are not good!), there’s a reason this process exists — because in most instances it pulls out the best writing from these artists. It’s true of college essay writing too. Students don’t knock out outstanding college admissions essays on the first pass. Great essays require notes, edits, and feedback.

Assistance on College Admissions Essays

On that note, there’s a piece up on “Inside Higher Ed” today written by Scott Jaschik entitled “When Application Essay ’Help’ Crosses a Line” that we figured we’d address. In the piece, Jaschik highlights instances when students solicit help on their college admissions essays that ends up going overboard. And we absolutely agree that some folks can go overboard with their assistance on college essays — so much so that a student’s voice disappears entirely. Yikes!

But just as too much help is unacceptable, we’d argue that too little help is also unacceptable. In the piece by Jaschik, Mark Sklarow, the CEO of the Independent Educational Consultants Association — an organization to which Ivy Coach is proudly not a member — is quoted as saying, “When you are looking at a student’s essay, don’t have a pen or pencil in your hand. Your job is not to change words or grammar. It’s to talk to student about whether from a content standpoint, is it revealing something? Are you letting an admissions director know who you are? When you have that pen in hand, you are probably making too many edits.”

Well, for starters, who uses paper and pen these days? It’s 2017, Mr. Sklarow. Secondly, it is preposterous to suggest that an independent college counselor should not address (and fix!) poor grammar or word choice. If a student makes a grammatical error, you bet we’re going to fix it. We would never allow a student to apply to colleges with grammatical errors in their admissions essays and any independent college counselor that did allow a student to do so, well, we’d argue they’re not any good.

We’d be mortified if a student of ours submitted essays with grammatical errors to college. Now that doesn’t mean our students can’t submit fragments. Fragments can be powerful if used appropriately. It doesn’t mean our students can’t start sentences with “and” or “but.” We love it when our students write in a colloquial tone. But grammatical errors? No way. Never. We strongly suggest you not listen to this particular advice of Mark Sklarow, a man who has openly defied the very bylaws of the organization he leads.

If you understand that we have no intention of allowing any student (ever!) to submit grammatical errors to colleges and you’re seeking assistance on college admissions essays, fill out our free consult form and we’ll be in touch. But if you’re looking for someone to tell you that your essay is great as is and those six spelling errors are perfectly fine, well, you’ve come to the wrong place.

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